Big news in the drone world — the Federal Aviation Administration recently granted Texas-based drone builder Hylio a regulatory exemption that will allow it to swarm its heavy-lift drones with only one operator in control.

Hylio co-founder and CEO Arthur Erickson says the development was a case of regulations catching up with existing technology and promises a 3-fold increase in productivity for drone operators applying material to crops, plus a significant reduction in their labor requirements.

“If the drone was over 55 pounds, you would need not only just a pilot per drone, but also a second person, which was called the visual observer. It's kind of ludicrous. If you had three drones out in an operation, you would need six people, which is counter to the entire logic of drones. They're called drones for a reason, meaning they go fly autonomously. You would want to force multiply what a single operator could do and have them use multiple drones.
“So, law is finally caught up to the logic of the technology. It's one operator now able to command three drones. One person, three drones. Instead of one drone doing 50 acres per hour, now you have 50 acres per hour times three, 150 acres per hour per operator, is legally possible. It's a huge jump. The math is simple, it's a 3x boost in productivity.”

Currently the exemption applies only to Hylio and its products, but Erickson says the FAA will soon codify a general set of requirements to include other manufacturers of such drones.