Reach for the Sky


1. Legality

Of course, with this kind of awesome freedom come responsibility. Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) provide a variety of benefits, along with risks people are not foreign to with upcoming technology. Users of UAS must fly responsibly, not fly too high, not flying near heavily populated areas (and if flying near heavily populated areas occurs, not make it a regular occurrence), do not fly within 5 miles of any airport without communication to air traffic controllers. Communication and respect for privacy are serious. Organizations work in harmony with the Federal Aviation Administrations (FAA) to ensure recreational users know how to fly and to fly safely.

Because my UAS will be a research project, there may strings attached.

To fly a domestic drone, I will have to obtain necessary certification issued by the Federal Aviation Administrations (FAA) to operate an UAS. There are two different sector operators: private and public. Private (civil) operators are granted an "experimental airworthiness certificate". to do research and development, flight demonstrations, and training. Public sector (public) operators are granted a Certificate of Authorization (COA), usually for the purpose of Law enforcement, fire fighting, border patrol, disaster relief, military training, search and rescue, and other governmental operational missions. UAS are prohibited from routinely operating over densely populated areas.

Applicants for COAs request authorization online with operation proposals. The FAA evaluates those proposals to determine whether the operation can be conducted safety. The COA defines the blocks of airspace that operators can use, including special provisions unique to each proposed operation. COAs are temporary, usually granting the operator up to 2 years. Authorizations usually entail the coordination with an air traffic control facility and may require a transponder on the UAS depending on the airspace it will occupy. If the UAS operates outside airspace restricted from other users, a visual oversee ("Chase plane") is required to maintain visual contact with UAS.

I would need to obtain this certification more than likely under the Civil (non-governmental) sector with the purpose of monitoring crops in fields with the airspace over my family farm designated for flight.

2. Lack of Experience

Previous to Graceland, the only experience in coding and robotics was a club called Lego League I participated in during 7th grade. This is less than ideal when wanting to take on a large, inevitably expensive project. Though I have learned a lot in my year at Graceland, both in programming and robotics (thanks to my Robotics winter term class), I would still not have been comfortable taking on a project of this magnitude my freshman year, hence a research project. This summer I plan to do extensive research into the hardware side of drones. I know little to nothing about hardware and even less about layouts. I have a long way to go on this project, but will learn a lot about software and hardware along the way.

3. Funding

I will not be continuing my education at Graceland fall of 2015. This project originally started as a Ackerely project, which secures some funds for this project. Now the financial responsibility falls completely on me, which I have every intention to continue this project in the following years.

I will have to decide whether or not I want a prefabricated drone, which can cost anywhere from a $100-$1,000,000+ depending on prinstalled features, or go from scratch and piece together the hardware on my own. Ideally I would rather build the drone piece by piece myself, because I know I could make the drone itself cheaper by selecting individual parts, but this will cause hidden fees and take more time. These hidden fees could end up costing the whole project, which is a huge risk. In example, I will need a camera with real time feed to know what my drone is doing when I cannot see it. Technically, the drone can function without the camera, but I will need one or I will be extremely limited with what I can do with my drone.