The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed a rule to continue safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the nation’s airspace by requiring them to be remotely identifiable.

“Remote ID technologies will enhance safety and security by allowing the FAA, law enforcement, and federal security agencies to identify drones flying in their jurisdiction,” says U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

The FAA seeks public input on the proposed rule via comment period that closes March 2, 2020.

The proposed Remote ID rule would apply to all drones registered with the FAA as well as to persons operating foreign civil UAS in the U.S.

Nearly 1.5 million drones and 160,000 remote pilots are registered with the FAA.

Teal Group issues civil UAS study

Teal Group’s World Civil Unmanned Aerial Systems Market Profile & Forecast 2019 annual study, authored by Phil Finnegan, focuses on business opportunities in the emerging civil government and commercial unmanned aerial systems (UAS) markets. Highlights include:

  • Non-military UAS market will total $88.3 billion through the next decade; $4.9 billion in 2019 to $14.3 billion in 2028, a 12.6% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in constant dollars
  • Commercial segment will lead civil UAS growth worldwide, projected to increase from $1.6 billion in 2019 to $9.5 billion in 2028, a 21.9% CAGR
  • Industrial inspection will lead commercial market; construction the largest adopter in a segment that includes agriculture, energy, mining, railways
  • Low-cost, high-altitude, long endurance UAS for Internet promises new market segment
  • Civil government UAS, smaller segment than commercial, is growing for border control and public safety

ISO publishes UAS standards

An International Organization for Standardization (ISO) document published in November 2019 specifies internationally agreed and accepted requirements for safe commercial unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operations.

ISO 21384-3, Unmanned aircraft systems – Part 3: Operational procedures is the first international standard to stipulate minimum safety, quality, coordination, and organization of drones in the airspace.

John Walker, chair of the ISO subcommittee that developed the standard, says hundreds of applications for small UAS will benefit from this standard, including construction, safety, security, mining, and maritime operations. ISO 21384-3 will provide an airworthiness framework for the global UAS industry, allowing for safer and more widespread UAS use.

The committee is working on complementary standards to address safety, quality, terminology, and training for personnel involved in UAS operations.

“These standards will enable the development of new applications for UAS far beyond that which we see now,” Walker says.

Plextek develops micro radar for UAS

British engineering and design consultancy Plextek is partnering with Norwegian unmanned aerial systems (UAS) company Griff Aviation to put micro radars and sensors on its heavy lifting drones. Griff is developing drones to carry up to 250kg payloads for moving building equipment and materials across mountainous and forested landscapes.

The Plextek electronic-scanning (e-scan) micro radar and advanced software operate in the 60GHz mm-waveband for day and night, all-weather sensing. The e-scan radar can detect hazards such as power lines up to 60m away as well as buildings, bridges, vegetation, and other objects in front of and beneath the drone within 300m. The 60GHz band is license-exempt in most countries, so the micro radar can be used freely and is unlikely to cause interference with other equipment.

The micro radar allows drones to fly at a pre-defined height when integrated with the Micro Pilot flight controller. Software converts distance and azimuth information into commands the flight controller uses for sense-and-avoid navigation.

Plextek is working with Griff Aviation with trials in Norway ahead of testing the drones with an energy provider in Japan and a power line company in Australia.

Peter Doig, business development director at Plextek, says, “Until now, most drones have been used for lightweight payloads, and heavy lift drones require very precise and reliable flight control.”  

EHang makes first US pilotless air taxi flight

Autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV) technology company EHang conducted a non-passenger U.S. trial flight of its two-seat EHang 216 during the North Carolina Transportation Summit. It’s the first time the EHang 216 has received flight approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

“Our mission is to make safe, autonomous, and eco-friendly air mobility accessible to everyone and this trial flight represents a significant step towards bringing our urban air mobility solutions to the U.S. market,” says EHang Founder, Chairman, and CEO Huazhi Hu.

EHang has safely conducted more than 2,000 trial flights in China, Austria, the Netherlands, Qatar, and the UAE and delivered 38 units to customers in 2019.

Electric Silent Falcon E1 reaches 500 flight test hours

The Silent Falcon E1 – a solar-electric, fixed-wing, unmanned aircraft system (UAS) with a 20 lb payload capacity and 20,000ft. ceiling – has completed 500 hours of flight testing and operations, certifying it safe and durable. Silent Falcon UAS Technologies (SFUAS), an Albuquerque, New Mexico-based service provider and original equipment manufacturer (OEM) has an application pending before the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for E1 type certification.

Silent Falcon aircraft have operated in eight foreign countries and are not ITAR restricted.

All SFUAS products are designed, built, and sourced to ensure no parts contain Chinese content.