The End of Secrets issue of Dronin' On 02.03.18
#SuperMoon2 slips out of sight to her secret rendezvous

Hi all –

Hope you got to see the Super Blue Blood Moon – won’t be back this way for awhile. I got a few shots early before some unusual morning clouds set in. This was the last frame before the moon disappeared from sight…

Lots for you this week, starting with Strava. Then a look at the FAA Drone Zone and Reauthorization, increasingly harsh international regulations, new high and low points for law enforcement, UAS procurement at the Department of Interior, technology speed dating Coming Attractions and Eye Candy.


I traditionally open with an FAA update, but I decided to put a story I started following last week about the Strava heat map first, because it says so much about the potential and the pitfalls of our brave new world.

If you’ve missed the story, Strava, “which connects the worlds athletes,” aggregates geotagging information from personal fitness devices. In this case, perhaps as a (brilliant) marketing ploy they overlaid 13 trillion user generated GPS points on a world map. Which among other things revealed the location of a wide range of places that go to great pains to remain hidden. Look at this Twitter page to understand exactly how revealing this information is.

Jeremy Hsu writing for WIRED breaks it down, The Strava Heat Map and the End of Secrets.

…The Strava incident is just the latest and perhaps most spectacular example of how social media can compromise the operations security of even the most sensitive military and intelligence agencies. 

[In] A world dominated by the rise of social media, the growing availability of commercial satellite and drone imagery, and increasing usage of smartphones necessitates an entirely new cultural mentality.

Josh Ziering of Kittyhawk was quick to grasp the implications in an article for sUAS News, What the Commercial Drone Industry Can Learn From Strava.

The narrative sounds eerily familiar: Enterprises and Government all start using a widely available consumer product with a very consumer-driven backend. Data trickles into the Cloud and comes spilling back out as a Tsunami of insight

In an article I wrote in 2016, Why Standards Will Be Critical to UAV Adoption, David Kovar, Founder and CTO of URSA reminded me that:

…Large companies are not in the habit of collecting useless information. Instead they are deploying UAS’ to document their secrets and intellectual property. “Every mission is planned to support a corporate objective, so even something like a flight plan can tip a competitor off to an area of interest or concern.”

Wednesday, WaPo headlined Lawmakers Demand Answers About Strava ‘Heat Map’ Revealing Military Sites. The most revealing part of the article is not the Democratic posturing, but the statement that:

The controversy also has highlighted concerns [that]…relationships among people — including relationships that individuals may want to keep private — can be revealed by location data.

Just imagine what your connected autonomous vehicle will know… I’ll give Mr. Hsu the last word:

“Too often we think secrets lie hidden when now they are mostly out in the open,” says Peter Singer, strategist and senior fellow at New America, a think tank based in Washington, DC.

“Both militaries and the public need to come to grips with the fact that the era of secrets is arguably over.”


Thanks to a literal train wreck (for a change,) most of you know that the Republicans gathered in White Sulphur Springs to pow wow. Morning Transportation reports that the battle lines around FAA Reauthorization between the Senate and the House seem to be drawn:

58 DAYS LEFT: Also on Thursday, Roll Call reported that Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) said he’d like a long-term FAA bill to pass before infrastructure legislation. The agency’s authorization runs out March 31. As for Shuster’s proposal to divorce air traffic control operations from the FAA, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) said at a town hall that the Senate is “solidly lined up against the administration and the House,” according to The Wichita Eagle .

The FAA opened up the Drone Zone for registration and a new portal to streamline both the Waiver and Authorization processes. If you go to the registration site, you will see there are (only) two options:

1) to register as Part 107

2) to register as Part 336

The very straightforward $5 and fly – or as I call it, the Christmas Rule – is not presented as an option.

Because the Christmas Rule came three years (2015) after the 336 carve out (2012), many people, myself included, thought that it was the Christmas Rule that was overturned in Taylor v Huerta, and was then reinstated in the 2018 Defense Appropriations Bill.

I queried Earl Lawrence of the FAA who was kind enough to have one of his team provide the following response to which I added emphasis on a couple of
key points:

With the passing of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2018, model aircraft registration is now fully reinstated under the same conditions as originally written. In addition to the registration requirement, all model aircraft operators must abide by either 14 CFR Part 101, the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, or 14 CFR Part 107, the Small UAS Rule. Those requirements never changed under the Taylor decision, and it is important to note that the $5 registration fee is separate from the
operating requirements

While registration is required for any UAS over 0.55 pounds, the FAA encourages all persons operating in the NAS to be familiar with both sets of operating rules and follow the rules most appropriate for the operation. With that in mind, if operating under the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, the FAA does not require membership in a CBO like AMA, although membership in these organizations may have additional benefits, like insurance and educational training that are only available to members. 

I find the use of 336 instead of 101 confusing. There may be legal reasons, but from a communications perspective, listing the 336 option perpetuates the urban myth that one must be a member of a Community Based Operation (CBO)
to register.

As I and many others have written, it is unclear what valued services the AMA renders to the FAA or the industry that justify what can only be considered as special treatment. Which the AMA continues to take full advantage of in
their marketing.

The AMA does not require proof of registration.

One wishes that the FAA would have used the opportunity to be crystalline about this and to stop promoting the benefits of membership as they do in the above reply. Many think that registration will cost them $75 (the current AMA fee,) so they don’t register at all. A simple line would have done it – e.g. Membership in a CBO is optional. Go here for a list of CBOs.

On the bright side, LAANC continues to gain momentum. Project Wing has joined AirMap and Skyward as an Approved LAANC UAS Service Supplier. This week, Miriam McNabb reports that AirMap Brings LAANC to Entire Drone Ecosystem.

Drone developers and manufacturers can now integrate LAANC from AirMap into their own apps through deep linking. Industry innovators 3DR, Betterview, Converge, and DroneDeploy are the first to deploy LAANC Deep Linking from AirMap, now available to all with AirMap’s developer platform.

BTW I was unfamiliar with the term deep-link – it simply means that the link takes you from your flight planning app of choice, to AirMap to complete the waiver process. Basically an API, no development required by the app developers.

It’s a smart strategy that will funnel a lot of users to AirMap.

Mark McKinnon at LeClairRyan just published a new post in Plane-ly Spoken, Privacy is None of the FAA’s Business which comments on The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) suit claiming that “…The FAA is required by Congress to regulate drone privacy.” Mark’s take is that:

It appears likely that EPIC will lose its case and the FAA will not be ordered by the court to conduct a privacy rulemaking.  To the extent that Congress or the Administration ultimately decides that a “European style” comprehensive set of federal privacy standards is needed… some other regulatory body should handle it. The FAA’s focus on safety has served the public well, and should not be changed to include other matters.

Jonathan Rupprecht at Rupprecht Law has just published another blockbuster, The Ultimate Guide to U.S. Drone Regulations (2018).

Riling folks up on the Facebook UAV Legal News & Discussion forum, and flying in the face of the recent Singer v Newton decision is Boulder City, NV which has proposed a fee structure that will make flying drones prohibitively expensive – try $25/day per UAS for recreational use.

Guess What an F16 Pilot Saw on a Taxiway? It Surely Didn’t Belong There is about a drone a little over ¼ mile from an active runway at the Fort Worth Joint
Reserve Base…


Which leads us to Airports Want Swift Adoption of European Drone Rules:

In considering the risks and opportunities presented by drones, ACI EUROPE [Airports Council International] is today releasing the position of the airport industry – embracing the technology and calling for the swift adoption of safety and traffic management rules at EU level on the use of drones. Airports also underline the importance of drone registration, performance-based rules, and a modern approach to integrating drones at airports – one that relies on expedited approvals via “standard scenarios” and safety management systems.

ACI Europe’s paper on drones can be downloaded here.

For a view from a country already dealing with terrorist drone threats, AL-MONITOR reports that: Egypt recently passed a law prohibiting the operation of a drone without a permit. Penalties range from one year in prison plus fines to capital punishment for using drones for acts of terrorism that result in death.
[emphasis mine]

Meanwhile, the South China Morning Post reports that in Cambodia, a 68-year-old Australian filmmaker accused of drone ‘spying’ was denied bail by Cambodia’s Supreme Court.

Adding to the global PR fest, the Singapore Straits Times ran with Rise of the Drone Poses Regulation Headache for Australia. The story is increasingly familiar:

MP and former air crash investigator Mr. Barry said last year that he believed the current drone regulations were a “catastrophe waiting to happen”. He told The Australian Financial Review “We must get out in front of this so we can restore, as best we can, air safety”.

Chicken Little be busy out there – the sky must be falling.

CUAS reports that DHS Issues ‘Counter-Drone’ Procurement Guide for Emergency Responders.

DHS’s SAVER program has identified 13 counter-unmanned aerial systems that could be useful for emergency response, and issued a guide on their features to assist procurement.

The SAVER program was devised to help emergency responders making procurement decisions. It conducts operationally orientated assessments of equipment, and provides information so responders can select, procure, use and maintain it.

No surprise to learn from WeTalkUAV, Anti-Drone Tech Deployed at Davos World Economic Forum. The article name checked US detection specialists Dedrone and Germany’s H.P. Marketing & Consulting Wüst, makers of the HP47 jammer which has quickly become de rigueur at high profile European events.


Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today announced that his Advisory Group on Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) has issued its final report, which includes a model policy for use by law enforcement.” In addition to the creation of a model policy, the report made 14 recommendations, which addressed topics such as licensure, training, protocols, and data/records management. 

You can download the report here.

In a sign of things to come, Rotor&Wing headlined Sheriff’s Office v Fire Authority in a Game of SAR ‘Airborne Chicken’. It’s a distressing story about an old-fashioned turf war playing out in uber-wealthy Orange County, that so far has resisted a solution.

This is one more piece of the puzzle for which UAS users will need answers – as in I could use my UAS instead of your helicopter and save tax payer dollars.


Since Part 107 only demonstrates knowledge of the rules, one of the greatest challenges that enterprise drone program managers face is figuring out how to determine if an individual has the skills necessary to fly a particular mission.

So when Mark Bathrick, the Director of Aviation Services for the Department of Interior sent me an email about a new solicitation for Call-When-Needed Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) services to support their wildfire mission. I was curious how Mark and his UAS team will go about vetting respondents. Mark replied that:

Of course it takes Part 107 certification to get through the door……then we’ll assess them as we do with our manned contract pilots who fly for us; as with the manned pilots it will be specific to the mission and will include knowledge and proficiency with our fire airspace management and communications protocols. 

I probed a little more and learned that:

Our approach mirrors what we’ve done in manned aircraft pilot qualifications since 1973 when OAS was formed…which is specific to our mission CONOPS.  In the same way, the Interagency Unmanned Aircraft Systems Practical Test Standards, which are in final development, will be based on the Interagency Fire Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations Guide.

This is the way that all professional UAS operations will be managed.


If you only have time to read one, read this. Tech and the Future of Transportation: From Here to There. Transportation is about to get a technology-driven reboot. The details are still taking shape, but future transport systems will certainly be connected, data-driven and highly automated. Part of a ZD Net Special Feature.

A lot of good stuff so I am going to do this like speed dating – the headline is the link, you decide if you want more. Let’s start this section with something most drone operators take for granted – the availability of a GPS signal in the NAS.

USAF Jamming GPS In The Western US? Yes to simulate a denied environment for Red Flag 18-1 exercise out of Nellis AFB in Nevada.

Hey, Siri, How Do You Fly An F-35? Tests using VR instead of flying time and AI instead of instructors to train pilots.

AVSS and the Institute for Drone Technology Announce Partnership for Revolutionary Drone Black Box Data Collection and Authentication System. Lengthy headline tells the story.

The Physics of Why Bigger Drones Can Fly Longer. Good basic lift and thrust primer even if you’re sure you know the answer.

Analyst Angle: Wi-Fi evolves 5G-type capabilities. A little technical but worth a try since spectrum is becoming an increasingly important issue for sUAS.

How Drones, Artificial Intelligence Impacted Hurricane Irma Claims Response. Not really AI, and a little self-serving, but an interesting description of the workflow.

CAMCOPTER UAS Demonstrates Search and Rescue Capabilities. A bigger bird with a 200km range, the article points to the value of reviewing the image feed on the ground.

Zunum Aero Starts Building It’s First Electric Airplane Motor, Targets First Flight in 2019. A new class of hybrid regional jet with backing from Boeing.

Joby Aviation Wins $100M Investment Boost to Get It’s Flying Car Venture Off the Ground. A Series B round led by Intel Capital to take an electric VTOL 5 passenger aircraft into pre-production and regulatory certification. They better run real fast…

Airbus’s Drone Taxi Completes Its First Flight. Alpha One reached a height of 5 meters (16 feet) and stayed in the air for 53 seconds before descending. Representatives from the FAA and the full Vahana team witnessed the first flight which was fully self-piloted.


DJI has just announced the winners of its 2017 SkyPixel Photo Contest. According to the story in PetaPixel, this year DJI received entries from over 40,000 contestants in 141 countries. As usual, it’s worth your time to poke around the contest site and the Gallery.

Some wonderful images!


February 7 Eagle Point Funding will be hosting a free webinar, Federal Funding for Drone Related R&D. Register here.

On February 8, DroneDeploy is hosting a free webinar, Drones on the Job Site: Getting the Green Light for Your In-House Drone Program.

The program for Commercial UAV Expo Europe, coming up in April in Amsterdam, has been posted. Great opening morning.

The InterDrone Call for Speakers is now open. The very capable Katie Flash is back running the agenda and it promises to be another great event. The deadline for proposals is April 27. Don’t want to speak? Register by February 9th and get a yuge discount.

Registration for the Energy Drone Coalition Summit June 20-22 in Houston is now open. Save bigly until April 16.

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


Christopher Korody
Publisher and Editor
follow me @dronewriter

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