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!

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!

What You Need to Know About Flying Your Drone Over People

Whether you’re a drone pilot in the United States or the United Kingdom, you’ll have your fair share of regulatory limitations from either the FAA or CAA.

You may already know that you’re not able to fly out of your visual line of sight without a waiver. But, did you also know that flying over people requires similar approval?

Unless people are directly involved with the drone operation, located under a covered structure, or protected inside a stationary vehicle, you cannot fly over them.

Let’s start with the “why.”

Why Can't You Fly a Drone Over People?

Quick answer: It’s dangerous.

As with most any other regulation, it’s about safety.

The main concern posed by airspace regulatory agencies is that the drone will fall and cause injury. Many of the most popular drone models, such as DJI’s Phantom 4 Pro, weigh about three pounds.

If an error occurred while the drone was flying at 400 feet (i.e. losing GPS signal), the impact would produce 16,259 Newtons of force. That’s more than enough to kill a person fairly easily.

Additionally, drone rotors spin between 5,000 and 7,000 rpm. At that speed, the propellers become incredibly dangerous to bystanders. A gust of wind at the wrong time could lead to major lacerations.

Now, you might think it’s easy not to lose control of your drone, but that’s not always true. In the video below, you’ll see that an emergency landing was necessary after the device lost GPS signal. Had people been under the drone, the results could have been disastrous.

U.S. FAA Regulation

FAA § 107.39 states that, if you’re flying over any part of a person, even just an extended arm, it’s considered as “Operations Over Human Beings.”


The only exception to the rule is when people are directly participating with drone operation. Examples of that might include the remote pilot, the visual observer, and anyone who might maintain the perimeter to keep others out of the area of operation during flight.


Thankfully, the FAA offer a waiver to that rule. Like all waivers, it helps if an expert is there to assist you in the application process is quite thorough. It also takes about 90 days to get that waiver reviewed and approved/disapproved.

It’s also not easy to obtain. As of Oct. 15, 2020, the FAA has granted only 153 flight over people waivers. The good news is that 64 of those have been approved in 2020.

The increase in approvals this year suggests that with a professional and well-developed application, the FAA is comfortable with trusting qualified operators to fly over people.

Perhaps the most important part of the FAA’s mission is to provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world. As flying a drone over people can certainly raise safety concerns, the FAA made sure this was specifically called out as one of the limitations of the Part 107 sUAS license.

How to Get the “Flying Over People” Waiver

The FAA wants you to address two issues when applying for the waiver.

First, they would like to understand the likelihood of an accident occurring as you are flying your drone over people. Second, they would like to know the severity of potential injuries caused by your drone hitting someone should there be a malfunction or operator error.

 

Related Article: BVLOS Waiver – What You Need to Know

 

Likelihood is primarily a review of how safe your operation of UAVs is. As an organization that uses drones for commercial purposes, you have probably established standard operating procedures and training manuals.

In addition to these materials, the FAA would like to see detailed records of any incidents that happen, which shouldn’t normally occur. Examples might include drone malfunctions or pilots crashing drones into people or property.

For incidents such as those mentioned, you should identify any hazards or trends that have been recurring. More importantly, it would be best to show you have developed fixes for aircraft issues and have mitigations in place to prevent human errors.

Severity assumes a situation where a drone does fail will occur. If this situation were to happen, how bad could the potential damage be?

To mitigate the potential damage, the FAA looks for drones to fall into one of three categories.

Category 1 drones are very small, typically less than 0.55 pounds. A UAV of this weight is not likely to cause any damage.

Category 2 drones are considered to cause a minimal amount of injury or damage. The drone’s kinetic impact should not be capable of exceeding 11 ft. pounds of energy transfer.

Category 3 drones can cause more damage, not to exceed 25 ft. pounds of energy transfer.

Likelihood and severity combined help to determine whether or not a waiver is granted. To have the best chance of getting approval to fly over people, most organizations should consult the help of experts in the field.

By some estimates the rejection rate for these waivers is in the high 90% range. A reputable drone consulting firm will be able to access your organization’s needs and prepare you for the application process.

A 107.39 waiver can open a whole new world of opportunities for your UAV operations. Take the time to understand the balance between likelihood and severity for your organization. Develop appropriate mitigation techniques to make your operations safe and submit a waiver application with procedures and data to back up your claims of being a safe and responsible utilizer of UAV technology.

U.K. Regulation

Within the UK, Article 95(2)(d) states that you should never fly your drone or model aircraft closer than the defined legal distances. These are defined within the article as a distance of no less than 50 metres

However, with the introduction of the Drone and Model Aircraft Education and Registration Service (DMARES) last November (2019), and ‘several UAS incidents,’ the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had to issue a safety notice (Number: SN–2020/002) this past January.

The safety notice was to provide additional guidance to remote pilots in the form of suggested best practice when considering flight over people, in accordance with articles 95(2)(d) or 95(3) of the Air Navigation Order (ANO).

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Upcoming European UAS Regulations

It also served as a reminder to ensure operators were “reasonably satisfied that a flight can be safely made” (Air Navigation Order article 94(2)), as the law states.

When the 50m rule was introduced within the ANO, some ambiguity surrounded it.

Examples such as ‘string attached to the drone,’ or it being referred to as the ‘50m bubble’ rule, have been discussed at length. Where flights that need to be conducted within congested areas, and where careful planning is essential, we’ve seen operators use the Pythagorean theorem to work out the minimum viable distance and heights to stay legal.

Either way, the rules are clear and simple:

  • Never fly closer than 50m to people.
  • Distance can be reduced for take-off and landing to 30m. 

Even though hovering your drone at ‘51m’ directly above an uninvolved person may be legal and, as per Article 95, it’s safer to avoid flying or hovering directly over them, you’re responsible for flying safely whenever you fly (Article 94(2)).

Crowds of more than 1,000 people

If you want to fly near crowds greater than 1000 uninvolved persons, the 50m rule extends to 150m.

The standard states that you can fly above uninvolved persons, but that’s not the case for gatherings of this size. As an operator, you are never to fly above crowds at any height. 

A crowd is defined as any organised, open-air gathering of more than 1,000 people.

This includes:

  • Sporting events
  • Music festivals or concerts
  • Marches or rallies
  • Carnivals

Within the UK, if you want to operate within these restrictions, you will need to apply to the UK’s CAA for an Operating Safety Case (OSC) to reduce these distances. You’ll also need to have deep pockets, and your organisation must have operating experience that clearly demonstrates safe, compliant and competent operations.

Bringing It All Together

No matter where you’re flying, you’ll need some type of clearance to fly over people … or to avoid doing it altogether.

If your job requires drone flights over people to limit shutdowns and disruption, or to capture more compelling footage, then we’re here to help you achieve those goals. The best way to get started is to speak with our team of UAS experts as part of a risk-free drone consultation.

Whether you want the know-how to do it yourself and the waivers to go along with it, or you’d rather us do the work for you, we’ve got you covered.

There’s no reason to put a limit on your innovation. With Consortiq, there’s always a better way. Complete the form below to schedule your consultation, drone training, or drone service 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 Operation? Complete This Form to Get Started!

BVLOS Waiver: Here’s What You Need to Know

How to Use Your Drone Beyond Visual Line of Sight

Many technological advances within the drone industry are limited in real-world applications, due solely to unfavorable regulations.

For example, in the United States, commercial drone pilots must always maintain a visual line of sight with any drone they are operating. While technology allows for flight well beyond this limit, such operation would be illegal without changing regulations.

A classic example of the negative impact of this regulation can be found in oil pipeline inspections. Pipelines extend for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles across vast landscapes.

Drones can cover these distances much more efficiently than humans can. However, under current regulations, operators are required to move every two-to-three miles in order to keep the drone within sight. Thus, the benefit of using the drone is not maximized.

Thankfully, if you’re willing to do the work, you can get a waiver from the FAA, or other airspace authorization body, to fly Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS).

While getting that waiver is possible, you’re more likely to be approved with expert help. Here’s what to know about the BVLOS waiver.

What is a BVLOS Waiver?

Each country has its own rules and regulations regarding a BVLOS waiver.

As an example, we will use the United States. Once a commercial drone pilot has a Part 107 license from the FAA, that pilot can begin flying … within the license’s limits.

 

Related: The Benefits of Part 107 Test Preparation Courses

 

Every remote pilot in command must operate the drone in a manner that allows them to see the drone and its orientation at all times. With a Part 107.31 Visual Line of Sight Aircraft Operation waiver, though, you can fly without having a visual fix on the drone.

For example, let’s assume that you’re flying your drone around a large, cylindrical storage tank at an oil refinery inspecting for signs of corrosion. If you only have a Part 107 license, you will need to walk around the tank as your drone inspects it, always keeping an eye on its location.

With a Part 107.31, you can let the drone fly behind the tank — out of your line of sight — and complete the task more quickly.

How to Get the BVLOS Waiver

The FAA has issued very few Part 107.31 waivers.

In fact, as of October 2020, only 61 have been approved. By comparison, the FAA has issued well over 4,000 waivers for flying at night.

Your hopes of getting a waiver will depend on the strength of your BVLOS waiver application. Given the low number of approved applications to date, you’ll want to consult an expert.

 

Related: UAS Night Operations – Are You Still in the Dark?

 

While there’s no template for a successful BVLOS waiver published by the FAA, successful applications have had a few common elements which you should include to increase your chances of approval.

Let’s break those elements down a bit.

 

Standard Operating Procedures

 

Standard operating procedures highlight the professionalism and experience inherent within your organization.

These should be well organized, and cover everything from onboarding and training to all aspects of drone operations in which you or your pilots participate. To increase your chances of success, make sure that your procedures include the type of work you are looking to accomplish with a BVLOS waiver.

 

C2 Equipment

 

Next, you’ll want to include a detailed explanation of your command & control (C2) equipment.

C2 is an essential part of the application. The FAA will want to know what transmitters you are using to control the drone, in great detail.

You’ll also need to identify the maximum range of your transmitter ,and how you plan to maintain control of the drone at all times. To do that, make sure to include information about the equipment’s FCC ID number, both on the ground control station and on the drone.

 

Flight Safety

 

Flight safety is perhaps the most critical section.

After all, you are requesting a waiver based on your assurance that operations will remain safe at all times. It’s best practice to have a well-developed mitigation plan for every reasonable situation which could arise.

That plan should include a synopsis on how you will detect and avoid collisions, or other dangers. This will be a significant focus of the approval process.

Ready to Apply?

Getting you BVLOS waiver is possible, but you’ve got some work ahead of you.

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!

Pandemic-fueled innovation: an overview of recent drone delivery breakthroughs

We’ve written previously about how the pandemic has accelerated the development of drone solutions for contact-free delivery, surveillance, enforcement, and hygiene applications.

We’ve gone so far as to suggest that progress in drone medical delivery solutions might be quickly followed by progress in retail delivery solutions. Over the past several weeks, we’ve seem to be seeing this play out, with multiple major retailers reaching new milestones in their drone delivery programs and an uptick in public support for drone delivery.

In this article, I’ll summarize these exciting developments.

An uptick in demand and regulatory cooperation

Before COVID-19, the research firm MarketsandMarkets estimated that drone delivery (both air and ground-based) would generate revenue of around $800M in 2020.

More recently, the firm has updated those estimates to $1 billion and has revised its forecast for 2022 from $1.6 to $2.2 billion. According to the Economist, many other analysts agree with these estimates.

On top of this, regulators have been more flexible than ever in granting exemptions and authorizations for drone delivery programs. For instance, in Canada, authorities have given authorization to a coalition of companies who are using drones to safely supply the remote Beausoleil First Nation and other First Nations.

Similarly, in April, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration granted exemptions to its commercial drone prohibitions to 30 companies. And in March, the UK, government allocated millions to support the development of drone delivery solutions that would serve the Isle of Wight during the pandemic. 

Moving past these general trends, let’s take a look at some “success stories” about global leaders in retail that seem to be accelerating their delivery programs during these challenging times.

Amazon

On Aug. 29, Amazon finally received federal approval to operate its fleet of Prime Air delivery drones. According to the FAA, the approval will give Amazon broad privileges to “safely and efficiently deliver packages to customers.”

While the Prime Air fleet isn’t ready to immediately deploy drone deliveries at scale, representatives say that it is actively flying and testing the technology.

Walmart

On Sept. 9, Walmart launched a pilot project which will focus on delivering select grocery and household essential items from Walmart stores using the Israeli firm Flytrex’s automated drones in Fayetteville, N.C. 

Representatives at the world’s biggest retailer have been tight-lipped on details of the program, so it’s not clear how many drones are involved in the pilot and what checks (if any) customers need to make before receiving a delivery.

That said, Flyrex boasts that its delivery drones are the optimal solution for suburb environments, so it would follow that remote customers or city-dwellers might not be the best candidates to test the service at this stage of development.

While this type of delivery solution has been tested since 2015, and thus cannot be fully attributed to the pandemic, there are a few use cases that Walmart seems to have launched directly in response to COVID-19.

On Sept. 22, Walmart announced a partnership with Quest Diagnostics and DroneUp, whereby it would perform deliveries of COVID-19 test collection kits in North Las Vegas (in September) and Cheektowaga, New York (in early October.)

The program will serve eligible patients who live in a single-family residence within a 1-mile radius of the designated Supercenters in North Las Vegas and Cheektowaga. And given that Walmart owns the UK supermarket chain Asda, it has been suggested that the solutions could expand to the UK. 

Beyond that, according to Tom Ward, Walmart’s senior vice president of consumer products, Walmart hopes that drone delivery of self-collection kits “will shape contactless testing capabilities on a larger scale and continue to bolster the innovative ways Walmart plans to use drone delivery in the future.” 

Walgreens and Wing

Walgreens and Wing, (owned by Alphabet, Google’s parent company), have been partnering since September 2019 to test “store to door” delivery of products via drone.

As part of this partnership, Wing has been delivering “health and wellness, food and beverage and convenience items” to Walgreens customers in Christiansburg, Va. 

Once the pandemic hit, the company expanded their offering to meet the residents’ mounting needs. Their offerings now include more kid-friendly products like crayons, markers and games; food staples such as pasta, canned soup and mac and cheese; and household cleaning supplies such as facial tissue and, you guessed it, toilet paper.

For Christiansburg residents, the drone delivery service had already been a novelty, but many families reported that once the pandemic hit, it became a source of entertainment, inspiration, and distraction for antsy kids and worried parents alike.

Some families reported ordering a weekly lunch from Walgreens, and others said they ordered things they didn’t really need simply for an excuse to watch a drone come to their house. 

Anecdotes aside, Wing reports that its drone delivery orders in Virginia and Australia rose precipitously when stay-at-home orders were put in place in March and April. Since Wing has been met with privacy concerns and noise complaints by certain residents in Canberra, Australia, one of its first test sites, the rapid increase in demand suggests that the company is finally winning the public over there.

Tesco and Manna Aero

Meanwhile Tesco, the UK’s biggest retailer, is working with Manna, a drone delivery startup based in Dublin, Ireland, to kick off a six-month drone delivery trial starting in October .

The trial will consist of delivering “small baskets” of essentials from its Oranmore store in Co Galway, Ireland, where Manna has a license to operate. Ultimately, Tesco representatives claim that the aim is to develop the capability of delivering these small baskets to customers within 30 minutes to an hour of ordering, a capability which the company thinks will expand their reach to include potential customers for whom getting to the store is inconvenient or difficult.

Manna, for its part, had planned a takeaway food delivery trial in March but changed its focus to medicines during the coronavirus pandemic. Since April, it has been working with the Health Service Executive to deliver medicines and other essential supplies to vulnerable people in the small rural town of Moneygall.

The Path Forward

There are two key mechanisms through which the pandemic seems to be accelerating the development and deployment of drone delivery solutions. 

First, because the pandemic has made contactless delivery a necessity, not just a nice-to-have feature, it is leading to the resolution (or at least temporary suspension) of technical and regulatory blockers to progress. 

Second, the pandemic is providing a fantastic PR opportunity to retailers that want to promote their drone delivery solutions and develop goodwill with the public.

By accelerating the development and social acceptance of drone delivery services, the pandemic seems to be helping retailers, regulators, and drone solutions providers to kick drone delivery up a notch.

Hopefully, they can maintain momentum once the pandemic is over.

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!

FAA Remote ID System Still a Priority for 2020

During the FAA Drone Advisory Committee’s meeting on June 19, FAA Deputy Administrator Dan Elwell said that the agency expects to issue a final rule on its proposed Remote ID system by December 2020.

Remind me... what's the FAA Remote ID again?

Sure. 

Last December, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that outlined their intent to require that all but the tiniest drones incorporate tracking technology. The proposed system is designed to enable regulators, law enforcement, and other interested parties to track drone movements and in some cases obtain identifying information for any drone operating in the national airspace.

That sounds burdensome.

Consortiq has made the case that the proposed system, in its current state, is far from optimal for many reasons, and numerous industry stakeholders have denounced the system as overly complex, infeasible, and intrusive.

But, proponents argue that not having a comprehensive drone identification and tracking system has been a long-standing barrier to drone innovation. For instance, Wing, Zipline, Amazon, UPS, and a host of other companies, have sought permission to develop drone delivery solutions. But, regulations haven’t allowed it, in part due to law enforcement agency concerns about unidentified drones being used for terrorism, drug smuggling, or other crimes.

As a result, most drone delivery solutions have been limited to proof-of-concept projects in specific areas, such as testing corridors or university campuses. In other words, implementing a way to identify and track any drone at any time could help assuage those concerns and open the door for more advanced UAS solutions.

So, by giving authorities better visibility, UAS operators might get permission to do more?

That’s the idea.

The optimist’s view is that the remote system ID is an important step in creating an Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management System (UTM) that is scalable to the national airspace. Critics argue that the system’s rollout is going to be slow, painful, and ultimately not successful, which means it will delay, not catalyze, the development of a UTM.

How will it work?

The proposed regulation divides drones into two categories: standard remote identification and limited remote identification. 

Standard remote identification drones will broadcast Remote ID signals using the radio frequency spectrum and transmit them over an internet connection. These drones will be permitted to fly anywhere a small UAS is allowed to under other applicable regulations, such as Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations. 

Meanwhile, limited remote identification drones will only transmit the required elements over the internet, but cannot broadcast over the air. These drones will be limited to VLOS operations, and the FAA will require the manufacturer to limit such drones to fly within 400 feet of the operator.

In other words, both have to ping information about their aircraft and whereabouts to Identification UAS Service Suppliers, companies chosen by the FAA to gather and manage the tracking information.

Goodbye, privacy...

That is a valid concern.

Note that operators will have the option to randomly-generated alphanumeric code assigned by a Remote ID USS on a per-flight basis, if they want additional privacy. And, remember that drones themselves are widely seen as a threat to privacy.

Unfortunately, drone operators don’t have a lot of bargaining power on this one.

OK, but what about operations where there’s limited connectivity? 

According to page 94 of the NPRM, a standard remote identification UAS that loses connection to the internet, or that can no longer transmit to a Remote ID USS after takeoff, would be able to continue its flight, as long as it continues broadcasting the message elements.

It is true, however, that limited remote identification drones cannot take off without an internet connection.

Unfortunately, drone operators don’t have a lot of bargaining power on this one.

Will this require an expensive upgrade? 

The NPRM (page 89) states that “the FAA reviewed UAS registered to part 107 operators and found 93% of the existing part 107 UAS fleet may have technical capabilities to be retrofit based on information received by industry (i.e., could support software updates through the internet).” 

That’s because most drones have internet and WiFi connectivity, ability to transmit data, receive software uploads, and have radio frequency transceivers, among other technology such as advanced microprocessors.

However, the new system will likely create barriers for recreational operators, STEM programs at universities, and other drone operators that tend to use older or less advanced equipment.

So, when will this get implemented?

The proposal envisions that within three years of the effective date of approval, all UAS operating in the airspace of the United States will be compliant with the remote identification requirements. 

There have been numerous predictions that the FAA’s timeline would be disrupted due to issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but if Elwell’s statements prove true, and the FAA does approve the system by the end of 2021, their proposal outlines the following implementation schedule.

  • In 2021, the focus would be on creating a system to connect standard remote identification UAS and limited remote identification UAS to a Remote ID USS.
  • In 2022, manufacturers would begin to produce inventory with remote identification for availability to operators by year 3.
  • In 2023, operators would finally have to start buying the necessary equipment to be compliant with the new system by the end of the year.

In short, even if the schedule is adhered to, nothing is going to change in the short term, and as long as you stay up to date on things as they evolve, you shouldn’t be sidelined by anything major.

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.

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