The Let's Get Bizzee issue of Dronin' On 01.27.18Hi all –

I am honored to be listed as one of the Top 100 Drone Companies to Watch in 2018 by UAV Coach. Alan and Zacc gave me a wonderful shout-out in their post promoting the list:

At UAV Coach we’ve found the Drone Business Center’s weekly newsletter to be one of the very best sources for in-depth, thoughtful writing on the drone industry at large, and we love their close looks at the ins and outs of drone-related policy making. We read it religiously—hat tip to Christopher Korody for providing such great writing week after week.

Thank you both!

Looks like lots of people made New Year’s resolutions to get busy, so we’re going to cover a lot of ground. FAA, CUAS, UTM, Safety, Delivery, Industry, AI, DJI, The Next Big Things, Coming Attractions and Eye Candy.

Hard to imagine that this is the last issue for January. Time continues to accelerate everywhere but Washington.

THE FAA

To start this section off with a bang, The Hill reported that DOT Secretary Chao appeared on a panel at Davos where she promoted President Trump’s speech by saying …Critics who don’t want to listen to President Trump when he attends the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos this week “can leave.”

Alrighty then, out making friends.

I’ve been predicting it for some time, this week Morning Transportation moved it one step closer to official:

FLOOR TIME FAA-DING? Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) said Tuesday that the crush of legislative priorities expected in the chamber next month may hamper his plan to bring up his FAA reauthorization (S. 1405 (115)) by the end of February, which makes the likelihood of an extension all the greater.

If you are new to this, last fall’s FAA Extension pushed the deadline to March 2018. Senator Thune and Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), who is chairman of the House Transportation Committee will be the key players in getting this through their respective committee’s and to the floor. BTW the President still has yet to nominate a new FAA Administrator. He or she will have to be confirmed by the Senate – and then will have the pleasure of working for Ms. Chao.

Bringing it down to what it means to you and your business, DC attorney Sean Pribyl, at Blank Rome LLP just released The Drone Industry in 2018: A Forecast for Key Regulatory Developments. I heard Sean speak last year when he delivered the keynote at the first Energy Drone Coalition Summit and lit the place up – not easy when the topic is Part 107. His opening paragraph tells the story
(emphasis mine):

The U.S. commercial drone industry has every reason to be optimistic for 2018 – cautiously optimistic, that is – as it remains likely that the year will bring further substantive steps toward developing federal legislation and regulations that can enhance unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operations in the national airspace system (NAS).

However, unless specific new legislation and final rules are actually put in place, the industry could still be disappointed. 

Read on down for the why:

The agency will need to balance freedom of flight in the NAS with the lingering concerns over security and invasion of privacy. This will all be viewed through the lens of safe operations with an economic assessment on the benefits and risks to government and industry alike.

Sean and I disagree about his characterization of “lingering concerns over security.” I believe it is the single most important issue facing the FAA and
the industry.

Privacy is part of a much larger set of social issues and is outside of the jurisdiction of the FAA. It will be legislated at the state and local level; where it will continue to give rise to a patchwork quilt of inconsistent regulations that the industry will spend a lot of money managing in the years ahead.

On the subject of privacy, here’s an entertaining story from Iceland, Father Knocked Down an Unwelcome Drone. He threw a snowball at then whacked it with a piece of cardboard. Click on something else.

CUAS

There is a lot of activity in the counter space. Motherboard provides a look forward from the UK, Energy Neutral Drone Swarms Can Spy on You Without Taking a Break.

enloD is, essentially, a framework for a security-tasked drone network that doesn’t have to rest, operating continuously with drone charging and data transfer tasks integrated nearly seamlessly into its operation. Like the internet-internet, its key feature is resiliency. It autonomously rebalances, and, in a sense, mends itself.

The point of this network is keeping tabs on amateur drones (ADrs), which the study authors imagine as a vector for terrorists and the like to attack civilians.

The Daily Beast joined the hunt with Pentagon Plans Citywide
Drone-Catching Dragnets
.

Aerial Dragnet could involve a network of “surveillance nodes,” each monitoring an area the size of an urban neighborhood, according to DARPA. “Using sensor technologies that can look over and between buildings, the surveillance nodes would maintain UAS tracks even when the craft disappear from sight around corners or behind objects.”

UTM

April Glaser writing for Slate, The Air Traffic Control System of Our Low-Altitude Future, has done her homework and has done a nice job summarizing some of the challenges to UTM implementation.

Receiving real-time communication from the drone about where it’s headed will be essential to clear the way from other drones and also to help navigate the aircraft away from areas it’s supposed to avoid, like over wildfires, large sporting events, or jails, for example.

That kind of information sharing will require a level of interoperable communication that’s not yet standardized across drone-makers, the FAA, or law enforcement—something that would likely be a part of a national air traffic control system that integrated drones. Which means that the communication or data exchange protocols between drones, federal, and local agencies would have to
be standardized…

UK based UnmannedAirspace focuses on analysis of the UTM and C-UAS markets. They have just launched a new, remarkably sane forecast The Global Market for UTM  Services Worth US $517 Million Between 2018-2022.

The clearest and potentially most lucrative market opportunity in the near-term will be the UAS Service Supplier role(s) in the USA [LAANC], charging fees for services to cover costs per flight, per month or annually.

Please don’t look so surprised.

Paul Pocialik at the Fresnel Group has created an interactive graphic  UTM UAS Traffic Management:

This is an educationally-oriented synthesis of the work by NASA and GUTMA, with a liberal sprinkling of my own insight. But unlike much of the UTM related discussion you read today, and which tends to take on a heavy technical or regulatory emphasis, this presents the UTM concept from the perspective of what it can do for the primary stakeholders – the pilot and operator.

SAFETY

I recently met some of the team from AVSS, a Canadian company that just released a white paper detailing some of their findings and recommendations that you can download here.

One of the most interesting aspects of the report was Figure 1: Drone
Crash Factors
:

The AVSS (2017) research suggests that public records highly underestimate the frequency at which failure events occur. The aerial vehicle safety company has uncovered a common theme of drone failure events amongst 500 user posts from multiple countries over the last six months.

The findings of this specific research reveal that a drone-related crash was discussed by 51% of the members who posted about a failure event

…These failure events had 25 other factors discussed, such as an inexperienced pilot (12.1%), not being able to find their crashed drone (6.5%), and loss of
link (6.5%).

DELIVERY

But of everything this week, this one probably surprised me the most – though it shouldn’t have. Aerial reported that Teamsters Union Says ‘No’ to UPS Drones.

…During initial talks about future contracts, the Teamsters union vocalized its strong disapproval of UPS utilizing drones or driverless vehicles for
package deliveries…

Reportedly, the Teamsters union is adamant on hiring an additional 10,000 employees to the workforce, as well as ridding itself of the late-night deliveries we’re all so accustomed to. These bargaining sessions have only just begun, but will certainly have massive repercussions on the way UPS does its business. An estimate of 260,000 UPS employees will be affected.

It’s no secret that UPS began testing drones launched from specially modified Workhorse delivery vans a year ago.  Since there is no chance of it happening at scale in the current regulatory environment, one has to wonder if this isn’t mostly raw meat for the base. Still there is no doubt that it will become real issue as autonomous vehicles take to the highways and byways.

Whatever the case, this story in GeekWire was just the thing to add fuel to the fire.

In a patent application published today, inventors working for the Seattle-based online retailer [Amazon] lay out a detailed plan for an autonomous ground vehicle that can roll out from someone’s home, pick up a package from a delivery truck and bring it to the right place. This is progress from the last mile to the last yard. (sorry about the pun)

In somewhat related news, last year the UPS Foundation formed a highly publicized public-private partnership with Zipline and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance in collaboration with the Rwandan Government to deliver medicines via drone to outlying villages.

Yesterday Harrison Wolf shared the Fourth Industrial Revolution press conference from Davos which included comments from Jean de Dieu Rurangirwa, Minister of Information Technology and Communications of Rwanda who provided an update on the benefits and new regulations supporting delivery. (comments begin at 08:48)

INDUSTRY

DroneDeploy Offers 2018 Commercial Drone Industry Predictions coincides with the release of their new e-book that you can download here.

Putting some wind below the integrated solution wings, PrecisionHawk Secures $75 Million to Foster Global Adoption of Commercial Drone Technology which puts them over the US$100M mark.

A new article in MRO-Network provides “A look into some of the airlines, technology companies and start-ups implementing inspection via drones. Here is a rundown of some of the airlines, technology companies and start-ups implementing and innovating drone inspection technology.”

If you’re not familiar with MRO, it stands for Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul. It is a highly regulated field under continuous pressure to speed turnaround times and reduce costs.

Some of you might remember that Airbus was the first to demonstrate a drone inspection at the 2016 Farnborough Airshow. It was one of the first to demonstrate how a live video stream could be used to link experts from headquarters with a local inspection. (watch the video) This is an idea that is gaining a lot of traction in other verticals.

AI

AI-Powered Drone Mimics Cars and Bikes to Navigate Through City Streets is an article in IEEE Spectrum that catches up with Davide Scaramuzza the head of the University of Zurich’s Robotics and Perception Group. He is one of the most important thinkers in our space. (There is a great two-part interview with him here and here.)

Now Davide and his team have demonstrated a novel approach to gathering enough data to train a neural network by using data collected by bicycles and cars. (excerpted from an interview)

What we want to show with this research is what it is possible to achieve with such a simple shallow network (DroNet only uses eight layers and runs on a small CPU without requiring power consuming GPUs!). Therefore, the results we achieved are of relevance for all resource-constrained platforms and could even be applied to nano drones (palm size, and a few tens of watts of power consumption) to make them navigate through urban environments.

What are you working on next?

Our next steps are going in the direction of making the drone more agile in their maneuvers, going much faster, and remove the 2D motion limitation. Additionally, we would like them to be a bit more intelligent.

What we are aiming for is drones that can fly around and navigate exactly like birds do!

Intel Mixes Drones with AI to Transform Ferraris Racing Experience makes completely different use of AI.

A new system that involves artificial intelligence and a fleet of drones shooting video… Not only could it change the fan experience for auto racing, it’s also providing Ferrari drivers more insight into their performance.

The technology will be on full display at the Ferrari Challenge North America Series, which begins Jan. 25 in Daytona, Fla. From the fan perspective, viewers will now be able to track their favourite drivers from above thanks to Intel’s neon framework.

The article includes a puff video with lots of vroom.

DJI

Anything the Italians can do on a racetrack, the Germans can do better… Which brings us to DJI Announced As The Official Media Partner Of BMW Motorsport. Take a look at the very impressive video shot by DJI Creative Studio Europe during a 24-hour endurance race simulation of the BMW M8 GTE. Really interesting ideas about using drones as precision mobile light sources – we’ve seen this before in music videos.

Also faster…This week, DJI introduced their new Mavic Air, with a 12Mp camera at a category-busting $799. All those companies “chasing” them last week at CES, have once again been left behind. While as a rule I do not do feeds and speeds, I would like to draw your attention to Mavic Air vs Mavic Pro Differences and Which One to Get from WeTalkUAV.com.

Specifically, take a look at the comparison table which compares the two models across 16 attributes. It provides a good idea of how deep the DJI parts bin is, and where the smaller, less expensive Air outperforms the Pro.

The picture quality (IQ) is amazing. Take a look at the footage from Casey Neistat’s first look review which includes side-by-side comparisons with the Spark, the Mavic Pro and the P4 Pro.

This is definitely not a company that has any compunctions about eating their young.

The South China Morning Post recently ran a story suggesting that Shenzhen is not in fact deaf to public opinion and geopolitical sentiments, Drone Maker DJI Monitoring Potential Backlash From Rising US-China Tensions. The article was spurred by Congress putting the kibosh on a proposed deal between AT&T and Huawei which I wrote about in the 2018 CES Show issue:

“That is something we absolutely are keeping an eye on,” Michael Perry, managing director of DJI in North America, said in an interview in Las Vegas. “For us, we can only manage things that we can manage. DJI itself is not going to improve the relationship between China and the US, but what we can do is to continue communicating the reality of the situation in terms of what we do and what
we don’t.” 

THE NEXT BIG THINGS

This report just in from Pakistan Defence.

China’s drone newcomer Tengoen Technology has ambitious plans. The company promises to build the world’s biggest cargo drone…. An eight-engine drone with a wingspan of more than 137 feet to carry a payload of 20 tons up to 4,660 miles. That’s akin to a medium-sized manned cargo plane.

Elsewhere I found 24 Underwater Drones – The Boom in Robotics Beneath
the Waves
.

If you still think that drones are small plastic things, this would be a good year to broaden your perspective because the action is moving on.

COMING ATTRACTIONS

Building a Drone Program for Emergency Response is an upcoming CRASAR seminar led by Dr. Robin Murphy from Texas A&M, David Merrick from Florida State and Justin Adams.

The course distills lessons learned by the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue members’ deployments to more than 15 disasters, starting with Hurricane Katrina (2005) and including Fukushima Daiichi, as well as nearly 400 sorties at Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The course can be taken online, or in conjunction with hands-on classes that are also being offered.

To learn more or register go here.

ICUAS’18, The 2018 International Conference on Unmanned Aircraft Systems will be held June 12-15, 2018 in Dallas.

The theme of ICUAS’18 will be twofold:

  • UAS/RPAS design for assured autonomy
  • Regulations, policy and law to enable UAS/RPAS technologies

The main novelty of ICUAS’18 is a separate track on regulations, policy, legal and ethical issues that are essential to allow for integration of UAS/RPAS in the
national airspace.

EYE CANDY TAG AWARDS

This is a category I created to share great ‘dronography’ – a word I coined to encompass cinema, video and stills shot from drones – when I find it.

Nominees Announced For 2017 AirVūz Drone Video Awards – more great work from around the world. The winners of each category of the 2017 AirVūz Drone Video Awards will be announced on AirVūz Live on Facebook on Feb. 5 at facebook.com/airvuz.

I didn’t know that …Since its launch in 2015, AirVūz has become the world’s leading drone video and photography sharing platform, and the largest global community for drone pilots and aerial media enthusiasts. Drone content creators worldwide can upload and share videos and photos in unlimited quantity and at no cost. How cool is that?

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