Hi all –
An interesting week around the world. We’ll start stateside but please read down for some very significant news from EASA and the EU.
100 million plus saw the IntelShooting Star drone show. By now almost everyone knows that it was a composite effect (that means several shots blended together to create the final scene) – at which point you didn’t really need drones to do it.
WIRED took the big view noting that “The technology underpinning the Intel Shooting Star drone system is fascinating in and of itself, but its potential applications are even more so. The same drones that accompanied Lady Gaga will one day revolutionize search-and-rescue, agriculture, halftime shows, and more.”
Adam Lashinsky in his Fortune Data Sheet wrote “Intel’s razzle-dazzle show was so successful that The Wall Street Journal headlined its write-up by noting that “Intel Basks in Afterglow” of the extravaganza. It has been a long time since Intel basked in the afterglow of anything, so its time in the spotlight is welcome and overdue. It should enjoy the glow while it lasts.”
As a person who spent much of his career doing very large scale projection for entertainment and events, color me bored. Even if it was a live flight, none of the Super Bowl audience would have seen a thing. But everything starts somewhere, and Intel is gaining the experience they will need to push the envelope. As reader Glenn points out, one day they will come boiling out of the tunnel at racing speeds and the show will happen under the dome, in the house.
But right now, much more exciting was Brian Krzanich’s announcement that Intel was going to invest $7B to finish Fab 42 in Arizona –those really are good paying jobs. Of course that whole immigration thing will have to get sorted first…
Set your DVR for Shark Tank on February 24 on ABC. “Did DARTdrones score a killer investment deal?! What did Mark Cuban, “Mr. Wonderful” and the rest of the sharks have to say about DARTdrones? Find out what happened when CEO Abby Speicher pitched DARTdrones to ABC’s famous sharks.” The no doubt witty exchange should provide an interesting gauge of public awareness. And I am curious to learn how Abby plans to grow her national training company – luck!
Enough with the fun stuff and on to the entertainment. Air Transport World reports that the FAA, ATC and NextGen got a campaign style shellacking when President Trump met with airline CEOs and airport directors at the White House. “Trump took aim at FAA’s ATC modernization program. “I hear we’re spending billions and billions of dollars [and] it’s a system that’s totally out of whack.” According to the White House press pool report Trump said that NextGen is over budget and will not produce a good ATC system when it is finished. “Other than that, it’s fantastic,” he said.” Conspicuous by her absence is the person who has to work the miracle, DOT Secretary Elaine Chao.
A little context here. If you look at the FAA’s 2016 Budget Proposal you learn that the proposed budget for the NextGen program is US$60M. (page 156 of 771) While hardly “cheap” it is a drop in the bucket of the total FAA budget which is $15.83B. Hard to say what’s out of whack.
Betsy Lillian at Unmanned-Aerial.com has the second report I have seen from the DAC meeting in Reno. While short on details it appears that the two previously established task forces are continuing on, with interim recommendations are due in May with a final report in October.
New at this meeting was the FAA’s request to the DAC to “Focus on questions such as who will pay for these initiatives, how much they will cost and when they will be done. In order to answer these funding questions, the DAC will establish a third task group.” Talk about the blind leading the blind. When is the FAA going to figure out that under-resourced special interest volunteer groups can’t solve these kinds
While the US effort is once again going backwards, two documents from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) show the way forward. For context, keep in mind that this proposal is intended to provide a single set of operating rules for every country in the EU. Basically their version of the patchwork quilt.
The first is the Final draft Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) ATM Concept of Operations (CONOPS). “This document, RPAS Concept of Operations (CONOPS), describes the operations of RPAS in European Airspace that are capable of meeting the requirements set per airspace classification including Very Low Level (VLL) operations. The CONOPS is presented from an air traffic management (ATM) perspective and is fully complemental to the EASA CONOPS.”
The second one, Concept of Operations for Drones A risk based approach to regulation of unmanned aircraft begins “Drones should be integrated into the existing aviation system in a safe and proportionate manner and this integration should foster an innovative and competitive European drone industry, creating jobs and growth, in particular for SMEs.”
Sounds good! How does it work?
“It is proposed to establish three categories of operations and their associated regulatory regime: Open, Specific and Certified. The Open operation category of drones, should not require an authorisation by an Aviation Authority for the flight but stay within defined boundaries for the operation (e.g. distance from aerodromes, from people, etc.). The “Specific” operation category will require a risk assessment…. The “Certified” operations will be required for operations with a higher associated risk.”.
And then the kicker which pinpoints the challenge facing US regulators – and suggests that the only practical approach is to work with the states.
Protection of other public interests such as privacy and security entailed by drone operations will need to be addressed at the same time as the safety risk and will be dealt with at National Level.
From later in the document:
The safety risks considered must take into account:
- Mid-air collision with manned aircraft,
- Harm to people, and
- Damage to property in particular critical and sensitive infrastructure.
This three-legged approach is the way that safety needs to be addressed in the US as well.
One of my favorites examples of how to address safety risks to critical infrastructure comes from NATE – the National Association of Tower Erectors – who just released the second edition of their guidelines for Unmanned Aerial Systems Operations Around Vertical Communications Infrastructure which has been updated to incorporate Part 107.
Probably the hottest area in the industry right now is counter-UAV systems. Writing in his blog Integriography, David Kovar has just published Legal Challenges Facing Civilian Counter-UAV Systems. David is an IT security expert and his analysis considers both state and Federal criminal offenses. “At present, someone employing a counter-UAV system may be engaged in more serious criminal activity than the operator of the UAV. If the legal challenges affecting the deployment of these systems are not addressed, not only will those investments be put at risk but our nation may be exposed to greater risk of malicious UAV operators.”
Should you need an overview of worldwide regulations, UAVIATORS.org, the humanitarian UAV network has just published their Global Drone Regulations Database. “The purpose of this database is to crowdsource the documentation of national UAV laws, relevant government contact information and also experiences in traveling across borders with UAVs. This database was first launched and initiated by UAViators in 2014.” What a terrific idea. I spent some time poking around and it was interesting to see how many countries have no regulations
If you want to see the future of small business, take a look at Drones for Profit in Real Estate from SoldByAir.com which targets real estate service providers. Smart stuff. I am impressed with their detailed, hard-nosed approach. Share it with someone you love who has drones in their eyes.
This week we have a provocative Eye Candy Tag Award winner – HK Urbex: Using Drones To Remember Hong Kong. It’s a story of a small group of urban explorers who use drones to document Hong Kong’s fast vanishing architectural past.
Thank you for reading and for sharing.
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