The Grand Reunion issue of Dronin' On 07.29.17
Western sky snake

Hi all –

The House of Representatives is headed home for it’s well deserved (?) vacation without bringing the 21st CenturyAIRR Act to the floor. One more accomplishment for the 115th United States Congress.

WaPo called it on Thursday with As the House Rushes Toward Summer Recess, the Fate of 30,000 Federal Workers Is Undecided.

…In the maelstrom of last-minute action before the House heads home Friday, the bill has not been scheduled for what was expected to be a contentious debate on the floor. The proposal still faces bipartisan opposition in the Senate.

If the two houses remain at loggerheads, the likely result will be the second extension of FAA funding at current levels in as many years. The Sept. 30 deadline was the result of a 2016 extension after they disagreed over the same issue. 

Seems like a bad week to be a federal employee.

Friday morning Morning Transportation confirmed that House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster acknowledged Thursday what we had long expected: his FAA reauthorization bill, H.R. 2997 (115), won’t get any floor time until September, if ever. Meanwhile, the Senate’s FAA bill is just as much in limbo with its controversial changes to the 1,500-hour co-pilot training rule. An extension is all but assured
now folks.”

Meanwhile inquiring minds at Aviation Week wondered Is The Shuster Plan To Privatize ATC Constitutional? Turns out the topic was explored by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) at the request of ranking Democrat, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR). The answer is probably yes, maybe no, if it passes it’s going to take the courts to figure it out.

Far and away the most authoritative analysis of the idea that I have read is by former FAA Chief Counsel, Sandy Murdock writing for the JDA Journal. Sandy’s comments focus “On the practical problems inherent in this proposed transaction rather than the political science debate.”

He continues “The law of “unintended consequences” mandates that all changes not affect the ATO’s control of the largest, most demanding aviation navigation system. It is also accepted that the FAA’s slow adoption of NextGen has been frustrating and disappointing. It is, however, the largest, most complex civil acquisition in the federal government.”

Some good insights in an article by Dee Ann Divis for Inside Unmanned Systems, Washington View: It’s Complicated. And some controversy. Brian Wynne, president of AUVSI sees that “Any future UAS Traffic Management (UTM) system will need to be interoperable with the ATC system.”

Which is something I have long thought – how many systems do we need, or can we afford?

Michael Drobac of Small UAV Coalition saying not so fast: “I don’t think that it’s a necessary conclusion that an unmanned traffic management system would be within that realm.” He went on:

“We need action. I think continued discussions about areas where there may or may not be authority, where there may or may not be a (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking), there may or may not be concerns—that is not conducive to having an honest and candid dialogue about how, as an industry, we can move forward and be a progressive nation on UAS technology.”

Lost in all of the noise is some good news – working together the House Energy and Commerce Committee has written the bi-partisan SELF DRIVE Act and has voted to send it to the floor for consideration.

Recode writesAs it stands [the bill] would allow companies over time to test as many as 100,000 highly autonomous vehicles in the United States. At the same time, the bill kicks off a process at the agency [DOT] to rethink its federal motor vehicle safety standards across the board to see which safeguards make the most sense in a new, automated age.

Here’s why it matters to the commercial drone business. “The proposal would spare the nascent self-driving car industry from a patchwork of overlapping state rules, given that 20 states already have their own driverless car laws on
local rulebooks.

Just to be clear, this has to go to the House and then the Senate. Even though its unlikely to become law, it’s a step in the right direction. As I have written many times, and will continue to write, the car guys have the money to get this done on the Hill and within the DOT – the commercial drone business needs to draft on their efforts.

Much is being made of CNN’s first Closed-Set Waiver. DroneLife reports that “CNN Aerial Imagery and Reporting (CNN AIR), the media giant’s drone division, is the first organization to get a Part 107 waiver for flight over people for “closed-set motion picture and television filming.”

There must be a missing piece here. Film production companies that have been shooting on closed sets since 2014 under 333’s and have been transitioning to 107 waivers since the FAA began revoking closed-set exemptions in January 2017… specifically to transition people to Part 107.

But, you might remember that CNN got one of the first Part 107 waivers ever granted to operate a very lightweight tethered drone over crowds. Personally, I would be much more interested in knowing what has happened with that effort since it seems a more likely interim solution. At any rate, do not be confused – operating over a closed set where everyone is informed that flight operations are taking place, has nothing to do with flying over the general public. And even less to do with why the NPRM died in January.

Across the pond, Inside Unmanned Systems summarized a presentation by European Commission (EC) representative Koen DeVos at Commercial UAV Expo Brussels in which DeVos said that EU wide regulations are at least two years out.

The EU regulation currently under debate is based on the recommendation of the EC and EASA, developed around an ‘operations-centric’ concept that focuses on how a drone is to be used rather than on its physical characteristics.

“This is a set of rules that are proportionate and risk-based,” DeVos said. “In other words, safety requirements are set in relation to the risk an activity poses to the operator and to third parties, meaning the general public; the greater the risk the more stringent the requirements.”

He also noted the expectation that uniform operating rules would lead to both increased opportunities and competition. “If end users can have access to a Europe-wide supply of drone service providers, the prices for these services will fall.” Careful what you wish for.

As predicted, the UK has just announced a new set of rules. Insurance Journal cut right to the chase UK to Tighten Drone Regulations After Numerous Near-Misses in Past Year.

A few moving parts to look at that could show up in a new recreational rule here.

1) Anything over 250 grams must register. notes that “It’s quite the tumble from the current 20kg threshold.”

2) New competency tests will require owners to prove they understand UK safety, security, and privacy regulations. If you’re gonna register for safety this is a must in my opinion.

3) A look at the recreational drone portion of the CAA website notes that “If your drone is fitted with a camera, there are also a number of additional limitations surrounding where you can fly it.” And it’s quite tough on FPV including a requirement for a “competent observer.”

Now here comes the fun part. DJI got right with the program, 250 grams and all. quotes Brendan Schulman saying that “DJI has invested heavily in adding safety features, and we expect the government to work closely with industry leaders to ensure progress and promote technological innovation. We are encouraged by the fair and thoughtful approach the government has taken to date. The key will be maintaining this balance in the next round of deliberation.”

But the real big deal – and you’ll see how it plays to the theme Drobac, DeVos, Schulman and others all appear to be arriving at – is the release of the Small Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (Drones)Mid-Air Collision Study.

This report was commissioned as part of a consultation, the full outcome of which is another document Unlocking the UK’s High Tech Economy: Consultation on the Safe Use of Drones in the UK Government Response which struck a familiar note in introducing the new regulations “Our programme of measures is built around increasing the accountability of drone users.”

It was certainly no secret that the Mid-Air Collision Study was underway – the testing program was announced in October 2016.

However, that doesn’t mean that everybody was happy with the results. sUAS News ran with the headline DMAE Calls on UK Department for Transport to Release Full Testing Results of Mid-Air Collision Study. In case you are wondering, the DMAE is the Drone Manufacturers Alliance Europe and they were quite
put out.

“DMAE strongly believes drone regulations should be based on scientific studies that quantify risk in order to minimize it. Unfortunately, these tests were conducted in secrecy, and the organizations involved have not published their results in detail or submitted them for peer review,” said Daniel Brinkwerth of DMAE.

“This summary does not provide an adequate basis for designing safer drones or protecting the public. We ask DfT and its testing partners to publish their methodology and results, so drone manufacturers, as well as regulators, can use the full data set to improve public safety.”

Undeterred, Flock is taking flight in the UK. It’s a new drone insurance start-up which seems to be taking a page or two from the Verifly playbook. Only instead of Global they are underwritten by Allianz. They offer real-time underwriting using their ‘Big-Data driven risk intelligence engine’. Must be pretty smart because they are offering cover to £10M. Luck.

While the focus has been on drones deploying IEDs, a new much deadlier wrinkle has been causing concerns among the people who worry about those things. Writing in Scout Warrior, David Hambling discusses a sophisticated strategy called “bringing the detonator” which has already been deployed to great effect in the Ukraine.

Where there is a suitably vulnerable target, even a drone with a small warhead can do tremendous damage. It does not need to carry the explosive, because explosive is already there, it is just a matter of setting it off,” says Robert Bunker, Adjunct Research Professor at the U.S. Army War College

Dr. T.X. Hammes of the Center for Strategic Research also mentions sites storing quantities of liquefied natural gas or petrochemicals, fuel depots and similar locations could be similarly susceptible to such attacks. Storage tanks of other dangerous chemicals might not explode and burn, but if ruptured they could still have catastrophic effects. 

Coincidentally, has images and video of a massive explosion at an ammunition dump. Ukraine’s Chief Military Prosecutor Anatoly Matios claimed that “there were signs that the ammunition depot had been attacked by a drone.” With more than 10,000 tons of ammunition at Balakliya, it didn’t take much to set off a chain reaction of rockets.

Which is a handy segue to a new whitepaper, the Airspace Security Insights Report from Dedrone which looks at threat across a wide range of verticals. It includes a very surprising prediction for the second half of 2017:

“As more incidents occur, and drone detection technology is integrated, there will be an entirely new set of data and information to inform regulators, insurers and the general public of the risks to airspace. As this data unfolds, local governments and private citizens will have to carry the burden of enforcing anti-drone measures…”

Wow. So, like a vigilante thing? Say it ain’t so.

Adding a colorful new piece to the patchwork quilt, The Black Hills Pioneer reports that Deadwood, South Dakota, population 1,270, has just established a protected airspace referred to as the “Deadwood Drone No Fly Zone” in the area designated by the 1961 Historic Landmark district, as well as the Deadwood Event Complex property. Props to drone service provider Trevor Plett who tried to enlighten the commissioners saying that:

“When you throw on more rules, local law enforcement feels it’s their responsibility on behalf of Deadwood to interrupt what we’re doing,” Plett said. “It slows down what we’re trying to do, in my case, trying to operate a small business. The FAA already polices that.”

Mayor Chuck Turbiville referred to a national publication for municipalities to refer to titled, “What Cities Need to Know About Drones,” which states cities have the right to make reasonable restrictions on drone flight. 

The ordinance passed unanimously.

Good thing that the Mayor didn’t read Tim Wright’s event story for Air & Space Magazine, If You Crash a Drone, You Might Land Yourself in Jail which tells the story of Paul Skinner who was convicted in Seattle after crashing into spectators at the Gay Pride Parade. As you might remember, Skinner, a licensed commercial drone pilot, was prosecuted and found guilty by the local DA – not the FAA. This is a well-researched story and quite the cautionary tale.

This week’s Eye Candy Tag Award winner is a walk through the Swiss Alps with Luc Malbois and his drone. Sweet piece.

I still have free passes for InterDrone, yours for the asking. You can get 20% off registration at Drone World Expo using DBCVIP. And Commercial UAV Expo Americas just announced their agenda – the event is in Las Vegas October 24-26. Early reg ends August 11.

Judging by the response to the P-51 Mustangs last week, I know that some of you share my passion for the great old war birds. This week was EAA AirVenture Oshkosh AirShow, the world’s largest fly-in event. A special attraction is WarBird Alley, which this year hosted the first ever reunion of the two remaining flying Boeing B-29 Superfortresses, FiFi in grey and Doc in shiny
polished aluminum.

The love, the pride, the effort of the volunteers that goes into making something like this is what makes America great. Here are a few links I know you will enjoy.

For the takeoffs, flight and landings with the two planes at Oshkosh.

For an air to air view from Doc to FiFi.

Here’s a wide shot of the runway which shows both take offs and gives a great sense of the event.

Some great ground footage of the planes preparing to taxi.

Multiple in plane camera coverage running down the checklist on FiFi and taking her off – watch the teamwork and the methodical controlled approach.

Here’s the heartwarming story of Doc’s restoration.

A nice documentary by CBS with some great historical footage and the first flight.

And your seat inside the cockpit on the first flight.

You can support the effort at

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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