One of the drone companies whose representatives met with President Donald Trump at the White House last week is optimistic that regulations will be created that will help the drone industry take off in the United States.
Measure CEO and co-founder Brandon Torres Declet joined CEOs of large corporations and startups at the White House on June 22 in what the company characterized as an open and constructive conversation about drones and the future of the industry. Leaders from AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile also took part in the meetings last week.
The drone industry is in that peculiar position of wanting more regulations rather than less. The FAA has been criticized for being too slow to pass rules that would allow drones to fly beyond the line of sight of the operator or at night without a special waiver.
Measure has a waiver so that it can fly aircraft at night, and it has obtained authorizations to allow its pilots to fly in certain restricted air spaces. In the case of emergencies, the company can usually get the right authorizations when needed, said Christopher Moccia, Measure’s senior vice president of infrastructure.
But the industry needs regulators to create rules that allow use of the technology on a wider scale, and Measure is part of those discussions. The company says progress is being made toward regulatory reform and turning proof-of-concept demos into widespread deployments that operate continuously.
“Everybody is trying to let the regulators know how important this is,” Moccia told FierceWirelessTech.
Measure works with companies in specific sectors, like energy, vertical infrastructure, media and construction, to determine how they can best use data acquired by drones. In wireless, the company works with Tier 1 operators as well as tower companies. Last year, for example, Verizon used drones operated by Measure to survey areas of North Carolina and South Carolina impacted by severe flooding from Hurricane Matthew. Verizon also used Measure’s drone services to conduct its first drone venue inspection at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) racetrack in Austin, Texas, before a big event there last October.
Measure advocates for revenue sharing between tower companies and carriers so that they can deploy drones economically for tower inspections. And it’s not just for emergencies; besides checking the safety line, drones can be great for checking towers before a climber gets on the structure to see if there are any hornet nests—or even snakes—to be aware of. Drones are also used to check RF equipment on the towers.
Moccia is a member of the National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) committee on Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), along with Art Pregler of AT&T, Christopher Desmond of Verizon Wireless and Crown Castle’s Robert McCoy, among others. Earlier this year, NATE officially released the second edition of its UAS resource document that focuses on UAS operations around wireless infrastructure, cell towers, broadcast towers and utility structures. The second edition also incorporates updates from the new guidelines and provisions associated with the FAA’s Rule 107 for the commercial use of UAS technologies.
Moccia acknowledges that there are some things a drone cannot do on towers. “We don’t think it’s a job killer, we think it’s a job enhancer,” he said, adding that there’s going to be many opportunities for new jobs emerging from the technology.