Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane. It’s a DRONE!
For many years, small remote controlled airplanes and helicopters were used by hobbyists who were able to enjoy the fun of flying without ever leaving the ground. With the advent of drones or small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (sUAV), a new market has been created, driving manufacturers, engineers and aviation enthusiasts to find new and exciting ways to use what was once relegated to a small number of hobbyists. Add to the joy of flying cameras that allow the operator to see and record what we could only imagine a bird would see, and immediately filmmakers, photographers as well as anyone with a couple hundred dollars could buy and fly drones with little or no restrictions.
Soon, this rapid expansion of the manufacture and use of drones pushed them to be used in places where they were not welcome. With cameras rolling, neighbors found drones over their yards invading their privacy. Pilots started to see them near airports and they began to appear above overcrowded public venues. The surge of such incidents grew quickly. In 2014, there were only 238 unauthorized sightings, but in 2015 (between January 1st and August 9th) the FAA reported more than 650 unauthorized drone sightings 1.
As the problem grew, government agencies considered what to do. For hobbyists, guidelines for the use of sUAVs probably would not change much, but for those wanting to use the drones commercially, there were reports that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would require a pilot’s license for drone operation. This potential regulation alone would make the commercial use of drones out of reach for most.
In June 2016, the FAA adopted some simple guidelines for sUAV operators to follow. Called the small unmanned aircraft rule (Part 107), these new guidelines help to clarify rules for the industry as well create the safe and efficient use of drones. For a small fee, anyone can obtain what is now called an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or “Remote Pilot” Certification. (See http://www.faa.gov/uas/). Creating these guidelines along with a Federal Drone Registry, the Department of Transportation is addressing the public’s concern for safety.
The prediction is that this new industry over the next ten years will generate more than $82 billion for the U.S. economy, while creating more than 100,000 new jobs 2. Some of the basic rules, like flying below 400 feet and less than one hundred miles per hour, are reasonable yet flexible enough that anyone with a need to have any kind of aerial surveillance now has a great tool at their disposal. For security companies, the sky is the new frontier, allowing them to integrate sUAVs into their daily routines, enhancing and expanding their reach, offering better and more efficient tools for a reasonable price to their customers.
For the film and video industry, the commercial use of drones will give us a creative and cost effective way to get the shots we could never afford. In the past, getting a camera in position higher than a standard six-foot tripod took a great deal of equipment and labor to support it. Anything above eight feet would require a jib that would hold the camera. For anything higher than eight to twelve feet, larger more expensive jibs or cranes with operators would be needed, making these shots out of the range for most clients. Whether it was inside a warehouse or outside to get exteriors from a higher angle, these shots were not within our grasp.
Like so many other budding technologies, drones are destined to change the way we do things.
The future for drone pilots, companies and their creative uses is still in its infancy, but many industries are designing innovative uses for drones such as traffic monitoring, police surveillance, mail delivery to name just a few. Already, we see many advanced systems, like GPS and autopilot, incorporated into low cost drones making them more accessible, safer and easier to fly. With this rapidly changing technology serving so many industries, well . . . the sky’s the limit!
1. FAA News article from August 12, 2016 - “Pilot Reports of Close Calls With Drones Soar in 2015”.
2. Inc. Magazine article from June 23, 2016 - “With 1 Announcement, the FAA Just Created an $82 Billion Market and 100,000 New Jobs”.