FAA grants first exemption for nighttime commercial drone flights

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For the first time, the Federal Aviation Administration has approved [.pdf] commercial operations of a drone at night.

The FAA granted an exemption to its drone flight restrictions to Industrial Skyworks, which will fly the Aeryon SkyRanger unmanned aerial system, or UAS, during the day and night to perform building inspections. The exemption also permitted Industrial Skyworks to fly the Aeryon Scout to conduct daytime operations.

The exemption went into great detail regarding nighttime drone flights. Quite simply, it’s harder for the human eye to see at night, so the FAA did quite a bit of research to find the best way to ensure drones are operated safely at night.

‘Pilots operating at night must be trained and tested to ensure they have the basic knowledge required to operate safely at night,’ the exemption said. This is based on the the principals of traditional aircraft piloting.

The FAA looked at the different training requirements for commercial and private aircraft pilots versus recreational and sport pilots. Essentially, private pilots go through additional training and testing, where recreational and sport pilots don’t. That training includes, ‘principles of night vision and night visual illusions, which provides training on human night vision limitations and how to adapt to them and potential confusion and concerns of night illusions,’ the exemption said.

Overall, the FAA decided that Industrial Skyworks trains its pilots in such a way that mitigates the risk of night flight.

‘Though the FAA does not approve UAS training programs such as Industrial Skyworks night training program or its criteria, it does recognize that the training, mitigates the risks of night operations becasue [sic] it requires the PIC to accumulate nighttime operating skills, knowledge, and experience of unmanned aircraft prior to conducting commercial operations,’ the exemption said.

Overall, the exemption included a solid set of specifications that must be followed to help ensure safe night drone flights. Those included a daylight site assessment to find any hazards or obstacles the pilot wouldn’t see at night and a requirement that drones be equipped with anti-collision lighting that is visible for 5,000 feet.

The 24-page exemption document included a plethora of other details, and is worth taking a look at. The exemption summary can be found starting on page 14.

The commercial drone industry has been taking some baby steps forward as of late, though operations like drone delivery are still waiting on more FAA guidance before they can take to the skies. Still, any step forward is positive news for the drone industry, resulting in a slow but steady increase in commercial drone operations. It’s likely we’ll see quite a few other industries taking this exemption as a precedent, searching for their own use for drone flights at night.

About this article :

●  Date : April 22, 2016

●  Source: FierceMobileIT

●  Country: USA

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