The 'Easter Parade' issue of Dronin' On 03.31.18
Taos Balloon Fest

Hi all –

Color me surprised at the number of Easter eggs this week.

Autonomous vehicles and Facebook continue to dominate the technology news cycle. Both have implications for UAS. There is a new bill addressing Title 18 (the no shoot part of the law), a successful UTM TCL3 test, news that UAVS will soon trade on the Big Board and much more.


As I reported last week, another FAA Extension was rolled into the Omnibus, kicking the can down the road. Miriam McNabb has written Here We Are Again: Congress Pushes Off FAA Reauthorization Until September. It’s especially valuable if you don’t follow the daily puts and takes.


Morning Transportation offers a summary that reveals all the complexities of
the week:

WHO’S FLYING THAT DRONE? NOBODY: At an Aero Club of Washington luncheon focused on the question of “what’s on the horizon” for 2018, FAA drone guru Earl Lawrence had this answer: “We have moved beyond the remote pilot stage and we’re now in the automation era.” As the FAA rushes to push out a rule for remote identification of drones — and the White House crafts a bill to allow law enforcement to shoot them down when they’re where they don’t belong — Lawrence said automation will allow drones to be programmed not to break the rules. 

This Open for Business thing must be fun. Now, how about some communication standards, a testing protocol and aircraft certification standards. And I know the UAST team has been working hard, but where is the data to inform SMS? Big difference between VLOS plastic and what this industry is going to be.

Of course, not everybody is thrilled about all things drone. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, (R-MO) introduced H.R.5366, the Safeguarding America’s Skies Act, which would amend Title 18 to allow the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to deal with drones judged to be a risk to covered assets. In case you were wondering:

“This is a commonsense bill that will provide much needed relief to the agencies tasked with protecting the homeland. Left unchecked, the nefarious use of drones and drone technology can drastically alter the laws regulating this burgeoning industry, levying burdensome and unnecessary restrictions on drone use. As is typical with government intervention, the pendulum often swings too far. It is necessary to get ahead of this by instituting smart, effective measures to protect against crime while encouraging the future growth of drone technology
and availability.”

Betsy Lillian has the story here. Jonathan Rupprecht offers his analysis in Safeguarding America’s Skies Act of 2018 (H.R.5366). None of this tells us if Ms. Hartzler will get any floor time… or if she has any support in the Senate.

Then on Friday, Morning Transportation reported that the left hand may have yet to meet the right hand…

IT’S A FAMILY AFFAIR: The Trump administration remains mum on when it will release draft legislation that would give DHS and other law enforcement agencies new drone authorities, but DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton said the department has already had some preliminary discussions with FAA. Houlton said DHS also is working with the Justice Department and other agencies on possible updates to current drone regulations. DHS leadership has pressed Congress to give the department power to track and take down suspicious drones as well as to develop counterattack technology.

Some version is both needed and inevitable, as stories like 13 Drones in Four Days: How Drug Smugglers Are Using Technology to Beat Border Patrol and NNSA ‘Concerned’ About Drone Threat To U.S. Nuclear Sites continue to create a sense of urgency. 

And let us not forget the issue of near misses, the latest (3/25) a 777 on final into Auckland (AKL) Yet Another Drone Narrowly Misses a Plane – How Do We
Fix This?

The question becomes what gets packed into the Reauthorization (e.g. thinking 336 and Remote ID) and what becomes a separate bill (e.g. a rewrite of Title 18). It’s going to be fun to watch.

Naturally some cities are just too fussed to wait. ‘Drone Killer’ Approved for Use in Oceanside was filed by San Diego NBC 7. The meant to be reassuring quote “The Drone Killer as they call it isn’t going to be used to bring down drones flown casually by people. City officials assured NBC 7 that police officers plan to use it for public safety and during emergencies.”  Thanks to Justin A for the story.

While the manufacturer of the Drone Killer may not have a clue, there is growing awareness that the SAFETY Act, which was put on the books after 9/11, can be used to provide valuable protections to drone manufacturers, drone service providers and infrastructure operators.

“The purpose of the Act is to ensure that the threat of liability does not deter potential manufacturers or sellers of effective anti-terrorism technologies from developing and commercializing technologies that could save lives.” 

Mark Dombroff and Mark McKinnon at LeClair Ryan will be presenting Aviation and The SAFETY Act: Limiting Your Liability. Follow the link to sign up for this very important free webinar. You can also learn more in The Counter
Drone Conundrum

Also from LeClair Ryan, Plane-ly Spoken has a breakdown of the 2018 budget appropriation. Planes, Drones and $…The 2018 Appropriation and Aviation includes some details of particular interest:

  • Research: Providing $24.035 million in Research, Engineering, and Development funds to the FAA to be allocated as follows: $12.035 million to support the expanded role of the UAS Center of Excellence, $2 million is to expand the Center’s role in transportation disaster preparedness and response, and $10 million is to support UAS research activities at the FAA technical center and other FAA facilities.
  • Purchase of UAS by DOT and its Operating Administrations: Including general language authorizing the Department and its operating administrations to use “applicable appropriations … to purchase, maintain[ ], operat[e], and deploy[ ] … unmanned aircraft systems that advance the Department’s, or its operating administrations’, missions.

And in the NY Law Journal, Swarms of Drones: Collecting Data and Delivering Potential Liabilities by Paul B. Keller, a partner in the New York office of Norton Rose Fulbright. A must read because the scenarios reveal a deep understanding of issues that I have never seen discussed.

The information gathered by UAVs, however, is not selective—their sensors and cameras capture information about the entire area inspected, regardless of its relation to the UAV’s primary purpose. Thus, a host of issues may arise when data is incidentally collected.

The article is an excellent complement to the recent guest post, Will The Drone Please Take The Stand.


Central to every plan for autonomous operation, is the concept of UTM – a UAS Traffic Management system that will enable Civilian Low-Altitude Airspace and Unmanned Aircraft System Operations.

This initiative is being managed by NASA, which defined a series of Technology Capability Levels (TCL)” to prove the concept.

  • UTM TCL1 concluded field testing in August 2015 and is undergoing additional testing at an FAA site.
  • UTM TCL2, completed in October 2016, leveraged TCL1 results and focused on beyond visual line-of-sight operations in sparsely populated areas.
  • UTM TCL3, has just been completed and focused on testing technologies that maintain safe spacing between cooperative (responsive) and non-cooperative (non-responsive) UAS over moderately populated areas.
  • UTM TCL4, with dates to be determined, will leverage TCL3 results and focus on UAS operations in higher-density urban areas for tasks such as news gathering and package delivery. It will also test technologies that could be used to manage large-scale contingencies.

The Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) announced that, along with its NASA Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) partners, it has flown multiple Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) over a week-long TCL3 testing period at the Nevada UAS Test Site at the Reno-Stead Airport.

Amit Ganjoo, CEO of ANRA Technologies put the accomplishment in perspective

“This was the first real world attempt where multiple USS platforms were integrated to manage and de-conflict UAS operations simultaneously in the same region. Achieving this is a significant accomplishment.”

Props to PK and everyone who made it happen.


Mike Blades of Frost & Sullivan has just released the Global Commercial UAS Market, Forecast to 2022. The full monty will set you back five large, but you can follow the link to get the abbreviated version. The ‘analyst quote’ (which I have abridged) says a great deal:

The commercial drone market, while storing and growing, will not maintain the high double-digit growth that market hype would have investors believe… Drones will be used more as a tool to make operations more efficient rather than completely displace current procedures.

Great interview with Kay Wackwitz of in Commercial UAV News, Disrupt or Be Disrupted at Commercial UAV Europe.

Commodity requires a certain rate of adoption throughout an industry, and I don’t see that happening anywhere at scale. Once gigantic drone fleets operate in fully digitalized workflows, I’ll be ready to call the technology commoditized, but I don’t see that happening in 2018.

Colin Guinn, who is living the next of his nine lives as Guinn Partners, a high tech accelerator and digital agency, has released the Guinn Partners State of the Drone Industry 2018 Report. I like this quote which reflects shades of Colin’s old boss, Chris Anderson:

Drone technology creates new potential for businesses, not because it gives companies access to tiny helicopters, but because it gives them all the capabilities of a flying smartphone.

PriestmanGoode Unveils Roadmap for Transforming Cities With Drone Technology is not so much a forecast as a concept from the UK design and brand experience firm:

“What’s new and interesting about our concept is the way we’ve imagined cities in the future being adapted to accommodate drone technology leading to a big step change in city development and does not require the use of the already congested road network.” [Basically the original Amazon pitch.]

A tip of the hat to DJI for their new Payload SDK which allows developers and users to integrate almost any payload with the Matrice 200 line. Smart.

Off on its own tangent, but with massive implications, is a story from Business Insider, New FCC Order Will Accelerate 5G Rollouts.

As the global race to 5G heats up, the new order will be key in reinforcing the US as a leader in the next generation network for two key reasons:

  • It will accelerate the rollout of small cell installations.
  • It will reduce the cost of deploying small cells.

In a world where spectrum is increasingly rare, 5G promises very broad, very fast, highly secure bandwidth. Early tests by Qualcomm and others have demonstrated that an LTE network could provide the foundation for a national UTM network.

As a for instance, the South China Morning Post reports that Baidu just completed their first 5G autonomous driving test. Just guessing but that could be one reason that the FCC is making things easier… BTW Baidu is reportedly going ahead with their open road testing program despite last week’s Uber setback.


The Uber tragedy continues with startling revelations and unabashed bashing.

Under the heading of good news Uber Disabled Volvo SUV’s Safety System
Before Fatality

Then there is the denouement Former Uber Backup Driver: ‘We Saw This Coming

The inevitable bow to public opinion Arizona Governor Suspends Uber’s Self-Driving Cars From Roads

Followed by the below the belt but very clubby Waymo’s CEO on Fatal Autonomous Uber Crash: Our Car Would Have Been Able to Handle It

And talking Waymo, don’t miss this story in The Atlantic, The Most Important Self-Driving Car Announcement Yet – their cars have covered 5 million miles to date…

Self-driving cars are a technology that may destroy the 20th-century American city as human-driven cars destroyed the 19th-century city. Let’s just say things didn’t work out perfectly last time. We ended up with sprawling, segregated, wasteful cities. Commute times continue to rise. Lively street life is a luxury that’s usually reserved for the wealthy.

Here’s the chance to rethink the role of wheeled transportation and urban life. And Waymo just gave us the time line. did a video analysis of what might have failed, Experts Break Down the Self-Driving Uber Crash. It includes an interview with Missy Cummings who heads up Duke University’s Humans and Autonomy Laboratory and is a familiar drone spokesperson. Spoiler alert, she was surprised at the fail…

And the grown up point of view from Robotics Business Review: News Analysis: Uber’s Self-Driving Fatality Prods Vehicle Safety, Foreign Policies

As the crash investigation continues, more questions are raised around liability, regulations, and government policies surrounding autonomous vehicles.

Another wreck, another death, this time involving a semi-autonomous vehicle, the Tesla Model X. FWIW the top of the line Tesla P100D goes 0-60 in 2.89 seconds [!!!] and starts at $128,300. The NTSB is investigating. Fast Company has one of many reports:

Apple engineer Walter Huang died on Friday after his new Tesla Model X he was driving crashed into a barrier in Mountain View, California. Though investigations into what caused the crash are ongoing, ABC7 News is reporting that Huang had previously complained to the dealer he bought the Tesla from that the car’s autopilot software veered toward that same barrier on multiple occasions. 


Facebook seems to have bottomed out, hitting resistance after losing some $30 a share (about 15%) and is now beginning a retracement. But the fun is just starting.

WaPo’s PowerPost led with a fascinating analogy, The Daily 202: How Zuckerberg’s Facebook Is Like Gutenberg’s Printing Press. I really liked this article which is based on an interview with Stanford prof Niall Ferguson whose book on the history of social networks, from the Freemasons to Facebook is called The Square and the Tower”.

“At the beginning of the Reformation 501 years ago, Martin Luther thought naively that if everybody could read the Bible in the vernacular, they’d have a direct relationship with God, it would create ‘the priesthood of all believers’ and everything would be awesome,” Ferguson said.

“We’ve said the same things about the Internet,” he added. “We think that’s obviously a good idea. Except it’s not obviously a good idea, any more than it was in the 16th century. Because what the Europeans had was not ‘the priesthood of all believers.’ They had 130 years of escalating religious conflict, culminating in the Thirty Years War — one of the most destructive conflicts ever.”

After a few attempts to dodge the inevitable, WIRED reports that Zuckerberg Expected to Testify to Congress on Cambridge Analytica Scandal.

Recode notes that The FTC Is Officially Investigating Facebook Following the Cambridge Analytica Privacy Scandal:

Facebook has had issues with the FTC in the past. The current investigation will certainly aim to determine whether or not Facebook violated a 2011 consent decree that it signed promising stronger privacy practices

Adding insult to injury, Zuckerberg Hits Users With the Hard Truth: You Agreed
to This

Over the weekend, Android owners were displeased to discover that Facebook had been scraping their text-message and phone-call metadata, in some cases for years, an operation hidden in the fine print of a user agreement clause until Ars Technica reported. Facebook was quick to defend the practice as entirely aboveboard—small comfort to those who are beginning to realize that, because Facebook is a free service, they and their data are by necessity the products. [Emphasis mine]

And this didn’t help either, Mark Zuckerberg Defends Facebook After a Controversial Memo Called for Growth At All Costs. Check out the video “What Facebook Knows About Me” – and you.

If you are concerned about the big picture, consider The Seven Deadly Sins of Social Media by Todd Rosenblum, the former Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense writing in The Cipher Brief. Todd starts out by saying:

The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data exploitation crisis seems to be waking up a new wave of Americans to the fundamental downsides of our purposeful addiction to social media providers. Russia’s information war, designed to foment domestic unrest, exposed more of us to the reality of online manipulation, but many viewed this as a willful attack by an outsider, not reflective of a base problem with the social media platform business model.

This week’s outing of how and why Cambridge Analytica extracted vital, personal information on more than 50 million Americans for political reasons amplifies how dangerous the fundamental business model is to our national cohesion.


Here’s a tasty mix of candied eggs and jelly beans – you never know what you’re gonna get.

U Funk offers Roads of Transylvania – the Amazing Aerial Photographs of Calin Stan. I like photographers who spend a lot of time covering the same
subject matter.

PetaPixel showcased Photographer Captures Halos Above Rock Pinnacles Using Drones. Pretty imaginative stuff.

DroneLife posted Always Wondered What’s Inside? Dronefly Reveals the Anatomy of a Drone. This is a technique that’s been used forever in automotive, consumer electronics and other product focused industries. Works well here too.

dezeen’s trailer for ELEVATION, “A forthcoming film exploring how transport, deliveries, construction and architecture will be transformed by drones” offers a visual interpretation of the PriestmanGoode concept mentioned earlier.

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

Best wishes to you and your family for a peaceful and joyous weekend. Try to remember that it’s not nice to fool the Easter bunny.


Christopher Korody
Editor and Publisher
follow me @dronewriter












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