Looks like the US drone market may finally open up

I was reading this story earlier: “Drones Set Sights on U.S. Skies

Over recent years the drone market in America has been stifled by very strict legislation, effectively rendering them useless for commercial applications. There have been fears over potential terrorist activity and other surveillance issues that have limited the scope. It looks like new legislation will soon bring the US into line with UK legislation that permits certified operators to work in UK airspace up to a height of 400 feet. The Civil Aviation Authority have put strict legislation into place and are now requiring operators to obtain a qualification by passing two exams as well as producing a detailed operations manual. We welcome this, as it provides a benchmark standard for UAS (unmanned aerial system) operations in the UK. Our new drones will be being put through their paces next month with a view to becoming fully operational in April.

Although surveillance seems to be a logical application of drones, I do feel that it is the most controversial area and actually, in terms of endurance of the systems, not particularly practical with current technology. There are a myriad of other applications that are probably more useful and could certainly give good cost savings to clients as well as lowering company carbon emissions. I’ll blog on carbon emissions tomorrow! Potential uses in agriculture, geographical and environmental surveys, architecture and surveying are huge. As our portfolio expands we will begin to put more examples on our website.

Here is a perfect example of hexacopters being used in geographical survey that will potentially help in future space exploration. I know there will be resistance from members of the public who are worried about the issues of aerial surveillance, but to be honest, I see that as a tiny part of the market with the majority of applications being over non-residential areas with a very clear focus on structures and landscape.

The flight tests continue!



Computer-controlled quadrocopters

At the moment, most drone work is carried out using traditional radio-control systems. However, new systems are becoming more and more intuitive with some manufacturers going down the route of creating their own control systems whilst others are beginning to use iPads or even iPhones to control their drones. A team in America are doing some very exciting work with fully automated systems.

Operation within the UK under Civil Aviation Authority guidelines requires an operator to be able to take manual control if necessary in order to implement sense and avoid procedures. as a result, traditional systems that include what most people would recognise as a radio control are still used for the majority of operations.

At HexCam, our multirotors are based on the DJI Wookong multirotor controller. This gives us three possible modes depending on the situation to give a variety of control options. In full GPS mode, the multirotor will hold its position using GPS satellites. In atti mode, the multirotor will hold its position as well as possible without using GPS. In manual mode the operator has manual control of the multirotor. Future upgrades will allow us to use fully automated flight using the same system whilst always having the option of taking full manual control.

The DJI Wookong also features a return-to-base failsafe that will return the multirotor automatically to a preset start position and land in the event of loss of signal. As a result, our systems are about as safe as you can get. We carry out full risk assessments before each project and our pilots will soon be BNUC-S qualified to guarantee that they are trained to standards required by the CAA.


Keep Droning On!

If you have watched the BBC in the evening at all recently you may have noticed radio-controlled drones appearing on programmes such as Question of Sport, The Magicians, Countryfile and, most recently,The One Show. With increasing public awareness of the uses of unmanned aerial systems, it is likely that we are going to see many more systems coming online over the next few years. Concerns have been raised about privacy issues but, with cameras available on almost every mobile phone and tablet, it is hard to see how it will be a major problem when there are so few operators. Concerns have also been raised about the use of drones in terrorism but, like any tool, drones could be used for useful or disruptive purposes so you can’t just write off a new technology because a tiny minority of people might use them illegally.

The One Show’s Matt Allwright did a ten-minute feature about 20 minutes into the show on drones on Friday 10th February highlighting their potential uses in Police surveillance, farming, search and rescue and the Olympics, amongst other things.

With the rate of technological development in this field, things are moving very quickly. There was no mention of heavy-lift hexacopters and octocopters, that can carry much improved camera equipment, such as in the example below, or developments in recharging technology that may eventually allow much longer flight times.

CineStar 3 Axis Gimbal from tabb firchau on Vimeo.

At HexCam, we aim to be on the cutting edge of current research and to keep improving our technology to meet the needs of individuals and businesses.