Almost every week, it seems, there is a new small UAV story involving spectacular footage shot by drones, new uses of multicopters, or even wedding proposals via RPAS. Whatever the name (UAV/RPAS or even ‘drone’) this pioneering sector is one of the fastest growing and most dynamic in aviation .
Just in the UK, there are now 483 registered operators and, by the time this appears in print, may have even nudged over 500. What is more is that the explosion of civil uses and public interest in RPAS, means that even the dreaded D-word — ‘drone’ no longer mentally conjures up an armed Predator. Today drones (mainly multicopter types) have gone mainstream — and there are predictions that civil UAS could be a trillion dollar industry by 2032.
However, the fast growth of the sector, combined with tiny manufacturers and the hobbyist background has meant, until very recently, that this industry has had a fragmented voice when it comes to getting its message out and influencing decision-makers. Small UAV operators and builders were overshadowed somewhat by being lumped in with giant OEMs such as BAE Systems, General Atomics, Northrop Grumman et al, whose unmanned products were generally of a different size, payload and end user.
This has changed with the formation of ARPAS-UK (Association of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems) a dedicated professional trade organisation for the small commercial UAS industry. Says its Chairman Philip Tarry: “When I took over the Association from its predecessor, it was known as the Sub-20 Organisation. It was an organisation set up to represent primarily the small operators, who had previously never been given a voice. It was when I attended the conference at the Royal Aeronautical Society that I noticed that the smaller operators did not have quite the same recognition or visibility as the more traditional aviation sectors.” The aim of ARPAS, he says is: “To drive, essentially, unifying the voice of the industry to help the sector grow, and grow safely — both in terms of how it operates and how the public perceive it.”
ARPAS membership has grown swiftly to nearly 200 members since it was set up nearly two years ago. Only a year ago there were around 20 — a sign of its growing stature.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com