Sunday, March 18, 2012

New UAS Rules Expand Drone Market

GPS drone (UAS) with GoPro camera

GPS drone (UAS) with GoPro camera; Creative Commons image courtesy Don McCullough

Drones somehow feel a little bit like the future to me, and it’s crazy to think that they are actually delivering things now. As with all growing industries, there are going to have to be some regulations put into play. Drones, also known as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), had a new rule go into effect at the end of August.

The Small UAS Rule (Part 107) took away some of the limitations associated with U.S. commercial drone flights. This will lead to a big boost in the growing drone industry, which depends on GPS for most of its successes. During 2015, more than a million drones were sold throughout the U.S., but that’s less than half of the 2.4 million drones that were sold during the first half of 2016.

With this rule change, operators of UAS and drones don’t need to go through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for permission before every flight. Instead, operators simply need to follow the guidelines set by FAA. Under Part 107, which only applies to daytime flights, it states that UAS can weigh no more than 55 pounds, cannot fly higher than 400 feet, and must stick to low population areas when tracking cargo.

Most UAS involve GPS receivers, even though it is not required under Part 107. The devices typically use geofencing to keep drones out of any restricted airspace, and automated flight planning. Both features rely on GPS technology.

According to the FAA, as many as 600,000 UAS could be used commercially during the first year of this rule being implemented, and that number is expected to grow to 2.7 million by 2020. With those numbers, you can definitely expect a profit.

“Industry estimates that over the next 10 years, commercial unmanned aircraft systems could generate more than $82 billion for the U.S. economy and by 2025 could be supporting as many as 100,000 new jobs,” Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx reported during a press conference.

More potential for the drone industry hides in expanding the beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) operations. This could allow drones to inspect power lines and railroad tracks, help with precision agriculture, aid with agricultural mapping, and decrease cost when compared to manned-aircraft. It seems that over the next few years, GPS drones will become much more common. This is a step that can help with advancing technology and generating a profit.

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