The 'Feel The Burn' issue of Dronin' On 12.09.17
Space Station Flyover – Image Credit: NASA/Randy Bresnik

Hi all –

Thoughts and prayers going out to my friends and family in SoCal. Hopefully, the drones will stay down so the aircrews can do their thing. What a year and winter
is coming.

Randy Bresnik, the astronaut who made these images wrote on his Twitter account, “Thank you to all the first responders, firefighters, and citizens willing to help fight these California wildfires.” There is not much more to say.

Unbelievable – brown marks the High Risk Zone – Map from Business Insider

BTW – a hard lesson learned for AI and autonomy fans. The LA Times reports that the LAPD has “…Asked drivers to avoid navigation apps, which are steering users onto more open routes — in this case, streets in the neighborhoods that are on fire.” Oops.

This week the FAA, the EU, exciting investment stories, emerging professionalism, stocking stuffers and eye candy.

THE FAA

FCW, which covers “the business of federal technology,” summarized last week’s hearing with the headline, House Panel Presses FAA to Curtail Drone Dangers. The focus was on grandstanding with both sides of the aisle taking their turn:

[Talking about the recent Blackhawk incident], Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), who chairs the House Transportation Committee’s Aviation Subcommittee, said that collision caused “hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage to that aircraft.” 

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) said “the biggest problem so far is with idiots who have toy drones. … This an accident waiting to happen. We are going to lose an aircraft.”

DeFazio expressed disbelief that geofencing — built-in technology to prevent a UAS from operating near airports or other sensitive efforts — is not required for all drones sold. And he called for faster deployment of remote detection and identification systems for UAS.

[Addressing the FAA’s Earl Lawrence], Rep. Bud Shuster (R-PA), who chairs the full Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said that “Slowness [in rulemaking] was a key part of the problem, and that remote identification of UAS was key to both law enforcement and public safety.”

These three gentlemen will have a lot to say when FAA Reauthorization comes up in 3 short months.

Jonathan Rupprecht took a critical look at the FAA’s ongoing “near miss” reporting in his latest article, Drone Sightings. Reiterating previous studies, Rupprecht concluded that:

“The FAA has inaccurately reported the drone sightings data they have published.

Specifically, the FAA has overstated the number of incidents. In addition, Rupprecht’s analysis revealed the totally unsurprising conclusion that most sightings occurred in populous areas during warm weather…

Morning Transportation ran a story which reveals just how many ways there are to tackle UAS regulation.

LET ME FLY FREE! The Association of American Railroads thinks the FAA should let railroads use small drones at night, past line of sight and over people, all of which require a waiver now to do. That’s what the group wrote in comments submitted late last week in relation to President Donald Trump’s order for agencies to take a look at their current regulations and put forward which rules could be repealed
or tweaked. 
 

Then on Friday, Morning Transportation offered up:

ULTRALIGHT READING: The FAA has released the briefing book they’re going to give to Michael Huerta’s replacement. The Administrator’s Fact Book is full of charts on safety statistics, operations and flight delays, plus primers on drones, airspace modernization and a bunch of other basics in a surprisingly
readable format. 

According to the chart on page 15; 70,043 Remote Pilot Certifications have been issued and 10,965 Airspace Authorizations have been granted. What’s odd is that on page 20 they say that there are 62,062 Remote Pilots. I wrote Earl Lawrence to ask for clarification and he wrote back to say that his team is looking into it. And no, the numbers don’t jive with what was reported for licensed pilots coming in under IACRA.

Here’s a thoughtful essay that reflects something that many of us think, Drone Operators Are Not Pilots. It’s by Neil Ludwig, a student at Embry-Riddle’s
Prescott campus.

“Owning a drone does not a pilot make” (Morritt, 2017). Why does only answering a few questions give someone the ability to fly through the skies like piloted aircraft? The ability to obtain a Part 107 Remote Pilot License could be made more difficult and like manned aircraft have harsher penalties for violations from individuals who are not pilots. 

UASIPP/DIPP

So, what about DIPP?

The Portland Press Herald reported that Brunswick Police Could Be 1st in US to Use Drones to Spot Railroad Trespassers. It’s a fine plan until you get to this part:

…Major aspects of the initiative are still up the air. Federal funding to buy the equipment has not been approved. Brunswick police also must craft a local drone-usage policy for the department and ink a deal with federal authorities on how the technology will be used. 

Huh? I don’t know about the Federal funding part but this seems to be tailor-made for DIPP.

I have heard, but absolutely cannot confirm, that there were over 200 applications for Lead Applicant – a government entity wishing to develop an
integration program.

When I asked for specifics, Earl Lawrence explained that The program is under the US procurement regulations which limit what information may be shared and when. Many applicants do not want their information shared as it is a competitive process. Applicants are free to release information if they wish to do so.”

A reminder that if you want to participate as an Interested Party you have until 2:00 pm EST December 13 to submit a request. As of Friday, there were 2,323 interested parties.

ELSEWHERE

Reuters reports that EU Agrees Registration Rules for Drones. This is the result of several years’ work, beginning in 2015 with the Riga Declaration.

Under the agreement, drones which can cause significant harm to people either by crashing into them or presenting risks to privacy, security or the environment, will have to be registered.

“Dangerous” drones will be defined as having a kinetic energy of over 80 joules based on their mass and maximum speed. The European Parliament had pushed for a registration threshold of 250 grammes but EU governments resisted.

The rules will apply to all drones, including ones sold in shops for private use.

There is an excellent summary from the European Commission here.

INVESTMENT

A flurry of activity suggests that Santa Claus arrived early.

TechCrunch ran with Kespry Lands $33M Series C as Industrial Drone Business Use Cases Continue to Expand. I found this one noteworthy because besides the usual VCs, Shell Technology Ventures bought in reflecting Kespry’s effort to expand into oil and gas.

The story includes some interesting comments from Kespry CEO George Mathew, who came on board at the beginning of the year.

uAvionix closed a $5 million Series B round, adding a new investor Airbus Ventures. According to the story in Unmanned-Aerial.com Airbus Ventures’ CEO, Thomas d’Halluin will join the board.

You might remember that in May I reported that “DroneSeed is the first and only company to receive FAA approval to use drone swarms to dispense
agricultural payloads.”

Now GeekWire reports that DroneSeed Raises Cash to Replant Trees
Using Drones
.

Seattle-based DroneSeed has raised more than $5 million in funding for a venture that uses drones to plant trees and sustain them from the air, according to documents filed this month with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Interesting interview with CEO Grant Canary, who unlike most execs was coy about who the investors were.

In a press release, Martek Marine announced that they have invested over £5M to stand up the new Maritime Unmanned Aviation Division saying that:

Maritime RPAS applications are set for massive growth and Martek Aviation looks set to capitalise on this fast-emerging area of opportunity. The business will focus on delivering total service solutions in the following maritime applications:

  • Intelligence, surveillance & reconnaissance (ISR);
  • Search & rescue;
  • Detection and monitoring of sources of illegal pollution;
  • Detection of illegal drug & people trafficking;
  • Fisheries protection;
  • Offshore asset & infrastructure inspection.

I have been following the company for over a year, and these guys do not mess around. I love what CEO Paul Luen said:

We welcome competition from the major companies entering this market and through continual investment in technology and people, we’re determined to retain our leading position as the market expands.

And though it’s too early for a venture round, I was glad to see the following headline, MSAB and Kovar & Associates Agree to Partner on Drone Forensics Work. MSAB is a Swedish company focusing on mobile forensics – think iPhone and Android. David, a long time Dronin’ On contributor, is pioneering the field of drone forensics and has formed URSA to answer the question “where did it come from and what did it see” for the military, law enforcement and industrial clients.

PROFESSIONALIZING THE BUSINESS

Betsy Lillian reports that FAA Recommends Bright, Reflective Vests for
sUAS Pilots
.

The InFO [Information for Operators], which is intended to inform sUAS pilots on “techniques for clearly identifying and legitimizing themselves to the general public and law enforcement,” says wearing a brightly colored/reflective vest could “reduce the likelihood that someone will approach or query an sUAS crew member engaged in safety-sensitive duties and will also help preserve a ‘sterile cockpit’ for
these operations.”

Actually, this is a really good idea. Why? Because operators need to look professional. Otherwise as Rep. DeFazio suggested, they could be mistaken for “idiots who have toy drones.”.

Don’t laugh. UAV Recon, a service provider in Fort Collins, Colorado which is just over an hour from Stapleton (DIA) posted this little saga on Facebook:

As the predominant sUAS powerline inspection service company in our area, statistically, an altercation with a land owner is probable. Our team was recently flying distribution line, a multi-day project, consisting of structures on both public and private right-of-way.

During one of the mornings, we were parked on a county road flying structures on a private right of way about ½ mile away… this is what happened.

  • One individual threatened shooting our aircraft with a firearm if we were to fly over his property, we acknowledge we were inspecting power lines…he didn’t care.
  • The other individual approached us in a vehicle, demanded that we cease operations, or he would call the police. 

sUAS News has Measure Expedites Problem Resolution for Electrical Utilities with New Drone Toolkit for Linemen. The Utility Toolkit demonstrates the kind of turnkey solution that I believe will be essential as the industry matures.

Developed by linemen for linemen, the toolkit facilitates the process of identifying high-priority defects ranging from damaged insulators, poles and conductors to broken ground wires, broken cross arms, missing aerial numbers, and downed trees. Detailed image capture allows linemen to zero in on problem areas and instantly pinpoint maintenance issues from a ground control flight app in the field.

Toolkit components include:

  • A ready-to-fly drone
  • Comprehensive training 
  • Measure Ground Control
  • Ongoing subscription-based support
  • An on-demand helpdesk

Another example of a comprehensive curriculum is Telecom Technical College in Phoenix, which offers a Qualified Drone Cell Tower Operator (QDCO) certification. sUAS News reports that:

The 122-hour QDCO Certificate course will allow the technician the ability to perform safely, understand the basic requirements, personal protective equipment, and tasks needed for both manual climbing inspection tasks and SUAS / drone aerial inspection elements of cell tower inspection work.  This program is designed to give an individual the opportunity of a career in the wireless industry as both a legacy climber and a drone operator. 

I spoke with the founder Kathy Gill, a telco vet, who founded towersafety.com in 2014. Telecom Tech was then created to provide accreditation. Curiously they are not NATE members, so I sent an email introducing Kathy to NATE Executive Director Todd Schlekeway. I am surprised because this is the type of curriculum I would expect to be developed in conjunction with a trade group that will recognize and value the certification.

In a press release, Global Aerospace named DARTdrones as their SM4 Safety Program UAV Training Partner. DARTdrones CEO Abby Speicher has been on a tear since hooking Mark Cuban on Shark Tank.

Global Senior VP Chris Proudlove was enthusiastic telling me that “We are particularly excited about this partnership as it will help drone operators across the country to get good quality, practical thumbs on stick training.”

As for the need for training – hats off to Waypoint, the excellent senseFly blog for Commercial Drone FAIL – Operator Mishaps From Around The World. I am sure that the editor had plenty to choose from.

STOCKING STUFFERS

Now that Rudolph has got his night waiver, it’s time to start thinking about the perfect gift for the drone person in your life. I’ve got three higher-end suggestions – and a freebie – that are all guaranteed to deliver a smile.

The Drone Pilot Ground School from UAV Coach will prepare your wanna-be pilot to pass Part 107. Some 8,100 students have taken the course with an incredible 99.8% pass rate. I’ve got a Christmas special for all you Dronin’ On readers – use code DBC75 and save $75. The offer is good through New Year’s Eve – so if you don’t succeed at first etc. And if you were thinking about a drone, UAV Coach has you covered with their exhaustive 2017 Drone Holiday Gift Guide.

If you or someone you know is standing up a UAS organization, it is hard to think of anything more essential to their success than Harrison Wolf’s Drones: Safety Risk Management for the Next Evolution of Flight. It’s everything you need to know about ConOps and SMS. I met Harrison at the Energy Drone Coalition Summit – he is a gifted teacher, this is the textbook he wrote. 

If you want to hone your piloting skills or protect your drone from less accomplished friends and family on Christmas morning #crash, take a look at the Zephyr drone simulator.

Betsy Lillian flew it and describes it as “…A step-by-step educational program for learning how to fly consumer unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) on the computer.” The UAV Coach, Alan Perlman told me that “…It has good physics and I like the way they gamify it to make it more of a training tool than an open simulator.” And me? I like it because it comes in both Mac and PC versions.

And please give someone you love or work with a free subscription to Dronin’ On for Christmas. My pleasure.

EYE CANDY TAG AWARD

It’s been awhile since I’ve seen anything I thought worthy of an Eye Candy Tag Award, but The Big Ugly is. It’s not a beauty contest, but rather a drone documenting a surfer taking off on a 70-foot wave in Portugal, losing it and then being rescued by a jet ski which wipes out requiring a double rescue by another jet ski. The drone had no role in the rescue – just a very steady eye in the sky.

To see just how far we’ve come, and what it took to get here, take a look at NASA X-Planes – Discovery Through Flight. It includes what in effect are some
early UAS.

If you like striking pictures of aircraft, take a gander at the Winners of Aviation Week’s 2017 Photo Contest. And the Editors Picks here.

And before I go, I want to encourage you to download Ian Smith’s Drone Industry Review Q3 2017 e-Book. Ian is the founder of the very popular commercialdrones.fm podcasts. The book is free and fascinating, which is a winning combo.

Thanks for reading and for sharing. Back issues of Dronin’ On can be found here.

best,
ck

Christopher Korody
DroneBusiness.center
chris@dronebusiness.center
follow me @dronewriter