Through A Glass Darkly issue of Dronin' On 04.08.17
Above it all

Hi all –

A quiet but somewhat dark week as emerging forces continue to shape the future of the industry.

Hard on the heels of the C-UAS, LLANC and RID announcements at last week’s UAS Symposium comes the announcement from the FAA that it “Has established airspace restrictions over 133 military facilities to address national security concerns about unauthorized drone operations.”

Note that this is being handled as a UAS specific NOTAM which goes into effect 4/14/17 on a 24/7/365 basis. You can get a few more details on the FAA website. Also check out this interactive map to see what’s been restricted in your area – here in the Land of Enchantment Kirkland AFB, Holloman AFB, the White Sands Missile Range and Fort Bliss are all restricted.

Consider yourself warned. “Operators who violate the airspace restrictions may be subject to enforcement action, including potential civil penalties and criminal charges.” It’s that first one that can be tricky – and very sudden.

Gary Mortimer added that “A FAA spokesman reached out to sUAS News and said “The FAA and DoD have been working for several months on an agreement to put these restrictions, which DoD requested, in place. The restrictions are not in response to a specific threat.” Could it be because there are multiple threats?

Defense News reports that last week, Gen. John Hyten, the head of the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he has issued new guidance on securing nuclear weapons sites against small, unmanned systems – this includes submarine bases, ICBM missile fields and storage facilities.

Vice Admiral Charles Richard explained that “What we had was very restrictive, and it was based more on an older, manned stack of thinking, as opposed to an unmanned [thinking]. And we have simply caught up with the times, in some respects, with the technologies that we see relative to what we can do against those.”  Hats off for the “manned stack of thinking.”

If you’re wondering what the big whoop is, meet Fadhel Mensi, aka Abu Yusri Al Tunisi, who is believed to be ISIS’s lead drone engineer. According to an article in Homeland Security Today, “Al Tunisi was working to increase ISIS’s attack drones’ weight limit to enable them to carry up to 20 kg of explosives.”

I will leave you to ponder the size of the hole that 44 pounds of C4 can make in almost anything.

Last May Ben Lerner, a vice president at the Center for Security Policy, and Grant A. Begley, who previously served as Pentagon Senior Advisor for UAS/Drones in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense wrote that “Today’s civilian drone – whether purchased as a single platform or assembled from disparate component parts – offers significant tactical advantages to terrorists… Making identification and interdiction more difficult for law enforcement.”

Bloomberg Markets reported that William Hewitt, chief of the UAS Threat Integration Cell at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security speaking at the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) conference said that the ease of obtaining highly capable small drones combined with the way terror groups in the Middle East have used them have made the concerns “a tangible reality.”

Meanwhile, Quartz asked the question that should be on everyone’s mind… Is the Us Ready for Police Drones Outfitted With Tasers, Tear Gas, and Lethal Weapons?The new bill, designed to regulate the use of drones in Connecticut, forbids civilians from outfitting them with weapons but includes a very crucial exemption for the police. Although the details are yet to be hammered out, the bill would allow officers to use drones with both lethal weapons and non-lethal ones, such as tasers or tear-gas canisters.” The bill is out of the Judiciary Committee and has to go to both chambers and be signed by the governor before it becomes law.

Winning the newly created Ingenuous Award for the week is this statement “Obviously this is for very limited circumstances,” said Connecticut State Senator John Kissel (R) according to the Associated Press. “We can certainly envision some incident on some campus or someplace where someone is a rogue shooter or someone was kidnapped and you try to blow out a tire.”

Uh huh – just what I would use to blow out a tire.

Gizmodo went to town with their headline Cops Just Got One Step Closer to Killing Americans by Drone. “If ratified, the new bill will go into effect in October, but agencies won’t be required to come up with a model policy of best use (which would identify, with specificity, when weaponized drones should be deployed) until January of next year. This provision is particularly concerning, effectively allowing police to shoot first and ask questions later. Officers are encouraged to have training before they use the drones, but the bill permits officers to obtain specialized training up to 30 days after use.”

David McGuire, executive director of the state ACLU, told Gizmodo “This is such a novel and misguided idea that there is no training for this. Weaponized drones are not used for local law enforcement; they’re used by the military.”

Think it can’t happen? Recode ran with Police Departments Are Using Drones to Find and Chase Down Suspects.  The story is based on a report from the Center for the Study of the Drone authored by Dan Gettinger who identified at least 347 local law enforcement, fire and emergency responder agencies that have added flying robots to their arsenals. Further analysis reveals that 2/3rds of those agencies are PDs.

And it’s happening in the UK too – reports that “Police in the UK will soon be authorized to monitor citizens using 24-hour drone surveillance, as part of an effort to reduce crime. The justification for such a massive invasion of privacy is that drone surveillance will help police locate crime suspects and missing persons, as well as offer general surveillance of crime scenes.”

Here comes Skynet – Steve Barry, the UK’s National Police Chiefs’ Council spokesman regarding police drones, touted the cost savings of choosing these devices rather than deploying police helicopters; according to a report from The Daily Mail, Barry predicts “Forces across Britain would soon be using them as they are cheaper than helicopters and can perform some duties of bobbies on the beat.”

Turning to another aspect of security, last week at the UAS Symposium the FAA’s Wes Ryan said that the FAA cannot tackle the issue of cybersecurity without industry support. Avionics quoted panelist Greg Rice from Rockwell Collins as saying “Let’s think about the software that’s operating onboard those UAVs, and how we can assure that that software is as free of vulnerabilities as possible.”

Nextgov reported that The Senate Commerce Committee forwarded legislation Wednesday that would expand the responsibilities of the government’s cyberstandards agency to help small and medium-sized businesses protect their networks against digital attacks. This is an important issue for service providers so let’s hope for the best.

In a separate article, Nextgov reported that noted tech thinker Rudy Giuliani is heading up a cybersecurity task force. Curiously the task force has yet to reach out to the government’s main agency, the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center. NCCIC Director John Felker, who is apparently given to understatement, noted that “Cybersecurity is not going away in this administration.”

A new piece from The Economist Safety Last: How to Manage the Computer-Security Threat offers up some solutions. The article suggests that a combination of government regulation, making software developers liable and cybersecurity insurance can solve the problem or at least reduce it to more
manageable proportions.

Ready for something positive and upbeat? Here’s one from Unmanned Aerial about an interoperability test conducted by drone inspections company Sky-Futures and the Bristow Group, an international provider of industrial aviation services. The test involved a drone and a helicopter, both equipped with uAvionix ADS-B units.

The S-92 helicopter pilots were able to monitor the position and altitude of the UAS on their iPad during the entire flight and without actual visual contact of the device.” A picture in the article illustrates just what a challenge VLOS is in this situation.

Nick Rogers, chief regulatory and training officer for Sky-Futures explained that “As specific categories of commercial unmanned operations develop, we expect this technology to become a prerequisite. Future airspace must be interoperable, and Sky-Futures will continue to work with its trusted partner, Bristow, and regulators globally to safely realize this future.”

Manned-unmanned teaming has been a goal of military units and also has applications in areas like wildfire response. The strategy is similar – a single helo can coordinate one or more scout drones and minimize risk to the manned craft. This industrial application extends that idea to the 4Ds – dirty, distant, dull and particularly dangerous.

For some ideas about how one man is betting that the industry will evolve, I recommend an interview in GIM International with Michael de Lagarde, CEO, Delair-Tech, a strong player in geospatial and agriculture. “Until now the market has been drawn to entry-level products, which is understandable at adoption time. But users are increasingly realizing the limitations of these products and are migrating towards ROI-driven usage.” He gets it.

Thanks for reading and for sharing. Back issues of Dronin’ On can be found here.


Christopher Korody
follow me @dronewriter


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