Intel Corp. gets two Part 107 waivers from FAA

By Patrick C. Miller | September 01, 2016

Questions about how well the waiver process worked and how fast waivers would be granted under the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Part 107 rule were at least partly answered Monday when the rule went into effect.

Intel Corp. received two of the 76 waivers the FAA announced during a news conference in Washington, D.C., with U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. According to Anil Nanduri, general manager of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for Intel’s perceptual computing group, the company received waivers for nighttime flights and to control a fleet of drones with a single pilot.

“Under the 107 rules, we have two waivers,” he said. “The speed at which the FAA has been working is amazing. We’re extremely pleased with the response from the FAA in processing our requests.”

Before the new rule for small UAS commercial operations was implemented, Intel had been going through the Section 333 exemption process, which Nanduri said was long and complex. The company needed exemptions for its Drone 100 project, which uses 100 drones controlled by a single computer to put on a complex light show. In the U.S., FAA regulations allowed the shows to occur during twilight only.

After the FAA released Part 107 last June, Nanduri said the agency reached out to Intel and asked it to apply for waivers under Part 107. He said the company didn’t know it would receive the waivers when Huerta announced them on Monday.

“We were pleasantly surprised that the day the rule went active, we got the waivers of approval,” Nanduri said. “I have to commend the FAA and the ability they demonstrated with this. They not only took a risk-based approach, but they also pushed the envelope of innovation in the United States. I think that’s the leadership the FAA is trying to exemplify to prove that they’re moving in the right direction.”

While Nanduri couldn’t say when a Drone 100 light show would be held in the U.S. under Intel’s new waivers, he did say the company is working on it. He also pointed out that the same UAS technology used for Drone 100 has uses extending far beyond entertainment.

“The applications in the future using technologies like this are enormous,” he explained. “We see the potential of a capability like this as far reaching.”

For example, using a fleet of drones to search a broad area for survivors following a disaster would be faster and more efficient with a fleet of drones controlled by a single operator. A fleet of drones equipped with thermal sensors could look for a lost hiker at night. Nanduri said infrastructure inspection was another potential application.

“The technology behind it is being able to have a fleet of drones being controlled by a single pilot; that’s what drives this capability,” he said. “Our vision is to take this forward with not just hundreds of drones, but maybe even thousands.”


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