Hi all –

Another week and things have gone from bad to worse for Boeing and the FAA. A milestone report from Mark Bathrick at DOI. Bits & Pieces. And thoughts on fishing licenses, and why I am going to do some fishin’ instead of writing for awhile.

THE FAA

Ethiopia’s Minister of Transport Dagmawit Moges announces preliminary findings – photo FBC

The Seattle Times continues their coverage with Doomed 737 MAX’s Pilots Apparently Followed Boeing’s Emergency Directions.

If the preliminary investigation confirms that the Ethiopian pilots did cut off the automatic flight-control system, this is a nightmarish outcome for Boeing and
the FAA.

In a Thursday morning press conference, Ethiopian Minister of Transport Dagmawit Moges said the crew of flight 302 “performed all the procedures, repeatedly, provided by the manufacturer but was not able to control the aircraft.” You can argue that is not the same thing as the NTSB saying so, but you can’t say that it’s an auspicious beginning.

Now the nightmare begins. The FAA and Boeing are getting ready for what one assumes is the organizational equivalent of a colonoscopy. Thursday Morning Transportation reported:

JOINT REVIEW OF 737 MAX:  Christopher Hart, a former NTSB chairman, will lead the so-called Joint Authorities Technical Review, which will “determine [the system’s] compliance with all applicable regulations and to identify future enhancements that might be needed.”

And for the coup de grâce, later Thursday WaPo headlined Additional Software Problem Detected in Boeing 737 MAX Flight Control System, Officials Say.

Clearly, beyond fixing the problems, changes will have to be made; not just to satisfy the pols, but the shareholders, regulators around the world, the airlines and the pilots who fly for them and most likely those who provide cover. And then, there is the entirely unpredictable matter of passenger preference and
public opinion.

It’s very hard to imagine that this won’t delay all things UAS again (or some more.) This following the shutdown (remember that?) Sooner or later (maybe) there will be a new FAA administrator and that too will delay things. But no worries, Wednesday Morning Transportation reported that the nomination has been backburnered:

DICKSON IN HOLDING PATTERN: Steve Dickson, the White House pick to head FAA, has yet to be formally nominated by President Donald Trump and his nomination isn’t front of mind for many lawmakers as they sift through information about the crashes, 

Thursday Morning Transportation added Federal law states that the administrator and deputy administrator cannot both be former military officers, which Dickson and Elwell are. So the Senate could not uniformly confirm Dickson, giving the House a rare opportunity to have a say in the process, according to House Transportation Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR).

It’s even money that Mr. Elwell will be thrown under the bus somewhere along the way, solving that particular problem for Twitch McConnell and the turtle pond formerly known as the United States Senate. Dan deserves better. And with all due respect to Mr. Dickson, we deserve a lot better too in the form of a cocky young Turk or Turkess with a passion to shape the future as well as safeguard the past.

And from MT on Friday, ain’t this true and truly sad:

Another response of note: Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) called out implicit biases that may be at play given the crash occurred on an African airline. “Boeing is powerful and prominent, and people have a tendency to believe them,” he said. “But as the evidence comes out, it’s clear they are not blameless. And I’m not so sure people would have walked into this with the same set of assumptions if it were an American- or a European-based carrier.” Mahalo.

DOI 2018

2018 DOI UAS Use Report – click to view

Department of Interior Director of Aviation Mark Bathrick has a great saying.


“If it can’t be written down and understood by those that need to know, then it never happened.”


Boy did it ever happen. To see what operating at scale looks like, check out the 2018 DOI UAS Use Report.

In 2018, the DOI UAS program continued its tradition of innovation, collaboration, and leadership in the drone space. Adoption and integration of UAS in missions by DOI’s nine bureaus continued to grow with 10,342 UAS flights conducted across 42 States and U.S. Territories in 2018; a 108% increase in DOI UAS flights over 2017’s record setting year.

That in and of itself is pretty astonishing. Here’s some more.

  • 531 UAS, >359 FAA certified & DOI trained operators.
  • ~19,000 flights, >30 mission applications.
  • Zero complaints from public.
  • Zero accidents.
  • Zero additional OAS funding / personnel required.
  • $14.8M in estimated operations savings.

If you want to learn more about what it takes to build a program like this, feel free to download Master UAS Requirements for the DOI. Here’s another recent document that should interest everyone, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Best Practices for Responsible Operations.

BITS & PIECES

The US Pacific fleet conducts a dual carrier exercise in 2018 – courtesy US Navy

This first one in Defense One makes me wonder, The Navy Is Assembling a Hacker Team to Fight Off Small Drones. Stay with me here… The Navy operates at sea. Small drones are notoriously short range and slow – something has to carry them out to sea. So why worry about the drones, when you can just blow up the launch platform. Which the Navy is already very good at doing. Course if it’s stealth or something scary like the Kalashnikov Kamikaze, it’s always good to be prepared.

I like this one in PetaPixel, Russia Created a Shotgun-Toting Drone for Shooting Down Other Drones. Russia has created a new drone with a built-in shotgun that’s specifically designed to shoot other drones out of the sky. Boom you’re dead. Shades of Austin Haughwout.

screen grab from news coverage of the funeral – courtesy ABC 7 – click to view

In Brooklyn, ABC 7 reported Thousands Crowd Brooklyn Streets for Grand Rabbi’s Funeral, 2 Officers Hurt. One got hit by a car. The other one? Well someone flew a drone over the crowd, lost control and as luck would have it, hit a cop. The pilot is being charged with reckless endangerment. One more time Ops Over People peeps. This is NRPT – not ready for prime time.

screen grab Twitter – click to view

Making the rounds in the Twittersphere, where it drew comments like “This right here is borderline dystopian,” is This Amazon Mothership is Terrifying as Hell, Even If It’s Completely Fake. The article in GIZMODO has the complete animation and explains that:

Why would a computer-generated blimp be scary? Because it’s loosely based on a very real patent that Amazon was awarded in 2016.

On the subject of delivery, this article from long time tech industry observer Robert Cringely Previous Prediction #5 – Drones become Pizza to the Neighborhood offers a more limited vision built on the premise that simple is more likely
to succeed.

UAM concept – courtesy Airbus

Also looking down the road in Aviation Week, Opinion: It Is Time To Get Real On UAM by a couple of partners at KPMG. A new to me, interesting way of looking at the problem:

Analyzing smartphone movement to and from business and high-income residential centers identifies hundreds of potential… opportunities worldwide. The required regulatory structures will be figured out over time.

Uh-huh and meanwhile? Sounds like where we are now. Bozos.

GONE FISHIN’

evening on a river – image courtesy Picabo Angler – click to visit their site

According to urban legend, one fine morning on an ivy shrouded campus, a prof strode into the room, surveyed the waiting class, said “Gentlemen, it’s Spring,” turned on his heel and walked out.

I am not exactly walking out, but this is to tell you that I am taking a break from the weekly schedule. Meaning I will not be publishing Dronin’ On every week, at least not for awhile, thus freeing up a big chunk of your Saturday morning and my week.

Let me begin by expressing my deep appreciation for your continued interest and support. Slowly, one by one, over four and a half years this newsletter has grown to a worldwide circulation of 1,200 readers. I am grateful for the opportunity to share a cup of coffee, a cuppa, a pint or a glass of something else with each of you
on Saturday.

This being a weekly newsletter, many of you will be curious as to why I am changing the format. Let me ‘splain.

I turned 70 yesterday, a splendid age that has inspired a certain amount of contemplation and has led me to think more carefully about what’s important.

First. I do this alone and I do it for free. It is a choice that has allowed me to write about what interests me. The ‘unsubscribe’ button is a useful metric that keeps me honest. One day I did the math and discovered that 48 issues a year is the equivalent of between two and three books. Hardbacks at that. And too, it’s a five figure proposition. All of this has meant that a lot of other things haven’t happened. It was a choice, no regrets but now I am making another choice.

Fall aspen in the Valle Vidal – photo Christopher Korody

My big A-HA is that life is too short to live in the Land of Enchantment and spend my days staring at a screen.


Especially when you consider this. The first post I published on DroneBusiness.center, dated August, 2014, was Red Tape Is Keeping the US UAV Business From the Finish Line.

I could write that headline today… or this time next year, and probably in 2021, 2 and 3. It was an article in the Washington Monthly talking about Airware. If you’re new to the game, they burned through US$125M of venture money and went out
of business.

Which makes it the perfect set up for my headline:


There is plenty of news, but there’s not much happening.


I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit that I am deeply concerned about the state of our country, our planet and the sUAS industry

While no one who reads me regularly should be in the least bit confused about my politics, I do my best to respect the principle of one person, one vote. But I am not alone in saying that some percentage of the challenges that we face today are the direct result of the failure of the current administration to attend to mundane tasks like staffing the government with dynamic, capable people and it’s utter inability to develop forward-looking policies. (Sorry but UAS IPP does not count and neither does coal.)

JFK announces the moonshot in 1962 – image courtesy NASA TV – click to view

Oh yes, there is the new version of landing a man on the moon post haste. Good on ya mate, we chose to and did go to the moon 50 years ago come July. Of course back then no one had supercomputers, just the remarkable Katherine Johnson. If you want to know what I mean when I talk about vision, what it is to inspire, what a great and elegant speech sounds like, watch JFK’s “We Choose To Go To The Moon”. (At dinner last night my friend Susan pointed out to me that this speech was given before many of you were born. Check it out.)


“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone…


It is so utterly different from:

Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly. Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT. I see it all the time in many products. Always seeking to go one unnecessary step further, when often old and simpler is
far better.

Obviously, old and simple are not.

We – the United States, the planet, the industry – are poised on a knife edge. On one side is unimaginable peril, on the other immense possibility. But we cannot go forward trying to hold on to the past. In the words of the Bard, “…What’s past is prologue; what to come, In yours and my discharge.” It’s from The Tempest – how appropriate for all the global warming decriers.

I know that most of you didn’t subscribe to hear me opine about the government, but to hear what I have to say about the industry – to see how I connect the dots. So let’s do a bit of that.

First, on a micro level, the only remaining question about how MAX will impact Boeing and the FAA is a question of degree. Each of you in your own way has learned the life lesson about stuff sliding downhill, which is where we are located.

On a macro level, this apparent ‘failure’ of automation, of a plane crashing itself, will feed into the larger reaction against technology that is already underway. Beyond AI and robots stealing our jobs, both sides of the aisle have their sights trained on Facebook, Twitter and other tech companies which neatly brings us to the next challenge facing the industry, privacy.

We now live in a world where it seems like absolutely any and everything can be hacked. As often as not, by a 14-year-old. It’s hard to say if the revelations will ever stop, or if this is the new normal, but there is no question that the sUAS industry is already seen as part of the problem.

One sign of this is the ULC Drone Tort Law with its trespass and privacy components. We’ll see where it nets out, but chances are good that it will be making the rounds of the statehouses this summer. If it is implemented in a way that precludes local jurisdictions making their own rules and actually achieves the goal of “uniform” law, it may turn out to be the lesser of a million evils.

Then there is the report, ordered under SEC. 358. UAS Privacy Review which is due in May.

Another place where privacy will come to the fore is going to be Remote ID and the critical underpinning which no one wants to talk about, registration. Travis Moran is writing a guest post about the need for biographical information to support local LE, as well as anyone charged with interdiction. Here’s something to think about.

If you want to register a drone, you need to be 13 and provide:

  • Email address
  • Credit or debit card
  • Physical address and mailing address (if different from physical address)
  • Make and model of your unmanned aircraft
Native Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout – courtesy fws.gov

If you want to go fishing for trout in New Mexico in 2019, you need to be 12
and provide:

  • Name
  • Residence
  • Phone Number
  • DOB
  • Social Security Number
  • Gender
  • Weight
  • Height
  • Hair color
  • Eye color
  • Drivers license #
  • Active duty/Veteran status
  • Type of licenses required
  • Plus your credit card if you want to pay online
  • You are restricted to the kinds of equipment you can use and how many fish you can take – often none.
  • There are game wardens to enforce these laws. If you are caught without a license, you lose your gear, your catch and pay a fine.

Is it just me, or is there something profoundly wrong with this comparison? And
why $5?

In New Mexico, as a Senior I pay $26.00 for my license which includes $14 in contributions to various funds plus $1 for the convenience of paying online. Surely running a fish hatchery is less expensive than defending 500 airports, providing a national navigation system, developing the necessary standards and certifications and on and on… And too, a lot more people buy fishing licenses. Both DAC TG3 and Congress have figured this one out.

But here is the bigger question about Remote ID – is it tied to the UAS registration or to the operator who at least, if he or she has a Part 107, has been vetted by TSA? And who and what is going to tie it all together? And to go back to the fishing license, how about point of sale so we will actually know how many drones there are. What a concept.

Once upon a time, I would have said that there will be some robust debate, but engagement to date on the NPRM and ANPRM has been nothing short of pathetic. As of April 3, 81 comments have been posted about the NPRM – this for the much wished for ‘silver bullet that will save my business plan,’ Ops Over People and Night Ops.


81? Seriously? C’mon man.


The ANPRM, which was specifically designed to help the FAA to define the future of Safe and Secure Operations of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems, suddenly has 1,214 comments (up from 58 last week) – the result of an AMA write-in campaign, the gist of which is summarized in a Comment from John Lane (one I randomly selected, peruse them all here):

My position is simple: model aviation has introduced no new risk into the airspace, and therefore should not be subject to new regulations.

Not exactly an elegant syllogism. Unfortunately for John, there is little chance that the FAA has the time or interest to turn one unsolved problem into two.

Which brings me to my last comment. What is needed more than anything is inclusive industry leadership. There must be more than a shared vision of streets lined with gold if this industry is to flourish. Maybe it’s there and I just can’t see it. Maybe it will just take more time to evolve. I do know that I am tired of being the bearer of bad news and see little chance that it will change any time soon… That’s a big part of my decision.

Since as the networks say, Dronin’ On is going on hiatus, I thought that this would be a fine time for some shout outs and big thank yous to the many people who have been part of the journey…

Slash Gear promo for Black Hat 2012 – click to view

h/t’s (hat tips) to my ‘teachers’ (in alpha) Mark Bathrick at DOI, Mark Dombroff at LeClair Ryan, Lisa Ellman at Hogan Lovells, Marke “Hoot” Gibson at NUAIR, David Kovar at URSA, Frank Mellott USN Ret and author of the most popular post I’ve ever published, Travis Moran at Welund, Jim Poss at ISR Ideas, Chris Proudlove at Global Aerospace who I want to recognize as my first teacher, and Colin Snow at Skylogic Research.

My fellow journos Jeremiah Karpowicz at Commercial UAV News, Miriam McNabb at DroneLife, Mike Pehel at InterDrone and Alan Perlman at UAVCoach are using their platforms to create awareness of the ANPRM and NPRM through podcasts and interviews. Among many, many other things.

Patrick Egan at sUAS News knows where all the skeletons are buried and calls it like he sees it. Bill Carey at Aviation Week wrote a hell of a book about how we got here. Other writers who have influenced me that I have shared with you include David Hambling, Walter Isaacson, Geoffrey Moore, David Sanger and Paul Scharre.

Vic Moss, Ryan Latourette and Kenji Sugahara are three talented drone pilots/entrepreneurs working to create a voice for the independent Part 107 community. Bruce Parks and Brett Hoffstadt at the Drone Pilots Federation, and Nathan Ruff at the Coalition of UAS Professionals are also working hard to make
a difference.

Dyan Gibbens at Turnbull and Sharon Rossmark at Women And Drones are making the industry more inclusive and preparing the next generation through their work
in STEM.

Mark Bathrick at DOI and Todd Schlekeway at NATE are leaders moving their organizations` forward.

Approaching the bench, Mark Dombroff and Mark McKinnon at LeClair Ryan, Jonathan Rupprecht at Rupprecht Law, Sara Baxenberg and Josh Turner at Wiley Reins all do great jobs of keeping us informed. Lydia Hilton keeps a sharp eye on ULC. Mickey H. Osterreicher at the National Press Photographers Association is a thoughtful guardian of the freedom of the press. Jennifer Richter at Akin Gump is one of the few who understands one of the industry’s greatest challenges, spectrum. I wish Peter Sachs wrote more, his argument against the TFR over Standing Rock still resonates. Brendan Schulman at DJI has been a wonderful advocate for the industry starting with his defense of Raphael Pirker. And Dawn Zoldi is passionate advocate at the USAF Academy.

sUAS is nothing without propeller heads. Few people interact with me and comment more frequently than Amit Ganjoo at ANRA, Justin Adams at Constellation, Paul Marder at The Media Master, PK and Chuck Johnson at NASA, David Kovar at URSA, Andy Thurling at NUAIR and Josh Ziering at Kittyhawk.

Mike Blades at Frost & Sullivan, Colin Snow at Skylogic Research and Kay Wackwitz at Droneii are doing their best to keep it real. No easy job LOL

Harrison Wolf is inventing the future at the World Economic Forum Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

It’s an amazing list of enormously talented people. Kind of a hive mind. Each of them has helped to shape the newsletter that you read every week. Thank you. (Apologies to those I didn’t remember until just after I pushed Send, please don’t be offended.)

Finally, I’d like to thank my crew. Mom who left when she was ready, David ‘Ping’ Carlick and Susan Embry who have provided much needed encouragement and support along the way, web dev Bert Mahoney at Art&Logic who keeps the trains running on time, SEO whiz Michael Cottam at Oz, Susan Preston at Clearly Presentable for the name and Deborah Ross at Ross Film Design for the logo.

And after that? Crickets. Whatever happened to the DAC? Brian had an affair, a Task Group disagreed, RTCA got fired and the world stopped? Makes no sense. Did you know that the FAA has a $700K annual budget for the DAC?

Maybe the sugar plum fairy will fix it just the way we want it. But the odds are that unless you yourself get involved, we are going to end up with a Humpty Dumpty super glue kluge. Tough to get off your fingers.

Dronin’ On will be back as the muse moves me, or the occasion merits. (My sincere apologies to recent subscribers.) You can continue to follow me @dronewriter on Twitter and on LinkedIn. DroneBusiness.center, the home of Dronin’ On, has just shy of 1,000 articles covering the last four and a half years for your reference.

I am working on a bunch of projects including a survey with UAVCoach, Policy Day at InterDrone, judging the Women And Drones nominees, promoting the ICUAS CLE Legal Track and a number of guest posts. If you have an interesting project, especially if it has to do with the environment or the election, let’s discuss. If you just want to say hey, awesome.

And that dear and much appreciated reader, is the view from here. Outside, a storm is bearing down on the Sangre de Cristos, frosting the peaks with a little more precious moisture to get us through the summer. The first buds are opening. I am hungry for spring and new experiences.

As always, thank you for reading and sharing. See you on the river, or Yavin 4.

best,
ck

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

Dragon fire – view from the portal – photo Christopher Korody

It is so easy to take for granted that tomorrow will come, that another opportunity will be given to bear witness to a sunset, take a walk in the forest, listen in awe to the birds, or share a moment of connection with the one in front of us. But another part knows how fragile it truly is here, how tenuous, and the reality that this opening into life will not be here for much longer.
(From a Healing Space)