This is the first time ever that a drone has been granted the permission by the FAA to carry out a commercial mission. Two aircraft have gained the FAA’s certification, the Scan Eagle and Aerovironment’s Puma. Oil giant BP has been working with Aerovironment, a drone manufacturer, to fly an Aerovironment Puma AE on survey missions in Alaska. This decision comes about two years after congress mandated that the FAA construct a plan to incorporate unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into civil airspace before 2015. While there is still no provision for any UAS to operate over the continental US, the fact that there is now a precedent set for the flight of commercial drones will encourage new UAS to emerge in all industries where there is a reasonable use.
What many people will be wondering is the inevitable question: will the drones be recording? If so, what will be their subject? Since Google and Facebook have purchased their own drone companies it will be interesting to see how they handle public privacy concerns. Everyone already knows Google and Facebook can see you when you step out of your door to go to work. Now they will just be able to follow you if they wish. However, commercial UAS will most likely not be concerned with taking photos or videos of people while en route to their destination. Commercial UAS will allow unmanned or man assisted flights to occur more frequently than pilot controlled flights because computers will not grow tired during the route. While this means that there may one day be an unmanned jumbo jet over your head, the good thing is that it might also mean your Amazon shipment will arrive today rather than tomorrow. The unmanned aircraft will also have the ability to survey large plots of land, monitor traffic congestion, and aid in search and rescue and recovery.
UAS commercialization is inevitable and it is a good thing. We need our stuff and we need it now!