Applications for Commercial UAS Operations Draw a Crowd
Seventeen companies have now applied to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for permission to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for services that range from filmmaking and photography to oil flare stack monitoring, package delivery and real estate marketing.
The firms are filing under Section 333, a provision of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 that allows the commercial operation of UAVs in limited situations considered to be generally safe. The agency finalized the application process just a few months ago, kicking off a race for customers that started May 27 when Astraeus Aerial became the first of a group of seven enterprises to file. Those seven coordinated applications are seeking permission to use unmanned aerial systems (UASs) for filming on closed movie sets.
Jonathan Hill of the law firm Cooley LLC and John McGraw of John McGraw Aerospace Consulting submitted the applications of firms in the group of filmmakers- In the application they particularly point out “Conventional film operations, using jet or piston power aircraft, operate at extremely low altitudes just feet from the subject being filmed and in extreme proximity to people and structures; and present the risks associated with vehicles that weigh in the neighborhood of 4,000lbs., carrying large amounts of jet A or other fuel. In contrast, a UAS weighing fewer than 55 lbs. and powered by batteries eliminates virtually all of that risk given the reduced mass and lack of combustible fuel carried on board.”
They also say UAV are “far safer than conventional operations conducted with turbine helicopters operating in close proximity to the ground and people.” As such they will provide an “equivalent level of safety,” which supports the grant of the firms’ requests to operate commercially.
Perhaps the highest profile application is from a firm that is not yet ready to begin operations but instead is looking for permission to do development. Amazon filed on July 9 to be allowed to do outdoor flight testing at its Seattle facility in support of Prime Air, its highly publicized plan to deliver packages to its customers in 30 minutes or less using UAS, more commonly referred to as drones.
As envisioned by Amazon, the UASs would transport payloads weighing five pounds or less, which Amazon said in its application covers 86 percent of the products it sells. Once established, the retail outfit expects the unmanned aircraft to travel at speeds of 50 mph or more.
The project, which the company says it hopes to take worldwide, has already attracted robotics and remote sensing experts and, according to Amazon, a former NASA astronaut. AUVSI’s Gielow will be joining the team next month.
“One day, seeing Amazon Prime Air will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today, resulting in enormous benefits for consumers across the nation,” the firm wrote in its application. “We respectfully submit this petition for exemption so that Prime Air can be ready to launch commercial operations as soon as eventually permitted by subsequent FAA action.”
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