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Aviation regulators need to get their acts together - Ghana uses drones from Zipline to enable faster coronavirus testing

Aviation regulators need to get their acts together

To fully benefit as a society from what drones can bring us, aviation regulators, such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) need to get their acts together and create a single-point-of-truth to manage and operate the skies safely, for all aircraft, manned and unmanned.

Aviation regulators need to get their acts together

In a Forbes article Andrew Charlton argues that we must look up and make drone deliveries a reality. He points out that if we have learned one thing from the coronavirus pandemic it is that “the supply and delivery of medicines and medical samples which could most benefit from a drone delivery service.”

A drone delivery service of medical supplies is already technically possible. We have many test examples already here in the U.S., but also in Ireland, England, The Netherlands, Germany, Australia, and elsewhere. Maybe one of the best examples is Zipline, a fixed-wing drone delivery company that has already successfully completed close to ninety thousand drone deliveries of medical supplies many of which in Rwanda.

It is about the airspace, stupid!

Charlton points out that it is not about the hardware and I would agree. It is about the airspace! Specifically, the airspace that is used by general aviation (private flyers, helicopters, and others) and where visual flight rules are used. This is the space where drone operators would deploy their unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to make urgent deliveries. This is where aviation regulators need to step in.

The writer argues that using drones to make deliveries without human intervention has to be the way forward and to make that a reality, two things need to happen:

  1. “First, aviators and drone users need to understand if they are to have a harmonious relationship then they need electronic conspicuity… Regulators need to get their acts together. Some readers may remember I wrote last year about how the FAA and EASA could not agree on either remote ID or UTM standards. There is no time for that sort of grandstanding now. If we are to democratize the skies, give everyone equal and, most importantly, safe access to airspace, then we need to know where they are at all times – not so we can see where they are flying, or who is on-board, but so we can stop them colliding.”
  2. “Which leads me nicely on to the second point. We need a single point of truth – a way of having access to a single source of current location of all airborne craft, from the largest commercial airliner to the smallest drone, on one, open to all, platform.”

To maximize the potential of drones and “to help the world in delivering life-saving drugs, protective equipment, and tests you [pointing to Jeff Bezos here], and all of us, need to put more thought in to managing the sky, not just the drone.” I would wholeheartedly agree with this conclusion.

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Photo credit: Zipline

Haye Kesteloo

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