Doug Toppin's Blog

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Being Prepared for Commercial Usage of Drones

I stumbled on an older article about a drone incident (28 August 2015) where a few statements caused me to think more about how drones have to be used in commercial applications to ensure the safety of the public and property.

The article can be found at http://www.suasnews.com/2015/08/loss-of-operator-control-involving-an-aeronavics-skyjib-8/.

The statements that caught me eye were The crew commenced alternate recovery procedures and concluded that radio frequency interference was the most likely cause of the accident.

The reason that this caught my eye was that if anyone decides to use a drone in a commercial operation are they prepared for events such as these? By prepared for I mean have plans, procedures and operator training.

  • If you are using a drone to film an event or area and lose control of it what are you going to do?
  • If you are planning to use a drone do you take into consideration what frequency to use for control or does your equipment even accommodate using specific channels?
  • Are other drone operators likely to be in the area and might there be conflicts with the airspace and vehicle control?
  • Will multiple vehicles be trying to get the same view and raise the risk of collision?
  • In preparation for the event will each drone operator coordinate with each other when and where their vehicles will be?

It seems like there is a great opportunity for mission and flight planning systems that allow this sort of coordination at a much smaller level that ever previously necessary. This may even fall to the single individual level where a commercial filming application is an enterprise of one person. Note that that individual likely will not have a “Flight Operations Department” that might be found in larger companies so the use of the planning system will have to require only a small investment in money and time.

The technology for drones has advanced so rapidly that it it tempting to simply start using them without the planning and preparation necessary to eliminate or even reduce the risk of accident.

I do not envy the FAA in being required to plan and implement the above without introducing impediments to the adoption of drones in U.S airspace.

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