Sundown from the VooDoo

Hi all –

Hope that everyone had a great summer. For those of you who asked, the fishing has been good and gets better now. For the rest of you, it’s time to go back to school, work on 2020 budgets and hit the tradeshow circuit.

This week I am writing from the 2019 InterDrone Conference in Las Vegas; including comments on FAA Deputy Administrator Dan Elwell’s keynote, some thoughts about Remote ID including a not unexpected but hardly welcome delay, Policy Day, Tom Walker, Women And Drones and Eye Candy.


A fun tradition continues

Once again InterDrone was at the Rio. Conference Chair Mike Pehel reported that there were some 1,800 attendees, and just shy of 90 exhibitors. The crowd took in some 120 sessions, panels, keynotes, and workshops. Plenty respectable considering it came right after Labor Day on a back to school week.

With Mike as the last remaining holdover from back in the day, recently appointed Emerald Expo SVP Johanna Morse brought her new team onsite to get a bead on how to best serve our increasingly fragmented market. She asked lots of good questions, and I think that her blank sheet approach will result in some exciting new ideas.

The show was a comfortable mix of old-timers (this was my fourth,) and new people trying to make like Sponge Bob and take it all in. There is starting to be so much specialization in both the Expo and the session content that it is pretty much impossible to sample everything that the show has to offer.

I went to the Advisory Board breakfast Friday and was among those who advocated for an approach combining horizontal issues of broad interest such as regulation, with content addressing specific verticals. The sense around the table is that there are going to be more and more vertical shows.

The example that I frequently cite is Energy Drone Coalition Summit, which as the name implies is about drones within the energy vertical (a rather massive space.) This reflects the increasing recognition that many people identify themselves by their industry. e.g. I am in construction and drones are one of the tools I use, vs. I am a drone person who works
in construction.

That suggests that as drones continue to penetrate the market, vertical industry shows will be incorporating drone content into their larger agenda. I have long written that standards will be coming out verticals – e.g. the new American Petroleum Institute Guide for Developing a UAS Program in the Oil and Natural Gas Industry – it seems inevitable.


Mark Davis talks RID in his 5G session

Ever seen a guy with the monkey off his back? A relaxed Dan Elwell took the stage Wednesday morning. Later, we had fun speculating that having walked through the MAX fire, Dan is now pretty much immune to ordinary disasters.

Perhaps this explains why he had very little to say.

He opened by noting that on Tuesday a Medevac helo on final into a local Las Vegas hospital had to go around because of a drone. He suggested that there will have to be some form of Remote ID that enables communication to the pilot to solve things like the situation at
the hospital.

But the thing that got my attention was Dan’s remarkably ambiguous statement that the Remote ID (RID) NPRM would be out “later this year.” Perhaps he forgot the published September date, perhaps that date is slipping some more. We’ll know soon enough.

UPDATE Two days later the RID NPRM has been slipped to 12/19. The 2209 NPRM scheduled for 10/19 has been slipped to 12/20.

What are the implications? We remain a Waiver Nation.

Here are a few things that will take at least three months longer:

  • The Operations Over People rule is delayed into 2022 at the earliest. You will have to get a waiver.
  • The Night Operations rule is delayed into 2022 at the earliest. You will have to get a waiver.
  • Both rules are contingent on a RID rule being in place.
  • Voluntary RID compliance is delayed.
  • Because the roadmap is vague, enterprise customers will delay drone adoption.
  • A BVLOS rule is delayed.

And here are things that will take at least 15 months longer.

  • Critical private infrastructure remains unprotected.
  • No doubt some number of CUAS companies will fold. In fact, companies of all kinds will continue to fold.

According to the FAA, the changes to Part 107 that were part of the NPRM can probably be implemented as administrative orders. They are good changes so let’s hope so.

These delays beg the question:

Is the regulatory process having a negative impact on the growth of the industry?

Well, it’s easy to say that for sure it ain’t helping. (See Tom Walker below for an
opposing view.)

Now back to the already written content.

One thing I want you to be clear about is that while Remote ID will be an essential underpinning for UTM, the Remote ID standard is a stand-alone solution. It can and most likely will be integrated into LAANC or UTM, but that is not part of the standard.

Another part of what is causing confusion is that there are two very different use cases for Remote ID. The first is the one that was pitched up on the Hill last year at the House and Senate hearings by the FAA’s Angela Stubblefield and others.

I call this is the binary promise. If it squawks it is probably friendly and if it doesn’t squawk it is probably not. So take it down, or find the pilot or… This model is of course very easy to explain and attractive because there is very little gray except for mitigation.

IMO it is an overly simplified description of how high value covered assets and large venues are likely to be defended. But they sold it.

The second use case looks ahead five to ten years to a world in which hundreds of thousands, and someday perhaps millions of drones, are going about their daily business all over America. This scenario has very little to do with the binary concept. For one thing, it is highly unlikely that mitigation will ever be an option for local law enforcement. And for the imaginable future, it will never be an option for private citizens. (Of course, there are 45 open carry states so…)

In this application, Remote ID really does become a license plate and the use case is very DMV like (Department of Motor Vehicles.) The analogy holds in part because the users will be local law enforcement doing local things – just like traffic cops. By this point, RID will have become an integral part of UTM or whatever comes after it.

As part of my Policy Day program, (I say mine because I developed it for InterDrone,) we had a Remote ID panel with, Andrew Elefant, Director of Legal & Policy – Kittyhawk, Andy Thurling, CTO – NUAIR Alliance and Matt Fannelli, Director of Strategy – Skyward.

To help the audience follow along, I made the following timeline. The dates are educated guesses, the main point is to show the tasks and dependencies. (With today’s news we are now definitely into 2022.)

When written, the RID rule will consist of (at least) two components.

One is the ASTM F38 technical standard. V1.0 of the standard has just been completed by the working committee. It is now being reviewed, necessary changes will be made, and then the standard will go to the FAA which is expected to do extensive testing.

As Andy Thurling pointed out, the standard itself does not need not be included verbatim in the NPRM or the rule. It simply needs to be referenced. Towards that end, Andy expects that at some point the FAA will post the ASTM standard to the Federal Register.

Here is the slide that Andy used during the panel to explain the standard.

Per the 2017 ARC’s recommendation, there is both a broadcast and a network component. The expectation is that the network component will get most of the traffic, with broadcast being reserved for areas without network service.

The RID standard is a description of a communications protocol.

While the 2017 Remote ID ARC was an important driver, it is by no means the only one. This is an interoperable, open global standard intended for adoption by all 193 ICAO
member nations.

There are many complex policy issues that the FAA (and the other 192 CAAs) will have to sort out; beginning with which classes of sUAS pilots will be required to use it.

Both Matt and Andrew are of the opinion that the FAA will require the great majority of the recreational community to comply. In addition, there are a whole slew of privacy issues around access to RID data, the timing of the program, testing and manufacturer certification of Remote ID devices and software, penalties for non-compliance and so forth.

The Liteye AUDS – the hero of Gatwick and Mosul

On Thursday I moderated a CUAS panel that examined the issue from the technical, DOD side. Red6 CEO Scott Crino immediately commented that it will be easy to spoof. (Of course that’s his job, and he is very good at those kinds of things.) WhiteFox Defense CEO Luke Fox presented his concept for an encrypted Remote ID solution to make that a little harder as part of a secure UTM solution.

Suffice it to say that the technical standard is the easy part.

A big Privacy and Fourth Amendment issue will be, what data about the aircraft and the pilot is available to who under what circumstances. It is very clear to everyone on the panels that the careless and the clueless pose the greatest threat and will be the most difficult to get to comply. Since this is between 10 and 20x the number of commercial operators, it is a
big problem.

This next story illustrates the point. At the DAC meeting in May, Jay Merkle tasked the DAC with providing the FAA with recommendations for voluntary compliance once the standard is published and the necessary hardware and or software is available.

Since then I have heard a handful of ideas about incenting Part 107 operators with various waivers based on voluntary compliance.

But I have not heard a single idea about how to get rec fliers to comply, because of course they neither need nor care about waivers. This will be a continuing problem until the current fleet goes out of service – assuming that at some point manufacturers are required to equip all new drones with the necessary hardware and or software.

The final DAC recommendation will be along shortly. It will be interesting to see if they can crack the code.

In summary, this is just the beginning of what is going to be a long and arduous process. Please plan on making time to comment on the NPRM when it arrives in December, or perhaps more accurately when it arrives.

Right now they are only planning a 60 day comment period and they are going to chew up a number of weeks with the Holidays.


Policy Day panelist Jennifer Richter gives a listen

In November of 2018, Conference Chair Mike Pehel and former InterDrone Conference Chair Katie Flash asked if I would be interested in helping them develop an idea they had for a day-long program called Policy Day. Ten months is a long time in drone time and the program evolved accordingly as policies changed and failed to become NPRMs.

We settled on five interrelated issues:

  • Privacy
  • CUAS
  • Pilot Integration into the NAS
  • Remote ID
  • Waivers

I don’t have time to share what amounts to a five-hour television show. As I told the audience, this was some serious binge viewing. The good news is that InterDrone will be posting video of all of the sessions for free in a couple of weeks – the beginning of an initiative to provide the industry with content between conferences.

I want to give a shout out to all of those who came in to support this day, and a special thanks to Travis Moran who pulled together the CUAS panel:

  • Lydia Hilton, Counsel – Berman Fink Van Horn P.C.
  • Dawn Zoldi, Associate General Counsel – USAFA Business Matters
  • Mark McKinnon, Partner – Fox Rothschild
  • Vic Moss, Co-Owner – Drone U
  • Ryan LaTourette, Drone Labs Special Advisor – DXC Technology
  • Mickey Osterreicher, General Counsel – National Press Photographers Association (NPPA)
  • David J. Martel, Safety Officer/sUAS Program Coordinator – Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department
  • Kenneth Kelley, Aviation Safety Airworthiness FPM/POC sUAS Educational Outreach – FAA Safety Team (FAAST), AFS-850
  • Travis Moran, Vice President – Welund
  • Daniel Abreu, Deputy Associate Director, Security Programs, Infrastructure Security Division- Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency
  • Randy White, Principal Manager, Physical Security & Asset Protection – Southern California Edison
  • Jennifer Richter, Partner – Akin Gump
  • Jennifer Holtz, Deputy Division Chief – Cybersecurity and Communications Reliability Division, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, Federal Communications Commission
  • Andrew Elefant, Director of Legal & Policy – Kittyhawk
  • Andy Thurling, CTO – NUAIR Alliance
  • Matt Fannelli, Director of Strategy – Skyward
  • Amit Ganjoo, Founder and CEO – ANRA Technologies
  • Richard Lopez, National UAS Operations Executive  – Hensell Phelps
  • Matt Dunlevy, CEO – SkySkopes
  • Lorenzo Murzilli, Program Manager – FOCA (the Swiss CAA)

It was an AWESOME day.

I had a blast moderating the CUAS panel with WhiteFox Defense CEO Luke Fox, Liteye CEO Kenneth Geyer and Red6 CEO Scott Crino. We are lucky to have people like this figuring out what to do about those pesky drones that drop bomblets and disrupt airports around
the world.


click to view

droneUp CEO Tom Walker came to Vegas with a single purpose: to upset the apple cart so that attendees (at least service providers looking for hope) would reframe their thinking about the state of the industry.

Tom is a good looking, rugged kind of ex-military guy with a tan. He is confident and speaks with authority. And he is very proud of what he and his team have accomplished. I’ll let the website present the value proposition.

droneUp provides end-to-end aerial data solutions by matching your requirements with drone pilot services. Our patent-pending, in-app platform locates, qualifies & deploys single pilot or multi-pilot crews to your job for efficient, safe and reliable deliverables. Guaranteed.

The interesting thing about this matchmaking service is that it seems to be making money. Loosely paraphrased, the message is that the sun is shining. Quit your bellyaching and go make some money.

You can get a good sense of his point of view from his July blog post on LinkedIn. Being a writer I can assure you that this was part of the run-up to his speech. And it’s pretty amusing in an almost Eganesque way.

Despite the rapid pace of our industry’s growth, the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) community remains relentlessly committed to two things:

1. Complaining that regulations are preventing industry growth.

2. Complaining that the lack of regulations is preventing industry growth.

Both statements are mostly inaccurate. With a little due diligence and industry insight, they could easily be rewritten as:

1. We’ve burned through our cash because industry regulations have prevented us from generating revenue.

2. We’re spending a boatload lobbying to change the rules, so we need more. And, we’ll start making money soon. This time. Promise.

Perhaps it’s time to stop blaming the FAA?

As many of us have written, there are plenty of opportunities under Part 107. A quotable guy, Tom offered up his ‘secret sauce’ of proven business maxims that include time-honored
ideas like:

We answer the phone.

Tell them how you’re different, let them decide who’s better.

We control the future, not the FAA.

Start acting like business people who are trying to build an industry.

Not surprisingly, his message was very well received. The less hyper-ventilated ‘work for it’ message compared very favorably to PrecisionHawk CEO Michael Chasen’s self-serving, not quite credible keynote the previous morning.

The battle of the pilot agencies – hmmmmmmmmmm.


The 2019 Women to Watch – click to view

This is the second year I have had the honor of judging the Women to Watch in UAS List developed by Women And Drones, the largest online platform for women in the
UAS industry.

The award is designed to acknowledge and motivate women who are driving change and leading the drone industry closer to gender parity. In creating this list, we aim to raise the profile of women doing amazing work and to encourage more women to embrace
UAS technology.

There were 471 entries from 8 countries. The five winners are:

Humanitarian Honoree – Amrita Lal, Flying Labs

Innovation Honoree – Evangeline Corcoran, Queensland University

Education Honoree – Meghan Salter, Martha Elementary School

Entrepreneurial Honoree – Hitomi Uematsu, SkyMagic

Leadership Honoree – Dawn Zoldi, US Air Force Academy

You can learn much more here.


I saw a couple of things that I think you will enjoy.

click to view

First, Fishing from a Drone in Australia I found this in UAS VISION. Imagine a flying lawn chair with room for beer(s) set to vintage Jackie Wilson.

click to view

And for those of you who love analog and av gas, nothing better than the sound of eleven F4U Corsairs at the 2019 Thunder Over Michigan airshow – the largest gathering in many years – also from UAS VISION.

And that’s the report from Las Vegas in 2019. It was great to be together with so many friends (you know who you are) and to make new ones. I am discouraged by the news but continue to be inspired by the talent and commitment of the people I meet.

In a few weeks, Commercial UAV Expo Americas will be in Las Vegas. You can save $200 on your admission if you buy before September 15th.

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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