“Any drone you’ve ever seen flying … 99.9% it’s illegal. For sure,” laughed Andrew Dennison.
Understand that the chief operating officer of Lift— a drone technology company — wasn’t trying to spit hard numbers (or make light of the law). Dennison was simply making the point that, prior to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 107, it was too hard to legally fly drones in the United States. Therefore, people did so illegally.
You see, before Part 107, one needed to have a pilot’s license to fly drones. If that same individual wanted to operate a UAV (unmanned aviation vehicle) in the commercial space, they had to, also, obtain a Section 333 exemption. These “exemptions usually take six months to get and a $5,000 to $10,000 lawyer bill to write up the application,” Dennison said.
Now, imagine you’re a project manager on a construction site and you want to get a lay of the land before breaking ground. Or perhaps you’re an electrician looking for a safer and faster way to inspect power lines. Drone technologies can provide a solution to both situations, but if you need a pilot’s license and a special exemption to operate UAVs, that solution doesn’t seem so appealing.
Fortunately, “many more people now have the ability to fly drones,” said Dennison. Scratch the pilot’s license and six-month exemption process, “now, anyone can take an online test on the FAA’s website and get their drone license.” In fact, “in the first two weeks, half a million people [obtained] their drone license from the FAA, [whereas] about 3,000 to 4,000 people [ever] got their Section 333 exception,” he explained.
In the McKinsey & Company Imagining constructions digital future report, the consulting firm’s authors described how drones decrease the cost of aerial surveys and provide a faster way of getting geographical information. Dmitriy Molla of Building Design + Construction wrote how UAVs can be applied through every stage of a building project — from design to marketing.
“There’s so many applications of drones. It’s unbelievable!” Dennison exclaimed. Thankfully, one’s no longer jumping through hoops to reach those applications. They lay just a drone license away.