Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Commercial Drone Industry Expands In Jacksonville

Bonnie Zerr

Aviation Systems Engineering Co. in Jacksonville will launch its commercial unmanned systems, or drone, program on June 15.

The FAA gave ASEC approval to use drones for commercial use in May.

There are several ways to utilize drones other than for military operations. Alternative uses include film production, agricultural monitoring and finding victims in search and rescue missions.

During an appearance on WJCT's “First Coast Connect,” Brent Klavon, a program manager for ASEC, talked about upcoming commercial applications for drone technology.

“ASEC believes that there’s a market out there and there’s a need, and part of the need is still not met by using these small unmanned systems,” Klavon said.

Inspecting crops, bridge monitoring and cell tower inspections are some examples of possibilities within this market says Klavon.

However, he also says the FAA has some technical challenges with integrating drones into the sky.

“In a manned aircraft you have a pilot, and they can use their eyes for see and avoid purposes,” Klavon said. “So they see something. They maneuver to avoid it. That doesn’t exist in a drone.”

He says flying a drone is a two-person job. It takes one person to operate the drone and another to watch the airspace for any invaders.

Privacy is another issue surrounding the commercial use of drones.

“Yes, people have a right to their privacy,” Klavon said. “We think there’s an expectation that these things could be used ethically and not invade people’s privacy.”

Florida passed a bill in May which prohibits using drones to take photos of people or private property without written consent.

Klavon says he believes the law is too strict.

“We think that the law’s going to have to be opened up again in the next session and re-attacked on the First Amendment for all our companies to use these things safely and smartly,” Klavon said.

He says he would like to see more drones used for search and rescue operations, but the law makes it difficult for law enforcement agencies to have access to them.

“There’s only one law enforcement agency in the state, that’s Polk County Sheriff’s Office, that has a drone with approval from the FAA,” Kalvon said.

Klavon says drones with thermal sensors can detect victims more rapidly in rescue situations.

“We’d love to reach out and continue the and collaborate with others to see how we can ethically use these in the area,” Klavon said.

Klavon says the drone community will continue to grow in Northeast Florida.

Listen to the full conversation with the panel on Wednesday’s episode of the First Coast Connect podcast on iTunes.