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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Disrupting

You've probably noticed that suddenly 'drones' seem to be everywhere.
Multi rotor filming platforms, potential parcel delivery systems, recreational FPV (First Person View) quad-copters... Unmanned Aircraft Systems have exploded into the public consciousness.

Seemingly every day a new, creative application is dreamed up to either do at a much lower cost what only manned aircraft could do before, or to make possible things that before were simply not achievable.

This is a result of the convergence of several technologies that have matured sufficiently to be broadly accessible.
Compact light weight processors, reliable very energy dense rechargeable batteries, advanced user interfaces (including smartphone touchscreens), small solid-state sensors (gyroscope analogues), GPS, 3D printing... All now available to the average geek.
Perhaps as importantly, the internet has enabled rapid sharing of information. Open source software (from autopilots to photogrammetry), and online forums, allow everyone to immediately appraise the state-of-the-art, and build on it, adding a contribution in the process.

At a small scale, the effective power of rotary wing airframes makes them practical and versatile. For heavier payloads, and longer-distance missions (or prolonged loiter requirements), fixed wing solutions are superior.

In all cases we are talking about flying objects with considerable energy that can potentially cause problems if they fail.
Irresponsible use can bring them into contact with manned aircraft. Mechanical failure or loss of control can cause property damage or even injury to those on the ground.

As with any new industry, regulation has to strike a balance between staying out of the way of innovation, and guarding against damage caused by unsound practices.

Responsible stakeholders can play an important role in guiding the process of developing regulation.
Operators and insurance underwriters have 'skin in the game'. Voluntary professional standards are a great way to reassure the end customer that she is dealing with a well set up and responsibly run provider.

It is great to see an Australian initiative take the lead in formulating such standards for unmanned aviation.
UAS International held a launch event yesterday.
Carbonix was there, displaying a complete airframe in support of going the extra distance to assure quality. Our presence staking out a claim as a responsible manufacturer, and the first in Australia to offer all-composite airframes for commercial civilian applications.

Much more to come in this exciting space...



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