Video of the week – Unmanned aircraft technology advances: autonomous travel is ‘going to happen sooner than you think’

11 February, 2020

While unmanned aircraft technology is not new, the thought of thousands of drones constantly buzzing around our skies still feels as if it belongs in a futuristic movie. However, such a sight is closer than may be expected. With flying cars among the next steps forward in innovation, it could ultimately be a partial solution to the pilot crisis that is already impacting the commercial aviation sector.

Much of the progress will depend on regulatory authorities developing robust standards, enabling new applications "and the ability of innovators to understand what technology is available to enable their vision of the future," according to one industry leader.

This topic was discussed during a panel session at the CAPA World Aviation Outlook Summit in Malta in Dec-2019 where moderator Jim Callaghan, partner at Croon Callaghan Aviation Consulting acknowledged that autonomous travel is "going to happen sooner than you think", adding that "we are there already in a lot of these areas" in technology such as autonomous cars.

In fact, FedEx Corporate staff VP regulatory affairs Ralph Carter confirmed that the company is participating in two pilot programmes involving drones that have been approved by the US FAA. These include using drone technology at its hub in Memphis International airport for aircraft inspections, runway surveillance and perimeter security on a pilot project basis to review how to use drones in an airport environment in a safe manner.

The second is a partnership with Wing in Christiansburg (Virginia) for the first commercial drone delivery project in the US. Wing is the first company in the US to receive Part 135 certification by the US FAA, with 80,000 flights and 3000 test deliveries already undertaken.

LEARN MORE… This was a topic discussed by Croon Callaghan Aviation Consulting, partner, Jim Callaghan; Eurocontrol, senior ATM/U-space expert, Dr Giancarlo Ferrara; FedEx Corporate, staff vice president regulatory affairs, Ralph Carter; and Nanyang Technological University, Professor, Dr James Wang, during the CAPA - Centre for Aviation World Aviation Outlook Summit in Malta in early Dec-2019.