There can be no doubt that the ‘Age of the Drone’ is coming…..There you heard it here first. Or, probably not.

Seriously though, with the ‘Internet of Things’ becoming the new tech space to be in, it is with great pride that I co-founded my own technology company, Sky-Futures with two like-minded, ambitious technology pioneers and friends who shared a passion for doing something different, innovating, forward thinking and challenging the status quo.

Clichéd perhaps but it is true. As a qualified commercial airline pilot still flying Boeing 747 for the ‘Worlds Favorite Airline’, I often spend a long time in the cruise with pilot colleagues mulling over the latest ‘next big thing’ in business and hair brained schemes to make us more money than we do flying multi million dollar aircraft around the globe.

The naturally occurring dreaming nature of the pilot is inherent and I am no different. Perhaps where I do differ is that the kernel of the idea that was Sky-Futures in 2009 has given birth to a highly successful business that continues to grow, delivering inspections using unmanned aircraft in 10 countries across 5 regions of the world. While the last few sentences may seem impressive, our work is far from done. Technology changes everything but even for us at the leading edge, it is the pace of this change that is most staggering.

What drones offer above all else is a richness of information that cannot be achieved at human or eye level. Breaking the ‘surly bonds’ of gravity affords an unparalleled visual perspective (to us cavemen at least) that is changing the world as we know it. The tool to do the job happens to be the drone, but even if it were a banana with a camera on a stick, it is the diversity and multidimensional possibilities that the data collected can offer that is the stand out game changer. As new technology goes, the drone is a big one that will influence everyday living in the way that the internet, mobile telecoms and social media has already in our modern lives.

Sky-Futures is the global leader for inspections in onshore and offshore Oil and Gas. They offer a safe, fast and cost effective inspection service providing High Definition, still and thermal imagery and technical reports written by Oil and Gas industry experts.
Sky-Futures is the global leader for inspections in onshore and offshore oil and gas.

Regulation Realities

There’s the visionary piece but, rather boringly, you have to strip down to the realities in the first incidence. What do you need to become an effective, professional but moreover ‘safe’ drone//UAS/unmanned aircraft remote pilot or operator? The somewhat unpopular reality is that you should have some idea about what you are doing. Imagine the car was only a recent invention? What would you say to people who suggested regulation didn’t have any place with these ‘new fangled motor vehicles’? People arguing today that drone regulation is draconian, rather paradoxically, highlight the ridiculousness of the Red Flag act in the mid 19th century when the motorcar was first introduced. The act imposed restrictions on automobiles to travel at a maximum of 6.4km/h in the country and 3.2 km/h in the city, as well as requiring a man carrying a red flag to walk in front of road vehicles with multiple wagons. But one must also consider the lack of understanding of this new technology, given the fastest thing that people regularly came into contact with at that time was a horse. Thinking about safety evolution it is perhaps not surprising really that regulators in 1865 mandated men waving red flags should warn everyday passers by of the danger of the motor car! To drive your car on the road, even nowadays, you require education (theoretical and practical), a licence and insurance to protect both yourself and the third party. It is no different for would be or actual drone operators and nor should it be.

‘Love your Regulator’

The moral of the story is……Love your regulator! Establishing a positive relationship with the regulator was and still remains key. More importantly, I believe the positive interaction that my company has sought with regulators around the globe has helped shape both our business and regulation in all the countries we operate drones. We always strive to be a positive industry/stakeholder protagonist. The relationships that Sky-Futures has developed around the world with regulators, (all with different interpretations of nascent unmanned aircraft regulation) ensures we remain safe. It is standard practise, in all of our areas of operations, to consult with, and follow the regulatory process of the incumbent aviation authority. In fact, Sky-Futures has developed such a synergy with the UK CAA that we are now a National Qualified Entity (NQE) able to certify our own Remote Pilots and assess other wannabe Operators who wish to operate drones for commercial purposes.

In the spirit that a picture paints a thousand words, I was interested to see what the word cloud of our Sky-Futures Unmanned Aircraft Operations Manual looked like. See the result below.


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