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Coming Soon: Chief Delivery Drone Officer

In the United States, more and more parcel commercial delivery drones are buzzing around us. Chief Delivery Drone Officers are not yet commonplace on the corporate c-level roster. They will be here to satisfy the growing need for managing and governing delivery drones for commercial use (eventually in the nation’s airspace).

DHL parcelcopter

DHL parcelcopter

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has taken steps to ensure risks of delivery drones are properly regulated and mitigated. On August 29, 2016, the first regulations went into effect for the commercial use of drones. The rules aim at opening pathways toward fully integrating drones into the nation’s airspace.

At present time, drones must fly during daylight or civil twilight, within the sight of a licensed human operator on the ground under 100 mph, and no higher than 400 feet. They must weigh less than 55 pounds (including payloads).

FAA granted permission for HorseFly to fly to remote locations from the roof of the WorkHorse electric truck, which serves as the mobile base for human operators. The agency approved 7-Eleven to use Flirtey drones to deliver convenience foods to a local customer’s home. Chris Walach, director of operations for the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) posted that residential safety and privacy were integrated into flight procedures.

These regulations remain a work in progress as developers work toward the right combination of usefulness and safety. It's no easy task. Presently, Amazon and Walmart would not meet visual line-of-sight (VLoS) requirements. It is not possible for a drone to be within the sight of a human operator during the entire flight from a warehouse to a customer’s home. The good news is that the FAA allows businesses and retailers submit waivers for review.

Creating a chief delivery drone officer will help broaden tasks including waiver submissions that other CXOs would find burdensome. The potential benefits of a chief delivery drone officer are many:

Collision-avoidance research. The officer must establish a collision-avoidance research group focusing on the design of the human operator’s console and the drone’s automation controls. The human operator must respond instantaneously to an alert from a flying drone when it detects an unusual activity in the air. If the alert indicates that a bird or another unexpected object is heading toward the drone, the operator hits a properly configured button to get the drone out of the way. Once the bird disappears, the operator hits another button to return the drone to the original flight path.

Broad regulatory compliance. The officer must comply with laws and federal regulations affecting airspace rights, robotics safety, procurement, anti-human trafficking, drone payloads, and pilot license requirements. He must follow procedures on submitting waivers. This requires planning ahead on managing multiple reporting requirements including deadlines (planned and unplanned).

Deep tier supplier visibility. The officer must be able to identify deep tier suppliers. A third-tier drone parts supplier should not be the single source for the multiple suppliers in the second tier. When the single source in a low lying area stops operating due to massive flash floods, the suppliers in the lower tiers not in the same disaster area will experience delays in getting the parts from a different source. The officer must plan ahead on the availability of suppliers in the third tier in case of a disaster.

Does your organization have a CDDO? Do you think this is a position that most organizations will need someday? Let us know in the comments section below.

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