The DIPP Launch issue of Dronin' On 11.04.17
Webcast title slide

Hi all –

A very quiet week in the general scheme of things, so I am going to keep it short.


On Thursday, Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao officially launched the UAS (aka Drone) Integration Pilot Program (DIPP) on a live webcast Thursday from an auditorium at the Department of Transportation.

Morning Transportation wrote it up:

TAKING OFF: DOT rolled out its new drone pilot program Thursday. The roll-out shindig, featuring drone industry members, public officials and others, was at DOT headquarters, with speakers including: FAA Deputy Administrator Dan Elwell, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), AUVSI President and CEO Brian Wynne, Florida Power & Light’s David Herlong, Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

Tl;dr: Huerta said the best applications “will have a well-defined framework for federal and non-federal entities in managing drone flights” and will “have a strong industry partner on board to help explore innovative operations that the FAA currently restricts, like flights beyond visual line of sight, flights at night or flights over people.”

I watched the presentation. As you might expect, it was long on rhetoric about a new era in American aviation and short on details – except of course for the billions in revenue and the tens of thousands of jobs this would create. I have to say that it was disconcerting to hear the Secretary talk about the 900,000+ registered drones in the context of this program.

Turning the President’s executive order into a program required the publication of a Federal Register Notice (FRN) which lays out the details. There are two ways to participate in the program:

As a Lead Applicant and/or an Interested Party.

Lead Applicants must be state, local, or tribal government entities. They will serve as the primary point of contact with the FAA from start to finish.

Interested Parties are prospective public and private sector applicants/partners OR Lead Applicants. They may submit a request to be on the Interested Parties List to facilitate the formation of Pilot Program teams. Interested parties can be private sector companies or organizations, UAS operators, other stakeholders, OR state/local/tribal government entities, including those that are designated Lead Applicants and those that are not.

The schedule is brutal and favors the already prepared and well-funded:

  • 20 days for Lead Applicants to submit notice of intent to FAA
  • 35 days for Lead Applicants to complete Vol I and II
  • 35 days for Interested Parties to request inclusion
  • 57 days for Lead Applicants to complete Vol III, IV, V and VI
  • 180 days for Lead Applicants and FAA to enter into Memorandum
    of Agreement

Go to the FRN and take a look at Step 3 which details the requirements – tough stuff, similar to a waiver or a 333.

Never one to miss a detail, in an update to his analysis, Jonathan Rupprecht
noted that:

“The Government will not provide any funding for project performance……The FAA will not be liable for any costs associated with the preparation of responses to the SIR, nor reimburse or otherwise pay any costs incurred by any party responding to this announcement. Therefore, any cost associated with responding to this announcement is solely at the respondents expense.”

A number of you have called or written to ask what I think. It’s a good thing. We know that the FAA is data-driven, this will provide more data – Administrator Huerta made a point of saying that participants will be responsible for gathering and reporting usage data, safety information and community feedback. More importantly, DIPP has the potential to address the issue of state and local governance in a proactive way, as opposed to the reactive way that anti-drone laws have been developed to date.

There may also be another benefit courtesy of the Rule of Unintended Consequences. DIPP will shine a bright light on the subject of transparency. Here is a really simple example. How come I can’t get an up-to-date count of the number of Part 107s that have been issued without running down everyone I know within the FAA?

Last week’s discussions about LAANC, and the continued uproar about the DAC (TG1 and Remote ID) both demonstrate that neither the FAA nor the RTCA, who the FAA retained to manage the DAC, are used to operating under the bright lights. Miriam McNabb follows up here.

DIPP is going to bring the issue to the forefront. The stakes are going to be much higher, the cost of losing is going to be exaggerated and as a result more decisions are going to be subject to scrutiny in public forums. That’s a good
thing too.

On other fronts, Rotor&Wing reports that FAA Grants Aurora’s Autonomous Huey
a Certification

According to the company, the latest certification under FAA Order 8130.34 permits optionally piloted aircraft operation with only a safety pilot required to monitor the controls… AEH-1 acts as a testbed for Aurora’s technologies, allowing for “rapid” development and testing of rotorcraft autonomy and other technologies, according to the company. [It is} is the third manned aircraft to which Aurora has given autonomy or robotic-controlled capability.

You can see why Boeing decided to acquire the company.


One of the great mysteries surrounding CUAS is determining the size of the problem. Just how many drone intrusions are taking place over critical infrastructure and in restricted airspace? Once in a while I catch wind of a hush hush discussion that suggests “they’re everywhere” or get the occasional report of a stack of drones collected by prisons and power plants. But there is very
little data.

UAS Vision reports that a pilot program has taken a first step to quantify
the problem:

Through a pilot effort between Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall [US Army] and Dedrone, a German-American company specializing in counter-drone technology, a drone sensor was installed on the roof of the National Defense University’s Marshall Hall at Fort Lesley J. McNair July 19 for a 26-day data-collection period before being relocated to the roof of the Fort Myer Fitness Center, where it collected data for an additional 30 days. [In total 95 instances were reported.]

Dedrone’s analysis found that all of the drone activity detected around Fort McNair took place during daylight hours, with many being of relatively short duration. At Fort Myer, however, where the sensor coverage overlapped with Arlington County, 14 of the 43 detections took place between midnight and 5 a.m.

JBM-HH falls under a Federal Aviation Administration Special Flight Rules Area in which UAS flights are prohibited within a 15-mile radius of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

The tests raise questions like how many different operators were involved (e.g. did one person penetrate repeatedly), where they launched from (something that Dedrone can detect if the launch is close enough) and what other facilities may also have been penetrated (e.g. did the drone overfly multiple targets of interest.) Many of these issues can only be addressed by capturing the drone and analyzing the flight controller data using a tool like URSA.

Zone Advanced Protection Systems from Australia shared their vision for a complete CUAS solution which incorporates a fair number of innovations:

ArbitorShield™ – A complete turnkey web based CUAV platform for the detection and countermeasure of all hobby and sports drones / UAV’s. ArbitorShield™ is a passive system, it uses innovative RF techniques in an intelligent series of mitigation operations. Firstly it detects the presence of the incoming drone and identifies its type (at a distance of 4.8 km). Then it can track the drone as it prepares to autonomously deploy defeat commands to take control of the drone.

Under the heading of the need for speed, I had to share this quote from Reach for the Sky: Drone Use by Sub-State Actors in Conflict from WaveII Room, a journal of contemporary British military thought.

…The air buzzed with the sound of IS drones. These drones were so numerous, and used to such effect, that US officials later stated that this was the first time since the Vietnam War that the US military were powerless against enemy aircraft.

While DOJ, DOD and DHS were conspicuously absent from the dais at the DOT press conference, you should be very clear that stories like this are now driving US drone policy.


Under the heading of the shape of things to come, Kent Statler filed an opinion piece in Aviation Week, World Needs Seamless Aviation Certification Standards.

At the core of the aviation certification challenge is the lack of global harmonization, a desired end state where certification standards and procedures are similar, and, importantly, mutually recognized and accepted within each of the global certifying authorities, the six biggest being: the U.S. (FAA), Europe (EASA), Canada (TCCA), Brazil (ANAC), Japan (JCAB) and China (CAAC). 

While the relationships between these certifying authorities are cordial at the senior executive level, mistrust is common at middle-management levels and below. This lack of trust leads to second-guessing and the demand for duplicative certification—many times on systems that have been flying for years with no safety issues. This is a waste of time and financial resources. 

There are two punch lines. The first one was totally unexpected:

Aviation contributes $1.6 trillion in total U.S. economic activity, supports nearly 11 million jobs and accounts for over 5% of the U.S. GDP. Civil aircraft manufacturing continues to be the top net exporter, generating $53.4 billion in positive impact on the U.S. trade balance. 


The second relates specifically to ICAO’s efforts to come up with global drone regulations and registration which I reported on here. As we get in to more complex operations, certification will play an ever bigger role. A global standard and one-stop process is very much in the interests of the manufacturers supporting the industry and will benefit customers as well.


The perfect counterpoint to DIPP madness came from Colin Snow, Setting Realistic Growth Prospects for the Drone Market. It is easy to get dazzled by the lists of speakers at our events until you realize that it is the same people over and over again (with the notable exception of Gretchen and Lisa’s Rolodex). Colin notes that:

Unfortunately, only a handful of companies (we estimate 75–100) are willing to come forward and present their use cases at these shows. Most of these presentations are not about companywide adoption, but rather about a particular, localized proof of concept.

Under The Bottom Line, Colin writes that:

It’s getting difficult to generate a comprehensive story on business use. Some of this can be attributed to the fact that many of the major industrial users are starting to focus only on the use cases that matter to them.

We are already seeing the beginning of a shift from one size fits all conferences to specialized conferences designed to foster peer group interaction. This is a very positive development that is essential to the development of vertical market segments. My Standards articles Why Standards Will Be Critical to UAV Adoption and The Continuing Importance of Standards to UAV Adoption both explore this
in detail.


NASA Is planning a briefing on UAS NAS integration November 30 in San Diego, CA. Take a look at the graphic which was posted on LinkedIn to see how they are breaking down the airspace. Interesting distinction between cooperative and non-cooperative traffic.

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


Christopher Korody
follow me @dronewriter


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