Regulators Prepare for Drone Revolution

The Federal Aviation Administration has registered more commercial drones in the past 18 months than it has all other aircraft over the past 100 years.  That has researchers busy studying ways to reduce drone strikes against other aircrafts, vehicles and even people.

A group of 23 research institutions make up the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE).  It is studying everything from including air traffic control, pilot certification and crash avoidance.

The head of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration recently called the drone revolution "a huge game-changer" for the aviation industry, "similar to powered flight or jet engines."

“The benefits of these things as tools and companies like us being able to offer a service through drone operations is going to far outweigh any amount of air traffic that's increased, it's going to be part of the landscape,” says Ryan Baker, CEO of Hoston-based ArchAerial.

Baker remains skeptical about delivery drones, but an industry trade group projects commercial drones will add 100,000 jobs by 2025, leading to tighter regulation in the years ahead.

“Right now, as a hobbyist you can just grab a drone, but you're supposed to register it with the FAA, although that just got challenged in a court,” he says.  “However, as a commercial operator, we're supposed to register our drones and have a commercial policy on that drone.”

Researchers are hoping their studies will help the regulatory side of the drone industry catch up with the technology.

“There are a lot of good tools out there, not only the FAA's website, but websites like AirMap where you can go on and see where there is controlled air space, where there are heliports and where there are no-fly zones,” says Baker.

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