Vapor35 drone

Phoenix Air has been authorized to use the Vapor35 drone for commercial applications. (Contributed image)

Cartersville-based Phoenix Air is the first Georgia firm to be authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration to operate commercial drones. The FAA has issued only 66 such permits.

Will Lovett, managing director for UNMANNED Systems at Phoenix Air, said the company plans to use two types of drones: the Pulse Vapor 35 and Vulcan Octo. Each has its own unique package of applications.

The Vulcan Octo’s pivot supports make it particularly appropriate for cinematography.

“It’s a platform that has a gimbaled camera and has a very stable platform for video work,” Lovett said. “The Vapor 35 has a good platform for multiple uses — for agriculture, for surveying inspections, for taking still images and other high-definition video that is not used for commercial purposes.

“It’s just not as stabilized as the Octocopter is,” he added.

Lovett said the agricultural uses for the Vapor 35 might include getting images of crops and using sensors to allow the farmer to see specific crop areas that may need fertilizers or extra water.

“You can tell where you might have an infestation in specific areas so you don’t have to apply pesticides across the whole crop,” he said. “That would save fertilizer and prevent expensive waste on the part of the farmer.”

Japan has been using drone technology to apply pesticides for years, Lovett said, and some U.S. colleges are developing similar techniques.

Phoenix Air has leased approximately 10 acres from Bartow County, about five miles east of the Cartersville-Bartow County Airport, for an unmanned aviation systems training center. In addition to training its pilots and staff there, the company will demonstrate drone applications for prospective customers.

Lovett said that Phoenix Air is requiring their UNMANNED operators to hold a regular FAA pilot’s license and medical certificate.

The Vapor 35 and Vulcan Octo each weigh less than 55 pounds. They will not be operated at speeds faster than 100 miles per hour and won’t fly higher than 400 feet.

“Phoenix Air has been on the cutting edge of many facets of aviation since the early 1980s and we see unmanned aircraft as the new frontier for us,” company president Mark Thompson said.

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