Are Drone Apps About To Explode?


This week, it’s off to the drone aircraft show—AUVSI or the Association of Unmanned Vehicles International. They really need a better name for that. It doesn’t exactly slide off the tongue. The association is calling the show Exponential this year, clearly suggesting they think that’s the growth curve they expect drones will or already are experiencing. Who am I to argue?

Two broad things interest me about this show. One is that FAA Administrator Michael Huerta will be there and although he rarely says much of substance, I’m always interested in the words he uses to avoid the impolitic while also conveying something to keep the audience from rioting. (Oh, wait, that’s only at AirVenture.) The FAA is not a favorite agency among the drone crowd. Two years ago in Orlando, you could feel the tension in the room when the then head of the UAS integration program tried to sell drone operators on the idea that their systems represented high risk to aircraft and unsuspecting pedestrians. It wasn’t warmly received.

Now that we’ve had one genuine drone collision—with a balloon—perhaps the administrator will have a comment. As today’s news feed reveals, those hopeful that the incident in the UK was a second drone/airliner incident must be bitterly disappointed. Maybe it was a plastic bag. Well, there’s always next week.

The second thing I want to explore is applications for these aircraft. Will there really be as many as the companies manufacturing them hope? I remain skeptical and expect to see a shakeout at some point after final rules are published. The number of companies building these things is just staggering. Does the economy need that many eyes in the sky? I can’t help but feel it does not. I’ll also be watching for more aviation companies sniffing around to hedge against losing business to the unmanned side, especially the helicopter industry. Interesting times.

Just a word about the marketing and communications people in the drone business. They put the typical practitioner of this work in the general aviation segment to shame. Having registered for this show, I’ve been inundated with invitations to see demonstrations, interview CEOs and generally learn about the products at hand. This rarely happens in GA. In fact, before Sun ‘n Fun, only two companies made an effort. Just Aircraft was one and Diamond was the other. I flew both of their airplanes before or during the show and generated coverage I’m sure they will find useful. It doesn’t take much effort to make things like this happen. I wish more general aviation companies would exert it.

Winkle’s Book

Back in February, when famed British test pilot Eric Winkle Brown died at the age of 97, I wrote this brief blog in tribute to him.Since then, on the flight to and from Europe last month, I finally had a chance to read his book, Wings On My Sleeve: The World’s Greatest Test Pilot Tells His Story. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It is exceptional. Brown’s experiences through World War II and immediately after it were even more amazing than I could have imagined. Find the book on Amazon and grab it. You won’t be disappointed.