Hi all –

In this issue we’ll look at two NOTAMs which include interdiction warnings, a first hand report from the ULC Tort Law Relating to Drones committee meeting in Detroit, a first hand report from the second annual Drone Journalism Conference, three takes on UTM, a deep dive into certification and a hat tip to DJI for a
monster event.

If there is a theme it is that despite the ever increasing diversity and complexity of our industry, we are all interdependent.


Everybody has been talking about it and now Morning Transportation has reported it:

A LOT ON THE PLATE: FAA is swamped by all the requirements from its new reauthorization, acting Administrator Dan Elwell told industry reps Wednesday. The legislation “had, for the FAA alone, over 285 separate provisions that require a report, a study, rulemaking, NPRM, ANPRM,” he said at a NextGen Advisory Committee meeting. “We have a spreadsheet 30 pages long. And 18 of those things are due in the first 60 days. So to say we’re a little bit kind of overwhelmed right now with digesting this bill is an understatement.”

If you want to see what’s coming, the DOT Agency Rule List – Fall 2018 lays out the agenda. For a deep dive on this, please see the Memorial Day issue.

Prerule Stage Safe and Secure Operations of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems 2120-AL26
Proposed Rule Stage Operations of Small Unmanned Aircraft Over People 2120-AK85
Proposed Rule Stage Remote Identification of Unmanned Aircraft Systems 2120-AL31
Proposed Rule Stage UAS Flight Restrictions Near Critical Infrastructure Facilities 2120-AL33
Final Rule Stage Registration and Marking Requirements for Small Unmanned Aircraft 2120-AK82
Final Rule Stage External Marking Requirement for Small Unmanned Aircraft 2120-AL32


USS Henry M. Jackson arrives home at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor – photo courtesy US Navy photo.

FAA Restricts Drones Operating Near DOD and USCG Mobile Assets continues to add no fly restrictions over DOD installations, this time Naval Base Kitsap in Washington state and Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia.

Here’s what’s new and different – interdiction – at least I have never noticed
it before:

The FAA also warns drone operators in this NOTAM that these USN and USCG vessels are authorized by law to take protective action against drones perceived to be safety or security threats such as those violating the cited FAA special security instructions. This action could result in interference, disruption, seizure, damage or destruction of these drones.

The law is the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, specifically Sec. 130i – Protection of certain facilities and assets from unmanned aircraft.

Drone operations are required to maintain a distance of at least 3,000 feet laterally and 1,000 feet vertically from these vessels. 3,000’ is 30-60 seconds from the ship. One assumes that they will be detected several miles out. And unless it’s a case of the careless or the clueless, more than one will be coming.

In a separate Special Notice Advisory NOTAM, also effective today, the FAA strongly advises drone operators to remain clear of DOD and Department of Energy (DOE) facilities and mobile assets, as well as USCG vessels. This Special Notice applies nationwide and alerts operators who ignore this caution and conduct drone flights perceived to be a safety or security threat to these facilities and mobile assets could face a reaction by security forces that results in the interference, disruption, seizure, damage or destruction of their aircraft.
[my emphasis]

Here’s what’s struck me about this interdiction language. In July we heard testimony at the Counter UAS Issues roundtable hosted by the House Subcommittee on Aviation. The FAA’s Angela Stubblefield was one of the witnesses. I summarized her response to a question about CUAS deployment:

…It has taken 18 months to equip two (2) military bases with a limited [i.e. incomplete] set of CUAS technology.

Why? Because of the very deliberate pace that the FAA is setting to ensure that nothing encroaches on the safety of the NAS – primarily from the impact of RF jamming on avionics, but also things like spoofing GPS that would result in everyone relying on GPS in the area getting bad coordinates.

This authority was given to the DOD under the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. It is the first time the FAA has been so explicit. 


Last week’s issue was entitled ‘Privacy and Principle’ – it was the second issue in which I devoted a substantial amount of coverage to the work of the ULC Tort Law Relating to Drones committee.

The meeting this past weekend in Detroit was the Committee’s first chance to get together since their confab in Louisville.

A number of industry ‘observers’ were on hand – this is a formally recognized role and they are there to engage with the committee. I spent some time on the phone this week with Josh Turner a partner at Wiley Rein LLP who attended as
an observer.

He and Sara Baxenberg just released a new podcast, Sara and Josh Talk About Drone Torts, on WileyConnect. It’s a comprehensive review from the beginnings to the present day. Highly recommended, especially for those of you who like to listen while you travel.

Clearly, the idea of a ‘per se’ trespass bothered everybody who sees a future in drones. It was an extremely arbitrary point of view that basically said if you fly over someone’s property without their express permission at 200’ or below you have a) caused a harm and b) are liable to a suit.

There are a lot of issues with this. First, it’s illegal since it would preempt the FAA’s right to manage navigation between the top of a blade of grass to the heavens. Indeed, the FAA and DOT objected on those grounds.

There was also a practical component – how does Joe Landowner know who the drone owner is and how high s/he is flying. And, as Josh pointed out on our call, there’s not much you can’t do at 201’ that you can do a 199’.

Finally, there is another, more subtle matter that came out on the call and also on the podcast. The ULC is made up of volunteers who give their time to develop concepts for uniform legislation. Their success is measured by whether or not the states adopt their ideas. Meaning that they have no interest in a dog that won’t hunt. That said, Josh feels that they are committed to the schedule and will have a final document ready for their next meeting in Anchorage.

Safe to say that the Committee got a lot of pushback – not just from the FAA but from the industry – first leading up to the meeting in Louisville and then prior to the Detroit meeting. This concerned the ULC leadership. There is a message here, which is that when we act together in a unified manner we have some influence. As the coaches like to say, we control our own destiny.

While strong ‘per se’ advocates remain, in Josh’s opinion the Committee has changed course and is now moving to a different framework. There is a recognition that the 200’ line – in fact any line – is not particularly useful. More important is the recognition that as in all other tort law, there needs to be a harm, expressed as a ‘substantial interference’ with the owner’s use of their property. (The right to use is a fundamental tenet of the Causby decision.)

The position that Josh and others are arguing for is that just because a pilot has the right to navigation (i.e. to cross a person’s land) doesn’t mean that they can do whatever they want to do (infringe or impinge.)

So the question came up, is a law in fact necessary. There is a recognition that there are things that a) only a drone can do as compared to other aircraft and that b) should not be allowed. This was distilled into a list of nine items in the rough draft that were discussed at the meeting, but there may ultimately be more or less. Josh explained that the purpose of the list is to assist a judge in determining what constitutes ‘substantial interference’ and if there is grounds for a tort.

There is also a second tort that the committee is working on which, in earlier drafts, addressed the acquisition of images considered to be ‘private facts’ in a ‘highly offensive manner.’ The first problem here is that these are not broadly understood terms of art. The committee has gone back to the drawing board.

In the next couple of months, a new draft will be completed reflecting the discussions in Detroit. I will have an update for you here. You can also look at the Committee website.


Joel Roberson, a lawyer with Holland & Knight moderates a panel about drone laws with (from left to right) Christine Walz, Holland & Knight; Judd Slivka, Missouri School of Journalism; and Greg Agvent, CNN. Photo by Samaruddin Stewart, SPJ.

I am very pleased to have a guest post by Travis Fox, the Director of Visual Journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, “Ramp Checks” and Best Practices: Notes from the Drone Journalism
Leadership Summit

This was a top-drawer event with the who’s who of the industry. And it came with a big surprise. Travis explains:

The biggest surprise for me and several others in the room came from Jeff Rose, the UAS chief pilot from Sinclair Broadcast Group, the largest owner of local TV stations in the U.S. Rose used a term from his past in fixed-wing aviation — ramp checks — to describe a new practice by the FAA to spot check his Part 107 pilots in the field. On several occasions in the last year, Rose said FAA officials from local FSDOs showed up in the field after Sinclair pilots filed LAANC airspace authorizations.

The officials verified the pilots’ Part 107 certification cards, but also quizzed them about their flight logs and even sought records such as how often they changed their rotor blades. Keeping such records aren’t specifically laid out in the Part 107 requirements, but are considered a best practice.

Matt Waite, a professor at the University of Nebraska and a pioneer of drone journalism, had a similar experience, but he said the officials left after checking his card to chase down an unknown drone that flew nearby. Waite was documenting the implosion of a building.

“Ramp checks” came as a surprise because I believe most drone journalists would have a hard time easily producing all the records that the FAA requested from Rose’s pilots, myself included. These pilots regularly respect Part 107 rules and certainly fly safely, but simply don’t go that extra mile. It’s clear we need to start.

The 12 point FAA FSDO Surveillance Inspection checklist is courtesy of Jeff Rose and is included in the article. I am including it again here for your convenience. It is hard to say how far this practice extends – make sure your pilots are prepared.

1. Type of Pilot Certificate- Part 107. Show certificate number.
2. Driver’s License- in lieu of medical certificate.
3. Insurance Verification Form.
4. Aircraft Registration.
5. FAA Part 107 Rules Summary.
6. Flight Operations Manual.
7. Communications Sheet- phone numbers and frequencies of local authorities.
8. Maintenance log-
• How often/ when do you change rotor blades? Is this noted?
• Battery abnormalities- logged?
• Preflight Inspection- written log or have printed preflight Inspection checklist
on hand.
9. Knowledge of aircraft weight- Inspire with camera is 8.5 lbs.
10. LAANC Authorization Confirmation Number (if applicable).
11. Proximity/ distance and direction of nearby airports.
12. Knowledge of TFRs/ are there any active? Or confirm that you called
Flight Services.

I very much liked his takeaway:

Communicating and building relationships was a common theme throughout the day, with the public, with the FAA and with local law enforcement.


UTM model courtesy of ANRA Technologies

Three very different stories here but one overarching realization – someway, somehow we are going to have to be able to coordinate the movement of a whole lot of autonomous vehicles.

The first one was a UTM demonstration to help celebrate the opening of Deseret Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), a nonprofit corporation in Utah created jointly by Tooele and Box Elder Counties in close partnership with Ogden City to bring commercial UAS technology to Utah. Their goal is “Facilitating rural economic development through the advancement of UAS testing and monitoring.”

ANRA Technologies provides the UTM technology for the corridor. According to their press release:

During the Live Demonstration, multiple drones were flown simultaneously LOS and BVLOS in the same airspace and various scenarios were showcased ranging from operational flights, deconflicted operations, operation conformance monitoring, collisions avoidance, dynamic restrictions, NOTAMs, Remote ID, visualization and alerting tools.

CEO Amit Ganjoo told me this was a mix of LOS under Part 107 and simulated BVLOS, though they have certainly done the real thing as part of NASA’s UTM TCL3 tests. It’s a nice story but what got my attention was a mention of an article that Amit recently wrote for Air Traffic Management Magazine, Drone Nation.

If you need a comprehensive breakdown of the players, initiatives and challenges then this is the piece you have been looking for. One of the things that hasn’t gotten much attention is the UTM Pilot Program (UPP).

One of the latest additions to the UTM world has been the announcement of the UTM Pilot Program (UPP) announced by the FAA earlier this year. As NASA moves execution and regulation of its UTM research technologies to the FAA and industry… The UTM Pilot Program will … facilitate distribution of intent and situational awareness information between FAA and UTM operators. The outcomes from the pilot program will offer insight to stakeholders regarding the investment necessary for future UTM implementation.

The none too surprising conclusion:

The closer we get to the elements of a functional and robust UTM system, the closer the world gets to true drone integration and widespread enterprise adoption of drone technology.

UAS Vision offers SESAR Funds U-Space Demonstrators Across Europe

With a co-financing of EUR 9.5 million, the demos aim to illustrate that Europe is on course with its implementation of U-space, an initiative that aims to ensure safe and secure drone traffic management.

The timing for U-space is critical given the speed at which the market is growing. The aim is to have foundation U-space services in place by 2019.

Imagine my surprise when I came across this headline in AXIOS, How a Central Control System Could Keep AV Traffic Flowing Smoothly. [Hint – AV is geek for Autonomous Vehicles – in this case self-driving cars.]

Here on terra firma the issue is not running into other airplanes – it is gridlock:

Background: …A recent study by the San Francisco Transportation Authority found ride-hailing services are responsible for 51% of the city’s traffic slowdown over the past six years. New York City has already capped ride-hailing licenses in response to traffic concerns.

Here’s a plan:

What’s needed: To curb crowding, cities could implement centralized control of AVs — like air traffic control for planes — to direct vehicles from multiple manufacturers and service providers.

  • While airplanes have different onboard hardware and software, all aircraft connect to a single control system, most of which is now automated.
  • A similar system could capture demand and evenly distribute vehicles, pooling travelers and managing key performance indicators such as wait and travel times.
  • To get all parties onboard, including carmakers and mobility providers, the control layer would need to be a vehicle-agnostic platform that could coordinate and optimize fleets in real time. The engine powering the platform would provide data on resource management and service operations that would benefit all players.

Where it stands: The industry is starting to pay attention.


screen grab from ScanEagle3 video – courtesy Insitu

Talk to any of the old aviation hands and they all tell you the same thing – UAS is going to look more and more like manned aviation. One thing that everybody expects is certification. Last week in Quick Takes I noted that:

Insitu / FAA Complete First Type Certification Board Meeting for ScanEagle3 – here’s a game everyone knows how to play

Now Mike Rioux writing for the JDA Journal offers a deep dive into the details, The UAS Certification Process Has Many Steps After The First Interim Type Certification Board Meeting.

Recently, key FAA teams including Aircraft Certification (AIR), Aircraft Flight Status {SIC: Aviation Flight Standards} (AFS), Air Traffic Organization (ATO), and Aircraft Unmanned Systems (AUS) came together at Insitu’s headquarters in Bingen, Washington for the TCBM, a first for the group of FAA teams. The FAA teams participated in an overview of Insitu’s Project Plan for Certification, examining Insitu’s “Detect and Avoid” (DAA) capability planning, along with its Safety Management System and proprietary model–based engineering. The three-day agenda included launch-to-capture flight tests, as well as standards, flight training and technical publications and manuals reviews to ascertain Insitu’s proposed basis for 2019 UAS Type Certification.

There’s plenty of detail but I will leave you with what might be Rioux’s most thought-provoking comment:

More specifically, before the ScanEagle3 flies, here is a short list of the tasks which must be carefully completed before VTOLs are authorized to operate…

And then after the list:

The resources needed for the federal regulators to accomplish all of these tasks could be overwhelming. 

It makes a strong argument for self certification.


event graphic – courtesy of DJI

Bravo. This reads like a great event with a whole lot of everything. A new “tool for everyday heroes,” a slew of announcements about partnerships, and some very innovative use cases. Having been there, I very much liked Jan Gasparic’s statement (Jan heads up DJI’s Strategic Partnerships.)

The drone industry is in the same place now the personal computer industry was 30 or 40 years ago.”

And I like Miriam McNabb’s article, What’s Next for Drone Laws? The Commercial UAV Policy Panel at Airworks which featured an all-star industry line up. The biggest threat to the industry right now? ULC.

Finally a late update from Patrick Egan who attended the NASA UAM
Grand Challenge

One last thing. If you haven’t yet, please make time to vote.

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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