The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today announced new partnerships with industries, including agriculture, to explore the next steps in unmanned aircraft operations beyond the type of operations the agency proposed in the draft small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) rule it published in February.
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta announced the initiative today at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Unmanned Systems 2015 conference in Atlanta. “We’re calling it the Pathfinder Program,” said Huerta. “We’re partnering with three leading U.S. companies who have committed extensive resources to perform research that will help us determine if and how we can safely expand unmanned aircraft operations in the United States.”[wpaudio url=”http://www.zimmcomm.biz/government/faa-pathfinder.mp3″ text=”Comments from FAA administrator Michael Huerta on Pathfinder”]
One of the three is Raleigh-based PrecisionHawk, which will be surveying crops in rural areas using unmanned aircraft flying outside of the pilot’s direct vision.
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 and 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.
According to PrecisionHawk founder and president Ernest Earon, they will be working with the FAA to develop standards and operational procedures to allow for safe integration of drones in the National Airspace System. “This is something we’ve been working on for a very long time,” said Earon in an interview with Precision.AgWired after the announcement. “Our goal is to really push forward the regulations and the use cases so we can as an industry take advantage of this technology and move it forward.”
In this interview Earon discusses the new partnership with FAA and what he sees as the future of unmanned aircraft in agriculture: [wpaudio url=”http://www.zimmcomm.biz/precision/precisionhawk-pathfinder.mp3″ text=”Interview with Ernest Earon, PrecisionHawk”]