Make no mistake, the drone industry is still in its infancy. New designs are popping up, new use-cases present themselves all the time and laws are still being developed to handle these new machines in the sky.
AUVSI Xponential is a drone industry convention. On the surface of it, as you walk the showroom floor, you’ll experience manufacturers of motors, propellers, radio transmission hardware and more. Some of the well-known players on this site were present – We had a great visit with our friends at UVify and DJI, we’re pretty excited about the new UVify IFO-S, for example.
Thing is, the surface is just that, behind the scenes and in the numerous sessions, many ideas and decisions were made that will change the face of drones forever.
The FAA and drone law
An easy thing to understand is the presence of the FAA at AUVSI Xponential. It’s fairly public knowledge that the FAA is in the midst of revamping many of their systems, laws and procedures. Not just for drones, the FAA has a lot going on for all aspects of our airspace.
Many are calling industry collaboration into question after recent aircraft incidents around the globe. I don’t want to talk about the 737 Max situation, (here,) and I cannot comment if anything shady happened between Boeing and the FAA, but Boeing has immense experience with flight operations, making them an invaluable resource for the FAA to discuss proposed laws with.
Boeing is only one of many industry participants and leaders that can help shape the drone laws that we have to follow. You can get involved as well, watch for opportunities to voice your opinions. The FAA values all of our input, it helps ensure they build systems and laws that best support our needs.
At Xponential 2019, the AUVSI organization was happy to announce an official committee of industry and law with the FAA to address airport safety. The Blue Ribbon Task Force.
Anti-drone measures exist, as do tools to identify drones in the sky. DJI has the Aeroscope system, for example, that is basically a radar system for small drones. Identifying a rogue drone, and even its operator is one thing, having the tools to forcefully remove that drone from the sky is another thing, but knowing how and when to use them is the part missing right now.
The task force has set out to satisfy the FAA’s reauthorization requirement to establish systems, procedures and laws for policing drones around airports. The Gatwick airport situation is unacceptable.
Drones and you
While there is a large focus on drones around airports, you have to imagine that many of these new procedures will carry over to other UAS operation. There are other things in the works as well for hobby pilots and commercial pilots alike. Primary of which is talk for a proficiency test for hobby pilots. Commercial pilots already have the Part 107 certification, but there is little preventing a hobby pilot from taking to the sky ignorant of the rules.
I get it, it can be super annoying to have to pass a test and pay to register a little toy that you just want to fly in the backyard a couple times. Just as it is annoying for us to have to pay to register every drone we review for the site. Safety has to come first. That is all the FAA is aiming for. They are not trying to make a profit from registration, nor are they desiring to make things difficult for us, they simply have a tried and true method for managing air traffic.
Once again, the FAA is working closely with industry partners and manufacturers to identify the least prohibitive technique for hobby licensing. One thing is absolutely certain, we need accountability. Putting a sticker on the side of your craft with your registration number ensures prosecution if you break the rules and your drone is captured, but does nothing if you land and go home.
Manned aircraft use systems, such as ADS-B, that report the craft’s information and location at all times. You’ve seen the result of this when you see the ‘radar’ systems of an air traffic controller, even if only in the movies. All aircraft are held accountable for their actions and are precisely integrated into the airspace systems to ensure safety.
Drones do not currently require any transmission, however, it is your responsibility to sense and avoid any other aircraft in the sky. Apps like Airmap provide you real-time locations for those reporting manned aircraft, but manned aircraft have no idea where you are. Even with a LAANC authorized flight, your operation area is reported to the systems, not the actual position of your craft.
The FAA has been mandated to establish tools and methods to track all drones in the sky. They have to integrate these new aircraft into the NAS (National Airspace System) for public safety.
Can I still fly a toy drone in the backyard?
Yes, of course you will be able to fly hobby craft for hobby flights. The technology will advance, the new reporting hardware may increase prices for low-end machines, but the FAA does not want to stop you from flying. That said, they’ve already enacted controlled airspace regulations for hobby flight, so things will not be what they used to be.
Things will continue to unfold for the FAA over the course of 2019, stay tuned for further updates.
Other drone initiatives
While AUVSI may not be behind many of the advocacy groups out there, conventions like Xponential are where many of these groups meet. I’ve attended events from Dronecode for the last two years, where a wide array of players like Yuneec, Airmap, UVify, Auterion, Inspired Flight and many more work together on the open source software PX4. These brands share more than just some code for keeping machines in the air, they share ideas, problems and solutions, often working together to better the entire industry.
In more formal cooperation, groups like the Focus Area Pathfinder Program have been established at events like AUVSI Xponential. Convincing the FAA to allow BVLOS flight has been a long battle, teamwork between otherwise competing drone entities is making the difference. If nothing else, there are always open forums and other discussion groups at Xponential that allow these groups to report their progress, or inform the rest of the community of their needs in order to keep things moving along.
Bottom line, as we’ve said before, AUVSI Xponential is helping change the drone industry. That’s because AUVSI is made up of members from the drone industry. These partnerships will shape how you get to fly in the future. Be sure we’ll continue to attend this show and bring you all the important details. For now, that’s a wrap from 2019 in Chicago. We’ll use our new-found knowledge to ensure the best coverage for you moving forward, but no more articles.