Drone Pilots are Now the Largest Pilot Position in the Air Force

According to numbers reported on Military.com, the drone pilot position is now the largest pilot position in the US Air Force. Even discounting pilots of the larger Global Hawk drones, the 1,000 pilots that currently fly the smaller Predator and Reaper drones are the largest single pilot group, easily exceeding the 889 airmen that fly the C-17 aircraft.

Given the regularity the US Air Force uses drones this is not a surprise, but it does show just how swiftly drones have made an impact on the way the US military uses air power. Drones are having similar impact on the civilians side of of things as well. It was over a year ago, in February of 2016, that the official number of registered drones surpassed the official number of registered manned aircraft. It’s also estimated that since Part 107 was passed, there has been an average of 300 new drones pilots a day. While the total number of drone pilots is still far below the number of certified pilots in the US, the number of drone pilots is rapidly increase while the numbers of manned aircraft pilots has been decreasing for years.

FAA Hands Out Night Flight Approval to ND Police Unit

The FAA has given the Northeast Region Unmanned Aircraft Systems Unit (linked to the Grand Forks, North Dakota County Sheriff’s Office) permission to fly at night anywhere in the United States. According to Part 107 night flight is not allowed, unless a person/organization applies for a special exemption with the FAA. The Grand Forks Sheriff’s office applied for the exemption 6 months ago and was finally approved after repeated talks with the FAA

The Duluth New Tribune reported that the Northeast Region Unmanned Aircraft Systems Unit already had permission to fly in 18 counties in North Dakota and has built up night flying experience it wants to make available to other authorities throughout the nation.

The FAA has given other night flight exemptions, most notably to Intel for filming a per-taped drone formation flight for the Super Bowl.

If a person/organization is planning on drone use cases beyond the rules of Part 107, you need to apply for a special exemption with the FAA. Luckily, this process is much easier than the 333 exemption that was needed before Part 107 past. For more information please visit the FAA page on Part 107 exemptions.

Up Sonder Heats Up the Drone Rental Marketplace

upsonder

Los Angeles-based drone startup Up Sonder took a major step forward to building a national drone rental marketplace by announcing its official launch in all 50 States. Before, Up Sonder’s platform was only available in a few selected cities.

Up Sonder is presenting itself as a great way for drone owners to make money by renting out their drone. It also acts as a platform for business to connect to certified drone pilots for commercial work. The company has partnered with both Uber and Postmates to help deliver drones to customers.

While being able to make money renting out your drone sounds pretty cool, the team here at Drone Dossier thinks Up Sonder’s work to create a commercial drones services marketplace has the greatest potential.

Up Sonder’s CEO Derek Waleko recently told ZDNet, “Up Sonder’s nationwide FAA certified drone pilots are able and ready to help companies like AT&T have more options when inspecting their cell towers, or construction companies like Bechtel have more access and cost-effect solutions no matter where they build. Up Sonder will even help insurance companies like, GEICO handle claims whenever disaster strikes.”

There are actually quite a lot of drone rental companies and commercial drone services marketplaces out there (including Drones4hire, Dronepal, Blue Skies Drone Rental, droners.io, etc.) but Up Sonder is working to set themselves apart by providing on-demand delivery, free insurance to drone owners using their platform, and cash-back programs to repay users for the fees associated with getting Part 107 certified and FAA drone registration.

The Year of the Drone?

drone_crop

Happy New Year from the team at Drone Dossier! We look forward to providing you the latest in drone news and happenings in 2017.

Drones continued to work their way into the popular conscience of America in 2016. According to the FAA, 2.3 million drones were sold in the United States in 2016—double that of last year. Of those an estimated 1.2 million were sold during the Christmas season. As more and more people have a personal interaction with drones, it is everyone’s hope that the negative stigma previously attached to drones (over military use and privacy concerns) will start to melt away.

Looking back, 2016 was a landmark year for drones. The Verge, which issues end of the year report cards for various tech industries, gave drones a solid B grade for 2016. The report noted positives like the first successful Amazon Air drone deliver and negatives like the lack of industry competition.

2017 promises to be even better, especially for commercial drones markets. Venture Beat is calling 2017 “The Year of Drones”. For one, there is the new Part 107 regulation which gives direction and legal backing to drone operations. Venture Beat foresees drone companies making partnerships with large enterprises, which will prove they can be big money makers. Drones are also becoming better by the minute, which makes them easier to fly and use for a variety of purposes—everything from precision agriculture to air mapping.

Even if the positive predictions of drones don’t all come true in 2017, there is one undeniable fact—you are going to see more drones and hear more about them in the coming year.

23,000 Newly Registered Drone Pilots

faa-puma1

Since the FAA passed its new Part 107 regulations (which require all those who use a drone for commercial use to pass a test to become a registered drone pilot) nearly 23,000 have become licensed drone pilots.

According to numbers from the FAA from the end of August till the middle of December 28,000 people applied to become licensed drone pilots and 22,959 passed. That is a passing rate of 82%, which seems very high. For comparison in September of 2015 the State of California Deportment of Motor Vehicles administered 243,000 knowledge tests for road driving and only had a pass rate of 45%.

In order to become a licensed pilot all one has to do is study and take a test and a local test center, but don’t forget to register your drone as well.

Amazon Conducts 1st Drone Delivery

With a bag of popcorn and a Amazon Fire Stick, eCommerce giant Amazon made its 1st live drone delivery on December 7th. The delivery was conducted in Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom, near a secret Amazon test sight Drone Dossier has reported on before.

Video of the drone delivery and more information about what Amazon are planning for their Prime Air service are available here. Amazon plans to use drones to make deliveries in 30 minutes or less from local fulfillment centers. Their plan is to fly a fleet of high speed drones in a designated airspace 200-400 feet above the ground. Aircraft in this airspace would be required to have sense and avoid technology.

airspace

While Amazon is not the first to make a drone delivery it is an important milestone for the future of drones—one that is being made outside the United States. The FAA is making some headway with its Part 107, but more needs to be done quickly to make US regulations competitive with the rest of the world.

Insights From Commercial Drone Expo

1451138402053

The Commercial UAV Expo finished up earlier this month in Las Vegas. There was a lot of interesting takeaways but here are five interesting ones posted by Commercial UVA News.

  • Young entrepreneurs are making an name for themselves.
  • Part 107 has had a major impact on the industry.
  • Big players are entering the arena.
  • LIDAR technology has become smaller and more affordable.
  • Collision avoidance systems and UTM are the future.

Speakers at the conference talked a lot about the future of UAV technology, but when it came to specifics it was clear UAVs are first emerging in four fields precision agriculture, civil engineering and infrastructure, surveying & mapping, and security/emergency response.