Dronin' On 03.04.17

Hi all –

Here’s a birthday shout out to my bros Marc and Tony. And a thank you to everyone who took the time to send along kind words about my becoming a Contributor/Advisor to SkyLogic Research.

Last week I ran a couple of stories that basically mocked the latest FAA drone sighting report. Wouldn’t you know that Mark McKinnon at Dentons shared his own analysis in UAS/FAA – Drones v. Airplanes: It’s Just a Matter of Time writing that “The biggest take-away from this data is that the FAA’s job of educating drone users will never end. No matter how good the education program was last year or last month, there is a continuous flow of new entrants to the market.  Everyone needs to keep their guard up, and continuously promote best practices.”  Goes to show you can make data do whatever you want..

Bringing it into focus, GoPro Karma Smashes Through Old Lady’s Window in New York. She’s in her 70’s and her window was the 27th floor. As always we wonder if the drone was registered and was sporting it’s ‘N’. The FAA is said to
be investigating.

The hype machine is all wound up because Microsoft and Airbus invested in the AirMap Series B round. Why? Get excited about Rakuten, a Japanese e-commerce outfit no one has ever heard of. BTW the Airbus delivery drones are scheduled to test in 2018 in Singapore.

The announcement fired up Colin Snow who has just released Why the Drone Network of Tomorrow is Farther Away than You Think. Make no mistake, Colin and I are all for people making obscene amounts of money. From what we can tell, AirMap is trying to be the one ring that rules them all which would create a lovely renewable income stream. Right now it looks very much like an old-fashioned Oklahoma land grab. These things are very hard to get rid of…

Colin says thatWhile the NASA-FAA UTM initiative may have started out with some simple solutions, it’s now blossomed into an expensive “one-size-fits-all” behemoth that is proposing ways to control flight scenarios that don’t need them—those flights where no data exists showing any risk those operations pose to the NAS or nonparticipants on the ground. That hasn’t stopped UTM participants, along with the Drone Advisory Committee (DAC), though, from suggesting those controls.

I think it’s a good idea that’s gone bad. I am not alone in perceiving that many UTM and DAC participants think their charter is to integrate the Internet and the cellular network into the National Airspace System (NAS). The leader of GUTMA thinks his organization can do for drones what ICANN [Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers] does for the Internet. Face palm.

The snowball effect is these companies (and investors) believe drones are Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices that are going to magically multiply like rabbits once we have a drone network. Truth is, drones aren’t IoT devices; they’re data-gathering aircraft.”

In fact what is likely needed are multiple elements:

1) Who is it? – electronic ID

2) Where are they and where are they going? (UTM)

3) How do they communicate? (secure solution)

4) Can I fly there? Paper or electronic sectional charts plus geofencing advisory

Of course it’s fun to talk about one jillion lines of code that will do it all. In my role as sorcerer’s apprentice I found a very thoughtful paper written by Major General Jim Poss (Ret) called It’s The Datalink Stupid.

The datalink is the critical piece that no one ever wants to talk about.

Poss reminds us that “As we’ve discussed in previous articles, the new FAA Part 107 rules don’t allow drone BLOS operations without a waiver.  We also discussed how giving drones a detect and avoid (DAA) capability is one of the two big problems in safe BLOS flight. The other problem is how to reliably extend data link ranges to control drones over long distances. The FAA will insist that drones operating BLOS maintain an extremely reliable link with their ground stations throughout their flight profile, no matter how far they fly from their remote pilot’s location. Reliable links are absolutely critical to BLOS drone operations.”

Right now there are very few people at the table with the skills and the budget to solve these problems. The FAA will have to publish data standards and lay out a testing regimen. It is a daunting task that no one on the agency or commercial side is likely to undertake without a compelling business case. There is definitely more to the tale. I will share the follow on story if Colin writes it.

MeanwhileHarris has received a two-year grant to help develop a first-of-its-kind solution to enable beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) operations for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Harris will partner with the University of North Dakota and the Northern Plains UAS Test Site to develop the network infrastructure system under a Research North Dakota grant awarded by the North Dakota Centers of Excellence Commission.”

This would appear to be the kind of expertise that is needed. Enter the big dudes who know how to work with the FAA, commercial operators etc. Just to be clear the focus here seems to be on military operations which is consistent with North Dakota’s ties to defense.

This Brilliant Plan Could Stop Drone Terrorism. Too Bad It’s Illegal is about an Idaho security firm Black Sage – the two principals Ross Lamm and Dave Romero have backgrounds in robotic vision and machine learning. “Though the Black Sage jammer includes a narrow-beam antenna to minimize frequency disruptions in the surrounding area, Romero and Lamm concede that using the latest version of their system in a crowded urban area could cause hundreds of businesses to lose their Wi-Fi for up to 30 seconds.” Houston do you see the problem?

There are some serious legal impediments to doing it in the US but these guys are cleaning up in Middle East. Fascinating read.

There has been a tremendous amount of coverage lately about ISIL’s use of drones on the battlefield. My intention is to wrap it all up into a nice paper. Today I wanted to share an article on UAVs in the Ukraine. Ukraine’s Drone Army Was Born In a Crucible of Conflict. This is a solid piece of reporting by David Hambling for Popular Mechanics. So here’s the thing. Drones have been in use in the Ukraine since 2015. The US Army observed that the Russians were able to use drones to find Ukranian bases and then call in

The US Army observed that the Russians were able to use drones to find Ukranian bases and then call in precise fire. In response, the Ukranians have turned to crowd sourcing. “The Ukrainian drone acquisition system is chaotic—the military is bureaucratic, while the militias will use anything they can get. But this chaotic process also produces rapid evolution, going from zero to full-blown combat drones in less than three years all while on an extremely tight budget.”

DJI recently released new polygonal No Fly Zones in Mainland China they claim are safer and more logical for use at airports. I am not a pilot so I can’t assess the pros and cons, I would be interested in understanding why they thought this was important.

Every Monday morning Dronin’ On sputters to life with a double shot and the Center for the Study of the Drone newsletter. This week’s Eye Candy Tag Award winner is Portfolio: Dronescapes by Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox. Kathryn explains that “The airborne drone symbolises the present era of accelerating developments in militarised technology. It occupies imaginations in ways that infiltrate the future. In my paintings, I often juxtapose this new symbol of technology with the eons-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life symbol to trigger questions about the future of life, humanity, and the planet.” Alrighty then, take a look.

Thanks for reading and for sharing. You can find all of the back issues here.


Christopher Korody
follow me @dronewriter




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