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Commercialisation of the Drone Industry...are we just dreaming?

Editorial Feature

Commercialisation of the Drone Industry... are we just dreaming?

Words By: Robert Garbett

Without question, the most exciting emerging industry mankind has ever witnessed but are we really moving as fast as some would have us believe or is it all just bluster?

The evolution of the drone industry seems to shift from one exciting development to the next. First the sky will be full of tiny air drones or Unmanned Air Systems (UAS), then we are all going to be flying to work in taxis but the reality is that things are not advancing as rapidly as some would have you believe because we simply do not have the infrastructure needed to enable it.  

We seem to be a long way from commercialisation (I'll come on o what that means later)and here's why:

1. To manage any volume of unmanned air traffic safely, we need to establish what is known as Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM), but UTM is not some magic thing which will just appear, it will take years of development both technically and regulatory and (no matter what certain app developers say) you can't build a UTM purely on 4G or 5G! It will need multiple channels, it will need to be reliable, secure, open to a federated model and have safety standards to underpin it (which are still in development...sorry).

2. VTOL people (or is it UAM, or eVTOL?...I get confused between pointless attempts to create new names for what are essentially passenger or cargo carrying UAS)...you cant just land anywhere! You will need dedicated droneports or vertiports (or whatever they will be called next week) not just a random rooftop that you have managed to convince an investor to pay for (oops). But, whatever you land at will need to be designed to a safety standard (again, in development) and operated to even more safety standards (guess what, they don't exist yet either). Sorry, you can't just build something and say it's safe...well you can but you are likely to come unstuck the moment you have your first incident!

3. The way we manage our airspace (sky for the uninitiated) has not changed since the dawn of aviation so don't think that just because you want to start flying people and cargo around in air drones (sorry, UAS) that the skies will suddenly be re-organised to meet your needs or that General Aviation (GA..or posh people in little planes and professional aviators in helicopters) will suddenly bow down and start using transponders so that you know where they are. All of this will take years and years and years (sorry to labour the point but it's not going to be easy) of negotiation between the people who run such things and planning amongst those people who actually do the work and (to make things even worse), fundamental changes to aviation regulations on a global scale.

4. ...and the public are worried (and I'm not surprised) because they don't know what to expect from a world full of unmanned systems. What about jobs, what about safety and what about privacy? All good questions and, so far, very few answers...

OK.....so it's hopeless right? NO IT'S NOT! We are sitting on the most exciting and revolutionary industry mankind has ever known so you can't (and I won't) let let a few huge issues stop us.....

So do we crash in with bucket loads of cash, masses of lobbying with our powerful friends and true innovator grit and hope for the best?...well that's one way to do it and some are trying just that but I strongly suspect that this is not the intelligent way to go...

Or do we work together to build a solid case for this industry through the development of an infrastructure which will allow the industry to test and develop it's technology and concepts in a safe environment, all the time feeding intelligence data to the regulators and standards makers to allow them to understand the issues and build the regulatory framework and underpinning standards that we need in a timely manner to enable the industry to flourish.

How do I make money out of that I hear you ask...well, test and development does not exclude commercial operations, it just excludes wide scale adoption (that's what I was talking about when I mentioned commercialisation earlier)...for now!

-Want to test your commercial delivery concept in a sandbox environment for the next 2-3 years?

- Want to prove that your technology is safe?...

- Want to prove that Beyond Visual Line of Sight flight is safe?...

- Want to prove that your flying taxi can ferry 1000's of people safely between known points?...

Welcome to stage one of a beautiful future....for more details, email..."I WANT TO BE PART OF THE DRONE DELIVER GROUP (DDG)" to [email protected]

The DDG is an industry initiative, spawned by frustration and propelled by over 300 of the largest and most influential companies in the drone industry who are writing a White Paper for government which sets out the steps we need to make to get the infrastructure that we need to move towards commercialisation...

This is not a sales pitch, this is a call to action! The white paper will be released for comment on 08 Jan 2020 so I hope you will take the time to have your say.

Commercialisation of the Drone Industry...are we just dreaming?