The Pathfinder Program demonstrates a growing willingness by the FAA to enable broad commercial drone operations
- BNSF Railway
The Pathfinder program will explore topics such as flying drones beyond line of site, one of the most critical needs for commercial use and one of the areas where the FAA has been most unwilling to consider in the past.
Here is the press release from Precision Hawk, one of the Pathfinder program participants:
RALEIGH, N.C., May 6, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — PrecisionHawk has entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration to advance the research around unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) across rural areas. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta announced the partnership this morning at the AUVSI Unmanned Systems Conference inAtlanta. PrecisionHawk will be the only UAV manufacturer, joining CNN and BNSF Railway, in this partnership forged under the Pathfinder program, an operational concept validation set up by the FAA to help integrate commercial drones into the US national airspace.
“Even as we pursue our current rulemaking effort for small unmanned aircraft, we must continue to actively look for future ways to expand non-recreational UAS uses,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “This new initiative involving three leading U.S. companies will help us anticipate and address the needs of the evolving UAS industry.”
The partnership will leverage PrecisionHawk’s extensive work in the global agriculture landscape to formulate a framework for various types of UAVs, fixed wing and multi-rotor, to operate in the areas of agriculture, forestry and other rural industries. Beyond this use case focus, PrecisionHawk will also test LATAS (Low Altitude Tracking & Avoidance System) its traffic management system for UAVs. Testing will include on-aircraft transponders as well as LATAS traffic management ground-based hardware and software. By introducing an operational tracking system that works with any UAV platform, the FAA and PrecisionHawk can safely test operations beyond visual line of sight in low risk, ‘non-populated’ areas, such as farmland.
“For the commercial drone industry to achieve its maximum technological and economic potential, we need to test reliable hardware and software solutions that will address safety. We also need to provide the data that will prove that reliability to regulators and the public,” said Christopher Dean, PrecisionHawk CEO.
PrecisionHawk will begin testing in coordination with the six designated UAS test sites. Under the Pathfinder program, the Lancasterplatform will be able to fly beyond line of sight under certain conditions. The goal will be to guide regulations to include this type of flight activity for all UAS in the future. PrecisionHawk will provide the FAA with R&D test flights and test data to assist with regulations around UAS integration.
“As we seek to build the most competitive drone regulatory structure in the world, it is vital that the industry players present solutions and use cases to move integration efforts forward,” said Ernest Earon, PrecisionHawk President and co-founder. “Through this unique partnership, PrecisionHawk will be representing the commercial use of UAVs to benefit the industry as a whole.”
PrecisionHawk is an unmanned aerial systems and remote sensing company founded in 2010. The company provides an end-to-end solution for aerial data gathering, processing and analysis to provide actionable information to clients across a wide range of civilian industries. The team is comprised of professionals with backgrounds in remote sensing, unmanned aircraft operations, software development, data processing and GIS systems development. PrecisionHawk also owns the drone data software, DataMapper, and the Low Altitude Tracking and Avoidance System, LATAS. The company operates out of HQ offices in Raleigh, N.C. and Toronto, Ont.Follow on Twitter @PrecisionHawk.