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  • Charl Jooste

FAA Rewards 10 Drone Companies with new Airworthiness Criteria

Image: Wingcopter

The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has been making massive progress in recent times, despite the international turmoil. This is important as UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) has so much to offer in these times. Their latest groundbreaking development is the approval of certification criteria for the airworthiness of a range of 10 UAS.

This is a major step forward for the drone industry and one that will allow for greater freedom and benefits multiple industries and sectors of the private and public sector. Rules and regulations are necessary to manage airspace and safety but the FAA is making progress that will allow for control while allowing for the many benefits UAS has to offer.

Director of Aircraft Certification Service Policy and Innovation, Dr. Michael C. Romanowski, had the following to say: “The development of airworthy, durable, and reliable unmanned aircraft is a crucial step forward for this innovative sector. Type certification will help increase both public and regulatory confidence in drone technology as operations become more advanced.”

These drones are now classed as special class aircraft. This will allow for the integration UAS in national airspace. This has been a contentious and challenging issue for many years so this development is highly significant.

The ten applicants that have recognized, so far, are:

What is significant is that this development will mean further approval for other significant players in this industry. It will boost advancements and investment in this highly important industry.

The FAA used different criteria in certifying these drones. CEO of 3D Robotics, Chris Anderson explains. “ The criteria released by the FAA for UAS is unlike traditional type certification because it certifies the system by looking at performance and risk calibration. What it really means is rather than certifying every nut and bolt and component, let's just treat the system as a system and say look if you say the system does X, prove it does X, build up enough statistical power over thousands of flights that we're confident that it really does X, then we don't really care what's inside it,”

He went on to say. “Drones are essentially using off the shelf parts and you can't control the entire supply chain the way an aerospace company would and so what it allows us to do is to sort of treat these vehicles like what they really are which is consumer electronic devices that update very quickly and innovate very quick.”

What is significant about this, according to Anderson, is that it will allow UAS companies to use smartphone technology which will increase the rate of progress and development. New players in the UAS field will not have to re-certify with each new development or advancement.

He explains further. “Basically, drones operate on a kind of a smartphone-like innovation cycle. So, every six months a new version comes out and they have a lifespan of about two to three years. It’s very different from traditional aviation and what that says for performance-based is, hey you know if you need to switch out your nuts and bolts and change one motor for another as long as it's not a critical part, go for it. You don't have to re-certify. And that allows us to basically be the drone companies that we really are, which is fast and innovative without a huge regulatory burden.”

This is another great advancement in the commercial drone industry and all credit to the FAA for their decisiveness. While regulations are important it is pleasing to see rapid development and progress. Development is evolving rapidly and the FAA is working well with the industry.

SOURCES: FAA, Aviation Today

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