Smoke from the Miranda Canyon Fire
Smoke from the Miranda Canyon Fire

Hi all –

I like to think that you read Dronin’ On for my sparkling insights and commentary, so this week I am going to tweak a few sacred cows.

But first a shout out to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) for making the White House OSTP Workshop on Drones and the Future of Aviation a big success. A very ambitious agenda was announced bringing together the public and private sector in a way that covers a lot of bases. Plenty to keep lots of people busy. Interesting write-up here from a government
IT perspective.

Take a look at Project Wing Heads To UAS Test Site – one of many announcements made at the event. This is a giant step forward with the team cleared to test to 29,000 feet.

Another oh-by-the-way announcement – the FAA says that 500,000 people have now registered. The headline erroneously reported this as a half million drones, in fact no one has any idea how many drones are registered or are flying with the same unique number.

Of course you can’t please everybody…

Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass) is calling for additional privacy safeguards. “While I am pleased that the White House continues its efforts to safely integrate drones into our national airspace, when it comes to drone privacy, we are still essentially flying blind. We need to put privacy rules on the books now before more and more drones take flight over our heads and backyards.”

The details of how to actually do this are put into sharp relief with A DJI Forced Into SF Bay Puts The Focus On Privacy. It’s a story out of Silicon Valley about a DJI drone photographing over a corporate campus which was mysteriously forced into San Francisco Bay. It is a well researched story, and the first one that I have read that suggests that electronic countermeasures are already being deployed by corporations. My commentary touches on the complexity of the issue over which both the FAA and the FCC have jurisdiction…

Next up is an announcement about ADS-B from DJI and uAvionix. uAvionix has a nifty new micro unit we’ve covered before – DJI’s piece of this is that it hooks into their existing SDK (software development kit.) The unit is touted as a “collision avoidance” tool that will aid integration into the NAS. And in fact, ADS-B is being evaluated for use in the UTM.

But the ADS-B story is considerably more complex.

In 2010, the FAA mandated that by 2020 ADS-B must be installed on any aircraft operating above 10,000’. Which immediately begs the question of when and where drones which are not to exceed 400’AGL, and planes flying over 10,000’, will run into each other. (Sorry about that, too easy to resist.) Hmm. Both Google and Amazon’s delivery plans depend on ADS-B. And Google just got permission to test to 29,000’. And the ground stations were completed in 2014.

But the plot thickens. According to Avionics, a publication that studies these things, there is simply not enough money or manpower to get the hardware installed in the 100,000 airplanes capable of operating at 10,000’ in time to meet the deadline. More about that here. Including some questions about what the FAA is going to do besides ground tens of thousands of planes. No easy answers.

The AMA Government Relations Blog is still claiming that one has to be an AMA member to fly under 336. This is not true, something that guest poster Frank Mellott addressed last week as does the FAA registration site. The most interesting part of this post is a copy of their correspondence with the FAA saying that they can set altitudes (AGL) above 400’.

I cannot understand why the FAA wants to introduce a variable like that when the ink on Part 107 is not even dry. Come to think of it, I don’t understand why a modeler who pays $5 and doesn’t even take a test, should be able to fly under different rules.

Other special interest groups continue to lobby for special treatment. Industry Lobbyists Block Drone Rules In California is based on a front-page story in the Los Angeles Times (circulation 955,319). What is disturbing is CA Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson’s assertion that the tech industry was unwilling to sit down at the table to develop and participate. Brendan Schulman, VP Policy at DJI makes the same old disingenuous “patchwork quilt” argument. Hello – the patchwork is firmly in place and growing. It is not going away.

One or more unnamed lobbyists also noted that since nothing bad has happened, drone owners should not be required to have insurance. Hello again, since the FAA has not mandated insurance, the states will. No commercial operator will be able to work without it. There is a growing body of evidence that drones can hurt people…

Here’s my thing. Why shouldn’t people who fly drones have to pay attention to local rules just like people who want to drive cars or go fishing do? Why shouldn’t people who want to sell drone services have to provide the same insurance that any plumber who works on your toilet does?

I honestly don’t get it. And I don’t see how it helps the cause.

The more special interests argue for exceptionalism, the greater the risk of public backlash. It’s time to think about the long term.

Go Team USA. Bring home the gold and leave the zika behind.

Thanks for reading and for sharing.


Christopher Korody
follow me @dronewriter

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.