DJI Celebrates Its Cooperation With Polytechnic University Of Turin

DJI, the world’s leader in civilian drones and aerial imaging technology, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Polytechnic University of Turin in order to establish an official partnership in the fields of education and research. Celebrating the partnership, DJI has launched a short film that shows how drones are being used in a theoretical and practice-oriented academic environment.

Polytechnic University of Turin is one of the most prestigious Italian and international public institutions concerning education, research and pioneering the latest technology in all sectors of architecture and engineering. It has been involved in drone technology since 2006. It is one of the first European Higher Education institutions offering a comprehensive drone curriculum. The new drone mapping course consists of modules which teach Bachelor students a range of different disciplines such as fundamentals related to drones, leveraging drones to acquire image data for surveying/mapping, architectural 3D modelling, disaster reconstruction as well as environmental engineering. The course content also prepares students to critically assess surveying procedures and obtainable results leading to actionable insights.

“The drone course allows future architects and engineers to use UAV platforms in their profession,” said Professor Sebastiano Foti, Vice Rector for Education at Polytechnic University of Turin. “There are multiple applications in which drones can make a huge difference to their work in terms of efficiency and effectiveness.”

The signed MoU lays out the key principles for the cooperation. DJI and the University will work together on setting the industry standards for drone curriculums including best practices for enterprise applications. In addition to that, they will collaborate on utilising different customisation components for new commercial drone solutions.

“The success of our industry will depend on how young professionals will use drones in their future working environment,” said Tautvydas Juskauskas, Public Business Development Manager at DJI EMEA. “The Polytechnic University of Turin serves as a great example of a real commercial drone ecosystem, by providing an infrastructure for drone education, drone research and innovation. We are very proud to support the University because the drone curriculum provides students and researchers with a solid theoretical and practical foundation for forthcoming enterprise solutions.”

You can find the short film here.

The ISO Creates First International Drone Standard


The International Organization for Standardization, or ISO (the acronym doesn’t make sense to us either) is a non-profit international standards-setting group with 162 national members, including the entirety of what we tend to consider the “developed world.” When they set standards for an industry, those standards become law in everything but name. It was inevitable that this body would eventually turn its attention to the ever-growing commercial drone industry, and as of Black Friday they finally have.

The ISO Draft International Standards for Drone Operations have officially been made available for public consideration and consultation – you can read them for yourself by clicking here. The comment period closes January 21, 2019, at which point the various participating member companies will vote to adopt the standards or send them back for review (most likely the former.)

iso logo

“I am delighted,” said Robert Garbett, convenor of ISO and chairman of the British Standards Institution, “That we have now reached the point where the first ever standards for the global drone industry are ready for public consultation after three years of hard work and international cooperation between ISO, BSI and standards bodies across the world, with final adoption expected in 2019.”

“These standards will undoubtedly lead to a new confidence in safety, security and compliance within this dynamic industry, resulting in a massive expansion in the availability and use of drone technology in the years to come.”

That comment about expansion is crucial. International standards make it easier to trade goods between nations, since every ISO member knows that drones from every other ISO member are meeting the same standards of quality. Official certification might also help to overcome one of the biggest problems faced by a drone industry that hopes to expand, which is the public perception of drones as dangerous and/or frightening tools of war and surveillance.

We’ve read through these standards, and overall they seem very reasonable. They suggest the use of geo-fencing and counter-drone technology to prevent consumer drones from being flown over restricted areas (such as airports or classified military bases.) The standards also propose flight logging, training, and maintenance requirements – all of which are already common in US-produced drones and in most aviation authorities’ commercial drone requirements.

iso international drone standards

The rules to ensure that operators respect privacy and data protection are perhaps a bit more demanding, but still very doable. Commercial pilots will be required to keep all hardware and software relating to their equipment up-to-date (which is hopefully already the case!) Operators must have appropriate systems to handle data alongside communications and control planning when flying, which is built into a lot of modern drones.

However, the standards also propose that a fail-safe means of human intervention is mandatory for all drone flights. This is a less common feature among consumer and commercial drones – you can always land the vehicle, but the “fail-safe” specification sounds more like some kind of panic button to cause the drone to immediately stop in an emergency. Perhaps more explicit wording in the near future will explain the meaning of this section further.

Still, the creation of ISO draft standards is overall going to be a very positive thing for the drone industry. It means wider adoption and more mainstream acceptance – plus, universal safety standards that will hopefully make the consumer drone market better for everyone.

Be sure to read the proposed standards using the link above and leave a comment before January 21 if you have any concerns about the draft!

The writer known as I Coleman is a veteran tech reviewer who’s spent seven years writing about everything from PC hardware to drone tech and who joined the Dronethusiast team early in 2017. I brings his characteristic sense of humor and attention to detail to our product reviews and buyer’s guides, making sure that they’re packed with expert analysis in a way that’s still easy for hobby newcomers to understand. In his spare time, I is using drones to create 3D modeling software for a company in his hometown.

Federal Aviation Administration Announces Key Appointments for Executive Directors of Aircraft Certification and UAS Integration

FAA Puma Logo

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today announced Earl Lawrence’s promotion to the Agency’s Executive Director for Aircraft Certification. Lawrence was previously Executive Director for the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Office. He succeeds Dorenda Baker, who retired Nov. 30 after a distinguished aviation safety career.

Jay Merkle, Deputy Vice President for the FAA Air Traffic Organization’s Program Management Office, will become the new head of UAS Integration. The appointments are effective Dec. 9, and both executives will report to FAA Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety Ali Bahrami.

“As longstanding FAA advocates for safety, Earl Lawrence and Jay Merkle are the right selections at a critical time for emerging aviation technologies,” said FAA Acting Administrator Dan Elwell. “Their extensive experience will help ensure a safe transition as these new technologies mature and enter our country’s national airspace.”

Lawrence is a veteran aviator with extensive aviation and leadership experience. Prior to managing the UAS Integration Office, Lawrence was Director of the FAA Small Airplane Directorate and was responsible for 17 aircraft certification and manufacturing district offices in 21 states. Before coming to the FAA in 2010, he served as Vice President for Industry and Regulatory Affairs at the Experimental Aircraft Association.

Merkle has more than 25 years of engineering and program management experience in both the FAA and the defense industry. In his previous position within the Air Traffic Organization, Merkle supported the UAS Integration Office and was an architect of the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) program. Prior to that, Merkle was a key manager in the FAA’s NextGen Air Transportation System Office.

The Aircraft Certification Service is the second largest Aviation Safety Organization, employing more than 1,300 people. Aircraft Certification Service offices are located across the United States, with international offices in Singapore and Belgium. Aircraft Certification is responsible for design and manufacturing approvals, along with the continued operational safety of all aviation products in the United States.

The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office coordinates the development of regulations, policies, programs, and procedures to enable the safe integration of UAS into the National Airspace System.

Terra Drone enter a new field ‘flying car’ business supporting CARTIVATOR, which is aiming at a demo flight in 2020

Terra Drone Corporation (Shibuya-ku Tokyo CEO Toru Tokushige following as Terra-Drone) finalised the sponsor contract with CARTIVATOR Resource Management Association (following as CARTIVATOR) running ‘first flying car in Japan’ inventive projects named CARTIVATOR.

‘We are incredibly excited to be supporting CARTIVATOR in challenging for practical application of the flying car’ said Terra Drone’s COO Teppei Seki.

‘Terra Drone is the drone industry-leading global company born in Japan.

We decided to support CARTIVATOR because Terra Drone’s vision, creating a new society boosted from Japan to the world, fits perfectly with the ‘flying car’ ideas of CARTIVATOR.’

Terra Drone group (Terra Motors, Terra Drone) provides CARTIVATOR our resources for international expansion, PR supports, and skills for the control system at low space cultivated by UAV control system. Moreover we would like to contribute to realise ‘aerial mobility revolution’ that CARTIVATOR proposes.

We sincerely appreciate getting technical supports from Terra Drone. We harmonize the Terra Drone’s beliefs and directions by making the next aerial industrial renovation since we also hope for creating brand new generations that everyone can fly. Therefore, we are grateful to advance the project with support from Terra Drone. We will continue to develop our business further in the future.

UgCS Drone light shows are the new black

As event organisers look for new ways to amaze their customers, drone shows are becoming more popular than ever.

Hundreds of light pixels in the sky, composing intricate patterns, words or even portraits in a delicate dance.

Drone shows used to be a thing from the future, but in the past few years, they have helped to open a new chapter in the entertainment industry. They have already appeared at the Olympics, the Super Bowl, Coachella festival, Cirque du Soleil performances and many other landmark events, both corporate and private. Why are they gaining popularity so fast, how are they designed and can you have one for yourself — let’s go through the basics of drone shows.

Drones with benefits Just a couple of years ago, no one could have imagined something like this is possible, let alone affordable for almost any event or drone company. Drone shows are not trying to outcompete more traditional ways of lighting up the sky such as fireworks and laser shows – indeed, they often happen together – but drone shows do have significant benefits that set them aside from other aerial show types.

Firstly, they can be used both indoors and outdoors, with endless possibilities to scale them up and down — from a few dozen drones to thousands. They don’t make loud noises, and so avoid causing stress to animals and children.

They can also be used in conditions when using rockets is too dangerous — such as dry areas at risk of wildfires. This is why states like California, Colorado and Arizona decided to switch to drone shows for their July 4th celebrations this year.

Drone shows are also immensely flexible in terms of choreography — drones can dance ballet or display logos, create two and three-dimensional forms, move fast and slow, go high up or stay close to the awestruck spectators. And, since we’ve got onto the subject of choreography, how are drone shows actually created?

Creating a show to remember Finding drones is easy these days. Companies offer the option to rent drones — hundreds of them, if necessary. The types of drones used in shows are typically smaller ones with a bright LED light fitted to them. To make them dance, the choreographer first needs to envision images that will be displayed in the sky and create a compelling story. Then a 3D animator comes into play, having the task of transferring these moves into three-dimensional space.

Then comes the difficult part — programming. It’s pretty obvious that when hundreds of drones are involved, they cannot be flown by pilots — no human can achieve the level of precision needed to perform such complicated harmonised movements. This is a problem that companies like SPH Engineering can solve. Currently, their Drone Show Software is the only widely commercially available software for drone show mission planning, management and control.

Money question While recent drone shows across the world have been visually astonishing, they have also been mind-blowingly expensive. Shows created by large corporations are notorious for costing at least several hundred thousand dollars. But SPH Engineering can promise to deliver the necessary software for just a small fraction of this price. “We have developed proprietary technology that makes it much easier to put on drone shows,” says Janis Kuze, Sales Director at SPH Engineering. “We want to help not only global companies but also regional and local event agencies and organisers to bring the beauty and technological awe of drone shows to their audiences”

How the Drone Ecosystem Came Together In Support of Camp Fire

Like many people on November 8th, 2018, I was glued to the news about the explosive Camp Fire burning through the town of Paradise, California. At that point, I didn’t know just how devastating the fire would be, let alone that it would become the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history. No one did. Eighty-five lives have been confirmed lost with several hundred still unaccounted for at the time this article was written. Roughly 18,000 structures were lost, including about 14,000 homes and 500 commercial businesses.

Watching footage of so much going up in flames, I started a mental checklist to prepare for what would be my third trip in 13 months to assist in the aftermath of fatal wildfires as a drone data analyst.

But let me back up a bit.

I’m not a disaster-drone guy. I am a former ecology professor who left academia for all the promises the drone industry had to offer in 2015. As a scientist, I was confident drones would change how we monitor the earth, and I wanted to be front and center when that happened. Fast-forward through the tumult of the past few years of the drone industry. I founded a small drone business called Scholar Farms which provides training and consulting for plant mapping for agriculture, environmental consulting, and land management. I have an online vegetation mapping masterclass called Phytomappers Pro. It’s awesome. You should take it.

Of all the qualified drone people in the industry, you might wonder, why am I am one of the folks who gets called for these wildfires? The short answer is that one small action of being helpful and responsive led to a domino effect of deeper involvement.

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is in close proximity to where these huge fires have occurred. I provided a small amount of advice for public safety teams that were mapping the tragic Ghost Ship fire in Oakland. This led to work on the Tubbs fire in Santa Rosa, then the Carr Fire in Redding, and finally the Camp Fire in Paradise.

I think my academic background helps with creative problem solving and accumulating evidence to tell my stories. Under the stress of these events, I tend to stay relatively calm and focused (which is less bragging and more a physiological response). I can also give and take a joke in dire situations, using humour as a powerful tool, to balance the tragedy. Not being a total asshole can go a long way, especially when you have smart friends in the drone industry who will answer your call from a disaster zone to give you feedback.

Could my role in the fires be played by any other number of people? Absolutely, and it should be. I’ll write more about this in the near future.

There are too many details to cover in the story of how we mapped Paradise, so I will cover the highlights. In short, it was a world-class effort by the following agencies (apologies if I left anyone out).

Alameda County Sheriff’s Office was granted the exemption to fly in the TFR by the FAA.

All flights were in direct and constant coordination with the Cal Fire manned air team.

Menlo Park Fire sent a large contingent for both mapping and aiding in the search and recovery process.

There were folks from La Honda Fire, Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office, Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office, Stockton Police, San Francisco Police, and Union City Police.

Romeo Durscher, Director of Public Safety Integration for DJI, supported all teams with valuable technical and logistical insight.

Andrew Maximow of Firmatek and Michael Dittman volunteered as technical support specialists and data runners to San Francisco for image processing.

The whole operation was on behalf of Butte County Sheriff’s Office, under the mutual aid system.

And a shout out to my wife for solo-parenting our 4-year-old daughter during my week away – while working full time herself.

Contra Costa County Deputy Sheriff Casey Tholborn was among the teams working to document the aftermath of the fire, and compiled dozens of high-resolution photographs on the ground.

Over several days, 16 teams of pilots and visual spotters mapped as much of the structural damage in Paradise as possible, using mainly DJI Phantom 4 Pros. This was done through pre-established flight zones created based on the Cal Fire Structure Damage map. The goal was to map as much damage in the town as we could in the limited time we had to fly. An Alameda County Sheriff acted as the flight director, assigning zones and tracking all team locations at any given time. If a team finished their zone, they were assigned a new one. If any manned aircraft came into the area, the drones were landed immediately for safety reasons.

As teams finished their respective assignments, their SD cards were put into Ziploc bags that had white labels for writing the zone ID, and a red sticker was placed on each bag to indicate the data had not yet been copied to a hard drive. Once the data were backed up, the red sticker would be covered with a green sticker. All the photo files for each zone were put in separate folders, labelled with the appropriate zone, and copied to a hard drive. Each folder was then double-checked against all zones and bags. The bags, stickers, and sharpies cost $9 from the craft aisle at Target.

At the end of the day, all of the data were backed up again on a duplicate hard drive. One hard drive was given to a runner who drove it to the DroneDeploy office in San Francisco. The other hard drive stayed at my side for the entire event. If possible, I tried to keep three backups at any given time.

Jono Millin, the co-founder of DroneDeploy, graciously answered the plea to process all the data and support the relief effort of Butte County. This made all the difference for such a big area. It would have taken a week or more to plow through the 500+ flights, 70K photos, and 466 GB of data on the laptops we had. Amazingly, the DroneDeploy team turned the data around in 24 hours after receiving each hard drive. From my understanding, this involved pulling all-nighters to load all the zones for processing.

As orthomosaics finished, maps went out immediately to the coordinating agencies. SAR teams, as early as the following morning, were looking at the data collected from the previous day.

The next task was to merge all the sections of maps together. Exporting about four dozen orthomosaics (each 1-9 GB) into tiles within ArcGIS was going to take some time. At this point, it was the day before Thanksgiving. My stress levels shot up to incredibly high when it became apparent that the maps weren’t going to happen, and we would need to roll out the data over time. I also hadn’t slept more than a few hours each day for a week. I made the call to Butte County Sheriff’s Office, saying that I could get them 360 panos and the geo-referenced videos now, but the maps would take longer.

It was about 20 minutes after that call that DroneDeploy pulled a huge rabbit out of their hat by being able to merge all of the maps together. They overlaid additional drone data layers, including 360 panoramas and links to the geo-referenced videos, in a public-facing website. Butte County was then able to embed this map on their website, and they released it to the public the next day during their Thanksgiving press brief.

Link to Butte County map (click on Drone Images at the top)

Credit for Map visualization: Casey Miller at Mapbox

I still can’t believe we turned around so much data in 48 hours and made it public the following day. It was a Hail Mary full court shot, right at the buzzer. I won’t lie, I shed a couple of tears when I saw it had all come together after so much work. I called Butte County back to tell them we had actually pulled it off.

Also deserving credit is Hangar in Austin, TX, that assisted in processing 150+ 360 panoramas. Mapbox assisted in a rapid visualization of data to use while working in the field. Survae assisted in helping to visualize all major roads in the geo-referenced videos. City of Redding GIS also provided support. ESRI’s Disaster Response Program supported the Butte County GIS team in the story-boarding for public visualization. ESRI will continue to support the migration of these map layers into ArcGIS to facilitate interagency use in the coming days and weeks. John Cherbini used his blazing-fast internet to help me download 240 GB of map sections in record time, and I drove a hard drive of all data to Butte County GIS for the final data handoff.

At this point, you might notice the growing number of teams involved in this effort. You might think to yourself, hmmm…that seems to be a significant number of people to get this done. You’re damned right it was!

Knowing the drone industry as I do, let me head off a few FAQs:

Q. Why use DJI Phantom 4 Pros and not fixed wings for such a large area?

A. Because we were limited to 300 ft. AGL and visual line of site under the FAA waiver and by Cal Fire air command. The smoky conditions didn’t help with visibility. Moreover, all these teams owned Phantom 4s, and the 20 MP camera is good. If we could have popped up a few eBees to cover bigger areas, we would have.

Q. Why not bring in manned aircraft to map?

A. Manned aircraft wouldn’t have helped. Visibility was terrible all the way to San Francisco, which was almost 2.5 hours away. You can imagine how bad it was close to the fire. Cal Fire was still containing the fire, and air attack was active at the time. The agencies involved wanted information to provide to the tens of thousands of evacuated people in order to facilitate repopulation of what was left of some neighborhoods and recovery planning. Time was definitely of the essence.

Q. Why not bring in private contract drone teams or volunteer pilots to help?

A. This is only the third active wildfire that UAV teams have been allowed access to in California. Flying drones in a wildfire is still very sensitive (for good reasons). I suspect flying is going to be restricted to public safety teams for a while to come. At this point, it’s actually the lack of geospatial analysts that is causing the biggest bottleneck.

Q. Why don’t you show more photos of the agencies involved?

A. Many of these agencies have social media policies that need to run through their public information offices. I don’t post pictures of badges or faces without the agencies’ formal approval, and that takes time.

Back to the story – There were many logistical challenges to overcome along the way to mapping Paradise. Perhaps the worst was the thick haze of smoke that hung over the town until the very last day of mapping. It does a number on the lungs (they called the cough “the Camp Fire Crud”). I did my best to keep a mask on when I wasn’t communicating with teams, but it still felt like I had put down a lot of unfiltered American Spirits by the end of the day.

As expected, there were all the standard drone challenges of flight planning for up to 16 drone teams at a time. Managing SD cards, charging drone and tablet batteries, apps crashing, and safety coordination were just a few of them. Thankfully, the telecommunications providers brought in mobile towers, and we had cell reception and a basic internet connection. This helped tremendously for downloading apps, setting up software accounts, caching base maps on site, and those unplanned firmware updates that will get you every time.

As you can imagine right after a fire, Paradise neighborhoods were still fairly unsafe, with trees and poles leaning precariously on power lines. There were many partially burned structures waiting to collapse. While calm winds over those days failed to blow the smoke and haze away, it also meant trees weren’t falling around us while we mapped.

Credit to all the teams for an excellent performance. By midday the first day, we fell into a rhythm, knocking out acre after acre, zone after zone, safely and efficiently for two full days. If I had to guess, I would have guessed we mapped 6,000 acres. In fact, it ended up being 17,000 total acres covered, or 26.2 sq, miles (so much for what I said about being a scientist!).

Obviously, there were bumps along the way, many lessons learned, and still more work to refine the process. But the drone teams are only getting better with the (unfortunate) practice we are getting. In the coming weeks, we’ll be working hard to debrief and refine the process. I learn more every time and try to run micro-experiments during the events to test new methods as we go.

Most of the smoothing that remains is on the data-side of things. That’s not just in the image processing. It’s also in the visualization, adding and updating different layers, sharing among agencies, and coordinating the steps to making it public. This time the fire was a 2-hour drive from San Francisco with technical support waiting and high-speed internet. These type of resources are likely the exception and, in that light, I’d say we accomplished a successful proof of concept more so than a decided overall win for the industry. The final win is when there is a repeatable process for earthquakes in Haiti, mudslides in Mexico, or hurricanes in the Southeastern U.S.

I won’t pretend I have this whole disaster-drone response thing all figured out. I know full well there is a wealth of experience in the emergency management and drone communities to draw on, from the drone deployment side to the geospatial side. This article is my simple way of saying that I’m willing to be a part of that bigger conversation and provide my own two cents.

There were so many smaller moments during the week I was in Butte County. I don’t have space here to tell them, some aren’t for the public, and some are other’s narratives they can tell themselves.

Finally, permeating this whole situation is the tragedy and loss for the communities of Paradise, Magalia, and Concow. In the moment, I tried to keep my head down and stay hyper-focused on the job of pushing the data over the goal line. Now that I am back home with a little more sleep, the sheer scale of the loss is coming back into clear focus. That sadness stays with the soul much longer.

I’m honoured to have been able to help, in what small way I could, in this and other fires. I’ll be there next time if needed.

Flock and ICARUS join forces to provide industry exclusive insurance offer

Flock have partnered with ICARUS, a leading commercial flight school in the UK, to provide free drone insurance to training pilots.

Today, Flock have announced that they have teamed up with ICARUS, an industry renowned commercial drone flight school. Working together, the two companies are lowering the barriers to entry for pilots entering the UK’s growing drone sector by providing free training insurance.

An industry first

ICARUS host commercial drone training courses all across the country, with more than 1,000 students having passed through its doors over the last three years. ICARUS offer two training courses: ICARUS Standard and ICARUS Pro. Both courses are made up of two days of theory learning, with the Pro course offering an additional night flying module and bespoke Operations Manual review in association with a third party provider. This is then followed by a practical Flight Assessment (set on a mutually convenient date), where it’s required that training pilots fly with insurance.

The new partnership has unlocked an exclusive discount to pilots on the Pro course: free Flock insurance for 5 training flights. This offer is the first of its kind in the drone industry, and it will enable pilots to prepare for their Flight Assessment safely and with peace of mind. Pilots on the Standard course will also receive free insurance for their Flight Assessment, removing the need for pilots to source and pay for insurance ahead of their test (Pro pilots can also save a policy for their Flight Assessment).

The insurance is provided through Flock’s pay-as-you-fly drone insurance app, Flock Cover. With just a few taps on their mobile phone, training pilots can redeem their free insurance, and fly with both equipment and Public Liability cover. Flock’s micro-duration insurance offering has proven to be a popular choice for newly qualified commercial drone pilots, as it provides a flexible and cost-effective alternative to annual insurance premiums. Flock recently revealed that the Flock Cover app is currently being used by 25% of the UK commercial drone market.

Quotes on the partnership

Matt Williams, ICARUS Managing Director said of the partnership: ‘We’re thrilled to be working closely with the Team at Flock — There’s a great synergy between the level of service their product provides and that delivered by our own ICARUS Courses. The simplicity that the partnership adds to the customer journey continues to help set both companies apart from the competition, and we’re proud to be delivering ever increasing value to new members of the ICARUS family’.

Ed Leon Klinger, Flock CEO commented: ‘ICARUS are a critically acclaimed drone flight school in the UK, and the ICARUS team shares Flock’s mission of promoting safety in the industry. We’re thrilled to have joined forces to provide smarter drone insurance to all ICARUS trainees, and we look forward to welcoming them all to the growing Flock community.’


Flock is a London-based, VC and Government backed insurtech startup, who have partnered with Allianz to launch Europe’s first pay-as-you-fly drone insurance app, Flock Cover. The app is free to download on both iOS and Android devices.

ICARUS provide industry leading professional drone training courses. The ICARUS team have clocked up hundreds of drone flying hours, and their unique experiences have created the most trusted drone education in the UK. For more information, visit or call 01491 526 700.

NATS – Public remain wary of drones as incidents continue to rise

The British public remains sceptical about the use of drones, according to the latest figures released by the air traffic management service, NATS.

Almost 80% of the 1,000 people surveyed by Ipsos MORI as part of NATS’ annual Aviation Index expressed concerns around privacy, while almost three quarters felt drones pose an ongoing safety risk to aircraft.

The findings come as the number of drone-related incidents around airports continues to rise. So far in 2018, reports to the UK Airprox Board, which investigates reports of drone sightings by pilots, number 118. In 2017 the figure was 93.

Conversely, a large majority of people (80%) expressed support for the use of drones to help the emergency services – as is happening in many police and fire services around the country – and 45% saw drones as a potentially useful technology.

Andy Sage, NATS Drone Lead, said: “These findings show that people are not necessarily against drones, but that they have legitimate concerns about safety and privacy. NATS, working with the industry and Civil Aviation Authority, has done a huge amount of work to try and improve drone safety and pilot training, but its clear there is more work to do here.

“Equally, as drone technology and regulations evolve to allow ‘beyond line of sight’ operations, we are working on ways to safely integrate them with manned aircraft and therefore allow fair and equal access to all users.”

Last year NATS launched its ‘Drone Assist’ app to help drone pilots identify safe places to fly, while through its partnership with drone technology company Altitude Angel, it is exploring ways for drones to fly safely in the same airspace as conventional aircraft, most notably during last week’s Operation Zenith at Manchester Airport.

The Aviation Index also asked the public how they felt about digital air traffic control towers, where camera technology can help air traffic controllers to manage aircraft away from a traditional tower.

The first major UK airport to adopt the technology will be London City. From 2020, its air traffic controllers will manage arrivals and departures from NATS’ air traffic control centre at Swanwick in Hampshire, a hundred miles away from the airport.

Four in five people hadn’t heard of the concept, but once it was explained 46% would prefer to fly from an airport with a traditional tower.

Steve Anderson, NATS Head of Airport Transformation, said: “That’s perhaps not surprising given the technology has only really started to come to fruition in recent years.

“Interestingly, 35% versus 13% felt digital towers would make flying more efficient – which is part of the aim along with improving safety. It will be fascinating to track this trend over the coming years as more digital towers come online.”

To view the rest of the Aviation Index findings, visit

GA-ASI Receives Experimental Certification on Newest MQ-9B SkyGuardian

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI) received a Special Airworthiness Certification in the Experimental Category from the FAA for its second MQ-9B SkyGuardian aircraft. The company-owned Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) – registered as N191FP and known as YBC02 – joins the first SkyGuardian in support of the MQ-9B development program. This certification permits YBC02 to conduct flight operations in National Airspace (NAS) as a civil aircraft.

“The certification helps us towards our goal of full integration of RPA into the National Airspace System [NAS],” said David R. Alexander, president, Aircraft Systems, GA-ASI. “It will also help us in continuing the development of MQ-9B for our customers, the Royal Air Force and Belgian Defense.”

MQ-9B is the result of a five-year, company-funded effort to deliver an unmanned aircraft that can fly in non-segregated airspace, while meeting the stringent airworthiness type-certification requirements of NATO STANAG 4671. The RPA features endurance of more than 40 hours, rapid integration of new payloads using nine hardpoints, all-weather, short-field, self-deployment through SATCOM controlled Automatic Takeoff and Landing Capability, Lynx® Multi-mode Radar and a Detect and Avoid (DAA) system. GA-ASI designed MQ-9B as the next generation of multi-mission Predator® B fleet and named its baseline MQ-9B aircraftSkyGuardian, and the maritime surveillance variant SeaGuardian.

In July, the first SkyGuardian aircraft (YBC01) became the first Medium-altitude, Long-endurance (MALE) RPA to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean. MQ-9B SkyGuardian has been selected by the United Kingdom (as part of the Royal Air Force’s PROTECTOR RG Mk1 program), and was recently announced as the sole source RPA selection by the country of Belgium.

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), an affiliate of General Atomics, is the leading designer and manufacturer of proven, reliable RPA systems, radars, and electro-optic and related mission systems, including the Predator® RPA series and the Lynx® Multi-mode Radar. With more than five million flight hours, GA-ASI provides long-endurance, mission-capable aircraft with integrated sensor and data link systems required to deliver persistent flight that enables situational awareness and rapid strike. The company also produces a variety of ground control stations and sensor control/image analysis software, offers pilot training and support services, and develops meta-material antennas. For more information, visit