Opportunity makes tracks on Mars – image courtesy NASA

Adios “Oppy,” the space-traveling robot. For 5,000 days you inspired us all.

Hi all –

Time to get busy. The FAA has posted an Interim Final Rule (IFR), a ANPRM and an NPRM for public comment (links below.)It’s your opportunity to shape the future – seize it.

I am pleased to have a very timely guest post from ParaZero’s Director of Policy and Strategy Avi Lozowick, What Post-NPRM Ops Over People Will Look Like. ParaZero makes parachute systems and has been part of a number of Ops Over People waivers. They are also teamed with Airobotics on their autonomous
BVLOS waiver.

Then there is Improbable Cause, The Panacea Effect, a Grab Bag and
Coming Attractions.


On February 13, 2019, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published:

(1) An Interim Final Rule (IFR) on an External Marking Requirement for Small Unmanned Aircraft – you have 30 days to comment.

(2) A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on the Operation of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) over People – you have 60 days to comment.

(3) An advanced NPRM (ANPRM) on the Safe and Secure Operations of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems – you have 60 days to comment.

Each link takes you to the appropriate page in the Federal Register, where you will find details about the rule as well as a link to the Comments page (in green,
top right.)

I am going to start with the IFR since I recently devoted a fair amount of space to #’s 2 & 3 in the ‘Initiatives’ issue.

The External Marking rule originally saw light as part of the 2015 registration rule (aka the Christmas rule for the timing and the Hamburger rule for the 250gm minimum.) The rule was overturned in 2017 in Taylor v Huerta.

The original registration requirement allowed owners to write the registration number inside the drone in an area that “can be accessed without the use of tools.” The revised version saw light as part of the DOT August 2017 Significant Rulemaking Report.

The Interim Final Rule (IFR) (RIN 2120-AL32) says:

This interim final rule requires small unmanned aircraft owners to display the unique identifier assigned by the FAA upon completion of the registration process (registration number) on an external surface of the aircraft. Small unmanned aircraft owners are no longer permitted to enclose the FAA-issued registration number in
a compartment.

The rule will take effect February 25, 2019 (not the 23rd as shown in the graphic which is a Saturday) during the comment period – all of which has the potential to cause considerable confusion.

The entire Wiley Reins UAS team collaborated to publish What You Need to Know About FAA’s Three New Rulemakings. Here’s what they had to say about the IFR:

On an interesting procedural note, the FAA invoked its authority under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) to dispense with notice and comment procedures and speed up the effective date of the IFR. The APA allows agencies to do so when an agency finds “good cause.” Here, the FAA found that the security risks to first responders constituted such good cause.

A supportive take from the National Law Review:

This new requirement serves as a welcome reminder that UAS regulations are subject to very sudden change and have become more complex over the last
few years. 

Here’s a couple of more things to know. First, RIN 2120-AK82 Registration and Marking Requirements for Small Unmanned Aircraft is in the final rule stage and is on the DOT calendar. When I queried the FAA on the difference between the two rules in November, FAA spokes Les Dorr told me that:

The external marking rule is an Interim Final Rule, on a faster track for safety and security reasons. In the broader rulemaking project for Part 48, we have to address the comments and reflect the latest legislation and litigation that restored our authority when we finalize that rule.

No word yet as to when AK82 will move forward.

As I wrote in last years ‘Memorial Day’ issue, there is no way an external marking on most of the sUAS currently in operation, particularly the smaller quads, will be visible from the air. That is clearly not the intention. The intention is to make it easier and safer to identify a drone without having to open it – a booby-trapped drone claimed two lives in Iraq in 2016.

What will be more useful is that the presence of numbers will immediately make it clear who is compliant and who is not. This will be a benefit as more and more local law enforcement officers are asked to police drone users.

@MikeSBlades tweeted a legitimate concern:

Not sure I understand how this will help anything. If the registration is on the outside how do we know it’s a real number? Are 1st responders going to have a database to access? If a drone is considered rogue, will anyone approach it even if it does have a valid reg displayed?  

In order for there to be a new registration rule and Remote ID that can scale, to say nothing of UTM, there is going to have to be a database. The FAA must register both man and each machine. This may bring up some privacy concerns. I go back to 2015 when I first wrote, no one else in the NAS has a right to privacy.

If you want to fly in the NAS, if you want to play or do business in the sky, you give up your right to privacy just like every other licensed aviator has for decades. That kind of accountability has stood us in good stead for a long time. And is very much what is needed now.

Reactions are predictably aggrieved. The Verge is leading with The US Government Is About to Put a Dog Tag on Your Drone, No leash yet, but it might be coming, too. Much more entertaining is the St. Louis Dispatch, You’ll Have to Mark Your Drone With an ID Under Anti-Terror Rule. More deft PR from the FAA.

All that said, there is really nothing to be fussed about.

By the time the FAA is done with Registration and Remote ID, and everyone has to pass a test, the world will begin to change. POS registration is the missing link and AK82 offers a chance to get that right. Poor Buzz Lightyear, we might just be getting to the end of the toy story. (h/t to Mark D for his tweet)


drone strike from the initial ASSURE study

The NPRM conflates two waivers into one rule along with a number of
other changes.

  1. It establishes training and lighting requirements for Flying At Night. When implemented it will replace the Daylight Operation waiver 107.29
  2. Operations Over People describe three increasingly restrictive risk-based requirements. When implemented it will replace the Operation Over Human Beings waiver 107.39

Please be clear that the FAA has said that this rule will not go forward until there is a Remote ID rule – which is most definitely still on the drawing boards.

As I reported in the ‘Tower’ issue, there is almost nothing flying today that will meet the proposed kinetic energy (KE) limits. I also discussed the FAA’s position on the threat drones pose to moving vehicles.

Jim Poss, Maj Gen (Ret) has written an insightful article for Inside Unmanned Systems exploring both these issues, Was There an Oops in the Proposed Ops Over People Rules? At the end of the article he provides sample text suggesting how someone might comment on the NPRM. And here’s the call to action:

This is a big one folks, but the FAA can fix its oops. If it goes out as is, we won’t have a commercial UAS industry in this country.

@ISR_ideas (the General’s alter ego) also provided a fine Twitter segue, to the guest post “Watch Parazero closely as Ops Over People rules advance. Parachutes will be key if we get reasonable impact numbers from the FAA.”

ParaZero deployment test – courtesy ParaZero

In his guest post, What Post-NPRM Ops Over People Will Look Like, Avi Lozowick explores the technical options for complying with the proposed rule. He explains:

…Every small reduction in velocity substantially reduces Kinetic Energy. Parachutes jump to mind as a reasonable solution.

In case you’re still not sure if it’s important for you to comment, I want to draw your attention to an article written by Vic Moss and posted on Drone U, 2019 NPRM for UAS Rules, and What It All Means.

Parts of this NPRM will fundamentally change many of our operations.  

Finally, someone made the mistake of asking me what I think. This is entirely focused on Operations Over People (OOP). As an aviator, Jim Poss has learned from experience. “…Assumed risk is part of any vehicle system.”

But risk is something that the FAA is not very fond of, which is why many suspect that they are slow walking this. I have been and continue to be pretty much opposed – a nice size camera falls out of the sky and an innocent bystander is going to get hurt. Let’s be serious, no one wants this rule so they can put pillowcases up there.

And there are other considerations. The FAA is a data-driven organization – to date, exactly 18 waivers have been issued, which at least statistically wouldn’t provide enough data to move to a rule. Many flights will be in urban areas which pose specific technical challenges starting with the loss of GPS service that people need to be trained to manage. I am also concerned that the rule does not mandate minimum liability coverages. Finally, it’s the same old problem, monkey see, monkey do – who knows who is overhead.

It’s going to happen, but I think we can afford to wait a while longer – a crawl, walk, run proposition. Though it wouldn’t get the same headlines, killing an innocent bystander would be every bit as unfortunate as downing a plane.

I recommend Jonathan Rupprecht’s succinct analysis in Forbes, Feds Make Major Moves To Relax Restrictions On Use Of Drones which sorts out all the various goings on including the changes to Part 107. About the ANPRM he writes:

…This DOT advance notice of proposed rulemaking is requesting you to provide comments on 26 questions ranging from required minimum stand-off distances for unmanned aircraft to establishing design requirements for systems critical to safety of flight during beyond visual line of sight operations. This is the perfect forum to raise any issues.

Replying to the ANPRM is going to take a lot of thought – the questions are open ended and a lot of them are headscratchers. Worth the effort because it is your chance to help to define the future.


screen grab from video recorded by the drone of the arrest while partner eats a burger – click to view

As Jonathan Rupprecht wrote in another article for Forbes, Ability To Stop Drone Attacks In U.S. Is Lacking, And It’s The Legal Vision As Much As The Tech:

We need a long-term vision for detecting, defending and prosecuting the bad drone actors all the way to a successful conviction.

That has to include a concerted effort to educate the PD. What does that mean? According to one post:

There are over 18,000 Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies around the United States, and it is estimated that there are between 750,000 and 850,000 sworn officers. If you count non-sworn personnel who work for police departments, you get over 1 million.

Yes, it’s going to be expensive and time-consuming, but unless you think drones are going to disappear from our skies, and unless you don’t want the benefits, what choice is there?

Attorney Enrico Schaefer, dronelaw.pro, puts the need in clear perspective in, Police Handcuff, Detain and Ticket Part 107 Pilot Under Aircraft Ordinance That Does Not Apply. The particular situation is complicated by local laws, but regardless of the details, this plays out over and over again across the country.

See the video that the police accidentally captured of themselves by hitting ‘record’ on the drone.  One officer was gunning for Jason once he ‘educated’ officers on how the law works in Michigan, and why the ordinance does not apply to drones.


image courtesy Pixabay

People are jumping on the Gatwick/Newark/Atlanta bandwagon. Friday it happened again in Dubai, this time for 30 minutes.

The Insurance Journal reported on a presser with Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) the chairman of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Accidents Could Ground Drone Industry, House Committee Chair Warns:

“We’ve got to get a handle on those who are operating improperly and then we also have to facilitate the growth of the (commercial drone) industry itself, because the benefits are potentially phenomenal.”

The good news is that DeFazio has a direct line into the FAA, and is passionate about UAS.

The next four articles all stress the importance of outreach and education. One goes beyond that to policy.

Part of the challenge we face, is that an inclusive organization that speaks for the commercial drone industry has yet to emerge. There is no organization with the expertise or the funding to run a national PR campaign or to mount an education campaign. In this regard, the industry is no different than the FAA, no reach, no frequency.

Commercial Drone Industry Must Stand Up and Dispel False Narratives by Christopher Todd is a reaction to Rep. DeFazio’s comment:

All of us need to stop being excited every time we see a news story that references a drone, and instead start working together to educate the media and the general public about the many substantial differences between commercial UAS operations and other types of drone flights.

Drone Hysteria V2.0 is by Paul Bertorelli, an aviation writer.

The companies that sell these things, the AMA and perhaps even local law enforcement agencies need to do better in educating the shallow end of the gene pool about the rules for flying small UAS. And for serious violations—flying over crowds and strafing stadiums—a few applications of draconian fines might help.

Cliff Whitney, owner and founder of retail powerhouse AtlantaHobby.com penned Aircraft and Drones Collide: How Likely Is It To Occur?

I think that we need to ramp up the awareness and education to the general population that has purchased their drone from the local big box or even the local 7/11. This is desperately needed, but we need to tell the truth and not use fake news or hysteria to scare the public.

Education, Technology Should Be Used to Deter Drone Disasters is by Ret. US Navy Capt. John E. Jackson, who holds the E.A. Sperry Chair of Unmanned and Robotic Systems at the U.S. Naval War College, and is the editor of One Nation Under Drones: Legality, Morality, and Utility of Unmanned Combat Systems.

This is a decidedly different approach. And it is quite prescriptive. Boy do I like what he has to say –
hear hear:

Pressure should be brought to bear on manufacturers to ensure that technology, such as geo-fencing, is installed in every device marketed in the United States. Chinese manufacturer DJI, which accounts for nearly 74 percent of the drones manufactured worldwide, has led the effort by installing software (called GEO, for Geospatial Environment Online) that limits the ability of their drones to fly into restricted airspace.

Such efforts should be mandatory for any drones sold and operated in the United States, and federal consumer protection efforts should prevent unsafe drones from being imported.

Too busy for the Captain’s book? The Verge offers a thoughtful interview, A Retired Navy Captain Explains How Drones Will Shape the Future of War. The biggest area of concern?

You have to make sure you have secure communications. That’s a big vulnerability.


FLIR Black Hornet 3 – image courtesy FLIR

From The Drive, The Pocket-Sized Black Hornet Drone Is About To Change Army Operations Forever Been amazing to watch the evolution from concept to a fully developed weapons system over the past five years.

It offers a new way to reduce vulnerability to a host of threats, including ambushes, improvised explosive devices, or just what might be hiding on top of a roof or the other side of a wall. 

In the midst of all the AI articles, and the President’s new directive to “prioritize AI investments”, Drones & AI 2.0: Drone Data Analytics is an industry specific update from Droneii.com.

Colin Snow’s new piece for Forbes, Drones Pose A Unique Big Data Challenge For Business Users makes a fine companion piece.

And from the man behind Trump’s new AI initiative (and UAS IPP), Michael Kratsios writes in WIRED, Why the US Needs a Strategy for AI. For counterpoint, this seriously meaty paper by Greg Allen Understanding China’s AI Strategy Clues to Chinese Strategic Thinking on Artificial Intelligence and National Security.

A press release from NUAIR announces Industry Experts Outline Real-World UAS Usage Scenarios to Advance Safe Integration of Unmanned Aircraft into the National Airspace System.

More than 40 unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) industry experts from 20 global companies came together to discuss what use case scenarios are needed to develop safety protocols and supporting technologies to fly beyond visual line
of sight. 

Flying Taxis Draw Consumer Support, Concerns reports on a recent survey conducted by Airbus in four countries.

The top concerns are safety (56%), type of sound generated from the aircraft (49%), volume of sound from the aircraft (49%), time of day at which aircraft are flown (48%), altitude at which the aircraft fly (48%) and the landing spots of the
aircraft (41%).

Overall, 45% support the idea of flying vehicles and 41% see urban air mobility as safe.

From The Visual Capitalist, The Most Overhyped Sectors in Tech, According to Entrepreneurs. VR/AR leads at 65% over-hyped. Drones are in fourth at 54%.

Fascinating counterpoint from the AR side in WIRED, AR Will Spark the Next Big Tech Platform—Call It Mirrorworld

Someday soon, every place and thing in the real world—every street, lamppost, building, and room—will have its full-size digital twin in the mirrorworld.


Early Bird until March 1st for UTAC, the Unmanned Tactical Application Conference billed as The Most Realistic And Immersive UAS Training Conference In the World, March 24-28.

Great news for New Yorkers, tickets are now on sale for The 5th Annual New York City Drone Film Festival happening March 1 – 2.

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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