On December 10th, 2014, the FAA released a statement that granted exemptions for the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) to four U.S. companies. Previously, UAS had not been approved for flight by the FAA. This approval marks historical change to how large companies conduct business from the air. In anticipation of this approval, this past November Trimble invited 13 representatives from companies around the U.S. to attend a demonstration and training on one of the approved models—the Trimble UX5 unmanned aircraft system.
California Surveying and Drafting Supply representative Cole Moon was pleased to be among the 13 individuals invited to participate in the training, and was impressed not only with the product itself, but the functionality and potential applications of the UX5. From an aerial surveying perspective, the UX5 can be used for viewing boundaries and terrain in areas that may not always be accessible to a ground crew. The images acquired from the UX5 allow you to see potential difficulties without hours of climbing over rough terrain or many square miles.
The UX5 comes complete with software to perform seamless flights, maintains an impressive 50 MPH cruising speed, and has a maximum height ceiling of over 14,000 feet. The top flight time is 50 minutes and it has a range of an astonishing 37 miles. With a sleek look and a carbon frame, the UX5 not only offers incredible practical possibilities, it also looks like something straight out of the Batman series.
There are a couple of questions that need to be asked when evaluating this product for practical
purposes. First, whether it is possible for anyone to learn to fly it. Secondly, who is allowed under the UX5 FAA exemption to operate it? And finally, how can you purchase one of these incredible machines?
Can anyone learn to fly it?
Cole from CSDS was invited to a hands-on training by Trimble to determine just that. The training goal was to teach each of the 13 representatives to use the product, and for each of them to earn product certification for field use. Another goal of the training was to show performance in the very cold November weather of Boise, Idaho.
Days one and two of the training involved learning the mechanics, software, capabilities and systems of the Trimble UX5. Day three started the practical training, beginning with launch demonstrations. With weather at twelve degrees below zero, the trainers were able to demonstrate how to adjust launch protocols as needed to achieve flight in adverse weather conditions (demonstrating the Trimble statement of “all terrain and all weather performance”).
Day three wrapped with everyone having completed 3 test flights in preparation for their final testing for product certification.
1. Familiarity with the aircraft and safety standards associated with safe flight.
2. Pre-flight safety checklists.
3. Safe launch (Launch achieved by catapulting the craft into the air)
4. Manual evasive maneuvers without auto-pilot.
5. Holding patterns for safe flight with other aircraft nearby.
6. Successful safe landing.
In short, simply purchasing the product and expecting to be able to learn how to operate it on your own is not possible. The complexities of this craft necessitate professional training not just for the UX5, but also in safety and regulations related to airspace and other craft. The good news is that training is available, and certification is attainable. After demonstrating proper use and knowledge in accordance with all regulations, Cole Moon is now the first Trimble certified UX5 pilot in California.
Who is allowed to operate the UX5, or other FAA exempted UAS?
At this time, the FAA is still evaluating all of the guidelines for operators of Unmanned Aircraft Systems in national air space. The current exemption allows individuals who hold private pilot licenses and are certified by Trimble to operate the UX5. For new developments, please visit Trimble’s UX5 FAQs page on the FAA’s Trimble UX5 333 exemption. You can also keep an eye on the FAA.gov page, or check in with CSDS for changes.
How Can I Buy One?
Trimble will currently only accept orders from individuals who are qualified to fly the UX5 as stipulated in the Trimble UX5 333 exemption. If you meet the criteria, please follow the instructions for placing an order directly through Trimble as indicated on their FAQs page.
Unmanned Aircraft Systems represent a new and incredibly exciting future for our industry as well as countless others. FAA approvals for hovering drones, flyover aircraft and various other unmanned small craft may change how we receive news, data, photos and information. With practically unlimited potential applications, CSDS will be following this developing industry closely, and will bring you updates as they become available. Stay tuned!
If you have any comments on this new and exciting industry, please feel free to share them with us! Comment below, or email your story to firstname.lastname@example.org