Image: Flickr user timtak
The FAA approved the single rotor Yamaha RMAX helicopter drone for use in the U.S. The RMAX is designed for agricultural spraying, seeding, remote sensing, precision agriculture, frost mitigation and variable rate dispersal. In Japan, RMAX helicopters are primarily used for seeding and spraying rice, but it’s perfectly suited for California's rolling vineyards and other hard to reach places. Although the RMAX is mostly used for agricultural payloads, it has also been used for photography, surveillance, and photogrammetry. It can carry a payload of 62 pounds (28 kilograms) for 45 mins to an hour which means it can easily carry camera’s, sensors, gimbals or equipment.
This a huge step for the commercial drone industry considering the RMAX is far larger then the current class of sUAS drones being used in most industries nationwide. A sUAS is classified as a UAS weighing less then 55 pounds (25 kilograms) while the RMAX weighs in at a heavyweight 270 pounds (94 kilograms). Of the hundreds of .333 exemptions that have been granted by the FAA, currently the RMAX is the only UAS over 55 pounds approved for use in the US . On Feb 15, 2015 the FAA announced their long awaited sUAS regulation proposal that will facilitate integration of small UAS' into U.S. aviation systems, but they have not proposed any regulations for bigger UAS' like the RMAX. Brian Wynne, CEO and president and of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, also sees the significance of this approval. "The FAA is taking an important step forward to helping more industries in the U.S. realize the benefits (drone) technology has to offer," Wynne said.