Dronado, a new path for the future.

Last week it was reported that DHL is going to start making deliveries with drones this week in Germany. In thinking about this, my mind’s eye conjures the image of Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore on the Mekong Delta with the sound of Wagner’s Der Walkürenritt in my head (Apocalypse Now). Drones. They are everywhere or will be soon. Jeff Bezos (Amazon) wants to deliver your purchases with them. One of my son’s friends built one. I saw it in action – it’s very cool. We have even had a drone visit our Brookside Square project in West Concord, MA. There is lots of buzz out there about drones so…

What are these things called drones?

Technically they are Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). UAVs/drones are basically any type of aircraft without a pilot aboard. They come in three flavors – rotary and fixed wing (both of which are commercial) and the predator (for military use). The military applications have gained the most notoriety – i.e. “drone strikes” in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria…, but the commercial applications are where the future lies for UAV’s.

According to the Association for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems International the current global market is about $11.3 billion and expected to grow to $140 billion within the next 10 years. The growth is going to come from a variety of applications such as:

  • Construction Site surveys
  • Wildfire mapping
  • Farmers inspecting fields
  • Disaster management
  • Search and Rescue
  • Thermal infrared power line surveys
  • Law enforcement
  • Telecommunication
  • Weather monitoring
  • Aerial imaging/mapping
  • Television news coverage, sporting events, moviemaking
  • Environmental monitoring
  • Oil and gas exploration
  • Freight transport

It is also estimated that 100,000 new jobs will be created nationally by 2025 in the various aspects of UAV manufacturing and distribution. That all sounds good…

So why aren’t we seeing more Drones?

Unfortunately the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) has placed regulations/restrictions on UAV’s until they come up with a comprehensive “plan.” For the time being one has to apply for and receive a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) from the FAA in order to operate commercial UAV’s. In fact, as recently as last week the FAA approved six film companies use of UAV’s. However the “one off” approval process will change, in exchange for four years of funding, Congress has mandated the FAA “to establish a roadmap for getting UAS integrated into the national airspace,” by September 30, 2015. Before September 2015…

How do you learn more about UAV’s?

Currently there are over 30 Universities offering Bachelor’s degrees in Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in the United States – including the University of North Dakota, Kansas State University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Daytona Beach) and Indiana State University. If you want to learn more about UAV’s and don’t want to go back to college, the RoboBusiness conference at the Hines Auditorium next week in Boston – is a great place to start (October 15-17, 2014).

The commercial applications for UAV’s seem limitless. This industry has grown to $11.3 billion under restrictions that essentially prohibit the use of its product without the exception of one-off applications. The pent up demand is great. Once the FAA creates the road map for drones the sky is the limit.

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