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Propwash #3 - Why the FAA wants to TRUST you.

Propwash #3 - Why the FAA wants to TRUST you.
By Nihal Mohan • Issue #3 • View online
Aviation regulators around the world have a tough job in their hands. Can they simply trust random citizens to fly drones responsibly? Should one make everyone go through an intensive safety program and certification? Where is the balance between trust and accountability?
As we fly towards the drone age, new frameworks and thinking is required to make laws that help the industry grow safely and responsibly without hindering progress. We see how the FAA has taken such a step which could’ve easily gone wrong…

👨‍✈️ TRUST-ing recreational pilots
If you’re flying drones in the USA, the rules that apply to you differ on whether you’re flying to make money or flying just for fun. If you’re flying to make money (in any form, including social media), you’re flying under the Part 107 rule where you should pass an exam, and get a certificate.
If you were flying for fun, you’d be flying under the recreational flyers rule. To over simplify, you had to register your drone (if it’s above 250g) and be “aware” of the law. Things changed this week, with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announcing that recreational pilots need to take a knowledge and safety test to fly under this rule.
The test is called “The Recreational UAS Safety Test” or TRUST (great wordplay by the FAA here). It was developed by the FAA in collaboration with the industry and is an effort to ensure that everyone flying a drone in the national airspace has basic knowledge of the rules, safety and limitations.
The FAA's TRUST test for recreational drone pilots has arrived - DroneDJ
The test is easier than a full part-107 exam and I was able to finish mine in less than half an hour for free. The FAA did the right thing by making the test free to take. If there were any fees involved, it would hinder adoption and work against FAA’s goal. Some might see the test as another thing to do, but making it free really does have a lower barrier of entry, and is a necessary step in the right direction which could’ve easily gone wrong if a fee was involved.
While the FAA has already developed the test and authorized 16 test administrators to conduct the test, interested industry bodies can apply to become one by going through the process outlined here.
Speaking of trust, how much do you trust your drone equipment manufacturer to not screw you over? The second story for this week looks at how Autel is going through a turbulent phase and losing some of their customer’s trust.
📉 Global chip shortage and drones
In case you missed it, you should know that there’s a global chip shortage. A bad mix of market incentives coupled with the pandemic and the US-China trade war resulted in the largest supply chain disruption the world has ever seen.
The drone industry has been largely unaffected by this. There were products going out of stock and taking longer to be replenished, but overall - the impact was minimal. Except for Autel.
Due to component shortages, Autel was forced to release a new version of their products, the Evo II series and the Smart Controller. These new versions are incompatible with existing ones in the market. This might throw a dent in some drone operators’ programs who decided to invest in the “version 1” of Autel products, hoping for future compatibility. While the newly appointed CEO announced that the new versions will be improved with increased range and stability, the customers don’t seem too happy with this announcement.
This news mostly flew under the radar without a formal press announcement from Autel. With most press-outlets not covering this, you could’ve easily missed it. Subscribe to Propwash to make sure you don’t miss out on other news like this in the future
💰 The billion dollar club
There are only three drone companies that are valued at over a billion dollars - DJI ($15B), Skydio ($1B), and Zipline ($1.2B). The first two are product companies that manufacture drones for both the consumer and enterprise sector. Zipline builds their own drone for use in medicinal delivery. AgEagle came close to becoming a Unicorn when their stock price surged in the beginning of the year.
Soon, we might see a fourth player enter the club - Aerodyne group, the Malaysian drones-as-a-service (DaaS) company is rumored to raise $ 100M in a series C round and become a Unicorn. Aerodyne was recently ranked N0.2 in the drone service providers list by Drone Industry Insights in 2020.
What would a Unicorn service provider mean for the industry? For starters, it would signal a positive sign for the growth of drone applications. With enough time, hardware becomes a commodity and the value moves up the chain towards solutions that utilize drone hardware.
Drones are not yet commoditized hardware. Similar to how software ate the world and computer hardware was pushed to the sidelines to make room for the trillion dollar software industry, drone hardware will eventually not matter as much, with software and services that utilize drone applications becoming the dominant market players.
🔍 Downstream buzz
Other news from around the world:
🏰 The best of FPV
This week’s FPV pick is an incredible single-shot tour of the historic Glensheen mansion by the talented Jay Christensen. Watch below 👇
The Glensheen Experience
The Glensheen Experience
🏭 Not Drones
Every week I also share something unrelated to drones, but makes for an interesting read. This week’s curated pick is a deep dive on the behind-the-scenes of manufacturing a plastic case for an electronics product. The attention to detail is incredible.
Case manufacturing behind the scenes
🏁 Wrapping up
The drone space was a bit quiet this week. I’ve captured all the relevant bits I found interesting here and I hope you found it valuable. If you did, I’d love it if you shared it with your friends or colleagues. You can send them here to sign up or forward this email to them.
If you liked this issue, and want to discuss, reply to this mail. I answer every mail I receive. If you want to support Propwash, you can do that here.
Keep flying,
Did you enjoy this issue?
Nihal Mohan

Every week, I share the most important ideas, news and insights from all over the drone space and tell you what matters.

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