The 'Acronym Soup' issue of Dronin' On 10.13.18
a fine day for a bowl of soup

Hi all –

We’ve got our first snow on the peaks and its been a slow week in the rabbit patch so I am going to take the opportunity to catch up on some acronyms of interest – FAA, AMA, UAS Air Cargo, VLL, AI, IoT, QoS, DOT, UAM, AV, CONOPS, TFR plus Follow Ups, Eye Candy and Coming Attractions.


FAA Acting Administrator Daniel K Elwell
photo courtesy

The FAA now has a five-year runway. How about a pilot? In the opinion of many, over the past 10 months(!) Acting Administrator Dan Elwell has earned the top job. Our community has benefited from his “open for business” approach and his leadership in the repeal of 336. With the FAA’s plate fuller than it has ever been, Elwell has demonstrated that he is a great choice to command this challenging mission.



Airbus multi-layer capture model – courtesy Airbus Aerial

Such a smart approach if you have all of the pieces.

Airbus Aerial Takes to the Skies to Aid Hurricane Michael Disaster Efforts:

To deal with Michael, the team is currently setting up to gather high-resolution, cloud-free images over the next few days, along with satellite tasking plans. Beyond satellite imaging, the team has their drone and manned aircraft pilots in position so they’re ready to go as soon as the storm clears. 

On an upbeat note that I suspect that he would like to walk back, CEO Jesse Kalman explained that “Insurance companies can use satellite data to see if a house has been blown over, negating the need to actually send an in-person insurance adjuster.”

Think of the savings! Kind of like getting fired on Twitter.

And from reader Susan E who has family in harm’s way on NBC, Drone Footage Shows Hurricane Michael Ravaged Florida Town Where It Made Landfall. Adios Mexico Beach and Tyndall AFB.


Stern testimony this week from FBI Director Christopher Wray to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday, FBI Warns That Terrorists With Drones Pose ‘Escalating Threat’:

“The FBI assesses that, given their retail availability, lack of verified identification requirement to procure, general ease of use, and prior use overseas,” drones will be used in an attack in the U.S. including “a mass gathering,” Wray said. 

screen grab – click on the image to see the video

An entirely different type of risk was presented at the Unmanned Systems Academic Summit which is summarized in a meaty article University of Dayton Research Institute – Risk in the Sky? The researchers found that:

In a test designed to mimic a midair collision at 238 miles per hour, researchers in UDRI’s Impact Physics group launched a 2.1-pound DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter at the wing of a Mooney M20 aircraft. 

The drone did not shatter on impact, but tore open the leading edge of the wing as it bore into the structure, damaging its main spar.

Trying to regain altitude after the apparently unexpected repeal of 336 (wishful thinking is not a strategy), offers AMA Issues Statement on FAA Reauthorization: A “New Chapter” for the Organization.

The following is the AMA statement from Chad Budreau, interim Executive Director of the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA):

“For the first time ever, AMA stands to gain official recognition as a community-based organization. Meanwhile, as a community, we now have an even larger role to play in lending our decades of expertise to the FAA, helping to educate the broader recreational community and working together with the FAA to promote and enhance safety.”


One of the most fascinating aspects of UAS policy is that it is evolving in parallel around the world through very different kinds of organizations. Peter Van Blyenburgh, the founder and President of UVS International whose mission is Federating the Remotely Piloted Systems Community has been a leader since
the beginning.

Peter recently moderated two sessions at ICAO’s Second Air Cargo Development Forum in Zhengzhou, China. The experience led him to write Reflections on the Current Situation. It is a thoughtful piece that touches on many of the regulatory challenges both present and still ahead. Given that the focus of the Forum was on Air Cargo, I thought that this comment was particularly telling:

In view of the large amount of Light RPAS already flying VLL [Very Low Level] missions, it is imperative to tackle, with the utmost urgency and with priority over standards for large RPAS, the creation of the standards applicable to
these systems.


One of the big plays for telecom is IoT, which if nothing else will create huge amounts of data. Dr. Derek Long, head of Telecoms and Mobile, Cambridge Consultants looks at the issue in Why AI Is Essential to Success in Industrial IoT. It’s a little on the dry side but you can readily see how AI will be employed to optimize the 5G networks that many expect (or are lobbying for) UAS to utilize.

In the core and cloud, AI techniques will drive orchestration, optimisation, service discovery and optimum path configurations. 

This will allow carriers to offer new and highly targeted services to enterprise customers, moving away from commoditised infrastructure and ‘best effort’ QoS [Quality of Service – a critical concept to BVLOS].

Using this approach, carriers can enable IIoT platforms to extend beyond their existing wire connected fixed machinery and into mobile equipment, such as robots, augmented reality systems and distributed sensors.  

Sounds like a drone to me…

The Future of Jobs Report 2018
click to access the report

Enterprise IoT Insights offers a summary based on the Future of Jobs Report 2018 from the World Economic Forum, AI Will Create 133M New Jobs by 2025, but Not Enough People to Fill Them.

The World Economic Forum reckons 133 million new jobs will be created through deployment of AI tools by 2025, even as 75 million jobs are displaced.

In sum, 58 million more jobs will be available within five years as a result of engaging machines in process driven tasks.

It’s a wonder this question doesn’t come up more frequently:

Will AI Make Us Dumb?


illustration courtesy of The Drive

If you are still catching up on your acronyms, UAM is Urban Air Mobility. Basically, flying taxis without cabbies. Not sure how the medallion racket will work, but I am sure that will sort itself out.

Writing for The Drive, veteran tech writer Eric Adams brings the future to life with a credible scenario set in 2052, wonderful details about work in the future and a sound understanding of the challenges and issues ahead in Here’s How the Autonomous Air Taxi of Tomorrow Won’t Let You Die.

… Times had changed. Hundreds of air taxi ventures had gone into financial tailspins over the past three decades, along with quite a few actual tailspins that had resulted in some extremely well-documented fatal accidents while testing the new aircraft. (Blame the massive technological hurdles relating to the complexities of autonomous flight—the only viable means of executing the service, given the shortage and cost of human pilots.) So many billions were lost, congressional investigations became routine. But once urban air taxis finally materialized, going to the airport became so easy you might even forget you had to do it.

Thought provoking and absolutely recommended.

Here is a suitable companion piece, One in Eight People Willing to Fly Without a Pilot. Another angels and pins question – is that a lot or a little for something that doesn’t exist? Look at the adoption curve that Adams forecasts.


Next up on the refresh your acronyms list is AV for Autonomous Vehicles – self-driving cars and trucks. I have been watching this space for some time now because there are a lot of parallels:

  • Similar problem set
  • Convergence of the same technologies
  • Federal regulation
  • A broad, well funded use case
  • Challenges with public acceptance and adoption

Hard on the heels of the Reauthorization came DOT Rolls Out New Self-Driving Car Guidance. From Morning Transportation:

THIRD TIME FOR EVERYTHING: Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on Thursday rolled out the latest update to DOT’s voluntary guidelines for self-driving vehicles. The guidance “builds upon — but does not replace” the last iteration, according to the agency. The document:

— Provides guidance for transit, trucks and buses in addition to cars.

— Contemplates an update to federal motor vehicle safety standards.

— Takes away the designation of 10 “proving grounds” named by the previous administration, and discusses creating a pilot program to learn from testing already happening on public roads.

— Affirms a commitment to using the 5.9 GHz spectrum for connect cars.

— Mentions an upcoming study of how self-driving vehicles could affect
the workforce.

— Keeps companies’ release of “safety self-assessments” voluntary.

GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra recently penned Why Self-Driving Cars Need Federal Regulations, which has a very familiar ring:

The SELF DRIVE Act, passed by the House of Representatives, and the AV START Act, pending in the Senate, would direct the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to issue new and revised safety regulations on an expedited basis. The bills would allow safe self-driving deployment during the period between enactment and NHTSA’s issuance of new regulations, but only by manufacturers that prove their self-driving cars are as safe as human drivers. 

What’s missing from this picture? – image courtesy GM

One of the things Barra noted in her op-ed was that: Current federal law prohibits deployment of self-driving vehicles without steering wheels and other conventional driver controls. Which provides a lovely segue, U.S. to Allow Cars Without Steering Wheels.

Cars without steering wheels will be allowed under certain conditions, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said today in an
80-page report.

“When regulation is needed, DOT will seek rules that are as non-prescriptive and performance-based as possible.” 

Seems like a very sensible – and familiar – approach.

CB Insights is offering a provocative whitepaper, 33 Industries Other Than Auto That Driverless Cars Could Turn Upside Down. It’s an astonishing list.

screen grab from animation – click for video – courtesy Waymo

According to an article in InsideEVS, Tesla has collected data from over 8 billionreal-world customer driving miles. Now the MIT Technology Review reports Waymo’s Cars Drive 10 Million Miles a Day in a Perilous Virtual World.

…Today Waymo not only announced that its vehicles have clocked more than 10 million miles since 2009. It also revealed that its software now drives the same distance inside a sprawling simulated version of the real world every 24 hours—the equivalent of 25,000 cars driving 24/7. Waymo has covered more than 6 billion virtual miles in total.

This is remarkable. One wonders when this technology will be applied to various types of drones and CONOPs


screen shot courtesy of DJI

Always fascinating to see how some of these stories turn out.

You might remember that last week DJI’s Adam Lisberg wrote to say that one of their dealers was providing an Aeroscope to the local Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. So imagine my surprise when CBS affiliate KRQE popped this story, Hundreds Violate FAA’s No Drone Fly Zone at Balloon Fiesta and local papers reported that of the 458 bogeys detected, almost half crossed over into the no-fly zone. The reporter noted that:

“…The device could track serial numbers and that the information was being handed over to local authorities and the FBI.”

I checked with Adam to ask him to help put the data in context. He told me that:

Our dealer operating the equipment there is still de-duplicating the records, but I’m going to guess there have been maybe 50 unique drones detected within the 4-mile TFR in the week since the festival started. Fewer than that actually launched – I saw a bunch of hits that never cleared 0.0 meters AGL probably because they saw the TFR warning pop up. (Which shows that our geofencing is providing exactly the educational function that it was designed for.)

I’ll let the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta organizers speak for themselves … but they really love this system. They just want to know whether anything is flying in the area they need to protect – and if something is, where the pilot is, and what the serial number is. I can tell you that the police responded to at least two of those pilot locations and scared the living heck out of them.

An impressive outing – getting a baseline remains the essential first step to assessing the threat. But let’s also consider that the Aeroscope operator has a digital record of every TFR violation by course, altitude and duration linked to a specific aircraft. Should the FAA or some other agency wish to prosecute, the concept of chain of custody will quickly enter in to this. See Travis Moran’s guest post, Will the Drone Please Take the Stand for more.

Last weeks Cyber Risks issue explored a tiny tip of the iceberg that a) is not going away and b) we should all be very concerned about.Despite vigorous denials from Apple and Amazon, Bloomberg doubled down with New Evidence of Hacked Supermicro Hardware Found in U.S. Telecom

A major U.S. telecommunications company discovered manipulated hardware from Super Micro Computer Inc. (SMCI) in its network and removed it in August, fresh evidence of tampering in China of critical technology components bound for
the U.S.

The security expert, Yossi Appleboum, provided documents, analysis and other evidence of the discovery following the publication of an investigative report in Bloomberg Businessweek that detailed how China’s intelligence services had ordered subcontractors to plant malicious chips in Super Micro server motherboards over a two-year period ending in 2015.

“Super Micro is a victim — so is everyone else”

Appleboum said his concern is that there are countless points in the supply chain in China where manipulations can be introduced, and deducing them can in many cases be impossible. “That’s the problem with the Chinese supply chain.” 

Predictably Super Micro doubled down and denied the whole thing.

In the same appearance before the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday, FBI Director Wray threw a little shade and no light on the topic, FBI Director Deflects Questions on China Tampering With Server Chips:

“We have very specific policy that applies to us as law enforcement agencies to neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation… I do want to be careful that my comment not be construed as inferring, or implying I should say, that there is an investigation.”

Adding “Be careful what you read in this context.” Needless to say it’s not doing the stock any good.

This next headline from journalists at the Center For Public Integrity and published in the Daily Beast bears really careful reading. Unfortunately, there is no way that the meaning can be mistaken, ‘Nearly All’ of the Pentagon’s New Weapons Systems Are Vulnerable to Hacking. Please don’t dismiss this as click bait – it’s all based on a GAO report.

new report from auditors at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded on Oct. 9 that “nearly all” of the weapons systems in the Pentagon’s $1.7 trillion dollar purchasing pipeline have glaring cybersecurity holes.

Here’s the problem: The Pentagon and other federal agencies for the past few years have been intensifying their efforts to protect their own computer networks from hacking…

But the military hasn’t worked as hard over the past decade to protect its software-dependent weapons systems from hacking, according to the GAO.

Only in 2014 did the Pentagon begin to routinely check for cyber vulnerabilities in weapons systems, the GAO noted, and many systems haven’t been tested at all. “Until recently, DOD did not prioritize cybersecurity in weapon systems acquisitions,” the report said. “DOD is in the early stage of trying to understand how to apply cybersecurity to weapon systems.”

During one test a red team guessed a key password in nine seconds. In other instances, weapons makers used publicly available software in their systems without changing the default passwords.

This is becoming a recurring theme that can only reflect a lack of emphasis at the very top of the command structure. And I would bet that they have not begun to address the hardware implications.


I haven’t done Eye Candy for a while. Not to say that there isn’t a lot of great work out there, just that I don’t always see it. So yes, please consider that an invitation to ping me if you have something of broad interest.

First flight UAVOS ApusDuo – click the image for flight footage

First, props to the team at UAVOS for a successful first flight of their 10-meter prototype of the High Altitude Pseudo Satellite (HAPS) ApusDuo. What a
beautiful bird.

Thanks to reader Glenn B. for Super Vision | Matt Field which shows off the versatility of drones as something between a camera car and flying jib. This is go fast stuff featuring “…A hi-reving 1060HP Chevrolet Corvette, the most aggressive drift car ever built.” (sic) Love the comment

Which is more impressive, the driver of the car, or the drone pilot?”

Given the pace it’s hard to keep up, but drones and their Johnny on the Spot pilots continue to earn kudos by helping to assess damage and formulate response plans. Flo was bad, Michael is worse but this was off the charts, Drone Footage Shows Aftermath of Tsunami in Indonesia!

When an eye in the sky is combined with a wide range of image processing techniques, a new world opens. TIME (welcome Marc and Lynne Benioff) put together a portfolio based on a new book, City Unseen: New Visions of an Urban Planet. While these images are derived from Landsat, I thought that they conveyed both the potential and appeal of UAS imagery. These Images of Cities Across the World Reveal Things the Human Eye Can’t See

Because seeing is believing here’s a video on the 12 gauge ‘Drone Capture’ round which …Allows the quick and safe elimination of an aerial threat. The Drone Capture round is designed to safely eliminate a drone encroachment. The rounds Kevlar cord entangles the drones blades mid flight without destroying it, allowing for possible assessment.

Don’t spend another minute wondering “What will they think of next?” Now
you know.

And finally, if in your heart of hearts you have a thing for analog and av gas you are gonna thrill to Howling P-51 Mustang – Low Flyby Over The Green Fields of England courtesy of


On October 24, DESERET UAS is hosting the XPERIENCE Center Grand Opening. Powered by Executive Director Dr. Tulinda Larsen, This state-of-the-art facility showcases UAS simulations, real-time test flight viewing, and collaborative meeting spaces. Congrats to all – this is going to be one to watch.

The Commercial UAV Show in London is coming up 14-15 November.
Register here.

Early Bird registration for NATE UNITE 2019 is now open. Honored to have been asked to moderate a panel on all things FAA.

Early Bird registration for AUVSI XPONENTIAL 2019, this year in Chicago, is
now open.

Thanks for reading and for sharing. Back issues of Dronin’ On are here. We’ve been tinkering with the ‘search’ function so please let me know how it’s working
for you.


Christopher Korody
Editor and Publisher
follow me @dronewriter

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