Metts said: “ I believe in many ways that the best and most appropriate use [of drones] is the niche uses that everybody is coming up with. These are things that support their organisations to save money and time, and they need to be able to pursue those in order for their businesses to continue to thrive. What is necessary, though, to facilitate that are some infrastructural or foundational issues that allow us to bring those niche drone solutions to market.”
Unified traffic management
On the obstacles, Metts explained: “We need to take some of the energy that is involved in developing that niche market and bring it back to the centre, if you will, and begin a dialogue or continue a dialogue that solves some of those foundational issues.
“One of the most important that I believe needs to be solved is moving towards unified traffic management – that is, drones are introduced to air spaces around the world and those who manage those air spaces need to be able to communicate either with the aircraft or with the users and controllers of those aircraft. They need to be able to understand their navigation. Are they moving around in an awkward way that might compromise the air space, or are they moving in a structured way that can be protected and observed?”
He added: “And then the last of that would be surveillance. We need to be able to track these aircraft and to provide that information to the traffic management professionals so that they can manage the air space in a way that keeps it as safe as it has been and continues to improve on the efficiencies.
Shifting the focus
Clearly, there are many stakeholders involved in getting this infrastructure in place. How do we get past the complexity?
Metts said the various stakeholders need to recognise that: “They need to take some of the focus off their solutions and apply it towards a more global solution – that harmonised approach to things. Right now, globally, a lot of regulators are establishing their own regulations relative to drone use. Maybe we need to get together and harmonise those and some of that seed money that's being used to drive the marketplace – maybe it could be brought together to solve some of these foundational issues.”