The FAA has approved the first test procedures developed at Virginia Tech to verify compliance with new standards for a feature critical to the drone industry’s expansion: the ability to fly these aircraft over humans. The FAA’s publication of a rule enabling Flight over people late last year was a long-awaited sign of progress in a field where technological capabilities has sometimes outpaced regulatory permits.
The rule’s symbolic significance is enhanced by the official acceptance of test techniques, which is known in the industry as a way of compliance. The rule clarified what it takes to operate over people. It also solidifies Virginia Tech’s position as a leader in drone integration as the industry’s regulatory paradigm transforms to allow for more frequent Flight. The achievement is the latest in a long-running collaboration between the MAAP test site and injury biomechanics scientists in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics at the University of Michigan.
(Take, for example, wedding photography or urban delivery operations.) It’s also a key component of flying beyond visual line of sight, which is a growing industry focus: If you can’t see the drone, you can’t be sure there aren’t people underneath it.