As UK regulations tighten around drone safety, Andy Johnson, head of product and solutions management at business technology solutions provider Brother UK, explains how monocular head mounted display (HMD) technology is helping commercial drone pilots to comply with regulation, and to position drones while viewing camera feeds simultaneously.
Regulatory bodies have fallen behind the UK’s rapidly expanding drone industry in recent years. But last month’s new drone laws coming into force was a sign that authorities are beginning to step up the pace – much to the delight of commercial drone pilots, with many in the industry rightly believing that more regulation can only be a good thing.
But as the rules for flying drones become stricter in the interest of safety, it places more pressure on pilots to conform with regulation. This is often easier said than done, especially when it comes to rule number one – always keep sight of your drone.
The problem is leading drone pilots towards a 19th century inspired solution to this very modern issue – the monocle.
Keeping sight of drones is more formally stipulated in CAA regulations (Article 94-3), which outlines that the person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft must maintain direct, unaided visual contact with the aircraft sufficient to monitor its flight path in relation to other aircraft, persons, vehicles, vessels and structures for the purpose of avoiding collisions.
It’s keeping direct, unaided visual contact, which is often tricky. For pilots that are viewing camera feeds via a controller screen it’s almost impossible to check the display while simultaneously keeping sight of the drone. Likewise, full headsets offer no peripheral vision, and pilots are stuck flipping HDMs off and on to monitor drone positioning and sight through the craft’s camera. Each option would technically defy Article 94-3 in its most literal sense.
Now, reliable, professional-grade plug and play monocular HMDs are readily available in the UK. Brother’s range, the AiRScouter series, was launched here earlier this year. It’s since found a strong footing amongst drone professionals in various sectors who want a solution to the craft or camera feed viewing dilemma to comply with regulation and to boost performance.
In drone inspection applications, like utilities, for example, monocular HDMs like the AiRScouter are allowing pilots to closely inspect phone masts while carefully manoeuvring drones to avoid damage to important infrastructure. What’s more is that the drone’s telemetry data can be reviewed at all times.
Meanwhile, in video production, drones are often used to capture sweeping shots of settings or to follow moving subjects like in motorsports. The ability to view a drone position and camera feed simultaneously offers users the means to get the best shots while safely flying the drone around its environment.
As monocles allow pilots to keep constant sight of their drone, it also helps them to comply with other rules in the ‘dronecode’ such as keeping crafts below 400ft – which is set to come into UK law in the near future.
The importance of health and safety will no doubt grow in tandem with the fast expansion of the drone industry. Anybody piloting a drone, either recreationally or commercially, has to take full responsibility for ensuring that they do so safely. Tools like monocular HDMs are one way in which we can achieve this, not least to protect people and property, but to comply with an increasingly enforced rulebook.