Hi all –
This week we’ll take a look at sausage making in all its infinite complexity. Five significant developments which will collectively help to shape the industry.
- A Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security hearing “Keeping Pace with Innovation – Update on the Safe Integration of Unmanned Aircraft Systems into the Airspace.”
- The announcement by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that he is putting the FAA Reauthorization onto the Senate floor for debate. Let’s hope that he allows more than the 2 ½ hours the House did.
- UAS IPP – a White House initiative, fronted by DOT, announced the initial 10 program “selectees.”
- The announcement that the FAA has sent two new rules, to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which begins the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) process.
- A strongly worded statement from Sec Def James Mattis that due to an ever increasing number of incursions, the DOD will need additional authority to shoot down drones.
Without further ado…
Tuesday, the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security held a hearing “Keeping Pace with Innovation – Update on the Safe Integration of Unmanned Aircraft Systems into the Airspace” led by chair Roy Blunt (R-MO).
Earl Lawrence, Director, Office of Unmanned Aircraft Systems, AUVSI CEO Brian Wynne, Helicopter Association International (HAI) CEO Matt Zuccaro and Todd Graetz, Director of Technology Services, BNSF Railway Co. were the witnesses. Prepared remarks and the webcast are here.
Lawrence recapped the agency’s recent accomplishments. In specific comments about Remote Identification, he said that:
To enable our law enforcement and national security partners to identify and respond to security risks, we need to know who is operating in the airspace. Effective integration and threat discrimination will continue to be a challenge until all aircraft in the NAS—manned and unmanned—are able to be identified.
Anonymous operations are inconsistent with safe and secure integration.
In his testimony, Wynne praised H.R. 4 “…As a positive step in furthering the regulatory framework”. He talked about the need for “…Broader engagement from our government partners, notably those responsible for national security, to understand their specific concerns and work collaboratively to address them.”
One hopes that he and his staff will read the rest of this testimony as “their specific concerns” are very clear and require little interpretation.
Matt Zuccaro is a new name to me –he is a 50+ year aviator, serves on the DAC and has been on several ARCs. He did not mince words:
FAA regulations and governance need to apply to all categories of aircraft operating in the NAS. However, in Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, Congress put in place restrictions that limited the FAA’s ability to fully regulate the more than 1 million recreational and private-use UAS operators… HAI advocates that Congress approve legislation relating to Section 336 that gives the FAA full and singular regulatory authority over all unmanned operations.
He had this to say about BVLOS.
Beyond-visual line-sight operations for UAS will only be safe once effective and certificated “see, sense, and avoid” technology is fielded… It is generally acknowledged that the technology for true “see, sense, and avoid” capability is not yet ready to deploy… Developing mature technology that can withstand the FAA certification process needs to be prioritized.
Zuccaro is the voice of reason – and yes traditional aviation. Nothing wrong with that. Take a minute to read his remarks.
Appropriate training and certification protocols should be applied to UAS integration using the existing manned aircraft commonsense approach that considers the mission, aircraft capabilities, and potential security threat. HAI advocates for training that delivers a basic level of understanding for anyone operating an aircraft in the NAS.
How can we expect anyone to comply with regulations that they have never been trained in?
I was encouraged to read in Morning Transportation that Earl Lawrence addressed this in the Q&A:
Lawrence also floated an idea for tweaking Part 107, which is the current limited framework for drone operations: He’d like the rule’s “very basic airspace training requirements” to be mandated to all users, not just commercial operators. “We think that’s good information, even if you’re a university class, that you understand the airspace that you’re operating in.”
Todd Graetz is a familiar face on the show circuit. His testimony recapped BNSF’s experience with the Pathfinder program. The rigor with which they approached this is impressive.
More than 680 of the 4,500 drone flight hours conducted during BNSF’s participation in the Pathfinder program have been BVLOS. [I might have written “only” instead of “more.”]
A major accomplishment of the Pathfinder experience was the approach we developed with the FAA to establish a layered platform for safely flying BVLOS drones that combined our right-of-way, technology, procedures and analytics. We overlaid the use of dedicated spectrum, ATC sensors and air traffic displays with existing FAA flight procedures (standard communication plans and navigational charts), and used our analytical capabilities to create a baseline risk assessment of UAS flights along the BNSF right-of-way.
Finally, in advance of the hearing, EPIC submitted a statement to inform the committee of EPIC’s ongoing work to establish transparency and oversight for the use of unmanned aircraft in the United States. To the extent that it is needed at the federal level, which is debatable, this is a legislative, not a regulatory matter.
Two largely incompatible amendments addressing 336, #’s 136 (DeFazio) and 160 (Sanford), were included in the House version of the FAA Reauthorization Bill, H.R. 4. which passed 393 to 13. I’ve covered this in detail over the past few weeks – one reader refers to it as beating a dead horse. Neigh.
The Senate Transportation Committee approved its FAA reauthorization bill, S. 1405, by voice vote in August 2017. Now the pressure is on to get a final bill to the President’s desk before the Congress leaves town for the August recess. Otherwise, it’s likely to be another extension.
Tuesday, Morning Transportation reported:
SENATE FAST-TRACKS FAA BILL: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) added the House-passed FAA bill (H.R. 4 (115)) to the floor calendar Monday evening, a procedural maneuver that will allow the bill to be brought to the floor. The House bill is just the vehicle, though — once debate begins, the Senate will strip the bill clean and move to patch its own bill and amendments into the shell.
On Thursday Morning Transportation reported that:
IF THEY COULD TURN BACK TIME: The Academy of Model Aeronautics is out with a new report today on the “state of the model aviation hobby.” Among other findings, the group said that an increase in state and federal regulations was turning some hobbyists off from the industry.
I am so confused. Is the AMA concerned about the hobby? Or the hobby industry?
I looked for the report, but couldn’t find it. But I did find an AMA infographic entitled 2018 Federal Legislation Process to Revise Special Rule for Model Aircraft that shows all the pressure points where AMA members can contact the Congress to “express their views.”
It is unfortunate that the commercial UAS lobbyists lack the PR resources to counter the AMA. It’s not what they were built to do – their work is advancing the interests of their members in the legislature, not in the emotionally charged court of public opinion.
On the other hand, AUVSI is a member-driven organization. But to hear the story told, CEO Brian Wynne has no idea that his obviously highly decentralized organization has yet to say a word about revising 336, despite near universal support for the idea in the manned and commercial UAS communities. I am told that he has promised to look into it.
What do you think will happen to XPONENTIAL if the AMA’s Maginot Line holds?
Apparently, we will have to depend on the security agencies and the FAA to make the case to change 336.
UAS IPP SELECTEES
The DOT press release provides the essential details:
USDOT and its Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) carefully evaluated each of the 149 proposals they received according to the requirements outlined in a Screening Information Request. The 10 final selectees will now work with the FAA to refine their operational concepts through Memorandums of Agreement (MOAs). The MOAs will establish the parties’ responsibilities, describe specific concepts of operations they will undertake, establish any data-sharing requirements, and specify that no federal funds will be spent on the program.
Over the next two and a half years, the selectees will collect drone data involving night operations, flights over people and beyond the pilot’s line of sight, package delivery, detect-and-avoid technologies and the reliability and security of data links between pilot and aircraft. The data collected from these operations will help the USDOT and FAA craft new enabling rules that allow more complex low-altitude operations, identify ways to balance local and national interests related to UAS integration, improve communications with local, state and tribal jurisdictions, address security and privacy risks, and accelerate the approval of operations that currently require special authorizations.
Congratulations to the 10 selectees:
- Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Durant, OK
- City of San Diego, CA
- Virginia Tech – Center for Innovative Technology, Herndon, VA
- Kansas Department of Transportation, Topeka, KS
- Lee County Mosquito Control District, Ft. Myers, FL
- Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority, Memphis, TN
- North Carolina Department of Transportation, Raleigh, NC
- North Dakota Department of Transportation, Bismarck, ND
- City of Reno, NV
- University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK
The DOT’s Fact Sheets: UAS Integration Pilot Programs describes each proposal as well as the project highlights and benefits of each of the ten programs.
Here is an informal tally based on the descriptions:
- Six BVLOS initiatives
- Four delivery initiatives
- Four night initiatives
- Two overflight initiatives
- One test site involved
As a bit of a head scratcher, the Lee County Mosquito Control District, Ft. Myers, Florida will be using a 1,500 pound (fifteen hundred, no error) unit for aerial spraying, over people, at night. It will be interesting to see if the assumed benefit is enough to outweigh public opinion about the perceived risks…
Mark McKinnon writing for Plane-ly Spoken asked the million dollar question in his post Cleared For Takeoff: The UAS Integration Pilot Program Begins!
Perhaps the biggest surprise from the announcement is who is not going to be taking part in the program, Amazon. According to The Hill, Amazon was a participant in a number of different proposals intended to support its vision of on-demand commercial package delivery, but none of them made the cut. Unless the Department of Transportation decides to provide insights into the selection process, we may never know why Amazon was not selected as one of the participants.
Sally French writing in MarketWatch echoed in her article, Amazon Left Off Government’s First List of Companies Approved for Drone Package Delivery adding that:
Among the drone delivery companies chosen to be a part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s pilot program are Alphabet’s Project Wing, Flytrex, Zipline, Matternet, and Flirtey.
Small consolation perhaps, but during his testimony Tuesday, Earl Lawrence said:
“In the course of reviewing the applications for the UAS Integration Pilot Program, we realized some good news: a large number of the projects and activities proposed by applicants could go forward under the FAA’s existing rules, including with waivers where appropriate.
There are all sorts of UTM plays among the ten, which might just make AirMap the big winner of the day, AirMap Selected as UAS Service Supplier in Six UAS IPP Awards. ParaZero, the Israeli drone safety system supplier, is also on a number of the winning teams.
If you are interested in the business proposition, McKinsey & Company just released How Customer Demands Are Reshaping Last-Mile Delivery. The study surveyed some 4,700 customers in China, Germany and the US, which according to the article account for more than 40% of all parcel deliveries. Among other things the study found that:
- About a quarter of consumers would pay a premium for same-day delivery.
- 70% of consumers are content with the cheapest form of home delivery.
Other relevant headlines you might be interested in include:
9 to 5 Mac Apple Confirms Use of Drones to Improve Apple Maps, Says Privacy Remains a Priority. Apple is part of the winning North Carolina DOT proposal along with Precision Hawk.
And then there is this from Sara Baxenberg and her team at IoT, DOT Selects Ten IPP Winners, Announces Two UAS Rulemakings Sent to OMB.
NEW FAA RULEMAKING
As a refresher, proposed rules are first reviewed by the issuing Department (in this case DOT). They are then sent to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) before they may be posted for public comment as a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM).
What is important about the OIRA process is that it provides a chance for stakeholders, both government agencies and private parties, to influence the rule before the NPRM is made. The expectation is that the issuing agency (in this case the FAA) will revise the proposed rule based on input during the OIRA process, then again based on the NPRM comments before the final rule is published.
Add in an ARC to get things started, and it’s easy to see why the entire process takes two to three years.
Here are the proposed rules:
Rule 2120-AK85 (proposed rule stage) Operations of Small Unmanned Aircraft Over People is expected to be a do-over of the rule proposed in late 2016 that was shot down during the OIRA review by security concerns. This is what started the whole discussion about Remote ID as a condition for future rulemaking.
Rule 2120-AL26 (pre-rule stage) Safe and Secure Operations of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems is an ANPRM – Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
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.
In her write-up, Baxenberg offers the following:
Although neither document is publicly available, the ANPRM is expected to lay the groundwork for a future NPRM on Remote ID and tracking requirements.
Interestingly, the FAA has repeatedly stated in the past year that a Remote ID rulemaking is the key to all future rulemakings. The fact that DOT sent both the Safe and Secure UAS Operations and the Flights Over People NPRM to OMB at the same time raises the question of whether the FAA will pursue the two
By now those of you have had your first coffee are probably saying, wait a minute, this whole 336 thing has not been resolved – how can this go forward? Thanks for playing… that is exactly what I am wondering.
Avionics cut to the chase with a nice clear headline, DOD Demands Authority to Destroy Drones in Restricted Airspace.
Privately owned drones routinely violate restricted airspace over military bases, ships and airfields. The Pentagon wants more authority to shoot them down, Defense Secretary James Mattis told lawmakers Wednesday. [NOTE Mattis gave his testimony April 9 2018.]
The FAA limits what defenses the military can deploy against small drones because some systems pose a threat to manned commercial and civil aircraft.
Many of the people who I speak with in the CUAS community have long argued that step one is quantifying the problem – i.e. use detection to gain an understanding of how much sUAS activity is actually taking place. Mad Dog says there’s a lot…
“This is becoming an increasing problem. We now track every overflight of our bases, ships, airfields. I was surprised to see just how much of this is being dealt with. The problem is it’s only a matter of time before the threat manifests in a violent way,” he said. “We are going to have to come in with a very clear statement of what we need from Congress or the FAA and then get that authority out, get the systems out to take them down.”
The article, which originally appeared in DefenseDaily.com notes that:
The FAA administrator and Defense Department leadership are required by law to provide a semiannual report on counter-UAS needs and capabilities. The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) version of the fiscal 2019 NDAA would require Mattis to brief the congressional defense committees on what authorities the military still needs to have adequate counter-UAS capabilities over its facilities.
Of course, it is not just the FAA, the FCC also has a great deal to say about what can be done because of the risk many kinds of electronic countermeasures pose to others operating in the area.
Still time to register for LeClair Ryan’s Drones and Natural Disasters: What you can do after a disaster and how you get permission to do it on May 16th.
Still time to register for Energy Drone Coalition Summit coming up June 19-21 – use DBC20 to get 20% off on as many passes as you need.
The Verge offers up These Uber Air ‘Skyport’ Concepts Look Straight Out of Star Wars. Definitely not your father’s airport. Veteran FAA watchers will chuckle at this headline, FAA is Not Committed to Meeting Uber’s 2023 Timeline.
Thanks for reading and for sharing. Back issues of Dronin’ On are here.
Editor and Publisher
follow me @dronewriter