aerial view of the retractable roof petals at Mercedes Benz Stadium – courtesy Mercedes Benz Stadium

Hi all –

January was big fun. February is off to a rip-snorting start, Ground Hog Day (what’s Phil’s take on climate change?,) Super Bowl Sunday followed by the Year of the Pig kicking off Tuesday, February 5th.

Doesn’t get much better than that. 新年快乐

One of my goals for 2019 is to have more guest posts. To get the ball rolling, I am very pleased to welcome Echodyne General Counsel Andrea Radosevich. In Unlocking the Potential of the Commercial UAS Industry, Andrea describes the importance of this week’s announcement that they have received commodity jurisdiction reclassification of their airborne Detect and Avoid radar. Those of you who live in that world will appreciate what a big deal it is. For the rest of us, it means that it will be much easier to do testing.

This week the FAA, CUAS, It’s A Drone World, World Economic Forum, Quick Hits and Coming Attractions.


screen grab from FAA trailer on Twitter – click to watch

Hey @NFL @SuperBowl fans! Get your chips and dip ready. Get your jersey on. Fire up the grill. BUT leave your #drone at home, because the @MBStadium is a #NoDroneZone. Get more information at 

There’s a 30nm TFR around the stadium and the town is locked down tight. The #NoDroneZone is 1nm around the stadium.

On Thursday, Morning Transportation reported:

PLEASE DON’T: “There are no credible or specific drone threats to this year’s Super Bowl,” NFL Security Chief Cathy Lanier said during a briefing in Atlanta Wednesday. Though, she added “the drone issue is something that we have talked a lot about.” [my emphasis]

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios – courtesy Axios

What a difference a day makes. You can bet they are talking about it now. Just as I was putting this issue to bed Friday, Axios headlined:

1 big thing: The newest Super Bowl headache

The inconceivable is conceivable: After a few crazy months, drones are among the worries on the FBI’s radar ahead of the Super Bowl in Atlanta.

The story is based on this AP report A Deluge of Drones Fly Over Super Bowl Stadium, Despite Ban:

The sky above the stadium that will host Sunday’s Super Bowl is being “inundated” with an alarming number of drones, raising the specter of injuries to tourists or others — or a possible collision with aircraft, the FBI said Friday.

The potential for terrorism is also a concern.

“When we look up into the air and see a drone flying in the air, we have no idea if it’s friendly, or if it’s someone who has nefarious plans and it’s weaponized,”
he added.

Officers on Thursday confiscated a half-dozen drones that were flown near
the stadium…

The issues are always the same. Determining intent and enforcement.

For a few days, The Guardian had a scoop, Super Bowl: Experimental Radar Aims to Stop Drone Drama at Game.

The drone tests would be conducted under the guidance and direction of the FBI.

While the whole idea of “gunning” is thoroughly misleading for a detection device, Gizmodo offers a bit more detail, This Startup Backed by Bill Gates and DHS Is Gunning to Test Its Anti-Drone Radar at the Super Bowl

Both articles noted that the tests, using an Echodyne MESA-SSR radar, might not proceed because the FCC paperwork was held up by the shutdown. Since then tech writer Mark Harris (@meharris) tweeted that the test is going forward. Here is the FCC’s “Experimental Special Temporary Authorization” including some interesting comments about frequency utilization.

This is probably one of the first outings under the new authorities granted under SEC. 383 AIRPORT SAFETY AND AIRSPACE HAZARD MITIGATION AND ENFORCEMENT of the 2018 FAR.

BTW This is the same radar selected by the Northern Plains UAS Test Site to be part of their UPP project, where it will primarily be deployed on BVLOS operations.

Nice story by Isabella Lee writing for UAV Coach FAA Issues Request for Information (RFI) from Industry Partners Interested in Developing Remote ID and Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) Systems.

On December 20, 2018, the FAA issued a Remote Identification RFI.

The RFI will help the FAA select a small group of industry partners to develop a technical and legal framework for initial prototyping and testing of a remote ID system. While the FAA is only looking to recruit a small group of eight USS, they intend to open the program for broader participation in the future.

This sounds a good deal like the LAANC model. Maybe they will just keep expanding the group until they get a solution that works…?

While no one was looking, the Small UAV Coalition spotted and responded to the FAA’s draft Advisory Circular (AC), “Well Clear Definition for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operating Beyond Visual Line of Sight.”

The concept of well clear is the stand-off distance one aircraft gives to another in a right of way situation. It’s something pilots do – for UAS it’s an essential piece of Detect And Avoid (DAA). You might remember that the concept of stand-off is an issue that the FAA is using the ANPRM to explore.

AMA Responds To Proposed FAA NPRMProposed FAA Drone Rules Will Have Little Impact On Hobbyists. I suspect some of it is wishful thinking…

We continue to ask for FAA collaboration in adopting remote identification requirements that reflect the operational use of UAS – model aircraft, under AMA’s safety programming, pose no new risk to the airspace, therefore the remote identification rules for model aircraft operations should be more flexible.


One of three configurations for SRC’s Silent Archer CUAS system

This report in Unmanned Airspace shows just how fast the stakes are going up, US Department of Defense Spending on Counter-UAS Reaches USD 1.5 Billion
in 2018

This is a huge rise on the approximately USD 200 million spent by the DoD in the previous 18 months. While up to USD 942 million of this is dedicated to a single contract – the US Navy requirement for two high power laser weapons – [the remaining $550M] still represents a threefold increase on purchasing C-UAS systems in 2018 over 2017.

Why stop now? SRC Lands $108M Army Contract for Technology to Counter
Enemy Drones

SRC and Pentagon officials said the contract is for [Silent Archer] mobile systems that counter small, slow and low-flying drones that are an emerging threat to U.S. forces around the world.

Many of you will be familiar with SRC’s commercial division, SRC Gryphon which has been involved in a wide range of projects including BNSF Pathfinder, the NUAIR U-SAFE range and Xcel Energy’s Drone Detection Security Program.

For a refreshing change of pace, ZDNet is keeping it kinda real about the limits of technology, Why a High-Tech Border Wall Is as Silly as a Physical One:

There are currently about 12,000 motion and seismic sensors along the U.S. border with Mexico, along with a vast electronic perimeter of radar and high definition cameras. Predator B drones have extended the radar net in places and can pick out a snake slithering through brush a mile away. Miniature facial recognition drones, 3D mapping technology, tethered blimps first developed to guard forward operating bases in Afghanistan, tunnel-navigating ground robots used in Iraq, invisible dyes dropped from the air to mark migrants, and acoustic deterrents of various types have all been tested or deployed along the border. 

Tit for tat is always good, Spanish Drug Smuggling Gang Used Drones to Monitor Police. Maybe they learned that at the Southern Border?

As a tactic to avoid detection, eyes high in the sky in the form of drones is an excellent method for gaining a heads up when police are on their way to bust you. They obviously have their limits, however, in this case, UAVs were unable to prevent authorities from eventually catching and busting the gang (curse that limited battery life, eh?).

Steve Flynn from SkyTango who is located in Ireland weighed in with the latest from across the pond including the first price tag I’ve seen on Gatwick:

I found the confusion around the events at Gatwick in particular, really interesting…Two things are certain – the financial fallout was significant (£50m at last count) and communication channels around these sites must be improved and measures put in place.

And here’s a thoughtful piece from AirMap Chairman Ben Marcus (congrats, when did that happen?) about how UTM and CUAS fit together to solve the problem, 3 Steps to Prevent the Next Gatwick Incident. While there is more to the article, Ben offers up what has become the classic Remote ID argument:

With all “good actors” participating in the UTM system, aviation authorities can visualize, monitor, and track real-time manned and unmanned aircraft telemetry for deconfliction. Participating drone operators can be remotely identified by their aircraft, flight path, and/or registration details and can be contacted directly for
risk mitigation.

Followed by:

Step 3: Combine UTM with counter-UAS system for a complete picture of an airspace operating environment


screen grab from Greenpeace video - click to view
screen grab from Greenpeace video – click to watch

The “headline” event this week was Greenpeace Drone Drops Smoke Bombs on French Nuclear Power Facility. Last July it was a Superman drone that they crashed into a reactor at a different plant. It matters because France gets some 75% of its electricity from nuclear energy, allowing it to earn some €3B/yr (~USD$3.5B) as a net exporter.

“What is particularly shocking is that this drone was able to drop smoke bombs on the roof,” said Greenpeace campaigned [sic] Alix Mazounie. “That is to say, the weak point of a building containing the largest amount of radioactive material in the world.” 

Some interesting things about this story. It was only picked up by a couple of Australian papers – the source here is the Adelaide Advertiser. Secondly, “the Orano Group, which runs the plant, said that they detected two drones.” Yep, I am going to guess that would be the one that dropped the smoke and the one that filmed the drone dropping the smoke… You know, loyal wingman.

Here are three more sighting reports. The first two are from the UK, the third from Germany. Note the snappy graphics – easy to look good when the trend line is up and to the right.

Airprox report – note how drones are reported separately from RC aircraft

Drone “Near-Miss” Incidents With Aircraft Up More Than 25% – UK Airprox Board

Assessment Summary Sheet for UKAB Meeting on 5th December 2018. This report, Consolidated Drone/Balloon/Model/Unknown Object Report Sheet, rates each of 19 reports for risk. I am quite taken by the comment given to 10 of the 19:

…The incident portrayed a situation where providence had played a major part in the incident and/or a definite risk of collision had existed.

Reported obstructions near airports due to drones in 2018
Reported obstructions near airports due to drones in 2018

Drone Disruptions to Airports Up 80% in Germany 

After the double whammy of Gatwick and Heathrow, this headline in should come as no surprise, Nearly 40 Percent of British Public Want Drones Banned. The firm sampled 2,000 adults which should provide a very high degree of confidence.

Titled Drones 4 U: Public Perception Of Security Threats, the report found that 75 percent of those surveyed believed that drones pose a risk to national security and 83 percent supported a move to implement mandatory licencing of drones.

As to what the Brits are doing… Last year they had a three-month “Consultation,” which is something like an ANPRM and received some 5,000 comments. You can download the response, Taking Flight: The Future of Drones in the UK -Government Response which was published on 7 January 2019.

Elsewhere we find headlines like:

Drone Users in Saudi Now Require Permits to Operate Them

India Delays Drone Operations and Considers Mandatory Security-Chips. IMO this is a significant conceptual development:

The original launch date of January 1, 2019 for flying drones in areas other than those barred for security concerns, had to be revised for two reasons: states have yet to map “no-drone zones” in their airspace; and drones are not equipped with No Permission No Take-off (NPNT) hardware pre-programmed with no-fly zones and integrated with the Digital Sky Platform. Both are mandatory under RPAS rules,” said the newspaper.

…This will be the first-of-its-kind national unmanned traffic management (UTM) portal to implement a NPNT policy.

C4ISRNET whose tagline is Media for the Intelligence Age Military headlined Russia Will Counter Drones Over Moscow With ..Its Own Drones puts their own twist on a familiar theme:

The timing of Moscow’s announcement so close to the Gatwick incident is likely coincidental. Yet the problem, or at least the perception that there is a problem, is a second-order effect of the cheapness and availability of drones. Commercial drones and hobbyist drones are a regular part of irregular warfare now, and those skills are not strictly limited to entrenched positions or familiar battle lines. [I left the links in – both good articles.]

On a more positive note from UAS Vision, EU Drone Community Issues
Madrid Declaration

…The delegates agreed that the necessary way forward relative to the implementation of the upcoming EU-wide drone regulation was based on increased coordination and cooperation between the European national drone communities. This opinion was reflected by the «Madrid Declaration of Intent», which was published as the conclusion of the conference.

This has been a steady, grind it out process for some years (akin to herding cats given all the players,) but real progress is being made.


Coming out of Davos is the Advanced Drone Operations Toolkit: Accelerating the Drone Revolution, the handiwork of Harrison Wolf and others under the aegis of Drones and Tomorrow’s Airspace World Economic Forum Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution:

What follows are insights and recommendations from the most successful projects, demonstrating what it takes to launch and oversee advanced drone operations. The stories and information were captured first-hand by the World Economic Forum speaking directly with policymakers, entrepreneurs, regulators and technical experts who have fundamentally shifted the dialogue from what “may” be possible to what “is” possible, in a very short time.

It’s a forward-looking piece of work that is finding immediate application:

Andhra Pradesh to Pioneer Advanced Drone Operators Toolkit – World Economic Forum.

The open source guide from the World Economic Forum… is the first user manual for governments looking to roll out socially impactful, advanced drone operations.

[The Toolkit] also introduces governments all over the world to a new approach to oversight created by the World Economic Forum Drone and Tomorrow’s Airspace community, the Performance Based Regulations (PBR). Using PBR, airspace can be accessed by any unmanned aircraft on a mission-specific basis: the government specifies the safety standard of the mission, and the drone operators specify how they are going to meet it. This regulation is agile. It cuts the time to access airspace and expands the range of possible applications while enabling the government to keep up with the rapid development of technology.



screen grab – A fever of cownose rays – click to watch

A little of this, a little of that.

The State of AI In 2019 While the phrase “artificial intelligence” is unquestionably, undoubtedly misused, the technology is doing more than ever — for both good and bad. It’s short, but there’s a bunch of links so you can do a dive if you’re so inclined.

FLIR Systems Acquires Aeryon Labs. “[The acquisition]…Reinforce[s] our long-term strategy to move beyond providing sensors to the development of complete solutions that save lives and livelihoods…” I like the synergies. Could turn out to be the deal of the year. More here.

Onward and Upward for Drones in 2019 Women And Drones asked eight UAS leaders to share their thoughts on what 2019 has in store for the industry. Hats off to Sharon Rossmark for keeping this going – glad it’s coming back to InterDrone this year.

Drones Deployed by Marine Scientist to Monitor Sharks Along Northern NSW Beaches Sharks are a little few and far between and what we saw was this other diverse wildlife, which we’re excited about. Every now and again you have to say, drones are really great.

Why Flying Cars Are an Impossible Dream The air taxi is the Godot of technology: always on its way, never here. As the author said:

“Autonomy is hard. It’s really, really hard.” 

Unlock Beyond Visual Line of Site Drone Operation is a new whitepaper from PrecisionHawk written by Colin Snow (@droneanalyst). In this white paper, we’ll examine three different use cases for how BVLOS economics compare with VLOS and traditional methods. It’s a thoughtful way to breakdown the problem – apply the approach and come to your own conclusions.

Drones Fly Over 13 Million Solar Modules to Discover What Affects Production. This is a fascinating use case because drones were part of a larger integrated study. Actionable data in context…

And here’s a nice freebie from LeClair Ryan, The LR Transportation App. Think of it as a reference library in your pocket. This unique app, for both IOS and Android operating systems, provides a wealth of information relevant to issues you may confront… Pretty handy and it will only get better as they continue to add to it.


screen grab from AUVSI Xponential 2019 website

It’s show time. In alpha order…

AUVSI Exponential is April 29 – May2 in Chicago. Early Bird savings end March 18. Register here.

Commercial UAV Expo Europe is coming up April 8-10, 2019 in Amsterdam. Early Bird pricing is available until February 15th. Register here.

Commercial UAV Expo Americas Call for Speakers is now open and closes March 4. Submit your abstract here.

Energy Drone & Robotics Summit (note the new name) is in Houston June 12-13. Speaker and topic submissions are being accepted until February 14. Details
are here.

The InterDrone Call for Speakers is now open and closes March 15. Information is here. The Early Bird flies away Friday, February 8th.

If you ’re living the UAM dream, Deseret UAS and Metron Aviation have teamed up with AUVSI to offer The State of Commercial UAS & UAM Flight Testing, Wednesday February 20th. All star cast including FAA UAS Integration Office Executive Director Jay Merkle, in one of his first appearances.

Want more? Looking for something special or nearer to you? Checkout Sky Tango’s annual list of the Top 50 Commercial Drone Events Of 2019. Already sorted by Month and Location – making it ever so eazy peazy to find the perfect one. Thank you Steve.

Being an Angeleno, I’ll take the Rams and three. Enjoy the game!

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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