Sunday, March 18, 2012

For the First Time, FAA Approves a Drone to Fly at Major Airport

Photo by 3DR

Photo by 3DR

If you’re a drone user, then you are probably aware of the almost draconian rules on flying your aircraft. There are restrictions to height and location which vary by region and even situation slightly. However, the one constant is that drones are not allowed to fly near airports. However, in a landmark moment, the FAA recently issued a waiver and allowed a drone to fly at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport—one of the busiest airports in the world.

The exception, it should be noted, did come with some conditions: in order to allow the drone to fly in airspace, the drone would require three spotters to be watching the drone during its flight, and there would have to be intense coordination with air traffic control. Of course, this isn’t the first time a drone has flown at an airport, but it is the first time the special permit was granted for a major airport.

According to Digital Trends, the special permit was  granted to a British design and engineering firm, Atkins, which was hired to work on the construction of a new airport hotel and the demolition of several existing airport parking facilities. The drones were needed in order to survey the parking facilities that were intended for demolition.

At the time of writing, around seven total flights have been carried out at the airport and no issues have been reported. The drones are being flown by a drone-specialist company called 3DR, which has partnered with Atkins.

I, for one, am super excited about this prospect as it is a huge leap forward in the drone industry. While the new drone rules the FAA published last year had a section for special permissions and waivers in certain circumstances, it’s nice to see that the FAA is not all talk and is actually issuing those waivers. I have to admit that I was a little skeptical. And that’s not even considering that the airport regulations are among the most strict in the drone industry.

Hopefully this will open up the market a bit for businesses looking to utilize all the possible advantages of drones in the future.

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