Momentum in the commercial drone industry has quickly picked up over the last few months. We’ve seen companies like UPS test drones for home delivery in rural areas, we’ve heard rumblings of passenger drones set to takeoff in Dubai, and we saw Lady Gaga surrounded by hundreds of brightly lit drones at the Super Bowl halftime show. On the other end of the spectrum, we also saw Canada significantly limit the use of recreational drones. Here’s an update on the current state of the drone industry, including some of the most popular headlines worldwide.
Canada Releases New Recreational Drone Laws
On March 16th, the Canadian government released new regulations for the operation of recreational drones. Under the new regulations, noncommercial drones weighing between 250 grams and 35 kilograms (half a pound and 77 pounds) can’t fly:
- Higher than 90 meters (300 ft.) above the ground
- At a distance of more than 500 meters (1,640 ft.) from the operator
- Within 75 meters (246 ft.) of buildings, vehicles, vessels, animals, people or crowds
- At night or in the clouds
- Within 9 km (5.6 miles) from the center of an airport or other facility where aircraft takeoff or within 9 km of forest fires
- If your drone doesn’t have your name, address and telephone number labeled on the aircraft
- In a way that interferes with first responders or police
These differ from U.S. restrictions in that the U.S. allows drone operators to fly as high as 400 feet, allows for flight near buildings and allows operators to fly at night. The restrictions also ban operators from flying through many major cities throughout Canada. The fines for violating these restrictions are also significantly higher than they are in the U.S. Fines in the U.S. are limited to $1,414 at the highest, whereas Canada’s fines can be as high as $2,248 (U.S. dollars).
Passenger Drones Set to Launch in Dubai in July 2017
Dubai has recently announced that a driverless flying taxi service, using passenger drones produced by Chinese manufacturer Ehang, will go live in July of this year. The Ehang 184, currently undergoing test flights near the city’s airfield, cruises at just over 60 miles per hour. Its biggest limitation at this point is its 30-minute battery life, significantly limiting its range. Routes will be programmed by a ground control station that will also be responsible for monitoring the flight throughout.
UPS Tests Drone Delivery Service in Rural Areas
Efficiency is king in the package delivery service industry. The more packages employees are able to deliver, the more money they make. Drones may end up being one way these services can improve their efficiency even further.
In February, UPS tested drone delivery from the rooftops of their delivery trucks in rural areas of Florida. They were able to successfully deliver a package from their truck, parked in front of the package’s destination, to the front door of the house.
This allows delivery men and women to remain near the truck, using the drone to deliver the package to the front door, as opposed to running back and forth from the truck to the front door, which is especially convenient in rural areas that feature homes with larger yards.
Drones are docked on top of the truck with a hatch below that opens to allow the driver to load a package into a cage attached to the drone. The driver then controls the drone from a touchscreen device, setting a route from the truck to a specified address.
While this service isn’t yet live for delivery companies, you can expect to see similar processes taking place in the near future.
Police Launch 24-hour Drone Unit to Assist with Surveillance, Photography
In yet another first for the drone industry, police departments for Devon and Cornwall Counties in England are set to launch a drone that operates 24 hours a day, assisting officers with searching for missing people and taking photographs of crime scenes. According to the Daily Mail, at least 21 police forces worldwide are currently experimenting with the use of drones for similar purposes.
Super Bowl Halftime Show Features 300 Drones
The excitement of Super Bowl LI has settled, but the talk of the drone world at the time was that the halftime show, performed by Lady Gaga, featured 300 eight-ounce drones flying in the background, shifting from the American flag to the Pepsi logo.
The Super Bowl halftime show represented the drone industry’s biggest audience to date, performing for close to 160 million people worldwide. The groundbreaking show was a preview into yet another way drones can be used for commercial purposes.
Intel had to jump through some hoops in order to bypass restrictions for flying over sporting events and operating over heavy crowds, but were ultimately granted a waiver from the FAA in order to perform. The FAA forbids use of drones within 34.5 miles of NRG stadium, and limits how high the drones can fly. While Intel was able to bypass those restrictions, they still faced the issue of flying over a crowd of 80,000-plus people. Instead of flying the drones live at the Super Bowl, they simply taped their performance earlier in the week, broadcasting days later during the halftime show.