Drones Receive Section 333 Exemption
The FAA is taking a sometimes frustratingly incremental approach
to UAS integration into US airspace. In general, to obtain the required
Special Airworthiness Certificate for civil operations, "applicants must
be able to describe how their system is designed, constructed, and
manufactured, including engineering processes, software development
and control, configuration management, and quality assurance
procedures used, along with how and where they intend to fly."
(Rumors that you also need to promise them your first-born are
unconfirmed.) However, there is also the Section 333 Exemption,
providing fast-track approval for operations in low risk controlled
environments, and one was recently granted to Sky-Futures USA, Inc.
www.sky-futures.com) to conduct oil and gas inspections.
The company's Ascending Technologies Falcon 8 drone is already
performing the task elsewhere for such oil and gas companies as
Talisman, Chevron, Conoco Philips, Apache, and others, and reportedly
has logged 8,500+ hours providing live flare, structural, and under-deck inspections onshore and offshore. Using collected HD video, stills,
and thermal imagery data, technical reports are written by in-house
experts. By eliminating the risks and costs of sending out rope-climbers
to do the job, Sky-Futures claims to offer savings of more than $4
million for offshore inspections. Reducing oil spills and other disasters
isn't a bad feature, either. Sky-Futures' Falcon 8 drone in operation.
by Jeff and Jenn Eckert
Automatic Solar Duster
Another bot that is taking over a job that is
difficult and expensive for human beings is the
www.ecoppia.com) E4 Water-Free
Solar Panel Cleaning Robot. Each unit is self-powered and uses a self-maintained, water-free
microfiber and airflow system that removes a
claimed 99 percent of dust accumulation — even
in harsh desert solar parks. Operation is fully
automated, and the system includes
"comprehensive monitoring and management
The robots move along a rigid aluminum
frame using polyurethane-coated wheels to
provide smooth movement with no load on the
solar panel’s surface. Each robot is powered by
five electric motors that provide horizontal,
vertical, and rotational movement. To maintain smooth upward and downward movement, the E4 robot
uses a winch system with two flexible coated silicon rubber wires that operate angularly from opposite
sides of the winch cylinder to the center point of the microfiber cylinder frame.
Cleaning is performed at a pace of 108 ft2 per minute and typically takes place during the early
hours to avoid shading during electricity generation hours. There is, of course, a video. Just search
"ecoppia" at You Tube.
Ecoppia's E4 solar panel cleaning robot.
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