Friday, August 25, 2017

Drones aren't all about spying and war

By Tyler Rusch 

Tyler Rusch is owner of Lakeshore Aerial Solutions LLC in Manitowoc. 

When some people hear the word "drone," they immediately think of invasion of privacy, a high-tech spy camera flying in the air, or a complex war aircraft “used for reconnaissance or bombing,” according to

But if you tell them you have a "sUAS," they usually have a puzzled look on their face.

You may be interested to know the FAA recognizes sUAS, which stands for "small Unmanned Aircraft System," as the technically correct term for the technology. This isn’t just an effort to give drones a name that doesn’t have a negative connotation, but rather more accurately describes what we are talking about: a multi-rotor aircraft that can be piloted remotely and one that is capable of taking breathtaking photographs and videos.

Once communities understand the benefits of sUAS technology, as well as the local, state and federal laws behind their safe use, will we be able to use them to their full potential and enjoyment.

In the Manitowoc area, it’s hard not to notice the increased sightings of sUAS’s in the air. As one of the top 10 items from Christmas 2016 and growing in popularity in 2017, whether it’s in a field, down by the lakeshore or in your own back yard, hobbyists and commercial operators are getting their fix while the Wisconsin weather allows.

This new and exciting technology may be concerning to some, but understanding what the technology is capable of, as well as its limitations, can make the hobby enjoyable for everybody.

sUAS technology is ever changing and reminds me of the cell phone market. You can walk out of the store with the latest and greatest device, only to find out three weeks later that the “next big thing” is coming soon.

Most consumer-grade sUAS’s can provide HD images while the commercial-grade models can capture raw images at resolutions up to 4K.

With such impressive specifications, private property and privacy lend a strong voice in many drone-related discussions. A landowner's domain includes the lower altitude airspace, but that property does not extend indefinitely upward, which is in part why Manitowoc has an 83-foot recommendation for sUAS operators.

In addition to local laws, state and federal laws also determine where and when a sUAS can be operated. The most popular of these federal regulations illustrates that sUAS users are not allowed to fly over people, fly at night or fly greater than 400 feet.

In addition, our state has also mandated that no sUAS take off or land in a state park such as Point Beach State Park, or be operated in the vicinity of a correctional facility.

In August 2016, the FAA established new rules requiring anyone using a sUAS for commercial purposes to be licensed. This is commonly referred to as “Part 107,” referring to the federal regulations that created the requirement.

Part 107 operators must pass a specialized version of the aeronautical pilot’s exam, tailored to sUAS laws, airport policies, weather, public safety, aeronautical maps and the physiological factors that affect a pilot’s ability to safely operate an aircraft. This information is essential to pilots both manned and unmanned, to safely navigate the national airspace.

A sUAS pilot operating commercially or for the purpose of furthering a business, must register sUAS with the FAA, be able to supply flight data and flight records, and is held to a higher level of understanding and commitment to safety that the administration expects. Failure to understand these regulations, as a hobbyist or commercial operator, or person hiring an operator commercially, could be costly.

It’s not hard to find stories of fines levied by the FAA between $1,000 and $2,000, with some headlining at $55,000.

For instance, flying at night requires a certificate of waiver, given specifically to a part 107 operator, in writing by the FAA, only after that individual/company has proven they have mitigated all risks and has the ability to safely conduct business in those circumstances.

Whether you’re into photography, real estate, 3D mapping, racing, agriculture, search and rescue, or videography, sUAS technology has an estimated $13.3 billion economic impact within the next three years.

sUAS technology is simply incredible, and it is just getting started. With the large public interest, and number of drones being purchased every year, it’s clear they are here to stay.

Embracing the potential of sUAS's, and understanding their legal and safe operation within our community, is a step in the right direction.

Original article can be found here ➤

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