Movement is a constant in aviation, but when you consider advancements in technology, industry and government regulations and the projected pilot shortage, there’s a lot to keep track of. As a result, we’re sharing the aviation trends for 2018 that have not only caught our attention, but those that we believe will have the greatest impact in the industry overall.
Drones –With ever-changing regulations, detection software, collisions and near-misses, as well as new uses for drones, it’s safe to say the impact these small devices have had on aviation shows no signs of slowing down.
In early December, the National Defense Authorization Act brought back the requirement that all drones weighing more than .55 pounds to go through the registration process. This means that people must once again register their drones (or any other remote-controlled flying device that meets the criteria) at the FAAs site for small Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) registration service. Just as it did initially, registration costs $5, and you need to place your registration number on the drone when you’re flying it. In fact, the FAA suggests writing the number on your drone in permanent marker, using a label, or even etching it onto your drone.
Failure to register your drone can yield potentially steep penalties – civil penalties up to $27,500 and criminal penalties up to $250,000 or three years in jail for severe incidents resulting from unregistered drone flight. The FAA also recommends that pilots keep their registration certificates on hand during operation or risk facing punishment.
Collisions and Near-Misses
The rising popularity of drones and their use all around the world, has seen a series of high-profile incidents. For example, in August, a Delta pilot spotted a drone flying dangerously close to an aircraft attempting to land at Detroit airport. In July, a drone was found wandering into San Francisco International Airport’s restricted airspace. And in June, a passenger jet came within 200 feet of crashing into a drone, in what was described as a “serious near miss” above County Durham in Northeast England. And these are just the incidents that are public knowledge.
Upon reviewing the last several quarters of FAA data, it’s easy to get a sense of how often pilots are encountering problems with drone traffic. Unfortunately, law enforcement agencies are struggling to communicate with the public, who are often unclear about the rules and regulations governing the use of drones. As a result, they are experiencing challenges in maintaining safety.
In an effort to bolster safety in the skies, drone detection software companies, such as Dedrone, are defending against drone collisions and near-misses by combining a detection solution alongside a jamming system. In this case, the detection solution provides an early warning alert to a security team that is present in the drone area. By integrating data from sensors, video cameras and radar technology, if a drone is encroaching into an area, the data is used to trigger a jammer. The jammer interferes with the radio signals that the drone uses to communicate with the pilot, causing it to land, or in some cases, fly back to where it took off.
New Uses for Drones
You don’t have to look far to notice that individuals, commercial businesses and the government have all come to realize the potential that drones offer. According to Business Insider, what began as technically monitoring sensitive military areas and serving the needs for hobbyists, has evolved to include the following:
Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) – The FAA is currently transitioning away from traditional radar and towards Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) technology. ADS-B is an environmentally friendly technology that enhances safety and efficiency, and directly benefits pilots, controllers, airports, airlines and the public. By moving from ground radar and navigational aids to precise tracking using satellite signals, ADS-B forms the foundation for Next Gen.
With ADS-B, pilots will see what controllers see: displays that show the location of aircraft and equipped ground vehicles on airport surfaces – even at night or during heavy rainfall. ADS-B applications currently in development will give pilots indications or alerts of potential collisions. In addition to providing greater coverage since ground stations are so much easier to place than radar, remote areas without coverage (e.g. Gulf of Mexico and parts of Alaska) will now have surveillance with ADS-B.
The FAA’s final rule dictates that effective January 1, 2020, aircraft operating in airspace defined in 91.225 are required to have an ADS-B system that includes a certified position source capable of meeting requirements defined in 91.227. These regulations set a minimum performance standard for both ADS-B Transmitter and the position sources integrated with the ADS-B equipment in your aircraft. If you never fly into ADS-B-designated airspace, there is no requirement to equip.
Requests for air traffic control (ATC) authorized deviations from the requirements must be made to the ATC facility having jurisdiction over the concerned airspace within the time periods specified as follows:
Air Taxi – As we evaluated in early 2017, the prevalence of Uber and Lyft has forever shaped the way we travel on the ground, resulting in many entrepreneurs developing scalable and on-demand business travel to the skies. Fueling the demand for “air taxis” is the level of comfort that millennials have embracing the “sharing economy” across the country and around the world. In fact, in 2017 we noticed almost a 30% increase in air taxi traffic over 2016, which is double the increase we saw in 2016 over 2015. As a result, we anticipate this trend to continue in 2018.
In April 2017, Uber announced Dallas, Texas and Dubai as the first two test cities for the company’s flying taxi initiative, named “Elevate.” Recently, Uber added Los Angeles as the third city to the initiative, and plans to deploy flying taxis that will soar above the city by 2020. In a unique partnership with NASA, Uber recently signed a Space Act Agreement to create a custom air traffic control system that would manage Uber’s fleet of low-flying aircraft.
Pilot Shortage – The looming pilot shortage has already taken its toll on some industry sectors, particularly small regional airlines and ultra-low-cost carriers. However, major airlines and even the corporate aviation sectors are beginning to feel the pinch, with a major hit expected in the next three to five years. In an effort to secure the projected 117,000 new pilots needed in North America alone (according to The Boeing Pilot Outlook), companies are taking their recruitment and retention efforts to the extreme.
Some airlines are approaching aviation schools for new hires because they are experiencing a decline in applicants. Others are entering into agreements with Collegiate Aviation Programs to entice students to come on board while they are completing their academic career, recruiting directly from universities rather than hiring pilots from regional airlines or the military.
If you’re wondering how these trends may impact you - as a pilot, enthusiast, business owner or member of the flying public - or if you are seeing additional trends in aviation that you would like us to explore, contact us.