Hi all –
Good to be back. Thanks for all the kind words – nice to be part of so many Saturday mornings, afternoons and evenings around the world.
This issue is on the fat side since it’s a recap of the past two months with the FAA, an introduction to the upcoming GUTMA Connected Skies Forum, DHS & DJI, Think Pieces and a Parting Thought. The next issue will be my report from the GUTMA Connected Skies Forum on June 26th.
FAA Administrator nominee Steve Dickson had his hearing on the Hill mid-May. Morning Transportation reports “confirmation has been delayed by his failure to disclose a lawsuit he’s involved in to a Senate committee. [sic]
No worries, FAA Acting Administrator Daniel Elwell has said that he will stay on as long as he is needed. Which is all good, but it will require an Act of Congress for him to continue on if and when Dickson is confirmed.
The big news is that the Remote ID (RID) NPRM has slipped.
OIRA calendared it for September 2019 on the Unified Agenda, but as of Thursday it has slipped indefinitely.
All a short two weeks after FAA Executive Director Jay Merkle told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation that the rule would be rolled out in July. The explanation:
The rule has “proven complex,” the FAA’s congressional liaison wrote in a letter to industry members and obtained by POLITICO.
No scoop to support it, but logic suggests that the draft rule was either turned back by security stakeholders during the OIRA review, or by a whole bunch of department lawyers. Wave 2019 goodbye and start worrying about 2022. Seriously – read on.
As reported by Vic Moss who was in Baltimore, during his keynote at the UAS Symposium, Mr. Elwell reiterated that “Without Remote ID, the UAS Industry will not advance. BVLOS, Over People, etc. will not happen. The industry needs to
Gosh really? What part of it do you think we don’t realize?
Oh. My sense is that none of the 20 questions in Patrick Egan’s FAA UAS Symposium Cake Eater Questionnaire Crib Sheet were answered.
This week was also noteworthy for the first meeting of the newly reconstituted Drone Advisory Committee (DAC), now helmed by Precision Hawk CEO Michael Chasen. An awful lot of people are unhappy that any drone service providers, i.e. the actual 85-95,000 people who are supposed to be integrated into the NAS weren’t included (count ’em, zero) among the 12 newly anointed.
According to Vic Moss, Brendan Schulman raised a ruckus at the meeting and promises were made. Since apparently not one more person can be added to the already bloated group, the hack is that anyone can be on a task force even though they are not part of the DAC. Which is a consolation or what?
But wait because it just got a lot worse.
Friday Morning Transportation reported:
REMOTE ID, ASAP: A final rule on remote identification of drones could take as long as two years, the FAA told its Drone Advisory Committee on Thursday. With that in mind, the agency is seeking the committee’s advice on how to get operators to voluntarily use remote ID in the meantime.
“We realize that there’s no schedule I can give you or anyone else can give you that will be quick enough to get to Remote ID, from a regulatory standpoint,” said Jay Merkle, executive director of the FAA’s drone integration office. “So we think working with industry to get early adoption of [technical] standards and voluntary compliance is a good way to start enabling and unlocking” flights over people and beyond line of sight.
BUT the only ubiquitous Remote ID tech out there is already embedded in DJI’s C2 – which means that 70%+ of the fleet is already squawking.
BUT the only way to read it is to buy DJI’s Aeroscope.
WHICH – and this is key – according to our own analysis is probably the only legal way for law enforcement (LE) to use Remote ID anyway. That’s because DJI owners gave away certain rights when they signed the EULA. (more about this below)
ANRA reported the First-of-Its Kind Evaluation of Broadcast and Network Remote Identification for Drones at NUAIR with the Albany County Sheriff’s Office getting a chance to push the buttons.
I had a chance to chat with ANRA CEO Amit Ganjoo who told me that the most interesting part of the demo was the two hour debrief. Turns out that the technology is fine, but by itself doesn’t meet the operational needs of
From an LE perspective the harder problem is going to be integrating RID data with law enforcement data sets. This is something that regular Dronin’ On contributor Travis Moran, a 25 year LE veteran, and I have been talking about a lot.
A true license plate analogy means that an officer has as much information about the drone and operator, as he has about the vehicle and driver when he does a traffic stop.
Even if you are not a lawyer it shouldn’t surprise you that this type of solution comes with any number of legal hurdles to overcome – leaving us to wonder if legislation will be needed before regulation.
Mark Dombroff writing in Plane-ly Spoken gets at some of this in UAS: Even If You Can Find Them, You Can’t Identify or Stop Them!
Two stories about a man named Mapes puts the challenge in context. According to Seattle KIRO 7, some 18 months after the fact, Man Accused of Flying Drone at California NFL Games Charged:
A man accused of using a drone to drop anti-media leaflets on crowds at two NFL games in the San Francisco Bay Area was charged with violating national defense airspace regulations, federal authorities said Wednesday. [my emphasis]
He could face up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine if convicted.
Surveillance cameras helped detectives track the drone to its operator… Mapes was arrested shortly afterward while leaving in his vehicle. Officers cited him with misdemeanor charges and released him.
So, there is Problem#1 – local LE can only enforce local statutes.
Problem#2 is that some folks don’t learn real good, last week Mapes was back
Buzzfeed reports A Drone Dropped Flyers With Swastikas On Them Outside An Ariana Grande Concert. The flyers, which said “the press is the enemy,” were also dropped over an event at Sacramento State University.
Put it all together and it’s easy to see why the FAA is struggling to come up with a scalable, long term RID solution that will meet the needs of national, state and local security agencies that they are willing to invest in and won’t be thrown out in court.
Elsewhere, UAS IPP is halfway through its 36-month run. Florida (the mosquito sprayer) has dropped out and four of the other programs are yet to get airborne. Zacc Dukowitz did a nice job reporting the disappointing story for UAV Coach. How Much Progress Has the UAS IPP Made? A Look Back at the First Year and the FAA Approvals Secured.
The UAS IPP program has been notoriously opaque since the White House dreamed it up, so it’s hard to say whether the failure is the result of the very rushed selection process (a recurring theme) or the FAA waiver process. Or both. What’s clear is that it isn’t spitting out the promised reams of data to feed the
UAST team take note. Some weeks this story would be a lead. UK based Airprox Reality Check just released their findings UK Airprox Board Reveals There Is No Proof That a Drone Has Ever Flown Close to an Aircraft.
…At present the UK Airprox Board simply records and publishes every drone airprox report [aka near miss] received – which results in massively inflated figures, and a resulting massively inflated sense of the scale of the problem.
I asked Simon Dale who runs things at Airprox what happened, and he said “We firstly contacted the CAA (the UAS unit, then the GA unit, and finally the Chief Executive) and asked for a meeting to explain our findings. Unfortunately, they haven’t replied to date.”
Oh and that whole Aero México thing in TJ with the crushed radome? Crappy maintenance work – no bits and pieces to be found… All of which calls into question “ever increasing” sightings…
Meanwhile, Peter van Blyenburgh’s write up European Commission Adopts Rules on Operating Drones suggests that the EU has just gained a significant lead:
“The EU will now have the most advanced rules worldwide. This will pave the way for safe, secure and green drone flights. It also provides the much-needed clarity for the business sector and for drone innovators Europe-wide.”
CONNECTED SKIES FORUM PREVIEW
Which brings us to the main story this week, GUTMA’s first Connected Skies Forum #connectedskies happening in Portland, OR June 18-20.
So what’s a GUTMA, what’s the Forum about and why am I back from the river to write about it?
GUTMA is the Global UTM Association, a non-profit consortium of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management (UTM) stakeholders.
Its purpose is to foster the safe, secure and efficient integration of drones in national airspace systems. Its mission is to support and accelerate the transparent implementation of globally interoperable UTM systems.
GUTMA has members and partners from 27 countries including such global heavyweights as Airbus, GSMA, Intel and Verizon. GUTMA President Jonathan Evans and Secretary General Fanni Lukácsy invited me to attend to share my impressions with you.
I was happy to accept their invitation because Connected Skies is the first event to bring together the aviation, drone and telecommunication industries to discuss how to make unmanned traffic management (which will soon become ‘universal traffic management’) work. The people and the companies involved have the technical expertise and the bank to invest in inventing the future.
SPOILER ALERT This is an uplifting, visionary story! Something good is
In preparation for the event, I interviewed Jonathan, Fanni, Mark Davis from Intel, Graham Trickey from GSMA and Jessie Mooberry from Airbus. They were generous with their time and I had the chance to ask each of them a series
I began by asking Fanni what her expectations were for the event. She wrote me back explaining that:
GUTMA created #connectedskies to bring together representatives of the aviation and telecommunication industries to discuss UTM. It’s hard to imagine, but this is the first time that these groups will meet which is an essential step to
I asked her what success will look like and she told me that:
The event will be successful if we begin the process of building ‘bridges’, one to one relationships that continue after our event and contribute to increased awareness and new kinds of joint efforts.
Graham Trickey, Head of IoT at GSMA, a global trade organization that represents the interests of mobile network operators dropped me a line to say:
Although the memberships of GUTMA and GSMA are very different, they do share a common view that cellular communication can help with UTM. Through Connected Skies, we aim to bring together the aviation and telecom industries to better understand each other.
There are different terminologies used in both and we wanted to encourage discussion about how cellular networks can be used to help with the growth of UA. We have encouraged a number of operators and ecosystem players from the telecom industry to attend the event and make presentations on their experiences of implementing cellular connectivity for UAs and to be available for networking during the event.
Mark Davis, VP Next Generation Systems, Intel brought the need to connect the groups into sharp focus.
“There is a big question about what actually constitutes aviation grade connectivity, and so what is the underlying technology. How will we define Level ‘X’ connectivity?
Unfortunately, each of the communities, cellular, aviation, defense, and regulators are largely unaware of the others needs and capabilities. It’s an easy problem to observe but a hard one to correct. All of these groups have to come together if we are to get to a common language so that we can agree on standards the regulators can use. One step forward is Connected Skies. Hundreds of people, knowing hundreds of people, fattening the pipe.”
Jessie Mooberry is Head of Deployment, Airbus UTM, a group devoted to designing and deploying the critical infrastructure necessary to allow new aircraft to safely enter and share the skies of our future.
She explained that Airbus UTM began as an innovation initiative at Airbus because
“How we think about our airspace is very much changing. It’s become necessary to address the integration of the mission profiles of all of the ‘new entrants’ – sUAS, UAS, UAM, and HAL – that are not currently being served by the current air traffic management system. We understand a more modern and scalable ATM approach is needed and are working towards how best to evolve the system while maintaining aviation safety standards.”
Jessie pointed to several areas that UTM needs to solve for in order to
- A harmonized and secure global solution to support safe cross-border operations.
- Standardized data sets which also address privacy issues.
- A future-proof infrastructure that address the needs of today, but also supports the vehicle, missions and systems of our rapidly changing airspace.
- A clear description of how it is going to work based on modeling and understanding of complex systems.
Which brings us to Jonathan Evans, VP Global Aviation Policy, Verizon and the really big picture. Since I first heard Jonathan describe UTM as the TCP/IP of the skies almost two years ago, I have thought of him as ‘the poet of the skies.’ He seldom disappoints.
We began by talking about his interests in the intertwined history of transportation and communications – reflecting on the immediate adoption of the airplane to more rapidly communicate through airmail, and how now these most robust LTE and emerging 5G communications networks now “ubiquitously blanketing the cities of the earth” are available for transportation’s newest and most revolutionary arrival – the “aerial robot”…
GUTMA is now three years old and Jonathan is stepping down as President to make room for “new blood.” He told me that
“Since we started, it has become increasingly apparent that the distinction between UTM and conventional ATM is a false dichotomy.”
Which is particularly problematic since aviation “does not speak state of the art very well.” A licensed pilot, he has offered to take me on a plane ride so that I can see just how antiquated the process of using an airport from a
In his view, as the airspace becomes both more saturated and more valuable, the only scalable solution for managing air traffic of all kinds will be software-defined, connected, and distributed interoperable systems. No time to go into the details but think of every aircraft in the sky – manned and unmanned – being connected and knowing where they are and where everybody else is. A vision that when realized will increase the safety and dramatically increase the efficiency of the global aviation system.
Getting there will require that the regulatory agencies make a transition from their current paper, voice, and carbon-based systems to networked, globally interoperable solutions. In this brave new airspace:
”All aircraft will manage themselves on the edge as part of a distributed, networked and federated system. In many ways, this is the system that NextGen and [the EASA/SESAR version] have always had ambitions to be… we’re just updating the idea to take full advantage of modern technologies.”
It’s a huge idea that is leading the group to replace the UAS in GUTMA with Universal – for Universal Traffic Management. Mark Davis pointed out to me that “To get there you need to think about ATM to UTM from the beginning. It’s a whole new way of looking at the airspace.”
Jonathan recognizes that getting there will be neither fast nor easy. He sees Connected Skies as an opportunity to begin the process of building “Demonstrable, deliverable, consensus outcomes that will be the bridge between the technology providers and the regulators.” Serious stuff and the only way that anything is going to get done.
Want to be a bridge to the future? Use DRONINON-CONNSKIES19 to get a 10% discount: apply the code in the upper right corner of the registration panel. I’ll be there. Look for my report Wednesday June 26th before the long weekend.
After a final contentious round of discussions, the Committee – Tort Law Relating to Drones, has completed the 2019 Annual Meeting Draft, which will be presented at their annual conclave in July. Assuming that it is ratified, it will then begin making the rounds of the statehouses.
To my eye the final ‘Annual Meeting Draft’ is a great improvement over the initial version that I reported in the Bright Line issue last July. Thank yous, props and h/t’s to the lawyers, service providers and others in the sUAS community who took the time to get involved and make something good happen.
DHS & DJI
Pretty clear that we are in the early rounds of a bare-knuckle bar brawl. In this corner, holding the broken beer bottle, the kid from Queens looking for the easy win. In the other corner, holding the busted pool cue is Xi, master of the long siege. It was inevitable that DJI would get caught up somewhere, somehow.
DHS Warns of ‘Strong Concerns’ That Chinese-Made Drones Are Stealing Data is somewhat vague, but Feds to Energy Companies: Beware Drones Made in China is extremely specific.
DJI, Huawei, Spying and How They Bamboozled the FAA and American Public offers up a particularly vitriolic take, along with a well-documented review of the better-known emphatically denied incidents that have been circulating since 2016.
A potential gamechanger is Sen. Chris Murphy’s (D-CT) provision which will ban the use of Chinese-made unmanned aerial systems (UAS) by the DOD. It has made it through the Senate Armed Services Committee; and is on pace to be included in the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
When you put it all together, it’s easy to imagine retail sales tanking after a tariff induced 25% price increase. Equally easy to imagine are more and more commercial and government customers becoming increasingly reluctant to, or being prohibited from, flying DJI. (Sooner or later everyone will read the EULA.)
But that is not the perfect storm.
The perfect storm is the lack of meaningful alternatives at scale, together with the dependence of the leading flight management apps on the DJI API and SDK.
I asked URSA CEO David Kovar, who spends a lot of time on these kinds of issues for his thoughts:
Assuming that DJI is subject to tariffs, I think public safety will be the hardest hit. Commercial operators have a variety of PixHawk enabled options and some are doing semi-custom builds quite successfully. Commercial operators also are more capable of flying less user-friendly GCS/aircraft combinations. Public safety has less ability to adjust to pricing changes and is more dependent on following
InterDrone Conference Chair Mike Pehel who I am working with on Policy Day expressed his concern that “To the extent that it impacts public safety, it’s going to cost lives.”
Elevating Safety: Protecting The Skies In The Drone Era is DJI’s plan for data-based, real-world solutions to maximize safety, encourage innovation, minimize conﬂicts and help society. It’s a very broad 10-point plan which would be hailed as ‘impressive progressive thinking’ or such if the FAA rolled it out…
Delving into the details, WhiteFox recently released their white paper, Enabling the Good While Preventing the Bad: How Security Enables the Drone Industry.
What Makes the Enterprise Drone Sales Cycle Different? by Rachel Mulholland is an effective discussion of a complex subject. If you sell to enterprise and want to up your game, this is a good place to start.
If you want to see a classic example of enterprise sales, check out Flytbase’s new white paper, Drone Automation for Warehouse 4.0. You know what I like best? The FAA has nothing to say about it.
Before your business plan goes completely out of whack, take a minute to read Colin Snow’s recent article, FAA May Be Off Target With Forecast For Threefold Growth In Commercial Drones. Why? Because of the industry’s ever-shrinking Achilles Heel:
As reported here, 126,299 individuals have been issued a remote pilot certificate as of March 15, 2019. But as of the same day, only 7,306 individuals have taken the remote pilot certification recurrent knowledge test, which is required every
Given remote pilot certification started in August 2016, that means only 20% of the original pilots have renewed their license to operate commercially.
Based on the latest data, FAA predicts the commercial drone market will triple over the next five years, hitting 835,000 aircraft by 2023.
Without more RPICs it is pretty obvious that the industry cannot scale until a significant percentage of operations can be conducted autonomously.
One last thing. Many of you know that I am on the Board of the Energy Drone Coalition Summit. For personal reasons I will not be able to be in Houston next week. But I do want to call your attention to a very significant announcement that will be made there by the American Petroleum Institute:
The Summit is excited to announce the keynote session for the release and rollout of API’s Guide to Developing an Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program. This is a new guide specifically tailored to the use of drones in the energy industry and provides insight on best practices and critical thinking for asset owners and operators in adopting and running unmanned aircraft programs. The presentation will take place on Thursday, June 13 during a keynote given by API Manager, Suzanne Lemieux.
You can’t read it yet, but I will see if I can get a link
Seven years in, the FAA is beginning to embrace new tactics to address the many challenges of UAS integration. “Bring us the answer and we’ll decide if we like it…” is a good way to find the best mitigation solutions, but it does not lend itself to the more challenging problems to be solved.
There is a need for much more joint public private development. LAANC is an example of what can be accomplished. Solving the Remote ID riddle is an example of what needs doing.
Congress sees the problem. Mark McKinnon writing in Plane-ly Spoken reports from the Symposium, FAA: More Money for Drones.
This new program, which was actually mandated by Congress in the FAA Reauthorization Act, came with a $6 million appropriation to move the project forward. According to the FAA, if your company qualifies, it will match the funds put forward by the applicant for the project.
Ten technologies are identified – representing the ten most vexing problems the FAA needs answers too. Everything but how to pay for it… It’s a breakneck schedule, it will cut the little guys out, but it’s a start. Where do ASSURE and the Test Sites fit in the mix? It’s going to take experienced project managers to get meaningful results.
Also this week comes this story in dronelife.com, FAA Issues Waiver for Drones With Parachutes to Fly Over People – and Indicates a Way Forward for New Drone Technologies. Sounds odd but the exciting part of the story is a quote from the FAA press release:
“This waiver represents the first time the FAA has collaborated with industry in developing a publicly available standard, worked with an applicant to ensure the testing and data collected acceptably met the standard, and issued a waiver using an industry standard as a basis to determine that a proposed sUAS operation can be safely conducted under the terms and conditions of a waiver under Part 107.”
Congrats to the teams at ASTM, Hensel Phelps and ParaZero.
When one considers the promise of the work being done by ANRA, API, DJI, GUTMA and many others mentioned on these pages, it becomes evident that public-private partnerships, with all parties fully engaged and invested, is the best way to move forward quickly.
See you in Portland or back here the 26th.
Thanks for reading and for sharing. Back issues of Dronin’ On are here.
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