Sunday, April 14, 2024

FAA and WCCC to host Eastern Region Drone Safety and Awareness Event 

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Warren UAS, the acclaimed unmanned systems program at Warren County Community College (WCCC), are teaming up for a three-day program to introduce the public in the eastern region of the United States to the fast-growing field of drone flight and to promote proper training and safe use of the aircraft.

The event, to be held April 27-29 on the Warren Washington campus for the FAA’s eastern region, will highlight Drone Safety Day, which the FAA marks each year in April to encourage proper operation of drones, now the fastest growing segment of the aviation industry with nearly 900,000 aircraft now registered with the agency. About 530,000 were listed for recreational purposes and 338,000 for commercial use.

Experts from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University will also be on hand. Embry-Riddle offers bachelor of science and graduate studies in unmanned aircraft systems, equipping students with the knowledge and skills to seek employment in a wide variety of related fields, including professional UAS pilots, sensor operators, project managers and field technicians.

“This is a great opportunity for the public and people in the industry to come together and exchange fundamental information and new thinking about drones,” said Dr. Will Austin, president of WCCC and its chief pilot, currently on sabbatical to further build the UAS program and pursue private funding related to the college’s growth. “At this event, both experts and people hoping to gain familiarity with drones will be able to learn from the experts at the FAA and our staff about the latest technology and training available. There will be a major emphasis on safe use of drones, which is a priority for us and the FAA.”

Warren’s UAS department has grown dramatically in the last few years, and two new facilities have been developed on campus to house the program, including the new Dr. Joseph Warren Robotics Research Center. The latest new drone technology also is being acquired continually, all of which visitors to the event will have access to during the program. College officials designed the event to introduce the public to its offerings and provide a platform for information about the technology to be exchanged, including from FAA experts.

The FAA is keeping up with the evolving industry by continually offering guidance about the technology and its regulations through its Droning On educational outreach program, and the FAA Drone Safety Day, according to Alina George, project manager.

The free event will run 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Saturday, Warren Technical School, next to the college, will transform into “Area 57” with a host of activities, many hands-on, and demonstrations planned specifically for those from the general public interested in unmanned crew systems, curious children and their families, and anyone simply interested in seeing what drones and robots are all about. 

The first day focuses on education, the second day on public safety and local government. Registration and more information for any or all of the three days is at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/droning-on-eastern-edition-registration-479224221547.

The schedule includes:

Thursday, April 27: Education Day

· Learn about post-secondary schools with UAS programs

· Information on careers in drones

· Tools for educators

· Hands on activities

Friday, April 28: Public Service Day

· Public safety training

· Panels on rules and regulations

· Government best practices and resources

Saturday, April 29: Fun Day

· Fly a drone

· Drone simulators

· Racing

Drone demonstrations will happen each day.

Dr. Austin noted that a number of vendors along with colleges and other training providers will be on site, including Embry Riddle, the country’s leading aeronautical university, which has worked with WCCC on a number of projects and often enrolls WCCC graduates to complete further studies.

“We are proud to partner with WCCC to produce the best trained UAS technicians and operators in the world,” said David Thirtyacre, chief pilot in the university’s department of flight. “We are committed to bringing professional aviation standards to the UAS world and pride ourselves on safe, effective operations. ERAU and WCCC work closely together to establish the highest level of standards in the industry, and we are happy to be involved in this event.”

Alina George, the FAA event organizer, noted that its programming includes demonstrations and information sessions on public safety, career opportunities, The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST) and other important aspects of drone ownership and operations.

It is intended to meet the need of an industry that is beginning to touch many other businesses and organizations, added Rick Breitenfeldt, an FAA spokesperson. 

“To put this into context, there are more than three times as many registered unmanned aircraft as registered traditional aircraft,” he said. “By 2026, we forecast that there could be up to 2.66 million commercial and recreational drones and more than 361,000 certificated remote pilots.”

He noted that Drone Safety Day, which is held throughout the country annually, gives ‘”the agency a chance to help the drone community understand the importance of flying safely. Drone Safety Day will highlight the societal, economic and safety benefits of safe drone operations with events in focus areas such as education, economics, equity, environment and emergencies. This is a great opportunity for businesses, schools and organizations to share how they use drones, as well as kick off new safety initiatives. For drone enthusiasts, this is an opportunity to share their passion with your friends, family and local community.” 

Participants will also be able to get the latest information on FAA’s Remote Identification (Remote ID) rule, according to Breitenfeldt.

“This requires most drones by September 16 to have Remote ID capability, which acts like a digital license plate and will help the FAA, law enforcement and other federal agencies find the control station when a drone appears to be flying in an unsafe manner or where it is not allowed to fly.” 

Breitenfeldt pointed out that the FAA also is making significant progress enabling beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) operations through rules rather than individual waivers and exemptions, which will more efficiently enable advanced drone operations. He said flying drones over populated areas, which is regulated both under the FAA’s Small Drone Rule and through FAA-recognized Community Based Organization Safety Guidelines, will also likely be a topic of discussion.

For its part, WCCC will showcase the college’s nationally recognized Uncrewed Systems Program, which teaches flying, building, maintenance and repair of drones, as well as AI and robotics. It offers both certification and degrees in various aspects of drone design, maintenance and operations.

The college’s programming will focus on drone careers, education and ways to enjoy the technology as a hobbyist. It also will include other aviation and unmanned technology such as hot air balloons and robots, showcased at both the college and nearby Warren County Technical School. Breitenfeldt said that safe operations will be a primary theme for the agency during the program.

The FAA encourages those using drones to follow the acronym “Fly RIGHT” in connection with safe and legal drone use:

Register your drone

· All drones not flown for recreational purposes must be registered, regardless of weight.

· Drones flown recreationally must be registered if they weigh more than 250 grams. Register your drone through the FAA DroneZone.

Interact with others

· Join a local organization or FAA-recognized community based Organization.

· Engage in online forums.

Gain knowledge

· Learn about drone safety and rules at faa.gov/uas.

· Check the airspace prior to takeoff through our B4UFLY app or an FAA-approved LAANC UAS service supplier.

Have a safety plan

· Don’t assume the flight will go as planned.

· Know what you’ll do if the weather changes or other aircraft or people get close.

· Check your drone pre- and post-flight to ensure it’s safe to fly.

· Ensure you have approval to fly in controlled airspace through an FAA-approved LAANC UAS service supplier or the FAA DroneZone.

TRUST and train

· Recreational flyers only need to pass TRUST once, prior to flying – it’s the law.

· You may take the free online test through any of the FAA-approved test administrators.