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Enterprise drone use makes gains, but safety questions remain

Drone use for business purposes is proliferating, but some people remain skeptical of drones' commercial value and even consider them a nuisance. This perception is quickly changing, however, as people realize how much value drones have in the digital economy, according to Anil Nanduri, vice president at Intel Corp. and general manager of the company's drone group. Nanduri spoke with SearchCIO at the recent InterDrone conference, where he gave an overview of the barriers currently hindering enterprise drone adoption.

In this video, he discusses how drone regulations are evolving to allow commercial use and elucidates why development of a drone traffic management system should be a top priority to create safer skies.

What are the biggest inhibitors to enterprise drone adoption and why?

Anil Nanduri: There are a couple of things: Drones get into the airspace, and airspace safety is the No. 1 critical aspect. We need to make sure that the drones are entering into the airspace in a framework that we all feel comfortable with. The FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] Part 107 rule, especially for the commercial industry, has been great. It at least gives us a framework. The framework allows both the FAA and industries to work together, and you can request for waivers to the rules. You have a baseline and, I think, it's become a huge proponent in some aspects, but there's lot more to be done.

Once people realize the value drones bring, it reduces the barrier of public perception and creates a demand.
Anil Nandurivice president, Intel Corp.

Now, how do you manage when you have hundreds of thousands of drones in the sky? You need traffic management systems. That's why NASA is working with the [Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Traffic Management] task force. It's an industry-government collaboration on how you bring something like that to fruition. Things have to change from the way we do air traffic control today because there are only 300,000 planes, but we expect a lot more drones out in the skies.

The other aspect of it is whether the drones are safe and self-aware. Can they safely fly around people and over people? Those technologies still have to evolve, especially for some applications where it's required that you are flying close to urban areas. There's still a lot of work from the technology regulation perspective, as well as perception of how people look at drones. For some people, the noise of a drone is bothersome, but it's always about new technology adoption and it evolves once they understand the value of it.

We have to get past these barriers, but the potential value of drones in the new digital economy is amazing. We already know that the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International predicts the UAS industry to create over $80 billion in economic opportunity over the next decade. If you're doing an inspection, you can see how complex it is to do it today and how drones can simplify it. It's clearly a huge value creation that drones are bringing. Once people realize the value drones bring, it reduces the barrier of public perception and creates a demand. They would then like to see it deployed, [so that] accelerates it. What we see in the industry right now is that enterprise drone adoption is accelerating and everyone is actually excited. We just need to bring it together in a safe way.

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