clouds over Taos Mountain
Clouds over the mountain

Hi all –

I’m getting ready to head out to InterDrone in Las Vegas next week. Michael Huerta is kicking things off at 10am PDT Wednesday and they will be streaming him live – follow the link if you’re interested.

I’ll be moderating a panel on how to fund a drone business. Great group to be working with including dronepreneur Alex Rodriguez from Urban Drones, Jeff Musaffi from DLA Piper and Ryan Armbrust from ff Venture Capital. Looking forward to seeing many of you there.

It’s been an exciting week as the first wave of applicants filed into FAA testing centers on Monday to take the Small UAS Test. The FAA reported that 3,500 signed up for Day One though the actual results trailed that (~1,150 for Monday and Tuesday) suggesting that many people opted to spend a little more time cracking the books, guides and manuals.

Alan Perlman, the UAV Coach reported passing handily. The consensus among those Alan spoke with and on social media, is that the test was harder than expected. Despite that, according to early word out of the FAA, 88% passed which is comparable to the 90% for the PPL. So much for concerns about the test being too hard, or people being reluctant to spend $150 to take part in the future of unmanned aviation.  Well done FAA. If you haven’t taken the test yet or your kid wants to, here’s a nice guide from AOPA.

The FAA is taking a cautious approach to providing clearances to operate in Class B, C, D and E Surface airspace. Class D and E Surface applications will be approved starting 10/3, Class C 10/31 and Class B 12/3. The agency is advising people to plan on requests taking up to 90 days. But as we shared last week, clearances should move more quickly once everything is in place.

Denton’s Mark McKinnon wrote a pithy piece pointing out that the only people flying Monday were those already holding 333’s and when you consider the airspace clearances, they will have an advantage for some time.

Request a Waiver/Airspace Authorization Small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) is online and one doesn’t need a remote license to apply. The FAA started things off with a bang announcing that 76 waivers had been granted from the current pool of 333 applications, though at the moment no one has seen the complete list.

Jonathan Rupprecht reported that his client Red Raptor got a country wide waiver for night flights in Class G. Rumor has it that many of the 76 were for night ops. Lisa Ellman shared that her client CNN got a waiver to operate over crowds. That along with Precision Hawks EVLOS are the two garnering the early news. Both have been working with the FAA through the Pathfinder program.

The CNN waiver is  based on using the Swiss built FotoKite Pro which the website describes as “more an intelligent kite than a drone”. MSRP is $8,500.00 (no typo) It is lightweight – 1.4 pounds – sports a GoPro Hero and has a 65’ tether which should provide a good view. Designed to be quickly deployed, the FotoKite can stay aloft indefinitely, or at least as long as most news stories last. Hard to predict what influence this will have on the MicroARC NPRM. Make no mistake, even at this seemingly modest height and weight a drone strike can seriously
injure someone

Precision Hawk went the traditional route starting with an experimental airworthiness certificate from the FAA, then spent over a year working under the Pathfinder program to research operations within extended visual line of sight (EVLOS.) The result of their very methodical approach is a big win, the first Part 107.31 waiver “PrecisionHawk can now fly drones beyond its line of sight during its commercial operations. Also under the waiver, PrecisionHawk is approved to train those who want to offer these extended visual line of sight (EVLOS) flights as a service.” Particularly noteworthy is that C2 is based on Precision Hawks own LATAS system, not FPV.

No word about AGL or airspace restrictions but this waiver is a giant leap and should provide a nice lift for the fixed-wing segment. Props to all involved – now if someone would be kind enough to explain the difference between BVLOS
and EVLOS…

Almost lost in the news was the introduction of the FAA Drone Advisory Committee (DAC), a permanent standing committee chaired by Intel CEO Brian Krzanich. You might remember that Michael Huerta first announced it in May at XPONENTIAL. It’s an interesting mix of voices from academia, traditional aerospace, drone space and airport operations. Here’s to big ideas and
great things.

Some good 107 use case stories coming out. Columbia Journalism Review published a solid exploration of drones for journos. Adding to that, the Drone Journalism Lab at the University of Nebraska offered up an excellent operating manual. “The point is we really think newsrooms need written policies and procedures, and this is a good start.“ GitHub and all. Very cool.

We Are One Step Closer To Every Lineman Carrying A Drone is a story about how Part 107 will help move utilities closer to putting a drone in every lineman’s truck. “They see it as part of building a smarter infrastructure. We see it as an area that’s going to continue to grow.” Nice.

More and more is coming out about the use of small consumer drones in guerilla warfare (that would be the other guys) with the conclusion that they “pose real and significant threats to military operations.” Small Drones Are Equalizing The Battle offers some new details about drone use by the Taliban and the value of swarming as a tactic. Love the quote “Quantity has its own beauty.” Gnarly photo of a Phantom torched by a laser if you like that sort of thing.

Two outdoorsy Eye Candy Tag Award winners for you, and a bonus spooky one. First a dizzying piece on rock climbing from Intel and Yuneec called Upward Places. Then there’s Flying Into The Northern Lights from OZZO Photography, a production company out of Iceland. They are doing some nice flying but what makes this work memorable is the location. Must make room on the bucket list.

Finally, in the “this changes everything” category, from Fox and IBM. Watson Analyzed 100 Trailers Then Started Cutting. So Watson analyzed 100 horror trailers to figure out what is “scary” then helped cut a movie trailer. What if he analyzed sense and avoid?

And in the “so not eye candy” mystery marketing category, here is the GoPro teaser for the indefinitely awaited 9/19 Karma launch event. Offered up with the suggestion this might once again be a good time to short GPRO. Unless you like media companies, in which case you should read this first. Talk about a pivot.

Thanks for reading and for sharing.


Christopher Korody
follow me @dronewriter

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