The Celebrating 50,000 RPICs issue of Dronin' On 08.05.17

Hi all –

A short issue this week so we can all go out and play.

As expected, the House left town without bringing AIRR to the floor. An editorial by Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) If The FAA’s Not Broke, Don’t Try To Fix It, offers a pretty good indication of where the nays stand.

Financially, a privatized FAA would be unfair to the American taxpayer. It is simply wrong to take billions of dollars’ worth of assets purchased by federal funds and put them in the hands of private interests – a recipe for lost accountability and possible misuse of funds. Not only does this endanger the system financially, it will have policy implications that range from issues such as general resources to the operation of rural airports and contract control towers. It will also raise fees for travelers by incurring excess costs to support a monopolistic system.

We’ll see what happens when everyone gets back to work, but as previously reported the expectation at this point is for another extension rather than
a reauthorization.

August marks the one year anniversary of Part 107. The FAA issued an updated report Regional Active Airmen Totals which breaks out the number of RPICs by region and state. As of August 1 (so there’s still a month to go) there are 50,385 remote pilots, an increase of 4,000 since July.

Whether this is a lot or a little depends on your point of view. The rule is one drone, one pilot so it’s a handy way to size the domestic market. It’s a significant milestone and cause for celebration. Congratulations to the FAA and to all of you who participated.

On Plane-ly Spoken, Dentons offers up a podcast with partner Mark Dombroff who heads thei UAS practice, UAS/FAA All Things Drone… His take is that UAS regulation will develop exactly the way aviation developed – “If someone wants to know what the drone world is going to look like in ten years, look at the aviation world…” One Cliff note is that certification for every aspect of UAS operations is coming. At which point Part 107 will be a fond memory…

A nice bookend from Aviation Week, A Short History Of Making Flying Safer.

I started the year saying that the key issues facing the UAS industry were safety, privacy and security. The Cipher Brief has an interesting twist, a free e-book American Dilemma: Security vs. Privacy.

I thought that this quote from Michael Lumpkin who was a special envoy and coordinator of the State Department’s Global Engagement Center pretty well sums up the challenge.

Our adversaries are not constrained by ethics, the truth, or, frankly, the law. We, on the other hand, are.”

If Lumpkin’s old outfit sounds familiar (I had no idea) it’s because the Global Engagement Center are the folks who would have gotten to spend the US$80M Secretary of State Tillerson just turned down to counter and rebut Russian disinformation. Smooth move dude.

Fascinating paper, tough questions, well presented. I was struck by two headlines in that play out the contrast between privacy and security.

Tethered Drone for Security at Trump Property describes efforts by the Secret Service to provide a less intrusive form of aerial surveillance. What’s interesting is the comment that “The agency said the drone may be within range of private residences, which could lead to unintentional privacy violations. It will notify people at the club that the premises are being monitored by a drone.”

Pretty cool that they are using a tethered solution.

Drones to Protect Koala Bears in QueenslandWill combine data analytics and automated identification Understanding the abundance of a species in an area is fundamental to the management of that species – and the more regularly and accurately you can monitor the health of the population, the better.” 

So, if you can do it with (to?) koalas…

The patchwork quilt continues its inexorable spread. In California Majority of Civilian Oversight Body Wants LA County Sheriff to Stop Flying Drone. This is a well-reported story with sharply defined points of view pro and con about issues of trust, trauma (!) and benefits.

One unexpected nugget “Prompted by a recommendation from some of the oversight commissioners, the department created an online survey last asking if respondents supported the use of a drone in certain high-risk operations and for other comments about the aircraft. Based on 3,054 responses, the department issued a statement Wednesday saying that “89% of the general public favor use of LASD’s unmanned aircraft system.”

Clearly, you have to take the time to tell people what you’re doing. Or you end up with this:

In Texas SB 840 Closes Legal Loophole for Drone Image Capturing “Drone operators can no longer use drones to record video or take images of private property within 25 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Here the concerned citizen story is a lot more familiar:

“You never know who’s operating the drone and what the purpose is of using these drones for or the footage or who are they spying or what are they doing with it,” said Nancy Baan who operates a day care center.

Can you just hear the whine?

DJI’s troubles continue to grow. A new story from Gary Mortimer in sUAS News is headlined US Army Calls for Units to Discontinue Use of DJI Equipment.

“According to a U.S. Army memo obtained by sUAS News, the U.S. Army Research Lab and U.S. Navy have concluded that there are operational risks associated with DJI equipment, a move that was run up the flag pole last month but kept
under wraps.”

The memorandum is pretty brutal:

3. Direction: Cease all use, uninstall all DJI applications, remove all batteries/storage media from devices, and secure equipment for follow
on direction.

Michael Perry, DJI’s PR Manager expressed chagrin (pouted?) noting that “We were not consulted during their decision.”

Which is just too easy, so I am not going there.

Perhaps coincidentally David Walters from ConsortiQ Ltd wrote an example rich technical analysis in sUAS News.

Did you know the DJI Go APP communicates with a whole list of servers whilst your system is logged in? Check out what pilots are doing now, there blocking all the links associated to the DJI Go App Here. That’s a lot of comms going on there, and to where? [Like 50 links…]

Within the systems as well there are hidden secondary SD Cards. They are mentioned loosely in the Manuals.

And here David’s take on an issue we brought up on the #EDCSummit Data Security Panel:

So, let’s look at it from the client’s perspective.

Client: Thanks for doing such a great job, the images look great.
Pilot: Thanks, here is the media release form.
Client: Great, can you confirm this is the only copy of the data

My two cents. First, one cannot accuse DJI of not being transparent – their right to your data is right there in black and white in the EULA (end user license agreement.) Though as always the devil is in the details and a hidden secondary SD card is pretty dang sneaky.

It is hard to imagine that DJI needs everyone’s data all the time for product development. Or why providing data can’t be voluntary as it is with most software companies. (Though they would probably want to call them something besides crash reports.)

Long time readers will remember that DOI, NASA, DOE and other agencies took DJI off their shortlists last year precisely because of this issue. Apparently, the US Army just got the memo but better late than never. Now if DJI would just turn over the Daesh data they might do some good.

Memo to Frank Wang: Recreational fliers may not care but enterprise buyers do and it is going to hurt you bigly. It’s time for DJI to wake up, hire a top PR firm and get into damage control mode – this DIY thing via Shenzhen isn’t working.

One of the biggest areas of debate in our society is how we will manage AI and robots, and robot/human interaction. The very sharp point of the spear is warfare. If you are new to the issue, there is an excellent discussion in the New York Times called The Pentagon’s ‘Terminator Conundrum’.

Russian Drones Will Soon Have Brains Allowing Them to Make Military Decisions on Their Own is a report from the MAKS-2017 Air Show in Moscow. A military company in Russia is developing technology to allow robots to think, Russian news agency TASS has claimed. The drone will be able to take off, reach the designated area and make a decision on how to cope with the task entirely on its own.”

NATO Review Magazine offers up Autonomous Military Drones: No Longer Science Fiction. The crux of the article is that:

“Autonomous drones, regardless of how one ultimately chooses to define them, would be able to operate on their own to a certain degree in time and space. This (potential) absence of human interference with the weapon or weapon system, during attacks, raises the question of when and where the law requires human presence in the decision cycle.”

The last line of the article proposes a moral high ground that we must hope holds:

“Our fundamental responsibility for war and how wars are fought can never be morally “outsourced”, least of all to machines.”

In case you managed to miss it, tradeshow season is upon us. I am looking forward to hearing FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and Intel CEO/Drone Advisory Committee Chairman Brian Krzanich kick things off at InterDrone in Las Vegas September 6-8. You can save $100 off registration using the promo code SKYE. I will be there moderating a panel on Big Data.

Then in October, head to San Jose CA for Drone World Expo October 3-4 which is the flagship event for Commercial Drone Week. It’s another all-star lineup of speakers and exhibitors. End-users can get a complimentary full conference pass by using VIP code ATT803. If you are not an end user you can get 20% off using DBCVIP – carpe diem – prices will go up soon.

Thanks for reading and for sharing. You can find all of the back issues of Dronin’ On here.


Christopher Korody
follow me @dronewriter

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