Inside Unmanned Systems

DEC 2017 - JAN 2018

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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AIR APPLICATIONS 42 unmanned systems inside December 2017/January 2018 how UAS might be safely used for visual line-of-sight operations over people—spe- cifically, newsgathering in populated areas. PrecisionHawk researched extended visual line-of-sight operations in rural areas—that is how UAS f lights outside the pilot's direct vi- sion might be done, thereby allowing greater UAS use for crop-monitoring in precision ag- riculture operations. Finally, BNSF Railway worked to make beyond visual line-of-sight operations possible in rural and isolated ar- eas—investigating the command-and-control challenges involved with using UAS to inspect rail system infrastructure. "There were times within the context of the Pathfinder program that I got very frustrated, and thought all I was doing was simply kill- ing trees to create paperwork, and I know FAA was frustrated with me as well," Agvent recalled. "But eventually I had the realization that all the paperwork we created, all the de- tail work that went into the ConOps (concept of operations) and safety management system and risk assessment was key to establishing firm foundations to get to the next level." "CNN didn't have a safety culture—we had a field production culture, and trying to in- culcate people into a safety culture, which is requisite for any aerial operations, was a bit of a culture change and culture shock for us," Agvent said. "That was one of the biggest things that came out of this work—if we're go- ing to operate in airspace, we need to do so safely and then prove we can do so safely." As part of its efforts, in 2016 CNN received the first-ever FAA waiver for a small tethered vehicle to fly over people. Most recently, in July, CNN was the first organization to get a Part 107 waiver from the FAA to f ly a small UAS over people for closed-set motion picture and television films. (Before Part 107 became ef- fective in August 2016, the FAA issued closed- set filming exemptions through Section 333.) "I am probably prone to overusing the 'crawl, walk, run' analogy, but that's essen- tially what the drone industry needs, an itera- tive approach," Agvent said. "The technology is changing fast, the regulations are shifting, the use cases are evolving—so let's take small steps and clear low hurdles first." CNN's latest waiver application was based on the "reasonableness approach," under which an applicant's ability to operate a UAS safely over people was determined based on the to- tality of circumstances under which the appli- cant f lew, including the operator's safe history of operations, the safety features of the air- craft, and test data demonstrating the UAS is safe to operate over people. "We showed how we were going to utilize these craft, what risk-mitigation strategies we put in place, what training regimens we had for our pi- lots, who had final say over operations," Agvent said. "We showed the independent testing of the craft that was done, and third-party white papers from DJI and Virginia Tech and the University of Alabama at Huntsville to bolster the case that lightweight craft weren't the threat they were originally thought to be. At the end of the day, we think the preponderance of evidence helped lead to having that waiver granted." "It wasn't just that we had to make a drone that was safe—it was about how we defined what safe was, what allowable thresholds for human safety were, how much force could we put on a person before spinal injury or cranial fracture or concussion or laceration," Fisher Photos courtesy of Vantage Robotics. The Snap drone can be controlled with a cell phone app.

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