Avionics News December 2020 - 40

WHEN WILL DRONES CRAWL, WALK, RUN?
Continued from page 39

which the FAA can grant in a matter of seconds to fly under
400 feet in controlled airspace near about 600 airports in
the United States. This is for remote pilots operating under
Small UAS Rule Part 107 or for recreational pilots under
an exemption designed for them. LAANC is for air vehicles
weighing up to 55 pounds.
Regarding LAANC, Teri Bristol, chief operating officer of
the FAA's Air Traffic Organization that controls all the traffic
in the NAS, said at the UAS Symposium, " We have come a
long way in a short period of time. " She added that the FAA
is working to make LAANC better so the agency can free up
more airspace and make it easier to grant authorizations to fly.
LAANC is also seen as a key building block to developing a
UAS traffic management system to manage UAS traffic below
400 feet. " Our vision for UTM is to have the FAA provide
safety principles, operational requirements and governance
while UAS operators and USS service support will be
responsible for coordinating and managing those operations, "
she said. She later added, " The overwhelming majority of
people involved in growing this new (UAS) aviation sector are
interested in carrying out safe drone operations for legitimate
purposes, and we all have an interest in ensuring bad actors
cannot easily exploit this new technology. "
As much as the FAA has accomplished so far, there
appears to be some heavy lifting coming up in the near
future. Aviation experts know that accidents will happen,
and the FAA and the aviation safety community are all
about reducing the risk and the consequences of accidents
as much as possible. Safety is the longest pole in the tent
in drone operations, and FAA Administrator Stephen M.
Dickson addressed it on July 8 in the first half of this year's
all-virtual FAA UAS Symposium. The second half took
place in mid-August.
" We at the FAA are here to help the drone community
prosper ... but safety is always our highest priority, " he said.
In addition to LAANC, another drone program the FAA
sees as a great success is the Integration Pilot Program, a
White House initiative that began in 2017 and concluded
in late October this year. The eight lead participants in the
IPP have been conducting a variety of drone operations
to evaluate new concepts of operation, including beyond
visual line of sight, at night and over people. IPPs have
also been looking at detect and avoid technology and
the reliability and security of data exchanges. The FAA
concluded the IPP program in October and began a followon effort named " Beyond " to scale up BVLOS operations
with industry partners.
The IPP lead participants represent a cross section
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2020

of state, local and tribal governments so the federal
government can determine how to balance local and
national issues during drone integration into the NAS.
These IPP leaders are the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma,
the City of San Diego, the Virginia Center for Innovative
Technology's Center for Unmanned Systems along with
the Virginia Tech University's Mid-Atlantic Aviation
Partnership, the Kansas Department of Transportation,
the Memphis International Airport, the North Carolina
Department of Transportation, the North Dakota
Department of Transportation, the City of Reno, Nevada,
and the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.
The Memphis UAS IPP program, for example, is using
DJI drones to conduct FedEx aircraft inspections in a
fraction of the time it usually takes, to deliver FedEx
aircraft parts by operating day or night, to conduct
airport perimeter security, and to complete airport safety
inspections including searching for FOD.
These IPP leaders have been conducting innovative
commercial drone operations, and some are naturally suited
to helping people during the COVID-19 pandemic. In
addition, some have started new services to assist people
during the health crisis.
For example, as part of the FAA's IPP effort, Wing
(an Alphabet/Google company) has been delivering
packages by drones from retail stores to homes in suburban
Christiansburg, Virginia, since October 2019. Wing is
operating under a Part 135 certification as a commercial
drone operator. These include items from Walgreen's drug
store, but not prescriptions, coffee from a local coffee shop,
baked goods from a local bakery and small FedEx packages.
The 10.6-pound drone flies to a person's home, hovers
over the backyard, and lowers the item being delivered on a
cord. The service is popular with one elderly couple in their
early 80s even though they have to order the delivery using
a cellphone application, and not everyone in their age group
is good at that. They are in the most-vulnerable age group of
people who want to avoid visiting stores during a pandemic.
After COVID-19 hit, a local librarian suggested
delivering library books by drone, and that also proved
popular and a boon to school-age children stuck at home.
Using a cellphone app, people can order from a list of
150,000 titles.
Virginia Tech has also been working with Dominion
Energy in the use of drones to inspect power lines and
pipelines in a fraction of the time it takes a human inspector
to scramble around in difficult terrain. And it is working
with State Farm Insurance, which has received FAA
permission for long-distance flights over densely populated
areas, to inspect buildings and other infrastructure for
damage after a hurricane. A 1.5-pound EBee fixed-wing



Avionics News December 2020

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