Drones Go Commercial, Offer Blossoming Business Opportunity for Helicopter Operators – It’s happening again. Our imagined future of robots and drones inserting themselves into our everyday lives is slowly becoming a reality. The idea of drones buzzing about our heads was merely cinematic, until now. Drones may actually have a hand in filming movies rather than starring in them.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has begun to allow a select few unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, to operate commercially. A total of 26 exceptions have been made to operators to fly these vehicles after the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 was passed by Congress. Section 333 of the act, titled “Special Rules for Certain Unmanned Aircraft Systems,” exempts some small drones to be flown for specific purposes. Under this section, commercial drones are allowed for filming movie sets, monitoring construction sites, assessing crops, producing video for real estate, or perform inspection of offshore oil platforms.

For most helicopter operators, the use of small drones for new business ventures is an exciting opportunity; but others fear drones will eventually replace these positions all-together. In a distant world, this fear could very well be justified, but it isn’t likely to materialize. The invention and utilization of computers brought about the same hesitations from society, but technology has yet to replace the need for human intelligence. In fact, with the addition of computers, machines, and increased technology, the need for people began to increase as well. While drones may take over the actual act of flying for specific jobs, the need for operators to control them will also increase drastically. Matt Zuccaro, Helicopter Association International (HAI) president, agrees. “We believe it has to be done properly, with the right training and infrastructure. We do believe that there is an opportunity for helicopter operators (to operate UAVs) as an adjunct to their current operations.”

The implementation of drones for commercial use is definitely new, but UAVs themselves have been around for many years. These aircraft have been materializing since the 1900s, but the control and use of them for anything other than military purposes has just begun. ROTOR FX has been working with UAVs since the mid-1990s, the work was military based assisting defense contractors with research, development, and testing of drones. In the early 2000s, UAVs were brought to the forefront after their use in Afghanistan and other war fields, shedding light on other possible uses for these aircraft. Soon after, ROTOR FX participated in advising the FAA on drafting commercial drone regulations.

The future of commercial drones looks bright, but getting this far did not come without a fight. In February of 2007, the FAA issued a policy which prohibited all operators from using UAVs for business purposes. It was not until 2012 that the policy was revised to allow a tiny number of exceptions to the rule. The first of which belonged to small aerial photo and video production companies closely associated with Hollywood. Though the regulations currently limit commercial drones to a very small number of companies and operations, the move into commercial space is an enormous step for using UAVs in a plethora of industries. Since this shift by the FAA, ROTOR FX has supplied pilots and UAVs for two exemption holders and has been a part of eight productions. We are eager to continue working on these projects.

Our proprietary UAVs are custom built, tailored to serving the film and television industry, but with capabilities of doing much more. We honestly believe this market is going to be limitless, and just getting through the regulatory road blocks will be revolutionary to the drone industry. These machines can do things helicopter simply cannot. The possibilities will break open the potential of exciting expansion for a lot of industries. ROTOR FX will absolutely be there every step of the way, as we have been from the start.