As FTI continues to hone in on the world of drone-related business and policy, we’ve cherry picked some interesting snapshots from the previous week with our thoughts on their implications.
FTI’s TMT team routinely analyzes and evaluates conversation and events in the nascent drone space, posting content we hope will prove to be a valuable resource on UAV information that connect the dots between technology, policy and business.
Drone business and policy continues to buzz this month, with major events throughout the industry. With the recent prediction from market research firm Tractica that drone hardware sales will increase from 283 million in 2015 to 4 billion in 2025, it’s clear that drones are here for the long haul.
This week’s drone industry news this week skews heavily towards potential effects of commercial drones – both positive and negative – and how best to mitigate them.
INDUSTRY | The Air Line Pilots Association released a report this week that lays out a series of policy suggestions, urging federal leaders to “fully and continuously” invest in NextGen, ensure drone rules are compatible with the needs of airspace users, rebuff efforts to roll back aviation safety requirements and training mandates, classify lithium batteries as hazardous materials, and recognize voluntary steps U.S. airlines have taken to reduce carbon emissions and reject efforts to cut funding for the Federal Flight Deck Officers program.
Creating safe skies for both new and traditional aircrafts required new policies, and education from the legacy airline industry and the burgeoning drone market. FTI believes documents like these are the first step in increasing dialogue and sharing best practices to create requisite change.
INDUSTRY | Both Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) and leading drone-maker General Atomics can envision swarms of unmanned aircraft prowling the skies over the U.S.-Mexican border on the lookout for illegal immigrants and smugglers. While military contractors see an opportunity to expand their government business, Texas Democrats worry about the border becoming a war front.
There is increasing crossover between military and commercial drone operations, as this news shows. While drones continue to prove their potential in new and varied ways, they also runs the risk of creating increased political pressure, particularly on hot button topics such as this.
INDUSTRY | An 18-year-old Connecticut man may be in trouble with federal aviation officials after posting a video online that shows shots being fired from a drone that had been jury-rigged with a handgun. The FAA said on July 14 it is investigating whether Austin Haughwout of Clinton, Connecticut violated its regulations, which prohibit the careless or reckless operation of a model aircraft.
INDUSTRY | Drone pilots who “buzz” passenger jets as they take off and land at British airports have been warned they face jail time if caught as the number of companies and unlicensed individuals making use of the relatively low cost flight technology continues to grow. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which issued the warning on July 15th, has recorded six serious incidents in the past year when drones came within 20ft of airliners at airports around the country including
INDUSTRY | Efforts to battle a fast-moving wildfire that swept across a Southern California freeway — destroying more than a dozen vehicles and sending motorists scampering to safety — were delayed because of five drones flying in the area, officials said. Firefighting planes were grounded for 26 minutes on June 17 as officials were afraid the planes would collide with the drones, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Lee Beyer said.
As individuals and organizations continue to push the boundaries of this new technology, there will continue to be inevitable missteps. FTI believes incidents like those in California, Conneticut and in the U.K. show the necessity for greater clarification and education around current, and future regulations around drones.
INDUSTRY | California’s State Fair held the first-ever U.S. National Drone Racing Championships, from July 15-17. The games got underway on a Sacramento soccer field on July 16, featuring 120 pilots from all over the world operating packs of drones zipping around an 11,000-seat stadium at speeds of up to 80 mph.
On a lighter note, the U.S. National Drone Racing Championship shows the exponential development of drone technology to meet new and unique challenges, as well as it’s potential to engage youth in STEM education in an exciting way.
Further, corporations continue to engage with drones, and grow their businesses with upcoming regulatory changes in mind:
CORPORATE | Sony Corp. is starting a drone subsidiary to serve business customers, a foray into a frontier already crowded with upstarts and technology giants. Sony said on June 23 that it plans to create a drone company called Aerosense through a joint venture with Tokyo-based startup ZMP Inc., which specializes in autopilot technology. Aerosense will offer services such as inspecting aged infrastructure and surveying land that is difficult to access.
CORPORATE | DJI, the world’s largest drone company, has hired lawyer Brendan Schulman as its vice president of policy and legal affairs. Like many players in the emerging drone industry, DJI is undergoing rapid growth, but regulations and negative public opinions surrounding drones could hinder its future.