Drones Need More Room to Grow Written 16 June 2016

A drone is flown in an urban area. Credit: Associated Press–©

Panelists: Moderator Dallas Brooks, director, Raspet Flight Research Laboratory, Mississippi State University, and co-chair, FAA’s UAS Science and Research Panel; John Cavolowsky, director, Airspace Operations and Safety Program, Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, NASA headquarters; Jonathan Evans, CEO, Skyward; Diane Gibbens, president and CEO, Trumbull Unmanned; Charlie Keegan, chairman elect, Air Traffic Control Association; Michael Singer, CEO, DroneView Technologies

by David HodesAerospace America contributing writer

The transformation of the country’s airspace to manage more traffic is well underway, and now is the time to give drones more areas to access to help develop standards, experts said June 16 at the 2016 AIAA Demand for Unmanned Symposium in Washington, D.C.

In the panel, “Transformation in the National Airspace System,” Jonathan Evans, CEO of Skyward, said the UAS industry wants to make the NAS safer in a technical, innovative and synergistic way.

“We can transform the national airspace by allowing drone operators to be in that space,” he said.

 That begins with flight recordkeeping, which Evans says currently “is pretty dusty.”

“We can take the complexities of those records and can provide more elegant, simplified tools in a way that hasn’t been done before in aviation,” he said.

Mike Singer, CEO of DroneView Technologies, said his company collects data, stitches it together to form 3D models and creates maps of topography, providing tools to solve real problems about airspace usage.

“We are acting as a catalyst to bring this technology to the market,” he said.

Air traffic controllers also need to be involved in the discussion, said Charlie Keegan, chairman elect of the Air Traffic Control Association. He maintained they are the keepers of history and don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past.

“We want to have a voice in how the airspace is managed,” Keegan said. “We want to say what it should be to give more understanding and clarity to the FAA studying it.”

Singer agreed, saying the FAA should be a reviewer of standards, not a generator.

UAS users are saturating the sky with their devices, Evans said, meaning that the transformation of the national airspace is happening on its own.

“It’s like the internet — it’s programmatic,” he explained, adding that the transformation of the airspace is about commercial demand of that airspace.

“Give us access,” Evans said. “We need to come into urban spaces. That is the evolution we need to help us go forward.”


All 2016 AIAA AVIATION Forum Videos