In the first part of this feature, Ian McMurray sought opinions from the world of AV on the role of drones. Here he also looks at some of the more practical implications of using unmanned aerial vehicles.
Ron Fleming, VP of business development at CEDIA, also believes that drones may well have a place in the world of AV.
“It’s a rapidly-evolving category and several new start-ups – Sunflower and Galileo, for example – are focusing on the residential and light commercial security market with features like perimeter motion detection and automated flight patterns,” he says. “The appeal for clients is not hard to understand. Drones can provide rapid ‘eyes on target’: transmitting real-time video to the home owner and central station, while capturing images of individuals, vehicles and so on, are all well within the capabilities of these new drones.”
“As this technology advances, the regulatory environment will also evolve,” he goes on. “Thus far, it’s been at a slower pace. But as long as airspace safety and privacy concerns are not compromised, there is little doubt that drones could become another staple feature in the whole home security solution.”
A different perspective on how to view the drone opportunity is provided by Kevin Kelly, president and COO of Stampede.
“It’s important to not think in terms of markets when you think about drones as a business,” he believes. “Integrators should think about the customers and the verticals that they sell into now. Government, for instance, is already using drones for applications like search and rescue, public safety, and security. Education is using drones for research, STEM, aerial cinematography, and security. Corporate is using drones for construction and surveying, as well as in security. Integrators can also add services to the suite of products they offer and these managed services add recurring revenue to the integrator’s business plan.
“In the United States we are seeing AV integrators successfully adding drones to their customer offering in every vertical market we serve, bar none,” he goes on. “US AV integrators who add drone video systems are increasing sales to their current customers in addition to new customers they never had before. In other words, drones are actually bringing them new customers — and that means that the category is growing the traditional AV audience, which benefits everyone.”
Fleming’s reference to safety and privacy leads inevitably to a discussion of the need for training and an understanding of the legislative environment surrounding drones.
“For operators to conduct any form of commercial activity – and an operator can be a company or one man and his drone – a Permission for Commercial Operations must first be awarded by the UK Civil Aviation Authority,” clarifies Bob Gillan, director of training at 3iC, a company that provides a broad range of services including consultancy to help its clients investigate and develop market opportunities. “This is fundamentally pretty much the same within the EU. The EU does not yet have harmonised legislation which covers drone operations – and indeed, commercial operations have been known to be banned in some states.
“An operator must receive appropriate training by a UK CAA-accredited National Qualified Entity, such as 3iC,” adds Gillan.
To reinforce Gillan’s point, it’s important to understand that the legislation around drones is currently in a state of flux (and not, in fact, only in the EU as the growing interest in, and popularity of, drones is causing law-makers to take a closer look around the world). EASA – the European Air Safety Authority, which functions similarly to the UK’s CAA and the US’s FAA – recently published a consultative document on the subject. One commentator – admittedly speaking on behalf of the hobbyist community – declared that “the Prototype commission Regulation on Unmanned Aircraft Operations will destroy the European drone industry”.
There are also operational considerations that a prospective drone operator needs to take on board.
“According to the CAA’s CAP 722 Unmanned Aircraft System Operations in UK Airspace – Guidance document, for visual line-of-sight work, a drone can operate at a maximum distance of 500m from the pilot at a maximum height of 400ft,” continues Gillan, noting that it is standard aviation terminology to mix metres and feet like this. “There are also minimum distances stipulated from which the pilot may not reduce. A drone cannot be flown closer than 50m to a structure or person unless they first have permission. A pilot may not fly within 150m of any assembly of more than 1,000 persons or to a congested area used for commerce, industrial or residential purposes without permission.”