The 'Great Expectations 2019 Forecast" issue of Dronin' On 12.15.18
rear view from VSS Unity – courtesy Virgin Galactic

Hi all –

Hard to think of a more powerful way to open a 2019 Forecast then by saluting Sir Richard Branson and the merry band on the VSS Unity, Mark Stucky and C.J Sturckow who blasted their way into space and soared back to tell the tale. Straight out of the pages of The Right Stuff, and not all that far from Pancho’s place.

“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, space is … Virgin territory!”

In other late-breaking news, Bloomberg reported Boeing 737 Passenger Jet Damaged in Possible Midair Drone Hit. The crew heard a “loud bang” when something took a big bite out of the nose, but the Aeromexico 737 landed safely in Tijuana. The Daily Mail adds a photo captioned “The Aeromexico Boeing 737-800’s radome was also affected by the collision, which protects the plane’s radar.” Not confirmed, no word yet if debris was found, but definitely not good “news.” Now hearing that NTSB is on the way.

And now back to the future.

Do I have a crystal ball? Most definitely not. But there is an awful lot that informs what to include in a 2019 Forecast. This is a double issue in no small part because UAS has gotten to be a very big, very complex topic. I beg your indulgence and I promise that next week will be quite short – and considerably more festive.

As always there are numerous links, so that you can go down as many rabbit holes as you have time for. I have also identified some canaries in the jet stream to monitor the progress of the 2019 Forecast. To try and make sense of it all, I have divided things into four big buckets:

People – the leadership necessary to make it happen. A potential issue here is the loss of Continuity.

The FAA Rulemaking Calendar – which currently extends to 2020. There is a core principle here – if it’s not a rule, it’s got to be a waiver.

A look at the 2018 FAA Reauthorization (FAAR) and some idea of what to expect.

Odds & Ends, that as Peter King used to say when he wrote MMQB, may interest only me. Including my advice for 2019 which is worth exactly what you paid for it. Even so, it’s pretty good advice.

Plus a very special video that reader Brad H sent along, You Can Always
Go Around

I suggest you start by downloading H.R. 302, the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act (FAAR) which reads very much like a drone conference agenda and addresses almost every issue that is currently on the table.

The FAAR was signed October 5, 2018 and I am using calendar as opposed to work days for due dates. (p xxx) refers to the page in the FAAR so you can speed to it in Acrobat Reader. For a sense of timing, it is useful to keep in mind that many of the 13 Drone Provisions In FESSA: The FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 which passed in August, 2016, remain open.

I wouldn’t say molasses, but this requires heavy lifting so it’s not Internet
time either.

The perfect companion piece is Kenji Sugahara’s wonderfully succinct Analysis of the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act which he was kind enough to post so that you can access it. Kenji is the CEO of AriaAscend and a working Part 107 pilot. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Oregon School of Law, and played a critical role in the FAA’s 2017 Remote ID and Tracking Aviation Rulemaking Committee. Thank you.



SFO ATC tower – courtesy flysfo

As the sportscasters like to say, it’s all about execution. And when it comes to the FAA and the 2019 Forecast, there are at least two big unknowns going in to 2019.

Recently Acting Administrator Dan Elwell removed his hat from the ring for the top job. Safe to say that POTUS and the Congress have any number of other concerns, including keeping the lights on. No telling how long it might be until a new Administrator is nominated and approved.

The good news is that Dan’s in the left seat until they figure it out, and the FAA remains “open for business.”

The 2018 FAAR created a lot of work for the FAA. Dan noted that “There are over 285 separate provisions that require a report, a study, rulemaking, NPRM

How a new Administrator will prioritize UAS against a much larger to do list
is unknown.

Director of the UAS Integration Office (UASIO) Earl Lawrence has been reassigned. And ATO (Air Traffic Organization) Deputy VP Jay Merkle has been tapped to lead UASIO. These changes were effective December 9.

For many of us Earl Lawrence has been the face of the FAA – a lot of meetings, a lot of events, a lot of interviews, a lot of testimony on the Hill – in short, a lot of knowledge lost. Thank you sir, you will be missed.

Jay Merkle comes from ATO, a group that according to the recent DOT OIG audit, has a 9.5% waiver approval rate. The glass half full way to look at this is that Jay will be able to expedite things at ATO. In the press release, Elwell noted that Jay …was a “key architect” of the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability system. It will take time to get to know one another – the drone space is increasingly complex and there’s a lot that needs doing.

While there is no reason to be pessimistic, I do think that it is fair to say that the changing of the guard in large bureaucracies does not always result in things
going faster.

And how about the DAC which has been MIA all year? That is the Drone Advisory Committee which was announced with great fanfare by former FAA Administrator Michael Huerta at AUVSI in July 2016 saying that “The drone advisory committee is intended to be a long-lasting group.

The DAC is meant to be our collective brain trust; a gifted, dedicated group of men and women who have worked very hard to deliver a number of impressive reports. Then, in July, 2018, came the announcement that the FAA was taking over the management of the DAC from the RTCA. There was a new charter, some shuffling of the membership deck chairs, one meeting July 17 which was mostly old business, (a good write up here by Kittyhawk’s Director of Policy, Andrew Elefant) and then silence – including the cancelation of a scheduled October meeting.

I asked a well-informed industry source about it who told me that:

Basically, nothing has happened in a long time.  There is no new industry co-chair yet [to replace former Intel CEO Brian Krzanich.] Earl Lawrence has been the FAA co-chair, so we’ll have to see if he will be replaced and if so, by who.

There have been no new taskings from the FAA and there are no new ARCs. I am hopeful that once the FAA digests the Reauthorization, they will figure out ways to leverage the talent and goodwill. 

It will be interesting to see how all of this is coming together when the 2019 FAA UAS Symposium rolls around, February 12 to 14 in Baltimore. See you there.


Planned FAA rulemaking is laid out on the DOT Agency Rule List – Fall 2018. If you follow the link you will see that the FAA has 49 rules in various stages of development – six are specific to UAS, there are others for supersonic and space craft. Be fun to be in a meeting with Sir Richard, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk figuring it out.

There are many ways that rules are used, one obvious benefit in the UAS space is that a rule eliminates the need to submit and process individual waiver applications. Which is essential if the industry is to scale. Wiley Rein’s Sara Baxenberg and Josh Turner did an excellent podcast, The FAA: Open For Business, which explores the issue.

As a reminder, it generally takes two to three years for a rule to go through the process from input (often including an ARC or other advisory group,) to drafting, to the OIRA review, to modifying as necessary, to the public NPRM which itself is 30-90 days, to a review of the public comments and then to another rewrite prior
to publishing.

During this process, the status of the rule changes. I have reversed the chronological order since the ones that are furthest along are the most likely to cross the finish line.

For a really deep dive on this, please see the Memorial Day issue.


Two rules, Registration and Marking Requirements and External Marking Requirements are in the Final Rule Stage. One was due in October, the other in December, so both are behind.

It is worth noting that SEC. 371 (p. 126) ASSESSMENT OF AIRCRAFT REGISTRATION FOR SMALL UNMANNED AIRCRAFT is based on the External Marking Requirement rule.

(a) EVALUATION— the Secretary shall enter into an agreement… to estimate and assess compliance with and the effectiveness of the registration of sUAS.

With the domestic sUAS fleet already numbering in the millions, compliance is an enormous, unsolved challenge as is enforcement.

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers, I expect this to be an issue for years. There is a lot about this in the FAAR which I will get to in the next section.


Three in the Proposed Rule Stage.

The big one, because it is the linchpin for all extended operations, is Remote Identification of Unmanned Aircraft Systems. You might remember that the UAS Remote Tracking & ID ARC split in October, 2017 (The ‘Broken Arc” issue).

The ARC report is an extraordinary piece of work. It was published in December 2017. To draft the rule, the FAA has to figure out what technology (more likely technologies) to use, what equipage must carry it, what kinds of use cases to apply the rule to and what portion of the existing drone fleet will have to be retrofitted. And yes, how to accomplish that.

In my opinion, the only way this works is if Remote ID hardware is required on all drones over a certain size going forward. If it results in a cost increase and reduces sales, too bad – CUAS costs will soon exceed the value of the drone market if they don’t already. Initializing Remote ID must be part of the registration process. The drone should not launch without it.

While no one is talking about it much, further complicating matters is that it is impossible to have Remote ID without identification of both the pilot (impact on minimum age?) and the drone – along with that comes the question of who has access to what kind of information and for how long. See Travis Moran’s insightful guest post, Will The Drone Please Take The Stand.

In part because Remote ID (RID?) was conflated with 336, there is tremendous resistance from the recreational/modeler community driven by both privacy and unknown cost concerns.

Expect the NPRM process to be painful and prolonged. This is now scheduled for May 2019.

There is no other single issue that will so test compliance and enforcement.

Operations of Small Unmanned Aircraft Over People made it to OIRA in January, 2017 before the security agencies said not so fast, we’re not going to allow that without Remote ID. Two years later there still is no Remote ID, so it’s hard to see how this becomes a rule in 2019.

As I reported last week “By my count  only 13 107.39 waivers have been granted.” Jonathan Rupprecht offers a thorough review of the issues in Section 107.39 Operation over human beings. (2018).

Expect a very restrictive rule – very light weight, low impact materials, parachutes, visual observers. I am not a fan of this one, it got in line very early due to some smart lobbying, but I think that we need better reliability metrics and certification of both equipage and pilots before it moves from a waiver to a rule. In FAA parlance, let’s get some more data so we can make a risk-based decision. I know, too easy.

Finally, UAS Flight Restrictions Near Critical Infrastructure Facilities is a holdover from FESSA SEC. 2209. APPLICATIONS FOR DESIGNATION. The Secretary of Transportation shall establish a process to allow applicants to petition the FAA to prohibit or restrict the operation of an unmanned aircraft in close proximity to a fixed site. 

US Power Plants – map courtesy DOE – click to explore

Dronin’ On contributor Travis Moran’s post, The Hidden Pitfalls of FESSA 2209 for Drone Operators explains why this is an incredibly complex problem to sort out and will be a demanding process to manage. Get it wrong and it will have the effect of closing off a huge amount of airspace. As I have written previously, this has nothing to do with CUAS or interdiction. It is scheduled for March 2020. Expect DHS to play a key role.


Safe and Secure Operations of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems is an ANPRM – the purpose is fact finding to inform future rule making.

Abstract: …The ANPRM will ask a series of questions regarding the balance of needs between UAS operators and the law enforcement and national defense communities. This action is necessary to address safety and security concerns from the homeland security, federal law enforcement, and national
defense communities. 

In other words, only so much can happen until this is done. Right now, it is six months behind schedule.

Notice that there nothing on the calendar for BVLOS rulemaking.

Expect that sUAS will remain a waiver nation through 2019, and probably until 2021. Practically speaking, one-off waivers for complex operations like flight over people, BVLOS and autonomous flight (nice one Airobotics, I was wrong) will continue at a trickle rate. Developing the CONOPs and making the safety case will be the key to securing those waivers.

This should not be news to anyone. The FAA FAASTeam’s Kevin Morris did an excellent series of webinars last summer which are all available on YouTube.


Which takes us to the FAAR (FAA Reauthorization.) There is no way to go through the whole thing here – but I wanted to hit some of the bigger beats that will shape the industry, beginning with Congress’s effort to streamline the waiver process. If you want to scan here is how I’ve arranged it:

  • Waivers
  • UTM and LAANC
  • Delivery
  • Safety Standards
  • Privacy
  • Part 101
  • It’s About The Money
  • CUAS
  • Enforcement



(a) TRANSPARENCY.— the Administrator shall publish on the FAA website a representative sample of the safety justifications… that have been approved… for each regulation waived or class of airspace authorized….

Expect this to be a big help to a lot of folks who can’t afford attorneys to do their drafting. Think of the intention as the democratization of the waiver process. The hope is that it will increase the number of approvals. But don’t kid yourself, it still won’t be easy – that’s why the need for rules. There is also a provision to provide online status information about individual waiver applications.


If there is a bright spot for 2019 where we can expect real progress, it is UTM.

PK’s NASA program is scheduled to conclude in 2019 with UTM TCL4 which will “…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.”

When the tests are completed, the Research Transition Team will work with the FAA to inform future rulemaking. If you are interested, I recommend you download NASA’s Concept Of Operations v1.0.

As a practical matter, more and more small-scale UTM systems are already being tested. NUAIR, one of the seven FAA test sites (which got a much-needed shout out in FAAR SEC. 343 (p103) UNMANNED AIRCRAFT TEST RANGES,) recently held a meeting to “Lay the framework for a detailed implementation plan to build an operational  Beyond Visual Line-of-Sight (BVLOS) UTM system.” And don’t forget that Skyward’s Jonathan Evans has GUTMA (Global UTM Association) going hard.

The next SEC. touches on two of the big themes – UTM and security.

SEC. 342 (p102) UPDATE OF FAA COMPREHENSIVE PLAN is due in July 2019 to “To develop a concept of operations for the integration of unmanned aircraft into the national airspace system.” The report is to include:

  • The potential use of UTM and other technologies…
  • The appropriate roles and responsibilities for reporting unlawful activities
  • Methods to distinguish between lawful and unlawful operations
  • Appropriate ways to mitigate risks and hazards

You can see that this all hangs on Remote ID, as does:


(3) Where the particular operational environment permits, permit blanket waiver authority to allow any unmanned aircraft approved by a UTM system pilot program selectee to be operated under conditions currently requiring a case-by-case waiver under part 107…

If you read the NASA UTM CONOPS you will find that “In 2017, the FAA’s initial application within the FAA’s UTM ecosystem – the sUAS Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) – was deployed to provide UAS Operators access to controlled airspace near airports through near real-time processing of airspace authorizations.”

LAANC is still in national beta testing through 2018. Given that the FAA has a new application period for potential USS (UAS Service Suppliers,) expect LAANC to become a permanent program in 2019.

Based on the 50,000 requests during the beta, I think it’s reasonable to forecast that there will be 250-300,000 requests in CY2019. Expect this to become a useful metric to judge utilization and growth.

One of the gotchas of the LAANC program has been that it does not integrate Part 107 waivers. I spoke with Skyward President Mariah Scott and she seemed confident that “The FAA will integrate Part 107 waivers with LAANC access in 2019.”

Note that my understanding is that one of the things that is standing in the way of this happening is ATO – so we’ll need Jay to lean in to get this going.

Scott believes that “Implementing Remote ID will mark a moment when UTM moves out of R&D and becomes something that is actually happening.”


(a) IN GENERAL—Not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Administrator shall, upon request of a UTM service provider, determine if certain UTM services may operate safely in the national airspace system before completion of the implementation plan required by section 376.

Let’s see who goes first. It may be that we will see this in conjunction with our
next topic. 


2019 will complete the first year in a three year program. Lately it’s been radio silent. Expect that there will be a few early “lessons learned.” It seems reasonable to wonder if all ten of the original participants will stay the course and if all ten will come up with anything significant. There may also be some more participants.

One place that this will show up is in FAAR SEC 373 (p 128) FEDERAL AND STATE AUTHORITIES which calls on the Comptroller to conduct a study and report within 180 days “On the relative roles of the Federal Government, State, local and Tribal governments in the regulation and oversight of low-altitude operations of sUAS in the NAS.”

Who’s on first is a big deal, especially when you think about compliance and enforcement. Which brings us to delivery, a primary focus of a number of the UAS IPP programs.



Under (b) CONTENTS we get a strong sense of what the focus will be:

(4) Include requirements for the safe operation —

“(A) airworthiness…;

“(B) qualifications…;

“(C) operating …; and

“(D) the Views of State, local, and tribal officials related to potential impacts of the carriage of property by operators of small unmanned aircraft systems for compensation or hire within the communities to be served.

One assumes that somehow this has to be integrated with Part 135 which governs commercial operations. I would be remiss not to remind you about DOT Under Secretary for Transportation Policy Derek Kan’s comments to me at InterDrone about “economic authority.” Per the website, “To transport people or property for hire you must also have DOT Authority.” Expect a post about that.

And thanks to reader Chris P for this article from BBC NewsWhy Your Pizza May Never Be Delivered by Drone. Besides the obvious one word answer “regulation,” the article makes it clear (yet again) that public acceptance around privacy and noise will be serious obstacles to overcome. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the UAS IPP markets that are trying it.


This is an area that hasn’t gotten much attention, but as you just saw under a) in the SEC. 348 discussion, airworthiness is about to be a thing. Though I don’t expect anything will happen in 2019, too much else has to do.

I always like to quote aviation attorney Mark Dombroff: 

If you want to know what UAS will look like in ten years, look at manned aviation today.”

It is clear that aircraft for complex operations will be certified as a condition of either a waiver or a rule. SEC. 345 (p106) SMALL UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SAFETY STANDARDS is very much a step in that direction.

What it says is that once a set of risk-based consensus standards are agreed to for a specific CONOPS, it will be the responsibility of the manufacturer to certify that their aircraft complies with those standards. (i.e. self-certification) This puts the onus on the manufacturer, who can be penalized if said aircraft fails to perform – and perhaps held liable in a suit. In theory, it greatly reduces FAA involvement, as well as the costs and time associated with certification.

Extending the manned metaphor, as UAS gets further into the NAS, over time expect this to be extended to include certain avionics – for instance, detect and avoid and C2.

Going forward, there is no way of knowing how many mission specific standards there will be. The more there are, the more manufacturers will have to choose – thus leading to specialization – since supporting a jack of all trades design, such as the current generation of quads, would mean living on the certification merry
go round.

One question that comes to mind is whether Safety Standards will be developed for drones intended for the recreational market.

Remote ID should be the first thing requiring certification under SEC. 345



Expect privacy to be an increasingly hot issue across multiple fronts. This is a huge area of public and policy concern. So it’s not surprising that it comes up repeatedly in the FAAR.


It is the policy of the United States that the operation of any unmanned aircraft or unmanned aircraft system shall be carried out in a manner that respects and protects personal privacy consistent with the United States Constitution and Federal, State, and local law.


(a) REVIEW.—The Comptroller General… shall carry out a review of the privacy issues and concerns associated with sUAS in the NAS.


It is the sense of Congress that—

(1) each person that uses an unmanned aircraft system for compensation or hire, or in the furtherance of a business enterprise, except those operated for purposes protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution, should have a written privacy policy consistent with section 357…

This is going to be an ongoing issue with PD deployments (e.g. the recent NYPD kerfuffle), with flight over people and perhaps with large event security since it is clear that AI can pick people out of crowds with ease.

Another place to watch will be forthcoming drafts of the ULC drone tort law. While the focus has been on ‘per se’ trespass, all of the drafts also included a privacy provision specifically related to data acquisition. Lawyers I have spoken to feel that state laws already address privacy issues, so this could drop out. ULC is set to vote on the final language at their annual meeting in June. Expect an interim report
in March.

Hard to miss Google CEO Sundar Pichai up on the Hill this week. You can read the details here. Mostly it was a big nothingburger. Grandpa-1 found out that Google doesn’t make iPhones. And Grandpa-2 learned that you can search for “idiot” and get pictures. Hard to believe but Pichai had to explain that there is no little man behind the curtain. Buh bye Mr. Wizard.

I was astonished to learn that Google supports 3.5 billion searches per day – 10-15% of which have never been tried before on any given day.

So I was very interested when WaPo ran The Technology 202: More than 200 companies are calling for a national privacy law. Here’s an inside look at
their proposal.

A broad coalition of more than 200 retailers, banks and technology companies is releasing new recommendations for national privacy legislation today in a clear push to get out in front of lawmakers promising to rein in their data collection practices in the next Congress.

The Business Roundtable’s consumer privacy legislation framework… calls on the United States to adopt a national privacy law that would apply the same data collection requirements to all companies regardless of sector — while ramping up Federal Trade Commission staffing and funding to enforce the rule. It calls on companies to give consumers more control of their data and form a national standard for breach notification. 

We resemble that remark.

PART 101

Because the vast majority of registered drones are flown under Part 101, one of the big nasty problems that need to be addressed are the new rules for recreational fliers. I can’t prove it, but I feel confident saying that the longer the vacuum exists, the less compliance there will be.


This includes the requirement for a mandatory online test (i.e. applicants won’t have to go to a test center to make sure that they don’t cheat) and new criteria to qualify as a CBO. I have already touched on the issues around Remote ID which is what broke the ARC.

Someone pointed out to me that since pilots operating under Part 101 will need controlled airspace approval, it makes sense to migrate them to LAANC. The expectation is that guidance documents will be out in Q1, the hard date set by Congress is May.

This next one is just getting started.



(a) IN GENERAL—the Comptroller General of the United States shall initiate a study on appropriate fee mechanisms to recover the costs of

(1) the regulation and safety oversight of unmanned aircraft and unmanned aircraft systems; and

(2) the provision of air navigation services to unmanned aircraft and unmanned aircraft systems.

Kenji does a good job breaking it down and tying it to DAC TG3’s report, Drone Integration Funding submitted in July 2017 and referenced in SEC. 360.

For a completely different take on this read Auctioning Airspace by Brent Skorup at George Mason’s Mercator Center.

To facilitate the development of this transportation market, regulators should consider demarcating aerial travel corridors and auctioning exclusive use licenses to operators for use of those corridors, much as regulators auction radio spectrum licenses and offshore wind energy sites. Exclusive rights to routes would allow transfer and sale to more efficient operators and would also give operators the certainty they need to finance the substantial capital investments.


A key problem to solve for extended operations is spectrum. Spectrum is radio bandwidth and is a critical component for streaming data and imagery, for C2, for UTM, autonomous operations and no doubt other applications. It all gets trickier when you add in reliability, range, security and the cost and size of the prerequisite hardware. WiFi is not the fix for everything. 

SEC 374 (p128) SPECTRUM calls for a report on the use of spectrum that has already been allocated, as well as recommendations. You might have also noticed some recent DOT discussions about spectrum for AV.

No secret that you can expect 5G carriers, developers and manufacturers to be advocating very hard. Whether or not 5G is actually ready for prime time in 2019, it has a lot to recommend it in the form of blistering speeds and huge bandwidth. In some instances it could perhaps shift the ‘edge v cloud’ processing discussion. And it is comparatively secure.

I’ve left two of the big ones for last.


This is a subject of enormous interest, especially to the 250+ companies around the world who are peddling their solutions. In that regard, expect a good shake out. There are three sections of the FAAR that address this.


This orders a review and then a report of:

(1) The process the Administration is using for interagency coordination of C-UAS activity

(2) The standards the Administration is utilizing for operation of C-UAS systems


In matters relating to the use of systems in the national airspace system… streamline deployment of such systems by drawing upon the expertise and experience of the Department of Defense


(a) COORDINATION …For the purpose of ensuring that technologies or systems that are developed, tested, or deployed by Federal departments and agencies to detect and mitigate potential risks posed by errant or hostile unmanned aircraft system operations do not adversely impact or interfere with safe airport operations, navigation, air traffic services, or the safe and efficient operation of the national airspace system.

DHS and DOJ have begun testing. Sandia Labs recently issued an RFI to evaluate COTS solutions. This is a complex undertaking that I have covered in depth all year. No one but the three D agencies has or will have the authority to interdict in the near future. “No one” specifically excludes state and local LE. Don’t expect that to change any time soon.

What is happening on the infrastructure and large event side of the equation is detection. It’s not exactly a kiss and tell business, so most findings aren’t shared. What I can tell you from off the record conversations with a handful of companies, is that every time detection technology is deployed, they and their customers are always startled by how many drones are detected.

The showcase examples are Dedrone’s 2017 Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall study with the US Army which detected 95 instances within the Washington DC no fly zone. Details are here. By the way, Dedrone maintains an online international incident log.

Recently I reported on Aerial Armor’s deployment of a DJI Aeroscope at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta where 46 drones were detected within the TFR.

And Black Sage has announced that they have been doing detection at NCAA football games for Boise State this year.

People like throwing rocks at these reports, questioning the number of uniques, false reports and on. So what.

Detection is the essential first step – better yet, it’s legal.

Rather than interdiction of the aircraft, these efforts focus on locating the “clueless, careless and criminal” operators and having a nice chat. Expect more and more asset owners to put protocols in place to manage incursions and sightings.

That is as good as it is going to get in 2019.

Of course, all this is only as good as the teeth behind it.


The FAA is being pushed to add a good dose of enforcement to it’s focus
on education.


(5) the Administrator should pursue all available civil and administrative remedies available to the Administrator, including referrals to other government agencies for criminal investigations, with respect to persons who operate unmanned aircraft in an unauthorized manner;

SEC. 372 (p127) ENFORCEMENT.

(a) UAS SAFETY ENFORCEMENT.—The Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration shall establish a pilot program to utilize available remote detection or identification technologies for safety oversight, including enforcement actions against operators of unmanned aircraft systems that are not in compliance with applicable Federal aviation laws, including regulations.

(b) REPORTING.—As part of the pilot program, the Administrator shall establish and publicize a mechanism for the public and Federal, State, and local law enforcement to report suspected operation of unmanned aircraft in violation of applicable Federal laws and regulations.

  1. c) REPORT TO CONGRESS.— the Administrator shall submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a report on the following:

(1) The number of unauthorized unmanned aircraft operations detected in restricted airspace, including in and around airports.

(2) The number of enforcement cases brought by the Federal Aviation Administration or other Federal agencies.


SEC. 384 prescribes fines and imprisonment for up to ten years. Of specific concern are runway exclusion zones. What’s new are fines and jail sentences for someone who causes bodily injury. Expect a high profile case some day.

Any questions?


Expect more and more standards from a wide variety of US and international groups. American Petroleum Institute, NATE, ANSI, ASTM, SAE, CTA and many others. As I have been writing for some years, I believe that many of these standards must be developed by verticals.

Expect there to be increasing interest in autonomous operations driven mostly by the press around AV and UAM – as well as ongoing efforts by Congress and state governments to craft legislation. There is an enormous amount of money behind this which will help to solve problems like developing robust autonomous testing protocols and cybersecurity, some of which will trickle up, down or over.

But please don’t get all starry-eyed. Autonomous operations have been going on for years. Axios reports that:

Caterpillar’s Autonomous Mining Trucks have moved over 1 billion tons of material and traveled nearly 22 million miles since they were first demonstrated in 1985, with zero safety incidents.

Remember all the stuff people used to write about drones… this is where the business press has headed. If you want a controversial prediction:

Expect interest in drones to diminish as interest in autonomy and AI increases.

Slowly but surely, we are getting lost in the noise. In this regard, the CES show, which opens January 8th will again be telling. Neither Intel nor Qualcomm who have traditionally used the event for announcements are listed as exhibitors. The agenda says it all:


Expect that both the AI hype and the useful application of AI (mostly machine learning) will continue to grow at a dizzying pace. MIT Technology Review offers up Nine Charts That Really Bring Home Just How Fast AI Is Growing. If this is something you are managing or evangelizing, you might find The AI Maturity Playbook: Five Pillars of Enterprise Success from the Altimeter Group to be useful.

It outlines four macro shifts that define the impact of AI in organizations and society and five stages of AI maturity based on how organizations approach business strategy, data science, product and service design, organization and culture, and ethics and governance.

WaPo interviewed Google CEO Pichai while he was in town, “I think tech has to realize it just can’t build it [AI] and then fix it. I think that doesn’t work.” A
thoughtful interview.

For a take on the state of one vertical, the Energy Drone Coalition just published The Energy Drone Operator Benchmark 2018. Because of both the cost and risk associated with inspection, adoption is higher than in many industries, but the last two points are consistent with surveys by Skylogic, Skyward and others:

  • Around two-thirds of the energy companies are currently operating UAVs
  • 50% of these companies have drone operations in-house
  • While the majority of energy companies who participated currently have an established UAV department/division, the operation of UAVs is primarily still in Proof of Concepts (POC).

Expect getting past Proof of Concept to continue to be an ongoing effort by end users and vendors alike in 2019. Yes, I know a few people have told me that they are seeing scaling – but one or two use cases does not an industry make.

I had lunch with Colin Snow and Mike Blades at EDC Summit in June, and we all agreed that a key metric to watch will be the rate of Part 107 renewals. I am not sure how the FAA will report it, if in fact, they do at all. So I am working with Alan Perlman at UAV Coach to do a survey of current Part 107 holders to determine how many of them have or plan to renew their Part 107s. We will distinguish between in-house and service providers. Expect some answers.

As many people have commented, the great failing of Part 107 is that it does not provide a way for end users to evaluate or reward competence.

Expect the demand for RPIC competence certification to increase from corporate stakeholders whether they utilize in-house or third-party pilots. Global Aerospace, AUVSI, Department of Interior and Dart Drones are leaders right now.

The end game, as practiced by Cyberhawk and a handful of others like Trumbull Unmanned and DataWing Global, is to match RPIC competence with the specific requirements of each CONOPS. I am sure there are others – let me know.

I could drone on – and on – but I hope I have given you something to think about.


Don’t believe in miracles, don’t waste your time looking for a silver bullet. There is work to be done.

As so many of you have told me, you’ve got to crawl before you can run.

  • Develop SOPs and CONOPS.
  • Secure Part 107 waivers.
  • Train your pilots and reward them.
  • Continue to evaluate software, focusing on integration with the larger enterprise data sets.
  • Continue to evaluate hardware for reliability, maintainability, lift and range.
  • If you deal with the public, you must pay attention to privacy.
  • Secure your data from planning to archiving.

This is essential work that will enable you to grow.

Thank you all for your continuing support. Your feedback and our interaction is what keeps me going. If you know someone who would enjoy it, please forward this or sign them up for Dronin’ On. It’s Christmas and it’s on me.

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

And remember, You Can Always Go Around.


Christopher Korody
Editor and Publisher
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