The 'Giving Back by Putting In' issue of Dronin' On 03.03.18
For Miles

Hi all –

Thanks for your continuing support for #OurCommonCause. More and more organizations, including Congress, are recognizing the need to change 336 and are getting onboard.

FAA Reauthorization is coming up this month. If your business plan depends on or will benefit from expanded services, why trust to luck when you can participate in the process. I suggest that you and everyone else in your business or organization download a copy of Make Yourself Heard!, tailor it to taste and send it to your Congressional representatives. Soon.

The shout-outs are coming in for Travis Moran’s thoughtful analysis, The Counter Drone Conundrum. I am especially pleased by the mention in Bard’s Center for the Study of Drones Weekly Roundup. Thanks! Travis addresses two important pieces of the CUAS puzzle – the high cost of doing nothing and the real-world complexities of making a kill, no kill decision. Plus some new ideas about that critical infrastructure owners can explore today.

This week we’ll look at the FAA, The Subcommittee on Aviation of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure February 27th hearing on the safety of the National Airspace System, learn more about 336 and #OurCommonCause, take a look at what is going on in the EU including another previously unreported near miss or strike and look at how the industry is becoming ever more professional.

And now, because so many of you love a little snark to wash down the news, let’s go get some donuts.


Lest you forget, exactly two months ago the Pilot in Chief tweeted “Since taking office I have been very strict on Commercial Aviation. Good news – it was just reported that there were Zero deaths in 2017, the best and safest year on record!”

Drinking deeply from the sacred coffee cup, a member of the President’s inner circle is being bandied about for the most important safety position in the world. John Dunkin, the left seater for Trump Force One, has had his hat thrown in the ring for FAA Administrator.

AXIOS broke the story.

“John Dunkin isn’t just a pilot,” the administration official told me. “He’s managed airline and corporate flight departments, certified airlines from start-up under FAA regulations, and oversaw the Trump presidential campaign’s air fleet, which included managing all aviation transportation for travel to 203 cities in 43 states over the course of 21 months.” 

The urban legend piece is that “Dunkin has told people that when he used to fly Trump around on his private Boeing 757, they’d often find themselves stuck on the tarmac with delays. He’d tell Trump that none of this would happen if a pilot ran
the FAA.”


For a different take, former FAA Chief Counsel Sandy Murdock offers up Administrators’ Chair Should Not Be Empty; Is Captain Dunkin A Good Candidate? I particularly enjoyed his comment which echoes a point I’ve been making here for months “NOTE: Technically, Administrator Huerta’s term ended only months ago, but since January 20, 2017, the Administration must have been aware of the vacancy.” So busy. So much winning.

Which handily brings us to Reauthorization or Extension??? As I’ve been reporting these past weeks, smart money has been on Extension. But there is an important change which could alter the calculus. After years of relentlessly pursuing ATC privatization, Morning Transportation reports that Shuster Drops ATC Push – done in by his own party.

House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) announced Tuesday evening that he is ending his push to sever air traffic control operations from the FAA. “Despite an unprecedented level of support for this legislation — from bipartisan lawmakers, industry, and conservative groups and labor groups alike — some of my own colleagues refused to support shrinking the federal government by 35,000 employees, cutting taxes, and stopping wasteful spending.”  

Plane-ly Spoken offers a look at The State of Aviation Safety and Congress: Part I a summary of The Subcommittee on Aviation of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure February 27th hearing on the safety of the National Airspace System (NAS). Officials from the following organizations provided testimony: FAA, NASA, NTSB, the USDOT Office of Inspector General (OIG), and the Airline Pilots Association International (ALPA).

Drones were very much on the agenda.

Major points of the FAA summary included:

  • Ongoing work of the Drone Advisory Committee in identifying and prioritizing UAS integration challenges and improvements.

Major points of the NASA summary included:

  • Under its UAS traffic Management System research project, assessing whether small UAS can safely operate beyond visual-line-of sight to the uncontrolled low altitude airspace below 400 feet.


As I have indicated, awareness is creating momentum. And while I certainly can’t claim credit for it, I am glad to be doing my part.

This week the Commercial Drone Alliance sent a letter to a broad range of industry and government stakeholders reporting on the same hearing:

In a recent Transportation and Infrastructure Hearing on Aviation Safety, Subcommittee Ranking Member Rick Larsen asked whether recreational use of drones should really be unregulated, as use grows exponentially. Full Committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio also stated: “Congress, rather stupidly, adopted an amendment in the FAA bill restricting the FAA regulation of drones flown by recreational users….now there are hundreds of thousands of these things out there with people who have been interfering with firefighting, they’ve flown one into a helicopter, had many near misses with jetliners…so we’ve got to change that and we’ve got to get a handle on these recreational drones.”

This signals both Congress’ concern over managing hobbyist use and lawmakers’ willingness to solve some of these complex issues so the commercial drone industry can realize its potential.

Here is a link to the hearing.

Jonathan Rupprecht’s post, How High Can a Model Aircraft Fly?  sheds new light on the intricacies of Section 336.

What I didn’t fully understand is that:

“The first thing you should be aware of is that this section was specifically talking to the FAA, not model aircraft operators. The FAA acts in some regards like it was a section directed at model aircraft flyers.

In the article, Jonathan considers a letter from the FAA’s Director of UAS Integration Earl Lawrence to Dave Mathewson, the executive director of the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA).

Section 336, the provision specifically addressing model aircraft in the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act, does not contain a definitive altitude limitation for model aircraft operations. Rather, it requires operation of model aircraft “in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines….”

Although such safety guidelines may provide for flight above 400 feet AGL, Section 336 also protects the safety of manned aircraft operations by requiring that model aircraft not interfere with and give way to manned aircraft. The state also explicitly affirms that the FAA may pursue enforcement action against model aircraft operators who endanger the safety of the NAS.

As I explained in Our Common Cause, the AMA got away with a very clever piece of lobbying in 2012 (they are rumored to have written the legislation). As a result, 336 not only gives Community Based Organizations (CBOs) the power to define their own rules and to certify model aircraft to be bigger, fly higher and much faster than any other drones, it also prevents the FAA from enforcing a consistent rule set across the full spectrum of drone fliers. Which is crazy.

A thoughtful editorial in by David Silver, Opinion: Industry Can Help Prevent Drone Disasters, offers a unique insight into the value of enforcement and concludes that all sUAS must be identified.

…It is important for the public to know that industry and government are working hard to implement measures to prevent these frightful near-collisions from becoming actual, potentially catastrophic, disasters.

…Regulatory compliance, the threat of minor fines or the unlikely prospect of jail time for the violation may be outweighed by the potential for notoriety or internet fame, regardless of the serious risks involved.

Civil aviation authorities must recognize that hobbyists, who were apparently controlling the UAS in these latest incidents, must be regulated as aviators, too. In airspace that contains users of all sizes, safety demands that we know both who and where they are


As if we needed an exclamation mark for the past few weeks… reported a drone near miss or a strike (a bit vague), this time an A321 on final
into Heathrow:

The pilot of an Airbus A321 passenger jet arriving at Heathrow thought he hit a ‘three or four engine drone’ approaching the airport after spotting the device less than five feet from the aircraft.

No word about any damage to the airliner which landed safely. No bits and pieces were recovered.

Rotor&Wing reports EASA Issues First Formal Opinion on Drone Rules. No surprise here, just the next step in a long process of building a pan-Europa consensus across the EU.

EASA has published its first formal opinion, which according to the agency is to serve as a basis for the European Commission to adopt regulatory proposals later this year.

“This regulation will enable the free circulation of drones and a level playing field within the European Union, while also respecting the privacy and security of [European Union] citizens, and allowing the drone industry to remain agile, to innovate and continue to grow.”

This is an ambitious piece of work that differs from US efforts because it:

“Cover[s] the regulation of all civil unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), regardless of their maximum take-off masses(MTOMs).”


I think it’s safe to say that everyone in our industry recognizes that there are opportunities to improve the way we operate. Here a grab bag of ideas – each with its unique merits.

The UAS Pilots Code – Best Practices in a Disruptive Landscape is a set of documents that present core concepts that can be used to develop organization-specific solutions:

The UAS Pilots Code presents safety, training, risk management, and technology as principles in seven sections: (1) General Responsibilities of UAS Pilots, (2) Manned Aircraft and People on the Surface, (3) Training and Proficiency, (4) Security and Privacy, (5) Environmental Issues, (6) Use of Technology, and (7) Advancement of UAS Aviation. The principles are illustrated by sample recommended practices that provide extensive guidance to aid in implementation. The Code is customizable so that it can suit any particular operation. 

The UAS Pilots Code is offered in three versions: an annotated version intended for managers, policy administrators or instructors, a condensed version intended for pilot use, and a one-page introductory abbreviated version. 

Available as a free public service along with supporting materials at

Nathan Ruff continues to refine the mission of the Coalition of UAS Professionals by focusing on safety.

The Coalition of UAS Professionals is dedicated to the safe and professional advancement of the unmanned aircraft systems industry.  Our mission is to improve safety in the national airspace (NAS) through education, shared best practice and data-driven research.  The Coalition strives to provide resources and expertise to facilitate adoption of the foundational culture of safety essential to the successful growth of unmanned aerial robotics.

I love the idea of sharing best practices and data-driven research. And so does the FAA.

Which is why its hats off and thumbs up to the gang at Both for seeing the opportunity and for being willing to share. The result is a smart new program called Kittyhawk Insights. The always quotable Chief Pilot, Joshua Ziering writes that:

There is an old adage amongst pilots: Experience is the best teacher, but learning from other people’s experience is the best way to learn.

Kittyhawk powers a multitude of enterprise drone programs worldwide. We’ve been at this for over 3 years and often get questions from our newer enterprise customers about what “normal” looks like, or if we have any values that they can use to set some commonsense baselines with.

We’ve taken the years of second-by-second anonymized telemetry for DJI and derived insights from them that can help inform your enterprise’s drone policy. Real insights, from real data, flown on real missions. 

Their first post is out, Kittyhawk Insights #1 — Minimum GPS Satellites Viewable During Flight. Take a look and let them know what you think.

Finally, because everything starts with awareness, Personal Drones, AI and Our Privacy from Policy Options Politique in Montreal is worth a read.

Drone technology may ultimately serve as a test case for how we as a society address some of the social tensions that arise when increasingly autonomous technologies make new types of encounters possible.

Later in the article comes this provocative suggestion:

Two ways in which to approach the privacy issues raised by drones are through drone-specific regulations and through technology-neutral changes to privacy law.


Alan, Lana and Zacc at UAV Coach are playing it forward. They recently launched a scholarship for U.S. college students that will provide two students $1,000 to continue their studies.

This complements their existing high school program that provides free access to Drone Pilot Ground School, their remote test prep course for the FAA’s Part 107 test. UAV Coach will even pay the $150 FAA fee for the first 100 students to take their tests. To learn more about UAV Coach’s high school scholarship, visit the High School STEM Scholarship for Aspiring Commercial Drone Pilots webpage.

Alan writes that:

UAV Coach has always been first and foremost about education. This college scholarship, along with the high school scholarship we launched last year, fit perfectly into our mission of providing training and resources to the drone industry. We’re thrilled to be supporting young people in pursuing their educational goals while also helping to push the drone industry forward.

Meanwhile our own Shark Tank team, DARTdrones is celebrating the one year anniversary of CEO Abby Speicher hooking Mark Cuban with the DARTdrones Public Safety Grant.  

The Grant offers over $100,000 in funding towards drone training for police and fire departments hoping to learn to utilize drones… It provides full or partial funding to departments for courses such as Part 107 Test Prep Training, Basic Flight Training, Search and Rescue Training, Accident Investigation and Aerial Disaster Response Training, and a number of consulting and legal documentation writing services.


Not sure whether to invoke Mr.T’s ‘pity the fool’ or just sit back and admire the hubris – Building Urban Air Mobility Could Require Looking Outside Helicopter Industry. Ya think?

These electric VTOLS need to be way, way better than helicopters, across every single evaluation metric,” said Uber’s Director of Aviation Engineering Mark Moore. “Whether that’s safety, efficiency, noise, speed, you name it, we’re talking about being multiple times better than what helicopters can do.”

Now that’s a BHAG – and that guy is the client. Fascinating panel at Heli Expo earlier this week. Worth a read.

I continue to think that these guys will be ferrying passengers before we are dropping off packages.


This weekend, beat it on down to the Tribeca Performing Arts Center for the fourth annual New York City Drone Film Festival. Get the deets here. Even if you can’t go, click the link, the trailer is big fun. I’ll have the winners reel for you as soon as it
is released.

Four days until the 3rd Annual FAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Symposium which opens Tuesday in Baltimore. Late addition DOT Secretary Elaine Chao joins Michael Kratsios, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy U.S. Technology Officer, Executive Office of the President and FAA Acting Administrator Dan Elwell. UASIPP, LAANC plus??? I’ll have it next week.

Unmanned Security & Safety Expo @ ISC West will be in Las Vegas April 11-13.  The focus will be on counter-drone solutions and the various software and applications that support them.


Not quite up to Eye Candy standards but good for a laugh, Dolce & Gabbana used drones to carry handbags down the runway instead of models: Because human models are so last season.

On the other hand, Shanghai Like You’ve Never Seen Before, wow. “The Metropolitan 2 SkyThief Studio Showreel gives viewers an epic glimpse of Shanghai, China’s city of the future.” Note to Pilot in Chief – this trade war will not be easy to win.

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


Christopher Korody
Editor and Publisher
follow me @dronewriter

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.