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Drones: The Nextgen Multi-Industry Game Changer

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On June 28, 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Office of the Secretary of Transportation (OST), and the Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a highly anticipated final rule regarding the commercial operation and certification of small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS):14 CFR Part 107.

The word ‘drone’ is often used to generically describe all types of UAS. But the term “UAS” refers to more than a simple drone unit. UAS is the acronym for Unmanned Aerial Systems – the drone unit, its controller, and all else in between used to coordinate its movements through air space.

Public Safety and Defense Sectors: Saving lives and completing missions

First responders employ UAS in search and rescue missions to be able to approach areas that are inaccessible by foot or have low visibility or line of sight obstacles. UAS offer unique visual advantages and provide an extra level of safety in hostage and manhunt situations.

Our military branches rely on UAS for a variety of mission critical situations from surveillance to weapons:

  • The Army sets up UAS bases in areas that are unsafe for servicemen to reside.
  • The Navy has built UAS armed with lasers to create a "ghost fleet" formation for amphibious attacks.
  • The Air Force uses UAS to provide close air support and real-time battle damage assessment.
  • The Marines are experimenting with using armed UAS and robots for combat, which will keep American service members safe while still successfully completing their mission.
  • The Coast Guard uses UAS to patrol waterways when it is impractical to patrol by boat.
  • The Secret Service is currently testing UAS for overhead surveillance to better protect the president.

Consumer/retail applications: Drone Delivery

The use of drones to deliver small packages is in the active testing phase. Consumer giants such as Amazon, Walmart, Whole Foods, and Google are running pilot programs and coordinating with the FAA to ensure a successful implementation of UAS delivery systems for their products.

Software: Managing a fleet of UAS - The UTM platform

Currently, 14 CFR Part 107.35 specifies that:

§ 107.35 — Operation of multiple small unmanned aircraft. -  A person may not operate or act as a remote pilot in command or visual observer in the operation of more than one unmanned aircraft at the same time.

Clearly, as the use of commercial UAS increases, companies may soon be facing the challenge of how to manage a fleet of thousands of UAS in the air simultaneously to prevent midair collisions. The need for software systems that can dynamically adjust UAS flight paths is being developed by both Google's Project Wing and NASA. The UTM (UAS Air Traffic Management) platform will make it possible for a singular command center to manage large fleets and create a safe, low-altitude civilian airspace for all. Once this technology is finalized, the FAA will review it and update regulations, should this become an approved method to manage a fleet of UAS.

Commercial Applications: Inspections

UAS are able to navigate remote and dangerous locations with minimal/no risk to human safety. Imagine having to climb a 300-foot-tall wind turbine or telecommunication tower to inspect equipment. A human must be tethered to the structure, climb a great height, and then combat dangerous elements of nature that may be significantly different than at ground level.

Manufacturing plant inspections in dangerous areas are also improved with the use of UAS, particularly when corrosion, vibration or gas readings are required. Having to equip a human with the requisite PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) may compromise his ability to navigate small spaces in order to get the best data possible.

Recreational UAS Rules - Are they different?

Yes. The Special Rule for Unmanned Aircraft (P.L. 112-95, Section 336) provides the definition and operating rules for flying a unmanned aircraft for recreation purposes. If someone is strictly flying for fun, they do not need a Remote Pilot Airman Certificate. However, there are restrictions on the location that they may fly in and the size of unmanned aircraft they may use without FAA registration.

Rapid Rise for a Promising New Era of Air Travel

The Manufacturing of UAS is expected to quadruple in the upcoming years. As this futuristic game-changing industry evolves technologically and expands in application across many sectors, Federal Rules and guidance is certain to adjust accordingly to keep us all safe – humans and drones alike.

To view 14 CFR Part 107, visit Regs2Go and use the access code " FLYDRONEH".

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