The use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) — commonly known as drones — continues to grow quickly as the technology evolves. The number of hobbyists is expected to grow to 2.4 million by 2022, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. This would represent more than twice as many unmanned aircraft as were in the skies in 2017.
Commercial use is anticipated to expand rapidly as well. It is expected to grow from 110,604 to 461,800 over the same five-year period. Potential commercial uses for drones include disaster relief, medical emergencies and cargo transportation.
The North Central Texas Council of Governments assembled the North Texas UAS Safety and Integration Task Force to serve as an information clearinghouse for academia, public- and private-sector entities, and the general public. To effectively address integration issues and carry out solutions, the task force has formed working groups focused on education and public awareness, legislation, training and integration. Each working group is responsible for identifying specific issues, providing recommendations and determining the scale of the solution and the funding required. The working groups will:
- Create a public outreach strategy.
- Explore methods to educate the public on the safe use of drone technology in the region’s airspace.
- Weigh in on industry legislative concerns.
- Establish or recommend a standardized training curriculum.
- Survey regional businesses on current employment needs.
- Designate UAS platform test areas.
- Monitor changes in laws, rules and regulations affecting the drone industry.
NASA, in collaboration with task force partners, will soon be testing drone technology in the region in an effort to provide commercial operators a better understanding of the issues associated with unmanned flights in urban areas. This will be an integral step forward for concurrent manned and unmanned operations with an eye toward full autonomy.
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