The 'Whodunit' issue of Dronin' On 04.29.17
FAA Class E Grid Map – click for the full featured map – this is a large file

Hi all –

Snowing here today. Attention was riveted on Las Vegas this week when NAB, one of the world’s ten biggest tradeshows, took over the town. DJI used the giant stage to unveil a wide range of products to support their march upmarket. (But no new birds.)

PetaPixel, the photo daily led withDJI and Hasselblad just put a 100MP megapixel monster in the sky. By combining DJI’s M600 Pro drone and Ronin-MX Gimbal with a Hasselblad H6D-100c medium format camera, they’ve created what they’re calling, “the world’s first 100-Megapixel integrated aerial photography platform.” Integrated is the key word there – Phase One introduced their 100MP rig for UAV use last year.

But the real show stopper turned out to be the $449 DJI FPV Goggles with a touchpad interface and a 1080p display for each eye which is the equivalent of “Looking at an 18’ home cinema screen placed less than 10 feet away.” Yowza. But there is more than yuge – and sharp – to these. got a sneak preview.

The Goggles feature head tracking – meaning an operator or observer (depending on the rules where you’re flying) could use head movements to control both aircraft yaw and camera tilt. Literally, turning your head is like using control sticks. Turn your head and the aircraft turns; straighten your head to stop the turn.”

The Goggles sold out the day they were offered for sale. Talk about a finger on
the pulse.

Now you know that I don’t do gear reviews. So why lead with this? Two reasons. First, to make the point that DJI completely dominated the UAV news cycle at NAB. Interesting to note that they exhibited in the Acquisition & Production Hall, not the Drone Pavilion. Which leads to my second point – if they stay true to form, they will not exhibit at any of the upcoming drone shows. As a marketer, I can make the argument either way but…

Last week I had a story about drones delaying flights at Chengdu. Gary Mortimer, a master of Mandarin, reports that DJI is now offering a US$147K reward leading to the arrest of the perps. “DJI believed that its drones were not used at Chengdu airport on April 20. But walked that back after checking a partner company’s monitoring data. DJI believes a third-party App made their no-fly zones inoperative. Is this the end of third party app support for DJI products?” Lots more to the story. Have no idea why anybody is surprised – geofencing is designed to be overridden.

Now comes a story in Gizmodo that DJI is geofencing large portions of Iraq and Syria. Can you imagine those Goggles looking down on your position… Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. To be fair there are some interesting discussions shaping up about what a manufacturer’s responsibilities are. Nobody has ever held cellphone manufacturers accountable because people use them to trigger IEDs.

From Mosul, let’s head west to Salem, Oregon where the House passed a bill allowing the “Use of unmanned aircraft system capable of firing bullet or projectile.” The Willamette Week reports that “HB 3047 sailed through the House by a 50 to six margin. A few lawmakers expressed concerns that allowing drones to fire bullets opened dangerous loopholes.” Ya think? One of the targets – wolves and coyotes. Nice.

But wait – there’s a pivot. Or a pirouette. After the vote, bill sponsor Rep. John Huffman (R-The Dalles) said “In the draft, I just didn’t catch that it said a bullet is an acceptable use. There was never the intention of having the word ‘bullet’ in there. It will be taken out on the Senate side. We are still committed to prohibiting the weaponization of drones.” What a relief – now what about those 50 ayes who all thought it was a fine idea? reports that the great state of Indiana has sent  SB 299 to the Governor which “Would establish four new Class A misdemeanor offenses to address drone-related concerns on voyeurism, harassment and public safety.” The bill’s author Sen. Eric Koch, (R-Bedford) said: “While the development of drone technology has a substantial benefit for society, we need to ensure they are not used to commit crimes.” Visionary.

Then there’s this in Ocean County Politics, an affluent corner of New Jersey. “According to Toms River Councilman Jeffrey R. Carr (Ward 3), the ordinance that recently proposed to essentially flat out ban drone flying in Toms River, require registration with a $70 fee yearly, and expose violators of the ordinance to a $2,000 fine and 90 days in jail, was hastily put together due to the council’s empathy for Kathy Durante.”

Turns out that Kathy is a local bigwig…who had the chutzpah and apparently the clout to insist that “The ordinance, as written, be enacted then and there, “tonight” in fact, and “not become a prolonged discussion.” Alrighty Kathy. Just don’t stamp your feet.

The dismissal of the Kentucky DroneSlayer case left plenty of people wondering if the FAA will ever show up in court to stake their claim as sky kings. Well here’s another chance, this time in Tennessee. Ars Technica has the story and Channel 6 WATE has video.

On Easter Sunday one Brad Jones took his DJI Inspire 2 out for a flight in front of his home. “I flew down over my aunt’s house, and I heard a gunshot within the first three to four minutes of flight,” Jones told Ars. “So I sped up and flew back towards my house…All of a sudden my drone started spiraling down—I’m sitting there trying to keep it aloft and there was no lift.” A nearby neighbor, who was also in the front of his own home, turned to Jones and exclaimed: “That hit it! You just got shot! It’s going to crash!” And it did.

Looking forward to future flights the aggrieved Jones proved to be a student of the obvious saying “If it’s a crime, I want it to be prosecuted. If it’s not prosecuted, then what’s to keep them from doing it?”

Surprise, surprise, Brad has posted a letter that he received from the FAA’s Nashville FSDO on Facebook’s UAV Legal News & Discussion forum.

“Yesterday a group of inspector’s and investigators meet concerning the shooting. Our conclusion was to draft a proposal for FAA Legal review. Make no mistake, the documentation you provided is valuable. The Nashville TN FSDO will start the tedious task of preparing the case.”

I want to share something that Travis Moran sent me. I have had operators respond privately (1,450+ views) of my post about the guy’s drone getting shot down with a .22 last week (helluva shot btw at 300 ft.) They are talking about having these types of encounters as well as with law enforcement as commercial operators. The average joe really does not like drones, period.” Be safe out there.

On another front, the FAA announced that they have released the first batch of grid maps (aka UAS Facility Maps) designed to expedite the authorization process. (The map at the top of the post.) According to Enrico Schaefer at the maps are only for Class E airspace. Predictably that’s causing some heartburn along the lines of “they could have started with LAX and JFK”. Additional maps will be released every 56 days until complete. Predictably some people will still have heartburn…

Matt Fanelli at Skyward wrote an analysis putting the maps in context of the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) program
together here.

The interactive map powered by ESRI is very cool and lets you see the whole country at a glance – which allows me to report that there are six UAS Facility Maps in New Mexico – not including ABQ and SAF. The grids can be placed over the background of your choice. Two thumbs up.

James Poss, Major General (Ret) wrote another thoughtful article this week When ARE We Going to be Outta Sight? The answer is a nice dose of realpolitik.

The timing for BLOS rules is a tough issue. As a retired intel officer, I know the first thing they teach at intel school is to ask two key questions when confronted with a tough political issue – “Who will gain from the issue and How committed are they to their cause?” Once you answer these questions, it’s easy to “follow the money” and predict the outcome. So who will gain from flying outta sight?

The long and short answer is don’t hold your breath. The money leads to the aerospace industry. And to the airlines if the ATC is split off from the FAA. I’ll let Jim tell you the rest.

If you want a connect-the-dots example, you might remember that in December 2016 US Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) got the Northern Plains UAS Test Site approved for BLOS testing. In February Hoeven announced that XCEL Energy would do BLOS power line inspection testing there.

This week Avionics ran a press release announcing that “Northrop Grumman opened a 36,000 sq. ft. research center and became the first tenant at North Dakota’s UAS Business and Aviation Park. The company is also planning construction of a hangar to take advantage of the Park’s access to the adjacent Grand Forks Air Force Base, home to a squadron of RQ-4 Global Hawk high altitude long endurance autonomous aircraft.”

Lots of things go BLOS.

Jonathan Hujsak, UAV Systems Architect at General Atomics shared a link Unmanned Aircraft Certification Challenges. A lot of discussion in both the article and the comments about whether a UAV is truly unmanned as long as there is a man in the loop – and the implications of autonomous flight.

Which makes an interesting segue to an article Big Sky Redefined. Turns out that planes have been crashing into each other since 1910 – a Brit and a Frenchman ‘but of course.’ A good reminder here for everyone
flying VLOS.  

The hardest part about See and Avoid, 14 CFR 91.113(b) is the requirement to see in the first place. Our eyes are not well suited to the task of tracking distant objects, especially those that appear to be stationary against a blank, featureless sky.”

Props to 3DR which just scored another $53 million in a Series D round – TechCruch headlined with Investors Are Betting 3Dr Can Find Life After Solo As A Drone Data Platform. Trying to find a pulse, GPRO added Martha Stewart alum Susan Lyne to the board. Could they be resurrecting the recently shuttered
media group?

As you know, swarms are the future. Two weeks ago, Intel flew theirs at the Coachella Music Festival, sharing the stage with the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Lordes and Radiohead. Reader Steve sent in a video that CBS did on them.

This week had a headline that read Swarms of Drones Test New Dogfighting Skills about a joint effort between the Georgia Tech Research Institute and Naval Postgraduate School. Fascinating stuff.

Each team launched ten small propeller-driven Zephyr aircraft, though two of the aircraft experienced technical issues at launch and were unable to compete, resulting in a 10 versus 8 competition. Although the UAVs were physically identical, their computers used different autonomy logic, collaboration approaches, and communications software developed by the two institutions.”

Smack down. Who needs a cage when you have the sky?

It’s drone show season. To help you make a perfect choice, Jonathan Rupprecht has published The ULTIMATE Guide of Drone Events & Factors for Choosing the Right Show. A nifty interactive map makes it easy to see what’s close to home.

A little bit of Eye Candy for you. Nothing to do with drones but the title Flight Lapse #01 Meet The Milky Way tells the story. It was shot from the cockpit of a SWISS 777 flying from Zurich to Sao Paolo.

Happy to introduce Drone Worx who reached out wondering if I might be interested in sharing a video anthology they just curated. Yes, please. The Most Incredible Drone Footage On EarthThis one which was shot all over Africa
is stunning.

And for those of you who have been waiting to wet a line, here is some drone fly-fishing at Pyramid Lake, NV from the good folks at Amberjack.

Thank you for reading and for sharing. An entire year’s worth of back issues of Dronin’ On can be found here.


Christopher Korody
follow me @dronewriter

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