I have been an AMA member for 15 years, so when PrecisionHawk committed to join its first AMA Expo, I was looking forward to bringing a commercial perspective to a historically hobbyist remote control aircraft market. The AMA has recently been taking a turn to address consumer drones, but I was still curious as to how well the crowd would respond to the idea of a hardware manufacturer that serves a hugely commercial clientele.
I was ready to address a barrage of questions. Across my three presentations, the inquiries ranged from real-world use cases to potential markets to expectations in terms of future the regulatory landscape. It was a promising start. It personally set the tone for the entire weekend especially key questions surrounding regulations.
The overarching theme of this year’s conference was education -- empowering attendees, and in extension, the entire UAV community, with the right information to fly safely and responsibly. This is a concept that crosses hobbyist and commercial operations alike.
To show their collective support for the theme, the AMA, Small UAV Coalition and AUVSI partnered with the FAA to launch the Know Before You Fly campaign. To promote and encourage this movement further, I spoke at the press conference on behalf of the Small UAV Coalition, alongside Bob Brown (AMA President), Sean Elliott (EAA Vice President of Advocacy and Safety EAA) andMichael Toscano (AUVSI President and CEO). You can watch it below:
A few key points that I want to highlight:
- For hobbyists, while flying might occasionally be for fun/entertainment, safe & responsible flights should still be top priority.
- The commercial UAS industry does not assume the sole burden of keeping the skies safe - the entire drone community needs to pitch in in order to see the space flourish.
- As a collective, the creators of the KBYF campaign has curated helpful resources that can help educate interested parties.
Keeping this theme in mind, I used the conference as a platform to unveil a Low Altitude Tracking & Avoidance System (LATAS). Essentially, LATAS is a smart, low weight solution that enables the flight planning, tracking and avoidance for every drone in the sky using real-time flight data transmission based on world-wide cellular networks.
Sense & avoid capabilities has always been one of the FAA’s core requirements before it even considers allowing any UAV to operate in the US. LATAS addresses this issue and specifically quashes costs concerns - one huge factor that is absent in other available solutions that have hit the market. Read more about LATAS
Between the press conference and my keynote presentations, I was speaking with attendees about our hardware solutions and software services. Like I said, these were mostly hobbyist pilots. Looking back, I am pleasantly surprised and quite excited to discover that they were all markedly interested in knowing more about civilian applications - especially in the areas of agriculture and emergency response.
From an insider’s perspective, this was a very telling sign. The community is so invested in UAV technology that it is willing to learn, support, and promote its proper use. To paraphrase Michael Toscano, bad press from an incident caused by an uneducated pilot will hurt everyone in the industry - so functioning as a collective is key. The drone space is nascent, some can even say that its current state can be likened to a huge puzzle. Industry players are pitching in their piece - each one bringing us closer to widespread adoption and the formation of a regulatory structure.
So, what’s next? The FAA has allowed CNN to fly drones....