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Acronym Effectiveness, the Drone Advisory Council (DAC)

What does a Meal-Ready-to-Eat (MRE) and the Drone Advisory Council (DAC) have in common?  Nothing really except for an ingrained reluctance to give benefit of the doubt to organizations requiring an acronym.  At a very young age, I asked about my dad’s experience with MREs.  He leveled me and essentially said that the MRE (at the time) was known as “three lies in one.”

So, I took this cognitive acronym baggage with me to Reno, NV for the DAC’s Jan. 31, 2017 meeting.  And, to be honest I was pleasantly surprised.  Yes, the council has a rigidity in public communications and a top-down tasking structure, but that comes with the territory.  Yes, progress will continue to be “too slow” for industry wanting increased airspace access sooner than later, however, a look at the roughly 2-year progression from very limited commercial operations to a Part 107 paradigm is encouraging.

Here is a look at some statistics of note from the various out briefs.  These numbers will mean certain things to me, and to Velocity Group as we plan and allocate.  I’ll save you my interpretation; hopefully, some of his information can connect some dots for your organization.

  • In year one of the Online Drone Registry, there have been roughly 700,000 registrants
  • Of these 700,000 registrants, 42,000 have registered as Commercial UAS Operators
  • For the Pilot Knowledge Exam, 35,000 have applied and 17,000 have passed this piece of the exam required for Part 107
  • Currently, there are 29,000 remote pilots in the U.S., with 6,000 in process
  • There will be slowly-increasing opportunities for commercial flights over people not involved in the commercial activity.
  • One of the Airspace Integration Team goals is to establish a common denominator of what a safety risk is and determine how many UAS operations are actually taking place. The team will be putting forth a survey to ascertain this metric
  • Processing waivers and airspace access a priority. Changes to the waiver process will come out in the next few months, for expanded commercial use beyond Part 107
  • There is no type design or airworthiness certificate currently through Part 107. Certification is changing. This will be a clear and well-defined set of criteria to gain access to the airspace
  • Further certification (requirements TBD) could allow an operator to go from Part 107 to fully autonomous flight, but the DAC and its subcommittees don’t want to get ahead or behind the FAA in this endeavor. The technology group will speak to these concerns, with the idea to keep all of its technology (and equipage) recommendations timely and relevant
  • With regard to Micro UAS flights over people, the DAC aims to get something out publicly by May of 2017, as states are starting their legislative cycles. Recommendations will come from state and local government, and the FAA reauthorization is coming and underway as well
  • There were between 200-300 state bills concerning UAS in calendar 2016, with an anticipated equal or greater number anticipated in calendar 2017
  • The safety discussion pulled from a number of different DAC members – but centered upon determining “What is our risk?” Detection is first and then a layered approach to it to include: 1) Detection 2) Tracking 3) Identification.  Then we mitigate that risk.  Clarity here that the FAA will not be involved with that third phase of Identification
  • DAC Subcommittees are working to quickly come with recommendations on minimum essential aircraft equipage, and moving away from consumer derivatives and considering actual, commercial-grade UAS. What are the implications relative to public-private infrastructure?  What is needed now, and what will be needed for continued safe commercial operations?
  • Subcommittees do not want to be fixated on small UAS (e.g. 55-lbs. MTOW and under). There are corollaries that can be scaled to larger UAVs
  • There are needs for aggregated safety data from Part 107 operations to date, especially in a risk-based paradigm. Data on levels of safety are key
  • An Emphasis on commercial envelope expansion remain; 1) Flights over people not involved in the commercial undertaking, and 2) Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS), essentially the Pathfinder Projects.  From this will flow a gaps analysis to inform ways to jump to the next functional piece. This speaks to an effort to look at the challenge holistically

Please do reach out to me at:  ron.stearns@velocityfast.com if you have any questions pertaining to these notes.  I’d welcome the conversation.

For more information on the DAC please visit:  http://www.rtca.org/content.asp?contentid=216

Not sure where you or your company fits in the commercial drone market space? Feel free to “buzz the tower.” Contact us, today!

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