sunset photo of rain over mountains
Walking rain towards Tres Piedras

Hi all –

What else could we possibly talk about this week but the last minute flurry of FAA activity before the first day of Part 107 testing August 29 2016. But let’s start with public reaction to the long anticipated paradigm shifting news.

Part 107: The View From The Heartland takes in the news from Dayton, Salina and Wichita. The gist of it is summed up in the headlines New FAA drone rule lowers pilot requirements. Yep that pretty much gets it.

Hard to say if that was the plan, but the FAA has certainly made the point that things just got a whole lot easier. We’ll have to see if that helps people with a shiny new Certificate charge a premium for their mastery…

Earl Lawrence who runs all things UAS for the FAA announced that “3,351 people signed up to take a test of aviation knowledge Monday (8/29/16)—the first day possible — to certify themselves as drone pilots. Another hint of the pent-up demand is that 20,000 commercial drone operators have already registered to start flying, in anticipation of passing those tests that become available Monday.” NOTE I have no idea who those 20,000 commercial drone operators are – I can’t find a press release.

Remember the confusion we had a few weeks back around our article about contacting the tower? Well this week the FAA finally released the details of how getting clearance to operate in at least Class C and D space will work. It’s a 22 page Job Order. The DroneMann, Steve Mann did a great post breaking it down in Here’s The Future Of UAS ATC.

Meanwhile the model crowd got a nasty surprise or two as reported by John Goglia in Forbes. Flying FPV? Surprise, You’re Gonna Need A 107. Turns out that flying with FPVs (goggles), which includes the entire drone racing community, will only be allowed if the pilot has a Remote Pilot Certificate (i.e. Part 107) and operates under those rules.

The FAA wrote John that “Under the FAA’s current interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, modelers who want to fly their drones using first-person-view systems must operate under Part 107, which requires a Remote Pilot Certificate. The operator also would need to comply with any other applicable Part
107 requirement.

My best guess is that this is the only way that the FAA can mandate an observer. Problem is that drone racing is the bright spot sustaining lots of retailers. Another problem, which I go into in the post, is that the FAA has been allowing FPV racing for money – most recently in New York and shown on ESPN3.

I do not understand why the FAA continually turns a blind eye when the key to compliance is consistency.

There’s more to the article. Consistent with what the FAA told Frank Mellott, the FAA wrote Goglia that “The FAA does not mandate membership in any particular community-based organization.” John then asked which CBO’s besides the AMA qualify. The response was “The FAA does not intend to maintain a list of organizations that would qualify as a CBO under the Special Rule for Model Aircraft.” May as well just pay your five bucks and go fly.

All of which gets neatly summed up in Frank’s latest post 333, 107, Recreation & 101 – A Dangerous Regulatory Mess! which examines the safety issues associated with having four sets of rules that give the least regulated folks the most rope.

The closing thought on being a pilot comes from an interview with Eric Cheng, who is the closest thing to a rock star we have.

“I don’t think there is any replacement for competence as a pilot. The best thing you can do is to practice flying (in a safe place) until you can do so without thinking. This frees your brain up so you can be situationally aware and smart when you’re operating a drone.”

Amen.

A study out of Australia, Why What Goes Up, Comes Down analyzed 152 RPAS accidents over the past 10 years. In manned aviation you could be sure that most of them would be the result of pilot error. With no one aboard, it’s not surprising that technology issues are the key contributor. The conclusion being that regulators need to devote more attention to the hardware – particularly
comm systems.

EPIC v. FAA – What About Privacy? EPIC has brought their lawsuit against the FAA alleging that “The FAA violated the law when it failed to issue and solicit public comments on proposed drone privacy regulations.” The FAA dismissed the EPIC petition simply saying that “privacy issues are beyond the scope of this rulemaking.” Looking forward to some opinions on the merits from all of you
in D.C.

If you’re tired of all the wrangling, Workhorse Is Making Deliveries Fly…Now will remind you what you love about drones. These guys are figuring out how to make deliveries happen under a 333 and soon a 107. It’s a great demonstration of how a company can work with the FAA to do something innovative. And the makings of a really smart business model.

For a chuckle, read Commercial Drones Make The 2016 Gartner Hype Cycle which separates commercial drones from autonomous vehicles for the first time in a category called “the perceptual smart machine age.” Gary Mortimer’s commentary provides the laughs.

Remember the Ford-DJI $100K Developers Challenge that was announced at CES? The idea was to use drones to scout for trucks in disaster areas. 10 teams are competing in the fly-off is this weekend.

Here’s an interesting sales promotion – Autel will rebate $150 off the purchase price of their X-Star series drones for those who can demonstrate that they have passed the Part 107 test. Not cheap at 10%+ of MSRP but CEO Steve McIrvin says “These new rules lower the barriers to entry … It’s an exciting time to be at the forefront of this flourishing industry.” Uh huh.

Happy to have an Eye Candy Tag Award winner for you this week. Festo is a German industrial control and automation company where pushing the envelope is a tradition. Festo’s Free Flying Menagerie offers a beautiful vision of how nature can inspire technology.

Thanks for reading and for sharing.

best,
ck

Christopher Korody
DroneBusiness.center
chris@dronebusiness.center
follow along @dronewriter

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