We have all seen or at least heard of them; if not, it is almost certain that we have seen some of the products of their activities, such as the breathtaking vistas that only aerial photography can provide.
The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), or drone, is rapidly becoming one of the most ubiquitous sights in the skies over America, with companies and flight enthusiasts alike, vying for a piece of what has become a multibillion-dollar industry. Companies from industries as diverse as retail stores and media outlets are literally waiting in line to take advantage of the potential these machines have to offer, while flight aficionados, amateur and professional, are scooping them up almost as quickly as they are produced.
Unfortunately, the immense popularity of drones has outpaced the ability to regulate them, which has led to myriad problems; from a cumbersome and often lengthy licensing process for commercial entities, to recreational pilots suddenly finding themselves grounded, due to stringent new laws governing drone operation within municipal jurisdictions. High-profile incidents involving drones, such as the highly-publicized crash of one on the White House lawn, has contributed to suspicions, fears, and other misgivings, that sometimes overshadows the positive applications of these craft.
While some lament over the enactment of stifling regulations, others believe that there is not enough oversight of these strange and sometimes unsettling-looking contraptions, flitting about through the air. However, the FAA does have regulations in place for drone operation. Current rules allow recreational pilots and hobbyists to operate at less than 400 feet without special permission, if the aircraft weighs less than 55 pounds, while all commercial operators must obtain FAA authorization, regardless of aircraft size.
One of the biggest concerns is the possibility of drones accidentally colliding with manned aircraft. For this reason, the FAA restricts pilots from flying drones within five miles of airports. Even this, according to detractors, is not enough; which has led to tough laws being passed in some local and state jurisdictions—with one Colorado town even attempting to float a measure allowing people to shoot them down.
With so much bad press, one might be led to think the nation is facing some kind of “drone-pocalypse” –complete with thousands of the craft falling from skies in fiery collisions. In fact, drone manufacturers, like Yuneec, Inc., are hard at work making drone operation as safe as possible.
For example, Yuneec (pronounced – “unique”), has proactively introduced innovative features into its drone aircraft to make their operation safer and also ensure compliance with federal regulations for recreational pilots. Yuneec drones have built-in programming preventing them from operating near airports, or above FAA-mandated altitudes, according to Marc Ausman, COO of Yuneec USA, in Ontario, Calif.
Not your typical remote-controlled model Cessna, these aircraft are incredibly complex and sophisticated devices, yet they allow ease of operation and safety, through an intuitive control interface and state-of-the-art technology.
“Yuneec drones cannot fly near major airports or over 400 feet above ground level,” said Ausman. “This technology works by comparing the GPS position of the drone against a built-in database of major airports. It is a voluntary measure and we’ve pre-programmed this technology into our drones because we believe it will make flying safer for both manned and unmanned aircraft pilots.”
The rest of the drone industry is also diligently working with regulators to achieve a workable balance between government oversight and public safety. Ausman said that his company fully supports sensible regulations in addition to licensing of commercial UAV operators, who have demonstrated responsible operation of the aircraft. The company is also committed to the continued development of built-in features to make drone flights safer and more enjoyable for all consumers.
The latest improvement being developed is called “sense and avoid.” This technology will allow drones to automatically avoid obstacles and other aircraft, according to Ausman. When asked about the future of the drone industry within the next decade, Ausman was very optimistic.
“I think drones are currently where PCs were in 1985 or the Internet was in 1995,” said Ausman. “We look forward to being a part of history as we continue to see the industry grow and evolve.”