Ask the Experts Remote ID Panel

During the month of January, Commercial UAV News asked its readers to submit their questions about the new Remote ID rule, operations over people (OOP), and night flight certifications.

The questions that were raised ranged from concerns about privacy and how this would impact the future of businesses and the growth of the industry to getting certified and integrating the new rules into LAANC, and what it means to use broadcast versus network.

In order to answer these questions, the news outlet brought in a remote ID panel of experts to provide their knowledge and insights.

Consortiq’s own Bryan McKernan was asked to join the panel. Watch the full remote ID panel broadcast below!

Also, make sure to read our three-part series on how the FAA’s new rules will affect you as a remote pilot by CLICKING HERE.

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

Here’s what you need to know about the AUVSI TOP certification

There are numerous professional organizations available to drone operators, but few are as large and as established as the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).

This nonprofit organization works for the advancement of unmanned systems and robotics through various programs and hosted events.

AUVSI’s Trusted Operator Program (TOP) is an industry-recognized program for individuals and organizations. If you are not familiar with TOP, it is worth learning more about it, as it can enhance your organization’s (and your own) professional appearance.

The Part 107 license is a good start, but TOP is designed to further distinguish you and your pilots as safe, reliable, and professional.

What is TOP?

Several years ago, the FAA recognized a need for establishing rules and regulations surrounding the operation of drones for commercial applications.

In June 2016, the Part 107 sUAS license program became active. The program’s purpose was to regulate drone operations and provide access for people to tap into “the limitless possibilities unmanned aircraft offer.”

Earning an sUAS license is a great start, but it is by no means a robust certification.  If we look at the fundamental safety standards and practices established in the Part 107 program as if they are the foundation of a house, TOP can be seen as the rest of the building.

TOP was designed by AUVSI members who worked with the association’s Remote Pilots Council to develop the certification’s framework and guidelines. The elements of TOP focus on safety culture, best practices, airmanship, human performance, code of ethics, automation awareness, risk management, and non-technical skills.

Pilots and organizations who have participated in the program show improvements in safety, trust, risk management, professionalism, and reliability.

Some important things to remember about TOP are that it is specifically for professional pilots. Drone hobbyists are not the focus of this program.

Also, while TOP uses FAA regulations as its foundation, TOP trainers in countries outside the United States can apply their relevant regulations to the period of instruction. Thus, TOP has global recognition.

Finally, the certification has protocols established for specified topics that applicants must demonstrate conformance to in order to receive the certification.

Drone flies over people at a construction site during a drone inspection
How the FAA's new rules affect you as a drone pilot. Click the image above to read more!

What Are the Various TOP Levels?

There are three levels to TOP for individual remote pilots, remote pilot instructors, service providers, and training providers.

As levels increase, they reflect a greater degree of complexity and risk in the nature of UAV operations.

Level 1 (TOP 1) typically takes one hour of training, Level 2 (TOP 2) training is from 3 to 8 hours in length, and Level 3 (TOP 3) can take anywhere from 5 to 24 hours to complete.

AUVSI TOP 1

TOP 1 is specific to operators with a Part 107 who do not require waivers (such as nighttime flight or flying over people), and whose drones are electric-powered, weighing less than 15 pounds. In most cases, it’s ideal for individual drone service providers handling routine work like real estate photography.

AUVSI TOP 2

Top 2 is for Part 107 certified pilots that are also using waivers. Operators at this level are conducting more risky flights. Flying drones close to airports or above highly populated areas are examples of higher-risk operations. Typically, visual observers and sensor operators are involved in these flights as well.

One point of interest is the FAA’s recent ruling on Dec. 28, 2020, regarding changes to some Part 107 waivers. The two waivers discussed in the ruling were flight over people and night operations.

A remote-pilot-in-command holding a valid sUAS license can now fly over people and operate a night without a waiver in certain circumstances.

AUVSI TOP 3

Top 3 is for safety-critical operations, and for when flying around complicated structures such as mines, power plants, and communications towers.

Typical drone missions can include operating the UAV from moving vehicles or remotely. Drones operated by pilots with TOP 3 can exceed weights of 55 pounds.

Is TOP for You?

Businesses with drone programs should seriously consider getting some level of TOP certification.

Customers looking to hire drone service providers are looking more and more for certification beyond Part 107. This is especially true when the work is risky, and when mistakes can cause millions of dollars in damages.

Thanks to the program’s high standards, a customer who works with TOP-certified pilots and organizations can assume a high level of professionalism and reliability that go hand in hand with the UAV service being provided.

At Consortiq, we’re one of just a select few of TOP-certified training providers. We’ll help guide you through the program, and ensure that you and/or your remote pilots become AUVSI Trusted Operators!

Ready to take your certification to the next level? Check out our TOP training pages, or complete the form below to get 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!

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!

How New FAA Drone Rules Impact Remote Pilot Certification

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

We’ve previously written about how the Remote Identification of Unmanned Aircraft Rule (“remote ID rule”) will require remote identification of virtually all UAS within 30 months of February 2021. We’ve also written about how the Operations Over People and at Night Rule  (“operations rule”) will, under certain conditions, allow for drone flights at night and over people who are not directly involved in the operation.

In this snapshot, we’re going to cover how the drone operations rule impacts the remote pilot  knowledge test and recertification requirements.

What is the remote pilot knowledge test?

The remote pilot knowledge test, also known as a “Part 107 test,” is a prerequisite to obtaining a remote pilot certificate from the FAA.

The test currently covers a wide variety of topics such as the following:

  • Airspace classification and operating requirements
  • Flight restrictions 
  • Aviation weather/effects of weather on UAS performance
  • Emergency procedures

Until the “final rules” go into effect, the regulations state that remote pilot certificate holders must pass an in-person recurrent knowledge test at an FAA-approved test center every two years in order to renew that certificate.

Remote Pilot Knowledge Test - Man sitting at computer working with newly acquired drone footage for project
Drone pilot editing content obtained.

What’s changing about the remote pilot knowledge test?

The operations rule adds night subject areas to the initial remote pilot knowledge test.

Additionally, the final rule revises the regulations to require recurrent training instead of a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test.  The online recurrent training will include night subject areas and will be offered free of charge to remote pilots.

I have an active remote pilot certificate and recently took the Part 107 test. What do I do?

If you want to fly your drone at night but you don’t have a current waiver, you’ll need to take the recurrent training before you do so.

If you don’t want to operate at night, you don’t need to do anything regarding training/testing immediately, but just be aware that when the time comes for you to complete recurrent training in the future, it will include nighttime operations.

I have a part 61 pilot certificate and have never taken the Part 107 test. What do I do?

If you have a 61 pilot certificate (other than a student pilot certificate), and have completed a flight review within the previous 24 calendar months, you’ll need to complete either initial training or recurrent training before acting as pilot in command of a small UAS at night.

From here on out, the online recurrent training requirement will apply to you in virtually the same way that it does to Part 107 holders.

Why does this matter?

For most drone pilots, the replacement of the requirement  for recurrent knowledge testing with recurrent training will come as a relief.

The recurrent training seems like an easier, lower-pressure means of demonstrating one’s knowledge of drone operations. Similarly, organizations who have drone pilots due for renewal of their remote pilot certification will be glad to save money — and possibly time — that would have been spent retaking the recurrent knowledge test if things didn’t go well the first time. 

Broadly speaking, it’s unclear how exactly this will impact the UAS sector. On one hand, change that makes understanding the rules and maintaining compliance with them a simpler process should be applauded. Swapping recurrent testing for a recurrent training requirement is likely to encourage compliance and promote a basic understanding of the rules. 

On the other hand, the new operations rule still doesn’t require pilots to demonstrate their actual ability to fly or handle complex operational challenges. While this is understandable during the pandemic, in the long run, Consortiq’s position is that setting the bar for getting one’s remote pilot certificate too low can make it harder for the sector to move forward with the development of complex use-cases, since regulations have to prevent the “least common denominator” (i.e., the least competent pilot who has a certificate) from introducing unnecessary risk.

What's next?

Regardless of the formal requirements, Consortiq recommends that organizations take measures to ensure that their pilots have an acceptable level of flight proficiency and can demonstrate the ability to identify and mitigate key safety risks during complex operations.

We recommend you seriously consider those factors in order to ensure that your drone night operations are legal, safe, and successful.

When you’re ready to start your training, we’re here to help! Complete the form below to book your course or schedule a consultation today!

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!

FAA Issues Final Ruling on Remote ID For Drones

On Dec. 28, the FAA released its much anticipated Final Rule on Remote Identification of Unmanned Aircraft (Part 89).

The ruling will affect just about everyone flying a drone within United States airspace, especially commercial drone pilots.

If you are not familiar with the Remote ID issue, the FAA believes it is the next step in bringing drones further into the National Airspace System.

The administration is always concerned with safety and security. Since drones started to become popular a few years ago, regulators have struggled to monitor their use.

What Does a Remote ID Accomplish?

You may recall incidents in the last few years where drones forced the temporary shutdown of airports.

For example, in January 2019, Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey had to hold all flights for about 90 minutes when pilots noticed a small drone near the runway.

Rogue drones, as they are sometimes called, are of great concern to the FAA. Rogue drones and their pilots are difficult to monitor and prevent.

In theory, Remote ID will solve that problem. The new rule will essentially require a remote ID transmitter to broadcast both the drone’s and pilot’s locations, as well as identification information.

Broadcasting the locations will allow law enforcement, along with other public and private agencies, to know who is flying, and where, at all times.

About the FAA's Final Ruling

The final ruling has been a year in the making. In December 2019, the FAA published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding the remote identification of UAVs.

Over 53,000 comments were received regarding the NPRM in the first two months that followed its publication. The FAA reviewed each of these prior to publishing the final ruling.

The rule gives drone operators three ways to meet the identification requirements.

  • The first option is to fly a drone with the built-in capability to broadcast identification and location information for both the drone and the remote control (control station). For most pilots, that isn’t an option, but will be soon.

    Eventually, the FAA will require manufacturers to include this feature in their drones. For now, there will be an 18-month grace period for manufactures to begin producing remote ID capable UAVs.

    Drones with this feature will have a better chance at operating Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) and at night without a waiver.

  • The next option to remain in compliance with remote ID is to fly a drone that uses an add-on remote ID transmitting device.

    For most pilots and organizations with an existing fleet of drones, this will be the primary option. We are likely to see in the next few months, several manufacturers developing these transmitters.

    An operator using this method will need to maintain visual sight of the drone at all times.

  • Option three will apply only to community-based organizations and educational institutions.

    If approved by the FAA, these groups can establish FAA-Recognized Identification Areas (FRIAs) where drones can fly without broadcasting remote ID information and location.

 
FAA Remote ID Rule

So, When Do Drone Operators Need to Comply with the New Ruling?

The deadline for compliance depends on which of the three options for remote ID you plan to use.

If you intend to follow the remote ID rule by flying a drone with a built-in transmitter, after Feb. 26, you have 18 months to comply. If you are using an add-on remote ID device, after Feb. 26, you have 30 months to be compliant.

Entities looking to establish FRIAs can begin doing so immediately.

What's Next?

There was initially some discussion that remote ID would require a monthly subscription, but that will not be the case, at least from the FAA.

Other concerns have centered around privacy issues. Some of the most prominent players in the space, such as Google’s Wing, have reservations about location broadcasting, as opposed to self-identification. For now, we will need to wait and see how things roll out.

Enforcing the new rule will be a responsibility of the FAA. This will be a significant undertaking, and it is not yet clear if the resources will be available to handle this, especially when considering rogue drone activities.

The bottom line is that, whether you have an in-house built drone or an off-the-shelf UAV, if you are flying in United States airspace, you will eventually need to broadcast your location and identification.

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!

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!

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