The excitement over drone technology continues, as does the enormous task of incorporating unmanned aircraft into global airspace. On the upside we’ve seen easier, instant authorization for UAV pilots who need to get in the air. On the downside, we’ve seen airports shut down related to drones.
Women And Drones asked eight UAS leaders to share thoughts on what 2019 has in store for the industry. Read on for their responses, which include an increased focus on counter drone technology, safety, BVLOS management as well as drone education.
We are essentially at the same place with drones today as we were in the early days of cars. The hardware was solid, but the logistical infrastructure and governance was horrific, thereby preventing full scale economic benefit for multiple sectors. In 2019 the pull towards scale, from prosumer to professional, will heighten this need for infrastructure and governance, for safety and efficiency.
North America’s first autonomous highways in the skies will be built in select cities, allowing multiple drones to access them autonomously, simultaneously – enabling more and more BVLOS missions to take place. Furthermore, as such networks become more robust, testing/usage of small passenger drones for transportation will begin.
With regulatory developments (for good) sweeping across multiple geographies in whack a mole fashion in 2019, we will see specific policy/solutions come urgently to the forefront. Counter drone, integrated ATM UTM, pilot identification and drone registration, are all examples of flavours of the week in 2019 – the London Gatwick and Heathrow incidents being prime examples.
More strategic long-term actors, however, will focus on integration of API’s between unmanned service providers, drone service providers, and air navigation service providers. These integrations will increase as public-private partnerships continue to strengthen. Moreover, Air Navigation Service Provider reform could become a trend, as monopolies around the world recognize the need for free markets. Since legacy frameworks, skills, and technology fail to keep up with innovation for commercial airspace, what’s needed in the 21st century requires new approaches to the tech stack, currently beyond companies like NAV Canada and the FAA.
Side note: UAV noise pollution will change for the better; the days of deafening propellers are slowly dying. Oh, and Trump will increase spending on drones significantly.
2019 here we come!
Vice President of Marketing
As the commercial drone industry continues to evolve, key enterprise stakeholders will be expected to understand the economics behind their drone operations—whether visual line of sight (VLOS), extended visual line of sight (EVLOS), or beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS)—and be able to compare the costs and benefits against traditional operations. When equipped with this data, only then can you effectively promote the ROI of your program and expand your efforts.
At PrecisionHawk, we have identified four main drivers that are motivating businesses to explore BVLOS operations: (1) safety, as in preventing fatal helicopter crashes or accidents from having to manually climb towers; (2) costs, or reducing dependence on manned aviation and personnel or cutting the time and expense of the multiple flights needed in flying drones within VLOS; (3) data inconsistency and lack of quality, as manual data collection can be subjective when handled by individuals; and (4) time to value, having the ability to cover a wide area and collect high-quality data much more quickly than traditional means.
For companies that can identify the operational economic gains from deploying widespread BVLOS drone inspections, there is a higher likelihood that it can positively impact and significantly change their business model. In 2019, this will prove particularly true for those in the oil and gas and utilities industries, where value is primarily derived from increases in efficiency and safety.
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Dr. Tulinda Larsen
Future transportation systems will include not only roads, bridges, trails, and sidewalks, but also vertical infrastructure where Urban Air Mobility (UAM) vehicles carry packages and people on virtual highways in the sky. 2019 will be the year UAM vehicle and service companies will be testing their prototypes. We will see companies racing to develop and test the most advanced capabilities and move forward to FAA airworthiness certification, which is an unproven process.
Deseret UAS predicts in 2019 there will be a growing need for independent UAM flight test ranges where products and services can be tried out, before entering into a full air worthiness flight testing program.
Ntsu Aviation Solutions
2018 was certainly an exciting year for the drone industry and 2019 can only be bigger and better.
Looking at the drone industry within South Africa, I foresee positive development in 2019, with major growth in the security and agricultural sectors. I believe existing licensed operators will become more focussed, specializing in their areas of expertise. As more operators obtain RPAS Operators Certificates (ROC), the need to employ the latest technology and operating procedures increases therefore the industry develops at a much faster pace.
Beyond visual line of sight operations are definitely a HOT TOPIC and I predict many more operators applying for such approval. That being said, unmanned aircraft systems operating under B-VLOS conditions significantly increases operational risk. Therefore, the current aviation system will need to ensure it is equipped and prepared for the integration of unmanned aircraft systems with traditional manned aviation. I predict that this will lead to more Unmanned Traffic Management Systems being tested and implemented.
In addition, I foresee different forms of civilian “anti-drone technology” being tested in various applications. Anti-drone technology need not only be restricted to large airports and I think we will welcome a wide array of applications during 2019 and beyond.
I believe regulators will continue to review and amend regulations during 2019, whilst activating large education and awareness campaigns for the general public.
I look forward to another amazing year of growth and development in this dynamic industry!
Estonia & Australia
Within the drone industry my focus is on safety. Counter UAV has always been a big and exciting term in the drone industry; recently it received global publicity due to the Gatwick and Heathrow drone incidents in the UK. These, and other drone incidents around the globe, highlight the fact that counter UAV is a tough cookie to crack. Technology within the counter UAV field is developing, and needs to develop more in the coming years, to iron out the technology issues which are there concerning identification process, removing interference and being effective and non-intrusive. The fact is, most counter-UAV technology on the market, designed to take a drone from the sky, means the tech is only useful if the tech operator is there when the drone is there; generally this is not how incidents occur. The airport incidents show that the drone comes and goes fast. Counter UAV is not a single solution; it is more productive with multiple methods. The solution of multiple methods used for counter UAV, is a developing trend and a prediction in 2019 to gain more traction. Counter UAV technology needs to be complimented with other avenues of information to create a solid counter UAV solution. Location data, public data and complimentary technology all contribute to this solution and the industry is starting to be open to these ideas and the value these elements can provide to take counter UAV to a new level.
Drone management, such a broad term, yet an important step in drone industry safety. Under this term I see drone laws progressing forward in leaps and bounds in 2019. Across the globe, drone laws are evolving and working hard to keep up with the pace of the ever-changing drone industry needs and the rapid evolution of drones (weight, autonomy and functionalities), while maintaining a delicate balance of compliance and order. Countries are reviewing and updating drone laws faster than general aviation laws as it has been clearly shown that if the civil aviation authorities do not, the law will be superfluous and potentially open gaps in safety and compliance. In 2019, I predict drone laws, globally, will go through significant changes regarding BVLOS, drone weight restrictions and no-fly-zones/flying range adjustments, drone swarming, and commercial and hobby operators requirements. Some countries started these changes last year, but this year more will overhaul their countries drone laws.
I believe in 2019 our industry will see great change in regulation as well as in education as drones become a part of school curriculum and provide significant career opportunities for future generations. Young people today are hungry for technology experiences. They are also excited about the future and want to find innovative ways to solve problems. For those reasons, using drones, robotics and technology sports for educational purposes are ideal.
Not everyone can excel at physical sports but technology sports create a different playing field. Educational programs focused on drones can increase engagement with young people and those with disabilities. They also open up opportunities for people with disabilities, veterans and people that suffer with PTSD or mobility issues. Through ongoing educational programs, community and outreach we will change the stigma that people have about drones and create a future that is technologically advanced, diverse and inclusive.
It is my hope that in 2019 that Drone Racing starts to bloom in many countries. Thanks to shows like DRL, DCL & DR1, we’ve been able to share the excitement of what we are doing. What we still lack is diversity in pilots. We need to push forward young, talented, female pilots. FPV is for everyone, and we are currently failing in sending this information to the world. This year we plan to focus on education and sharing the hobby with the public, especially children and parents. FPV racing includes a lot of amazing people from different countries, professions and passions. This is the year I and other pilots want to share that message with the world.
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I predict that educators will find more ways to increase student exposure to STEM by bringing drones into their classrooms. Inexpensive mini-drones (under .55 lbs) now have many features such as altitude hold that only expensive drones had before. These features make them ideal for indoor student flights. Mini-drones will increasingly be used to help elementary school students increase reading and math skills, teach middle school children to code autonomous drones and give high school and college students marketable skills. These skills will be critical in order to move the drone industry forward.
Several indicators of this educational momentum can be seen with web-based companies offering drone curriculum in ready-to-use bundles. These bundles include lesson plans, vocabulary words, student handouts and quizzes, saving educators hundreds of hours in course development. Some companies also offer drone kits containing multiple small drones with spare equipment such as extra batteries and propellers. These kits, paired with drone curricula, make it much easier for schools to adopt drones into their programs without being overwhelmed.
In higher education, local community colleges and state universities will continue to add drone classes to their existing majors and certificate programs without the need to have full blown aviation programs. A Maine college started offering an introductory drone course to compliment it’s environmental science and geospatial programs. Trained students from these programs will be a valuable asset to field research and gis mapping projects for this school.
But the ultimate indicator of the importance of drone education are organizations whose interest is in standardizing the curriculum being delivered to ensure quality instruction. This example of standardization brings the drone industry one step close to developing a national industry competency model such as this one developed recently for the geospatial technology industry. Accomplishing that task for the drone industry will demonstrate that a vast array of industry stakeholders can move from being a flaring disruptive technology to a become a stable mature industry.
Middle school students exposed to drones in their classrooms today will become the next tech startups in science, technology, engineering and math. These “Rising Stars” will bring the drone industry into new realms that we currently- quite literally- can’t imagine. As an industry our job is to make sure they have all the resources they need. For when they rise up they bring us all with them.
We see growing pains but also progress in the year ahead. Women continue to enter the drone industry in countries around the globe. By sharing information and stories we hope to inspire, educate and empower more of you to contribute to the common goal of a healthy drone ecosystem worldwide.
One last look back at 2018
Checkout the video featuring women recognized as the