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“It seems that everybody wants to get their hands on an unmanned aircraft – doesn’t matter if it’s fire police or other first responders. Unfortunately the FAA has pulled back on its original goal of trying to get a special regulation for UAS operation by last year. The privacy issue, which has been a very big issue in the press, is also a sticking point.
“There are two main types of aircraft that agencies are looking at – the multi-rotor helicopters and fixed wing aircraft, like the Spectra. Many seem to think that the quad copter is the way to go because of its vertical takeoff and ability to use in an urban setting. But the urban area is the area that the FAA wants to keep us out of to mitigate risk.
“Mexico has been very receptive to us operating there, and we and SDSU have been able to utilize this opportunity. Other countries without the same restrictions that the FAA imposes are developing UAS platforms at a more rapid pace,” he says. Australia, Thailand, Vietnam are all vigorously developing unmanned aircraft and related technologies, he says.
“They are very encouraged with the techno dollars that will come to their country. They are making it very attractive for developers to work there. I think that you’ll see unmanned aircraft do some pretty amazing stuff between now and 2015 – the date that the FAA is targeting for widespread use of unmanned aircraft,” Robinson says.
The student element at universities and colleges participating in UAV design and development is far reaching. Dr. Kelly Cohen, principal investigator for the University of Cincinnati’s SIERRA (Surveillance for Intelligent Emergency Response Robotic Aircraft) project, featured in the February article, said, “From the student perspective, they can reach out and engage problems that society faces. It makes them realize they need to be aware as good citizens what contributions they can make for society. It also allows them to be entrepreneurs. Educationally speaking, for my students, it has been very rewarding.” n