Local real estate company The Dobbins Company, doing business as Sky Sight Imaging, has just obtained one of a precious few permits from the FAA to operate a “commercial unmanned aerial vehicle.” In layman’s terms, a drone.
The company says it’s only the third permit to be granted in Georgia, and fewer than 250 have been issued nationwide.
The petitioner, Richard Dobbins, is a hobbyist with over 100 hours of experience operating drones, and over 600 hours of experience operating Cessna and Piper aircraft as an FAA-licensed private pilot.
Sky Sight will use two drones it owns to perform aerial real estate inspections. In the future, Dobbins said he may branch out to conduct agricultural work and infrastructure inspections, for example examining the understructure of bridges.
Drones appear to have limitless business uses beyond their military origins. Some – package delivery, for one – could help relieve traffic congestion by taking delivery trucks off the road. The aircrafts could also be used to monitor traffic conditions.
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International estimates the unmanned aircraft industry could generate 2,880 jobs in Georgia by 2025, yielding roughly $280 million in economic impact.
This week, the association is holding an Unmanned Systems 2015 conference at the Georgia World Congress Center.
“It’s amazing,” said Dobbins, who telephoned from the conference on Wednesday afternoon. “They’ve got almost 4,000 square feet of nothing but drone people. A lot of military, a lot of commercial stuff. But this is the center of the drone universe at the moment.”
Only a handful of commercial drones may be allowed to operate in Georgia now. However by next year, there will probably be hundreds, and close to 2,000 nationwide, Dobbins said.
Also Wednesday, the FAA announced a partnership with CNN to use drones for newsgathering purposes.
When it comes to drones, it seems, the sky is not the limit.