Will Draganfly be first to market for U.S. public safety and first responders?
by Colin Snow, MBA | 2014-04-21 | Article ID: QT14-01 | Article Type: QuickTake
The FAA just announced that the first of six test sites chosen to perform unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) research is now operational. Along with this news came the announcement that the FAA granted the North Dakota Department of Commerce team a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) to begin using a Draganflyer X4ES small unmanned aerial system (sUAS). The COA is effective for two years, and the team plans to begin flight operations during the week of May 5th. While the announcement explains the goal of this test site’s initial operations as support of “precision agriculture research studies,” it buries the fact this particular sUAS is designed as an aerial photography platform for public safety. In the company’s own words, “The Draganflyer X4-ES helicopter is a professional quality, powerful, easy to fly aerial platform specifically designed for Public Safety use.” Part of the charter of the Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site is to collect safety-related operational data needed for UAS airspace integration. The information is supposed to help the FAA analyze current processes for establishing sUAS airworthiness and system maturity. Salient to this is the mention of maintenance and repair data. Manufacturers and potential service providers should note this part of the announcement is loaded with hidden meaning. The hurdle for FAA operational approval is very high. One need only look at the ASTM International Committee F38 on Unmanned Aircraft Systems standards set for sUAS operations to see just how high it is. This set covers documentation standards for design, construction, operation, and maintenance requirements. Draganfly has had a number of COAs granted already primarily to law enforcement agencies over the last several years. Given all this, and their penchant for quality of documentation, it is clear they have a lead in the race to be first to market for U.S. public safety and first responders.