As Japan positions itself to take advantage of the growing trend in drones, another sector is popping up in the promising market -- drone schools. Industries ranging from agriculture to security are setting their eyes on the benefits of the device. And although the aerial vehicles are capable of autonomous flight, skilled pilots need to be on hand in case something goes wrong. "The industrial use of drones will grow more to replace some work previously handled by humans," said Kazunori Fujiwara, a spokesman at the Drone Pilot Association, a Tokyo-based group that promotes pilot education. "There are still not enough pilots.
A drone carrying a package sails through the air, touching down to make a delivery right on a customer's doorstep. Inc. wowed the world in 2013 with a video purporting to show what the future of the delivery industry would look like. But are we any closer to that now? The answer seems to be no -- at least in Japan. The nation is set to take a step forward in the sector this year as the government prepares to deregulate aviation rules so delivery firms can use drones in rural areas.
Drone startup Skydio today announced the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) statewide approval to fly Skydio drones beyond visual line of sight to inspect bridges. Skydio, which describes the waiver as the first of its kind, says the NCDOT will be able to conduct maintenance activities without the use of visual observers like trained pilots or staff. A recent study by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials found that taxpayer cost per bridge inspection can be reduced 75% by switching from traditional methods to drones. The Minnesota Department of Transportation found that using drones for bridge inspection offsets some or all of the costs, depending on the bridge configuration and location, with a trial of drone-assisted inspections saving an average of 40% over traditional methods and providing ostensibly superior data and reporting. Going forward, the NCDOT's inspectors can send Skydio 2 drones to inspect critical structures below bridges in North Carolina instead of conducting rappels or using "snooper trucks."
A drone successfully delivered medical supplies to the New Jersey coastline straight from the deck of a ship, marking the first ship-to-shore delivery in the US. The flight was designed to test whether drones could be used to carry human medical supplies to and from areas that cannot be access during major storms, earthquakes or other disasters. The test was run by disaster preparedness non-profit Field Innovation Team. Drone-firm Flirtey, which managed the first land-based drone delivery of medical supplies to a rural health clinic in July 2015, flew medical samples to Camp May in partnership with Dr Timothy Amukele, assistant professor of pathology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. While drones have already been muted as one way to deliver goods, such as Amazon's Air Prime drones, Amukele said that biological samples "are not like a shoe or a book, they are pretty fragile items".