The 'Walk & Chew Gum' issue of Dronin' On 07.14.18
screen grab Counter UAS Issues: A Roundtable of the Aviation Subcommittee

Hi all –

Last week a reader wondered if I was skeptical or cynical – I responded that I was traipsing down the fine line between the two…

Supporting his thesis that “I think they like me a lot in the UK”, Commercial Drone Professional reports that in the UK drones are being banned for the Visiting Head of State:

“They are a nuisance and intrusive.”

And way too scary for a flying baby!

A big week – FAA, CUAS, the Hill – are all hopelessly intertwined. Plus ‘Poss IPP Redux’, a couple of industry surveys that deserve your support, Coming Attractions and Bits and Pieces.


In what could be the quote of the year, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) told reporters that “He expects the FAA bill to come to the floor “in the course of the next few weeks.” He reassured reporters that the Senate can walk and chew gum at the same time.”

This I got to see…

How’s this for a one two punch… You all remember that John Taylor (Taylor v Huerta) convinced the US District Court that the FAA’s registration rule violated Section 336 which prohibits the FAA from regulating modelers.

Guess who wrote the court’s opinion. None other than the newest Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh who noted that:

The new regulatory regime imposes new requirements – to register, to pay fees, to provide information, and to display identification – on people who previously had no obligation to engage with the FAA.  

Mark McKinnon in Plane-ly Spoken picks up the decision noting that:

When faced with an opportunity to substitute his own judgment or the judgment of regulators for that of Congress, it was the will of Congress that prevailed. To the extent that a policy argument could be made to change the law, it was up to the Congress to do so. In fact, less than six months later, Congress did exactly that.

I promised you two – John Taylor went back to argue (Taylor v. Federal Aviation Administration) that there was a whole class of special people who should not
be regulated.

McKinnon headlined this post A Drone is Not a Toy…It’s an Airplane

Mr. Taylor, however, argued that in addition to these two categories [336 model aircraft and Part 107 civil aircraft], there is a third category that is beyond all FAA regulations, which the Court defined as “non-section 336 model aircraft.”  This would include anyone who purchased a recreational unmanned aircraft and flew it, but did not do so in accordance with the programming of a
community-based organization. 

This time, the judge writing the opinion was Supreme nominee Judge
Merrick Garland.

“Because the rule is within the agency’s statutory authority and is neither arbitrary nor capricious, the petition for review is denied.”

McKinnon explains:

The Court’s ruling correctly recognizes that creating a third class of hobbyists who are completely unregulated and who follow nothing but their own instincts, regardless of how little training or experience they might have, would completely destroy the framework Congress established.

So much for ‘fly free or die’…


screen grab from video – Superman is in the circle – courtesy Greenpeace France

Last week I ran a story about Greenpeace flying a life-size Superman figure over a French nuclear facility, before crashing it into a reactor wall:

The group said the stunt was to highlight the lack of security around the facility, adding that “at no time was the drone intercepted or even worried about”. [French for no one even noticed?]

Coincidentally, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen penned a 4th of July op-ed The U.S. Isn’t Prepared for the Growing Threat of Drones for WaPo.

Today I have a pressing message for Congress: Time is running out. 

As secretary of homeland security, I can tell you that threat is outpacing our ability to respond. Without congressional action, the U.S. government will remain unable to identify, track and mitigate weaponized or dangerous drones in our skies… 

…The nation’s two biggest law enforcement departments — DHS and the Justice Department — have their hands tied when it comes to protecting Americans.

Our enemies are aware of our vulnerabilities and eager to exploit them. So let’s stop admiring the problem and start solving it.

Yes. Thrill to the delicious irony of Trump fave Kirstjen writing for that bastion of #fakenews…

Clearly, this was written to support S. 2836, the Preventing Emerging Threats Act of 2018: Countering Malicious Drones which I covered in the recent “Is This Really All?” issue. The bill is still looking to find a home as an amendment in the 2019 NDAA; or the FAA Reauthorization Bill of 20xx.

The Small UAV Coalition enthusiastically hailed the piece, Small UAV Coalition Thanks Secretary Nielsen for Calling for Federal UAS
Countermeasures Authorities

The Coalition urges Congress to close the Section 336 loophole in any moving legislation that reaches the President’s desk to ensure the FAA expedites a remote identification and tracking rulemaking that will meet the needs of both law enforcement and the public. 

Wednesday upped the stakes. Morning Transportation sets the table:

COUNTERDRONE CHIT-CHAT: The House Transportation Committee holds its first event today on an administration proposal to give DOJ and DHS entities the authority to intercept drones — the roundtable conversation will feature representatives from the FAA, the Pentagon and the drone industry. Democrats will try to highlight the need to overhaul Sec. 336, the law that bars the FAA from regulating model aircraft, in order to clear the path for a remote identification rule… 

This was a fascinating two-hour discussion that touched on a wide range of issues. Verse and chapter are now set in bureaucratic concrete.

As I explained in the H.R. 4 issue, there were two amendments addressing Section 336 – DeFazio #136 (D) and Sanford #160 (R).

336 is not an R or a D issue.
336 is a security issue.

In her opening testimony Angela Stubblefield, Deputy Associate Administrator for Security and Hazardous Materials Safety, Federal Aviation Administration linked 336, Remote ID and CUAS:

[FYI the numbers are continuous timestamps, they can be accessed using the scrubber on the red timeline at the bottom of the video frame.)

0:28.58 The current exemption for model aircraft Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act 2012 is the fundamental barrier to effective implementation of these policy changes [UAS registration, remote identification, and compliance] and present an insurmountable challenge to the FAA and our National Defense Homeland Security and law enforcement partners as we work to enable the benefits of UAS technology while maintaining safety and security for the American people.

This is a very significant change in the FAA’s traditionally close relationship with the AMA and the old 97 rule. As I have written many times, the AMA got away with one when 336 became law. To give credit where it’s due, they effectively lobbied to protect the interests of aircraft modelers. Please see Jim Williams guest post, 336: The Great Model Airplane Conundrum, for more.

While there is an overlap in product development, it is clear that the path forward for the recreational and commercial drone markets are different. The recreational drone industry only benefits a small handful of retailers and offshore manufacturers. i.e. This is not where the good paying jobs are going to come from, nor the social benefits.

Writing in sUAS News, Patrick Egan looks at Lax Enforcement And The Low-Hanging Scapegoat:

We all know that the expedited drone registration was touted as “the fix” for the rogue drone flyer problem once and for all! Yes, I know, even in spite of the big box stores not wanting a point of sale registration. But you don’t have to be a rocket surgeon to figure out that mentioning regulations, rules, and fines is like a bucket of cold water in the face of a fool and his parting money. Or possibly we’re just supposed to bet our livelihoods on the Best Buy lobbyist’s word that their customers are safe??

Here’s #136 author Rep. Peter De Fazio to ‘splain. It is towards the end of the roundtable and DeFazio (PD) is setting up the duck to body slam Sanford #160. He asks Stubblefield (AS):

1:48:04 (PD) I mean first does the FAA want to go out there and ground model airplanes –  people been sophisticated and understand the rules and have been doing this for years and you want to adopt regulations that would somehow impede their hobby.

(AS) Sir. I can categorically say we do not.

(PD) OK. But apparently, they don’t believe that, so we want to create as I understand it, and I want you to comment on this, the Sanford amendment essentially creates yet another category. Now the question is, how do we determine who is in that category versus the exempt category?

[There is a short example I skipped.]

1:48:57 (AS) Congressman DeFazio that is a valid question, sir. The challenge with 336, and proliferation as you put it of different categories of users, is that the confusion that we currently have will continue…

1:49:38 (AS) …As long as we are unable to definitively and very clearly from the FAA say all UAS have to meet certain requirements: registration, remote identification and a basic set of safety rules. 

And now Pistol Pete for the coup de grace: 

1:51:39 (PD) I think the concern here is that the toy manufacturers are worried that if their purchasers had to take a knowledge test, that you know they might fail or not want to do it…

I would suggest strongly to the modelers if you’re listening, sever yourselves from the toy manufacturers. We’re not going to interfere with your hobbies, but we have to be sure that all these other hundreds of thousands, potentially millions of people purchasing these things… are identifiable.  

[Story about drones grounding aerial wildfire operations.] 

1:52:35 (PD) We need to know who these people are and then we’re going to prosecute them. There are laws against this stuff. So, I suggest those responsible users out there sever yourselves from this defective amendment that
Mr. Sanford offered.

If you like to keep score, the FAA, DOD, DHS and DOJ have now all repeatedly told Congress that their hands are tied.

So assuming that the Congress can in fact walk and chew gum, sooner or later 336 will be revised or rescinded.

Until then, the commercial industry will be hamstrung. This would be a good time to write your elected representatives and Make Yourself Heard!

But what I have finally figured out is that regulating CUAS is the much bigger problem. Note that I did not say market – I said problem.

It is startling to see how poorly understood the problem is. Due to other commitments, Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) arrived towards the tail end of the session. He asked, and this pretty much mirrors what Sen. Ron Johnson’s question was in the S. 2836 hearing:

1:37:23 What kind of counter drone technology is available or methods or regulatorily available to protect from those that would be using drones inappropriately or for criminal activity what could be done to basically shoot them down [chuckles] and things of that nature?

1:37:55 (AS) Right now sir, because of the nature of the counter UAS technology that’s out there, the vast majority of it has significant legal implications. There are constraints for anyone but a few select federal agencies…

In 2017 the DOD documented some 75 UAS incursions into prohibited airspace. (As in confirmed sightings, not garbage bags flying by.) No one knows what the intention was, because without Remote ID, no one knows who it was. They went 0 for 75 trying to catch the perps.

screen grab – courtesy Dedrone webinar

Dedrone held a webinar this week. They polled the audience to demonstrate just how difficult this is to quantify. Have you had unauthorized drones fly over
your facility?

  • 36% Yes
  • 50% Unsure
  • 14% No

What’s the point? Dedrone claims that they have never failed to detect drones within 24 hours of installing a system. Probably not statistically valid, but certainly meaningful to those who now definitely know that they have a problem.

According to Stubblefield and Steven Mucklow from the DOD, it has taken 18 months to equip two (2) military bases with a limited (i.e. incomplete) set of
CUAS technology.

Why? Because of the very deliberate pace that the FAA is setting to ensure that nothing encroaches on the safety of the NAS – primarily from the impact of RF jamming on avionics, but also things like spoofing GPS that would result in everyone relying on GPS in the area getting bad coordinates.

Bases are fixed sites. We know what is around them. Both DOJ and DHS will include mobile operations. Logic suggests that it is going to be much more challenging to implement NAS neutral solutions on the fly.

Maybe it is better to work for Vladdy. Problems are so much easier to solve. Russia Establishes New Counter-UAV Unit – nothing subtle about it.

The main task of the anti-drone unit is the identification and neutralization of UAVs of various types. For its destruction, it will send the obtained information to the air defense units that will use portable anti-aircraft missile systems.

Bang, bang. You’re dead. That’s where I have been with this since 2015.

If drones are as dangerous as guns, treat them the way we should treat guns. Clean it all up now – from purchase to registration to testing to Remote ID to enforcement.



Many of you took well-deserved vacations last week, so I wanted to re-share a remarkable article from James Poss, (USAF Maj Gen Ret) in inside unmanned systems, Advice to the UAS Integration Pilot Program Winners.

It’s my hope that our government has come up with a program in IPP that will synergise well with the UAS test sites and ASSURE to answer the KEY question for American drones: Where does the sky end?

That’s not a joke question. The key question the IPP should answer is where does federal authority for drones end, and state/local/tribal authority begin?

To answer this question, Poss offers up five pieces of advice which I have trimmed – meaning you should still read the article.

Remember: This is all about public policy and laws. Technology just enables your laws and policy. If you’re not clear about what you want to regulate (or NOT regulate) in the skies over your city, then all that tech is useless.

Figuring out the best altitude for federal versus local control for airspace should be job No. 1.

Drone regulation is expensive. Your predecessors faced the same problem when the railroads came, when electricity was invented, when automobiles became popular and when they made pocket-sized phones. Each of these major technological advances involved mixed federal/local regulation schemes that largely paid for themselves.  

Help a brother out. A rising tide raises all ships and this tide will only rise if you share information on your best practices. Don’t let your private partners convince you that details on how to fly drones safely in your jurisdiction is
proprietary information

Keep your friends close and your congressional delegation closer. Your congressional delegation needs to know everything you do. The FAA is a talented group of folks and they can move really fast, when motivated, but just like everyone else in the executive branch they move faster if Congress is watching—and willing to help tackle your challenges.

Don’t reinvent the wheel. Engage the UAS Test Sites, ASSURE and NASA early
and often.


Socrates wrote Tknow thyself is the beginning of wisdom. It is in our interests to support research that we can use to inform our business plans. Here are two
such opportunities.

Tuesday, Colin Snow of Skylogic Research (@droneanalyst) announced the launch of the third annual Drone Market Sector Research study examining worldwide drone sales, service providers, business users, and software services. This independent research, which is being supported by DJI, DroneDeploy,, and Trimble, promises to uncover fresh insights on the various drone industry sectors and the growing demand for businesses to use drone-acquired data in their day-to-day operations.

Take the survey here:

Also this week, the Energy Drone Coalition announced that they have teamed up with Drone Industry Insights ( to conduct what will be an annual survey on the use of drones in the energy sector.

Take the survey here:


InterDrone has announced their fourth annual Women in Drones Luncheon, Thursday, September 6. I have one free pass for the show, including the luncheon if you match the profile. First come, first served.

The California Capital Airshow has asked Bruce Parks to create a Drone Hanger at the upcoming air show which will draw some 150,000. Bruce notes that “The drone industry has never had a greater opportunity to showcase our capabilities and possibilities to an audience this size over a single weekend. If you would like to help out, get involved and make this event happen, please email me as soon possible.”

The call for papers and registration are both open for the 2018 New York UAS Symposium presented by NUAIR Alliance September 10-12. It includes a tour of the New York UAS Test Site.


SkyGuardian touchs down at RAF Fairford – image courtesy of DefPost

Props to the General Atomics team. Their MQ-9 Reaper test sled, SkyGuardian, flew from Grand Forks, ND to Gloucestershire, UK in 24 hours and 2 minutes to become the first civilian UAS to fly the pond.

Breaking Defense adds some interesting details:

This flight sends a message to the rest of NATO — and Europe more generally — that larger drones can be flown safely in national airspace. They are equipped with an advanced Detect and Avoid system…

From Balloons to Drones – is a fascinating website that aims to explore all aspects of the evolution of Air Power. Start with The Rise of Armed Unmanned Aircraft – Part One

Like it fast? Crank it up for DJI’s coverage of the Rally Italia Sardegna. BTW DJI is having a Super Sale.

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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