John Langford: UAS Industry Is Growing, and Focus Needs to Shift Written 16 June 2016
Speaker: John Langford, chairman and CEO, Aurora Flight Sciences Corp.
by David Hodes, Aerospace America contributing writer
The unmanned aerial system industry has outpaced the growth of the general aviation business, and now is the time to work on the details of this revolution with the help of new stakeholders, John Langford said June 16 at the 2016 AIAA Demand for Unmanned Symposium in Washington, D.C.
In the session, “Ascent of Unmanned,” Langford, chairman and CEO of Aurora Flight Sciences Corp., said people are “entranced” by the UAS because it provides a different reality. But with a new reality comes concerns.
He noted since the beginning of UASs in the 1970s and as they grow, there has been a steady decline in licensed pilots, due in part to the continuing automation of devices in the cockpit.
“We want to revive that, get more pilots to join this new industry,” he said, adding that the UAS industry also needs more buy-in from Silicon Valley.
Langford raised milestone transitions on the horizon or already in play, including how UAS usage will drive performance-based standards for detection and avoidance as well as the rise of both low- and high-altitude flights of unmanned aircraft delivering packages.
“The commercial unmanned industry is predicting over 100 million flight hours by 2024,” he said. “That is a big projection but bears paying attention to.”
Two things that need to happen, he said, are the development of reliable, affordable drones that detect their environment and a move from the paradigm of many people per airplane operations to many airplane operations per person.
“That is not getting enough attention,” Langford said. “It deserves more attention, because it can help drive costs down.”
He said AIAA missed the first wave of the modern drone revolution but that it’s not too late.
“We are very early in this revolution, and there is a consumer boom,” Langford said. “But right now, the hype is on the consumer, and the money is on the military.
“This conference today is a huge step,” he continued. “I hope it will not be a one-time event but be the centerpiece of what the AIAA is all about.”
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