What to Know About the FAA’s New Rules For Flying Drones at Night

On Dec. 28, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that it has finalized “final rules” for unmanned aircraft systems – also known as UAS or drones.

There are two “final rules” to be exact: 

Elsewhere, we’ve written about what the rules mean for remote ID requirements and flying drones over people. In this snapshot, we’re going to focus on how it impacts your ability to operate at night, and what it means for the UAS industry as a whole.

What do the current rules say about flying drones at night?

The current rules for the commercial use of drones weighing less than 55 pounds are often referred to as “Part 107.”

Finalized back in 2016, these rules prohibit flying a drone at night without a waiver, which clearly outlines factors such as:

  1. How the operator(s) will maintain VLOS throughout the operation;
  2. “See-and-avoid methods” employed to avoid a collision;
  3. Methods the operator will use to maintain continuous knowledge of the sUAS’s Location and Movement; and
  4. Training and knowledge verification for all participants in the operation.

For years, Consortiq’s drone consultant team has helped clients obtain waivers for special use cases such as operations that involve flying over people, BVLOS operations, and night operations, and we’re excited that these use cases are about to be normalized with the operations rule.

Woman flying drone at night - uas night operation
Woman flying a drone during nighttime hours

So, can my organization fly drones at night now?

Yes, under two conditions:

  1. The remote pilot in command must have completed a current initial knowledge test (“Part 107”) or recurrent training. This is to ensure that he or she is familiar with the risks and appropriate mitigations for nighttime operations.
  2. The UAS must have lighted anti-collision lighting that is visible for at least 3 statute miles and has a flash rate that the FAA deems, “sufficient to avoid a collision.”

I heard that the knowledge test rules have changed….

You’re right, and we’ve got you covered!

Check out this article we wrote on the new knowledge test and recurrent requirements.

How do I know if my anti-collision lighting meets the requirements?

Luckily, the final rule states that remote pilots can rely on manufacturer statements indicating that the anti-collision lighting is visible for three statute miles, and has a flash rate that is sufficient to comply with the drone requirements.

You’ll just need to include it — along with the procedures, equipment, internal training requirements, and other key information — in your organization’s operations manual. 

Why does this matter?

Night operations waivers have been, by far, the most commonly granted waivers by the FAA over the past few years.

In a previous article, we outlined some high-value use cases that require nighttime drone flights.

These include:

  • Emergency response, which can be needed at any time of day,
  • Thermal sensor inspections, which are sometimes best done at night, because the temperatures of objects change once the sun goes down,
  • News and cinematography footage collection, which can require the documentation of an event that happens to take place at night.

These are just a few examples of instances in which nighttime drone operations could be desirable, or even necessary. By largely removing the need for nighttime operation waivers, the new drone rule could catalyze the expansion of drone use across a variety of sectors.

Ready to take your drone program to the next level? Whether you need training, consultation, and even someone to help you do the work, we’re here to help!

To schedule a drone consultation, just complete the form below!

Miriam Hinthorn - Contributing Author

Miriam Hinthorn - Contributing Author

Miriam Hinthorn is an experienced management professional who is currently pursuing her master’s in Data, Economics, and Development Policy at MIT while serving as principal consultant at Consult92.

Miriam developed a love for UAS technology when she served as operations manager at Consortiq. Today, having completed over 30 successful projects in 10 countries, she loves solving a wide variety of logistical, technical, and cultural challenges for her clients so that they can focus on what care about most.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

The FAA’s New Rules for Drone Flights Over People

On Dec. 28, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced the release of “final rules” for unmanned aircraft systems – also known as UAS or drones.

There are two “final rules” to be exact: 

We previously wrote about how the remote ID rule essentially states that, if you are flying a UAS in United States airspace, you will need to broadcast your drone’s location and identification either within 18 or 30 months of Feb. 26 of this year, depending on whether you’re using a drone with a built-in transmitter or one that requires an add-on remote ID device.

In this article, we’re going to focus on how the Operations Over People and at Night Rule impacts your ability to fly over people, and what it means for the drone industry as a whole. 

What do the current rules say about drones flying over people?

The current rules for the commercial use of drones weighing less than 55 pounds, often referred to as “Part 107,” date back to 2016 and prohibit flights over unprotected people on the ground unless:

  1. The people are directly participating in the UAS operation
  2. The people are under a covered structure
  3. The people are inside a stationary vehicle
  4. The operator(s) have obtained a waiver from the FAA

At Consortiq, our drone consultant team helps clients obtain waivers for special use cases, such as operations that involve flying over people, BVLOS operations, and night operations, and we’re excited that these use cases are about to be normalized with the operations rule.

drone flying over people
Drone Image Taken Over Uninvolved People

What’s the rationale for changing this?

The FAA believes that, as drone technology improves and the value of use cases increases, there will be increased demand for UAS operations that involve flying over people, flying at night, and other advanced use cases.

By changing its regulations to accommodate for drone flight over people, the FAA hopes to allow for growth of the industry sector and advancement of drone technology, while maintaining its safety standards.

So can I fly my drone over people now?

It depends on what type of drone you have.

In the Final Rule on Operation of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Over People, the FAA has designated 4 categories of drone operations and corresponding permissions requirements.

OK, what are the categories?

To operate in Category 1, drones can have a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 0.55 pounds (including everything that is attached to the aircraft) and must have no exposed rotating parts that could cause lacerations. 

It’s worth noting that there are currently no unmodified DJI drones that will fall into Category 1. DJI’s smallest platforms,  DJI Mavic Mini and DJI Mavic Mini 2, both weigh less than 0.55 lbs without propeller guards, but when propeller guards are added, they supersede the MTOW limit for Category and thus would be eligible for Category 2 operations instead of Category 1.

To operate in Category 2, drones can weigh more than 0.55 pounds, but they can’t be capable of causing injury to a human being that is greater than or equal to the severity of an injury caused by transferring 11 foot-pounds of kinetic energy. They also can’t contain any exposed rotating parts that could lacerate human skin. 

To operate in Category 3, drones can’t be capable of causing injury to a human being that is greater than or equal to the severity of an injury caused by transferring 25 foot-pounds of kinetic energy and also can’t have any exposed rotating parts that could lacerate human skin. 

To operate in Category 4, drones must have an airworthiness certificate issued under 14 CFR Part 21 and must be operated in accordance with the operating limitations specified in the approved flight manual or as otherwise specified by the administrator. 

How does category impact my permission to fly over people?

Category 1 operations are seen to have the lowest levels of risk relative to the other categories, so if you’re operating a drone that weighs less than 0.55 lbs at takeoff without exposed rotating parts, you can operate over people without applying for any additional permission, with the exception that you can’t operate over open-air assemblies unless the operation is compliant with the FAA’s Remote ID requirements. 

Meanwhile, if your drone is greater than 0.55 pounds at takeoff, in order to fly over people, you’ll need to qualify for Category 2 or 3 operations, which requires a Means of Compliance (MOC) and Declaration of Compliance (DOC).

What’s the difference between the MOC and DOC?

The means of compliance and declaration of compliance are confusingly similar sounding. The FAA’s operations over people and at-night rule states that the means of compliance is how you show that your sUAS:

  1. Doesn’t exceed the applicable injury severity limit on impact with a human being and
  2. Doesn’t contain any exposed rotating parts that could cause lacerations

Meanwhile, the declaration of compliance is basically a statement you submit that says that you’ve met the applicable injury severity limitations, the exposed rotating parts prohibition, or a combination of these requirements through an FAA-accepted means of compliance. 

In other words, you need the MOC to get the DOC, and the FAA must accept your MOC before you can use it to declare compliance with the requirements of this rule. 

Furthermore, if your MOC and DOC are approved, you’ll need to ensure your drone has an FAA-approved label indicating the category of operation for which it’s been approved.

What about Category 4 operations?

As alluded to above, if your drone isn’t eligible for Category 1,2, or 3 operations, but you want to fly over people, you’ll need to get an airworthiness certificate under 14 CFR Part 21.

This will enable you to operate over people in accordance with Part 107, so long as the operating limitations specified in the approved Flight Manual or as otherwise specified by the Administrator, do not prohibit operations over human beings.

What about flying over moving vehicles?

The final rules permit sustained flight over moving vehicles for Categories 1, 2, and 3, only when the operations are within a closed- or restricted-access site, and people located within the vehicles have advance notice of the operation.

If the operations are not in a closed- or restricted-access site, the operator can “transit” the airspace above moving vehicles but cannot maintain sustained flight over them.

Meanwhile, category 4 UAS can operate over moving vehicles as long as the UAS are “operated in accordance with the operating limitations specific in the approved Flight Manual or as otherwise specified by the Administrator.”

When will this “final rule” come into effect?

The rules will become effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

While it’s not clear exactly when that will happen, it is expected to be sometime this month (January 2021).

Why does this matter?

Influential UAS industry stakeholders, such as Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) CEO Brian Wynne, have noted that this is a huge step towards the integration of drones into the national airspace, as many types of complex operations can require flights over people. 

In particular, the operations rule could accelerate the development of drone delivery solutions. As we’ve written previously, companies such as Google, Amazon, Uber, UPS, DHL, FedEx, and even Domino’s have tested various types of drone delivery solutions.

However, despite some companies receiving waivers to test the technology, there is still no widespread drone delivery. FAA Administrator Steve Dickson has stated that the new rule is getting the US “closer to the day when we will more routinely see drone operations such as the delivery of packages.”

Need support with your drone operation?

At Consortiq, we offer comprehensive drone services, training, and consultation for drone operation all around the world.

If you want to get your program off the ground and need support, just complete the form below for your risk-free consultation

Miriam Hinthorn - Contributing Author

Miriam Hinthorn - Contributing Author

Miriam Hinthorn is an experienced management professional who is currently pursuing her master’s in Data, Economics, and Development Policy at MIT while serving as principal consultant at Consult92.

Miriam developed a love for UAS technology when she served as operations manager at Consortiq. Today, having completed over 30 successful projects in 10 countries, she loves solving a wide variety of logistical, technical, and cultural challenges for her clients so that they can focus on what care about most.

Ready to Get Your Drone Program off the Ground? Complete this form to get started!

Will Skydio Overtake DJI as the Next Big Drone Manufacturer?

Autonomous drone company making a push to become the top UAV manufacturer.

Without question, DJI products have dominated the global commercial drone industry for years now.

In fact, the company controls between 70% and 80% of the market share and, for several years, it’s faced little competition. With such a high percentage of drones coming from DJI, many manufacturers, namely in the United States, have struggled to remain relevant. The tides of fortune, however, may be changing.

Skydio, an autonomous drone manufacturer, currently recognized as the largest in the United States, may just be poised to dethrone the drone giant in the near future.

Adversity in Recent Years for DJI

In 2017, the United States government began raising concerns over the possibility of “cyber vulnerabilities” with DJI drones.

At that time, numerous military units were using popular DJI platforms, such as the Phantom series. In light of the security concerns, the U.S. Navy released a memo on May 24, 2017, titled “Operation Risks With Regards to DJI Family of Products.

By August, the U.S. Army cited the memo when it banned DJI drone use. And, by May 2018, that ban was enforced across all U.S. military branches.

Military experts cited concerns over the security of the data collected by DJI drones. In their opinion, it was relatively easy to hack into the signal to steal both location and visual information from users.

It was also possible to take control of drones during flights. Fears that hacked drones would expose military strategies rose to the highest levels.

Further issues arose for DJI in December 2020.

The United States Department of Commerce placed DJI on its Entity List. Published by the Bureau of Industry and Security, the list identifies people or businesses which the United States government believes pose a security risk.

The commerce department said their primary reason for adding DJI to the blacklist was due to the company “enabl[ing] wide-scale human rights abuses within China through abusive genetic collection and analysis or high-technology surveillance.”

Now, anyone looking to conduct certain types of business with DJI drones, such as exporting or re-exporting products, must now obtain a license to do so.

However, the list doesn’t make it illegal to purchase or use DJI drones, and the company was quick to point out this fact in their official reply. Per DJI’s response, “DJI is disappointed in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s decision. Customers in America can continue to buy and use DJI products normally.”

Skydio's Opportunity

DJI’s problems have opened the door for other drone manufacturers in the United States.

Perhaps no manufacturer is in a better position to capitalize on the situation than Skydio. Founded in 2014, and based in Redwood City, CA, Skydio designs, builds, and supports its drones domestically. The company is known specifically for its AI-driven engine, Skydio Autonomy™.

Initially, Skydio produced a single drone model, the R1, in 2018. The aircraft was marketed to consumers as the world’s first fully autonomous consumer drone. This breakthrough technology’s commercial success allowed the company to move from the consumer market into more industrial applications.

Over the last few years, the company released its second aircraft, Skydio 2. With even more powerful AI technology, the drone was well suited for industrial inspections as well as consumer applications. Last year, Skydio’s systems design engineer, Joe Enke, joined the Unmanned Uncovered podcast to discuss its development.

 

As the military shied away from DJI, Skydio joined a list of five approved drone manufacturers, along with French manufacturer Parrot, that was approved for military use.

What's Next?

Manufacturers who operate in the United States, and that are already approved for government use, such as Skydio, are already becoming far more attractive to consumers.

In fact, in October 2020, the FAA granted the North Carolina Department of Transportation the first state-wide approval to fly Skydio drones BVLOS for bridge inspections. The groundbreaking waiver is due to reduce taxpayer spend by 75%, and save up to $14,600 per inspection in social disruption cost, just by switching from traditional inspections to drone inspections.

To provide some perspective, NCDOT inspectors are tasked to inspect 13,500 bridges regularly.

If the military’s approval of certain domestically manufactured drones, and the FAA’s granting of a state-wide BVLOS waiver specifically using Skydio’s platforms, is any indication of what is to come, DJI will surely lose market share. The percentage of the market DJI will lose is yet to be seen.

While it’s doubtful that we will see a significant shift overall, but we should expect to see their position erode slightly, as companies like Skydio grow to a much more respectable level.

Regardless of your position on foreign-made UAV security issues, the current developments will be beneficial. With DJI losing some of its hold, more investments will flow into domestic drone companies.

Further investment means a more diverse selection for consumers, increased competition among manufacturers, and overall growth and advancement of the UAV industry.

Will Skydio succeed DJI? Only time will tell.

Ready to Make the Switch?

Drone inspections and surveys cut costs, save time, and provide a safer, greener way of getting the job done.

At Consortiq, we’re here to help you get the data you need while staying within your budget. Whether you need us to do the work for you, or you want us to help you create a drone program and train your pilots, our team of drone experts will help you achieve your goals. With hubs in the United States and United Kingdom, we’ll come to you whether you’re in North America or Europe!

With drones, there’s always a better way. Ready to get started? Just complete the form below for your risk-free consultation!

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

Drones in 2020: A Year in Review for UAS

As the year comes to an end, it is worth looking back and reflecting on the UAV industry, which greatly evolved in 2020.

The year has been challenging for both people and industries alike. While 2020 could easily be categorized as chaotic, drones have risen to the occasion and fared relatively well.

With COVID-19, massive fires in Australia and the United States, extreme weather events, and the economic toll of it all has led many to believe 2020 is the worst year ever. While there is plenty of evidence to support that view. However, for the drone industry, there’s plenty of optimism due to UAV uses throughout the year.

Let’s discuss three very noteworthy takeaways.

Increased Drone Use

As the global pandemic started picking up steam, countries worldwide enacted necessary safeguards to curb the virus’s spread.

Most businesses needed to pivot in response to the new restrictions. As working remotely became the norm, many companies were forced to take a fresh look at how technology could allow them to operate while still keeping their employees safe.

UAV technology was one of the first to receive increased attention as the pandemic grew. Drones were used for sanitation, public service announcements, and the delivery of medical supplies.

Additionally, benefits such as minimizing the people needed for tasks like industrial inspections, removing people from dangerous situations (to include exposure to the coronavirus), and performing tasks quicker and more efficiently for cost savings became more attractive.

Drones in 2020 - drone being used for emergency services

Supportive Regulatory Control

Governments worldwide have tended to err on the side of caution in regards to regulating commercial drone operations.

Safety has, of course, been their primary concern. As is typically the case, necessity creates a willingness for greater flexibility and support. 2020 has undoubtedly been a year where governments have looked to the UAV industry for assistance.

Evidence of this trend can be seen in countries like the United Kingdom, where drone operations, such as those in the Isle of Wight, helped provide needed medical supplies. In November, the British government announced drones providing COVID-19 relief were among the first wave of winners, receiving government funding (£33 million) for ground-breaking aviation projects addressing significant global challenges.

Flexibility in regulatory agencies, such as the FAA in the United States, was also present in 2020. While the FAA didn’t bend any of their rules for drones, they did work cooperatively with businesses to maximize the operations within existing structures. Additionally, more Part 135’s (package delivery by drone) were approved.

Improved Public Opinion

Since the commercial drone industry started picking up speed a few years ago, public opinion has been mixed.

Initially, there was great concern over drones invading privacy and causing safety issues. It was only two years ago when in December 2018, a drone infamously shut down England’s second-largest airport (Gatwick) three times in three days due to suspected drone sightings in the area.

This year, however, has done much to improve the public’s perception of UAVs. Drone delivery services have been particularly helpful in combating COVID-19 and providing locked down businesses a method to still operate.

For example, Zipline, the second-largest drone delivery company, partnered with Walmart to deliver health and wellness products to residential customers in the United States.

While the scope of these programs is still relatively small, many people are starting to see that drone operations can be safe and beneficial. With new strains of the virus spreading and many areas worldwide experiencing spikes in the number of COVID-19 cases, 2021 will likely provide increased opportunities for UAVs to improve public support further.

Bringing It All Together

While 2020 will undoubtedly be remembered as a challenging year, the drone industry fared better than most.

With drone use cases and adoption increasing, government regulations becoming more flexible, and public opinion of UAVs becoming more positive, the drone industry proved its resiliency. These positive trends are likely to continue into 2021, thus, for drones, the future looks bright.

The team here at Consortiq would like to thank you for reading throughout the year, and we look forward to helping you with your drone operation in 2021. To book a consultation, make sure to contact us using the form below! Also, make check out the rest of our articles, as well as the Unmanned Uncovered podcast, by clicking here.

Have a great holiday and a happy new year!

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

Drone Industry Outlook For the United States: 2020-2030

The combination of the global coronavirus pandemic and the 2020 presidential election has made it a challenging year for the United States’ economy.

Nearly every industry has experienced the pain of unexpected economic shutdowns. As the race to produce a vaccine continues, we are likely to see further economic difficulties.

The Pandemic's Effect on the Drone Industry

In the short term, many industries, including the UAV industry, have been negatively impacted by current events.

For example, globally, the commercial drone market has shrunk from $4.14 billion in 2019 to $3.64 billion in 2020. Thankfully, this downturn of around a -12% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is less of a concern in the long run.

Despite the impact the virus and presidential election have had on the drone market, experts expect a strong and relatively quick recovery. By 2023, the commercial drone market will exceed previous levels and reach $6.15 billion, a CAGR of 19.09%.

This global growth is good news for the United States as they are expected to remain the second-largest market for drones, just behind the Asia Pacific region.

By 2030, the entire UAV market is set to be worth $92 billion. Compare this to the 2020 value of $9.5 billion, and you get an impressive CAGR of 25%.

Given the United States’ share of the global drone industry and its annual spending on drones — more than double all other countries combined — there is every reason to bank on the strength of the UAV industry in the United States over the next decade.

US Drone Industry Outlook

Reasons for a Positive Outlook

Several elements are contributing to the optimistic outlook for the United States drone market.

Some of the more significant factors are: the growing number of commercial drone pilots, the expansion of 5G networks across the country, and increased industry adoption of UAVs.

Let’s expand on each of these points.

The growing number of commercial drone pilots

It is important to note that the largest number of registered commercial drones is in the United States. As of Nov. 17, the FAA has a total of over 1.7 million registered drones, with about 30% of these classified as commercial UAVs. Additionally, the FAA has issued over 200,000 remote pilot certifications.

The strong numbers of both commercial drone pilots and registered UAVs speak to the growing opportunities within the United States for the industry. Additionally,  that continued growth highlights the increase in demand for commercial drone pilots with no leveling out in sight.

 

Related: 10-Year Outlook for the Drone Industry Within the United Kingdom

 

5G Expansion

While the United States doesn’t have the fastest 5G network in the world, the system is expanding. Drone technology has advanced much faster than regulators could have ever anticipated. To keep the skies safe, the FAA imposed regulations on drone pilots, limiting the potential of UAV platforms.

Rules, such as the restriction to not fly a drone beyond a visual line of sight, have prevented drones from expanding further into new use cases. As the FAA becomes more comfortable with the technology, these restrictions are becoming less rigid.

With the current FAA restrictions and 4G network, drones can perform as needed. However, they will need 5G networks to operate in the skies sooner rather than later. The growth of these networks in the United States is paving the way for accelerating the use of drones within the county.

Increased industry adoption of UAVs

UAV technology continues to benefit from a growing acceptance of its use across a diverse set of industrial applications. Several businesses that are only recently beginning to use drones on a large scale, such as insurance companies, will become significant utilizers of the platform in the near future.

Other industries, such as construction, emergency response, and energy, have also used drones for quite some time for surveys and inspections. Additionally, the FAA published airworthiness criteria for the proposed certification of 10 different Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) or drones as special class aircraft. This is a crucial step to enabling more complex drone operations beyond what is allowed under Part 107, including package delivery.

Bringing It All Together

During the pandemic, drones have certainly proven themselves as useful tools.

Deliveries of medical supplies, test kits, and other critical items have received a great deal of publicity. People and businesses are becoming very comfortable with the beneficial uses of drones. In fact, we at Consortiq have been heavily involved in a United Kingdom medical supply delivery project!

Even more exciting are the promises of fully autonomous UAV solutions and swarm technology. Once fully developed and given regulatory approval, autonomous systems and swarms could bring about explosive growth for the UAV industry in both the United States and globally.

Sure, the coronavirus has negatively affected the short-term UAV market in the United States. However, given the significant numbers of UAVs and commercial drone pilots, a growing 5G network, and the expanding use of drones in numerous industries, there’s plenty of optimism to brighten the outlook through 2030.

If you have yet to explore the use of drones in your organization, now may be a perfect time. Complete the form below and we’ll help get you started!

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

Drones in the United Kingdom: A 10-Year UK Drone Industry Outlook

The year 2020 has been challenging, to say the least.

The human and economic toll of the global pandemic has had a lasting impact on us all. Hardly any industries in the UK have remained untouched by COVID-19. During lockdown, around 7.6 million jobs are at risk—a term used to encompass permanent layoffs, temporary furloughs, and reductions in hours and pay.

As a result, the UK’s GDP for 2020 is expected to shrink by 9 percent overall.

Is the Drone Industry a Saving Grace for the UK Economy?

As 2020 continues to wind down, a sense of relief can be felt as a challenging year is coming to a close.

While some industries — such as accommodations, food services, and retail — have significantly suffered, others have been more resilient. The UAV industry has fared relatively well in these trying times, and has a positive outlook for the coming decade.

Recent estimates project that, by 2030, drones will have a significant impact on the UK economy. The UAV industry is poised to increase the UK’s GDP by £42 billion and create a net cost savings for the economy of £16 billion.

Even more promising, given the furloughs caused by the pandemic, is the potential for job creation. By 2030, jobs within the UK drone industry should reach 628,000, with over 76,000 drones operating in British skies.

Drone photo of London, England

Why is the Drone Industry Growing So Much in the UK?

It is important to explore the reasons for this projected growth and positive economic contribution.

An understanding of the “why” will help you make the decision to investigate how you too can benefit from drones. The beneficial applications of drone technology produce cost-savings and improved efficiencies. The UK is taking advantage of several of these benefits to manage costs, lower risk, and improve safety.

The challenges of current conditions in the UK, and globally, will force many businesses and civic organizations to streamline budgets and innovate to stay alive.

Drones are one of the tools major industries are working with in the UK to do just that. Further expansion of their use is inevitable.

The UK’s oil and gas industry serves as an excellent example of why drones will continue to produce significant economic returns. Over the past 50 years, the industry has generated over 300,000 jobs, with around 60% of these staying within the United Kingdom.

The same period also accounts for an estimated £330 billion in production tax.

RECENT ARTICLE: Ultimate Guide to UK Drone Licenses & Regulations in 2020 and Beyond

Cost management in the oil and gas industry is best illustrated through the reduction of downtime. Imagine the daily operations on an offshore oil rig.

These engineering marvels are capable of retrieving vast amounts of resources from the ocean floor. They require extensive preventative maintenance. Many of the areas that need to be inspected are very dangerous for people.

Flare stacks, which are used for burning off flammable gases released by safety valves, require frequent inspections. When humans inspect these structures, the system must be turned off.

Drones, on the other hand, can conduct these inspections while the stack is still live. In some cases, keeping the flare stacks live can save an estimated £4 million per day.

Detecting some issues before they become significant problems helps to lower risk. Drones are now being equipped with gas detection equipment to survey pipelines and other structures with pressurized gases.

Early detection saves lives, reduces repair costs, and prevents major environmental disasters.

Drones have a positive impact on safety by reducing human exposure to unsafe conditions. Working at heights is one of the most significant contributors to workplace death and injury in the UK. Drones can inspect equipment hundreds of meters high without any risk to people.

Bringing It All Together

Benefits such as those listed above are by no means unique to the oil and gas industry. Many of the UK’s largest industries, such as utilities, public defense, health, agriculture, and construction, benefit from UAV technology for similar reasons.

Additional positive benefits for the UK, which also translate into increased UAVs utilization, can be seen in applications that benefit British citizens. Drones are seeing use by law enforcement, emergency medicine, and research.

Drones that transport medical supplies during a pandemic, such as those on the Isle of Wight, serve the greater good. Additionally, they create jobs and increase productivity.

These examples illustrate why drones are projected to have such a lasting and significant impact on the UK’s economy. With a growing list of use cases and more businesses taking a look at how they too can benefit from UAV technology, drones in the UK have a bright future for the coming decade.

If you have yet to investigate using drones now is the time. Complete the form below and we’ll help get you started!

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

Everything You Need to Know About The Part 107 Night Waiver

Commercial drone pilots with an sUAS Part 107 license find work in a variety of fields.

Industries around the world are adopting UAV technology for a wide range of use cases. You and your organization might already be taking advantage of drones.

If so, you may also have faced some of the frustrations inherent in the limitations of the Part 107.

While the Part 107 allows drone pilots to fly for commercial purposes, there are several rules they must follow. Pilots are not allowed to fly over people, fly at night, operate above 400 feet above ground level, and more. The limitations can be annoying at best and reduce the beneficial impact of UAV technology.

One of the more common limitations pilots face is flying at night. Several UAV applications such as search & rescue operations and some thermal inspections may need to occur after the sun has set.

Thankfully, the FAA offers the 107.29 Daylight Operations waiver – otherwise known as the drone night waiver.

What is Different at Night?

The FAA implemented the daylight operation rule for good reason.

The human eye performs differently at night than it does during the day. Cones, the part of the eye responsible for detecting color, perform poorly in low light.

Additionally, the eye sees halos around light, blind spots occur near the center point of your vision, and objects can appear blurry.

All of these factors can become dangerous when flying a drone.

Getting a 107.29 Waiver

While it is great that the FAA has a waiver process in place, the path to obtaining a waiver is not well defined.

The FAA offers a guide to completing waivers; however, it leaves much of the details for the individual to figure out. Then, you need to wait approximately 90 days to see if you are approved or not.

Given the lack of a well-defined path to waivers, the average commercial drone pilot or organization will benefit significantly from expert assistance. Seek the professional opinion of people who have already received the waiver you are applying for.

Drone consultancy firms are excellent resources for anyone looking for help in developing a solid waiver application.

When developing a waiver application for flying at night, your primary goal is to show the FAA you and your organization can fly safely after the sun has gone down.

This is especially true when you consider the difficulties our eyes have at seeing in the dark.

What Your Night Waiver Application Should Include

Your application should include your operation’s safety specifics, explain how you will conduct flying UAVs at night, and how you plan to manage and mitigate safety risks.

When discussing safety specifics, the FAA is looking for the general information that describes your operations. You should identify where you plan to operate at night, how high you plan to fly, the size of your drone, and what type of high visibility lights you are using on the drone.

Lights should be bright white or red, and be visible from at least three miles away.

 

Related: Here’s What You Need to Know About the BVLOS Waiver

 

It should be noted that you will also need to discuss the number of people involved in your UAV night operations. If all you have is a remote pilot in command, your application will probably be denied. Assume you will need at least one pilot and one visual observer for every night flight.

Your concept of operations should discuss the general flow of an actual night flight. Your application needs to cover everything from pre-flight to post-flight procedures.

Here, you will also want to identify the training your pilots and observers have had. Training should include both normal drone operations and specific training on flying drones at night.

The section on safety risk management should include identifying hazards and how you plan to mitigate them. Think of everything that could go wrong, from issues with the drone to human error.

Once the risks are called out, how do you plan to make them less of a risk? Will you have additional observers, more training, or only use drones with safety features like “return to home” functions?

Developing all three of these sections can be challenging. If you do not have an expert on your team, look to consultancy firms to help.

Ready to Apply For Your Night Waiver?

With an average of 90 days for the FAA to determine if your application is acceptable, make the most of your application and seek an expert’s assistance for all your Part 107 waiver needs.

You’ll need to carefully construct a thorough application, which takes time, resources, and extensive knowledge of your use-case. Want to improve your chances? We’re here to help!

At Consortiq, our drone consultant team specializes in creating the right plan for your specific situation. Whether you need to fly at night, over people, or beyond your line of sight, we’ve helped companies around the world obtain specialized waivers in order to achieve their specific goals. We’re ready to help you get your drone safely into the sky.

And, we’ll train your team of pilots to ensure that you’re always within airspace & safety guidelines.

Would you rather just hire a team to go out and do the work for you? We do that, too!

Just complete the form below to get started with your risk-free consultation today!

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

Stanford researchers use drones to monitor penguins in Antarctica

The title says it all. Almost, anyway.

A group of researchers at Stanford University has developed a multi-drone imaging system and used it to survey colonies of nearly one million Adelie penguins in Antarctica. The findings from this study were recently published in Science Robotics.

Flying drones in Antarctica sounds tricky.

It is, and that’s precisely why this study is such a landmark for drone technology.

Prior to this study, penguin colonies were surveyed via helicopters or just one drone. Although it’s possible to get high-quality images using the helicopter method, it is expensive, potentially disturbing to the penguins, and fuel-inefficient to do so.

Meanwhile, using a single drone is time-consuming and infeasible to do at scale, because most drones have a battery life 15 minutes or less only in Antarctica. 

To overcome those limitations, Stanford’s research team, led by Mac Schwager and Kunal Shah, spent years developing a multi-drone imaging system and unique route planning algorithm.

I’m going to regret asking, but what does the algorithm do?

Let’s start by dropping the “a” word and giving it a nicer name.

The algorithm used for this study was named the Path Optimization for Population Counting with Overhead Robotic Networks, or POPCORN for short.

POPCORN partitions a given survey space, assigns destination points to each drone (the team used four drones for this study), and figures out how to move the drones through those points in the most efficient way possible, while maintaining a safe, constant distance from the ground and achieving a tunable image overlap.

That’s impressive.

Definitely.

According to the study, UAS survey routes have traditionally been based on an underlying geometric pattern, such as a “vaccuum” sweep, a spiral, or a space-filling curve.

 

Recent: Drones Help Precision Agriculture Take off in Australia

 

Although this approach allows for fast comutations, it does not necessarily work well in cases in which multiple robots are tasked with simultaneously covering an irregularly shaped area. 

The researchers write that the “geometric pattern” appraoch can also overconstrain how the coverage area is partitioned, which can lead to inefficient overall usage of multiple drones.

Because efficiency is a key component to the drone value proposition, if algorithms like POPCORN are adapted for other use cases, it could be a game changer for the drone industry.

What are the long term implications of this new method?

It’s worth noting that for years now, multi-drone systems – commonly referred to as “swarms” have been explored as potential approaches to environmental monitoring.

But this study seems to have gotten some impressive momentum, which suggests that its impact potential is quite high. Since wrapping up the penguin study in Antarctica, the researchers have deployed their multi-drone system in a number of other interesting use cases. 

In one of these use cases, they flew the drones over Mono Lake to survey the California gull population that lives near Paoha Island in the lake’s center. This time, the researchers had to boat out onto the lake to release the drones, the birds were smaller (and therefore harder to monitor), and there was a risk of losing drones in the water.

Luckily, it seems that the mission was completed without any serious issues, suggesting that POPCORN can handle a a variety of complex environments.The team has also used the system to assess vegetation for livestock grazing at a large ranch in Marin, California. 

Longer term, we could speculate that their multi-drone system will help monitor things like wildfires, tornado and hurricane damage, and other natural disasters.

By getting important data to researchers, first responders, and other decision-makers, in a quick and cost effective way, this system could result in more than a few cool publications and cute bird pictures.

Miriam Hinthorn - Contributing Author

Miriam Hinthorn - Contributing Author

Miriam Hinthorn is an experienced management professional who is currently pursuing her master’s in Data, Economics, and Development Policy at MIT while serving as principal consultant at Consult92.

Miriam developed a love for UAS technology when she served as operations manager at Consortiq. Today, having completed over 30 successful projects in 10 countries, she loves solving a wide variety of logistical, technical, and cultural challenges for her clients so that they can focus on what care about most.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

Why You Should Use a Drone For Your Volumetric Surveys

Leading suppliers of excavators and construction equipment across the globe is estimated to be around $113 billion in 2020.

But, providing the machinery and equipment to support an industry, which struggles with inefficiency, would beg the question: Why aren’t most suppliers trying to offer an end-to-end solution?

Companies like Caterpillar, Bobcat, JCB and Terex all supply hardware to leaders within the construction industry, but what can drone technology offer to these companies? 

We have already started to see some manufacturing companies embrace this technology and partner with software providers to help with some inefficiencies. And, at the top of the list is managing stockpiles & forecasting, and volumetric surveys. 

Removing it from the ground is one thing, but managing accurate stock and knowing the volume is key for forecasting and logistics. Traditional surveying methods of stockpile volume calculation rely on site personnel to perform ground surveys with a Global Navigation Satellite Systems — such as GPS — receiver to determine the exact position of each measured point with pinpoint accuracy.

Using drones allows volumetric surveys to be completed in a fraction of the time it takes to conduct conventional surveys, leading to lower costs, higher productivity and improved safety.

By performing volumetric surveys with drones, you will get qualitative and quantitative data supplied in a 3D format, as well as aerial photography and video.

How accurate are volumetric surveys?

Drone surveys are proven to be more accurate than traditional ground surveying methods. And, trusting the calculations are key for site management and accounting. 

The measurements and calculations of material is key for multiple reasons:

  • Available stock to sell
  • Duration of project
  • Volumes and resources needed for earthworks extraction etc. 
  • Forecasting

Companies often perform stockpile inventory on a monthly, quarterly or yearly basis, in order to carry out reporting.

Software providers such as Propeller Aero, Hybird and Pix4d all enable data to be scrutinizsed and converted into real-world context whilest enabling you to pick the important information from it. 

 

LISTEN NOW: Mohamed Hafez of HyBird Technologies discusses capturing the process with UAV data

 

According to Propeller Aero, the company “creates tools and software for construction companies, mines, quarries, and landfills to collect, process, and visualize accurate survey data. Some of the world’s leading heavy civil and resources operations trust Propeller to answer critical questions about their site’s progress, productivity, work quality, and safety.”

The data collected can also be used within different departments of any organization. New aerial images and 3D models could be used for marketing communications, or to communicate with local authorities about the project.

For companies like Caterpillar, Bobcat, JCB and Terex, to actively promote innovative ways to assist their key customers could see an increase in demand for their own products.  

Volumetric surveys with a drone
DEM - digital elevation model. Product made after processing pictures taken from a drone. It shows mine area and aggregate storage

Expert-Level UAS Support

At Consortiq, our UAS team can help you provide this level of service without the major investment of technology and/or platforms.

Our drone pilots can gather the information for you, and they provide the key results and data you need. We also use different software providers, depending on your specific requirement, all while delivering exceptional service. 

We recently wrote about the different aspects to consider when making the decision to choose a provider or start an in-house drone program.

Whichever choice you make, it’s important to consult with UAS experts prior to getting started. Experienced consultants will help you to identify your specific needs and explore the best fit to meet those needs. You’ll also get support on creating operations manuals, safety guidelines, and regulation requirements.

No matter what you choose, Consortiq has a solution for you. From unmanned data services that include aerial surveys and mapping, to extensive global remote pilot training and drone consultancy, we’ll help you put the right plan in place.

Need expert-level support? Just complete the form below or call us at 1-855-203-8825 (Americas) or +44 (0)208 0450 322 (Europe) to get started!

Lee Barfoot - Sales & Marketing EMEA at Consortiq

Lee Barfoot - Sales & Marketing EMEA at Consortiq

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

Is Canada leading the way for commercial BVLOS use?

Last month, in our article on pandemic-driven drone innovations, we mentioned that Transport Canada had authorized a coalition of companies to deliver medical supplies to First Nation communities.

Since two of these delivery projects were recently confirmed to have started, now is a good time to think about these use cases, as well as other beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) developments in Canada. 

Can I get a recap of the First Nations delivery projects?

Sure.

Drone Delivery Canada (DDC), with the help of its partners Air Canada and the Pontiac Group, secured several contracts to provide drone solutions for the delivery of medical supplies, such as personal protection equipment (PPE), hygiene kits, test kits, and test swabs to the Beausoleil First Nation (BFN) and Georgina Island First Nation (GIFN), among other First Nation communities.

Under terms of the contract with the BFN, GlobalMedic is deploying DDC’s drone logistics system to enable a defined two-way delivery flight route to and from the BFN mainland and the BFN Christian Island. DDC’s drone system consists of DDC’s Sparrow drone, DroneSpotTM takeoff and landing zones, and FLYTE software system. DDC’s agreement with the GIFN seems to be similar.

How long have the projects been going on?

Although BVLOS approval was issued by Canadian authorities, on June 4, it’s taken some time to get things up and running.

As of Oct. 21, according to DDC CEO Mike Zahra, the BFN operations had been going on for several weeks, and the GIFN deliveries had only recently begun. 

Is this a PR stunt, or does it have long-term potential?

According to DDC’s press statement, Indigenous Services Canada, the sponsor of the GIFN contract, is using the project as a proof of concept. Indnigenous Services Canaada would like to continue to use drone delivery as a way to limit person-to-person contact during the pandemic, while maintaining the provision of COVID-related medical supplies. 

 

Recent Article: BVLOS Waiver – Here’s What You Need to Know

 

Beyond that, there seems to be movement towards normalizing BVLOS operations in Canadian airspace, which would create a host of opportunities that extend beyond the pandemic. 

For instance, in October, Transport Canada authorized MVT Geo-Solutions, a geo-environmental contractor, to conduct BVLOS operations in uncontrolled airspace in Alma, Quebec.

Under the terms of the Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) issued, MVG Geo-Solutions will conduct power line inspections using the detect-and-avoid (DAA) technology supplied by Iris Automation, a safety avionics technology company.

It’s possible that the flight missions that come from this SFOC could open the door to more complex missions in the future such as infrastructure inspections, mapping, delivery solutions, agriculture data collection, and emergency response.

So how quickly will BVLOS take off in Canada?

Not as quickly as drone operators would like.

The amount of time it will take for BVLOS to become normalized in Canada depends how long it takes for stakeholders to reach a consensus on what is best for the country. And, as is the case with most regulatory debates, this could take awhile.

For instance, Transport Canada proposed allowing drones of up to 650 kilograms to be operated BVLOS in areas with a population density of less than 25 people per square kilometer.

Meanwhile, both the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association and the Ultralight Pilots Association of Canada oppose the proposal, claiming it relies too much on the self-regulation of the drone industry and that population density is an irrelevant measure of the potential for airspace conflicts. 

Disagreements aside, this proposal, along with recent BVLOS use cases, is a testament to Transport Canada’s capacity, resources and appetite to embrace advanced UAS solutions. Transport Canada seems to have taken a relatively progressive stance on UAS technology, and BVLOS operations in particular, so it will be interesting to see how things unfold in 2021.

Miriam Hinthorn - Contributing Author

Miriam Hinthorn - Contributing Author

Miriam Hinthorn is an experienced management professional who is currently pursuing her master’s in Data, Economics, and Development Policy at MIT while serving as principal consultant at Consult92.

Miriam developed a love for UAS technology when she served as operations manager at Consortiq. Today, having completed over 30 successful projects in 10 countries, she loves solving a wide variety of logistical, technical, and cultural challenges for her clients so that they can focus on what care about most.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

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