Our Common Cause - Part 2 issue of Dronin' On 02.17.18
screen grab from Live View of Star Man, image courtesy of Space X

Hi all –

Gǒu nián jí xiáng – Good luck for the Year of the Dog. The Earth Dog will encourage kindness and tolerance in 2018.

Thanks to all of you who took the time to write and give two thumbs up to last week’s issue of Dronin’ On, Our Common Cause. And to all of you who have continued to provide help and support this week. I am excited because we are not alone – more and more people are waking up to the connection between Remote ID and 336.

THESE THINGS COME IN THREES

We have always known that sooner or later something (bad) would happen to bring the hammer down. No telling if the incident over LAS last week was it.

There is an excellent article by Sara M. Baxenberg at Wiley Rein LLP writing in IoT that explores the issue from both the 107 and 101 perspectives, Drone Operator Near McCarran Airport Avoids Colliding with Plane, But Is Less Likely to
Avoid Enforcement
.

I wondered to a friend about being above 400’ AGL and here is the shocker of the week. If he was flying under Part 107 there was a violation.

But if he was flying under 101/336 CBO rules the Academy of Model Aeronautics National Model Aircraft Safety Code, effective January 1, 2018 does not specify a maximum AGL.

Adding insult to injury, on Thursday a Charleston paper, The Post and Courier ran with Report: Helicopter Crash on Daniel Island May Have Been Caused by Drone.

According to the article, it was a training flight over a deserted part of the peninsula in what appears to be Class G airspace. The instructor took the stick when “…a white ‘DJI Phantom quad-copter drone’ was headed into their airspace” and while taking evasive action hit a tree so it was clearly below 400’ AGL. The chopper landed, then fell over and both men apparently walked away. The FAA is investigating. Engadget also has the story.

The consensus of the folks I spoke with who had all done some investigation is that it is very likely that ‘a drone’ is being used as a scapegoat. I mean think about it – you see a drone – not a drone attacked me – and you take such violent evasive actions that you hit a tree? Really? Book the panic room.

Completing our hat trick, Questions Remain After Drone Collides With Helicopter on Kauai. It’s short on details “As a Blue Hawaiian Helicopter flew along the Na Pali coast Friday afternoon, a white drone hit the helicopter mid-flight. But there is some good work on the challenge of enforcement.

While all of the drone advocacy groups loudly decried the Las Vegas incident, and as far as I can tell have come out in support of the already mandated Remote Identification (so why not right), the Commercial Drone Alliance is the only industry group that I am aware of that has linked Remote Identification with the need to modify the 336 carve out.

Now three influential aviation associations The Airlines for America, Air Line Pilots Association International (ALPA) and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association have sent their own ‘it’s time to stop screwing around’ letter
to Congress:

We strongly urge you to remove legislative restrictions [i.e. 336] that have been placed on the FAA that limit its safety oversight of UAS. The likelihood that a drone will collide with an airline aircraft is increasing. By providing the FAA with the full authority to regulate all UAS operations, the safety of passenger and cargo flights will be protected.”

A LETTER TO MY ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES

But that doesn’t mean that we can afford to rest our laurels, or theirs. For your copy and pasting convenience, here is the letter I sent to my elected representatives, The Honorable Martin Heinrich, The Honorable Tom Udall and The Honorable Ben Ray Lujan. And here is the handy website you can use to get your representatives email addresses.


Dear Mr. Heinrich:

I wanted to take a moment to bring your attention to an opportunity to influence impending legislation that will have a direct economic impact on New Mexico.

The legislation has to do with drones (UAS). As you know, New Mexico is deeply involved through the leadership of New Mexico State University which is an FAA test site. Drones have been used to inspect Elephant Butte Dam and to inspect miles of BNSF track as part of the FAA Pathfinder program.

But it’s not all good – as a result of the potential threat that unidentified drones represent, all New Mexico military bases and certain DOE sites have been declared no fly zones, a drone ran into a Black Hawk helicopter over New York City and most recently came dangerously close to a commercial airliner on final approach into McCarran Airport.

As you know, in 2016 Congress enacted The FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act. In SECTION 2202, the FAA was instructed to develop a Remote
Identification standard.

In 2017, the FAA convened the UAS Remote ID and Tracking Advisory Committee (ARC) to provide industry input they could use to draft a rule. The ARC delivered its recommendations in December with a large group dissenting because the rule would not be applied to recreational/hobbyist fliers who represent 90% of all registered drones in the US.

Based on the recent court ruling in Taylor v Huerta, recreational/hobbyist fliers are “exempted” from a Remote Identification rule by Section 336, a provision of the 2012 FAA Reauthorization Act which was originally intended to protect traditional model aircraft hobbyists flying from supervised airfields.

As the FAA must be reauthorized or extended by the end of March 2018, I am asking you to work with the appropriate committees to rewrite 336 so that the recreational/hobbyist fliers are governed by the same rule set as the commercial UAS pilots which is Part 107, and to eliminate the 336 carve out.

It is important to understand that Remote Identification – which provides the ability to identify who is who and ultimately to distinguish friend from foe – is a ‘must have’ issue with the DOD, DOJ and DHS. These agencies have already blocked one FAA proposal for expanded operations. Until this is resolved, any new regulations are unlikely to be approved.

To enable the industry to achieve its economic potential, we need a consistent, skills-based regulatory program that is uniformly applied to anyone who flies
a drone.

I publish a weekly industry newsletter called Dronin’ On and follow these issues closely. Please do not hesitate to call me if I can provide you with any
additional background.

Sincerely,


THE FAA

Meanwhile, at the Singapore Airshow, FAA Acting Deputy Administrator Carl Burleson told attendees that the FAA planned to propose regulations to track and identify drones in 2018. Note that in regulatory circles (as well as the ARC,) there is a distinction made between identifying and tracking.

Mark McKinnon writing in Plane-ly Spoken summed up the year it was in 2017: The Year of Much Ado…But Nothing! Playing it forward Mark noted that:

While there is little doubt that both rules [Remote Identification and then overflight] could be released for public notice and comment in the first half of this year, it remains to be seen whether the final rules will be in a position to go into force before the years end.  Much will depend on how much opposition is generated to the proposals through the public comment process.

One of the big national stories this week is the President’s 2019 budget.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) released Budget Highlights for FY 2019. On page 12 under the heading Drones we find: The budget for FAA includes $73 million to develop standards for the safe operation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), commonly referred to as drones.

DC law firm Akin Gumps has the details on the $73 million spend – their headline is President Trump Continues to Make Unmanned Aircraft Systems a Priority.

Digging a bit into the initial Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration budgetary support documents for its FY19 UAS efforts, here are some highlights for the breakdown of the $73 million:

  • $50.8 million in Operations to set policies, procedures and standards for the safe integration of UAS
  • $18 million in Facilities & Equipment to develop technologies that will automate UAS flight authorization requests and eventually bring UAS under air traffic control
  • $3.3 million in Research, Engineering & Development to study the safety implications of new operational concepts and technology, as well as support for the development of new regulatory standards
  • $1.2 million in Grants-in-Aid for Airports to safely integrate UAS into
    airport operations.

This budget outline is a strong indicator for clients and all UAS stakeholders that decision-makers across the administration and on Capitol Hill are committed to advancing UAS integration.

Thursday, the Small UAV Coalition iced the cake with letters to the Senate and House Appropriations committees saying:

“The Coalition understands that the President has requested an additional $10 million in FY18 discretionary funds to support DOT and FAA efforts to integrate UAS into the national airspace system. We fully support this request and ask that you include these additional funds in the forthcoming omnibus appropriations bill.

You will remember that said omnibus just passed and now needs to be doled out. Since $10M isn’t even a rounding error, someone is working hard for
the money.

UASIPP/DIPP

Wondering what the final tally on UASIPP applications is? A story in DroneLife.com quoted DOT Secretary Elaine Chao saying that “More than 150 completed applications have been received and they involve over 40 states, 75 local government entities, several tribal entities, more than 15 colleges and universities and 6 airport authorities.

Chao has previously indicated that they will take up to ten applicants. The MOUs have to be signed by May and because of US contracting rules, the list is a secret. But more and more people are doing press releases to announce that their hat is in the ring.

The East Oregonian reports that state has applied to “Allow [their three] test ranges to expand scope of operations.”

According to a department press release, inclusion in the Federal Aviation Administration’s UAS Integration Pilot Program will allow test ranges to work with drone companies to complete procedures like operations at night, flights over people, automated flights, and flights that are beyond the line of sight of the
remote pilots.
 

And WileyConnect reports that:

  • The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) would lead a team of private companies proposing to set up a network of distribution centers that would use UAS to deliver blood and medical supplies to hospitals in the State.
  • New York would test for UAS detection, counter UAS measures, environmental conservation, emergency management, land surveillance, railroad inspection, and public safety.  New York would also partner with neighboring Massachusetts to test cross-border integration, including package delivery and transportation inspection. [Good luck Hoot & team!]
  • Bluefield, West Virginia proposes to turn the city into a drone research airspace. Among other things they want to test LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology to develop a 3D map of the area. The city claims that the technology is accurate enough to detect cracks in street pavement.

THE FUTURE OF THE SERVICE INDUSTRY

A number of pieces this week fit together nicely.

Highly regarded industry analyst Michael Blades from Frost & Sullivan did a terrific interview with Jeremiah Karpowicz at Commercial UAV News asking and answering the question Is 2018 Going to be “The Year of the Drone”?:

We’re seeing construction companies, railroads companies like ARE and even inspection companies buying up companies that offer drone services. What they’re trying to do is integrate some drone expertise into what they already do. 

The people with their Section 333s, could get the data, but they couldn’t reduce it to something that was usable for the client. That’s changed as organizations are looking to acquire this kind of expertise in a much more refined and
defined manner.

Q …So does all of this change the game for service providers?

To me, there’s not going to be a whole lot of room for small businesses, unless they’re doing things like aerial photography video, or maybe some real estate video. The real enterprise uses, for oil and gas, construction, aggregates, etc. are all going to be done by large companies. I think the small guys are going to be left out…

Mike is the first guy I heard say that a drone is nothing more than a flying truck whose sole reason for being is to carry sensors. It’s a utilitarian approach that more and more people are embracing: 

It’s a means to an end, but the end is better, faster, more precise information. And that better, faster, more precise info has to come at a lower cost and enable you to make decisions quicker. Otherwise it’s not doing anything that isn’t already
being done.

You can download Mike’s Global Commercial UAS Market, Forecast to 2022.

Joshua Ziering, Co-Founder and Chief Pilot at Kittyhawk.io  provided a great counterpoint – or maybe it’s confirmation with Here’s Why The Drone Services Industry is in Trouble.

…Instead of getting calls from drone services companies, we started getting calls from employees in very large companies forming small “Tiger Teams”. These large organizations had outsourced their initial drone operations to drone service providers to evaluate if they could derive value from the data. Once they had established the value proposition, they created their own little drone startups
in-house.

Part of Josh’s thesis is that the 70,000 Part 107 holders are killing each other and their market. I don’t think that’s the case. About 2/3rds of the Part 107 holders who participated in Colin Snow’s 2017 market survey were employees as opposed to service providers. That jives with what Dexter said – all 65 of his engineers had Part 107s, as do 200+ Department of Interior pilots and the list goes on.

THE BOOK OF GANJOO

Amit Ganjoo is an engineer with a long background in the cellular industry. I got to hang out with him at DWE, he is funny, uber bright and has a real vision for the future of the industry. You are seeing his name show up more on the conference circuit – he is deeply involved in ICAO and the FCC on 5G. He is the Founder and CEO of Anra Technologies.

This week Amit has two articles I want you to see, thus the ‘book’ conceit.

The first one, Blockchain and Drones – the Reality is from the company blog. First, for context, blockchain is the same technology behind cryptocurrency. It is important for drones because it is highly secure and lends itself to distributed operations – such as between multiple aircraft and a ground station(s). Amit explains that it has other advantages as well.

[At conferences I attend] there is always that question “How will blockchain impact the drone industry?”…From a Traffic Management point of view, blockchain can enable having a decentralized system of UAS Service Supplier systems. The use of a blockchain enabled remote identification system would protect drone user information and any confidential information about the nature and objective of the drone missions.

The second one is closely related and appeared in DroneLife, What is UTM? A Conversation with Amit Ganjoo that Miriam McNabb did. They got to a very interesting but seldom discussed topic, who pays?

…Recent reports have put forth claims of a $500 million UTM “market,” which prompts the question: who profits from UTM?  That one, says Ganjoo, is still something of a mystery.  Certainly some individual companies will be able to sell solutions that solve some aspect of the problem, but as of yet the two critical questions – who profits and who pays – remain unanswered.  Some models call for the commercial drone industry to foot the bill; others suggest that it’s a government responsibility.  Whether the actual figure is $500 million or $500 billion, it’s one aspect of the issue that won’t be solved quickly.

These next articles were not authored by Amit, but I think they fit in the context of the larger discussion of concepts with important implications to our industry. On Earnings Calls, Big Data Is Out. Execs Have AI On The Brain.

If you weren’t already sure, we’ve now moved past peak big data. After hitting a high in 2015, the mentions by public company executives of the term “big data” on earnings calls has begun to decline

But nature abhors a vacuum so as one tech buzzword declines, another takes its place. Today, the heir apparent to big data is “artificial intelligence.”  In fact, the zeitgeist around AI dwarfs what we saw with big data.

Still Big Data continues to have its uses according to 5 Big Data Trends Expected to Influence Artificial Intelligence in 2018. Among other things, you will find blockchain and edge computing. Get yourself a bowl of alphabet soup and you’ll be future proof.

COMING ATTRACTIONS

I am very pleased to announce that I am a media partner for the upcoming ICUAS’18, The 2018 International Conference on Unmanned Aircraft Systems which will be in Dallas June 12 – 15, 2018. The theme of ICUAS’18 will be twofold:

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

Hurry hurry – the call for papers closes February 23.

EYE CANDY

OK drones are cool – but Falcon Heavy – now we’re talking delivery!

Here is a really great spin that might make you think twice:

SpaceX is poised to make history by launching the world’s fourth electric car
into space.

I can’t imagine you missed it – but if somehow you did… this is Live Views of Starman. My friend Eric wrote me that Starman driving his roadster to the asteroid belt is one of the most evocative bits of video I’ve ever seen.

Then please be sure to check out Elon Musk Explains Why He Shot A Car
Into Space
.

Silly and fun things are importantIt’s still tripping me out.”

Thanks for reading and for sharing. All of the back issues of Dronin’ On are here.

best,
ck

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