The Rest Of The UAS Story

Among the news headlines this week about a Kentucky judge and an Oklahoma prison, there were other larger, more recognizable names worth noting for their long-term impact on the UAS industry.
By Patrick C. Miller | October 29, 2015

Among the news headlines this week about a Kentucky judge’s ruling that it’s okay to shoot down a drone if it’s invading a homeowner’s privacy and a drone unsuccessfully attempting to deliver contraband to an Oklahoma prison, there were also stories about some big-time players getting involved in the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) world—Microsoft, General Electric and Wal-Mart.

While the articles about drone shoot-downs and their use in prison smuggling attempts make for interesting water cooler discussion, news coverage about more name-brand players entering the UAS space demonstrates just how quickly the industry is growing, its great potential and the important role it’s destined to play.

When Wal-Mart—the world’s largest retailer—announced its plans to team with DJI—the world’s biggest manufacturer of consumer drones—and explore the idea of employing UAS for home deliveries and pickups, I had to wonder about the reaction it triggered at Amazon and Google. It also demonstrates that the airspace below 500 feet could quickly become crowded as more retailers of different sizes attempt to capitalize on the benefits of UAS technology.

General Electric is teaming with Airware to use UAS to inspect thousands of miles of electric transmission lines crisscrossing the landscape. This is one of those dull, dirty and dangerous jobs at which drones excel. It just makes sense to inspect linear infrastructure such as power lines and oil and gas pipelines with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). As sensors and analytical software improve, so does the ability of robotic aircraft to spot potential trouble that might go undetected by the human eye. Why risk human lives in manned aircraft when UAS can do the job better?

Canada-based Aeryon Labs Inc.—an international supplier of small UAS—this week announced a technology partnership with Microsoft. Aeryon’s SkyRanger UAV will be paired with the Microsoft Advanced Patrol Platform (MAPP) vehicle, a futuristic police SUV that will provide law enforcement officers with a wealth of real-time information that Aeryon says enables them to operate “with better awareness, efficiency, mobility and safety.” First responders, surveillance teams and investigators will also have high-quality aerial imagery at their fingertips. It’s a UAS development that will likely revolutionize law enforcement and emergency services.

The UAS industry is like a snowball rolling downhill, constantly gaining speed and growing ever larger. Every week there’s exciting news and significant developments that make me excited about the industry’s future.