Some commentators said it was just a publicity stunt. But the notion began to seem less far-fetched when Google revealed its own drone-based delivery effort in 2014, something it calls Project Wing. And in the early months of 2016, DHL actually integrated drones into its logistics network, albeit in an extremely limited way--delivering packages to a single mountaintop in Germany that is difficult to access by car in winter. "It started to get momentum after serious players came in," says Parimal Kopardekar, NASA's senior engineer for air transportation systems, who has been researching ways to work these buzzing little contraptions into an air traffic control system created for full-size aircraft. "We need to accommodate drones."
Drone Co-habitation Services operates a Phantom 3 commercial drone, one of 11 vehicles in the NASA field demonstration in Nevada. Drone Co-habitation Services operates a Phantom 3 commercial drone, one of 11 vehicles in the NASA field demonstration in Nevada. By 2020, an estimated 7 million drones could be zipping around the country delivering packages, taking photos, inspecting infrastructure or conducting search and rescue missions. But before that happens, they'll need a system in place to avoid crashing into each other -- or worse, passenger aircraft. NASA, along with the Federal Aviation Administration and an extensive list of industry partners, has been researching the requirements needed to establish a drone traffic management system.
If you can't wait for the day drones plop packages on your porch or a flying car whisks you to work, you should know that the hold-up isn't technological, but technocratic. Before these future flyers can take off, they must learn to play by the rules of the sky. That means communicating with air traffic control and other aircraft, spotting and avoiding threats, and generally knowing what to do when things go sideways. Making all of this happen demands whole new levels of capability--not just from the aircraft, but from the sprawling system that oversees them. The good news is, change is coming.
International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has begun the consultative work to establish low-altitude traffic management guidance for domestic unmanned aircraft systems, to make drone deliveries and inspection, safe and efficient. The focus will entirely be on exploring new solutions to help globally coordinate the development of UAS activities, and safely integrate the UAS traffic management systems. "Many new proposals and innovations are emerging on a daily basis regarding unmanned aircraft and their operations at low altitudes," mentioned Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, ICAO's Council President. The goal of ICAO is "to better define the issues involved, whether technical, operational or legal, and also to ensure safety continues to remain our highest property." About DEEPAERO DEEP AERO is a global leader in drone technology innovation.
Air traffic controllers have it bad enough managing full-size aircraft, but they face an extra headache when you throw drones in the mix. You see, controllers get calls when drone pilots want approval to fly within 5 miles of an airport -- and with an average of 250 reported close encounters per month, it's clear that some aren't even bothering with the formalities. The FAA has clearly had enough of this, as it recently made an emergency request to bypass the usual regulations and use an automate system to approve drone flights in restricted airspace. Instead of waiting 2-3 months for clearance (or calling in at the last possible moment), you could get the A-OK within 5 minutes.