FAA Backs Major Drone Research Efforts, Mobile Flight Planning App
NEWS ANALYSIS: The agency will continue its one-by-one approval process, but it is also supporting three new commercial drone research projects and is developing a drone flight planning app for iPhones.The Federal Aviation Administration announced support for two research initiatives that could enable wider use of commercial drones, plus a new mobile app to help drone users plan flights and avoid problems with restricted air space. The FAA Administrator Michael Huerta announced the new programs at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International conference being held in Atlanta on May 6. The first of the initiatives is a set of joint research efforts between the FAA and three companies. Cable News Network will investigate safe use of drones in urban areas, as a tool for gathering news videos. Unmanned aircraft systems maker PrecisionHawk will investigate extended visual line of sight operations in rural areas as a part of agricultural operations. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad will try using drones in remote areas for inspecting railroad infrastructure. An example of the work that CNN is trying to do can be seen in the photography that a number of news outlets have been producing in response to the recent earthquake in Nepal. There, drone operations have produced breath-taking video of the devastation caused by the quake.
PrecisionHawk's operations will take place beyond the pilot's direct vision while using larger drones to perform tasks such as crop dusting. Currently, agricultural aviation requires manned aircraft because of the precision required to deliver fertilizers, pesticides and even seeds accurately while flying safely at low levels. Drones will allow the human pilots to fly their aircraft from outside the cockpit, dramatically improving flight safety at least for the pilot.