“Southwest 1380 has an engine fire. Descending… We have part of the aircraft missing, so we’re going to need to slow down a bit.” 


Hi all –

Tough week in the not so friendly skies. Sunday night 60 Minutes ran their tell-all on Allegiant Airlines, Flying Under the Radar, and then we had the Miracle on the Mainline thanks to quick thinking by Southwest pilot Tammie Jo Shults. New Mexico mourns our loss.

We should all thank our lucky stars that a drone wasn’t involved.

Jim Williams of JHW Unmanned Solutions, the former Manager of the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Office, has contributed a terrific guest post, 336: The Great Model Airplane Conundrum, which I liken to a modern day Game of Thrones.

On the topic of CUAS there may be another storm a’brewin’ around NASCAR. Plus, some Quick Hits and Eye Candy.

THIS IS H.R. 4

I am sorry if this is a little dry but in the soon to be immortal words of Mark Zuckerberg,The details matter a great deal.”

H.R.4 – FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 is just out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I) and its six subcommittees, and is apparently being fast tracked to the Rules Committee – the next in a long series of stops.

There is a summary of the entire bill here. You can download a copy of H.R. 4 here. The UAS section starts on page 150, a perfect use for Adobe Acrobat Reader. There are links to two summaries below.

Among other things, the law would create a new class of micro-UAS under 4.4 pounds. It calls for an ARC to aid in rulemaking. I suppose we will have to call it ‘Brendan’s Rule.’

The amendment period closed Thursday. There are over 200, 14 of which are specific to UAS. Some address the glaring holes including 336, CUAS and 2209. Nothing more about Remote ID which was ordered in the 2016 extension. Most will never see the light of day. I’ve grouped a few for you here with a
little handicapping.

#’s 105, 136 and 160 address modelers and 336.

  • 105 calls for an online test for modelers and micro UAS operators.
  • 136 and 160 both modify 336 and allow the FAA to create rules.
  • 136 is proposed by Pete DeFazio who is the Ranking Member of the T&I.

#’s 114, 126, 141, 178, 189 address CUAS and cybersecurity.

  • 141 gives the FAA one year to do a rulemaking to address 2209, which would enable private infrastructure owners to declare specific assets as no-fly zones.
  • 141 is proposed by Jeff Denham (R-CA) who is on the T&I.
  • 189 “Requires the FAA to review interagency coordination and standards for the authorized federal use of C-UAS systems”
  • 189 is a bi-partisan bill proposed by Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), a senior member of the T&I who is retiring, and Rick Larsen who is the Ranking Member of the Aviation Subcommittee.

#213 is IMO a sign of things to come: “Allowing FTC to enforce privacy policies and creating a searchable public database of commercial drones so individuals can access information on the collection and usage of personal data collected by drone operators.” It was proposed by Peter Welch (D-VT)

Former FAA Chief Counsel Sandy Murdock headlined his article in the JDA Journal, Reauthorization Basics + Defers To Others? Adding the subhead, T&I proposes a Clean FAA Reauthorization Bill Makes Major Basic Decisions, Passes the buck on tough Policy Questions.

Mark McKinnon offers his summary in Plane-ly Spoken, Drones and Other Stuff: The 2018 FAA Reauthorization.

Given that this bill is bipartisan, it appears likely that the House will be able to pass it. The question then becomes what changes, if any, the Senate will require in order to get the votes necessary to pass. 

Sandy’s post adds this:

UNFORTUNATELY A BLACK CLOUD HANGS OVER THE SENATESchumer Wants FAA Bill Delay Until After Elections, Thune Says.

Whenever the bill clears the Senate, the Conference Committee will then have to meet to draft a compromise bill. The House and the Senate must pass identical bills before it can be presented to the President for signature.


Start thinking about losing the rest of the year.


Jonathan Rupprecht offered up an initial analysis in FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 & Drones. There is a lot of detail, here are a couple of the Pros and Cons.

Pros

  • It calls for the DOT Inspector General’s Office to conduct a study on the appropriate roles and responsibilities of state and local in regulating drones below 400ft.

I assume that this study will be conducted as part of the UASIPP initiative set to announce in May – good thing that UASIPP runs three years…

Cons

  • Extremely weak on changing the FAA’s current extremely relaxed enforcement philosophy. …The bill tells the FAA to track some stuff, the DOT IG’s office to track the FAA’s progress and give a report on this. What is that going to do?
  • Does not decriminalize counter UAS technologies/methodologies.

THE STATE OF 336

Jim Poss has written a terrific show guide, XPONENTIAL ’18: What To Do, See And Ask – it couldn’t be much clearer.

If you only watch one issue at XPONENTIAL, watch Remote ID. Remote ID will impact everything in the drone world after the FAA, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Justice (DoJ) agree on Remote ID regulations.  


“Why is it so important? DHS, DoD and DoJ won’t coordinate on any new drone regulations until Remote ID rules are in place.”


I am starting to think of this as the battle for the Iron Throne. Every week there is another dragon shooting fire – this week there’s a whole lot of lobbying going on.

Behind a castle wall built of shipping containers, we have the Academy for Model Aeronautics (AMA) and the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) – who along with Best Buy, Amazon and a handful of e-tailers are the direct beneficiaries of several million recreational drone sales. Their interests are served by Section 336 which they have conveniently bent to their purposes and turned into a faux
2A issue.

336 effectively blocks Remote ID.

Advancing steadily from all sides is the Small UAV Coalition and the Commercial Drone Alliance. The Alliance has sent an Industry Letter to Congress on 336 Repeal that has been signed by a who’s who of the manned aviation world – the same people whose common commitment to safety brought Southwest 1380 down safely.

To date AUVSI has not taken a position. In my eyes their claim of leading the commercial UAS business is weakened by their silence.

As noted previously, Jim Williams has written a great guest post which puts things in a historical perspective that some would prefer we forget:

[At the time in 2012] Most members of the AMA were concerned about Federal regulation of their hobby. They believed that their existing record of safety and the fact that they had been around longer than the FAA justified their special treatment. Remember, the Wright Brothers started out with model aircraft! The Congressional committee staffers told me that they were concerned that the FAA would stop kids and grandparents from flying model aircraft safely in parks and at flying sites.

That is the challenge of living in a glass house. Over the past few weeks a number of readers have asked variations on the following: 

  • Can the AMA document their safety record?
  • There are all sorts of videos of large RC aircraft going down, hard. Sometimes into people and cars. Lots of other incidents where people are lacerated.
  • Does the AMA have a reporting requirement for injuries that do not result in claims at their airfields?

Jim, who was in the room at the time, makes the larger point:


Congress and the AMA did not count on the quadcopter revolution that was about to take place.


Remember that the FAA reauthorization was very long in the making (22 short-term extensions) and the quadcopter market was small even in 2012, so the complications created by the new law could not be foreseen. Model aircraft of any size require training to fly or your first flight is your last. Quads are good to go out of the box and the high-end ones fly themselves. That is the capability no one realized when section 336 was drafted.

One of the AMA’s more effective tactics is the write-in which they used to good effect on the last NPRM, apparently resulting in about 50% of the letters that the FAA received.

Cliff Whitney, the founder and owner of Atlanta Hobby and their house organ UAVNews.com, published a letter he wrote to his elected representatives, Regulating An Industry Out of Existence. He brought up the violins, and didn’t pull a lot of punches:

The FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot certificate is the proper regulation for the commercial UAV environment. However, the hobby and model aircraft area of our industry is different. Regulation will put an end to the hobby industry, along with the benefits it would bring to our future generations. Even the current registration requirement, which I believe fails to serve a purpose, has negatively impacted our industry. I have seen the hobby stores of America shrink from over 20,000 to less than 2000 in just a few short years. Many hobby companies filed for bankruptcy in 2017 and 2018, costing thousands of jobs and millions in lost income and
tax revenue.

Do you wish to tell families that their children and small model airplanes need federal regulation?

As Jim has pointed out, the AMA was effective lobbying for their carve out, and then by virtue of being in the right place at the right time, enjoyed a huge uptick in membership. My position is that drones have nothing to do with model airplanes – even though Atlanta and others sell both. There is no doubt that drones will become integral to STEM – but there is no need for 336 to support that.

I want to take a minute to address the economic claims. First, the old school model airplane hobby has been dying for a long time. There’s a steep learning curve, and for the most part it’s an old guys game. The ten-year slide in the AMA’s membership demonstrates that. The small hobby shops have been running out of runway for a long time.

Next, let me refer you to an article I wrote in October, 2015, 10 Things I Think About The Registration Initiative. When the FAA convened the ARC to advise them on registration, none of the retail representatives wanted anything to do with registration at the point of sale which would have put the FAA miles ahead of where we are today.

They also bellyached like crazy about how a $5 fee would ruin the industry. And as you can see, Cliff is still doing it, despite the fact that the FAA has registered over 1,000,000,000 people.

Attention AMA, H.R. 4, Section 339 tells the Comptroller General to initiate a study to determine an appropriate fee mechanism to recover the costs of regulation and of providing navigation…


In my career, I have been part of many new trends – starting with water beds. That would still be a great business to be in, right?


The pattern is always the same – something hot shows up and people pile in, certain that despite their lack of cash and experience, they will get rich.

DJI’s continuous downward pricing pressure wiped out the competition. The collateral damage was a huge strain on retail inventories. Adding insult to injury, after offering lots of free pre-sale advice, people went online to buy from Amazon, Atlanta Hobby, Hobby King or down to Best Buy to save their pfennigs.

Let’s also remember that most consumers were early adopters – not hobbyists or aviation enthusiasts. They bought a flying camera or the gift of the year, crashed and walked away. That’s very different from someone who is finishing one model while he (rarely she) is planning the next.

There is plenty of blame to go around, but I don’t buy the argument that rules and fees are killing the recreational industry.

Take a look across the pond where modelers are taking a much more progressive tack. The Drive reports that Proposed French Drone Regulation Would Require
Remote Identification
.

The French Federation of Model Airplanes (Fédération Française d’Aéromodélisme) has updated a 2015 proposal for hobby drones regulations. 

In this new draft, the federation is urging lawmakers to force drone manufacturers to implement various components allowing authorities easier access to information on the device, like the unique identification number, position, and more. 

Mais oui, bien sûr.

Please. If you want to see the commercial industry grow, take a page from the AMA playbook and make yourself heard. I just updated, Make Yourself Heard! A sample letter to your Congressional representatives. Tweak it to fit and send it to your Senators and Representative.

CUAS SNAKE OIL

DroneShield Is Keeping Hostile UAVs Away From NASCAR Events has just unleashed another windstorm. Just for grins, Jeff P says “Google ‘NASCAR drone gun”…


dfw.cbslocal.com/2018/04/…/tms-can-now-take-down-unauthorized-drones-at-raceti…

Apr 12, 2018 – Fans at the Texas Motor Speedway are now protected from drones thanks to NASCAR hiring security solutions company, DroneShield to remotely disable them. 

Nice PR… If you are scratching your head, you’re absolutely right – it’s not legal.

Unless it  was done under the auspices of the SAFETY Act with a National Special Security Event designation from the DHS. One unconfirmed report suggests that a Federal officer was onsite overseeing the deployment.

Otherwise, it’s a no go.

If you missed it, listen to the LeClair Ryan webinar and if you haven’t yet, read Travis Moran’s excellent The Counter Drone Conundrum.

I have also gotten an unconfirmed report from a usually reliable source that NASCAR and the Texas Speedway met with the vendor, but that they did not deploy the gun because someone knew it would be a Title 18 violation. According to that same source, cease and desist letters have been sent to DroneShield.


Lest anyone get the idea that this can possibly be OK under any other circumstances, it is not.


IoT News breaks it down in NASCAR: From Bootlegging to Drone Jamming. Attorneys Josh Turner and Sara Baxenberg offer a review of the law followed by this:

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has warned that “it is illegal to use a cell phone jammer or any other type of device that blocks, jams or interferes with authorized communications. This prohibition extends to every entity that does not hold a federal authorization, including state and local law enforcement agencies.” 

It is thus not clear how these Texas public safety departments engaged in what DroneShield calls “the first known live operational use” of the DroneGun by US law enforcement.  One answer may be involvement by a federal agency… But DroneShield has not identified any federal users that are involved in the NASCAR program, and it is not clear whether any agency has been authorized to use the DroneGun in this context.

You can also be forgiven for wondering how many DroneGun’s it would actually take to protect an area as large as a NASCAR track… and how far out they set the perimeter. Some have wondered if this is a misguided publicity stunt. If so, it was a great way to blow a deal.

Why do it? Well besides ignorance, CUAS has way too many vendors chasing almost no business.

In some respects the NASCAR story is not dissimilar to a story that Sally French reported this week in MarketWatch, Apple Cracks Down on Drone Pilot Who Shoots Epic Apple Campus Videos which quotes pilot Duncan Sinfield as saying that “My instincts tell me that Apple is tracking all drones in the vicinity of the campus with sophisticated radio frequency technology from companies such
as Dedrone
.”

Playing the hand they were dealt to perfection “A spokeswoman for Dedrone told MarketWatch that she could not confirm or deny whether Apple was a customer, due to confidentiality.”  

As Sally points out, the big difference is that tracking a drone is legal.

Though no crime was apparently committed, the FCC might consider issuing a statement to avoid a credibility gap of epic proportions. Infrastructure owners, event producers and many others are chafing at the bit. Snake oil sales folk are already out peddling their wares. Just read the sensational Everybody Wants the Ability to Take Down Drones.

The age of drones flying free in uncontested skies, at home or abroad, is over.

QUICK HITS

Great interview by Miriam McNabb, Drone Industry Leaders: AirMap’s New CEO is an Optimist.

“The big thing that I didn’t understand from the outside was that we currently have built an interesting but early-stage market in the gray zone – the rules aren’t that defined, and people fly without proper authorizations,” says David Hose.

“The big companies can’t play in the gray world.  The companies that really drive economies can’t play.” I address this in my article, Why Standards Will Be Critical to UAV Adoption.

A new report is out from Droneii.com, The Drone Investment Trends 2018 – The Commercial Drone Market in Numbers. The free preview will be of interest to anyone looking to raise funds.

More trouble for the DAC which is mentioned frequently in H.R. 4 – EPIC Sues to Enforce Transparency Obligations of FAA’s Drone Advisory Committee.

File this one under you can run, but you can’t hide, A Suspect Tried to Blend in With 60,000 Concertgoers: China’s Facial-Recognition Cameras Caught Him.

Hats off, Altavian Gets $250M US Army TUAS Contract.Supporting the largest small UAS program in the world.”

Does Xcel Energy’s Waiver for Beyond Visual Line of Sight Drone Operations Break New Ground?Sara Baxenberg says maybe not so much.

Kittyhawk Insights: LAANC In-Depth demonstrates that the real value may be the additional airspace open to UAS operations.

Colin Snow has a new series for InterDrone, starting with The Quick Start Guide to Drones in Construction.

And CRASAR  has announced the first ever Disaster Robotics Awards to raise awareness and encourage preparedness.

EYE CANDY

Alan Perlman called out the 2018 New York City Drone Film Festival Landscape Category Winner, Ottsjö by Air and Timelapse last week. Stunning.

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

best,
ck

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