The Army is all in with unmanned aircraft. Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), is what they're called. "Well, the anticipated outcome from the industry is very, very large. The main reason is because if you can think it, a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) can probably do it,"says Taylor Abingdon one of four members of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems unit at Huntsville's Avion Solutions.
Taylor is talking about why four ex-helicopter guys are now work every day with small unmanned aircraft. The Unit at Avion has been around for about a year and a half. "We saw a vacant space between the military and the hobbyist, and what we saw was that commercial space. There was no one there," says Avion's Dan Carbone.
Now there is a company involved in the unmanned aircraft business. Avion provides training and program development services. The unit also provides data collection. That includes flying camera's above Huntsville Utilities and TVA equipment looking for problems. It's the sort of work that used to be the job for manned helicopters only. Unmanned systems offer advantages. "It causes less risk. You know there's less fuel on board. There's no pilot, there's no passenger. No one is going to get hurt if you have an accident in one of these."
Preventing accidents is one reason Avion Solutions is part of the effort to develop international standards for unmanned aircraft. Standards that may have to change in coming years, because the industry certainly is. "The initial aircraft that we had, the unregistered aircraft that we have are so out of date, we had to downgrade them to training. I've never seen technology grow so fast in such a short time," says Avion's Michael Winchester.
The guys on the UAS unit at Avion don't worry much about the change. They believe they're part of it.