27 May 2015

FAA Announces New Drone testing for Expanded Commercial Uses

FAA administrator Michael Huerta told those attending the Unmanned Systems 2015 conference in Atlanta that the agency would begin testing increased use of drone aircraft for commercial purposes. These included tasks that would take the unmanned aircraft further than their pilots could see. Huerta acknowledged that integrating drones into airspace is a huge undertaking, but it’s one the FAA is determined to do in the next few years.

A recent USA Today article noted this test project is called ‘Pathfinder’ and will be composed of three parts, which include:

  • The use of Drones by CNN for newsgathering purposes in urban areas.
  • BNSF Railroad testing command and control systems in drones for use in surveying and inspecting their rail system.
  • Drone manufacturer ‘Precision Hawk’ testing the tracking and drone collision avoidance systems in agricultural areas.

People such as Brian Wynne, CEO of the trade group AUVSI, applauded the move and noted it would keep US manufacturers competitive with other countries that were also developing new drone technologies.

The FAA is currently working on regulations for drones that weigh less than 55 pounds and fly within the sight of their operators only during the day. These regulations are due out in 2016. Industry advocates say that drones need to be able to fly further than their operators can see and also be allowed to fly at night.

Companies such as Google, Amazon and Yamaha which are interested in using drone technology in the USA, acknowledged the FAA seemed open to working with them, but still felt regulatory attitudes in the US needed to change even more.

The FAA has already issued 248 special operating permits for drones and will continue looking into the matter with a “risk based approach” as things move forward.

Read the full article here.