Take a moment-whether in silent reflection or with a brass band playing – to remember the fallen who died protecting our country. We will always remember your sacrifice.

Hi all –

I loved what proud gun owner and Mom Kelly Clarkson had to say when she was asked to lead a moment of silence for the victims of the shooting in Santa Fe, TX on the Billboards Award last weekend:

“It’s not working, obviously, so, why don’t we not do a moment of silence–why don’t we do a ‘moment of action’–why don’t we do ‘moment of change’, why don’t we change what’s happening because it’s horrible.” Amen.

The FAA Reauthorization didn’t make it to the Senate floor this week. Maybe next month-  because you know, it’s an infrastructure thing. Which makes this a good week for looking forward. But first some housekeeping.

GPDR I am sure you are getting plenty of invitations to re-up or unsubscribe.

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The unsubscribe link was already at the bottom of every issue. It keeps me honest – I work hard to keep you coming back.

ERRATUM Last week I ran a story from UASVision headlined NASA and Amazon Turn to France for UTM Tests. It was based on a story in Bloomberg, NASA and Amazon Set Up in France to Stop Drones Hitting Planes. Sexy stuff right…

A sharp-eyed reader asked me to follow up on the implication that NASA was conducting UTM testing in France. I checked with Public Affairs. A number of links to the NASA site promptly arrived along with the comment “The links should quickly dispel any notions that we’ve involved France at any point in our UTM testing.” My very bad for falling for some sloppy writing. I have deleted the story from the website.

We’ll look at the recently published DOT Unified Agenda including long-term rulemaking, a great collection of think pieces, scary AI and image processing and some holiday Eye Candy.


While at first blush this section is about as exciting as watching paint dry, there are two reasons I am devoting most of the issue to it. First, luck smiles on the prepared – here is your regulatory crystal ball.

Second, rulemaking is a dynamic process that offers multiple avenues for participation including commenting, meetings and lobbying your elected representatives. Get involved. It’s your future.

This is the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) definition of The Unified Agenda:

The Unified Agenda provides uniform reporting of data on regulatory and deregulatory activities under development throughout the Federal Government, covering approximately 60 departments, agencies, and commissions.

This is the Department of Transportation (DOT) Agency Rule List for Spring 2018. It includes all of the FAA regulations under development or review. In other words, here’s what’s actually coming up-and conversely-what’s not. I have gone through it, so you don’t have to…

There are more than two dozen fields for each entry. (Here is the complete guide.)

In addition to the title and the abstract I have provided:

The RIN (the link is to the specific page).

The Status of the rule.

The Priority.

The Action.

The bottleneck through which everything else must flow is Remote ID. Take a look and I will explain on the other side…

RIN:2120-AL26 | ANPRM | PriorityOther Significant | 6/2018
Title:Safe and Secure Operations of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems 
Abstract:This action would solicit public comments for several operational limitations, airspace restrictions, hardware requirements, and associated identification or tracking technologies for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). The ANPRM will ask a series of questions regarding the balance of needs between UAS operators and the law enforcement and national defense communities. This action is necessary to address safety and security concerns from the homeland security, federal law enforcement, and national defense communities.

The RIN (Regulatory Identifier Number) is an internal designator used on the database and provides the basis for additional searches since titles may change over time.

Status: ANPRM offers insight into how far along the rule is in the rule
making process.

The Center for Effective Government (CEG) offers this guide to tracking regulations. Specific to ANPRM:

An ANPRM is a published notice in the Federal Register used by the agency to test out a proposal or solicit ideas before it drafts its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. An agency is not required to publish an ANPRM but may choose to
do so.

Priority:Other Significant Various classifications reflect the expected impact of the proposed rule. According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI)
Other Significant

A rulemaking that is not economically significant but is considered significant by the agency.

CEG says:

Regulations are those that are considered to have substantial impact on the
public interest.

ACTION: In this case, the ANPRM is scheduled to be published in June 2018.

Like an NPRM, when an ANPRM is posted on the Federal Register, it is open to public comment. Right now the OIRA process is open for comment. The feedback from the ANPRM will no doubt influence RIN: 2120-AL31the Remote Identification of Unmanned Aircraft Systems rule discussed below. Optimists hope that an NPRM will follow in Spring 2019.

This next rule has been in the works since 2016:

RIN:2120-AK85 | NPRM | Priority – Other Significant | Action 6/2018
Title: Operations of Small Unmanned Aircraft Over People
Abstract: This rulemaking would address the performance-based standards and means-of-compliance for operation of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) over people not directly participating in the operation or not under a covered structure or inside a stationary vehicle that can provide reasonable protection from a falling small unmanned aircraft.

Two things to know. The rule will have to include a Remote ID component to satisfy security concerns. Again, the OIRA process is now open for comment.

Another rule that has been hanging around since 2015 is:

RIN 2120-AK82 | Final Rule Stage | Priority – Other Significant | Action 12/2018
Title: Registration and Marking Requirements for Small Unmanned Aircraft
Abstract: This rulemaking would provide an alternative, streamlined, and simple web-based aircraft registration process for the registration of small unmanned aircraft, including small unmanned aircraft operated as model aircraft, to facilitate compliance with the statutory requirement that all aircraft register prior to operation. It would also provide a simpler method for marking small unmanned aircraft that is more appropriate for these aircraft.

You might remember that back in the day, the FAA was concerned that they were going to run out of N numbers (most def a 3rd world problem.) Notice the reference to model aircraft. I am not sure how this works until 336 is sorted out.

This is obviously a pressing matter since we also have a new rule (new meaning first time published in the Unified Agenda) that seems to address the same thing:

RIN: 2120-AL32 | Proposed Rule Stage | Priority – Other Significant | Action 10/2018
Title: External Marking Requirement for Small Unmanned Aircraft
Abstract: This action would require small unmanned aircraft owners to display the unique identifier assigned by the FAA upon completion of the registration process on an external surface of the aircraft. Small unmanned aircraft owners would no longer be permitted to enclose the unique identifier in a compartment.

I have reached out to the FAA for clarification. Meanwhile, PetaPixel and a host of others have picked this up with clickbait headlines like US May Soon Require Drones to Have Visible License Plates.

Bloomberg spotted the proposed rule that was quietly filed earlier this month… Details (e.g. license plate size requirements and penalties for violations) are currently scarce, and there’s no word on if or when it may be imposed on
drone owners.”

Let’s think about this for a minute. A Mavic Air is 49mm high (1.9″). According to a Letter Height Visibility Chart that I found, letter height needs to be increased 1″ for every 10′ feet of viewing distance. The ideal reading distance for a 2″ letter is 20′. Given that a 2″ letter won’t fit, and that the Mavic will be moving, one really wonders, why bother? A Phantom Pro 4 is 7 ¾”. I can’t find the dimensions for an Inspire 2, but the box is 12″ high.

Currently, the number can be inside the drone. Which leads to the question of which location is more survivable. Just sayin’… (That’s the kind of stuff you can write in the NPRM.)

There is another, lesser-known form of Unified Listing-the Long-Term Actions.

For context, rules typically take two to three years from concept to implementation. A lot depends on what OIRA has to say, and then how much public comment there is.

RIN: 2120-AL01 | Long-Term Actions | Other Significant | Next action undetermined
Title: Unmanned Aircraft Systems Expanded Operations
Abstract: This rulemaking would enable expanded operations of small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) in the national airspace system (NAS). As a result, it would increase the utility of sUAS for operations under 14 CFR part 107, and would advance technology by encouraging innovation in this rapidly developing segment of the aviation industry.

BVLOS sits in here as does delivery. Note that there is no timeline for moving
this forward.

RIN: 2120-AL31 | Long-Term Actions | Other Significant |Action NPRM 5/2019
Title: Remote Identification of Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Abstract: This action would implement system(s) for the remote identification of certain unmanned aircraft systems. The remote identification of unmanned aircraft systems in the national airspace system would further address security and law enforcement concerns regarding the further integration of these aircraft into the national airspace while also enabling greater operational capabilities by these same aircraft.

Clearly, it is going to take some time to turn the recommendations of the Remote ID ARC into technical standards and rules.

RIN: 2120-AL33 | Long-Term Actions | Economically Significant | Action NPRM 3/2020
Title: UAS Flight Restrictions Near Critical Infrastructure Facilities
Abstract: This action would implement section 2209, Applications for designation, of Public Law 114-190, the FAA Extension, Safety and Security Act of 2016. Specifically, this rule would establish the criteria and procedures for the operator or proprietor of eligible fixed site facilities to apply to the FAA for a UAS-specific flight restriction. In addition, this rule would establish the substantive criteria based on the enumerated statutory considerations (i.e. national security and aviation safety) that the FAA will use in determining to grant or deny a petition, as well as the procedures for notifying the petitioner of the determination made and the process for resubmission of any denial. Lastly, this rule would establish the process to be used by the FAA to implement the UAS-specific flight restriction and notify the public.

This is the only UAS rule that carries the ‘Economically Significant’ designation. CEI explains that:

A regulatory action is considered “economically significant”… if it is likely to result in a rule that may have: “an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more or adversely affect in a material way the economy, a sector of the economy, productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, public health or safety, or State, local, or tribal governments or communities.

If you are hanging your hat on CUAS this is an essential step -but read closely because the language is limited to facility designation-not response.


Some really interesting contributions to the discussion this week.

Mark McKinnon writing in Plane-ly Spoken explains the FAA’s current approach in Enforcement vs. Compliance: The Debate Rages On which looks at the policy shift from”vigorous enforcement,”to using a variety of tools to correct the “root cause.” While the change was intended to address manned aviation, it’s easy to see how the approach has impacted UAS enforcement.

If you start with the assumption that people agree that all FAA rules as written further the goals of aviation safety and want to be compliant, then it is safe to assume that encouraging an open dialogue and instructing on how to remedy non-compliance will be effective.  If, on the other hand, you assume that a number of people view the regulations as unnecessary or ineffective and non-compliance is not necessarily unsafe, then a “forgiving” attitude will simply be exploited, and only the hammer of strong enforcement can get the job done.

A provocative story in The Cipher Brief,What Does ‘Right’ Look Like at the U.S. Border? There is a very interesting discussion about the use of technology by “them” and by “us”. Among other things, it puts the recent DHS request for drone interdiction rules in operational context.

…Technology is outpacing our ability to think about and understand what the policy implications are and what the policy should be… We’ve started seeing Ultralights come across the border.  What can we do to stop them?  The best we were able to do was give them an armed escort back south with a UH60 Black Hawk helicopter because after the first time, when they started landing and we were apprehending them, they just changed their tactics… They would just drop their bundles and fly back south.  We didn’t have a policy that laid out whether we could shoot them.  So that was a policy thing and the threat still continues. 

Global Aerospace just released An Analysis of the Drone Industry’s Progress and Focus on Safety. I talked to SVP Chris Proudlove about what prompted the paper. He told me that “After 5 years of insuring drones, Global Aerospace probably has as much accident data as anyone. The paper is designed to offer some insights into what we have witnessed from the almost daily claims we pay.”

It should come as no surprise that:

At least 75% of accidents are directly attributable to pilot error caused by the operator’s poor knowledge of the system or inappropriate flight response.

Hardly surprising given the number of new operators, the “pressure” to complete missions on a timely basis, and the fact that many of the clients and managers who commission these flights have no aviation experience. It is also worth paying attention to the 25% which demonstrate how fragile this technology is.

It will be interesting to see how the UAST findings compare.

The contribution of Global safety partner DARTdrones is evident in an excellent section How To Increase Drone Operator Safety and Prevent sUAS Accidents.

Droneii.com has released a new article, Drones and Data Security: a progressive look into the future which sets up a three-layer model supported by a
nice infographic.

Today Layer 1, the link between device and user is the only focus of discussion. For instance, the rather insecure link between user and device is used by counter-drone devices to stop a drone in-air or even force it to land.

Layers 2 and 3 are just as crucial-in this case, the hijacking of the platform is not in the foreground but the wiretapping of the collected data. 

Unmanned Aerial offered Integration Pilot Program Strengthens U.S. Leadership In Drones by former FAA Chief Counsel Reggie Govan who “played key roles in establishing the regulatory framework for the commercial operation of drones and performance-based rulemaking.”

It’s kind of a rah-rah piece, and it got torched when I put it up on LinkedIn. But IPP is what we’ve got. Remember what I said about the importance of getting involved in developing the regulatory framework? Here it is again:

There are four big challenges to solve in order to responsibly accelerate the evolution of the drone economy: the pace of establishing the federal regulatory framework, continued research and development of the requisite technology, defining a new role for state and local governments, and the development of counter-drone systems to secure our safety from rogue drone operations. The pilot program is an important first step toward meaningful solutions to the first three challenges.

Leave it to sUAS News and Gary Mortimer to send us off on a high note with news of a new GAO report to Congress, FAA Should Improve Its Management of
Safety Risks

Improved risk management practices would help FAA determine whether additional actions are needed to ensure the safety of the national airspace and provide FAA and other decision-makers with confidence that FAA is focusing on the most critical safety risks posed by small UAS.


Hard on the heels of an April story about AI in China picking one guy out of a crowd of 60,000, comes this WaPo headline Amazon Is Selling Facial Recognition to Law Enforcement — for a Fistful of Dollars.

Amazon is providing the technology, known as Rekognition, as well as consulting services [to law enforcement agencies] according to the documents, which the ACLU obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Under the heading ‘not a good look’ UAVExpertNews offers Government Drone Flying Over Sacramento:

News 13 CBS Sacramento reports that a government drone was caught flying over a Sacramento neighborhood… During late-night hours, hovering over residential neighborhoods and looking down on homes. Neighbors say they’re furious… and we’ve found out it’s tied to a government agency not many people have even
heard of.

ZeroHedge has New DARPA Program Plans To Patrol Cities With AI Drones.

The Pentagon is developing a program of high-tech cameras mounted on drones and other robots that monitor cities, which enable identification and discrimination between civilians and terrorists through machine learning computers.”

No worries. New Wearable Tactical Sensor Detects Drones. UST writes that “…the unit is engineered to meet the requirements of elite forces…who demand state-of-the-art Counter UAS technology.” Soon you’ll be able to order your own.


NewAtlas shares the work of 747 pilot Christiaan van Heijst in Gallery: Breathtaking Aerial Photography From a 747 Cockpit. As good an argument for autonomy as I’ve seen.

WeTalkUAV has the film Elevation together with a solid article by Feilidh DwyerYou might remember that I previewed the trailer in March. Well worth
a look.

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


Christopher Korody
Editor and Publisher
follow me @dronewriter

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