Five years ago, drones patrolling the air and delivering packages seemed like something that lived only in reruns of the Jetsons. But in a short time, drones have become a reality in our modern world with commercial models retailing for as little as $44. With this technology's fast rise, the government is working hard to determine the best way to maintain public safety while preserving the rights of people to operate drones safely.[Tweet "5 years ago, drones patrolling the air/delivering packages seemed like something from the Jetsons. #GovEventsBlog"]
Issue one is the infringement on airspace. In 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported that the number of annual drone sightings by commercial pilots had quadrupled to 650, just by August of that year. The FAA has been looking for ways to integrate drones into the tracking of our national airspace to ensure the safety of everyone in the sky.[Tweet "The FAA has been looking for ways to integrate drones safely into our national airspace. #GovEventsBlog"]
In February, the FAA successfully tested a new drone detection technology at Atlantic City International Airport. SkyTracker follows the radio signals that drones use to connect their operators, which would enable authorities to locate a rogue operator. The technology also allows law enforcement to "initiate countermeasures that, unlike other technologies, do not interfere with legitimate electronics or communications systems in the area, or with unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) that are being operated responsibly as determined by the U.S. government," according to the company that built the solution.
This April, the FAA and NASA conducted a successful test of a low-altitude traffic monitoring system for unmanned aircraft. The UAS traffic management (UTM) project demonstrated its first-stage capability, involving flights in rural environments associated with agriculture, firefighting and infrastructure monitoring.[Tweet "The FAA and NASA conducted a successful test of a low-altitude drone traffic monitoring system. #GovEventsBlog"] This system is designed purely for research, to give the FAA information it needs so it can proceed with a regulatory framework. The goal is to complete a series of tests through 2019 after which NASA will turn over its research to the FAA to determine a product or framework for traffic monitoring.
In parallel with these tests, the FAA is creating a Drone Advisory Council made up of private and public sector experts. The committee will focus on integrating drones into the national airspace system (NAS) in a safe and productive manner.
nd regulating commercial usage, the discussion of drones includes some exciting applications for a number of federal agencies from Customs and Border Protection to the U.S. Post Office. But these uses cannot be realized until the airspace monitoring is in place. Additionally, there is a lot of work being done to determine how to best police and monitor the use of drones for surveillance.
There are many pieces to figure out in terms of drone usage ranging from public safety to privacy to technology integration. Many organizations including AUVSI are stepping up to facilitate discussion and collaboration among these and other issues. To learn more about the uses and implications of drones to our country check out some of these upcoming events.