The 'Near Sighted' issue of Dronin' On 01.05.19Hi all –

Happy New Year. It’s Day 15 of the shutdown and there are consequences. To which I will add some surprising things that the FAA is doing with Remote ID and Public Safety, the ever-deepening mystery about what actually happened at Gatwick, new far-sighted cocktail napkin math on CUAS, Coming Attractions and Eye Candy.

But first a hat tip to the Dotard who at his made for TV Cabinet meeting
proclaimed that:

I know more about drones than anybody. Having drones and various other forms of sensors, they’re all fine, but they’re not gonna stop the problems that this country has.”

Right you are POTUS. The real problem is that large portions of the Federal government, including the DOT, are shut down and 850,000 people (some American, some not) don’t know how they are going to make rent. Of course, stiffing the people who work for him is familiar territory…


AINonline ran with Government Shutdown Furloughs Nearly 18,000 FAA Workers.

That’s about 38% of the FAA workforce.

In addition to airmen certificate issuance and NextGen development, activities suspended include unmanned systems exemption, aviation rulemaking
[my emphasis]

Air Transport World (ATW) headlined ALPA: US Government Shutdown Threatens Aviation Safety, Security:

Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) president Joe DePete has called on US congressional leaders and President Donald Trump to end the partial shutdown of the federal government, saying the standoff “is adversely affecting the safety, security and efficiency of our national airspace system… including FAA’s ability to protect the airspace from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)[my emphasis]

Inquiring minds would love to know what DePete is referring to.

Morning Transportation reported that:

ATC CRUNCH: The National Air Traffic Controllers Association is warning that the government shutdown could exacerbate an ATC staffing crisis…

Miriam McNabb’s story, What a Long Government Shutdown Could Mean for the FAA – and the Drone Industry does a nice job putting it in context:

Pilots in the field report that local FAA towers – already stretched to their limits – say that above grid LAANC authorizations won’t happen for any “non-essential” drone missions.

Testing programs, discussions on regulations, meetings, collaborations and all of the immense work that goes into establishing a framework for drone integration will be put to the side – and risk not being taken up again by the same people, or with the same energy, if the shutdown continues for a long period.

After I tweeted the story, Justin Adams, President of Constellation Consulting Group, messaged me to say “I have 65 107.41 AA approved since 21dec18.” These are non-LAANC participating airports meaning that someone was reviewing and approving the requests. He added “Had items approved on New Years.”

Another reader wrote in to say “As of 4PM EST today (1/2/19) PSI Knowledge Testing [which operates the CATS under contract to the FAA] announced FAA testing may now resume. Their specific caution was “please be advised that during this shutdown, we cannot guarantee that results will be accurately processed after Airman Knowledge Testing data is transferred to the FAA.”

I got in touch with the Lead ODA Administrator for PSI Services, FAA Operations, Ed Herrera and asked him to clarify.

“As an example, the tests that were taken yesterday were sent to the FAA through their SFTP. Those records were not uploaded into the IACRA program.”

Of course, The Law of Unintended Consequences remains in effect.

Solicitation of Nominations for Appointment to the Drone Advisory Committee. Please read the Federal Register Notice carefully as I am unable to answer questions. Failure to provide all requested materials may result in your removal from consideration. All materials are due by 6:00 AM on January 9, 2019.

And soon to be a favorite:

Chaos at Airports as TSA Workers Calling Out Sick en Masse as They Go Without Pay During Shutdown


screen grab from FAA Public Safety Video – click to watch

The WSJ reports ($) FAA Launches Test Program to Speed Up Drone Identification Rules Industry to pay for prototype projects intended to accelerate expansion of unmanned aircraft in U.S.

The new Federal Aviation Administration program, spelled out in a Federal Register notice earlier this month, envisions creating up to eight company-financed prototype projects to examine various options. The goal is to verify technologies and provide real-world data to hasten broader regulatory steps aimed at significantly expanding commercial uses of unmanned aircraft.

Lessons learned from the tests—which at this point have no public price tag or timetable—are intended to counter widespread industry complaints that the FAA has moved too slowly and cautiously in establishing mandatory rules for remote identification of drones.

One of the primary questions that still must be answered, however, is whether drones will broadcast positions using cellphone signals or more extensive internet networks covering larger geographical areas and including
law-enforcement agencies.”

I have been unable to determine if this is related to the ANPRM or as some suggest, the Remote ID Pilot Program described in the 2018 FAR. Since the Federal Register is not being updated…

I also found this FAA video on Drone Public Safety. If anything, it is even more tone deaf than Buzzy the Drone and should put civil liberty types on high alert:

Law Enforcement ALERT: Your authority allows you to take action in response to reports of unsafe and unauthorized drone operations! Watch our new video to learn how to take action, and when to report incidents to the FAA’s Law Enforcement Assistance Program (LEAP) agents.

Verbatim from the video:

Simply put, whether it’s a federal, state or local law being broken, if the violation poses an imminent threat to the public safety or security, your first and foremost duty is to take action under your agencies authority to ensure the safety of the people in the vicinity.

At no time does the video put any limits on what kinds of action can be taken. Simple concepts like drones are aircraft and it’s illegal (as well as stupid) to shoot at them. The FAA is not going to succeed in integrating UAS into the NAS by declaring open season on every RPIC out there.

For even more on the topic, watch Safer Skies: How the FAA Helps Law Enforcement Respond to Reports of Improper Use of UAS.


screen grab from NATS video of July, 2017 event – click to watch

Still on the subject of police and drones… we have reached the point where you can’t make this stuff up. I am going to start with a tweet from a local UK photographer @brightonsnapper:

Drone or no drone, the airport had to close & the police had to investigate it, I was up there, I saw a drone, took pics, rang it in, looked at the pics, it was a plane, easily done. 

Clearly, the way the incident was handled suggests that nowhere near enough lessons were learned from the July 2017 drone-induced shutdown at Gatwick.

On December 27th, the NYT ran Gatwick Airport Drone: Lots of Second-Guessing, but Not Many Answers. I am confident that the as yet unreleased costs to the airlines are what may actually change things.

In all, more than 1,000 flights were canceled or diverted, delaying or canceling the travel of more than 140,000 passengers, including many who spent two nights at the airport.

(My estimates of lost revenue to Gatwick are under CUAS.)

December 30th, Quartz offered UK Police Still Have No Proof of the Drone Attack That Grounded 1,000 Gatwick Flights.

Sussex police chief constable Giles York… said there had been 115 reports of drone sightings to police, including 93 confirmed as coming from credible sources, such as law enforcement and air traffic employees.

But beyond those eyewitness accounts, things get rather muddy.. York had to concede that it was possible that police drones launched to catch the perpetrator(s) during the ordeal caused “some level of confusion”—suggesting that some of the reported sightings could have been of drones operated by police.

Additionally, York said that two drones found nearby were ruled out of being involved in the incident, and searches of 26 sites in the immediate area were not fruitful. Further complicating matters, last week a senior Sussex police officer was quoted saying there was a possibility there hadn’t ”been any genuine drone activity in the first place.” This was later called a misstatement, and blamed on poor communication.

I thought that reporter Rosie Spinks’ conclusion was a masterpiece
of understatement:

…Compared with early reports of multiple drones being used in a “highly targeted activity” to provoke an airport shutdown, “a drone” sounds like a bit of a de-escalation—especially given the gigantic disruption those initial reports caused.

Gary Mortimer in sUAS News offered up a conspiracy theory worthy of Smiley himself, Was Gatwick Drone Scare a Hack Just Ahead of Its Sale?

In case you’re wondering (I was) Mortimer was referring to the fact that the controlling interest in Gatwick was just purchased by a French firm, Vinci Airports, for approximately US$3.65B.

It is alleged that the Police drones used at Gatwick were not looking for drones but for accomplices to a systems hack at the airport that prevented aircraft taking off and landing.

The police were unsure if the hackers were inside or outside of the airport hence the major vehicle and police drone search that happened on the first day. That search prompted an increase in drone sightings and the police went with that story for the closure of Gatwick.

I did think the reaction at the time was disproportionate to the threat and that it might be a cover for some other operation.

Am I the only one who wonders how you use a drone to catch a hacker?

UK correspondent Malek Murison writing in offered What Can We Learn From The Drone Disruption at Gatwick Airport? including some good-natured jabs at his countrymen:

It was the kind of helpless slapstick usually reserved for when any more than a centimetre of snow falls in London. But this time it was a drone, one which police claimed was “adapted and developed” for the sole purpose of ruining Christmas.

Ian Povey, Operations Director, Clear Vision Security Ltd, a UK firm that describes itself as Drone Deployment Advocates posted Moving Beyond Gatwick. I started out liking him but I am beginning to wonder…

Time and again the question has been asked, how can a drone bring a major airport to a grinding halt so easily? The answer is very simple and two-fold.


One of the main factors is the misconception about the danger drones pose to aviation which has been promoted by organisations such as the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA). For years they have used media events and press releases to caution that drones are likely to bring down a commercial airliner and kill 100’s of people.

This is now the common view of the general public and one that forces airports into closing runways when drones are sighted in their vicinity.

Tsk tsk.


The second reason why it’s so easy for a drone to stop an airport from running is that the approach to dealing with the problem comes from the wrong angle. It’s focussed on trying to stop the drone, which is very difficult to do.

But that is the game right?

Anticipating a spate of no-fly rules, he wrote a really naïve follow on article, Gatwick – A Vacuum of Silence.

One of the principal jobs of the manufacturers and the bodies that represent the end users is to defend the market, yet both DJI and ARPAS-UK were absent.

ARPAS-UK issued exactly the sort of milquetoast press release you would expect. DJI immediately volunteered their AeroScope gear and found nothing.

How exactly do you defend against something that may or may not have happened? What would you advocate for?

There is a much bigger lesson here that should be taken to heart by infrastructure owners around the world. Facilities need to work with local law enforcement ahead of time. It is a whole lot more complicated than the simplistic nostrums proposed in the FAA Public Safety video will lead many to believe.

image courttesy of the Sussex PD

The pictures of the PD response showed people with assault weapons – fetching, fearsome and utterly ineffective against a drone – though they would be hard on the RPIC.

The stories that the Sussex PD were removed from the case, and matters turned over to Scotland Yard for investigation turned out to be false. Still it is a fair assessment of the expertise necessary to respond to and investigate this type
of incident.

An interview in The Telegraph with the head of Scotland Yard, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick says a great deal about the challenge.

I’ve been talking to colleagues around the world and I can tell you this is not an easy problem… 



concept rendering Rafael Advanced Defense System’s Drone Dome system

The facts remain:

  • Drones are cheap and easy to build
  • Military grade detection is expensive
  • Besides eagles and nets, mitigation poses many risks
  • Nothing has been tested or proven in civilian environments.

I was playing with some numbers to see if the revenue lost from 140,000 passenger landing/take off fees, some US$2.3M, could solve the problem.

No surprise that Friday the WSJ offered($) After Massive Disruptions, U.K. Airports Bring Out the Big Guns to Stop Drones London Gatwick Airport says new equipment provides military-like protection against drones.

Turns out, I did the math right.

London Gatwick, the U.K.’s second largest airport after Heathrow, said it had recently spent several million pounds to buy new equipment to handle disruptive drones. The system is on par with what the country’s military uses, the airport said without identifying the supplier.

The British government, in the wake of the Gatwick events, said it had made counterdrone equipment available to deploy throughout the country. The government also has said that it may recommend tightening rules on drone use this year and call for enhanced policing powers and guidelines to test and use counterdrone equipment.

Think about it. ~US$2.3M per 500 US airports – that’s well under US$2B to protect them all… Call it US$10M per to account for procurement inefficiencies, parts, training, PR, databases etc. and for the price of John Snow’s Wall (US$5B) you have protected every US airport. Works out to be about the same as the September 11th Security Fee of $5.60 USD per one-way flight.

Someone’s gonna have to decide if it’s worth it.

Look hard at the 2018 FAR – it is very clear that Congress knows exactly where the money is – if the government ever gets back to work, there will be FAA feet to the fire in hearings PDQ to provide assurances that this will not happen in the US.

Mitigation is a separate problem… DHS is going to have to take over the lead. offers a comprehensive summary of the issues in DroneGate: Here’s What Really Needs To Be Done To Prevent Another Gatwick but no recommendations. It includes some commentary about the assumed hardware:

A spokeswoman for Gatwick Airport told the Guardian newspaper that it’s solution “provided a similar level of protection” to the military-grade defense operated by the RAF and that it “had installed it about a week ago.”

[emphasis mine – no way this was procured, built, installed and calibrated in the time frame unless it was already on order – say from last July?]

The same newspaper report says that Heathrow Airport’s spokeswoman confirmed that it had made an “investment in military-grade anti-drone equipment” for that airport. Whether this refers to Rafael’s ‘Drone Dome’ counter-unmanned aircraft system (C-UAS), six units of which were procured by the U.K. Ministry of Defence for £15.8 million back in August, but which have yet to be delivered,
remains unclear.

According to Jane’s the Drone Dome C-UAS system purchased by the U.K. includes radar detection, electro-optical identification and communication jamming capabilities but falls short of the full system specification that has ‘hard-kill’ laser weaponry to shoot down rogue drones.

Points to the author for this:

The notion of geo-tagged, and therefore trackable, drones straight from the factory floor isn’t blue sky thinking either. Chinese drone manufacturer DJI Technology already has such technology…

Some interesting comments from AirMap CEO Ben Marcus in the article:

He also points to India where the Digital Sky regulation enforces the use of technologies such as electronic registration, airspace authorization and geofencing to enforce civil aviation regulations. “Specifically their No Permission, No Take-off (NPNT) rule is a big step forward” Marcus concludes, “to create an environment where drone usage is supervised with unmanned traffic management technologies already available.”

It’s really simple. Remote ID has to be installed and made operational as a condition of sale. The new mantra has to be “if you don’t like it, don’t fly it or sell it.”

This is not a 2A issue, there is no such thing as the right to fly. We are looking to spend billions to defend against aircraft and pilots that should have been regulated in a manner consistent with the threat that a handful of them pose. (Please see my post from 2015, 10 Things I Think About The Registration Initiative.)

336 is gone. Time to get it right.

The commercial industry will not take off until the problem is solved.

Which do you want? Because with every incident, the choice becomes increasingly binary.

Please file this report from the Daily Beast under ‘If they can do this, why can’t they do that?’ We’re All Spies, Now—And Not Even Trump Can Hide From Our Prying Eyes Amateur plane-spotters tracked Air Force One as it secretly made its way to Iraq, demonstrating the power of readily-available tools to reveal covert
military operations.


The 2019 FAA UAS Symposium is still scheduled for February 12-14 in Baltimore. Should be a very interesting meeting.

Commercial UAV Expo Europe, April 8-10 in Amsterdam is offering readers a  €100 discount. Use code UAS100


screen grab from THE DRONE trailer – click to watch

Watch the official trailer for THE DRONE – a horror spoof starring a
bloodthirsty quad.

Commercial Drone Professional curated The Best Video Stories of 2018. put together a very strong collection, The Top Drone Photos and Video Shorts of 2018.

Gizmodo has assembled Technology Ranked, the definitive list of every important technology ever, ranked by their importance. #20 is the airplane, #10 is the Internet, #5 is the telegraph… Well done and definitely entertaining.

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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