You can officially claim autonomous commercial drones for your 2021 bingo card. On Friday, Massachusetts-based industrial drone developer American Robotics announced it had received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate its fully-automated "Scout" drones without any humans on-site. It's the first waiver of its kind, as the FAA has previously approved the use of autonomous commercial drones exclusively under the condition that human observers be present along the flight path -- or that risk of collision be mitigated through otherwise hyper-strict limitations. Advocates of drone technology say those restrictions have long held the industry back. "Decades worth of promise and projection are finally coming to fruition," CEO and co-founder of American Robotics Reese Mozer said in a press release.
The FAA has authorized its first-ever approval to a company for use of automated drones without human operators on site. The move comes as the agency is putting new rules in place to evolve regulation of the broader enterprise drone paradigm in the U.S., which has lagged behind other developed nations in adopting industry-friendly commercial drone guidelines. Boston-based American Robotics, a developer of automated drone systems specializing in rugged environments, received the FAA approval last week, marking a first for the federal agency. "Decades worth of promise and projection are finally coming to fruition," says Reese Mozer, CEO and co-founder of American Robotics. "We are proud to be the first company to meet the FAA's comprehensive safety requirements, which had previously restricted the viability of drone use in the commercial sector."
Under the concept, operators, government agencies and individual citizens would have access to the data. The recent test results are expected to provide momentum for proposed package delivery to consumers and many other drone uses currently stalled by regulatory hurdles. U.S. air-safety and law-enforcement officials have balked at approving extensive commercial drone operations without reliable identification techniques. In addition to Wing, which is slated to demonstrate fledgling-package delivery procedures in Virginia this year, the flights included drone-service companies AirMap Inc. and Kittyhawk. With three of the burgeoning industry's leading companies backing the approach and promising to step up testing, proponents hope to persuade the Federal Aviation Administration to loosen flight restrictions before completion of full-fledged rule making expected to take years.
Fifty years ago, Mike Sanders watched with awe and anticipation as the crew of Apollo 11--Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins--splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. Landing men on the moon and returning them safely to the earth was a seminal moment in the history of flight, and it had a profound effect on then 7-year-old Sanders, who now heads the Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence & Innovation at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi. Looking back, Sanders says he never expected the day to come when he would be working with NASA on anything, let alone another chapter in the history of flight. But this year, he landed in the middle of one of the most important aeronautical projects of this generation: an effort to build a safe and effective unmanned aircraft system traffic management (UTM) platform. In August, Texas A&M–Corpus Christi's Lone Star UAS Center of Excellence and its partners' workers stood alongside NASA scientists and engineers as they flew 22 small physical and digital drones above and between tall buildings in five areas of Corpus Christi.
EagleEye says its tech gives drones military-grade security and the possibility of flying autonomous missions. In 2014, three software engineers decided to create a drone company in Wavre, Belgium, just outside Brussels. All were licensed pilots and trained in NATO security techniques. But rather than build drones themselves, they decided they would upgrade existing radio-controlled civilian drones with an ultra-secure software layer to allow the devices to fly autonomously. Their company, EagleEye Systems, would manufacture the onboard computer and design the software, while existing manufacturers would provide the drone body and sensors.