Since September 2018, FedEx has been inspecting its aircraft at a busy international airport using drones that normally wouldn't be allowed anywhere near the facility. Strict regulations prohibit drones from sharing airspace with planes, but a novel FAA pilot that includes FedEx, as well as drone companies such as DJI and Asylon, could change that in the future. Drone inspection has long been a hot area for enterprise drones, including in unexpected spaces, but this program is a real watershed in the FAA's evolving approach to drone regulation. I reached out to Joel Murdock, managing director at FedEx Express, for insights about the company's airport drone operations and what it means for the future of enterprise drones in sensitive areas, and he's optimistic. "We believe drones could help improve efficiencies around aircraft inspections and maintenance at our World Hub at Memphis International Airport," says Murdock, "and other airports around the country. We also believe drones can be used to supplement our existing airport perimeter surveillance and runway/taxiway FOD detection activities."
Customers who wish to provide feedback at business no longer need to physically touch a survey screen. Avius, a leading tech company that provides real-time customer feedback solutions, launched Gestures, a touchless AI-powered thumbs up/thumbs down survey experience. The innovative technology has launched at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), the busiest airport in the world, and at LEGOLAND Florida. The pandemic has quickly created a new operating environment for businesses who are now more than ever embracing touchless technology. Avius predicted early on during the pandemic that touchless would play an important role in society moving forward.
In this project, we have developed the ramp activity coordination expert system (races) to solve aircraft-parking problems. By user-driven modeling for end users and near-optimal knowledge-driven scheduling acquired from human experts, races can produce parking schedules for about 400 daily flights in approximately 20 seconds; human experts normally take 4 to 5 hours to do the same. Scheduling results in the form of Gantt charts produced by races are also accepted by the domain experts. After daily scheduling is completed, the messages for aircraft change, and delay messages are reflected and updated into the schedule according to the knowledge of the domain experts. By analyzing the knowledge model of the domain expert, the reactive scheduling steps are effectively represented as the rules, and the scenarios of the graphic user interfaces are designed.
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 landmark emergency waiver granted by the FAA has allowed Verizon to deploy industrial drones to inspect their critical infrastructure during the US wildfires, ensuring first responders have reliable communications for disaster response. The drones are made by a company called Percepto, which are currently operating beyond-line-of-sight for this emergency deployment. The FAA granted Skyward, A Verizon company, a temporary waiver that allows company pilots to fly the Percepto Sparrow drone from their homes to inspect critical communications infrastructure near the Big Hollow wildfire in Washington. The waiver permits operations 24 hours a day, with less than 3 miles of visibility and no pilot or observer on site. This is the first time a Beyond the Visual Line Of Sight waiver has been granted that allows pilots to control the drone from home.
QUT researcher Dr Aaron Mcfadyen has mapped air traffic around airports. Airservices and Queensland University of Technology (QUT) have inked a partnership to develop an automated and near real-time flight approval system to speed up how quickly drones can operate in the air, particularly during emergencies and pandemics. The technology will be used to replace the current manual process that typically requires drone operators to fill out paper-based forms to be considered for approval to operate their drones. This process can often take weeks and lack consistency due to the manual assessments that are undertaken. However, by introducing an automated approval system, which will involve developing risk maps to understand where it's safe to allow drones to operate, drone operators will be able to receive approvals much faster.
Drone technology continues to advance, as more research and development is targeted toward traffic control systems for the small, flying devices. The Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) was recently awarded the bulk of a roughly $1.8 million earmark by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to study and test virtual unmanned traffic management technology, known as UTM. The effort is a partnership among NIAS, an FAA-designated drone test site; Switch, maker of data-center technology; and ANRA Technologies, which produces drones. Switch and ANRA will lead demonstrations and testing of unmanned flight systems, while NIAS will explore some of the system and requirements to operate drone fleets safely. Advances in drone traffic control could not be more timely, say makers of the devices, as companies explore using drones for any number of on-demand deliveries -- from groceries to chicken wings.
Getting an Amazon package delivered from the sky is closer to becoming a reality. The Federal Aviation Administration said Monday it had granted Amazon approval to deliver packages by drones. Amazon said that the approval is an "important step," but added that it is still testing and flying the drones. It did not say when it expected drones to make deliveries to shoppers. "This certification is an important step forward for Prime Air and indicates the FAA's confidence in Amazon's operating and safety procedures for an autonomous drone delivery service that will one day deliver packages to our customers around the world," said David Carbon, vice president of Prime Air.
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) over the weekend gave Amazon the green light to begin testing customer drone deliveries in the US. With an FAA Part 135 certification in hand, Amazon's drones will be able to fly out of an operator's line of sight. Earning the certification is a key milestone for Amazon's years-long effort to launch commercial drone deliveries. Amazon's ultimate goal is to deploy drones to make deliveries in 30 minutes or less. "This certification is an important step forward for Prime Air and indicates the FAA's confidence in Amazon's operating and safety procedures for an autonomous drone delivery service that will one day deliver packages to our customers around the world," David Carbon, VP of Prime Air, said in a statement.
Amazon has just gotten the thumbs up from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to start using its Prime Air drone fleet for customer deliveries. On Saturday, the FAA granted Amazon Part 135 Certification, which means the company has the go-ahead to use drones to "safely and efficiently deliver packages to customers," according to a statement from the FAA. That doesn't mean drones are going to start delivering packages immediately, per Amazon. Instead, it indicates that the FAA has reviewed all of Amazon's safety procedures, and the company has passed muster. The certification gives Amazon the ability to begin testing and scaling a system which would use drones to deliver lightweight packages in 30 minutes or less from order.