It has now been a week since wrapping up AUVSI XPONENTIAL 2018, which is one of the biggest drone conventions in the nation, hosted in Denver, CO this year. Hundreds of companies from various fields in the drone industry gathered to show off all of their new technology, listen to key note speakers, engage with industry leaders in small classroom settings, and get educated on the what’s currently going on in the drone space.
We at Angel Hawk UAS took full advantage and had the amazing opportunity to be in attendance this year. We got to see all the amazing new toys on display, such as new and improved infrared cameras, to outstanding software systems to help with surveying, to being able to see the UAV’s (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) that are being designed for military purposes.
Not only did we get to see the latest and greatest, but we also had the chance to surround ourselves and shake hands with some of the biggest names in the industry, including Colorado local Jeff Cozart of Juniper Unmanned, and Executives of Precision Hawk UAV, a national leader in drone applications in agriculture, construction, and mining.
This was an exciting opportunity, as Juniper Unmanned is also based in Colorado and is a premier operator of UAS (Unmanned Aerial Services) with advanced sensing technologies. Juniper Unmanned, Inc. started a few years back in 2015 as small drone service provider and since has grown to be a huge name in the industry and started doing work with government agencies such as CDOT (Colorado Department of Transportation). Their success has opened the door and help pave the way for other new drone companies, including ourselves here at Angel Hawk. Making connections with other local companies like Juniper Unmanned, as well as national leaders, only extends our depth of knowledge of the industry and creates the ground work for long-lasting business partnerships.
Not only did we get to network and pique the brains of the big dogs/names in the industry, but we also had the chance to partake in some breakout educational sessions that gave great insight on various aspects of the drone world. This was invaluable because, for many UAS business owners, it can be a daunting task to try and design your business model around the ever-changing FAA regulations.
One of the largest points of question for sUAS (Small Unmanned Aerial Systems) operators is how to gain FAA permission to fly Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS). At an AUVSI breakout session, an FAA representative highlighted that they want to "close the knowledge gap and empower sUAS operators to make smart and safe decisions for their businesses". The FAA Pathfinder Part 2 report, which is set to be published in the coming Months, is a part of that step forward. This report will outline lessons learned to conduct safe operation for BVLOS with your sUAS. For many business owners, being unable to fly beyond line-of-sight severally limits the types of contracts they can bid for.
Out of the thousands of BVLOS waiver applications that have been submitted to the FAA, only a dozen or so have been approved. Currently, there is very little information available to the public to educate a business owner on how to gain BVLOS approval with the FAA. The first BVLOS waiver granted was to a company named, Precision Hawk. Precision Hawk gave several presentations at AUVSI on how they were able to establish proof to the FAA on how they could safely operate with BVLOS. Our biggest takeaway was learning how technical the process can be to be granted a waiver. An operator must prove stable usage of radio towers to relay the data link from the controller to the drone. Precision Hawk is working on a software app for operators to use that is intended to help users prove to the FAA that they can operate BVLOS safely through a means of proving where the "signal dead zones" are and how to mitigate the issue.
Another important piece from the AUVSI convention, was hearing directly from the FAA about the status of the LAANC (Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability) program and its release date. LAANC is a topic of discussion that we covered in last month’s blog, but to summarize, the program is a fundamental shift on how sUAS operators will be cleared to fly within 5 miles of any airport. Previously, the approval process could take several months to be approved by the FAA via a written application process. With LAANC, the approval will be instantaneous through a software platform. The FAA says that the LAANC program is currently in beta testing and is set to be fully released in late 2019. The FAA has selected companies such as Skyward and Air Map to design software that will be used to request and be granted FAA airspace authorization via the LAANC program.
In conclusion, AUVSI Xponential 2018 was a great success that provided a platform for the drone world to come together to provide valuable information and networking opportunities. The biggest take away in our eyes was simple…. The drone industry is in its infancy and we are barely scratching the surface of what it will grow to be. It became apparent that everyone is still trying to find their specialized niche and that there is still tons of room for everyone to play. With still so many applications for unmanned aerial services to be discovered, it is important and refreshing that everyone in the industry is willing to help each other out, whether that be a direct competitor or not. With that being said, Angel Hawk UAS is elated to be part of this growing industry and look forward to continuing to build relationships and helping in any way we can!