The Road Block issueHi all –

Hope that everyone is staying warm and dry. If you don’t like the weather outside your window, cheer up. It’s mostly worse elsewhere…

This week it’s the FAA, new White House aviation security policies (NSAS), International regs, ULC Again, Changing the Dynamic, Coming Attractions and some sweet Eye Candy.

As for road blocks – any one of these is manageable, all of them together is a lot to get through. As Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say “It’s always something – if it ain’t one thing it’s another.


man on phone at airport
image courtesy Pixabay

An important reminder to anyone who missed last week’s Opportunity issue. 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 from the release date to comment. The Interim Rule goes into effect Monday February 25.

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

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

As you would expect more and more commentary is appearing and I have some of it here for you.

This week WaPo commented, Trump Administration Releases Proposed Drone Rules and Regulatory Changes. It’s an interesting take starting with the FAA’s rationale for implementing the new marking requirement while the comment period is open.

The regulation needs to take effect Feb. 25, the agency said. Otherwise, “first responders could be exposed to additional risk during the notice and comment period as a result of the attention drawn to the vulnerability.” The agency will still accept comments until March 15, and could make amendments later… Although the FAA says first responders will be able to see a registration number without touching a drone, the requirement still falls far short of what security officials say is necessary.

Next comes RID (Remote ID) and everything you already knew but didn’t want
to hear.

The FAA says the process of developing and finalizing a remote ID regulation is expected to take about two years.

Which leads into the discussion of flight over people. Lydia Hilton writing for the Berman Fink Van Horn blog takes a particularly detailed look at some of the less discussed aspects of the NPRM – remember that you can influence this
by commenting:

Who is responsible for engineering and enforcing these performance standards?

Much of the proposed rule addresses the standards for designating small UAS as category 2 or 3, and the remote pilot in command’s expanded responsibilities for ensuring that the drone used is in fact correctly classified.  The burden to prove compliance with the performance standards is on those who design, produce, or modify an unmanned aircraft system.  They may elect any effective solution for achieving the performance standards, and they likewise may propose any means of proving the solution works.  They then submit their “proof” to the FAA which, if satisfied, issues a Declaration of Compliance that a particular model is qualified for Category 2 or Category 3 operations. [my emphasis] 

The FAA is also requiring that those who design, produce, or modify an unmanned aircraft system for Category 2 or 3 Operations create, maintain, and make available robust operating instructions and customer service support to remote pilots.

screen grab from ASSURE ingestion study
screen grab from ASSURE ingestion study – courtesy ASSURE – click to view

Mark McKinnon writing in Plane-ly Spoken takes a broader look, FAA Rulemaking on UAS: Slow, Steady and Risky. Referring to the ASSURE UAS Airborne Collision Severity Evaluation Final Report released in 2017 (additional studies are currently underway) he notes:

As the industry moves into fully autonomous flight beyond visual line of sight, the hard questions regarding the risks UAS pose to other aircraft have to be fully addressed.  The answers become even more urgent when we consider that UAS technically capable of autonomous flight beyond visual line of sight are widely available to an untrained public at a reasonable price.

Unfortunately, people unbuoyed by supporting facts dominate the public debate on these questions, claiming, “It is just a piece of plastic, how much damage can it do?”  This is why the work of organizations such as ASSURE is so important to keep the rulemaking process advancing.

While this might result in a rulemaking process that is slower than we might like, we have to ask whether the potentially catastrophic alternative is acceptable.

In somewhat cheerier news, Air Transport World bottom lined with Spending Law Gives FAA $17.5 Billion for FY2019.

The compromise spending package signed into law by US President Trump allotted $17.5 billion for the FAA’s FY2019 budget, a roughly $550 million drop from FY2018 but $1.3 billion more than the administration’s request. 

The budget designates $7.8 billion for the Air Traffic Organization; $3 billion for upgrades to facilities and equipment; $1.3 billion for aviation safety; $191 million for research, engineering and development; $61.2 million for NextGen development and $56 million for unmanned aircraft integration, among other FAA activities.

One of the highlights of the week was the drone that crashed into a 27th story window in Chicago. The CPD posted a tweet, inviting the miscreant “If this is your drone, please call #CPD for a quick return.” Which, as you would expect brought out the dark humor.

The tweet is a fine set up to Mark Dombroff’s post for, Could ‘Toy’ Drones Ground the Commercial UAS Sector?

My best guess is that today’s relatively freewheeling approach to recreational or hobbyist usage will give way to a world in which all UAS operators must obtain and maintain FAA certification. This will not be an “open book” online test: Fed up with chaos in the skies, the FAA will require all UAS operators to demonstrate actual proficiency in flying these aircraft and to pass written tests proving their ability to understand and follow the rules for safe operation of drones in our joint airspace.

Pilots will need to seek advanced certificates for riskier and more complex operations—such as flying beyond the visual line of sight—and will have the opportunity to earn additional type-rating certificates for larger or more specialized aircraft as well. Drones may even be registered automatically at the point of sale.

In addition, the FAA will drop its emphasis on promoting the growth of UAS and will instead focus on more aggressive enforcement…

screen grab from You Tube drone camera footage – click to view

Trouble is not hard to find. The Phantom pilot never saw the chopper because a) he was watching his display and b) it is estimated that he was 700′ AGL. He took the time to post about his experience concluding that:

Remember, you can not put all of your trust into the technology of your drone or device. You MUST use common sense and be careful, not just of your bird, but of others around you. Educate yourself on risks of the area.

If you’d prefer it in laymen’s terms, I loved this headline in sUAS News, Highly Experienced Pilot Can’t Believe People Start Flying Drones With No Instruction Whatsoever. The author, Andy Holland, was a RAF Tornado pilot and instructor and now flies an A380 for British Airways. In his spare time, he runs Flyby, a sUAS training school. 

“You wouldn’t get into a car and start driving without any instruction or taking a test,” he says. “So why would you buy a drone and start flying it without doing the same?”


A thoughtful reader just sent me a document from the White House dated December 2018, National Strategy For Aviation Security of the United States of America (NSAS). In the very first paragraph of the cover letter POTUS writes:

The past decade has seen the rise of technologies that generate economic and social benefits, but also may be used to challenge the safety and security of the Aviation Ecosystem. The use of “disruptive technologies,” such as cyber connectivity and unmanned aircraft, in reckless or malicious ways, along with the constant evolution of terrorist threats to manned aviation, requires a fresh, whole-of-community approach.

In The Introduction, under the subheading Emerging Disruptive Technology/Risk we find three close to home.

Cyber Connectivity within the Aviation Ecosystem

Increasing Reliance on Radio Frequency (RF) Spectrum and Ability to Degrade Use
As the air navigation system (ANS) moves away from traditional land-based navigation systems to rely on space- based technologies such as GPS, the Aviation Ecosystem may become more vulnerable to purposeful interference. Aviation infrastructure involves command and control, and communications systems…  Given the centrality of the RF spectrum to aviation operations, the United States Government must take steps to safeguard its use, including physical security measures and technical measures to prevent jamming and spoofing and to enable authentication, as well as cybersecurity considerations.

Proliferation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems
While most of the operators of these systems are engaged in legitimate activity, the risk of an irresponsible or malicious actor using the system is increasing.

UAS also provide effective platforms to conduct illicit surveillance and to infiltrate nearby computer networks via the cyber domain. UAS can pose additional security concerns to include vulnerabilities from command and control messaging to/from the UAS and transport and communication of data from the UAS, such as streaming video or sensor data.

Obviously, these concerns have been influencing FAA sUAS and UAS rulemaking for several years. Looking into the crystal ball I conclude that C2 (command and control) links are likely to face increasingly stringent requirements. Which in turn, could impact the RID timeline.


No Drone Zone sign outside Dublin Airport

Sign outside Dublin airport – photo Mark Condren

The US isn’t the only country working to define rules for sUAS and UAS.

On Thursday it happened again, this time Dublin (DUB) was shut down for 30 minutes. According to the Irish Times:

The drone was reported to air traffic control and the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) by a pilot taxiing along the runway at 11.30am and the authority immediately ordered the suspension of all flights into and out of the airport.

As expected after the incidents at Gatwick and Heathrow, “On 20 February 2019, the United Kingdom Government published an amendment to the UK Air Navigation Order 2016 (ANO) which contains its changes to the legislation regarding the operation of small
unmanned aircraft

Provisions tightening restrictions around airports will take effect March 13. The rest of the new regulations will take effect as planned in November 2019. You can read the details here – one assumes that there is something written for the common bloke as well…. Note the threat of a prison term on the handsome graphic.

Take your marks because ‘it’ is clearly ‘on’. From a story in

On January 23rd, 2019, the Airworthiness Department of Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) issued the Guidance on UAV Airworthiness Certification based on Operational Risks(hereinafter abbreviated as “Guidance”), aiming at establishing a risk-based UAV airworthiness management system by the end of 2019.

In recent years, the industry of civil UAVs is witnessing rapid growth in China. Going beyond aerial filming, the connection with 4G/5G network further expands various “UAV+” applications including logistics, smart city management, emergency rescue, urban air mobility, etc.

Two days before the Guidance release on January 21stChina’s President Xi Jinping specifically emphasized the importance of accelerating the legislation process for UAV industry on the provincial and ministerial seminars.

According to the Guidance, CAAC aimed to build up China’s UAV airworthiness certification management with Chinese characteristics guided by three principles:

  1. Exploring a certification method by closely orchestrating hierarchical certifications with different levels of operational risks.
  2. Exploring a certification process by extracting CAAC certification standards and regulations from industrial standards.
  3. Exploring a certification mode with a more tolerant, open and service-oriented mind by encouraging UAV companies to jointly participate the airworthiness management through an integrated
    information system.


Fence line buried in snow drift courtesy Pixabay
Fence line in a snow drift courtesy Pixabay

The Uniform Law Commission (ULC) burst into drone-consciousness last year when early drafts of their proposed Drone Tort Law were released. You can find all the details in the Bright Line issue from July 2018. The ULC establishes committees from their members (lawyers and judges) to explore specific issues – This ULC Committee was specifically established to ”Draft a uniform act or model law addressing tort liability and defenses associated with the unique use of aerial drones.”

Only one person on the Committee, AirMap co-founder Greg McNeal, knew anything about drones. Reaction from the community was fast and furious. Committee “observers” who are allowed to interact with the Committee played a central role in pushing back – they include Lydia Hilton from Berman Fink Van Horn and Josh Turner from Wiley Reins, both of whom have been exceptionally helpful to me in reporting this story as well as others who choose to remain anonymous.

A revised draft will be discussed and refined March 1-2, 2019 at the Drafting Committee Meeting in Washington DC. Then the proposal will go to ULC’s annual meeting in Anchorage to be reviewed and voted on by the entire membership. Assuming that it is ratified, individual ULC members will begin a highly targeted state by state lobbying campaign to secure adoption. One thing that I admire is to open, seemingly transparent way that the ULC goes about its business – you can get a copy of the revised draft here.

The Law is concerned with two issues – what harm (tort) arises from Airspace Intrusion (aerial trespass) and what harm occurs from Violations of Privacy. Note that Airspace Intrusion is an infinitely more measured, nuanced replacement for the wildly unpopular Per Se Aerial Trespass.

New in this version is a section about Intrusions on Land – so when is landing a drone on private property trespass. I find this section to be very reasonable, especially this last provision which addresses a very common problem – though it will be extremely difficult to enforce…

(d) Regardless of how an unmanned aircraft came to rest upon the property of another, the owner or operator of the unmanned aircraft has a right to recover the unmanned aircraft upon a request to the owner of such property.

A landowner shall not unreasonably refuse a request to return the unmanned aircraft or to permit the unmanned aircraft’s operator to recover the unmanned aircraft from the property.

You may find this irksome or worse, but try to remember that the intent is to avoid poorly written state and local statutes. In addition, a uniform rule reduces the patchwork quilt for those operating in multiple states.


In a press release, Kittyhawk has announced that they are Launching The Next Generation of Enterprise Compliance & Planning Solutions with Kittyhawk Dynamic Airspace™. This is a definite step forward in the concept of flight planning software:

Straight out of the gate we’re introducing LAANC-as-a-Layer™ and you’ll be able to see current and upcoming authorizations on your map anywhere you’re accessing Kittyhawk including Android, iOS, and the new Kittyhawk web dashboard. Coming soon, we’ll be introducing a whole host of layers including COAs, waivers, missions, flights, and UTM data.

We’re not stopping there, and we’re already working on helping customers define areas of operation with details around buildings, facilities, and critical infrastructure to give their operation a new way to view their airspace when planning, flying, streaming, and reporting. 

Kittyhawk Founder and Chief Pilot Josh Ziering checked in with an update:

We used to use AirMap for this data but now with Kittyhawk Dynamic Airspace, we’re doing all of this in-house and getting the data straight from the FAA. This allows us to innovate at our pace and provide far more value to our customers because we have the ability to layer in their data and they have access to all of that customization in their pocket.

The other marked change is specificity and focus. We have one target demographic: enterprise customers. This airspace is designed to make it easy for operators at large companies to understand the airspace, add in the relevant intelligence they need, and get back to work.


If you want to offer more input, CompTIA and AUVSI are seeking your perspective on the outlook and opportunities facing our industry. We plan to use your feedback to develop resources and benefits to support businesses and individuals such as yourself.” The survey is here.

LeClair Ryan has rescheduled their webinar, Current Developments in UAS Regulation: Why 2019 May Be the Year of the Drone for February 27th. Registration information is here.

The FAA UAS Symposium 2019 has been rescheduled for June 3 – 5.


The South Sandwich Islands include several active stratovolcanoes.
The South Sandwich Islands include several active stratovolcanoes – image courtesy NASA – click for more

Satellites were among the first flying robots. Starting in the 70’s with LANDSAT, they gave us our first look at our planet. NASA Celebrates Earth’s Incredible Natural Beauty With Free Photo Book is what it says – you can download for free or buy a coffee table version.

screen grab from AIRVUZ title sequence - click to view
screen grab from AIRVUZ title sequence – click to view

AIRVUZ is a drone video site that does a very nice job curating contributors into something they call “Collections” (clips around a topic or locale.) They have just announced their 2nd Annual Drone Video Awards – Winners. There’s enough here to do some binge-watching. I enjoyed The Epic North: Norway, Iceland, Faroe Islands which included a dog, a girl, reflections on mortality and a soaring track to match the often vertiginous footage. Go poke around, there’s some good stuff – the FPV is quite startling.

And from UAV Coach, Artists Paint with Drones at Live Event for Mexico City Art Week: Tech Startups and Art Studios Collaborate on Drone Graffiti Project. Not quite ready for prime time but shows promise.

Enabling a drone to be the tool of graffiti artists has been technically challenging as the drone has to fly near to a wall, vertically, and horizontally and the flight path has to create a painting.

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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