Drone Aviation Is Here to Stay

From NAFI's Chair

Drone Aviation Is Here to Stay

Last week, I attended AUVSI XPONENTIAL 2019. For those of you who don't know, "AUVSI" is shorthand for Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, an industry group that advocates for unmanned and autonomous vehicles of all kinds and XPONENTIAL is the association's annual trade show, held this year in Chicago. Of course, with the explosive growth in the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, or "drone," industry, the event has a strong emphasis on that part of the industry. And, of course, that is why I attended.

Of course, when I attend trade shows like this one or AirVenture, NBAA, etc., it's to find out what is new and exciting on the market. That was a large part of the reason that I went, looking for new technology that would benefit my employer. And I wasn't disappointed - there have been a lot of changes and new and/or improved products that have appeared in just the last year. As I tell people, the growth and development of the UAV industry is very reminiscent to me of the PC boom of the early 1980s.

And therein lies the rub. In the 1980s, other than the risk of purchasing a computer that would end up gathering dust, there was relatively little risk in experimenting. Not so the UAV industry, because now there is a technologically disruptive new player in the National Airspace System. Everyone from hobbyists to professionals are finding new uses for easily obtainable and relatively easy to fly aircraft which must find a way to play nicely with the manned aircraft currently in the airspace system. As I pointed out in one seminar I attended, today's society does not easily tolerate research and development through accidents, nor should it.

Which brings me to another reason to attend trade shows - continuing education. First, I would like to extend kudos to Flight Safety International for a great course I attended. It was a class about how to create and manage a Safety Management System for UAVs, regardless of the size of the enterprise. Secondly, the seminars hosted by AUSVI regarding both the integration of UAVs in to the airspace along with the educating the new pilots who have joined us were both on point and well presented.

Which brings me to this point: Whether you like drones or not, they are here to stay. The economics and ease of use are too attractive to be otherwise. As I've said before, we need to find ways to welcome the newcomers to aviation and help them understand why they need to fly safely and responsibly. As the FAA and other regulatory bodies around the world gain experience, I believe the flight education landscape will evolve to include more instructional opportunities in this new part of aviation. This is our chance to help shape those opportunities and help contribute to the continued safety of aviation.

Bob Meder,
NAFI Board Chair
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