The '2018 InterDrone' issue of Dronin' On 09.08.18
Evening, Room 689

Hi all –

I am writing you this week from above the Strip in very sunny Las Vegas as the fourth annual InterDrone conference winds down.Ted Bahr is riding off into the sunset again with the thanks and best wishes of the grateful industry that he helped to create. Happy trails.

Final attendance was somewhere between 3,000-3,100, with some 400 coming from 39 countries. Down a smidge but it was a much classier crowd and the 133 exhibitors were happy.

Hot tip – hydrogen is a thing. There were products from the UK, Canada, US and South Korea.

It was nice to meet and see so many subscribers. Thanks for taking the time to say hello. And a warm welcome to a handful of folks who came up to introduce themselves saying that they are brand new to this whole thing. Hope this helps.


First, an update on the FAA Reauthorization. I don’t think that anyone knows if we are going to get a bill by September 30th, or an extension, probably
until December.

Friday morning Morning Transportation suggested that there might be a little left in the LiPo…

FAA:The House has passed its version, but the Senate has not. House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) said Thursday that lawmakers are looking to “get a bill, pass it out of the House, that the Senate can take it up and pass it.” Through pre-conferencing, the lower chamber could pass a reauthorization bill, which the Senate would then support. That way, “the Senate would be able to take up our bill without going through the 90 amendments on their side,” Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) said. Meanwhile, full committee ranking member Peter DeFazio(D-OR) reiterated he has no interest in an extension. “It’s time to get the damn bill done,” he said.

I heard but cannot confirm, that the FAA was set to go forward with the Flight Over People NPRM and the Safe & Secure Operations of sUAS ANPRM when the Maduro assassination attempt in Venezuela took place and they were pulled. My source said that this means that DHS had bought off – doesn’t entirely make sense but encouraging words given the focus on 336 and Remote ID.

click to open and download

I mentioned this a few weeks ago, but did not give it it’s due. At the encouragement of Bob Kirk who was with me on the FAA panel, I finally took the time to read the July 30th publication of the Second Edition of the FAA’s Integration of Civil Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in the National Airspace System (NAS) Roadmap. I am here to tell you that this is an essential reference. The meat is pages 25-41. If you’re not ready for the whole enchilada, there is a good
summary here.

Please don’t act surprised when I tell you that unmanned is looking more and more like manned aviation. As the Roadmap makes clear, the heavy lifting of developing a wide range of standards is the next step to move the industry forward. This was part and parcel of many of the sessions and discussions I participated in this week. There is a lot to do.

Kraettli L. Epperson, who was on the AI panel I moderated said it succinctly “Writing the standards is kind of the point that the industry is at right now. After that the FAA will have to figure out certification.”


I got in late Tuesday in time for a quiet dinner with Maj. Gen. Marke “Hoot” Gibson (Ret) who is now 10 months into his new life as the CEO of  Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance (NUAIR Alliance) and Griffiss
International Airport.

Hoot told me that he is particularly pleased with the team that he has put together, pointing to CTO Andy Thurling as a key driver and passionate standards advocate. Operations are up-tempo – offices have been opened, specs written, contracts let and partners are being brought aboard. Hoot expects to have the 50-mile test corridor ready for business next summer.

NUAIR is poised to conduct comprehensive engineering and scientific standards testing – as soon as any are agreed to.

A lot of discussion at the show of the standards initiatives going on with ASTM, ANSI and others. I am hoping to have a guest post for you from Jim Williams on his work on RTCA 228 looking at C2 (Command and Control) and DAA (Detect and Avoid) issues.

The team is configuring the site to be domain agnostic, with capabilities to test low altitude sUAS, mid altitude ‘UAS in the NAS’ (bigger birds) and HALE – High Altitude Long Endurance which the facility’s long runways can easily support. BTW if you are in that neck of the woods, consider going to the 2018 New York UAS Symposium September 10 – 12. It’s an all star line up.


Things got off to an early start with a tremendous presentation by Jennifer Richter of Akin Gump, Accelerating Needs for Spectrum Solutions for UAS. There are very few people who understand the intersection of FCC and FAA issues. Further complicating things is the desire to adopt a universal set of frequencies that can be used worldwide – and a shortage of available bandwidth. Jennifer offered up LTE C-V2X as a possible all-in-one solution for Remote ID that can do both direct broadcasting and network publishing. It doesn’t solve the C2 portion of the problem, but LTE vendors will have plenty of bandwidth to sell and remain hopeful there as well.

One possible vision of the future – Remote ID over LAANC+ on LTE making it available to every law enforcement cellphone in America. And since many are billing LAANC as UTM Lite, it’s easy to extend this to UTM.

Then it was time for the main event, FAA Acting Administrator Dan Elwell’s Grand Keynote, “A Success Story in the Making.”

He was gracious, long on safety and short on particulars saying that “We all want the same thing, UAS integrated into the NAS as an everyday player.” Just in case you know anyone who is still sure that they are going to get around the FAA, or that there is something holy about crashing and burning as a development mode, please share this:

I’ve heard this argument a few times: Back in Orville and Wilbur’s era, people were willing to risk their lives for the birth of a new form of transportation. Now that we’re on the cusp of aviation’s next great era, shouldn’t we be willing to accept some of the same risks in the name of progress?

Manned aviation already learned those lessons. We paid that price. We’re not going to do it again. And the public wouldn’t let us, anyway.

Now, this insistence on safety isn’t some limitation on unmanned aircraft. On the contrary… it’s a leg up.

Because you’re not starting from scratch, like the Wright brothers. The FAA has spent six decades working with airlines, manufacturers, and countless others to get where we are now. And we’re ready to use everything we’ve learned so that the drone industry can reach its full potential as quickly as possible.

Miriam McNabb writing in has an excellent summary, InterDrone Gets Started with Dan Elwell: FAA is “Open for Business” on Drones. As she notes, one of the few things he got down to details on was that the FAA’s hands are tied until 336 is revised or repealed:

“The National Airspace System is no place for hide and seek. Right now, the FAA’s hands are tied.”

“Congress knows that this is an issue. As soon as this gets resolved, rest assured we’re ready to move forward as quickly as possible.”

I’ve beaten that horse enough, but hat tip to Greg Walden of Small UAV Coalition who in his seminar addressed the possibility of a carve out for Remote ID in 336 as a possible path of less resistance. We need some new ideas.

Setting the stage for a new era of standards and rule making, Elwell said that the FAA is most concerned about two things. “Is it flyable? And does it play well
with others?

Take the UAS Roadmap, stir in his remarks and you will have a very clear picture of the future.

Another hat tip to the InterDrone crew who put together a nice bonus for you, an additional interview with the Administrator that you can enjoy as a podcast, Episode 9: Acting Administrator of the FAA, Daniel K. Elwell. Great idea!

As advertised, immediately following the Keynote I moderated FAA Regulations: The Latest Outlook. I want to thank my outstanding panel, who put in the time to prep and offer valuable insights: William Goodwin, General Counsel & VP of Policy at AirMap, Lydia Hilton Of Counsel at Berman Fink Van Horn P.C., Bob Kirk Partner, Wilkinson, Barker, Knauer LLP and Anthony ‘Tony’ Zakel Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Aviation Audits, Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

Wherever it was discussed it was obvious that the proposed ULC Drone Tort Law is going to be a contentious issue and one that the industry needs to pay close attention to. Articles like ‘Never, Ever Try to Shoot at a Drone.’ Neighborhoods Buzz With Complaints Over Pesky Drones in USA Today will continue to complicate the situation by putting ‘pressure’ on state and local elected officials.

A nuanced, well-developed argument has been honed at AirMap. It was presented on the panel b Bill Goodwin, and later in a keynote and a panel by founders Greg McNeal and Ben Marcus about the need for a low altitude navigation system based on their “ACCESS” principles. Exactly how intertwined this is with ULC is unclear, but there is certainly concern in some quarters.

LAANC was also a subject of discussion with Wave 6 set to roll out September 13. That will conclude the beta. One thing that many people have asked about is when waivers will be integrated into LAANC.

The answer may surprise you because it’s not a coding issue. At the UTM panel, I learned that airspace authorizations are managed by ATC, while operational waivers are managed by Flight Standards. And that the hold up is the need for regulatory changes, not the technology.

UAS IPP is just getting started. In fact, we haven’t heard that all ten programs have had their first flight yet. (I am thinking that some are having a tough time getting off the ground.) Which made it kind of funny (peculiar) to hear people carrying on about lessons learned as if the program was three months old, never mind had run its three-year course.

I had a chance to talk with Derek Kan, DOT Under Secretary for Transportation Policy after his keynote Thursday. He told me that a preliminary report is due next month so I will share that with you when it is published.

SPOILER ALERT: Derek also introduced a new concept, ‘economic authority’ with the caveat that anyone charging for goods and services is going to have to figure this out. He has graciously agreed to help me with a post that explains this. Important to note that this is something that is issued by DOT, not the FAA. And that it gets tricky if some part of your business is foreign owned.


The biggest industry business story of the week was not the announcement that PrecisionHawk Acquires Both HAZON, Inc. and InspecTools Inc. Becoming the Leading Provider of Drone Technology and Analytics for the Energy Market. Nor was it that 3DR and Yuneec Announce Joint Venture Based on
Dronecode Platform

To be sure, most weeks both would warrant a little ink along with some pithy commentary about inevitable industry consolidation. Certainly, congratulations
are due.

While I hesitate to call it a scoop, I believe that the biggest business story of the month happened so quietly that no one else has connected the dots.

Unless you have been paying an extraordinary amount of attention, you will not have noticed that DJI’s Managing Director of North America, Michael Perry left in August to take a position as Vice President Of Business Development at Boston Dynamics which is a Softbank Company. (Awesome opportunity.)

Filling Perry’s previously advertised keynote slot Thursday morning was an unlikely duo. The familiar Director of Public Safety Integration, Romeo Durscher kicked things off by sharing how DJI gear was used on the recent Carr Fire including the application of the DJI Aeroscope as a kind of UAS air traffic control hub.

Then came a recent addition to the DJI team, Mario Rebello who was listed in the conference program (and in prior press releases) as Director and Government Relations Counsel to DJI Technology. And without a word from Romeo, or from him either for that matter, on his title slide (as well as on his LinkedIn page – see I am fact checking) it says:

Country Manager & Vice President
Sales, Marketing & Government Relations

Dear readers – I have been at this for a very long time. And there is no doubt that I am old school. But in all my many years, I have never seen a transition of the senior executive in the world’s largest market (give or take a trade war or two), that is targeting enterprise customers, handled so – well what’s the word? Deftly? Nonchalantly? Stealthily? Pick what you like but please join me in
congratulating Mario.

Who walked straight out into the lion’s den with a presentation headlined Data Security Framework in which he shared that “I am convinced that we are all at risk” then flew into the face of urban myth and tribal knowledge saying that there was no evidence of any wrongdoing by DJI, that he absolutely denied it, that it was #fakenews and speculation.

With that firmly planted in the audience’s mind, he pointed to the KIVU report as proof that users were in complete control of how their data was collected, secured and distributed. Never mind that the DOD issued a new ban three months after the report was released.

His presentation is further documented by the indefatigable Miriam McNabb in Drones, Data and Security: DJI’s Mario Rebello Meets the Issue Head On
at InterDrone

Alrighty then. An auspicious beginning. And that wasn’t all of it.

UASVision reported that Autel Seeks Ban on DJI Products in USA in the form of Complaint No. 3335, U.S. International Trade Commission. According to the article, the gist of it is that:

China-based DJI is accused of using Autel’s patented features for following a flight path while avoiding obstacles, rotor assembly, and a way to switch out battery packs to minimize lag time between flights. Autel wants the U.S. International Trade Commission to ban imports of models of DJI’s Phantom, Mavic, Spark and Inspire drones made in China by DJI, according to a complaint filed in Washington.

The commission is a quasi-judicial agency tasked with investigating allegations of unfair trade practices, including patent-infringement. If it agrees to launch an investigation it typically issues a final decision in about 15 to 18 months. If it issues an import ban, then the agency could allow sales to continue for public interests like agricultural needs, but the desires of hobbyists are unlikely to sway
the commission.

Pretty technical for sure. Patent infringement (think Apple v Samsung) is difficult and can drag on forever, mostly to the satisfaction of the attorneys involved. The nasty thing about being the 800-pound gorilla is that there is plenty of room for a target on your back.


Sonal Baid, Kittyhawk, a 2018 Woman to Watch In UAS

Props to Sharon Rossmark, the founder and CEO of Women and Drones and Wendy Erikson who presented the 2018 Women to Watch In UAS honorees to kick off the 4th Annual Women in Drones Luncheon. It is an amazing group of very dedicated, talented women from around the world. I am humbled to have been the only boy judge. If you are a woman in this space, you need to join.

A few things found along the way.

The Electrafly personal flying machine Mark 1

Consider the entirely wondrous Electrafly. This is prototype #1 – a 70 pound personal flying machine that is being developed in Utah, and is scheduled for its first manned flight by year-end. You sit on it like a motorcycle, there is a jet assist in front (the ‘bottle’ center frame), the wings which look something like helicopter blades rotate. V2 will be lighter, making extensive use of unobtanium and other exotic materials.

Bruce Parks introduced me to a delightful couple from Scotland, Kirsty and David Stewart, retired LE folk who publish the quarterly Crisis Response Journal. They put together a special show issue with their recent drone stories which you can enjoy here for free. Since it is an ongoing concern, they would very much like it if you subscribed.

A big thanks to my other two panels.

On Thursday, Drones in Energy Inspection: An End-User’s Perspective brought together Suzanne Lemieux, the Manager, Midstream and Industry Operations, American Petroleum Institute, Barrett Walker, ERMS the Lead Analyst, Enterprise Content Management and Manager of sUAS Program at Cheniere Energy, Inc., Patrick Saracco, VP, Technology Solutions at Cyberhawk Innovations and Ryan English, CEO and Co-founder at FLYMOTION. This is a wonderfully talented group who are all setting very high standards.

And on Friday, Drones and the Power of Artificial Intelligence with Jaime Machuca, CEO,, Kraettli L Epperson, CEO and co-founder of Vigilant Aerospace Systems and Nitin Gupta, Founder and CEO of FlytBase, Inc. These gentlemen are all working different parts of the problem to make your missions safer and more productive.

Finally, while no one wants to watch the sausage get made, conferences with a 100+ world-class sessions don’t just happen. Special thanks and congratulations to Katie Flash who after four years of pulling rabbits out of hats has been promoted to Conference Chairperson. Definitely a woman to continue to watch in UAS.

I am honored that she asked me to join the 2019 InterDrone Advisory Board and look forward to working with her and the other board members to create a must-attend event for you next year.

Thanks for reading and for sharing. Back issues of Dronin’ On are here.


Christopher Korody
Editor and Publisher
follow me @dronewriter





















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