Amazon’s Drone Delivery Plans: What’s Old, What’s New And When?

Amazon’s Prime Air delivery drone has some great new technology but the service faces strong and persistent regulatory hurdles. Amazon’s drone delivery service is in the news again, this time with a new drone named the “MK27.” As the latest iteration of Amazon’s Prime Air delivery drone, it’s apparently safer, more efficient, and more stable than previous models, according to Amazon’s CEO Worldwide Consumer, Jeff Wilke. Wilke also said the company expects to scale the Prime Air delivery drone quickly, with the hope that it will be able to bring packages to customers “within months.” What’s old? For some, this may sound like déjà vu, and they’d be right. In December 2013, Amazon CEO and Founder Jeff Bezos told “60 Minutes” that drones would be flying to customers’ homes within five years. But that deadline came and went due to the many regulatory and technical hurdles that drone delivery companies face. Since Amazon first announced its plan for a drone delivery service, the company has gone through more than two dozen drone designs, none of which was able to adequately avoid other aircraft, objects, or people on the ground. The Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates commercial drone use in the U.S., has approved previous Amazon drones for test flights, but each new prototype needs a special airworthiness certificate. Notwithstanding, the FAA told Forbes it has approved for Amazon one year of research and testing, allowing the company to operate its new unmanned aircraft for research and development and crew training in authorized flight areas—though not

Read more...

FAA May Be Off Target With Forecast For Threefold Growth In Commercial Drones

There’s some good information in the FAA’s new five-year Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) forecast, but there are reasons to doubt the accuracy of the agency’s projections in two areas that have captured attention: the claims that there will be roughly threefold growth in the numbers of commercial drones and UAS-certified pilots. Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly in the report. The Good There is some good analysis in this report. For example, it seems the FAA finally gets that drones have a wide variety of price points and the bulk of commercial activity has been driven by low-cost consumer-grade aircraft: “Currently, the consumer grade dominates the non-model sector with a market share approaching 95 percent. However, as the sector matures and the industry begins to consolidate, the share of consumer grade non-model aircraft is likely to decline but will still be dominant. By 2023, FAA projects this sub-sector will have around 85 per-cent share of the overall non-model sUAS sector.” This insight is mostly consistent with independent surveys and reports like this one, which finds more than 91% said they bought drones costing over $2,000 for professional purposes—either governmental, academic, or business. The other good thing in this report is the FAA’s admission that the historical commercial drone registrations outpaced their own predictions by 80%.  Previously, they predicted a healthy growth rate of more than 40%—but they underestimated it. “Last year, we forecasted that the non-model sector would have around 229,400 sUAS in 2019, a growth rate exceeding 44 percent

Read more...

Three Essentials for Building Public Safety and First Responder Drone Programs

Increasing use of drones surfaces three best practices for state and local police, sheriffs, fire departments, and teams in EMS, search and rescue, tactical response, and disaster response.   I just released two new drone industry guides titled Three Essentials For Building Your Law Enforcement Drone Program and Three Essentials For Building Your Fire and Rescue Drone Program. These are the first in a series of papers intended to share the latest lessons learned in specific industries and how to sustain and grow a drone program. These guides offer essential best practices for law enforcement and fire and rescue teams. They answer questions like: What have current users learned about what works and what doesn’t? What are the most important topics to know to keep your drone program ongoing? And where should you go to learn what’s next? Here is an excerpt from the law enforcement guide: Essential 1 – Take advantage of the latest technology New technology is progressing rapidly in drones and aerial imaging processing—more rapidly and at lower costs than manned-based aviation solutions. It is important to keep up with the changes that could benefit your program. Nearly every week, a new product is announced. Two of the most exciting recent developments are smaller combination sensors and augmented reality. The new sensors, like the one found on the DJI Mavic Enterprise Dual, combine visible and thermal imagery in one sensor. Multiple display modes allow you to see either the infrared or the visible image or a combination.

Read more...

Drones Are Doing More In U.S. Than You May Know, As These 3 Companies Show

Five years ago, the pundits predicted that by now we would be seeing tens of thousands of drones buzzing over our heads delivering everything from pizzas and burritos to the latest “must-have” item from Amazon. So what happened? Where are they? In a nutshell, they are here, but the general public doesn’t see them—at least not daily—and they aren’t necessarily delivering what was predicted. The fact is that commercial drones fly in remote areas or over private property every day by the thousands. They’re performing work on farms, powerlines, construction sites, cell towers, and oil pads, especially in the U.S. where there are more than 118,000 FAA-certified remote pilots. Compare that to the U.K., where there are just under 5,000. Delivering pizzas and burritos will likely be a very small part of what drones will be doing in the future. According to the largest benchmark study on commercial drones, the bulk of all current industrial use outside of film, photo and video falls into two categories: surveying and mapping land areas and inspecting and monitoring physical structures. And it’s these two uses that will continue to drive the growth of drones for industrial use for many years to come. Three companies represent this growth and are worth getting to know: PrecisionHawk, DroneDeploy and SkySkopes. In many way,s they are emblematic of the current state of the growing commercial drone industry and provide insight into its future. PrecisionHawk Founded in 2010 and headquartered in Raleigh, N.C., PrecisionHawk was one of the

Read more...

What Every CIO Needs To Know About Commercial Drone Data

This post first appeared on Forbes.com as Drones Pose A Unique Big Data Challenge For Business Users The public might consider them nuisances, but in the commercial market, drones are valuable data collection devices. Their primary task is to capture, store, and transmit data. So as IT departments consider integrating more drone data into existing enterprise business processes, they face new data governance requirements. As drone technology matures, it is important to know what it means for you as the steward of your firm’s information technology and software. Drones present both a big data and an IoT challenge Up to now, the focus of commercial drone use has been on accurate data collection and visualization—not IT process integration. To be fair, applications have been developed to support verticals like agriculture, construction, energy, mining, and telecom with cloud-based services, but these applications mostly produce and serve up maps, e.g., location maps for managing and servicing company infrastructure and other assets. Just as with big data, the challenges of drone data include analysis, curation, search, sharing, storage, transfer, visualization, and information privacy. We are already beginning to see drones efficiently replace static IoT sensors with one device that is in motion and can capture multiple types of data (so not just pictures and video, but also emission gases, radio signals, geodetic data, etc.). Is drone data that unique? Like all IoT devices that are in motion, drones bring a lot of value and at the same time have a lot of challenges. For

Read more...