When a large company is looking into starting a drone program, objections may arise around risk. Safety personnel, lawyers, or executives may have questions like: How will you avoid airspace violations? What about data security? How will you maintain a fleet of drones?
These are important concerns that need to be addressed. But what these people don’t always realize is that drones can actually help to reduce risks on the job site. More and more companies are realizing that, when all factors are considered, drones may improve net risk exposure.
Consider drones as a safety asset
Drones are increasingly recognized as a safety asset, not just a liability. Workers that used to have to climb to heights can do their jobs from the ground. Some companies can reduce their reliance on helicopters. Plus, drones typically allow for more frequent data collection on equipment and infrastructure than legacy methods. This means organizations are better able to head off problems before they happen.
That’s not to say that drones don’t come with their own risks that need to be carefully managed. In order to achieve net risk reduction, everyone involved needs to know how to operate drones while reducing risk as much as possible. This starts with standardizing everything across your drone program.
Set up standard operating procedures for drone safety
First, you’ll want to set up policies and procedures so every flight is consistently tracked, managed, and reported on. Some of the most important standards to document are:
- Qualification standards for all pilots
- Crew training
- Aircraft maintenance
- Quality control procedures for data collection
- Incident response protocols
- Procedures for special types of operations, such as flights at night
- Regulatory and internal compliance requirements
Don’t know where to start? Let Skyward help. Our standard operating procedures package includes more than 200 pages of customizable policies, procedures, and resources. These cover everything from equipment maintenance to pilot training to dealing with field mishaps. Skyward’s Professional Services consultants can help you create and implement a general operating manual that’s relevant to your company and puts safety and compliance at the heart of your drone program.
Choose a reliable drone airspace map
Accessing airspace safely requires a reliable drone airspace map. Not all maps are created equal. Be sure the map you choose includes controlled airspace, restricted areas, and temporary flight restrictions. You’ll also want to be able to use LAANC to access controlled airspace.
Of course, we recommend Skyward’s drone airspace map. It’s simple to understand, easy to use, and provides reliable information. Not only that, it also includes ground intelligence such as buildings, walking paths, and power lines. And it’s part of a seamless drone operations management platform.
While you’re investigating airspace, be sure to look at local drone laws in your area, too. These rarely show up on airspace maps today, but they’re still very important!
Consider aircraft and hardware concerns
A lot of factors go into choosing the right drone for your company. Drones differ in what jobs they’re best suited for, what payloads they can carry, and what technologies they have onboard. You’ll probably need to answer these questions around drone safety.
- Will the drone meet Remote Identification requirements when they go into effect?
- Do you need a drone with obstacle avoidance?
- Will the signal range of the controller meet your job specs?
- Should country of origin affect your choice?
Skyward resells several of the most commonly-used enterprise drones. This includes the ANAFI USA from Parrot — a secure drone manufactured in the U.S. The ANAFI USA and many other drones automatically sync flight logs with Skyward’s drone management platform. If you’re looking to build out your company’s drone fleet, let us know. We’d love to help you make your choice!
Make a plan for drone data security
Often, companies need to fly drones on secure sites. That means the data they collect needs to be protected. As my colleague Mimy Indra wrote, there’s no single drone data security process or solution that will work for all companies. You’ll need to have a conversation with your IT teams to consider how you will protect sensitive data in each of the following phases.
- Collection – How will you store data in the field? Who will have access to memory cards or data storage devices?
- Transmission – Is transmitted data encrypted between the drone to your ground control system? If information is broadcast through the internet, could it be intercepted?
- Upload – How will you move data from onboard memory storage to your business systems? Will you require a secure uplink, or that uploads only be performed in-office?
- Long-term storage – Where will drone data be securely stored? How long will you keep files before deleting them?
Plan for drones connected over 4G LTE and 5G networks
We’re in an era of rapid technological change. As drone technology and regulations continue to progress, Skyward believes the future of drones will be enabled by connecting and controlling them over cellular networks. This will enable things like:
- More secure and reliable connections to drones
- Rapid data processing over high bandwidth, low latency 5G connections
- Fully autonomous drone flights
- Universal Traffic Management (UTM)
- Use cases we haven’t even invented yet
As a Verizon company, Skyward is uniquely positioned to research and develop networked drone technology. Our Aviation Development Center is testing connected drone use cases over Verizon’s 4G LTE and 5G Ultra Wideband networks. We’re building the future of commercial drone operations.
Build a safety-conscious drone program with Skyward
Whether you’re setting up drone operations for the first time or you’re a large enterprise with a huge drone fleet, Skyward can help support your operations. Our software, professional services, and training help drive the drone industry forward.
If you want to learn more about Skyward and what it takes to launch a drone program, check out the Skyward Guide to Starting a Drone Program.