Inside Unmanned Systems

FEB-MAR 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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6   February/March 2018 unmanned systems inside Finding and Protecting What Works EDITORIAL OPINION Photos courtesy of Kevin Dennehy, Northrop Grumman and Insitu. W hat works and what doesn't is the overrid- ing consideration in any new endeavor. In this issue we share details on new applications like nuclear facility inspection (page 50) and drone-enabled volcanic research (page 16) as well as opportunities for sensors and software in the agricultural drone sector (page 66). This issue also focuses on the rising enthusi- asm for supporting unmanned vehicles and air- craft in the EU space community (page 46). We also report on new a prototyping resource (page 36), the emerging technology of hydrogen batteries for longer missions (page 60) and bio- inspired models for navigating autonomous un- derground vehicles (page 57). Among the things that don't work, accord- ing to most in the unmanned aircraft industry, is America's drone regulation. General Poss in General Overview (page 8) points out the U.S. has a deep well of expertise in the Air Force, which has millions of hours of drone f light expe- rience. That experience could be tapped, he sug- gests, to more quickly craft new rules that would unleash the potential of drones in the U.S. The Air Force, however, has something the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) lacks: a way to bring to heel those who do not follow the rules. As detailed in Washington View (page 42) the question of setting requirements for hobbyists has been brought to a head by law enforcement agencies worried about nefarious actors. Both the recreational f lyers and the com- mercial operators have valid arguments for and against expanding the categories of UAS that should be required to carry remote identification capability—but right now there's no real teeth to any compromise they might find. Over the holidays, one of our staff shared a checkout line with a tall gentleman holding a re- cently purchased drone. It was the third drone he'd bought in roughly three weeks, he said, each of the first two having f lown off after he some- how lost control. The conversation suggested he'd been operating in a no-drone zone and quite pos- sibly within five miles of an airport. Hopefully he took the gently-offered advice on where to learn how to operate his newest toy. There's no way to be confident he learned to f ly safely—but there should be. At the end of 2017 President Trump signed a measure that reversed an earlier court ruling, thereby again requiring recreational UAS f lyers to register their drones. This is a good step but it's not clear, with more than a million drone pi- lots now registered—and an unknown number who are not registered—that this will be enough. In its 2017 Aerospace Forecast the FAA predict- ed there would likely be 3.55 million recreational drones by 2021 with a high estimate of perhaps a million more. As the numbers go up so do the odds of a serious incident. Aviation regulators, com- mercial operators, recreational f lyers and their communities need to work out a practical plan to prevent uniformed and/or irresponsible drone pilots from causing an accident that will ground everyone. Lawmakers should then provide active support for that plan and give it the teeth it needs to keep everyone flying safely.

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