screen grab from NC DOT video

Hi all –

Not sure when a ‘tough’ hurricane like Florence becomes Big Flo – you read it here first. She definitely surpassed expectations, proving to be “One of the wettest we’ve ever seen from the standpoint of water.”

The good news is that the power outages are nowhere near as shocking from the standpoint of electricity. For bad news (and there is plenty) check out this drone footage released by NC DOT of a two mile section of I-40 completely underwater.

This week, a veritable smorgasbord. The FAA, S. 2836 and the NFL, AUVSI, DJI, dehyping Big Flo, several takes on Autonomous & AI starting with the 2018 Gartner Hype Cycle, UAS IPP, Follow Up: Africa and New Data.

THE FAA

Tuesday the FAA hosted the last webinar in their very successful Waiver series, “Operations Over People”. Since we will be a Waiver Nation for the foreseeable future, they have come up with a solution that can scale – you can now access all the webinars on YouTube.

Safe to say the Senate has been preoccupied. The FAA extension expires in 10 days. Friday Morning Transportation reported that there is still hope for
a reauthorization…

FAA BILL FORECAST: Next week, the House could consider an FAA bill that’s been hammered out with Senate negotiators, but it may also vote on a brief extension to give the upper chamber a bit more time to approve the yearslong reauthorization. That’s all according to a committee aide involved in the negotiations, who added that the contentious language on trucker meal and rest breaks is kaput. Lawmakers and staff hope to wrap up drafting the hashed-out FAA legislation today. Because “the House bill will come to the Senate as a ‘message,’ amendments cannot be attached to it, clearing the way for quick passage in the upper chamber.” Senators, unsuccessful in striking a time agreement for quick debate, never brought their reauthorization bill to the floor.

Is it worth it? Let me work it: “All parties are working towards a long-term authorization to be approved by both chambers next week before current authorization expires,” Jason Galanes, chief of staff to House Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), separately told MT. “The remaining issues have been elevated to the principles.”

Ever the optimists, LeClair Ryan have rescheduled their FAA Reauthorization webinar for 10/4. Mark McKinnon notes that “On October 4, we will cover the Act as it stands as of the date of the webinar, regardless of where it is in the process.”

Going to be interesting to see where it nets out – ramma slamma jamma is tough on nuance – like 336 and the S. 2836 amendment.

2836 AND THE NFL

I am wondering if the proposed amendment to empower the DHS and DOJ (based on S. 2836) is really a done deal. Morning Transportation again:

DRONE BALANCING ACT: Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune (R-SD) told reporters Tuesday that attaching language to the FAA bill to allow DHS and DOJ to intersect [sic – more likely intercept or interdict] drones is still a point of discussion. “It’s part of negotiation,” he said. Thune said Commerce was trying to work with other committees with jurisdiction as well as advocacy groups to address civil liberties and privacy concerns. “I think there are always those concerns … but what we’re trying to do is balance the important, you know, public safety and national security interests that are being voiced by the other committees and that we’re well aware of,” he said. Groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation have argued against the counterdrone language riding on the bill, saying it should instead move to the floor as a standalone measure to allow robust debate.

Silly videos with click bait titles like What Are Top Five Counter Drone Technologies? in GeoSpatialWorld speak to the challenge of trying to do the real world testing and evaluation that S. 2836 is meant to address. Might have been easier to just provide testing authority, then draft a statute based on a better understanding of what interdiction will really look like.


We hear lots from CUAS vendors and lots from DHS and DOJ. But we don’t hear much from the stadium operators who have to protect millions of fans every season.


The View From The Sidelines
Chicago Bears vs Green Bay Packers – Thanksgiving Night 2015 – Jim Larrison CC BY 2.0

Last week Cathy L. Lanier, Senior Vice President of Security for the National Football League testified to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Her written statement addresses a whole host of issues that must be resolved. I have put her letter together with some thoughts from Dronin’ On contributor Travis Moran in a post called The View From The Sidelines. If you are interested in CUAS, it is a must read.

BIG FLO

I filed this under Big Flo but it could just as easily be under UAS IPP – pretty cool either way: Virginia Tech Collaboration With State Farm Helps Secure FAA Waiver for Drone Operations Over Populated Areas in States Impacted by
Hurricane Florence

State Farm has been granted a first-of-its-kind waiver for drone operations to assess damage in communities impacted by Hurricane Florence.

The insurance company has been collaborating with the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership on one of 10 elite teams selected earlier this year to the FAA Integration Pilot Program (IPP). 

There was plenty of hype leading up to the big event with stories like Bloomberg’s Drone Army Is Ready to Swoop in for Florence Power Recovery. Certainly the death toll and loss of property is all too real and the misery continues. That said…


Big Flo is a powerful reminder that drones are one part of a much bigger toolkit.


Ground.vu 360 capture vehicle on location in North Carolina – photo Justin Adams

Friday morning I spent some time texting with CRASAR veteran Justin Adams. He arrived last Sunday to do ground based data capture for a new approach being developed by CRASAR, Texas A&M and Florida’s State Center for Center for Disaster Risk Policy together with technology partner Ground.vu

Justin explained that the technique is being developed for use when drones can’t fly due to TFRs, Airspace Restrictions and of course weather. All of the ground data they collected (some 500 miles in this case) is being shared with local communities and the state and integrates with existing GIS data.  

As a point of reference it is similar to how Google uses cars to develop maps but utilizes a more sophisticated technology stack. esri’s ARCNews has a story that provides more details.

Here are a few of Justin’s impressions:

Not much to fly. Surprised me honestly not to see a lot of damage. What’s unique here is the amount of media coverage and of course the death toll.

I think on the public safety side there were some good use cases.

Drones in flooding events are spot checks, but can’t be used to map large area’s.  We [CRASAR] wrote a paper on that last year.

State Farm, VTech, NC Highway Patrol and NC DOT are flying. Duke Energy
kicked ass!

Cell never lost coverage. Verizon, ATT and T-Mobile spun up [pre-deployed] teams but stood them down within 3 days. 

It was an airforce of manned aircraft from Gemini, EagleView, NICB, Individual companies getting better coverage with manned. 

Insurance not really spinning up teams, most are going home.The biggest challenge in the cities for drones for insurance is the tree’s are very low to the roof. Much like Savannah Charleston etc

It was great to hear from Dronin’ On subscriber Joe Velasquez who wrote in to thank me for the FAA links I posted last week. Joe told me My company, DroneScape, PLLC has a contract with the North Carolina Department of Aviation for drone work during the recovery, covering NCDOT Divisions 8,6,3 and 2. This is the southern part of the state to the beach.” Good to be of service and looking forward to his and other reports.

Unfortunately all that glitters etc. – Vic Moss felt compelled to post this on the Facebook Commercial sUAS Remote Pilots group.

Hey folks, if you’re considering violating any of the weather TFRs, or the VIP TFRs going on down there right now, DON’T!

All you’re going to do is make us all look bad.

And trust me, they know you’re there. I know of 4 during a simple 15 minute conversation with one of the watchers.

On the 19th the FAA announced that they had restored LAANC waivers at a number of regional airports and reduced the size of the TFR around Wilmington Internation Airport (ILM). Unlike Irma, there has been no word of a fast paced waiver operation to support sUAS operations.

AUVSI: STILL LATE TO THE PARTY

With the safety of momentum on their side, AUVSI is again trying to catch up with the industry it purports to lead. Morning Transportation reports that:

The head of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International wrote to Senate Commerce and House Transportation leaders asking them to include language letting DOJ and DHS “mitigate [drones] that are used for nefarious purposes” in their FAA reauthorization legislation.

In addition, AUVSI President and CEO Brian Wynne called for standards for so-called remote identification — which “can help our law enforcement officials to identify, track and apprehend unlawful operators, in real-time.” “Until we address policy for counter-[drone] and move forward with rulemaking for remote identification, expanded operations and further integration of [drones] into the airspace will remain stalled,” Wynne wrote.

Positively visionary stuff, months after the fact. AUVSI continues to avoid taking a public stance on 336 which is foundational to all of this.

C’mon man.

DJI

So far the “easy to win” tariff war is anything but. Talk a lot and carry a small stick isn’t working as advertised. I’ve seen several articles saying that a couple of Apple products including the Apple Watch, AirPods and the Mac Mini (really?) have dodged the new tariff list.

With the Holiday season ramping up, the question is, how many DJI products will be on the list. The company announced that it is beefing up VP Policy Brendan Schulman’s staff with the addition of David Hansell as their new Public Policy Manager – David comes with experience on the DAC and UAST when he worked the HALE program for Facebook. Also joining the team is Jordan Gross as Manager of Government Relations.

I remain absolutely baffled that there still has not been a press release about the promotion of Mario Rebello to Country Manager and Vice President North America: Sales, Marketing, and Government Relations.

So now we have a VP Policy and a VP Government Relations…

BTW word is coming in from everywhere that the new Mavics are killer. Check out the results of this shoot out on WeTalkUAV.com:

At the end of the day, the Mavic 2 Pro proved to be a better overall drone compared to the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0, but post editing is required to make its footage shine.

AUTONOMOUS & AI

It’s all starting to feel a bit giddy (again? still?) so I thought this would be a good time to do a reality check with the recently released Gartner Emerging Technology Trends for 2018. The subhead explains that Widespread artificial intelligence, biohacking, new platforms and immersive experiences dominate this year’s Gartner Hype Cycle.

Gartner Hype Cycle – arrow indicates Flying Autonomous Vehicles

Just climbing it’s way on to the chart as an ‘Innovation Trigger’ with a yellow triangle is Flying Autonomous Vehicles – the triangle indicating that it is 10+ years out, the red arrow showing you where it is.

Fully autonomous flying vehicles are an easier problem to solve in some cases than autonomous vehicles on the ground because the airspace is highly controlled and there are fewer variables such as humans. However, while there will be unique regulatory and societal challenges (e.g., where would all the helipads go, and how do we prevent crashes?), flying autonomous vehicles are one of 17 new technologies to join the Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2018

It is part of Trend #1: Democratized AI:

AI, one of the most disruptive classes of technologies, will become more widely available due to cloud computing, open source and the “maker” community. While early adopters will benefit from continued evolution of the technology, the notable change will be its availability to the masses. These technologies also foster a maker community of developers, data scientists and AI architects, and inspire them to create new and compelling solutions based on AI.

BTW while The Gartner Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2018 is now 11 months old (!) it makes a useful companion. Here is what it says about Trend No. 1: AI Foundation:

Although using AI correctly will result in a big digital business payoff, the promise (and pitfalls) of general AI where systems magically perform any intellectual task that a human can do and dynamically learn much as humans do is speculative
at best. 


“Enterprises should focus on business results enabled by applications that exploit narrow AI technologies and leave general AI to the researchers and science fiction writers…” 


Pioneers Vs. Passives: Two Approaches To Artificial Intelligence by Chuck Martin offers a new take on Geoffrey Moore’s Technology Adoption Cycle which I wrote about in Why Standards Will Be Critical to UAV Adoption two years ago. It’s an easy way to benchmark your own organization.

Artificial Intelligence Can Transform the Economy is a WaPo op-ed by three professors at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy. The message is we need to be smart about it.

Amplifying the point and straddling the line between UAM, UTM and autonomous is this report from ARK DISRUPT:

Last weekend, ARK had the opportunity to attend an electric air mobility conference in Bentonville, Arkansas, hosted by TransportUp. We heard from a number of teams about their respective projects and challenges. The two hurdles mentioned most often were regulation and the loud sound associated with passenger drones. 

Apparently there is still some work to do… 

URSA CEO David Kovar sent me a wonderful article from War On The Rocks. It is written by an obviously well informed fellow named Shmuel Shmuel who is a senior defense analyst at the Dado Center for Military Studies. You know it’s going to be entertaining when you read his Twitter profile:

Senior defense analyst Snarks from the sidelines while world burns. Would’ve played the fiddle, but doesn’t know how All usual caveats apply Twitter is for lol

The article, The Coming Swarm Might Be Dead on Arrival catapults us straight into the Trough of Disillusionment. Based on history and well argued, the conclusion is a beauty:


While the technology of the autonomous swarm is still under development, the technology required for massive fires and networked, multi-sensored defenses is already on the shelves — indeed, has been for decades.


It’s that old Francais thaing – plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Guaranteed you will be hearing more from @SamDavaham.

UAS IPP

While the DOT readies its comprehensive report, I am going to continue to share UAS IPP news as I find it. The Reno Gazette Journal headlined Flirtey Eyes Reno Deliveries by 2020 After First Multi-Drone Test Milestone. This is one investor friendly piece. (You do have your decoder ring on right…)

The drone delivery age is coming in less than two years and Reno will have a
front seat.

That’s the proclamation being made by Flirtey CEO Matt Sweeney after the Reno-based drone company completed the first multi-drone delivery demonstration with a single pilot under the Federal Aviation Administration’s Drone Integration
Pilot Program.

The successful test, which was performed in front of FAA representatives, puts the company on track to gain approval for its drone delivery program and start sending consumer products — including Fed Ex packages — plus medical equipment and supplies by air.

“This program runs us through the end of 2020, so we expect that we’ll be regularly saving lives and improving consumer lifestyles through drone delivery in Reno even before that,” Sweeney said. “We’re talking less than 24 months.”

No question that this is Hype. But it does beg a real question – what is the FAA going to do in three years (2021 Matt) when the still unfunded UAS IPP program has concluded and the participants all expect to carry on and (gulp) begin profiting? Expect me to ask this question another 100 times before the program is over – that’s not even once a week.

FOLLOW UP: AFRICA

On the heels of a recent report I featured in the Summer Reading issue on the use of drones for agriculture in Africa, Tech Crunch has African Experiments With Drone Technologies Could Leapfrog Decades of Infrastructure Neglect. h/t to Mike Blades at Frost & Sullivan for the find – on his Twitter feed he called it “An important commercial drone trend IMO.”

While much of the focus is deservedly on Zipline’s success delivering medical supplies in Rwanda (6,000 missions and counting), I was pretty floored to find this:

Opened in 2017, Malawi’s Drone Test Corridor has been accepting global applications. The program is managed by the country’s Civil Aviation Authority in partnership with UNICEF.

The primary purpose is to test UAV’s for humanitarian purposes, but the program “was designed to provide a controlled platform for… governments…and other partners…to explore how UAV’s can help deliver services,” according to Michael Scheibenreif, UNICEF’s drone lead in Malawi.

NEW DATA

Colin Snow aka @droneanalyst has just released the 2018 Drone Industry Benchmark Report. As we’ve come to expect, Colin is offering up a sobering dose of reality:

Among the more interesting findings are that commercial drone fleet sizes are smaller than most people think. If you believe the hyperbole, there are hundreds of thousands of drones in the airspace at the same time, but the survey finds that the average commercial user has just two drones that are only flying two projects a month and most of those flights consume less than flight three hours.

There’s a 107 pages of goodness there – dig around in the sofa for your spare change and buy the
full report.

Mapping Global Transformations – courtesy World Economic Forum

Finally, a new article from Harrison Wolf writing for the World Economic Forum, 3 Reasons Why China Is the Global Drones Leader. I’ll give you two clues. Innovation and investment. There is a third. Great content on a wide range of drone
related topics.

Thanks for reading and for sharing. Back issues of Dronin’ On are here.

best,
ck

Christopher Korody
Editor and Publisher
chris@dronebusiness.center
follow me @dronewriter