The International Organization of Standards (ISO) released its approved drone standards earlier this month, providing the industry in Canada with some important guidance around production quality and security.
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“As an industry, standards are a very important part of the sector as it matures. Being able to have a more international set of standards will certainly assist in growth,” said Philip Reece, the chief executive officer of the British Columbia-based firm InDro Robotics. “Many of the smaller companies – and that is the majority of the market – look to the regulators and industry groups… to disseminate and educate on the regulations as they change and standards as they come out.”
Developed over a 12-month period of research and consultations with drone professionals, academics, businesses, and the general public, the standards currently cover issues including safety, security, production quality, and operating etiquette.
In the future, the ISO says it plans to release standards on product systems and vocabulary, and Robert Garbett, who convened the ISO working group responsible for these standards, said that these standards will provide the industry with an increased level of legitimacy.
That increased legitimacy also leads to investment dollars, said Garbett.
“The standards will deliver a new confidence among investors in the safety, security, and compliance of commercial drone operations, which together with the product manufacturer and maintenance standards, is in turn expected to facilitate a massive expansion in the availability and use of drone technology in the years to come,” he noted in a press release.
It wouldn’t hurt for Canada to adopt its own set of Canadian standards that align with its unique set of circumstances, like extreme weather and remote locations, he added.
“Investment certainly follows stability and standards are a building block of stability,” said Reece. “The adoption of these standards in my industry will, I believe, be dependent on how relevant they are to Canada. We have a particular set of needs here in use of airspace (we have lots of remote areas class G), in inspection types – large static infrastructure (forestry, pipelines, roads, power lines) and equipment needs to be adaptable to long-range and adverse weather – and operations and flying in Canada has its own set of challenges. Standards that are too broad won’t address these particular Canadian challenges and benefits.”
The ISO standards are not the complete solution, but their crucial for an industry that has already grown so quickly said Reece.
That rapid growth sometimes leads to quality reduction. It’s happening in the vaping industry, as sub-par products flooded the market and put users at risk of serious health issues, he pointed out.
“Quality and safety of equipment is always a concern in a rapidly developing technology,” he explained. “And to be useful and have longevity, standards must embrace these changes. What may appear impractical or even impossible today, could be commonplace within a year or two. It will be innovation that keeps Canada at the forefront of the industry, and to be useful standards will have to recognize that balance between innovation and established quality.”
Canadian standards are on the horizon though, he said, pointing to the Canadian Standards Agency which recently commissioned to look into the specific needs of Canada and where the existing standards fail to meet those unique needs.