Hi all –
What a week. 9/11 and Florence. Prayers going out to all of you in the “tremendously big and tremendously wet” Southeast. To say nothing of windy…
This week an update on the dream of FAA Reauthorization, what’s at stake going forward, 336, Florence, another hearing, data and a big new flying battery.
THE FAA REAUTHORIZATION
Let’s start with the good news and props all around. On Thursday the Central North region went live completing the LAANC national rollout. Here is the full list of participating airports courtesy of Skyward.
While the Senate beat it out of town first to make sure they could get home, the House stuck around an extra day leading to this report Thursday from
NOT THROWING IN THE TOWEL: “The clock is ticking” on the FAA’s authorization, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) said, but he and other lawmakers aren’t giving up on enacting a reauthorization by Sept. 30. “It’s getting tough,” DeFazio acknowledged Wednesday evening. “On the other hand, maybe we could have a really short extension because [the Senate is] going to be in all October…And we get it done in November,” DeFazio said.
Air Transport World headlines the growing frustration: Airlines 4 America Chief to Congress: ‘Act Swiftly’ on FAA Reauthorization:
“We can’t simply stop and restart our funding,” A4A CEO Nicholas Calio said. “There have been far too many short-term extensions over the years, and we need Congress to act swiftly, now.” The FAA has been operating on a short-term basis since its last multi-year reauthorization bill expired in 2015.
The longer that everyone continues to shilly-shally around, the better the odds are that the Reauthorization will be taken up by the 116th Congress. With the retirement of Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), .new leadership for the House is a given, no matter which side of the aisle prevails. The Senate forecast is somewhat murkier.
WHAT’S AT STAKE
Good piece this week in Forbes, Why The Use Of Drones Still Faces Big Regulatory Hurdles. The conclusion tells the story:
While the debate over drone regulation is in its early stages, there’s little doubt there will be a Grand Canyon-size gap between what industry would like in certification standards and what the FAA and other regulators are willing
In the end, a new category of air operator may emerge — companies that are certified and approved to operate larger drones… And that transition — from an open-access system of ownership and operation to one with similar controls and barriers to entry as aviation and aerospace manufacturing — may be tumultuous as companies vie for what is currently an elusive standard of certification.
My two cents is that this is virtually guaranteed to happen. Here’s one reason…
Drone Crashes Inspecting Cracked Window At Sinking Millennium Tower. If you missed this one, a drone fell out of the sky narrowly missing a kid (puhleez we are so not ready for flight over people).
The pilot had to launch the drone from three different locations due to interference with his GPS and satellite signals. The pilot says the drone lost satellite signal. At one point, the drone was no longer under his control. The drone drifted left and hit a building across from the sinking skyscraper.
Dumb. At AUVSI we heard panelists from the construction industry say that they would not launch under those exact conditions because it violates their SOPs.
AXIOS reports another reason, 1 Big Thing: Businesses Push for National Privacy Rules. It will definitely bring the ULC Drone Tort Law proposal to mind:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has published a list of principles it hopes the government will follow for federal data privacy legislation — marking the rare occasion on which the business advocacy group is proposing, rather than fighting, regulation of its constituents.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has an op-ed, Congress Moves Forward with Dangerous Attack on Private Drones:
When government agencies hide their activities from the public, private drones can be a crucial tool for transparency and public oversight. But now, some members of Congress want to give the federal government the power to intercept and destroy private drones it considers a “threat,” with no safeguards ensuring that power
The ACLU took a slightly different tack, Drones Are Revolutionizing Journalism, but Congress Could Curb This New Tool.
To put it in perspective, this bill would allow the Trump administration, which has labeled the press as the “enemy of the American people,” to make determinations about where privately owned drones can fly with broad authority and
Then there is the issue of public acceptance, DJI Inspire 2 Drone Shot Out of the Air in Ohio.
According to a post from Rick G. on Facebook, his DJI Inspire 2 was shot out of the air by an angry neighbor in Ohio last night. The drone crashed down to earth from about 168 feet high. The pilot has a pretty good idea who had shot down the drone. He went to the house and finally got his Inspire 2 back after the neighbor first denied shooting it down. The drone pilot then turned to Facebook for advice.
I met Lydia Hilton, an attorney with Berman Fink Van Horn P.C., preparing for last weeks FAA Panel. Among other things, Lydia is an Observer on the ULC Drone Tort proposal which presumes to solve problems like this. She offers some advice to the pilot in her blog post He Shot the Drone Down: Ask Questions First, Draw Conclusions Second. Her conclusion is that this is a matter for local law enforcement. I particularly like her comment:
The irony of someone operating under Section 336 running to the FAA for the benefits of its regulatory scheme should also not be lost.
THE STATE OF 336
Sources tell me that the AMA is taking no chances and is encouraging members to write and call Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) to ensure that 336 remains unchanged in the upcoming FAA Reauthorization bill. We need to be heard too – I would encourage you to reach out to your own Senators and Representative. And I would make it about “jobs.”
You can use a letter I drafted in February – Make Yourself Heard! A sample letter to your Congressional representatives.
Dronin’ On contributor Commander Frank Mellott (USN Ret.) has some interesting thoughts on 336, H.R. 4 and the Sanford Amendment which are both incorporated in H.R. 4, the House version of the FAA Reauthorization bill. For context, Frank is a retired carrier jet flyer and graduate of the Naval Aviation Safety School; he spent decades managing safety programs.
Although I’m a member of the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), and I support the hobby of model aviation, I see PL112-95 Section 336, its continuation as part of House and Senate FAA Reauthorization Bills, and the Sanford Amendment as dangerous abdications of the government’s proper role in managing safe operations in the nation’s airspace.
– Regulation and rule-making for operations in taxpayer owned mediums is inherently governmental. We don’t allow AAA to make rules for some drivers on the public highways. We don’t allow BoatUS to make rules for some boaters on the public waterways. And yet 336 puts an unaccountable private organization in a position to make rules outside of taxpayer and other stakeholder’s reach.
– 336 / HR4 / etc. Non-Governmental “Rules” fall outside the Administrative Procedures Act. That act is an important check on rules that affect other stakeholders. 336 cedes authority to make rules for “model aircraft” to a private dues collecting organization, a group that can make changes on their own authority, without any legal requirement to consult with or even notify other airspace users.
The risk? Consider that not long ago, the AMA unilaterally waived their own turbine powered speed limit (200 mph for “models” up to 77lbs). Why? They did it as part of an event to raise funds for the AMA Foundation! Where was the public’s chance to weigh in?
The law did not require it. So AMA did it. All on their own “authority.”
– The Sanford Amendment appears to violate the Equal Protection Clause. One of the foundational principles of our legal and regulatory system is equal protection under the law. Yet the Sanford Amendment to HR4 creates two classes of taxpayers: those who are members of a private dues collecting organization (the AMA), and those who are not. Not only does this create an obvious conflict of interest, since the AMA is also writing rules for “model aircraft,” it also violates the concept of equal protection.
I’m no lawyer, but I find it hard to believe that committee lawyers would allow language that establishes such grounds for a Constitutional challenge.
– Ambiguous Language of “…and within the programming” means anything to anyone. Congress never bothered to define “…and within the programming” and it’s created nothing but problems. This language needs to go away.
This brings me to the easiest and most direct fix for ALL these problems. As part of the FAA Reauthorization, repeal PL112-95 Section 336 and compel the FAA to write rules for ALL recreational sUAS operations.
As Acting Administrator Elwell reminded us last week at InterDrone:
Until we can set remote ID requirements that will be universally applied to every drone… full integration just isn’t possible.
Two years after Part 107, drones have become an integral and increasingly integrated part of the public safety toolkit. I don’t mean to tempt Murphy or the devil, but given the lessons learned in 2017 by the FAA, asset owners, first responders and service providers; I think we can say “we’ve got this.” Which won’t do anything to relieve the misery… but will help end it sooner.
h/t to Isabella at UAV Coach for digging out this Michael Huerta goldie:
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the hurricane response will be looked back upon as a landmark in the evolution of drone usage in this country.
After last year’s experience with the bozos, the FAA got started early this week informing wanna be Buzz Lightyears that volunteers are not wanted for
FAA’s Hurricane Florence Update The FAA warns drone operators that they will be subject to significant fines that may exceed $20,000 and civil penalties if they interfere with emergency response operations.
They then added information about specific procedures.
Hurricane Florence: Information for Drone Operators Government agencies with an FAA Certificate of Authorization (COA) or flying under Part 107, as well as private sector Part 107 drone operators who want to support response and recovery operations, are strongly encouraged to coordinate their activities with the local incident commander responsible for the area in which they want to operate.
If drone operators need to fly in controlled airspace or a disaster TFR to support the response and recovery, operators must contact the FAA’s System Operations Support Center (SOSC) by emailing 9-ATOR-HQ-SOSC@faa.gov.
You can get all the FAA updates on their Florence Twitter list.
Interesting article by Christopher Todd, Self-Deploying Drone Pilots May Hinder Hurricane Response Efforts.
While many good Samaritan remote pilots believe they can make a positive difference in a disaster, the fact is that most drone operators do not possess the fundamental training, skills, and experience to be truly effective… The FAA Part 107 remote pilot certification is only the starting point for those drone operators who want to become proficient at disaster response.
WIRED has As Hurricane Florence Looms, Drone Pilots Prepare for Recovery. A Google search finds many others.
The Weather Channel headline reads Florence Could Knock Out Power to Up to 3 Million and It Could Be Out for Weeks:
David Fountain, Duke Energy North Carolina’s president, and Duke Storm DirectorHoward Fowler told reporters Wednesday the company has some 20,000 workers ready to restore power following the storm, including workers from Florida, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio are being brought in to assist, the
News & Observer reports.
“The magnitude of the storm is beyond what we have seen in years,” said Fowler. “With the storm expected to linger, power restoration work could take weeks instead of days.”
Good luck to all of you who pre-deployed and are no doubt fully engaged by now. I am looking forward to hearing from Jacob Velky who manages the Duke Energy Unmanned Aircraft System Team at Energy Drone Coalition Summit
There is always more irony – while the administration is busy dismantling methane regulations, WeTalkUAV.com offers Drones For Good: A UAV swarm that can ‘sniff’ toxic gasses in disaster zones. And ABC Denver (KMGH) did The Race Is on to Find a Way to Use Drones to Detect Methane Leaks From Oil and Gas Pipelines
HEARING: AIRSPACE INTEGRATION OF NEW AIRCRAFT
While we were all busy at InterDrone, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Aviation held a hearing on Airspace Integration of New Aircraft.
In his opening statement Chairman LoBiondo hit on some familiar themes:
Today, we begin with how we safely and efficiently integrate new users into the National Airspace System… UAS and flying cars will fly at altitudes much closer to the ground, and more often than not operate from places other than airports.
These differences raise at least a couple of initial questions of how UAS and flying cars integrate into the airspace.
First, how will these aircraft physically fit and operate within the three-dimensional airspace and be kept at safe distances from other aircraft, buildings, and people on the ground in urban and other environments?
The second big question relates to air traffic control systems. Air traffic control of conventional aircraft relies on a number of procedures, including extensive voice communications between pilots and controllers over the radio. Flying cars and UAS will be far different… So the question here is, how will the new aircraft and systems interoperate…?
While those are big questions around airspace integration, there are others. In recent months, we have seen growing interest in more use of counter-UAS systems in the face of an emerging risk posed by unlawfully operated drones. There are many unknowns about the use of counter-UAS systems which could impact avionics and air traffic control.
The hearing lasted two and a half hours. Among the witnesses was Skyward CEO Mariah Scott. A number of things she said caught my attention – the biggest idea is the way that she redefined UTM:
Historically, UTM has stood for UAS Traffic Management. But we believe that a more inclusive concept—Universal Traffic Management—will better enable airspace to be shared safely among all types of aircraft.
We see UTM as a system of systems, a decentralized network like a wireless network or the Internet, for coordinating all types of aircraft. We believe this will be the most efficient, cost-effective, scalable, and safest method for managing the national airspace. This will require aircraft manufacturers, sensor engineers, software developers, network providers, and regulators to agree upon standards to create and regulate an interoperable worldwide ecosystem.
For another take see the Avionics story, Amazon, HAI: An Integrated US Airspace Requires the Right Tools.
Always a popular topic, there are some good articles this week starting with Inside Unmanned Systems Extracting Forensic Data From Drones.
If drones used in crime do get captured, investigators will want to extract as much data from them as possible to help their cases. Now, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has developed a website to help authorities glean “forensic images” from drones. These images are available to download for free at http://www.cfreds.nist.gov/drone-images.html. So far it includes models from DJI, Yuneec, Parrot and SenseFly.
After last week’s panel, the MIT Technology Review’s On-Device AI is
CBInsights offers a good primer, What Is Edge Computing?
Edge computing offers an alternative to cloud computing that will likely have applications far beyond autonomous vehicles… In this explainer, we dive into what edge computing is, the benefits associated with the technology, and its applications across a wide range of industries.
The patent application for “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Data Services” describes a system by which network users can put in an order for enhanced data services, and have a drone flown out to the user’s location to provide those services.
Kinda, sorta like AT&T’s Flying COW which is a flying cell site – both fine examples of using mobility to bring the solution to the problem.
GONNA BE A LONG LONG TIME
Last week Impossible Aerospace turned a lot of heads with the launch of their US-1. PetaPixel picks up the story This ‘Flying Battery’ Drone Can Fly Two Hours on a Single Charge:
What sets the drone apart is that the whole thing was designed around the battery.
The drone itself is essentially a flying battery, as the vast majority of its internal space is occupied by battery cells, which serve as the drone’s primary structure.
It’s the first aircraft designed properly from the ground up to be electric, using existing battery cells without compromise,” said Spencer Gore, CEO of Impossible Aerospace. “It’s not so much an aircraft as it is a flying battery, leveraging an energy source that doubles as its primary structure. This is how electric aircraft must be built if they are to compete with conventional designs and displace petroleum fuels in aviation.”
Somebody bought that dream, Impossible Aerospace Raises $9.4 Million Series A to Revolutionize Aviation with Up To Two-Hour Flight Time Drone:
The $9.4 million Series A funding, led by Bessemer Venture Partners, brings the total amount raised by Impossible Aerospace to over $11 million. Returning investor Eclipse Ventures and new investor Airbus Ventures also participated in the latest round of funding.
Bravo! But definitely not easy – here is a sad reminder:
Thanks for reading and for sharing. Back issues of Dronin’ On are here.
Editor and Publisher
follow me @dronewriter