Author Archives: Ben

February 14, 2014

FAA Grounds Lakemaid Beer Drone

I guess it’s too soon for this type of thing.  The FAA’s decision to ground the Lakemaid beer drone comes as no surprise.   The Minnesota brewery came up with the idea of delivering beer to thirsty ice fishers by drone, but the FAA have given a clear “Oh no you don’t” citing the safety of people on the ground and in the air.

The Lakemaid beer drone was inspired by the recent news that Amazon were experimenting with drone deliveries. Drone deliveries in urban areas present all kinds of hazards that don’t exist in open country, nor, for example, over frozen lakes.  Even so, there are lower limits to the height at which drones can legally fly over people etc.

Minnesota ice fishers will have to continue to carry enough beer to last their excursions or revert to more traditional methods for going back to the store for more.  Meanwhile, testing and experimenting by various companies will continue while the FAA and other aviation authorities draw up legislation and guidelines for the use of commercial delivery drones.  It is expected that the FAA will issue new guidelines on the safe use of commercial drones by 2015.

January 25, 2014

Licence to fly UAV

Q.  Do I need a licence to fly UAV?  A.  According to the CAA, if you intend to use it for any kind of data capturing or surveillance, then yes, you do need a licence.  You may also be required to inform the CAA before commencing any flights.

Q. What are the licence types?
A. There are three main licence types covering three different categories of mass.  Please note:  this is a guide.  You should always refer to the CAA’s website for definitive answers, notes, exceptions, and exemptions.

Total Aircraft Mass Airworthiness Approval Required? Registration Required? Operating Permission Required? Pilot Qualification (Licence)
<20 kg and less No No Yes Yes BNUC-STM or equivalent
>20 kg, up to and including 150 kg Yes Yes Yes Yes, BNUCTM or equivalent
>150 kg EASA Permit to Fly or UK Permit to Fly in accordance with ‘B conditions’ Yes Yes Yes, BNUCTM, CPL(A) or equivalent

10 Commercial Uses For Drones

Commercial drones

2014 might just be the year that goes down in history as the year in which civilian and commercial drone usage really took off (pun intended, and it won’t be the last time it’s used).  With this in mind we’ve compiled this list of 10 commercial uses for drones, but we expect to expand this tenfold in the months to come.

Look to the skies, the drones are coming!

  1. Sports.  Drones hovering at key points on a race track capturing footage that would be denied to conventional TV cameras, even those mounted on helicopters due to the local topography or other hazards.
  2. Agriculture.  Surveying crops, checking on livestock, searching for lost sheep, checking on fencing.  There are all kinds of tasks in which UAVs could be used, and not just for the large farms.  Small farmers could make use of a single drone while larger farms might have a collection (squadron?) of them dispatched to various areas.
  3. Utility Surveys.  Checking on pipelines, power lines, drainage ditches etc.  Send out the drone first before you decided to send the 4×4 vehicle or helicopter, or do so when visibility prevents manned aircraft.
  4. Courier Deliveries.  Small packages delivered in urban areas by drones.  Amazon are already testing this method using Octocopters.  Expect to see the first deliveries in a city’s commercial centre soon.
  5. Wildlife Conservation.  This is an area that is often hampered by lack of funds as it relies so much on public donations, so any cost effective and efficient way of monitoring wildlife is going to be attractive.  Drones have the additional advantage of making much less noise than a helicopter or even a microlight, so there’s less chance of disturbing the mammals being monitored.  They can also get into areas that are difficult to reach.
  6. Building Inspection.  Why send someone up a ladder when you can send up a drone?  If the property is higher than two stories then ladders could be impractical, and scaffolding becomes more expensive proportionally with height.  Safety is also a major concern, so send up the hexacopter to inspect before committing to scaffolding.
  7. Traffic Management.  Fixed cameras on the roadside have been with us for years, but drones could get in closer to any congestion, incident, or accident and relay information direct to the emergency services.
  8. Property Security.  If a perimeter alarm is triggered but the point of intrusion is out of site of fixed cameras then a drone could be dispatched to check on the area faster than any land vehicle or security patrol on foot.
  9. TV NewsHexacopters operated by broadcasters could be used to obtain footage of news events in ways that are denied to boom operated or helicopter mounted cameras, reducing costs in the process.
  10. Outdoor Events.  Spent hours reserving your spot in front of the stage for your favourite band?  Crowds at music or any other outdoor event could see food and drink delivered to them without anyone having to push through the crowd to a beer/pizza stall.