Dronin' On
Home For The Holidays

Hi all –

With my next two publication dates falling on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve, it’s time to wrap the year up. I am still flirting with the idea of writing a 2017 forecast, as a prelude I’ve included a number of articles that hit many of the major themes. If you are looking for the perfect stuffing stocker, you’ll find three book recommendations at the end.

On the theory that we can’t know where we’re going if we don’t know where we’ve been, I’ve asked the ever helpful Kevin Morris at the FAA for the November 107 LAW numbers (licenses, authorizations and waivers).

I took the opportunity to suggest to Kevin that the FAA should post this information on an ongoing basis, along with the number of recreational registrations. While it is not the FAA’s intent, this data is one of the few ways we have of judging the real growth of the market. For Christmas I want the Small UAV Coalition, the Commercial Drone Alliance and other pro-growth industry groups to join me in asking the FAA to provide this data.

From the EU comes an interview entitled “Harmonising UAS Regulations and Standards” with Peter van Blyenburgh, president of UVS International, one of the world leaders in RPAS standards. I love what Peter had to say about market forecasts “For now, there are only reports published by American companies which are aimed not at unreservedly presenting the facts but rather at dreaming up the largest possible market growth to motivate lobby groups, senators and the industry.” Which is what makes the FAA’s data, as opposed to their forecasts,
so important.

You might remember that FESSA (The FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016) contained 13 UAS specific safety provisions. The very first one, SEC. 2202. IDENTIFICATION STANDARDS said that “the FAA… shall convene industry stakeholders to facilitate the development of consensus standards for remotely identifying operators and owners.”

UST reports that “AirMap has announced Digital Identity Certificates, a partnership with DigiCert that will enable instant authentication of an unmanned aircraft’s identity via a digital certificate.”  While AirMap appears focused on UTM, someone will come up with technology that can be implemented sooner than later. The key of course, is that the manufacturers agree to build it in – or Congress bans all imports. Which no longer sounds quite as preposterous as it did a year ago.

Excellent write-up on the recently concluded NASA UTM Conference in Syracuse from James Poss, USAF Maj Gen (Ret) who is now part of the ASSURE team. Some very astute insights into why the FAA is now embracing the program, as well as what UTM might look like when it is commercialized.

NASA takes another step towards integration with a new study “Air Traffic Controller Acceptability of UAS Detect-and-Avoid Thresholds” which evaluated which procedures were appropriate for the use of unmanned aircraft system (UAS) detect-and-avoid systems, and (b) how long in advance of a predicted close encounter pilots should request or execute a separation maneuver. The complete report is here.

On the topic of detect and avoid, an easy forecast for 2017 will be the ever increasing interest in all things anti-drone. Dentons will kick things off with a webinar “Defending against drones: The next step” January 5th. The two Marks do a good job breaking down complex issues – follow the link to register.

Another example is the recently concluded “Countering Drones” conference in the UK which was reported by The Guardian. The gaudy title, “The Emerging Threat: Identifying, Measuring and Preparing for the Security Implications of Civil and Commercial Drones,” was addressed by an international line-up.

A third is a story from the CBS Huntsville affiliate, WHNT, about Boeing’s Compact Laser Weapon System which is said to have shot down 23 of 25 bogies in tests. No footage of the decisive moment, but one melted Phantom is rapidly becoming a familiar image.

Closer to home comes my prediction that the FAA is going to have to harmonize the AMA carve out and bring the CBO rules in line with all of the other UAV regulations. In a decision in Pennsylvania, a judge upheld a zoning board decision prohibiting landowners from renting 48 acres to a local RC club noting that “some of the offending radio-controlled aircraft flown by the Fairview R/C Flyers Club include not-so-quiet or tiny model jets that can hit 200 mph… And some of the club’s planes, or parts of them, have ended up slamming into the property of its Berks County neighbors.” OOPS

Another easy prediction, in 2017 we’ll start to see more lawsuits and liability cases. In New Hampshire, members of the wedding party are suing the groom after his Phantom hit them – one person had her nose broken, the other required 20 stitches and both suffered concussions. OOPS

On that topic, the NYT ran this story on your Christmas drone and your homeowner’s coverage. Note that some of us disagree with the writer’s opinion – most homeowner’s policies exclude aircraft…

As for delivery…. That’s easy too – still nowhere near ready for prime time. This advertising reviewer just gave Amazon a big thumbs down, saying that they “botched” their new delivery video “Brands only get so many slam-dunk opportunities; Amazon completely muffed this one.” (Bet you’re going to look LOL)

A far trickier prediction is how autonomous car testing will evolve. Uber has begun testing on the streets of San Francisco. There are at least two reports of the test sled running red lights. More important is that once again, Uber is conducting the tests without authorization from the CA DMV. If all this sounds vaguely like the unauthorized testing in Nevada by recent Uber acquisition OTTO, it could be because the same executive, Anthony Levandowski, is in charge. Brian Solis, who has been covering this with Mercedes-Benz has an interesting take.

Finally, the no-brainer – cyber security. I was just watching the President’s farewell press conference. Hacking was an obvious hot topic but while answering a question he went on to make the point that we are a digital society and that every part of our society – consumer, business and government – is vulnerable. Which includes drones.

On to the stocking stuffers. (Links are straight to Amazon who will most likely deliver using earthly means.)

Picking up where Hambling leaves off is a new DARPA program called OFFSET which is short for OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics. “OFFSET seeks to develop and demonstrate 100+ operationally relevant swarm tactics that could be used by groups of unmanned air and/or ground systems numbering more than
100 robots.”

  • Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War” is from NYT best-selling author P.W. Singer and August Cole who covered the defense industry for the WSJ. While not exactly Tom Clancy, drones figure prominently in this page turner. General Robert Neller, the commandant of the USMC who is leading the charge to adapt US combat tactics to UAVs, wrote that “lt’s exciting, but it’s terrifying at the same time.” Some of the hacking strategies will really get your attention – and drive home just how hard a problem this will be to overcome.

If you need a force equalizer, take a look at this video compilation “10 Times Drones Dueled With Mother Nature.” Some good lessons to be learned to ensure that your shiny new drone survives the Holiday.

One tradition I very much enjoyed when I wrote “The Jolt” for ckwrites.com was rounding up the best Christmas adverts – a fine art form in the UK. Perennial winner, department store John Lewis, this year again captured hearts and minds with “Buster The Boxer” which has nothing to do with drones and everything to do with wonder… something which IMO we could all use a little more of right now.

The snow is falling here in Taos. Safe travels wherever they take you. As Perry Como so often reminded us:

Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays
‘Cause no matter how far away you roam
If you want to be happy in a million ways
For the holidays you can’t beat home, sweet home

Thanks for reading and for sharing.


Christopher Korody
follow me @dronewriter

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