Avionics News May 2020 - 36

UNKNOWN DRONE

Continued from page 35

Tyler Dobbs, who is director of government affairs
for the AMA, said some of the people he talks to at
general aviation manufacturers worry that the FAA's
demanding certification and equipage requirements for
drones could migrate into the world of experimental
and ultralight aircraft.
One Aircraft Electronics Association member who
has flown model aircraft didn't get his start in the
hobby until he was in his late 30s when a relative
taught him how to fly these aircraft. Brad Hayden,
president and chief executive officer of Robotic Skies,
is helping avionics repair shops set up to work on large
drones such as Acecore Technologies Neo with eight
rotors. With a maximum takeoff weight of about 20
pounds, the professional class drone can lift a payload
of about 10 pounds. Hayden does not see repair shops
working on air vehicles smaller than this.
"I do believe model aircraft are a great gateway to
get people into manned aviation," Hayden said. Mason
Hutchison agrees with him, and if it weren't for model
aircraft, he would never have landed his dream job as
an aerospace engineer at Scaled Composites.
Hutchison started flying model aircraft at age 8,
which was his only path into aviation growing up in
New Mexico. He also flew gliders and managed to
get his pilot private certificate. He couldn't afford to
go out of state for college, and New Mexico Tech, a
mining school, had no aerospace engineering courses.
So he got a degree in mechanical engineering.
After getting a few years of work experience, he
decided to apply to Scaled Composites as it was setting
new records in aviation. Hutchison sent in a new
application every month. In fact, he applied 56 times.
"I would sweep the floors at that place if I could get a
job there," he said.
He knew that he was good at designing model
aircraft and that he would be good at designing
big ones. Really big ones. He showed up for his
interview with a photo of every model aircraft he had
ever designed. It turns out Burt Rutan, the founder
of Scaled Composites, is also an avid fan of model
aircraft and started flying them at age 8.
A few years after joining Scaled, Hutchison became
the leader of the team designing the landing gear for
White Knight Two, the four-engine, twin-fuselage

36

avionics news

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may

2020

aircraft that carries SpaceShipTwo to its launch
altitude. Then he became the lead flight control
engineer for an even bigger aircraft, the six-engine,
twin-fuselage Stratolaunch, which has a longer
wingspan than a 747 or an Airbus A380. The aircraft
may soon be carrying a hypersonic vehicle to its
launch altitude.
Now in middle age, Hutchison has arrived where
he wanted to be in aviation. Today, students studying
to become avionics technicians are getting exposed to
recreational and commercial drone operations.
Plenty of students at AEA member Spartan College
of Aeronautics and Technology in Tulsa, Oklahoma,
are interested enough in drones to take a class in the
subject at the school. Avionics instructor Prentice
Shew, a pilot of drones and model aircraft, introduces
them to the uses and misuses of small drones. He
teaches them how to fly on a drone flight simulator and
shows them videos of what not to do. One video shows
a drone that flies too high up to 3,000 feet above the
clouds, loses power as the battery drains and crashes
into some trees in a park.
"We teach them what they are supposed to do so
they can properly fly drones within legal boundaries,"
Prentice said. He fills them in on Part 107, which
governs the use of small (less than 55 pounds)
unmanned aircraft systems (drones) for other than
recreational or hobby use. Some students take the Part
107 knowledge exam, which is required every two
years to fly small drones to shoot video for pay.
Prentice introduces them to ways to make money
by flying drones to take videos of houses for the real
estate market or to take videos of an outdoor wedding.
A student can make $2,000 in a weekend filming a
wedding, but that also includes editing the video.
Drones are being used in agriculture to keep track of
cows and pinging on a Fitbit type of device to check on
the animals' vital signs. And drones are used by utility
and oil companies to make video inspections of facilities
and pipelines. Construction companies are also using
drones to monitor progress on new buildings. Shew
shows his students how to set up a series of waypoints so
a drone can capture video from the exact same angles on
a series of flights over time as a new building goes up.
The FAA will permit all sorts of commercial and
recreational uses as long as the drone operators follow
the rules. And once remote ID is up and running, the
agency will know who is operating the drone and there
may be consequences for not following the rules. q



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