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Day Three of National Drone Safety Awareness Week: Taking a Look at Drone Use in Infrastructure and Agriculture

BY Zacc Dukowitz
6 November 2019

This week marks the FAA’s first-ever National Drone Safety Awareness Week.

To create this week-long safety campaign the FAA has partnered with the Know Before You Fly educational campaign and the UAS Safety Team.

The goal of the week is simple: to remind all drone operators, both commercial and recreational, to keep safety top of mind when flying.

faa-safety-awareness
Image source

Here are the areas of focus for the week:

  • Monday: Public Safety and Security
  • Tuesday: Business—Photography, Real Estate, Insurance
  • Wednesday: Business—Infrastructure and Agriculture
  • Thursday: Business—Commercial and Medical Package Delivery
  • Friday: Education and STEM
  • Saturday and Sunday: Recreational Flyers

Get Involved in Drone Safety Awareness Week

Every day this week the FAA is releasing videos highlighting the focus of the day. Watch them here on their official YouTube channel.

National Drone Safety Awareness Week

Posting on social? Use the #DroneWeek hashtag to share your safety week-related news.

Planning to participate? You can register to attend remotely and/or host a drone safety event here.

Today’s Area of Focus: Business—Infrastructure and Agriculture

There are dozens of examples of how drones are being used for good these days.

In inspection scenarios, drones are helping keep people from dangerous situations by removing the need for being physically present when inspecting dangerous, hard-to-reach places, like the struts of a bridge. And in both infrastructure and in agriculture drones are helping to reduce costs, save time, and improve the quality of data captured.

Let’s take a closer look at some examples of how drones are being used in both infrastructure and agriculture.

faa-drone-safety-awareness-week-business

Drones in Infrastructure

A recent case study from Intel highlights how drones are being used in bridge inspections, which is an important part of the maintenance process for infrastructure.

Intel recently helped conduct an inspection of the Daniel Carter Beard Bridge, which crosses the Ohio River, using their Falcon 8+. Typically the inspection would have been done manually, by sending people rappelling and climbing into certain areas of the bridge to collect visual data.

The drone was able to collect all the visual data needed in flight, without the need for physically moving across every square inch of the bridge to review it with the naked eye. This meant that the bridge inspection was successfully executed much more quickly and inexpensively than if it had been done using traditional methods.

But the biggest benefit to using a drone for the bridge inspection was in keeping inspectors out of potential danger. Thanks to drones, inspectors no longer have to put themselves in potentially harmful situations to do their work, but instead can send a drone up to collect visual data that can be reviewed later.

Intel Commercial Drones Speed Up US Bridge Inspections

Here are all of the benefits of the drone inspection Intel performed on the Daniel Carter Beard Bridge:

  • Safety. Inspectors kept safe from potential danger.
  • Efficiency. The Falcon 8+ conducted the inspection much more quickly than traditional methods and the bridge remained open and fully functional throughout the inspection.
  • Savings. 10,000 vehicles cross the Daniel Carter Beard Bridge daily, and obstructions associated with traditional bridge inspections, like lane closures, can result in costly delays.
  • Data. The Falcon 8+ collected valuable data for engineers and city officials to catalog, establishing historical information on the structure of the bridge and providing strong long-term value.

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Photo credit: Intel

Drones in Agriculture

Drones are also revolutionizing the agricultural industry.

Advanced drones equipped with unique payloads allow agricultural growers to increase efficiency in certain aspects of the farming process. From crop monitoring to planting, livestock management, crop spraying, irrigation mapping, and more.

One company that recently put drones to use in an agricultural setting is UAV-IQ, a veteran-owned agriculture technology company specializing in developing drone applications for farm management. UAV-IQ has developed a new form of pest management that uses drones to release beneficial insects over crops.

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Photo credit: UAV-IQ

Their drone-based pest management solution offers a new way for conventional and organic growers to combat harmful insects, reduce the environmental impact of pesticide usage, and address a growing labor crunch.

Do We Need a National Drone Safety Week?

As drone use grows and becomes more and more mainstream, the need to talk about safety continues to grow along with it.

Just over the weekend, NPR reported that the use of rogue drones in airspace near Los Angeles where ongoing wildfire operations are being conducted has slowed response efforts, leading to a delay in ending the fires sooner than would be possible if these drones weren’t in the air.

And this isn’t the first time we’ve heard this story. Last summer, when wildfires were devastating California, rogue drone operators also got in the way.

fire-fighting-aviation

Rogue drones are bad for firefighting operations because they make it impossible for firefighting aircraft to be in the air, due to the dangers of crashing that a drone presents for those aircraft. This means that helicopters and other aircraft supporting firefighting efforts have to be grounded until the drone is gone—as the U.S. Department of the Interior has phrased it in their drone safety campaign, “if you fly, they can’t.”

The good news is that educational efforts around drone safety seem to be working. This graph from the U.S. Forest Service shows that the number of rogue drones interfering with wildfires hit a high water mark in 2017, and has gone down every year since then:

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Source: U.S. Forest Service

While this is a great trend, it doesn’t mean we should stop drone safety educational efforts. In fact, as drone use continues to grow the need for broader educational efforts is greater than it has ever been.

Did you know? Flying a drone near a wildfire is a federal crime punishable by a fine of up to $25,000, not to mention associated legal troubles and possible jail time.

Current Wildland Fires

Last year, the U.S. Department of the Interior launched a program called Current Wildland Fires to provide real-time information to drone pilots about where wildfires are currently taking place.

The goal of the tool is to provide data to drone pilots to help them fly more responsibly.

By providing greater public access to a wider array of wildland fire location data, drone operators will Know Where Not To Go in near real-time.

– Mark Bathrick, Director of Aviation Services, U.S. Department of the Interior

Creating the Current Wildland Fires informational database was a huge effort.

According to the Interior, there are more than 73,000 wildfires in the U.S. a year. 98% of them are contained within the first 24 hours, before a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) can be issued, making it hard for drone pilots to know exactly where they’re happening. With Current Wildland Fires, you can see exactly where the fires are burning, and avoid flying there.

Basic Drone Safety Considerations

Being that it’s Drone Safety Awareness Week, now is a good time to refresh yourself on basic drone safety considerations. Whether you fly for work or for fun, here are some basic guidelines to follow:*

  • Don’t fly at night
  • Fly within the visual line of sight of your drone (that is, make sure you can see you’re drone while flying)
  • Don’t fly over people
  • Don’t fly while in a moving vehicle or aircraft
  • Don’t fly near airports or in controlled airspace

These are just a starting place—to get all the details on safe flying for the type of drone operations you plan to conduct, head over to the Know Before You Fly website.

*Note: These aren’t just guidelines, they’re also required by law for both commercial and recreational drone operations.

Are you participating in National Drone Safety Awareness Week? Chime in on this thread in the UAV Coach community forum to share your experiences so far.

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