Drone pilots are welcome to join AOPA, drone sightings increase again, a large autonomous freight drone prototype, a beyond visual line of sight record, and autonomous package delivery by UPS.
AOPA believes manned and unmanned pilots are more alike than different: “…both groups are part of general aviation, and share a fascination for flight and a craving for new perspectives.” To bring drone pilots into the organization, AOPA created a senior director of UAS programs and selected Kathleen “Kat” Swain to fill the position in April 2016. More recently, AOPA entered into a formal agreement with DARTdrones to offer their online training course free to AOPA members. Also, AOPA members will be eligible for a discount on an online Part 107 test preparation course, and members can experience drone demonstrations and live seminars at major airshows and at AOPA’s Regional Fly-Ins.
The reports of potential encounters with UAS come from pilots, air traffic controllers, law enforcement, and citizens. The latest data cover February through September 2016 and show reports increasing to 1,274 during that period compared to 874 reports for the same period in 2015. The FAA makes the data available through their UAS Sightings Report page.
Natilus wants to build a large autonomous freight drone and reduce global air freight costs by 50% over that of a 747 freighter. The San Jose, California-based company received $750,000 in seed funding in June 2016 from Draper Associates. Their Nemo prototype “is about the size of a small predator military drone.”
The 39-mile beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flight was flown under the Nevada UAS Test Site’s FAA Certificate of Authorization (COA) on February 15, 2017. Led by the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems, which manages the UAS Test Site, the fixed-wing Drone America Savant™ UAV flew at up to 1,500 feet AGL.
UPS announced that they successfully tested the autonomous delivery of a package by a drone launched from the top of a UPS truck. Under the UPS concept, while the drone is making its delivery, the driver continues on to make a separate delivery. Tests were conducted in Tampa, Florida with a Workhorse Group HorseFly™ octocopter.