The Eclipsable issue of Dronin' On 08.19.17
Eclipsability seen soon

Hi all –

Just last week everyone was huffing and puffing and threatening to blow each other up. Sad to say this week eclipsed it. Oraciones por los valientes de Barcelona. And Charlottesville.

You might remember that in an interview he did a couple of weeks ago, Mark Dombroff from Dentons said: “If someone wants to know what the drone world is going to look like in ten years, look at the aviation world…” This week the FAA revealed their new look for manned regulation. The article, by James T. McKenna, is running in sister pubs Avionics and Rotor & Wing.

Look for the U.S. FAA to detail plans Aug. 20 to reorganize oversight of flight operations, airmen certification, aircraft maintenance and training as part of its “transformation” of aviation safety functions.

The FAA’s highly decentralized culture is about to be reinvented. McKenna explains that:

The changes are intended to transform Flight Standards from a geographic-based organization to a functional-based one. According to FAA documents, Flight Standards’ eight regional offices and 100 or so local ones will be replaced by offices organized under four divisions.

I assume that the decision to centralize the sUAS airspace approval process was a precursor of this new approach. Seemingly the key to the sUAS puzzle will be the Safety Standards Office “Which will include divisions responsible for aircraft evaluation groups, flight technologies, aircraft maintenance and safety analysis, as well as international programs.”

It could have been the chicken, it could have been the egg but one way or another DJI is now promising their customers more control of their data. Officially this has been in the works for months and has nothing to do with the US Army’s decision to ground what may well be the biggest DJI fleet in the world…

The software update, called Local Data Mode, has not yet been released. The DJI press release is headlined DJI Develops Option For Pilots To Fly Without Internet Data Transfer. DJI VP Brendan Schulman said:

“We are creating local data mode to address the needs of our enterprise customers, including public and private organizations that are using DJI technology to perform sensitive operations around the world. DJI is committed to protecting the privacy of its customers’ photos, videos and flight logs. Local data mode will provide added assurances for customers with heightened data security needs.”

Here’s a summary based on stories in, Engadget, and The Verge which headlined the announcement DJI Will Add Private Flight Mode So It Can’t See Where You’re Going.

DroneLife explains that:

Local Data Mode will stop internet traffic to and from its flight control apps. In a statement, DJI has admitted that its flight control apps “routinely communicate over the internet to ensure a drone has the most relevant local maps and geofencing data, latest app versions, correct radio frequency and power requirements, and other information that enhances flight safety and functionality.”

Engadget put it another way:

Keep in mind, enabling offline mode will block the app from updating maps or geofencing info. It will also stop notifications about new flight restrictions and software updates.

If you look back at David Walters recent story you can see that there is a fair amount to be concerned about… We’ll have to wait for David, Kevin and others to tear into the new mode to see what it really does.

Meanwhile, the folks at DJI in the UK found time to ask Drone Direct to pull their specially modified dog walking edition P4 –with extended battery life and a retractable leash (!) – off the shelf. “It would be extremely dangerous to use a drone in this manner both for the animal and anyone in the vicinity. Fun story.

An unfortunate turn of events in the Netherlands where market leader Aerialtronics has acknowledged that it is having money problems – as Gary Mortimer explains “suspension of payments”. I am very sorry to hear this as Aerialtronics has done an enormous amount of pioneering work over the past two and a half years to advance tower inspections with their work for T-Mobile and others. They have also been doing forward looking things with Neurala and NVIDIA to automate inspections.

Friday the company announced that it is searching for a buyer or new investors. Great opportunity IMO for someone who can put a VAR network together and has some staying power.

I recently mentioned Aerialtronics work to Art Pregler, AT&T’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Program Director and he shared that AT&T has also been doing work in this area. This week Betsy Lillian has a story in Unmanned Aerial Online, AT&T Exploring Artificial Intelligence for UAV Tower Inspections.

According to a blog post from Mazin Gilbert, VP of Advanced Technology at AT&T Labs, the company is bringing together “Drones, machine learning and video analytics to do the job [of tower inspection] faster, better and more efficiently. With a goal of “full automation,” AT&T Labs has created a “deep learning-based algorithm that analyzes video footage and shows promise in detecting defects
and anomalies.”

Thanks to reader Marc K. for spotting this story in the New York Times, Microsoft Teaches Autonomous Gliders to Make Decisions on the Fly. The story is about a team out testing gliders on the Nevada Hawthorne Advanced Drone Multiplex Test Range. After launch, the two gliders are entirely controlled by
onboard algorithms.

Chris Walach the FAA testing site director explains that “Once it’s flying, it senses flight changes in altitude or direction and then makes its own decision if it has to go left, right, up, or down based on where the thermals are going to take it.”

It’s one step on a longer journey:

To navigate the real world on their own, machines must mimic the way humans intuitively plan for their next action and deal with events they’ve never
before experienced.

Great story. For more go here.

A fine tech post from Altavian, Does Sharper Drone Imagery Mean Better Data? I am consistently impressed with this group – they are not afraid to gore the sacred cows. After a series of tests, they concluded that:

The inherent problem with digital sharpening is that any “boost” given to an image is purely perceptual and cannot be said to truly recover information of the scene. Classic sharpening algorithms such as Unsharp Masking only boost acutance and have nearly nothing to do with resolution improvement. Therefore, image enhancements are a really bad idea for computational photography techniques, especially if the ultimate goal is high precision, reproducibility, and low uncertainty. 

It’s that same old GIGO thing…

Tiann Roux wrote an analysis for sUAS News of a new report from RAND Corporation, What’s the Buzz? The City-Scale Impacts of Drone Delivery. “The report specifically deals with city package deliveries using drones, using mathematical models to assess the impact on energy consumption, infrastructure requirements, aerial congestion, privacy, and noise.”

Tiann concludes that autonomous vehicles are likely to have solved most delivery problems in urban areas before the necessary drone rules and regulations are in place. But he does see a place for drone delivery in more rural areas which should be easier to do.

Happy to announce that New Mexico dronepreneur Brad Hayden has secured a seed round for his company, Robotic Skies. The press release states that “The capital will accelerate the expansion of the Robotic Skies maintenance network for high-end commercial unmanned aircraft systems.” By leveraging approved maintenance facilities around the world, Brad enables manufacturers to provide service and companies to operate fleets on the continent of their choice. Clever guy. If you have maintenance needs, stop by and say hi at their booth
at InterDrone.

Drone racing still has consumer appeal. MarketingDIVE reports that Mountain Dew Flies Into Second Year as Drone Racing Series Sponsor. DR1 Racing’s DHL Champions Series will feature five teams competing in six races at amazing locations around the world. According to the press release, additional sponsors include title sponsor DHL, the US Army and drone manufacturer Air Hogs.

If you live in the Bay Area, plan on going to the Hiller Aviation Museum at the San Carlos Airport (KSQL) next Saturday, August 26th for their Day of Drones event. All the details are here.

Be sure to check out the final list of the 12 keynote speakers headlining InterDrone. Quite the who’s who, thoughtfully served up in highly digestible 20-minute bites. Register by next Friday and you can save $180 off the All-Access Conference Pass.

FINALLY. Please remember to don your special total solar eclipse glasses on Monday before you look. Here’s a video primer you can share with your kids.

Thanks for reading and for sharing. All of the back issues of Dronin’ On are here.


Christopher Korody
follow me @dronewriter

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