Frequent accidents of drone crashing in airports previously have drawn the public’s attention to drone safety. For the sake of safety, some media pointed out that the government should enforce the drone license to keep drone flight under strict supervision. Some aerial photography fans also appeal for self-disciplined flight. There are also professionals from an economic perspective worrying that the “across-the-board” restrictions might ruin the whole drone industry.

Well, what we talk about when we talk about drone safety?

What a drone means to us on earth?

Most people tend to view drone safety from the perspective of model aircrafts. They think that flying drones is just a hobby and it should be strictly regulated for the sake of safety. Well, are pilots with drone licenses really safer than beginners? From an economic perspective, is the drone industry really similar to the toy industry?
Amazon drone

Though China has been leading the way in global civilian drones, most people still treat drones as “model aircrafts”. How’s the situation in Europe and American area? Just take a look at the disputes on drone regulation between Amazon and the American government in recent years, you can know that they don’t take drones merely as “model aircrafts” and they put much more emphasis on the “automation” of drones.

“Drones” add enormous automation functions to traditional model aircrafts, so they are both “model aircrafts” and “robot”. Thanks to artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, drones have realized many automation functions, such as auto stabilization, auto obstacle avoidance, flight route management and one-click Return to Home (RTH). (See the photo below)

Though pilots can still directly operate their drones at present, they can only control part of the functions because most of the functions can be realized through computers—we can even preset the flight routes and tasks so that pilots don’t need any operations after the drones take off.

The key to understanding drone safety is not that it is a “model aircraft” but that it is a “robot”.

Drones are more than a business.

Many people attribute the importance of civilian drone industry to China’s leading role in the world. But actually drone industry matters not only for economic factors.

Civilian drone industry is more than a toy industry. It is the practice and application of top technologies for robots, AI, chip and wireless transmission and automation in aerospace. Just think about where these top technologies are applied on ground.
Autopliot Driving
This is an Autopliot Driving car (photo above).

Self-driving cars has become a hotly contested spot for different countries. Self-driving cars can turn the city into a completely automatic one and the patented technology and standards involved will become the blood transfusion tube for the whole smart city in the future. Hence, the applications of automation technology on ground are strategically crucial for every country.

Since the automation technology on ground matters so much for countries’ development, what role does aerial automation technology play in future smart city? According to Samsung’s SmartThings Future Living Report, drones are also an important part of smart cities apart from their aerial photography functions.
Samsung predicts the world of 2016

Are aerial drones just model aircrafts? According to Ford Motors who has been endeavoring to develop self-driving cars and smart cities in the United States in recent years, aerial drones are more than model aircrafts. And Ford Motors has joined hands with DJI on developing a linkage between drones and self-driving cars. (See photo below)

At present, 3D Robotics, Qualcomm and Intel compete to become the “Android in the sky”. According to the Nikkei Business Daily report, Japan is also joining the battle for drones’ industrial standards and strategic area in the sky. Even though China is leading the way in global civilian drones at present, our knowledge of drones are greatly lagging behind others.

Is it really necessary to abandon China’s civilian drone industry just for the sake of “drone safety”? In this case, we are not merely giving up a 10-billion US Dollars industry, but our important strategic advantages in the sky.

Why does a drone crash into an airport?

Let get back to the drone safety. How to avoid a drone crash in the airport? Is it enough to set the No-Fly Zone, or enforce a drone license?

But the question is actually: why does a drone crash into an airport?

There have been strict regulations long before prohibiting drone flight near an airport, but we still cannot avoid such accidents. So “lack of regulations” is not the key answer to this mistake.

Today’s drones are very advanced and easy to operate. Most people are aware of the No-Fly Zone near an airport. So “lack of a drone license” is not the key answer to this mistake, either.

According to an article on iFanr, drones should be regulated, but it’s hard. The reason is that the small-size and agile drones are difficult to be observed or banned. Besides, drones are quite easy to operate, even a child can learn how to operate in 15 minutes, making it hard for law enforcement agencies to enforce a drone license.
hawk kill drone

Do you really think that No-fly Zones can prevent such accidents? If a drone license works, there wouldn’t be people studying the anti-drone system or even planning to track and catch drones with trained eagles. (Photo above)

The sky is not like a road where enormous light signals and road signs are set, so it’s difficult to guide the pilots to plan their flight routes. The most effective way at present is to make use of drones’ intelligent technology—set a Geo Fencing in the sky through GPS positioning. However, this method depends on the condition that the civil aviation agencies set the No-fly Zone and the drone companies manage the Geo Fencing.

In short, drone safety is not about “regulations”, but about management.

Car accidents are also dangerous. So should we ban automobiles on the road to avoid car accidents? Traffic safety requires for proper management, thorough road planning and reasonable regulatory guides instead of a sweeping approach. Even so, we can only reduce drunk driving, overspeed driving and reckless driving.
Autonomous Intersection in Action

As proper management is of vital importance for traffic safety, self-driving cars have drawn much attention from the science and technology field because only the most advanced self-driving technology can avoid drunk, overspeed and reckless driving and properly manage automobile. (Photo above)

Similarly, the key to drone safety is drone management: even though the government set No-fly Zone across the country, it can only be carried out through intelligent drone technology.

If we can realize precise no-fly area, why not carry out precise drone management? Why civil aviation agencies don’t cooperate with drone companies to make powerful and intelligent drones avoid airplanes’ flight routes more effectively? Why should we recklessly turn an area of about 1000 square meters into a No-fly Zone? Moreover, even some skyscrapers are higher than the 300-meter flight height limit for drones.

Maybe we won’t ever get the answers. We are underestimating the drone industry by treating drones as “model aircrafts”. No one attempts to cooperate with drone companies to involve drones into the civil aviation management system (Photo above).

If we cannot even manage drones properly, how could we forbid drones in No-fly Zone?

In this case, do you still think drones are just “model aircrafts”?

In 2017, DJI plans to apply the ADS-B aviation management system (photo below) in its drones. Yet those who have been bragging about distinguishing drones from “model aircrafts” are sneering at DJI’s ADS-B solutions now: “it costs too much”, “no one will use” and “it is just a fancy”. Yet many have forgotten about FAA’s expressly agreed term: in 2020, all civil passenger planes must install the ADS-B system.

We are not sure when the ADS-B system will be popularized, but we are sure that it’s the future for both aviation management and smart cities. If we only start to join the ADS-B OUT after it’s universally used on civil airplanes, the drones will lag far behind the aviation management and continue to be underestimated by most people.

In addition, if we still think of drones as “model aircrafts”, we will probably be kicked out by European and American countries from the drone industry.