January 14, 2014

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Eyes in the Sky

Utah Companies are Helping the UAV Industry Take Flight

By Dan Sorensen / Photos courtesy of USU AggieAir

January 14, 2014

To work around FAA regulations, L-3 Communications decided to strap its UASs to the bottom of helicopters, allowing the devices on the unmanned aircraft to be used without violating the law.

Once test sites open up across the country, FAA officials will be able to study a variety of different aircraft, determine how they can safely be integrated into U.S. skies and create normalized regulation for everyday use.

Also, commercial developers will be able to test their UASs at these locations. Initially, there will be some restrictions on the size of UASs that can be flown at test sites. 

“Small unmanned aerial systems—those no larger than a 12- to 15-foot wingspan and no more than 50 pounds of payload—are the kinds of systems that would be first flown in the national airspace,” says Wright. “These sites would be used to get information to help the FAA understand how these aircraft can be able to be operated safely with manned aircraft, and what rules and regulations should be developed for commercial applications.”

Just like any technology, UASs have the ability to both positively or negatively impact businesses, organizations and the lives of civilians. The research performed by the FAA in the coming years will be key to developing laws and regulations to protect people as UASs take flight across the country. Whether you like them or hate them, UAS will soon be coming to a sky near you. 

UAVs, Drones, UASs, Remotely Piloted Aircraft

What’s the Difference?

Over the years, there have been several names used to describe unmanned planes and helicopters. Those in the industry tend to avoid terms like “drones,” as they hint that there is no human element involved in the piloting of the aircraft. Names like remotely piloted aircraft or remotely operated aircraft help convey the idea that human decision has not been eliminated from the piloting of these aircraft. Today, unmanned aircraft system (UAS), unmanned aircraft (UA) or remotely operated aircraft (ROA) are often used within the industry. UAS is used when talking about the system as a whole, and not just the aircraft, as many include an array of sensors, imaging technologies and other devices used to capture information.

The Payload:

  • Canon S-95 is used to capture visual (red, green, blue) and near-infrared (NIR) light
  • The ICI 760 is a microbolometer thermal camera (purchased from Infrared Cameras Incorporated) used by AggieAir to capture thermal imagery.
  • The AggieAir payload software (AggieCapture) communicates with the cameras through USB to tell them when to take pictures. The payload software also logs important inertial data from the UAV, such as position and orientation.



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