Unmanned aircraft systems industry booming in North Dakota

Published 08/30 2016 05:06AM

Updated 08/30 2016 05:29AM

(WDAY-TV) Starting Monday the FAA is clarifying rules for commercial drones and making it easier for companies to use the machines.

The unmanned aircraft systems industry is a booming one in North Dakota.

Here in the Red River Valley, companies use drones to map farmland, survey construction zones and trouble-shoot machinery.

Now many in the drone industry say regulations are catching up with the expanding technology.

The day after storms tore through the same field Matt Dunlevy is getting a bird's-eye-view of damages.

"It can actually be extremely beneficial for the people who were befallen to this terrible tragedy," said Matt Dunlevy, Sky Scopes.

Now, new regulations mean bluer skies for companies like Sky Scopes to use these mechanical "birds."

"We were happy to be part of this historic day and even bring it to Hillsboro for the quick reaction-forced demonstrations of storm damage assessment," said Dunlevy.

Effective midnight Monday morning, the FAA is enforcing standards for drones weighing 55-pounds or less.

"It's been extremely positive almost nationwide for these new laws because the previous ones had been considered a little bit restrictive," said Dunlevy.

Previously, commercial drone users had to file for an exemption and often wait months for approval.

Even researchers jumped through similar hoops.

NDSU Extension professor John Nowatzki is using these small machines to teach the latest in precision agriculture.

"Tremendous amount of interest from the growers and the farmers that want to get involved with this. And we have a number of students continuously coming to us and asking to be involved," said John Nowatzki, NDSU Dept. of Ag and Biosystems Engineering.

Before the new laws, instant HD images meant waiting for clearance and a certified remote pilot commander.

"We had to pay for that and it was when they were available. The cost increased our education work and our research work," said Nowatzki.

Now students can pass a knowledge test and apply for certification.

Anyone with a pilot's license can simply take an online test.

For those investing in the future of unmanned aircrafts, clearer expectations are clearing the way for the industry's take-off.

Those new rules also say drone pilots can only fly during daylight hours, no higher than 400 feet and no faster than 100-miles per hour.

They also have to be able to see their unmanned aircrafts with the naked eye.


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