Valley business approved to fly drones

Drones are an exciting and emerging technology, but where and how they will be used is still somewhat in the air.

The Federal Aviation Administration is in the process of drafting regulations for the devices.

One valley company has been given the green light from the FAA to fly their drones. It's a new type of business just taking flight, using the drones to take pictures and video from the air for inspections and survey work.

So far, only two companies in the State of Arizona have been approved to use drones for business. Industrial Aerobotics is one of them. 

The company operates a fleet of eight drones, all equipped with cameras. They offer birds-eye images, photos, and video for commercial use.

The owner is getting his new venture off the ground, now that the FAA cleared the way for him to launch.

"It is really a replacement technology," said John Wolcott.

Drones could eventually replace utility workers in certain areas. John Wolcott started the company last year, using camera equipped drones to get to hard to reach, and typically dangerous places, like above power lines and electric towers.

"Today they will roll bucket trucks, lots of up close and personal inspections, it is a very risky thing that they're doing, where now we can do it much safer," said Wolcott.

Wolcott has a commercial pilot's license, and has previously worked as a computer engineering architect for a local utility company.

Now he's piloting and engineering robotic aircraft to do surveys and inspections, services that he is marketing to utility companies and realtors who can hire him to get aerial images of properties for sale.

Because they have FAA approval they cannot fly these drones just anywhere, they have to abide by privacy regulations.

"We have to get approval of the exact locations we are going to fly," he said.

FAA regulations also limit what the data can be used for, and how long it can be stored for.

Industrial Aerobotics is only the second Arizona company to get the green light from the FAA. 

"As far as aerial surveying of non real estate we're the only one in Arizona approved," said Wolcott.

He's hoping his concept will take off.

This week the FAA granted permits to fly commercial drones to 45 companies across the United States. The FAA rules are; they can only operate during the day, the pilot must have visual line of sight of the drone; and they must avoid airports.
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