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ASSURE Representatives Help GTRA Give Free Drone Seminar, January 15, 2019

January 10, 2019

The Golden Triangle Regional Airport will host its third annual Drone Seminar on Tuesday, Jan. 15 with a special focus placed on home use, safety and business.
Courtesy Photo.
Unmanned aircraft, or drones as they are more commonly called, have become increasingly popular holiday gift items, with more hobbyists taking to the skies than ever and more business utilizing the technology to benefit the bottom line — especially in a place like the Golden Triangle, where new technologies for drones are researched and implemented every day.

Those are just a couple of the reasons why the Golden Triangle Regional Airport (GTRA) will host its third annual Drone Seminar on Tuesday, Jan. 15, with a special focus placed on home use, safety and business.

A free public seminar, the event will start at 6 p.m. in the airport terminal at GTRA, and will feature experts from both Mississippi State University and Columbus Air Force Base to discuss changes in rules for drone operations from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), in addition to safe practices and how to effectively use drones for business.

The U.S. Department of Transportation said in 2018 that more than one million unmanned aerial vehicles have been resisted with the FAA, which underscores the growth of the industry, with unmanned systems being more accessible and affordable than ever.

Of the more than one million registered drone operators, roughly 878,000 are classified as hobbyists by the federal government - a notion GTRA Executive Director Mike Hainsey said serves as a driver for the airport’s community engagement through the drone seminar.

Last year, he said roughly 50 to 60 people attended the second annual drone seminar — a number Hainsey expects to grow this go around.

“We’re excited, we do it each year after Christmas because so many people get drones for Christmas,” Hainsey said. “We want to bring together people who are interested in using drones and use them safely. One of the presentations are ways to use to drones in your business.”

Hainsey said GTRA officials use drones at the airport and have found at least a dozen different functions for the unmanned aircraft, including perimeter security, checking for wildlife and building inspections.

But as the industry evolves as such a rapid pace, it is Hainsey’s hope that these kinds of seminars will help keep the public up to speed as technologies, and more importantly, laws and regulations, change over time.

“(The FAA) use to separate business use of drones and hobbyists, and they changed rules for hobbyists to make it closer to what business use is: you have to take a test, operate it, register, and a lot closer to folks operating on business,” he said. “They’ve changed rules about flying around airports, making it easier to get permission."

Hainsey then described the automated the system to where people can fly around airports easier, which he says used to take 30 to 45 days to get permission, but the tests in the new system last roughly three minutes.

The FAADroneZone, available online, offers registration for unmanned aircraft that weigh more than roughly half a pound (0.55 pounds) and less than 55 pounds. Through the FAADroneZone, operators can register small unmanned aircraft for recreational, commercial, governmental or other purposes for a cost of $5, with the registration valid for three years.

As drones become more accessible, Hainsey stressed the importance of educating the public from an early age about their capabilities, especially in the face of a shortage of manpower in the industry for aviation jobs.

“I got excited about flying with balsa wood airplanes and now they’re getting excited about flying with drones,” Hainsey said, referring to the evolution of simple aircraft available to young people. "There’s a shortage of mechanics and pilots, so we need to be growing the interests from grade school.”

Also available at the seminar will be representatives from the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence, which is part of the National Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems at Mississippi State. The center was designated as such by the FAA in 2015.

Starkville is also home to the Mississippi State University Raspet Flight Research Laboratory, which has been in continuous operation since 1948. The facility currently works with industrial and other government agency partners to use laboratory aircraft and facilities to further aeronautical research.

Partners at Raspet have included Lockheed Aircraft Corporation of Georgia, Honda Research and Development, Seemann Composites, the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, and DARPA.

As the Golden Triangle, which is also home to the Columbus Air Force Base, Airbus, Stark Aerospace and Aurora Flight Sciences, continues to carve out its place as a fixture in the aerospace market, Hainsey said the possibilities are numerous.

“People are talking about air taxis and using drones for flying in and out of big cities,” Hainsey said, looking ahead to the future. “The next 10 years, five years maybe, you’re going to see a lot more unmanned aircraft out and around.”

The seminar will begin at 6 p.m. and last until 8 p.m. Refreshments will be provided at the beginning of the event.

Written by Ryan Phillips
Starkville Daily News