2016 International Drone Expo
IDE Racing Village

Hi all –

Greetings from LA and the International Drone Expo.

But first, before we get into the details, time to look up at the stars and take our hats off to John Glenn who slipped the surly bonds of earth this week. In the immortal words of Walter Cronkite “Go baby.” Thank you sir for your service.

If you’re a little short on your history, in 1962 John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth, going around three times. In classically terse Right Stuff style he wrote “I don’t know what you could say about a day in which you have seen four beautiful sunsets.” Aviation Week offered up a report that John wrote for them after he came back to earth. I went looking for some quotes and came up with this which I think makes a nice connection to many of us in the drone community: “I was hooked on aviation, made model airplanes, and never thought I would be able to fly myself. It cost too much.”

Ready Player One

I think it explains the appeal of drone racing which brought together an amazing group of competitors of all ages creating an astonishing community on the LA Convention Center floor. $1,500 isn’t chump change – and as one of the race organizers told me, “It’s the parts that get you every time you do a cartwheel…” Being a Marine fighter pilot, it’s easy to imagine John loving the whole thing.

Community was also a theme that Lt. Commander Leedjia Svec from the US Navy and Liaison Office at NASA Ames spoke to loud and clear in her IDE opening keynote presentation which focused on how government and industry can work together. As a proof point, she offered up a dazzling compendium of agencies, resources
and opportunities.

Equally dazzling was Marty Rogers presentation on a dozen projects currently underway in the ASSURE program which brings 22 universities and over 100 private companies together to do UAS research for the FAA. A lot of important work getting done on everything from C2, to maintenance to real honest to gosh crash testing. Marty is the Executive Director. Check out the website.

Lewis Stewart, the Deputy Director of California’s office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship reminded me why California is the bellwether state when he challenged us to think about the role of drones in the smart cities of the future. It’s a subject I’ve been passionate about since I worked on the Cisco Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo in 2010.

Congrats to Michael, Jennifer and the rest of the EJ Krause Team. We’re off to a great start and we’ve got another full day tomorrow.

Elsewhere the OIG – that would be the Office of the Inspector General – sent a nastygram to the FAA in the form of an audit. The audit, released on Dec. 1, is entitled “FAA Lacks A Risk-Based Oversight Process For Civil Unmanned Aircraft Systems” and was conducted between October 2015 and October 2016.

The OIG found that the agency still does not have a “fully developed risk-based process to oversee UAS operations” and focuses more on “education rather than enforcement. For instance, the report says, the FAA has not established an “automated data and reporting tracking system for current UAS activity” or a “centralized database for reporting and classifying UAS incidents.”

Is the OIG being a little harsh on the Independence Avenue gang? Clearly, the FAA has an appetite for well-mitigated risk. While all eyes will be on the Intel waiver to fly hundreds of drones at night over Disney World, Quartz is reporting that the FAA has given Google a waiver for a single pilot to fly a swarm of 20 drones at once. No word as to why – in this case guessing is half the fun…

Also a complete mystery to me is why the AMA is beating their chests about having gotten an amendment to the Nevada tax code that specifically excludes recreational UAVs from the state’s tax on aviation gear like aircraft. So you don’t have to declare what you weren’t going to declare anyway? C’mon man, there’s got to be a better pitch for the membership fee.

Very interesting article from Gary Mortimer at sUAS News entitled “I was wrong, 3D printed drones”. Check out this P-38 Lightning which was printed and assembled from plans developed by 3D Lab Print in the Czech Republic. Absolutely stunning, printed in an almost clear plastic and boy can she fly. Watch the air to air footage – in this case UAV to RC. As Gary says, “this is a
tipping point.”

Looking for a wonderful stocking stuffer for the budding drone enthusiast in your life? Abby Speicher and her team at DART Drones are offering up free access to their  new online beginner’s course, Drones 101: Drone Aviator Readiness Training. It’s the ultimate guide for drone beginners and goes perfectly with the FAA registration fee.

It is almost time to say goodbye to one of our oldest and most traveled drones. You may think of NASA’s Cassini-Huygens orbiter as a spacecraft, and it is, but clearly it is also a UAS – a concept that did not exist when it was launched in 1997. It’s been sending back pictures of Saturn for years and is about to pass its use by date. The most recent shots are amazing. Especially considering the technology – 256×256. Seriously.

Considerably closer to home, just up the road in Oregon (nice to be back on the Left Coast) comes this week’s Eye Candy Tag Award, RISE: An Oregon Aerial Journey. The dronographer, Michael Shainblum, is a hot young talent – you will find yourself wanting to wipe the spray off the drone.

Thanks for reading and for sharing.


Christopher Korody
follow me @dronewriter















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