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Let's Talk About Drones

Thursday, May 4, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Sara Wheatcroft
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Last month (April 6th), a group of approximately 50 Aerospace and Unmanned industry persons, City employees, and hobbyists gathered in the Sierra Vista Police Department auditorium for a Federal Aviation Administration unmanned seminar. Sierra Vista locals, as well as drone industry people from Tucson, Douglas and the surrounding area were in attendance. The discussion opened with an indoor drone flying demonstration by Innovative UAS, a drone tech company from Tempe. As the evening continued, the panel covered topics of FAA regulations, safety and procedures for licensing and flying unmanned vehicles or drones. 

The group was invited to present by Aerospace Arizona Association. Mignonne Hollis, Executive Director of Arizona Regional Economic Development Foundation serves on the advisory board for the Association. “This is a growing industry for our state and can be especially important in rural areas.” Said Hollis at the event. “It is important to bring trainings like these closer to home.”

Speakers at the event included FAA Safety Team Program Managers Tina Buskirk and Ernest Copeland from the Scottsdale Flight Standards District Office. They spoke on FAA rules for unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and the need for consumers to be aware of the regulations when piloting. John Nunes, owner of TR-IAG systems a company specializing in UAS training for public safety. Nunes presented on procedure for public use authorization including obtaining commercial certificates and public use certificates of authorization. Dr. Sarah Nilsson aviation law professor at Embry Riddle spoke of upcoming updates to UAS Law in Arizona and possible changes to FAA rules. 

Drones and UAS are no longer just a military tool. Over the past decade, they have become more mainstream for both recreational use and in a growing number of consumer industries. As a result of this, the FAA has prioritized education and outreach for unmanned systems and the individuals operating them. Thursday’s seminar was just one of many that this traveling group will present around the state on a mission to keep drone operations safe for everyone. 

“The popularity of drones and their many uses commercially has far exceeded the FAA’s ability to regulate.” Said Mignonne Hollis, Executive Director of Arizona Regional Economic Development Foundation. “The drone industry now has applications for everyone from real estate agents to farmers. We can expect to continue to see this industry grow and advance.” 

Since the much-anticipated Part 107 Ruling, which went into effect August of 2016, pilots can be certified to fly up to 400 feet above private property provided the pilot is not flying over a populated area or out of the operator’s line of sight. This ruling opened the possibilities for increased UAS flight in an ever-expanding area, however more legal direction from the FAA is still needed. “While anxiously awaiting the governing regulations from the FAA, almost all states across the nation enacted laws pertaining to UAS” Said Dr. Nilsson during her presentation. 

"Here in rural southern Arizona, we have large areas of Class G airspace (airspace that can be used publicly with no FAA approval needed). This means hobbyists as well as those in commercial drone businesses can test and practice up to 400 feet in the air without compromising the airspace of commercial or government flights."

Aerospace Arizona Association was formed under the Arizona Regional Economic Development foundation to promote and advance the aerospace industry throughout the State of Arizona. The UAS and aerospace sector is important to the economy of our state. But while new advancements in the technology are bringing economic growth, it is imperative that we pay close attention to what our lawmakers and regulators are doing. Aerospace Arizona works to promote collaboration and partnerships within the aerospace industry and is working toward more business-friendly legislation to help continue grow the aerospace industry in our state. 


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