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UAS Manufacturer Commits To Safety

To learn about a study released this week on the safety issues and risks associated with toy drones operated by inexperienced pilots, we got on the phone with Hulsey Smith. When we talked, we got more than we had hoped for.
By Luke Geiver | November 19, 2015

To learn about a study released this week on the safety issues and risks associated with toy drones operated by inexperienced pilots, we got on the phone with Hulsey Smith, CEO and founder of a Texas-based aerospace and defense company. Smith and his team authored the study, spending more than six months researching and inputting numbers into bird-strike impact formulas based on the specs of most toy drones (sUAVs under 50 pounds that are run through remote control). In addition to the formula work, the team performed several other analyses of the impact and risks associated with a toy drone hitting an manned aircraft or being ingested by a turbofan engine.

You can read the whole story here and even view the study. This blog today, however, is about another story on Smith our team is excited to work on. In a true showcase of just how important safety is to the Aero Kinetics team, Smith and crew are undergoing the type class certification process through the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. The process essentially certifies a particular UAS as airworthy. The FAA has done this for a century, and, there are very few type class certified UAVs in the U.S. (Insitu’s ScanEagle is one). To become certified, a UAS has to undergo a series of tests and a pass a series of safety protocols deemed necessary by the FAA. Currently, under the section 333 exemption process, those who are granted the 333 exemption are basically excused from undergoing the airworthiness test, and are thus self-certifying their own UAS as safe to operate in the national airspace.

Smith believes one Aero Kinetics’ multi-rotors could be type class certified in a little over a year. The process forces a manufacturer to freeze a prototype design or settle on a UAS that it is comfortable not changing in the future.

It is hard to say if many other manufacturers are going through or considering the process as a means to have a verifiable safety certification for a system when clients of all types and sizes ask. It is clear, however, that the process is a true way to offer a high-level of certainty that a UAS is safe and airworthy regardless of what any product marketer or competitor might say.

Look for a more complete story on Aero Kinetics’ effort on safety and airworthiness certification in the future.