Unmanned aircraft taking to Texas skies for FAA testing


Unmanned aircraft taking to Texas skies for FAA testing

Increasing numbers of aircraft are taking to the Texas skies unmanned.

Texas was selected as one of six states to participate in testing and research for the Federal Aviation Administration's plan to integrate rules and regulations for drones, or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), by 2015.

The state has one of the largest test sites ranging from West Texas to the Gulf Coast to the Brazos Valley.

Some corporations, like Amazon, have already shown an interest in using drones as delivery drivers.

With the increasing numbers of unregulated UAS taking to the skies, it has many concerned with not only safety, but privacy, as well.

The UAS crafts generally only weigh a few pounds, and while most stay near their owner or operator, others can go miles away from home.

"People see [drones] and they think it's an alien; it's just too different," said drone owner Robert Dodd. "But it really is nothing more than a remote controlled airplane. That's all it is."

Drone usage has existed for years, starting with mainly military use. The Department of Homeland Security uses drones along the Texas border with Mexico.

The Federal Aviation Administration is expecting thousands of drone aircraft to be introduced to the skies over the next several years, and they want universities to help them develop the roadmap.

Texas A&M Corpus Christi, along with several other campuses across the state, is testing and helping with that roadmap for future use.

"The reason Texas is one of the six selected is because of geographic diversity," Dr. John Valasek, Texas A&M Center for Autonomous Vehicles And Sensor Systems (CANVASS), said.

"Texas has mountains, prairies, deserts, forests and seashore, and that's a unique combination."

Texas A&M is using a former U.S. Army Airfield near Bryan to test crafts' control and certification. Researchers will also be looking into easing the public's fears regarding the unmanned craft.

"What we're really trying to do is to establish trust in autonomous systems with the public and with people," Valasek said. "Because autonomous systems, no matter what kind they are, are going to be interacting with us on a daily basis."

Students at Texas A&M University designed and built the fleet that will be used for FAA testing at the Texas A&M Riverside Campus.

They said their testing has been close to home, so far, but expect future flights to go out for several miles.

"A lot of our operations have been manual flying so we'll have a pilot on the ground manually controlling them with radio, and that makes it so we have to fly within visual range of them," graduate student researcher Jim Henrickson said.

The Texas Legislature took steps in the 2013 session to make sure they are staying with the advancing technology.

"The main concerns are about privacy and private property and that sort of thing," said State Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola.

Hughes was one of several co-sponsors of a bill authored by Terrell Representative Lance Gooden that defines proper drone usage.

The law includes several exemptions for education and research and defines how law enforcement can use drones properly.

"We tried to put in all the exceptions to allow law enforcement to do what they do," Hughes said. "We want to give them the tools they need. At the same time,we recognize that when our founders passed the Fourth Amendment, they were limiting what government and law enforcement can do."

Violations of the law carry with them a misdemeanor penalty. Taking an image in violation of the law would be a class C misdemeanor with a fine of up to $500. Distributing or using that image for commercial use would be a class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and/or confinement in jail of up to 180 days.

Texas is one of just nine states with laws on the books for drone aircraft, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Lawmakers say with the technology still changing, the legislature will have to keep checking to see if changes need to be made.

"Technology is moving fast, which is great," Rep. Hughes said. "We just have to make sure that the law is keeping up."

The FAA UAS testing ongoing in Texas is expected to have an $8 billion impact on the state's economy. The UAS industry is expected to create around 1,200 jobs.

Japans Clue launches DroneCloud, data management platform for businesses using drones

Japans Clue launches DroneCloud, data management platform for businesses using drones
Tokyo-based Clue announced in November the launch of a data management service for drones called DroneCloud. The service will offer a platform to manage drone data, such as tracking who operates which drone, managing projects and team members operating drones, as well as managing and sharing drone flight data.

Minnesota DoT Testing Drones for Bridge Inspections

Minnesota DoT Testing Drones for Bridge Inspections
“We do underneath rope access inspections,” said Barritt Lovelace, a regional manager for Collins Engineers Inc., an agency headquartered in Chicago with offices throughout the country. Basically, we rock-climb bridges. It’s a lot of fun. In Duluth recently, Lovelace stood with a host of others below the Blatnik Bridge to participate in a demonstration of the Minnesota Department of Transportations ongoing study of using drones for bridge inspection purposes.

Over 2,100 Commercial End Users, Vendors at First Annual Drone World Expo

Over 2,100 Commercial End Users, Vendors at First Annual Drone World Expo
The first ever Drone World Expo had an extremely successful launch last week at the San Jose Convention Center. The exhibit hall floor featured 75 exhibiting companies and the event attracted 2,120 commercial drone professionals. The exhibitors responded enthusiastically about their experience at the new trade show with many already planning on renewing booth space for the 2016 Show which will take place November 15-16 back at the San Jose Convention Center.

Drone Standards Tough To Reach For Young Pilots

Drone Standards Tough To Reach For Young Pilots

Megan Halek could be the best unmanned aircraft pilot coming out of the University of North Dakota’s highly regarded aviation program this year: Shes aced a training program and has enough air experience to fly private jets worldwide.

Drone World Expo  Exclusive Board Member Interviews

Drone World Expo Exclusive Board Member Interviews

To find out what inspires their interest in UAS and attracts the Advisory Board Members to support Drone World Expo, we scheduled a series of exclusive interviews. Our eleventh interviewee is Gretchen West, Senior Advisor of Innovation and Technology at Hogan Lovells.

US DoT Seeks Public Comments on UAS Registration

US DoT Seeks Public Comments on UAS Registration

In a surprise move, DOT just published a document,Clarification of the Applicability of Aircraft Registration Requirements for UAS and Request for Information Regarding Electronic Registration for UAS, to the Federal Register. DOT is soliciting recommendations on all aspects of the UAS registration process, including which UAS should be exempt from the registration requirement.

UK Military Aviation Authority to Update Unmanned Operations Guidelines

UK Military Aviation Authority to Update Unmanned Operations Guidelines
The UK’s Military Aviation Authority is preparing the release of an updated version of its regulations on unmanned air vehicles, which will draw on feedback from a first document that was released last January.

Drones are providing film and TV viewers a new perspective on the action

Drones are providing film and TV viewers a new perspective on the action

Adazed and bloodied student who had just been mugged stumbled down a darkened alleyway in a slum. He lifted his shirt, revealing a gaping wound, before collapsing on the ground as curious onlookers gathered around.

 Air National Guard wants to Fly MQ-9 Reaper from Syracuses Hancock Airport

Air National Guard wants to Fly MQ-9 Reaper from Syracuses Hancock Airport
The Air National Guard wants to fly remotely piloted aircrafts out of Hancock Field at the Syracuse International Airport. The change would save time and money, as the National Guard has to send its aircrafts to fly from Fort Drum because of airspace restrictions.

NASA Grant Supports Wildfire Research

NASA Grant Supports Wildfire Research

Two Northwest Nazarene University assistant professors have been awarded a NASA grant to support their research on wildfire monitoring and assessment technology.
Assistant professor of computer science Dale Hamilton and associate professor of computer science Barry Myers weer awarded a NASA EPSCoR (experimental program to stimulate competitive research) Undergraduate Research Grant

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