Drone Technology is advancing at an exponential rate. The application and uses are increasing in groundbreaking ways due to increased technology of the payload and battery technology. With the recent FAA rule allowing drones to fly above people, and in certain conditions, fly at night, the time is now to see these new technologies move industry forward.
I recently visited with VolAero Drones, a smart drone security services provider in Fort Lauderdale, FL and discussed the future of this technology with Kevin Sanders, Director of Business Development.
Here is part of our conversation:
GP: What are some of the applications that drones are being used for commercially?
KS: Currently, drones are being utilized for countless applications aimed at reducing the impact on a company’s resources such as time, money, and manpower.
From simple real-estate aerial imagery to spice up a listing, to geological and farming surveying through a wide variety of imaging technology like infra-red and lidar, to law enforcement personnel utilizing small, unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) for real-time situational awareness, drones are quickly becoming an integral factor to the success of a given mission.
GP: What are some of the potential future applications?
KS: With the increase in online shopping even before the current Covid-19 pandemic, it was only a matter of time before the leading innovative companies like Amazon and UPS decided to enhance their delivery logistics using drones. Current federal legislation and subsequent requirements for drone technology to prove itself safe enough for delivery operations within the U.S. are stagnating the process.
However, larger, well-funded companies are forging ahead with the arduous “airworthiness” certification processes to get these capabilities in place soon, but I would not expect to see the sun blotted out with urban drone deliveries of yoga mats, toilet paper and garlic presses just yet.
Another application that seems to be on the not too far horizon is transportation. Before the idea of a self-driving car was presented by Tesla CEO, Elon Musk in 2013, the public was relegated to the idea of such a thing only existing in sci-fi movies. Since April of 2019, all new Tesla vehicles come standard with “Autopilot.”
These same concepts have been introduced into the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) industry. With even more Federal regulation and legislation requirements than drone goods delivery services, unmanned aerial transportation also has large hurdles to jump before actualizing the technology for public operation.
GP: What do you think about the privacy concerns about drones?
KS: Having been a part of the USAF Unmanned aircraft MQ-1 and MQ-9 Predator and Reaper programs and participating in operational and communications security at its highest level, I can safely say that it is a challenge to maintain total privacy from interested parties, but not impossible.
However, concerning everyday drone hobbyists or even smaller scale safe Part-107 certified commercial applications, such as real-estate or amateur filmmaking, information privacy is subjective at best.
There are opposing points of view about consumer-off-the-shelf (COTS) drones, particularly at the Federal law enforcement level, but my opinion is, unless you are gathering sensitive information or operating within a restricted area, I’m willing to guess that those who happen to come upon the technology to gain access to your pictures or video will find no value in them. Just my opinion.
GP: Thank You for giving some insight into drone technology. Tell us a little bit about your career journey?
KS: Having discovered that I was mechanically inclined at a young age through expending a lot of sweat and tears working on my 1967 Camaro, my interest in the operation of things grew throughout my high school years and into my Air Force career. Although my aim was to be a mission commander of the Space Shuttle, my physical characteristics ended that dream for me.
There are not too many 6’7″ astronauts out there. While in Air Force Basic Training, I was selected to attend the preliminary USAF Combat Controller trials (USAF version of Navy Seals), before being sent off to extended training at Hulbert Field, FL. Upon successful completion of the prelims, I was asked to go see the flight doc for height measurements. It turned out I was 1/2 inch too tall to become airborne. So, If I couldn’t fly them, or jump out of them, I decided to fix them. Thus, began my 21 years Air Force career as an Aircraft Maintenance Technician.
GP: What do you feel is one of the top characteristics of your personality that had led to your success?
KS: Although most of my 21 years of service was centered around aircraft maintenance, progression through the ranks in the Air Force required me to wear many hats while in the senior non-commissioned officer corps.
With higher rank comes more responsibility. I started my career at the rank of E-1 Airman Basic, Assistant Dedicated Crew Chief (3-level assistant aircraft mechanic) at Beale AFB, CA, with very little responsibility outside of inventorying tools, sweeping floors and wiping down U-2s.
My career culminated with me as a Lead Aircraft Production Superintendent at Homestead AFB, FL, where I oversaw $1.2B of aircraft and equipment and directed over 600+ personnel in the maintenance and flight operations of 26, F-16 Fighting Falcons in support of South Eastern U.S. border defense and numerous overseas deployments.
The ability to inspire and motivate personnel to accomplish any given mission required me to pull from many years of leadership experience, both successful and not. Without the guidance and patience of incredible mentors throughout my career, I would have not been able to properly motivate and successfully attain the buy-in from those I oversaw.
It is the desire to be a better leader that I believe has led to my success in my military career and in life. I’ve learned that accepting my role as a follower during my days of sweeping aircraft hangar floors was the proper path to becoming the leader that I am today.
I believe people like Kevin are the backbone of our country and helping us lead the way into the advancement of technology in the USA. Drone technology is continuously evolving. The future looks bright for the technology and for VolAero Drones.
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