Oct. 12, 2017

Just 14 months ago, the FAA published Part 107, which allows commercial operations of small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) under certain conditions, including daytime only, line-of-sight operations with other limitations. Since then, more than 60,000 remote pilots and over 80,000 sUAS have been registered with the FAA for commercial operations.

Brad Hayden, president and CEO of Robotic Skies and moderator of the “Unmanned in Demand” education session at NBAA-BACE, encouraged experienced aviation professionals to help shape how unmanned operations will work, and importantly, how these operations can mitigate risk.

Some considerations a business aviation operator should discuss before beginning unmanned operations include the legal structure under which a UAS will operate; determining your insurance needs, which are company- and mission-specific; and knowing your state and local requirements, as some areas have local ordinances which apply to UAS operations.

“To look at these operations through the paradigm that we use for manned aircraft can be very helpful,” said attorney Justine Harrison. “The same framework to manage risk is important. How do you compartmentalize risk, and how do you integrate it within your entities?”

Chris Proudlove, vice president and manager of complex risks at Global Aerospace, Inc., shared some insurance considerations, which differ from those of manned aircraft operations insurance, with the attendees. For example, UAS insurance policies can be purchased on a smartphone with coverage for as short a duration as one to eight hours. Also, when a UAS crashes, the event results in a total loss, not a repair of the system.

Proudlove reported a four-fold increase of insurance policy demand in Florida during the 2017 hurricane season, indicating the significant use of UAS for hurricane recovery efforts.

Paul McDuffee, vice president of government affairs with Insitu, added examples of UAS operations in hurricane recovery, such as surveying shipping channels in Corpus Christi following Hurricane Harvey, and other uses, including mapping wildfires in Washington and Oregon, railroad track surveillance and inspecting oil well heads, emphasizing, “These systems are doing real work with real results.”

NBAA’s Business Aviation Management Committee’s UAS Subcommittee recognized the opportunity for the aviation community to help guide how these unmanned operations will be conducted and a number of resources are available to NBAA members online.

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