12 Drones of Christmas

By Mike Hainsey, Executive Director
Golden Triangle Regional Airport

Reason #8 to get a drone: Capture useful video of emergency exercises

I’m writing this prior to Christmas, so you have to live with the holiday pun.  Drones are continuing to grow in popularity, and this year the predictions are to once again sell over 1 million during the holiday season.  The difference this year is that drones are now moving quickly out of the “toy” realm and into areas that make them tools at airports of all sizes.  Recently, at a AAAE conference, representatives from Atlanta, Dallas and Memphis airports participated in a panel where they showed how their airports were using drones effectively. 

In keeping with the season, here are 12 ways that we have found drones can be used at airports of all sizes:

  1. Pictures – The easiest one. They take great shots.
  2. Wildlife – The second easiest. Scare birds, find coyotes, check out habitats like ponds.
  3. Security – Check gates, fences, parking lots. Respond where there might be a problem.
  4. Airfield inspections – Markings, RSAs during the rainy season, drainage.
  5. Construction – Monitor and document ongoing construction projects.
  6. Engineering – GIS, aerial mapping, line of sight calculations and more.
  7. Facility inspections – When is the last time you were on the roof of your oldest hangar?
  8. Training – Videos of ARFF exercises, aircraft servicing, drivers training, special operations.
  9. Emergency response – Would you like HD videos of a crash, fuel spill or active shooter beamed direct to your EOC?
  10. Marketing properties – Closely related to #1. Even the most basic drone has geosynced mapping capabilities to show properties from any angle you want.
  11. Community education – Use your drone expertise to bring drone users together to discuss the rules (they change every 6 months), hazardous flight areas and other safety topics.
  12. STEM – I got excited about aviation by flying a balsa wood plane. With a shortage of pilots, maintainers, air traffic controllers and aircraft manufacturing workers, what better way to introduce kids at an early age to the fun of being in the air?

So, there you are – pick from the list.  We have tested all of these at GTR with a $400 drone, and now we are moving up to more capable craft.  It makes one think, if the largest airports in the country can do it, why can’t you?  Give it a try!