The 'Hovering' issue of Dronin' On 06.02.18
Kilauea – screen grab – sUAS image courtesy U.S. Department of the Interior Office of Aviation Services

Hi all –

Short week. We’ll look at the plan for FAA Reauthorization, what the new UK drone laws teach us about our own including a report on sUAS incursions at a US airport, introduce the UAS-NAS integration project, sample Mary Meeker’s new Internet Trend Report from CODE Conference 2018 and look at New Code, Publishing and Coming Attractions.


When we last saw our heroes, they were hanging on by an extension waiting for the Senate to take up the FAA Reauthorization Bill to put the agency on stable long-term footing. You know – so they could plan and budget and stuff like that. This week Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) elicited gasps (at least here) when he announced at a press conference that:

…He would prioritize the fiscal 2019 defense authorization, a new farm bill and updated water resources development legislation. “I’m not into playing games this summer. I want to accomplish things, and everything I’ve mentioned to you that we’re going to be working on are things that we need to do.”

There is some inadvertent but still dark humor (to my taste): “I’ll have more to say definitively about that the week after next, but I’ve said to all the press corps and the members up here I wouldn’t buy any nonrefundable tickets.”

Which left inquiring minds to wonder if Mitch and Elaine plan to drive home or take Amtrak…?

Good news just released by the FAA, Regional Active Airmen Totals

Remote Pilots as of June 1, 2018 – 91,146 up 4,708 since 5/1/18.

Two years will soon be up and the first RPICs will have to renew. The growth is encouraging but it will be interesting to watch the renewal rate to see how much attrition there is… or isn’t.

Alan Perlman, the UAV Coach has the inside scoop, FAA Announces Details on Part 107 Recurrent Knowledge Testing Process for U.S. Commercial Drone Pilots. You can read the FAA announcement here which includes a break down of all the questions. Part 107 pilots have to go to a testing center, Part 61 pilots can renew online. No official word on the fee, but the online consensus is $150.

Jonathan Rupprecht also checked in. He tells me that there will be “40 questions on three of the five areas of operation. And regulations will make up 30-40% of the exam!” He is updating a page with more details.

sUAS News reports that effective May 30, DOT has changed their relationship with RTCA. Of particular interest is that:

Instead of issuing a new Charter to RTCA, The DoT has indicated they plan to issue charters to the FAA to operate the NextGen Advisory Committee (NAC) and the Drone Advisory Committee (DAC) as separate, stand-alone federal
advisory committees.

If you take a look at the RTCA website you can see that whatever transparency exists about the workings of the DAC was facilitated by their work. Also interesting to note that no further DAC meetings appear to be on the calendar.


Yet another bill that while hardly playing games, is, unfortunately, unlikely to see the floor:

U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), Co-Chairs of the Senate Aerospace Caucus, introduced the Aeronautics Innovation Act to help boost innovation, research and development in the aeronautics industry. The bill would provide a five-year funding commitment to advance innovation and supplement research in the field.


As expected, the UK rolled out their new drone rules May 30th.  It turns out they have a lot to teach us about our own… The first rules will go into effect July 30 2018. The new rules: Will restrict all drones from flying above 400 feet and within 1 kilometer of airport boundaries.

Given the ever-rising number of near misses around Heathrow, I am puzzled by a 1 kilometer no-fly zone.

Here is a sobering report posted by Vic Moss on the Facebook UAV Legal News & Discussion group. I have made no effort, and indeed have no ability to fact check this. But it seems probable.

For brevity I’ll condense the back story – an unnamed entity is monitoring airspace incursions at an unnamed US airport. Vic’s source sent him a report…

All flights were from 2-5 miles out from the end of the runway, and within the enhanced warning zone so they had to be intentionally flown. No accidental violations. All recorded flights were in 100′ UASFM grids.

Here are the findings:
~Number of flights: 219
~Average AGL: 325′
~Number of flights exceeding 1000’AGL (in the 100′ grid): 11.

That’s only within a one week timeframe, and many were directly in the flight path.

It is worth reading the thread to see the honest confusion between LAANC/107 and 101/336 rules because both apply to this situation and say very different things.There were ‘good’ reasons to try it but now the rules have to be standardized.

There is simply no reason to have two completely different rules for the same airspace, nor is there the budget to educate two different communities or develop two types of enforcement.

No one wins by making this more complex than it needs to be.

Back to the UK.

The new laws will also require owners of drones weighing 250 grams or more to register with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and for drone pilots to take an online safety test to ensure the UK’s skies are safe from irresponsible flyers.”

I am not going to go into an extended rant but will say that I hope that the FAA will follow suit and require that all recreational fliers pass an online test as part of the registration process. And there’s more:

In addition to these measures, a draft Drones Bill will be published this summer, which will give police more tailored powers to intervene on the spot if drones are being used inappropriately.

Ahh, LE judgment. Be interesting to see how this next one works.

Drone operators will also eventually be required to use apps – so they can access the information needed to make sure any planned flight can be made safely
and legally.

One hopes that this is more robust than B4UFly. Good to know that the ‘Rime of the Ancient Modeler’ presents challenges and merits consideration everywhere.

For model aircraft flying associations who have a long-standing safety culture, work is underway with the CAA to make sure drone regulations do not impact
their activity.

There’s a related story in the Commercial Drone Professional (a UK pub) that everyone trying to make a living as a service provider hopes that the FAA will take to heart, Only Use Approved Commercial Drone Users or You Could Be Out of Pocket’, Warns CAA.

The CAA’s Jonathan Nicholson said: “Anyone looking to hire a drone pilot must check that they are properly approved. That’s your guarantee that you are hiring someone with the suitable qualifications and experience. And in the unlikely situation that something goes wrong and potentially property gets damaged they will have the right insurance to cover any costs.

“The UK’s drone industry is expanding rapidly, but to make sure we achieve its full potential we need drone operators to follow the rules and fly safely.”

There are two great flaws with Part 107. One is that there is no skills demonstration, which means that the onus is on the prospective employer to determine if the vendor has the prerequisite skills. The other is that neither the FAA, nor any of the associations that “represent” the industry, have done anything to create value for having a Part 107 – i.e there is no reward for playing by
the rules.


Chuck Johnson, a Senior Advisor to NASA Armstrong on UAS Integration was kind enough to brief me on a project that NASA has been working with the FAA through a Research Transition Team. Like the UTM project, which is being conducted under a similar arrangement, the goal is for NASA to conduct testing, then turn the flight test data over to the FAA to support future rulemaking and a technical standards order.

The UAS-NAS project is anything but new. It has been under way since 2011. I am introducing it here today because it directly impacts the development of BVLOS in the NAS. This is absolutely not about sUAS operating under 400’ and it is not UTM. The assumption is that these will be UAS north of 55 pounds to perhaps 250-300, but considerably smaller than Predator and Global Hawk class aircraft.

The research is being done to develop RTCA SC-228, Minimum Operational Performance Standards for Unmanned Aircraft Systems which was established in 2013. The purpose is to define:

Minimum Operational Performance Standards (MOPS) for DAA equipment and a Command and Control (C2) Data Link MOPS establishing L-Band and C-Band solutions. The initial phase of standards development focused on civil UAS equipped to operate into Class A airspace under IFR flight rules. 

Read this carefully because this is big boy pants time – look at the players – this is the end game.

DAA is ‘detect and avoid’ (aka sense and avoid) so the aircraft has to have radar or another system which meets an alternative method of compliance, and the intelligence onboard; not just to avoid in case the data link is lost, but to “remain well clear” of other aircraft. The challenge here is that it must satisfy the FAA’s safety standards – basically, it is going to have to be at least “as good as” eyeballs in the cockpit. The technology is further described in RTCA DO-365. UAS-NAS is working with Honeywell and other partners on DAA technologies.

C2 is Command and Control – which obviously must be secure, squawk and have power commensurate with the operating range. UAS-NAS is working with Rockwell Collins and other partners on C2 technologies.

Class A airspace under IFR rules (!) i.e. maximum integration… (FYI Class A is 18,000′ – 60,000’) From where I sit, that is a remarkably high standard to have set seven years ago. But then, that’s how we got to the moon.

Chuck explained to me that since work began on SC-228, the focus has shifted from Class A IFR to three distinct operating environments:

  1. Routine operations in Class E – the very crowded airspace between 500’ – 10,000’ filled with all kinds of non-cooperatives operating in a VFR-environment that don’t squawk Mode C or carry ADS-B.
  2. Operations from 10,000’ AGL to FL600 – a new term for me – above 60,000’ – where the vast majority of aircraft are in communication with air traffic control operating in an IFR environment.
  3. Above FL600 – where the air traffic is either moving very slowly or very, very fast.

This is funded to the tune of ~$30M a year… If you want the big picture take a look at this fascinating report from the NASA Office of the Inspector General (OIG), NASA’s Research Efforts and Management of Unmanned Aircraft Systems. One conclusion. “NASA’s oversight of its own UAS assets needs improvement.”

A Cooperative Agreement Notice to participate in a Systems Integration and Operationalization Development and Demonstration (SIO) closes June 18th. The hope is that there are industry partners who will be ready to participate in testing (as in the UTM TCL example) in each of the three flight regimes in 2020.


CODE Conference 2018 is a gathering of the digerati. Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins presented the latest iteration of her must-read annual report, Internet Trends 2018. While the report is consumer focused, much of it is relevant to commercial UAS. Here’s a smattering – the # refers to the slide.

  • #6 Smartphone growth is down but… #11 time spent online continues to go up
  • #16 WiFi adoption looks like a hockey stick as does #22 messaging and #25-6 voice

#28 Personalization improves the experience and drives growth but also brings scrutiny, creating what Meeker calls #31 “a privacy paradox”. Which nets out pretty close to home as:

#36 It’s Crucial to Manage for Unintended Consequences… But it’s Irresponsible to Stop Innovation + Progress.

#130 should be very encouraging to the rideshare companies as well as the delivery and urban air mobility crowd. In four of the five largest US cities (ex Dallas), it is substantially less expensive to use Uber than a personal vehicle.

#175 lays out how the drone service provider market is likely to evolve:

On-Demand + Internet-Related Jobs = Scale Becoming Significant

#189 should be familiar:

…Data Gathering + Sharing + Optimization = Ramping @ Torrid Pace

#196 presents another increasingly familiar concept:

Data Volume = Foundational to Algorithm Refinement + AI Performance

While #226 shows that China is gaining momentum in the AI competition, and #227 showing the growth in China (and decline in the US) of STEM college degrees is a real cause for concern.

#211 shows a hockey stick on malware growth driving home the importance
of security.

BTW Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudio also presented at the conference. Stunning, compelling – and very charming.

“Our customers don’t care about drones at all. All they care about is if something can get from Point A to Point B fast enough to save someone’s life.”


At the heart of everything we want to do is software. ANRA Technologies Founder and CEO Amit Ganjoo is an active participant in ICAO. ANRA supported the recent UTM TLC3 tests – the company collaborated with GE to successfully demonstrate real time USS-USS communication and deconfliction.

Now they have released DroneOSS v3.0. I really like this approach and I am guessing that enterprise buyers will as well because it facilitates integration with their existing solutions:

There is no one size fits all solution. Pick a drone; pick a flight profile; pick an analytics engine based on your needs and your backend enterprise system and let DroneOSS™ orchestrate the whole workflow end to end. In simplistic terms, it replaces ‘n’ fragmented element managers with ‘1’ network manager.

But wait there is more.

ANRA also enhanced the integration of the DroneOSS™ platform with their UAS Traffic Management (UTM) platform DroneUSS enabling sense and avoid capabilities for non-cooperative assets by leveraging airborne radars, RF Detection, Vehicle to Vehicle technologies and ADS-B.

“Best-of-breed doesn’t have to mean ‘cobbled together,’” says Ganjoo. “A robust operational platform/framework provides clean integration and data sharing throughout the organization.”

Amit will be presenting at the upcoming Energy Drone Coalition Summit in Houston. More about that in a bit.

Given DJI’s increasing focus on enterprise sales, it comes as no surprise that the company has just announced a software development kit (SDK) for Windows 10. Massive numbers of end users and developers for sure, but here is the good part:

DJI drones can be customized and controlled for a wide variety of industrial uses, with full flight control and real-time data transfer capabilities…

DJI has also selected Microsoft Azure as its preferred cloud computing partner, taking advantage of Azure’s industry-leading AI and machine learning capabilities to help turn vast quantities of aerial imagery and video data into actionable insights for thousands of businesses across the globe.

Remember when every IT discussion started and ended with WinTel?


TIME Magazine is all about drones this week, A Special Report: THE DRONE AGE is presented by Intel.  The star of the show is – wait for it – a 100-meter high TIME magazine cover created by almost 1,000 Intel Shooting Stars, all photographed by a drone. Pretty spectacular. Check out the Making of Video – hats off to the entire team. There are nine feature stories, some new, some familiar, all worth a look.

Sharon Rossmark, the Founder and CEO of Women and Drones and Emmy award-winning journalist Wendy Erikson have just published two books for young readers about drones.

Sharon told me that “We developed the books with the intent to engage more children in STEM. Most of the characters pictured in the books are girls. This is a purposeful, important part of our commitment to engaging more girls in
STEM careers

I ordered both for my six-year-old niece KC – but don’t wait for her review, please help me to support this pioneering project – and the future of our industry!


The second Energy Drone Coalition Summit is coming up fast in Houston, June 19-21. Sean Guerre and the Stonefort team have been busy – check out this who’s who list of speakers. I will be moderating a panel on “The Art of the Possible” which will explore the state of various FAA initiatives.

One of the panelists will be Eileen Lockhart, the UAS Program Manager at Xcel Energy. Xcel recently got a BVLOS waiver for powerline inspections. You can learn more about the waiver and the safety case which Xcel put together with the Northern Plains UAS Test Site on this Drone Radio Show podcast. The BVLOS waiver precedes UAS IPP, but it’s the kind of outcome we can hope for from
that program.

Still on the fence?  Use my discount code DBC20 for 20% off.

And if you can’t make it to Houston, what would Reauthorization be without a LeClair Ryan webinar June 20?


Take a look at this DOI/USGS footage simply entitled Kīlauea Volcano — UAS Hovering Near Fissure 22.

Predictably the Honolulu Star Advertiser reported that California Man Cited for Flying Drone in Eruption No-Fly Zone. The article notes that the case is being referred to the FAA. The reaction by one Facebook commenter is
equally predictable:

To be clear, he has NOT been cited for flying a drone in a TFR. He was cited for loitering by DOCARE (law enforcement officers), because he was someplace he wasn’t supposed to be.

The FAA are lazy, apathetic good-for-nothings when it comes to enforcing any drone regulations. As always, they won’t cite him for anything, even though he was flying in a TFR and it was witnessed by law enforcement officers. THAT is the real
story here.

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


Christopher Korody
Editor and Publisher
follow me @dronewriter


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