The '2019 CES Show' issue of Dronin' On 01.12.19
backplate from the Veoneer website

Hi all –

Still shut down, so nothing new from the FAA this week on the 285 action items from the FAR. A look at CES, another shutdown in the UK, new sUAS regulations in Canada, interesting forecasts and Eye Candy.


UGRs are going through since the tests are scored at the CATS. Part 107s are not being processed. 34 aviation oriented associations including the Commercial Drone Alliance and AUVSI have written Congress and POTUS to urge an immediate end to the shutdown. “All policy and rule-making for the fast-growing UAS market have been halted as has processing of waivers for commercial
drone operations.”

More than 24,000 FAA employees whose positions are considered vital for ‘life and safety’ are working without pay. If you’re flying, that puckering sensation may come from knowing that the ATC controllers got stiffed Thursday and are now thinking as much about their bills as your flight. For an inside the Beltway perspective, see Plane-ly Spoken’s post, Shutdown Blues at the USDOT, FAA,
and NTSB


screen grab from Verizon CES keynote
screen grab from Verizon CES keynote – click to view

Both DOT Secretary Elaine Chao and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai were set to headline but canceled on account of the shutdown. Don’t know if the FAA booths went unmanned. Elsewhere I saw a report in the South China Morning Post, Chinese Companies Cool on Annual CES Vegas Tech Show Amid Trade War and Economic Uncertainty that there are some 20% fewer Chinese exhibitors this year on account of the trade war.

For the second year in a row CES 2019 was ‘Drone Lite.’ The attention has moved on to AVs, 5G, 8K and other life enhancing gizmos and doodads. For some insight into why this might matter, please see the 2018 CES Show issue.

Reflecting on a panel hosted by CTA VP Doug Johnson, Josh Turner and Sara Baxenberg filed Four Takeaways on Drone Regulation at CES—2019 Is a Year for Learning and Implementation (and Hopefully Remote ID). 

1. Incidents Like Those at Gatwick and Heathrow May Set Tone for 2019 – DJI has already sent out a “look before you conclude” press release.

2. 2019 Will Be a Year for Learning and Implementation – this referencing UAS IPP, as well as the FAR requirments for a GAO report on privacy.

3. State and Local Regulations Continue to Present Challenges – the good news being that more and more states are passing laws prohibiting local
preemption rules.

4. We Have Too Much, Too Little, And Just Enough Regulation – read the article… basically be happy, it’s worse elsewhere.

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg presents 5G at CES
Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg presents 5G at CES – Image Credit: Jeremy Horwitz/VentureBeat – click for article

Proving himself to be an adept cheerleader for the 5G hype machine, recently appointed Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg introduced the eight “currencies” of 5G that will:

…Unleash highly connective technologies and blend physical and digital realms like never before…

Vestberg then introduced five partners including Skyward CEO Mariah Scott.

You can watch the entire keynote here. Mariah’s section starts at 26.15. It’s a polished look at how far we’ve come, and where we are going… even if we’re not quite there yet =) And oh what a BHAG.

Today I am announcing Verizon’s commitment to be the first to connect 1 million drone flights to the 5G network.”

NOTE In subsequent conversations with Skyward they asked that I clarify that it is drone flights, not unique drones. Though someday they will be able to claim both.

Sally French has a complete list of all the drone exhibitors in her post CES 2019 Drone Preview: All the Drones You Can Expect to See in Vegas This Year. Intel is conspicuous by their absence.

Drone U ran with a hybrid show and industry forecast CES 2019: New Drone & UAV Technologies Predictions. If you’re into hardware, this is an excellent piece:

Intel is putting on a show Monday for Press Day to showcase their new innovations in autonomous aviation. Don’t assume I am speaking about drones. We should see another demonstration showcasing personal helicopters to illustrate the society of the future. Awesome.

As to whether Intel is still in it to win it, the article notes that “…There is still a chase to find an American, European or British made drone that performs at the level
of DJI.

Intel Falcon 8 Plus was thought to be this solution, but after using the product myself… it does not purport to be a scalable solution that is easily operable.”

SJI Smart Controller introduced at CES
image courtesy of DJI – click to go to press release

DJI introduced a Smart Controller with an integrated display. I want one. No surprise that it sucked up most of the column inches.

In a curious convergence of tech and auto, CES seems to be foreshadowing the Detroit Auto Show January 14 – 17 with a number of marques using Las Vegas to share their wares.

WaPo set the stage with Self-Driving Car Companies at CES Say Safety First. Autonomous vehicles are driving the buzz at CES this week — but this year, companies are touting their commitment to safety and public education after fatal crashes increased policymakers’ worries about the nascent technology.

Is it a problem? You know I can’t make this stuff up. Self-Driving Tesla Collides With Autonomous Robot in Las VegasA Russian robotics company said one of its autonomous Promobots was taken out by a self-driving Tesla on the eve of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. There’s a video.

AXIOS headlined Building AV Trust Is a Two-Way Street.

…A coalition of carmakers, tech companies and safety advocates announced a plan to address public fear of AVs with a new education campaign touting the benefits of AV technology.

The new group is called PAVE.

PAVE is a response to research like this report in USA TODAY, Americans Now More Fearful of Self-Driving Cars, AAA Survey Shows.

A new survey by AAA shows that nearly three-quarters (73%) now fear riding in a self-driving vehicle.

And it’s not only passengers who now fear self-driving vehicles. Nearly two-thirds (63%) now say they would feel less safe as pedestrians or while riding a bicycle. That’s up from 54% from the March 2017 survey.

Tech Crunch ran a story about the new group, Audi, Mobileye, Waymo, Other Top Automakers Unite to Spread the Self-Driving Gospel.

“It’s not about lobbying, it’s about education. We want people to understand the benefits and the limitations.” 

Lest there be any doubt, I am sharing all this because there are significant parallels that go beyond #dronesRgood. And similar numbers.

Veoneer facial recognition technology at CES
image courtesy of Veoneer

Some really bleeding edge tech emerging. From the AXIOS article:

Veoneer, a leading supplier of AV technologies including radar and driver-monitoring systems, demonstrated the latest version of its “learning intelligent vehicle” in a mock smart city environment.

  • The car uses a multitude of sensors and advanced AI to get to know you as you drive together.
  • It judges your facial expressions and micro-movements in your eyes to understand what you’re receptive to at each moment. If you seem distracted by a crying baby, for example, you might like some help so the car’s assisted driving features would kick in more frequently.

Needless to say, NVIDIA and CES are like peas and carrots with lots of action in the gaming space. But they also announced NVIDIA Teams Up with Leading HD Mapping Companies to Deliver End-to-End Autopilot Systems for the World’s
Major Markets

DRIVE Localization, an open, scalable platform, enables autonomous vehicles to localize themselves within centimeters to HD maps worldwide… And by leveraging mass-market sensors the platform is cost-effective — enabling use in personal cars.

Here’s a story in Enterprise IoT Insights about HD map building in Sacramento. Seems like just the thing doesn’t it?

And how’s this for ‘the best or nothing’? Mercedes-Benz, NVIDIA to Create New AI Architecture for Mercedes Vehicles.

NVIDIA founder and CEO Jensen Huang… described a single system providing self-driving capabilities and smart-cockpit functions that replaces dozens of smaller processors inside current cars.

“This car computer is going to do things that no computer that exists today literally does,” Huang said.

But all that glitters is not bling…. ZDNet offers CES 2019: Can Brands Be Trusted in the Data Age? As people wake up to the risks of data collection, some companies at CES are trying to convince consumers they can be responsible stewards of their personal data.

For more of the future now, check out WIRED’s CES Liveblog: Robots, Flying Cars, and a Gazillion Gadgets. And don’t miss The Verge Awards at CES 2019.


Heathrow (LHR) shut down due to drone
Concept for Heathrow expansion – Photo by Visualization of London Heathrow Airport

Just when you hoped it was safe to go back in the water, a drone sighting shut down London’s Heathrow International Airport (LHR) for about an hour and 15 minutes according to The Telegraph, delaying some 100 flights.

Many passengers took to Twitter on Tuesday evening to express disbelief that a suspected drone sighting had once again left them stranded, many stuck on the runway.

Reuters reported that Britain Says Airports Need to Do More to Tackle Drone Menace, quoting Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington who said “…The government would consider toughening laws that ban the use of drones near airports, but that operators could also invest more in protection systems.”

The wondered Was a third runway protester behind the Heathrow drone? Police launch a manhunt in nearby villages after 100 flights were grounded in the latest airport chaos. [Turns out there is considerable local opposition to Heathrow’s plans for a third runway.]

Heathrow has begun talks to install a £10million detection and signal jamming system called AUDS.

AUDS unit – 2016 photo

Here is a story I ran in 2016 that announced that the FAA was testing AUDS as part of the Airport Pathfinder effort.

The AUDS counter-UAV system can detect a drone six miles (10km) away using electronic scanning radar, track it using precision infrared and daylight cameras and specialist video tracking software before disrupting the flight using an inhibitor to block the radio signals that control it. This detect, track, disrupt, defeat process is very quick and typically takes 8-15 secs.

There are some interesting implications to the UK announcement. First, that an airport will be allowed to operate a classified system, and second, that they will be allowed to use jamming techniques in an airport environment. Neither would fly in the US at this time.

Popular Mechanics just published a thoughtful piece by David Hambling, the very savvy author of Swarm Troopers, What Are Airports Going to Do About Drones? There are plenty of counter-drone weapons to choose from, but all of them
have shortcomings.

MIT Technology Review offers up the chilling It’s Only a Matter of Time Before a Drone Takes Down a Passenger Plane And no, technology can’t fix the problem.

…Drones present a threat to commercial air traffic that cannot be waved away with a technological fix. They’ve become too cheap, and too capable. Passenger jets are vulnerable targets and will remain so. Neither technologies like geofencing that seek to hobble drones nor things like guns, nets, radio-jamming systems, or even eagles can reliably protect airline traffic.

Also a good story in The Atlantic, There’s No Real System to Counter
Rogue Drones

Michael Thompson of the San Francisco Fire Department, who has coordinated emergency-incident response for Fleet Week for the past four years, told me that this was the first time he’d used a drone-detection system—though in his main duties as a department battalion chief, he’s encountered plenty of drones, and never gladly.

“We hate them,” he said.



New UK drone regulations
British Houses of Parliament – image by Maurice from Zoetermeer, Netherlands [CC BY 2.0

No real surprise is it? People get their knickers in a twist, promise them some new rules. From the UK, Commercial Drone Professionals reports Transport Secretary to Introduce New Drone Laws Within Months.

Speaking yesterday afternoon, Grayling addressed the recent problems at Gatwick as something he felt his department needed to act on. The new rules, which are expected to be implemented in May, set out to increase airport exclusion zones to 5km, from the current distance set at 1km. Police will be given more power when dealing with a potential threatening device and could be given the right to interfere with the movement of drones and inspect devices to ensure safety features had not been tampered with.

New regulation, set to be operational in November, will also enforce drone owners of devices weighing between 250g and 20kg to register and take an online drone pilot competency test.

BTW referencing Gatwick, the article ends with “Police now say that despite having a long list of potential suspects, no arrests are imminent and still believe they have not found the drone in question.”

For context, here’s a clear-eyed piece from UK resident Malek Murison writing in DroneLife.comUK Government Releases Report on Drone Regulation Consultation, DJI Responds. A key point, which regular readers will know, is that the regulations coming in November are the result of a long term initiative including the UK equivalent of an NPRM public comment process in 2018. The new twist is:

Unsurprisingly, the issue of drone legislation has been heavily politicized in the UK, with the Labour party in opposition using the fiasco at Gatwick to attack a Conservative government already under pressure and busy dealing with
another fiasco. 

Droneport in Belgium for UAS testing
Droneport – click to visit – check out ‘cuisine’

Despite all of this, but consistent with the schizophrenic nature of the industry, the NYT reports With Drone Deliveries on the Horizon, Europe Moves to Set
Ground Rules

The Safir project is happening at a transitional moment for the European Union’s commercial drone industry. The European Parliament and Council just expanded the bloc’s regulatory authority to include all civil drones, and the European Commission is completing a harmonized set of rules for drone use.

Drone Port CEO Mark Vanlook, the recently opened facility near Brussels where the tests will take place, explained that the goal is: …Making sure different drone systems can coexist while in flight. “If drones can’t account for their surroundings, they will collide — and hurt people,” he said.

No kidding.

New UAS regulations announced in Canada
Parliament Hill, Ottawa – image by Saffron Blaze – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Meanwhile in Canada, Minister of Transport Marc Garneau announced Canada’s long expected new rules which will take effect June 1. It’s a fresh take on simplifying the regulatory problem:

The new rules apply to all drone pilots flying drones between 250 grams and 25 kg that are operated within the drone pilot’s visual-line-of-sight, regardless of whether the drone is flown for fun, work or research.

I applaud getting rid of the kinds of false distinctions that to date have kept the FAA from harmonizing their rulemaking.

The new simplified rules reflect significant consultations with Canadians and the industry. The final regulations introduce two main categories of drone operation: basic and advanced. The categories are based on distance from bystanders and airspace rules.

Only drone pilots who need to fly a drone outside the rules for basic or advanced operations will need to apply for a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) before they fly.

The above is from a press release kindly provided by the Minister’s office. For more, see the website here. Among other things, the site spells out the Penalties for individuals and corporations. There are four different infractions – and different penalties for individuals and corporations. Run the table and you’ll be out $30K.

Props to DJI’s Brendan Schulman who posted on the FB UAV Legal News forum that I’m very pleased to have worked with Transport Canada on these regulations and for the reasonable outcome that balances safety with innovation. Here’s the press release.


2019 UAS drone industry forecast
Droneii report graphic – click to view

For Forbes, Skylogic Research CEO Colin Snow (@droneanalyst ) authored Seven Trends That Will Shape The Commercial Drone Industry In 2019. Snow envisions “…Another big year for the commercial drone industry.”

But don’t get your hopes up. It’s not exactly an invitation to the happy dance – mostly incremental growth while the industry consolidates and at least in the US, waits for regulation.Trend 4 – Public distrust and civil liability points at the expected fallout from Gatwick and the ULC Drone Tort Law. For those of you tracking it, the next ULC meeting will be in Washington DC, March 1-3.

Colin saves the pep talk for the end:

Some big news for 2019 could be workflow integration of drone data and workflow into predictive maintenance and service solutions, as well as enterprise asset management systems such as those from IBM, INFOR, Oracle, and SAP… When you can connect the dots and show the effect of drone data on the balance sheet, CFOs and CEOs will take notice and drive further enterprise adoption. has just released The Commercial Drones Industry: Global Outlook 2019. It covers a lot of ground – one place it echoes Colin:

The integration of hardware and software solutions (E2E) is critical for further scale and adoption as a driver for commercial drone usage across individual operators and large organizations alike.

I have been a Brian Solis fan for years so I was happy to see The State of Digital Transformation from the Altimeter Group.

Organizational buy-in remains a top challenge for those leading digital transformation. The companies we studied report digital transformation is still often perceived as a cost center (28%), and data to prove ROI is hard to come by (29%). Cultural issues also pose notable difficulty, with entrenched viewpoints, resistance to change (26%), and legal and compliance concerns (26%) stymieing progress.

Jeremiah Karpowicz, the Editor at Commercial UAV News has been running a series of 2019 prediction interviews. This one is with Svilen Rangelov, the CEO of DRONAMICS, a Bulgarian company whose “mission is to democratize airfreight and lower the cost of shipping in emerging markets.” Asked about the use of small drones for delivery, he is anything but starry-eyed:

…The reliability vs cost trade-off of small drones is still years away from making them both safe and economically viable. Tests by some of the largest manufacturers in the world show that to meet a 10-7 reliability level and transport 1.5 kg with a multirotor, you need a 20kg+ system AND throw away your batteries after 1.5 hours of operation. Numbers like these completely ruin the economics for drone delivery and the industry needs some serious breakthroughs to advance through that. This is why we continue to believe that larger systems will have an easier time getting commercialized.

‘Flight over unsuspecting people’ advocates will argue that a
10-7 reliability level is over kill.

If you feel the need for some perspective on AI and 5G, check out Fast Company’s The Biggest Tech Trends of 2019, According to Top Experts. Next year’s AI, AR, and 5G tech may set the stage for some massive tectonic shifts in tech and culture.

EYE CANDY drone photo competition winners splash screen – click to go to the site announced the top three in the fifth annual International Drone Photography Contest. The first two are very special. I don’t get the third one at all.

And if you marvel at flying machines, Aviation Week offers a click fest, Looking Back at 2018: Unmanned Aircraft, Aircraft that can stay aloft in the stratosphere for months—or are recovered in midflight by transport aircraft with robot arms—2018 saw continued progress in the field of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

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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