Hi all –

Here in Northern New Mexico, pilgrims are walking to El Santuario de Chimayo for Good Friday from all over the state. It is an amazing scene of devotion, family and vintage cars (some don’t walk.) Wheneverr and however you and your family celebrate the holiday, I wish you a Happy Easter.

It’s been a thinnish news cycle so I’ll get you on your way quickly.

In their op-ed ‘A bright idea for modernization in Mr. Trump’s ‘skinny budget’, the Wall Street Journal came out in strong support of an independent ATC organization. They struck an optimistic note saying that “IT WOULD be hard to write a blueprint for federal discretionary spending and not have it include a single worthy idea.” I do love the smell of napalm in the morning…

The point that the drone business community needs to keep in mind is this “The difficulties with NextGen, in turn, reflect the FAA’s reliance on multiple streams of funding, including not only dedicated user fees and taxes but also, in recent years, congressional appropriations. And an agency subject even partly to budgetary politics is an agency at risk of instability, up to and including
government shutdowns.

Follow the second link to the GAO report “According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), its ability to perform its mission has been affected by budget uncertainty resulting from the 2013 government shutdown, sequestration, 2011 authorization lapse, continuing resolutions, and multiple
short-term reauthorizations

Now substitute UTM and maybe BVLOS for NextGen.

The threat of an ISIS style low tech, big boom drone attack in the US has critical infrastructure managers on edge – and is fueling the explosive growth of the C-UAS industry. Rob Thompson interviewed Travis Moran, a 25-year security veteran to explore the implications especially as they relate to the implementation of FESSA 2209. I’ve had the pleasure of hanging out with Travis – if you haven’t spent much time thinking about the problem, it’s a must read. And surprise – BVLOS is in the middle of it.

Another thing that our industry hasn’t had to deal with yet is certification. Both BVLOS and UTM, which will require a much greater level of integration with the NAS are likely to require software certification, perhaps something like DO-178B, and perhaps aircraft certification as well. So this story in Aviation Week offers a cautionary tale of what may lie ahead.

In past years, 75 cents of each dollar for a development program would be spent on engineering and 25 cents on certification,” says Kent Statler, COO Rockwell Collins Commercial Systems. “We have now swapped over to where it costs more to certify than to develop the system.”

An unwelcome report out of the UK. Drone complaints soar in the UK, leading to growing annoyance and concerns over snooping. “Last year incidents rose to 3,456 (about 10 a day), almost tripling the 2015 figure of 1,237. In 2014, the number of incidents was only 283, indicating that the commercial success of the devices has brought with it a growing public nuisance.” We just saw a significant tightening of recreational rules in Canada…

One of the most promising segments of the market is public safety. The use of drones is well documented and has had its successes. The real challenge is coordinating drones with the rest of a response team – especially manned air assets. Three interesting stories explore the problem.

The North Carolina DOT Establishes Best Practices for Drone Use in Disaster Response reports on an effort led by Aviation Division Director Bobby Walston. This type of standards development is a fine example of what is needed for the industry to grow. The final report and an impressive collection of resources are available here.

Fascinating article in iRevolutions by Dr. Patrick Meier, How To Coordinate UAV Deployments During Disasters about the UAV relief efforts in Vanuatu in 2015. “We had the mandate, all the right contacts and we everyone followed the coordination protocols. But this is just a subset of protocols required for coordinating UAV flights. There are other components such as data-sharing workflows that need to be in place well before a disaster.”

While this next one in DefenseNews is hardcore USAF, I think it provides valuable insights into the challenges of training people. “A lot of time it’s years before being an aircraft commander. The biggest challenge [for unmanned] is taking a brand new pilot or sensor operator, and teaching them these skill sets required to execute as a crew, and have that pilot in command mentality. They don’t have anyone telling them what to do.”

Sound familiar? Seems like we really need apprenticeship programs.

Everyone who flies electric drones will tell you that better batteries are at the very top of their wish list. Sounds like help may be on the way. “A team of engineers led by 94-year-old John Goodenough, professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering at UT Austin and co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery, has developed the first all-solid-state battery cells that could lead to safer, faster-charging, longer-lasting rechargeable batteries for handheld mobile devices, electric cars and stationary energy storage.” Hopefully, someone will put some bucks into this and bring it to market. And yes, it is inspiring that Dr. Goodenough (really?) is still rocking it.

In case you missed it, DJI just launched the Phantom 4 Advanced which is a few bucks less than the recently launched P4 Pro, both of which obsolete the P4 which was launched a year ago. Even Detroit in its heyday let the sheet metal
cool longer.

Tech Crunch nails it “DJI will still sell the regular Phantom 4 for 3 more weeks for $1,199. So you essentially have 3 very, very similar drones to pick from all within a $300 price range. Good luck.” It’s certainly not the way we were raised in marketing school, but it seems to line up with DJI’s recent assertion that their customers upgrade annually – now that is a nice business model.

Speaking of business models, I was happy to read an interview with Chris Anderson in GIM International. The Revolution of Drone-carried Sensors has a bit of revisionist history (which the P4 saga certainly confirms.) As always Anderson and Daniel McKinnon, VP Product for 3DR provide a thoughtful look forward.

The GIS world is the world of latitude and longitude – absolute frames of reference in the real world. Meanwhile, the construction world has typically been one of CAD, which is all relative dimensions. Traditionally, the Autodesks of the world work in coordinate systems that are relative to a building site, whereas the GIS companies often don’t get into that sort of building-level granularity. What we’re seeing now is two worlds starting to converge.” 

Great use case story out of China where builders used a drone to fly a pilot cable across the Dadu River – the essential first step to constructing the 4,629-foot Xingkang Bridge. The happy engineers proclaimed thatThe device is 100 times more efficient than traditional methods and cuts the cost by 80 per cent.” I can’t do the math but the video is jaw dropping.

For a bit more Eye Candy take a look at South Africa: A MAVIC Tale. Honestly, I struggle with this – you can see the animals are aware of and in some cases appear to be disturbed by the drone. Still, the image quality is astonishing and the soundtrack is terrific. Certainly lives up to DJI’s tagline “Wherever You Go.”

Go have fun.

Thank you for reading and for sharing. All the back issues of Dronin’ On are available here.


Christopher Korody
follow me @dronewriter




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