The Canterbury Tale issue of Dronin' On 04.07.18
Cathedral image from a structural aerial survey conducted by Suave Air Photos

Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote.

Hi all –

Canterbury Tales if you’re wondering. In which Geoffrey Chaucer channeled a story-telling contest among pilgrims traveling to Canterbury Cathedral. The lucky winner got a free lunch… So let’s spin some tales.

We’ve got rumors of new CUAS rules. A 336 fire storm. Drones for event security in Boston and Coachella. More LAANC wanted. Editorials. Fun things people are doing with UAS in Israel, Russia and China. Deliveries. And coming attractions.

CUAS

Morning Transportation had this Friday morning:

CEASE AND DESIST, SEARCH AND DESTROY: The drone industry has been anticipating proposals from the Trump administration intended to address law enforcement concerns that have been holding up expanding drone operations – and one such move appears to be proceeding forward. The administration circulated a proposal to some industry reps last week that would allow the departments of Justice and Homeland Security the same latitude Congress gave the Defense Department late last year to counteract potentially dangerous drone activities. 

One down, two to go: The proposal would allow law enforcement entities under DHS and DOJ to “detect, identify, monitor, and track” a drone; to warn its operator; to disrupt or seize control of the drone; to destroy it using “reasonable force” and to confiscate it.. The White House proposal would handle criminal misuse of drones; the FAA is still working on regulations that would address those who were
just careless.

What this has to do – if anything – with H.R.5366, the Safeguarding America’s Skies Act is unclear.

336

Lisa Ellman and Gretchen West, the Co-Executive Directors of the Commercial Drone Alliance unleashed an oversized fire storm with their press release, Commercial Drone Alliance Calls for Congress to Repeal Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. No danger it’s going to be put out any time soon.

Many of you have been following this issue closely through #OurCommonCause and a whole slew of announcements at places like the FAA UAS Symposium. But the sawing sound heard this week that is generally associated with being the only person standing on a limb, would lead you to believe that is a brand new idea.

Drone attorney Jeffrey Antonelli of Antonelli Law, whose toast is decidedly buttered by Part 107 waivers, decided to stir the pot big time on LinkedIn where it didn’t get much of a rise and on Facebook posting what while accurate on the face of it, played out like an attack ad, Lisa Ellman and the Commercial Drone Alliance is asking Congress to repeal Section 336, on the UAV Legal News & Discussion Forum.

The outrage is palpable and reveals a certain lack of understanding of the issues. To be fair and complete, the comments also reveal a certain contempt for the idea that additional regulation will make a difference given the FAA’s anemic enforcement abilities. To which one can only say, obeying the law is a choice.

Thursday, Mr. Antonelli decided he had a good thing going and posted a survey to try to demonstrate support for 336. You can help to provide a more balanced perspective by taking the survey. It will take under a minute of your time.

Please take our survey (and pass it on to others!):
Do you support the effort to repeal the Special Model Aircraft Rule (aka Section 336) to enable large scale commercial drone operations and UTM?

Or do you want to preserve model aircraft & hobby drone flights from FAA regulations such as Part 107 licenses and/or equipment mandates?

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RepealSection336YESorNO

Not one to be late for their own party, on Friday Morning Transportation offered up this summary of the AMA response:

HOLD YOUR HORSES: The Academy of Model Aeronautics is arguing that regulators need private partners like the 80-plus-year-old group to take on some of the burden of keeping the skies safe, in a lengthy response issued Thursday to the Commercial Drone Alliance’s call for Congress to nix part of a 2012 law that exempts model aircraft from FAA drone rules. “Even with AMA managing a portion of the recreational community and funding broader educational efforts, the FAA is still under-resourced to handle the growing surge in commercial drones, Part 107 waiver requests and future rulemakings,” said Chad Budreau, AMA’s public relations and government affairs director. “Eliminating Section 336 will exacerbate the demand on the agency’s resources, which may have implications for the commercial drone industry and the safety of our skies.”

A part-way meeting?: Budreau indicated AMA is open to “some tweaks” to that section of law to clarify whom it covers, as well as remote identification requirements for craft of a certain size and capability. Still, he made sure to note that hobbyists’ voices should be considered with the same weight as other airspace users. “No one group has a greater claim to the nation’s airspace than any other,”
he said.

Unfortunately all you have to do is look at the US Forest Service ‘land of many uses’ policies to know that things don’t always work out that way.

Here’s what I think. The old AMA – the one that was losing money and members – was effective because aviation enthusiasts gathered at airfields where learning and peer pressure both played a part in creating an enduring safety culture. The new AMA – which embraced drone owners as a revenue source and does not even require registration as a condition of membership – has not been particularly effective because there is no way to replicate that experience.

Where they do have an argument, and it is also the core of Antonelli’s argument, and what motivates a lot of the Facebook response; is that recreational fliers should not be “punished” or forced into compliance to meet the needs of the much smaller commercial sector – which of course is who the Commercial Drone Alliance lobbies for.

The logic looks like “Why should I have to pay X to equip my drone with Remote ID so that Amazon can build a UTM system to do deliveries?” Close on the heels of that comes a privacy argument.

Both are good arguments, but for two things.

First, no one has a ‘right’ to fly. Many of the more rabid proponents would have you believe that owning a drone and doing whatever you want with it, has some kind of 2nd Amendment corollary. Which it does not. Everywhere in the world, the sky is regulated by one sovereign agency, there is no reason that the AMA should have that kind of discretion.

If the FAA needs more resources it is up to the Administrator and DOT to provide them.

But the bigger issue is security. I have long argued that the FAA missed the boat on regulating drone sales and registration – if their latest forecast is right, and we are going to have several million recreational drones by 2022, it is time to get a handle on it.

Meanwhile, the beat goes on with Hawaii News Now reporting Hawaii Airline Pilots Report Pair of Mid-Air Near Misses With Drones.

EVENT SECURITY

These next stories are instructive about how the threat is viewed by those paid not only to think about it, but to defend against it.

Emergency Management reports that 2018 Boston Marathon Security Will Include Drones, Undercover Police.

This year security measures will also include three tethered drones — two in Hopkinton and one in Natick — which will stream live video feeds to authorities. For the public, the entire marathon route remains a no-drone zone, officials said.

For all of those beating their chests over the 336 story here’s this:

Crowd control is only one piece of the puzzle. Security planning also included the assessment of global terror threats….

“We’re really looking into a crystal ball, trying to predict what the next threat is,” said Harold Shaw, the lead special agent of Boston’s FBI Division. “We should be able to harness the lessons learned on a global scale.”

Shaw said technology — social media especially — has blurred the lines between risks posed by domestic or foreign adversaries. Authorities’ biggest challenge, he added, continues to be homegrown violent extremists. 

In another example The Drive reports, Surveillance Drones to Be Part of Coachella 2018 Security System. [If you don’t know, Coachella is a huge music festival in Southern California that will draw some 250,000 people. Some amount of overflight seems inevitable…

Frankly, it’s a pretty bleak time in American history when people can’t see an artist perform without the fear of somebody shooting into the crowd, and that flying robots have to be deployed to prevent tragic scenarios like that from occurring, but that’s where we are now. 

The idea to deploy one or multiple drones above a massive music festival, in order to more accurately surveil the audience for potential threats, just makes logical, affordable, and practical sense these days. Soon after the Las Vegas incident, terrorism experts and authorities vocalized their professional opinions on drone-use post-emergency events, and how beneficial it would be to apprehend suspects more rapidly, and in a safer manner.

The everlasting discussion pitting privacy and security priorities against each
other continues.

If it’s not clear, the issue here is telling ours from theirs…

Sorry Dorothy, we don’t get to live in Kansas anymore. I know, it sucks.

MORE LAANC WANTED

The FAA has put out a call for new (as in additional/more) LAANC suppliers. UAS Vision headlined it, FAA Wants More LAANC Service Suppliers. You can get all the details here.

I find this mystifying.

In his testimony to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Subcommittee on Aviation on Unmanned Aircraft Systems in November 2017, then Deputy Administrator Elwell stated that the FAA had issued 1,100 operational waivers and 10,000 authorizations for controlled airspace operations. This is for a 14 month period (9/16-11/17).

Let’s assume that the number of authorizations has doubled in the past five months to 20,000. What is the opportunity and why would anyone want to do it? Especially considering that four of the five current suppliers are Fortune
500 companies…

I agree with Josh Ziering’s perspective that the FAA should not be “picking winners and king-making”, but I am really hard pressed to see the need for more capacity. So perhaps this is their way of opening up the opportunity, perhaps it was always the plan.

Despite the ‘it’s a done deal’ story we are hearing, if you read the fine print there is still a certain amount of uncertainty. This month the FAA will begin the LAANC rollout. They have allocated six months after which they will then make a decision about whether or not to formally implement the program – or one supposes modify it or change it.

There are two larger questions.

By definition “The FAA UAS Data Exchange is an innovative, collaborative approach between government and private industry facilitating the sharing of airspace data between the two parties.”

Who owns and maintains the code? How does that work?

Second, at what point will the LAANC UAS Service Suppliers begin charging for their services? Even at $100 per authorization, it will be a paltry amount of money for the foreseeable future… And no doubt much more than the market would bear. At a penny a pop…?

Drone U looks at the other part of the waiver process in What Are Your Actual Chances of Acquiring a Part 107 Waiver as of Q1 2018?

This is absolutely startling:

Many drone pilots are excited that the FAA is open and willing to listen. Is this excitement justified? Well, the data tends to show something different… From BVLOS operations to nighttime operations and flight over people, what are your actual chances of acquiring a Part 107 waiver? A measly 4%. 

WORLD VIEW

I want to take a minute to draw your attention to two articles in sUAS News. The first is by Gary Mortimer that brings the notion that trade wars are easy to win home to roost, America Proposes Tariffs That Will Hurt American Drone Industry. Here are just a few of the items that Gary identified for which the government is proposing tariffs – see if there is anything you might need:

  • 85065000 Lithium primary cells and primary batteries,
  • 85269250 Radio remote control apparatus other than for video game consoles
  • 85299016 Printed circuit assemblies which are subassemblies of radar, radio nav. aid or remote control apparatus, of 2 or more parts joined together

So many parts of the drone and model aircraft food chain are covered, that it can only drive up the cost for end users… Chinese manufacturers can use the rest of the world as a cushion. American products still won’t be bought in overseas markets, they will still be far more expensive.

The second is by Patrick Egan, The Shakedown – Troubled Waters in 107 Land. Like a lot of his writing it is pretty well guaranteed to ruffle a lot of feathers. It tackles many of the same issues as I do here, from the unique perspective of a guy who has been committed to trying to move things forward for 15+ years.

There has been a rush to get in the air at all costs, and well, it has cost us a lot. Credibility is one of the major issues that beg for the limelight.

FUN THINGS TO DO WITH DRONES

I am always amazed by what people think of to do with drones.

From the Times of Israel, Israel Deploys Drones to Drop Tear Gas on Gaza Protesters. “A number of people were injured by the containers, which fell from a height of between 10 and 20 meters (30-60 feet).” Nice pictures too – Standing Rock anyone?

Next, lest you be lulled into a false sense of security that you are safe at 30,000 feet, you’ll be sure to enjoy Gizmodo’s story, Flying a Tiny Drone to a Staggering 33,000 Feet Gives You the Ultimate Bird’s-Eye View. Specifically, …A homebuilt, 2.3-pound craft.” If there is good news, it is that the flight took place in Siberia. But if you can make it there…

RUSSIA

In WeTalkUAV, $20,000 Russian Drone Crashes During Its First Delivery! This had to be embarrassing –the maiden voyage was accompanied by great fanfare and plenty of pictures.

While the multicopter was en route to a destination that was nearly 10 miles away, it malfunctioned and flew into a building. According to Reuters, over 100 Wi-Fi connections may have disrupted the drone’s flight.  

This next bit is my favorite part… “We won’t stop with this, we will keep trying,” said Russian politician Alexey Tsydenov. “Those who don’t risk don’t get a result.”

Going for the comrade hat trick, check out Russian Robots Attack! West Point Comic’s (Plausible) Future War.

Russian drones blind US surveillance and Russian malware paralyzes US tanks so Russian robots can blow them up. That’s the lovingly illustrated scenario in a comic book [called Silent Ruin] about future warfare published by the Army Cyber Institute at West Point.

Interesting counterpoint, Legal Scholars, Software Engineers Revolt Against
War Robots
.

While countries like Russia and China are investing heavily in artificial intelligence without restraints, the US and allied militaries like South Korea face a rising tide of opposition.

CHINA

Let’s go to China. WeTalkUAV offers up Chinese Smugglers Used Drones to Illegally Move $80 Million Worth of iPhones. This is really pretty clever:

The entrepreneurial smugglers used an unknown number of drones (one would think many) to form a connection between two, 200-meter (660 feet) cables on top of high-rise buildings in Hong Kong and the mainland. Once the smuggling cable was in place, the group would use a pulley system to bring across packages of ten iPhones at a time.

Not to be outdone, SF Express Receives China’s Permission to Deliver Packages Via Drone. Here’s a familiar argument:

A recent study of drone-based UAV deliveries found that delivery drones with a 2.5 mile radius used less energy per package per mile than traditional delivery methods – a potential boon for China’s goal of combating pollution. 

DELIVERY

One of the companies that I have been following for a long time is Workhorse, an Ohio based delivery truck builder that started working with the FAA during the 333 days. WorkHorse Snares Drone Delivery Patent extends their hybrid model which combines a delivery truck and a drone. The idea is pretty brilliant, let the drone do the last bit up the driveway while the truck continues down the road – and then fly to catch up and reload. Genius.

Zipline should do well too, Zipline Launches Fastest Delivery Drone in the World. What’s more impressive is how much they’ve increased their throughput which has to be the key to profitability.

The new aircraft is part of a complete redesign of Zipline’s logistics system, which dramatically improves the system’s launch, autonomous flight, and landing capabilities. The improvements will decrease the amount of time between Zipline’s receipt of an order and launch of a fulfilment flight from 10 minutes to 1, increase the number of daily delivery flights that each Zipline distribution center can make from 50 to 500, and expand the radius of each distribution center to serve populations of up to 10 million people.

Zipline’s new delivery vehicle is an autonomous fixed-wing style airplane. The plane is capable of flying at a top speed of 128 km/h…+ four times faster than the average quadcopter drone and can serve an area 200 times as large.

Pretty much tells you all you need to know about the future of LiPo quads. Now all Zipline needs is friendly regulators. In the US they have their hopes pinned on UASIPP partnerships which are scheduled to be announced in the next few weeks.

COMING ATTRACTIONS

Commercial UAV Expo Europe will be in Amsterdam next week, April 10-12.

The LeClair Ryan webinar Aviation and The SAFETY Act: Limiting Your Liability is April 17.

Small Unmanned Systems Business Exposition (sUSB) is April 25 and 26. Great line up of speakers and a “cage free” Demo Day.

AUVSI XPONENTIAL follows April 30 through May 3 in Denver. More than plenty to see and do. I’ll be driving up from Taos – hope to have a chance to say hello to many of you.

ICUAS’18 The 2018 International Conference on Unmanned Aircraft Systems is in Dallas, June 12-15. A very focused, deep dive agenda.

Energy Drone Coalition Summit will be in Houston, June 20-22. I still have a few free passes if you would like to attend.

Thanks for reading and for sharing. All of the back issues of Dronin’ On are here.

best,
ck

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