UAV122 Realtime Flight Restriction Data Coming to UAVs

DJI geofencing systemDJI and 3D Robotics bring real-time airspace restrictions to UAV software, a UAV flagship store is planned to open, ArcadiaSky opens a marketplace for commercial UAV operators, FAA gives a UAV registration warning, and another municipality regulates drone flights.


DJI Introduces New GeoFencing System For Its Drones

DJI plans to introduce a dynamic geofencing system that continuously provides updated airspace information to the operator. Data comes from Geospatial Environment Online (GEO). Drone operators will see temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) in real time, including forest fires, major stadium events, VIP travel, and restrictions around prisons, power plants, and other restricted areas such as national parks.

However, operators with verified DJI accounts could temporarily unlock or self-authorize flights in some of those locations, but not in sensitive national-security locations. This to accommodate the authorized applications and provide accountability if the flight is later under investigation.

DJI intends to start this in December, first in North America and Europe via a DJI Go app update, and also a drone firmware update.

GEO is powered by geospatial data from Santa Monica, California-based AirMap, which calls itself “the leading provider of airspace information and services for drones. AirMap’s real-time services are available to manufacturers through an API and through an SDK for application developers.”

Just as we were recording this episode, a video was posted from Drone World Expo titled DJI Technology Policy Announcement by Brendan Schulman, VP of Policy & Legal Affairs.

3DR Collaborates with AirMap to Integrate Flight Safety Zone Software into the Solo App

3D Robotics will also integrate AirMap’s safety information into its Solo smart drone app. CEO and co-founder Chris Anderson says, “…we want to make flying as safe as it is easy. Supplementing the Solo app with AirMap’s robust and reliable real-time airspace information allows us to increase education with a seamless and enjoyable drone experience.”

From the 3DR press release: “If Solo users open their Solo app in a restricted area, they’ll see a warning. Users can then tap the warning to bring up a map that displays any airspace information in the area. This airspace information includes real-time Temporary Flight Restrictions that may be established in the areas around wildfires, major sporting events and other sensitive places. The Solo app will contain basic airspace information: federal guidelines (e.g., five miles from an airport); national parks; airbases, etc.”

The World’s Biggest Commercial Drone Maker is Opening a Flagship Store

In December, DJI plans to open an 8,600 square foot flagship store in Shenzhen, China. A DJI spokesman said, “We want more people to see and touch our products.”

Start-up ArcadiaSky creates marketplace for commercial UAV hire

Australian company ArcadiaSky wants to make it easier to find licenced commercial UAV operators. After two months, they have 180 drone operators in 74 locations in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. They’ve received over 1,300 requests for quotes.

ArcadiaSky describes a free, three-step process:

  1. Define your requirements on a request for quote
  2. Choose your pilot based on your requirements
  3. You are put in contact with the drone operator

FAA: Think Twice about “Drone Registration” Firms

The FAA has issued a statement saying UAV owners should wait for the registration process to be announced before they work with any company that offers to help you with registration.

At least one company is offering this kind of service.

The FAA wants “a streamlined unmanned aircraft registration process that will be simple and easy to complete… The Task Force …is working on recommendations for a system that is similar to registering any newly purchased product with its manufacturer…”

Chicago City Council Approves Ban On Drones

The Chicago City Council approved an ordinance regulating drone use and requiring that drones cannot fly above 400 feet, must be line-of-sight, and cannot fly within five miles of O’Hare and Midway Airports. Also, no flying of drones over schools, churches, hospitals, police stations, and any private property without consent.

Video of the Week

DroneFest, the International Drone Film Festival

This international film and photography competition culminates in a one-night festival dedicated to everything drones. It’s part of the SkyTech 2016 Drone Expo on the 27th January 2016. Submissions are accepted until December 13, 2015.


UAV121 UAS Registration Update

The Facebook Aquila 1

Aquila 1 courtesy Facebook

“Polivation” policy briefing, UAS registration update, multicopters crash in Seattle, charges of misrepresenting UAS to the US Government, Google and Facebook want to be ISPs, and the tower industry looks ahead to UAS.

Implementing Polivation to Achieve Autonomy: A Path Forward

Hogan Lovells UAS GroupDavid tells us about the policy briefing he attended where panelists addressed issues of “polivation,” the intersection of policy making and innovation. Held at the City Club of Washington (D.C.) on November 12, 2015, the event was moderated by Gloria Story Dittus, chairman of Story Partners, a leading strategic communications firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. The panelists were:

  • John Verdi [PDF], Director of Privacy Initiatives, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, U.S.Department of Commerce
  • Lisa Ellman, Partner, Hogan Lovells and co-chair of the firm’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Group.
  • Gretchen West, Senior Advisor, Hogan Lovells, focusing on innovation and technology and a member of the firm’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Group in Silicon Valley.
  • Travis Mason, Public Policy and Government Relations, Google[x].

UAS Registration Task Force Update

Day 2 Update

“The discussion focused on developing and recommending a registration process, how to prove the UAS is registered and how to mark a UAS. The discussion about the registration process focused on the type of system that should be built and the type of information that should be collected.”

Day 3 Update

“The group focused on reaching a consensus on a recommended process for registration. The discussions included how an operator might prove a UAS is registered, how the aircraft would be marked, and how to use the registration process to encourage or require UAS operators to become educated on basic safety rules. The group also continues to gather data and analyze which types of UAS would need to be registered and which would not. The Task Force will now finalize its recommendations for delivery to the FAA Administrator by November 20.”


Drone hits Seattle’s huge Ferris wheel; SPD investigating

A drone struck the Seattle Great Wheel, a 175-foot tall ferris wheel. There were no reports of injury or damage, but police confiscated the drone.

Man charged for Seattle drone crash that knocked woman out

Recall that in June, a drone crashed into a building and struck a woman in the head. The operator has been charged with reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor charge with a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. The Seattle City Attorney’s Office said the charge is not because it was a drone, but because of the actions taken with the drone.

Met wants a drone register to manage the UAV menace

Drones were a topic at the Web Summit show in Dublin. Chief inspector Nick Aldworth of the Metropolitan Police and Ralph James of the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) agreed that Ireland needs a drone registry for security and privacy protection reasons.

Drone Company Misled Military into Buying UAVs that Were Basically Toys: Lawsuit

A motion has been filed in civil court alleging that Florida company Prioria Robotics misrepresented its Maveric UAS, a bird-like, portable, fixed-wing UAV that can be launched by a single-person. According to Prioria, the Maveric is capable of autonomous operation, weighs 2.6 pounds, with a 45-60 minute endurance. The Prioria website describes military, public safety, and commercial applications.

Prioria has won contracts with the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, NASA, and other federal agencies. The Defense Logistics Agency paid $240,000 per Maveric system. UAS vendor and Maveric retailer Condor Aerial says the specs are inaccurate and Prioria is charging military-grade prices for what is essentially a hobby drone.

Facebook’s laser drones v Google’s net-beaming balloons

Both Facebook and Google want to provide Internet service to the 57% of the world’s population that isn’t online. Facebook has built the Aquila 1 in England and sent it to an undisclosed location for testing. It’s propeller-driven by four solar-powered motors and made of foam covered with carbon fiber. Google has a drone-based project, but isn’t providing a lot of details. They also have the balloon-based Project Loon.

NATE Unmanned Aerial Systems Committee looks to prevent tragedies

The National Association of Tower Erectors established an Unmanned Aerial Systems Committee to monitor trends, regulatory concerns, and to make recommendations to NATE about best practices for drone use in the tower industry.

In the following video, host Joey Jackson of Cell Tower News talks with founding members of the Unmanned Aerial Systems Committee, Phil Larsen, President of Telecommunications at HAZON Solutions and Jim Goldwater, Senior Vice President at Bob Lawrence & Associates, Inc.

Video of the Week

Watch World’s First Jet-Powered, 3D Printed UAV Top 150 Mph!

Aurora Flight Sciences teamed up with additive manufacturing company Stratasys to create a jet-powered, 3D printed aircraft.

More at: World’s first jet-powered, 3D-printed UAV debuts at Dubai Airshow

UAV120 Drones that Avoid Obstacles

3-D environment mapSystems that allow drones to avoid obstacles, impediments to package delivery by UAV, the UAS registration task force kicks off and gets some help, and interviews and presentations from the UAS Industry Days conference.


A Drone with a Sense of Direction

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich has demonstrated a multirotor drone that creates 3-D maps of its environment. The first flight must be manual so the drone can build the map. After that, the drone can fly autonomously in that environment. The system uses stereo camera and sensors, and all data collection and processing is onboard the UAV.

New obstacle avoidance tech lets this drone zip through a thicket at top speed

MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) has developed an autonomous drone with a detection system that can navigate through obstacles. The software looks ahead 10 meters, detects hazards in the flight path, and adjusts the UAVs trajectory in real time.

Here’s Why Drone Delivery Won’t Be Reality Any Time Soon

Package delivery by drone continues to get a lot of attention. Amazon, Google, and even retail giant Walmart are looking at systems that can move items by UAV. But there are many obstacles to be overcome. David Vanderhoof explains some of the challenges in this Time article.

Statement: UAS Registration Task Force Day One

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta kicked off the UAS Registration Task Force on November 3, 2015. “The FAA briefed participants on the current statutory requirements and international obligations for aircraft registration before the group began initial discussions on a streamlined registration process and minimum requirements for UAS that need to be registered.”

LoBiondo and Larsen Outline Priorities for Proposed FAA Unmanned Aircraft Registry

House Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Frank LoBiondo (NJ-02) and Ranking Member Rick Larsen (WA-02) sent a letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta outlining their top priorities in establishing a national registry for UAS. The letter outlines four priorities that they want the task force to consider:

  1. Streamlined Process
  2. FAA Access to Data
  3. Education and Training
  4. Incentives for Consumers to Register

UAS Industry Days recordings

We have a webpage with the interviews we conducted with speakers, attendees, and exhibitors at the NUAIR Alliance and Empire State Chapter of AUVSI UAS Industry Days conference held September 22-23, 2015. We also have some of the presentations delivered at the conference.

The webpage is and you can play the recordings right from that page, or download them and listen later. You will also find a link to photos from the event.

Interviews include Aurora Flight Sciences, Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, ULC Robotics, and Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Solutions. We have presentations from Lisa Ellman of Hogan Lovells, Mark Aitken who is the Federal Government Regulations manager with AUVSI, and Arland Whitfield, president of The Skyworks Project. Also included are recordings of the agriculture and public safety panels.

Video of the Week

Stupidest Drone Crash Ever (w/pumpkin) – I’m a moron

A DJI Phantom 2 visits a pumpkin farm that happens to have a pumpkin cannon. For more of this “sport” visit



UAV119 Drone Video Systems

Drone Video SystemsGuest Kevin Kelly describes how Stampede is including UAV products and services in its portfolio so resellers can then offer complete drone video systems to business customers.


Kevin KellyKevin Kelly is President and COO of Stampede Presentation Products, a large, value-added distributor of professional audio-visual (ProAV) products. They represent more than 150 technology manufacturers through a network of over 12,000 resellers.

Kevin introduced the ProAV industry to the business-building potential of unmanned aerial vehicles and drone-based video systems. He explains that moving video to the UAV platform is still within the ProAV arena, and it represents another channel to the market.

By bringing UAVs into the portfolio of products offered, integrators have the ability to offer what Kevin calls Drone Video Systems or DVS. This is a commercial channel where trusted advisors offer comprehensive solutions to the commercial market.

Kevin views DVS as comprised of four components in one solution: the UAV including all the platform hardware, add-on sensors, command and control systems including data management and software, and professional services such as Section 333 exemptions, education, and training. To provide customers with the training component of DVS, Stampede has a strategic alliance with Unmanned Vehicle University.

We talk about how the rate of regulation is pacing the UAV industry, and Kevin describes the Drone Video website for those who want to get engaged with a DVS reseller, or who want to become a reseller. See Stampede Introduces ‘Drone Video Systems‘ in AVNetwork.

Kevin Kelly has more than 28 years of industry leadership experience in the ProAV, IT, CE and custom home theater markets. Stampede represents more than 150 technology manufacturers through a network that exceeds 12,000 resellers. The company has expanded into many new markets while supporting its resellers serving traditional corporate, government, education, non-profit, healthcare, and hospitality verticals.

In partnership with InfoComm and Unmanned Vehicle University, Stampede staged the industry’s first Drone Pavilion at InfoComm 2015 in Orlando, Florida.

Kevin holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing, and an MBA in Finance from the School of Management at the University of Buffalo.  He is a Leadership Search Committee Member with InfoComm International, the trade association representing the professional audiovisual and information communications industries worldwide. He is also the founder and past board president of the non-profit Computers for Children, served on the board of directors of Leadership for Buffalo, and remains actively involved with the Buffalo Club, Brookfield Country Club, and Holimont Ski Resort. Among his many recognitions, Kevin was named among the “40 Under 40” by Dealerscope magazine and Business First.

You can find Kevin on Twitter as @StampedeKevin.


Kentucky man who shot drone gets case dismissed

The criminal charge of firing a gun in city limits was dismissed by the judge who decided the drone invaded the man’s privacy. Two witnesses testified that the UAV flew below the tree line, but video evidence shows the UAV was flying 200 feet above the ground. The judge didn’t look at the video.


Steven Graham sent us the following email that includes his thoughts on the DOT/FAA plan for registering UAVs, the organizations who participated in the announcement, UAV terminology, FAA enforcement, and N-numbers:

Thanks for the great show guys. I’ve listened to every episode.  I’ve spent my life around airplanes.  Growing up as the son of an airline pilot, in the US Navy as an avionics technician, later as a civilian flight instructor and for the last 20 years flying B737 and A320 series A/C based in Colorado.

I’m also a UAS advocate.  Whether it be for recreational or business purposes unmanned aircraft offer huge potential benefits as a powerful tool that deserves to be developed.  As with any powerful tool they also embody the potential for harm.  As a result, we need strong leadership within industry as well as from those who would lead us on the civil front.  It is imperative that we demand educated and thoughtful solutions from these leaders.

What I’m seeing from the DOT and FAA with this initiative does not get high marks in those categories.  You correctly identified several of the key challenges to effective implementation of this little bit of public theater.  There are so many other fundamental problems with this initiative that I’ll leave it to those capable folks who sit on the panel and otherwise watch our government for us to ferret out.  With any luck, they will very quickly identify so many problems that the Fed will have to admit their original plan is simply unworkable especially on anything near the timetable they set down.

The worst tenets of this proposal for me are the combined facts that it is once again an attempt to end run the administrative procedures act without justification other than instilling fear into the public’s mind with the appearance that there does not seem to have been any evaluation of the likely gigantic costs of this program to administrate against the seemingly ethereal benefits that when pressed for at the hearing the administration failed to even achieve a first grade rationalization for.

I felt the individual who kept telling the audience in response to questions was both condescending and dismissive as he repeatedly stated “LOOK” as if lecturing a recalcitrant child.  Government like this can only happen when high-level officials with a myopic focus on their own press machines act in a totalitarian fashion and/or those who should be advising them lack either the real world experience necessary to know better or the backbone to tell their bosses their ideas are unwise.  IMO this is nothing more than big government seeking to grow by finding a legislative solution to every perceived problem.

My deepest suspicions are this initiative rises out of our current administration’s desire to be seen to be doing something about the largely hyped media attention to the relatively small number of UAS users who make unwise and dangerous choices when they fly.  Knowing Mr Rich Hanson personally now for several years I feel quite confident that he and the AMA were likely “persuaded” to attend the press conference and show a modicum of support under a threat along the lines of “The boss wants this NOW and it will happen with or without your support and participation so if you want to have a voice in the process you WILL attend and support this”  FWIW the AMA released a follow-up statement that clarified that they do not support registration of UAS that fall under the category defined as “Traditional Model Aircraft.”  (AMA’s Response to the U.S. DOT announcement)  Now if we can just get the AMA to define just what the hell a traditional model aircraft is we could all stop yelling at each other in the online forums.  I know I’ve been called a pollyanna before!

The previous brings me to my sadness with the continued confusion among just about everyone regarding UAS terminology.  I know you’ve talked about it on the show in the past and I have no problem with the word drone.  I personally believe our use of drones in conflict to be justified given the American lives it saved as well as the efficacy with which the platforms were brought to bear in spite of the national media’s attempts to vilify their use.  Really the preceding shouldn’t even be a part of our discussion of civil UAS, unfortunately, the media again has seen fit to try and tie the two together.

Language is a tricky thing as it tends to develop organically often times without rational thought being part of the process.  Add the fact that less evolved individuals tend to use words as weapons for marketing granting them greater power than even the things they represent and we end up where we are presently.  If I were king for a day I’d ban the use of the word drone and call all things that fly unmanned, wait for it………….. UAS or UAV’s if you will.  If we must we can further define UAS by purpose such as model aviation to denote the hobby vs commercial, research, or public aircraft.  Multis, single rotor, fixed wing, powered or glider could serve to subcategorize by fundamental design characteristic.

The simple fact is ALL of these things are UAS and ALL of them can be misused.  It is my firm belief that if we’re going to denounce anything in the UAS world we should be seeking to define the types of flying that we collectively feel are contrary to community relations and most importantly the safety of the NAS.  To suggest that any specific type of model, DJI Phantoms for example (sorry I couldn’t resist) are the root cause of UAS ills is quite simply flawed logic that seeks to remove the human from the responsibility to exercise judgment as an aviator.

I was a bit confused the claim that the “FAA doesn’t really have any enforcement thing”?  The FAA indeed has an army of what they call inspectors who work daily investigating claims of FAR violations.  While it’s true most inspectors do not have the power to arrest, there are some that do.  The FAA also definitely has the authority to file federal charges against those they feel are in violation.  In the case of a clear and present threat to the NAS, they can work with local and federal law enforcement agencies to take appropriate police measures.  It’s true however that the FAA is perennially understaffed and their claims that they will utilize their fellow law enforcement partners to help enforce registration is highly suspect due to the fact that most law enforcement agencies are also understaffed.

Years ago I asked law enforcement to meet my aircraft when we had an individual who was smoking onboard and refused to comply with flight attendant requests to put out his cigarette.  After briefly chatting with Smokey the local cops at the airport we landed at allowed him to simply walk away.  Later when I asked them about their procedures they informed me in no uncertain terms that they have neither the interest or time to be the smoking police for the FAA.  From this and other incidents, I learned that when I have a significant threat to flight safety that my best chance for a legitimate enforcement of federal law was to call specifically for FAA law enforcement which, fortunately, most of the larger airports we serve have on duty for just such occasions.  This real world example  flies in the face of the administrators public proclamations of local resources as available to enforce FAR’s.

I feel compelled to comment on the repeated use of the word November to refer to registration numbers.  While it’s true that occasionally ATC will use the terminology in their radio communications with aircraft ie “Skyhawk November 123 Charlie climb and maintain 6000 feet”; I can’t recall a single instance when the word November was used to describe a registration number.  I’ve often heard people use the term “N number” to describe a registration number, but even that lacks specificity.  I think there’s a historical failure here on the part of pilots to use proper terminology.  Perhaps since many people don’t travel outside the US they don’t often see foreign registration numbers and as a result they come to calling the numbers and letters they see on the side of aircraft N numbers in a mistaken belief all registration numbers start with N.  A minor nit I’ll admit but offered in the interest of improving the podcast.

Steven Graham

UAV118 DOT/FAA to Require Unmanned Aircraft Registration

Analysis of the DOT/FAA announcement that operators will be required to register their unmanned aircraft.


U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx Announces Unmanned Aircraft Registration Requirement

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta announced the creation of a task force to develop recommendations for a registration process for unmanned aircraft.

Secretary Foxx said, “Registering unmanned aircraft will help build a culture of accountability and responsibility, especially with new users who have no experience operating in the U.S. aviation system. It will help protect public safety in the air and on the ground.”

Administrator Huerta said, “Registration will help make sure that operators know the rules and remain accountable to the public for flying their unmanned aircraft responsibly.  When they don’t fly safely, they’ll know there will be consequences.”

For a video of the UAS registration announcement, see USDOT Press Conference [27 minutes].

These stakeholders were onstage at the announcement:

See also, Statements of support for DOT’s approach to UAS registration

The Problems with Mandatory Drone Registration

Jonathan Rupprecht, Esq., a commercial pilot and flight instructor with Rupprecht Law lays out 11 problems with UAS registration, including the number of available N-numbers, the definition of a UAS for registration purposes, the effectiveness of registration, DOT/FAA authority or jurisdiction to require registration, and where the funding will come from.

UAVUS Response to DOT Federal UAV Registry Announcement

The US Association of Unmanned Aerial Videographers (UAVUS) says they support “…the development of a streamlined registration process for small UAVs that meet an appropriate threshold for size, weight, and capabilities.”

UAVUS also feels the announced registration proposal is “…overly ambitious, and could add to the confusion created by the absence of the FAA’s final rulemaking for the commercial use of small UAVs.”

DOT Accepting Public Comments on UAS Registration Requirements

Hogan Lovells reports that “To facilitate the task force’s work in developing UAS registration procedures, DOT is requesting information and data from the public.” Comments can be submitted until November 6, 2015.

Clarification of the Applicability of Aircraft Registration Requirements for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) and Request for Information Regarding Electronic Registration for UAS

Docket FAA-2015-4378 has provision for the public to submit comments that give feedback to the following questions:

  1. What methods are available for identifying individual products? Does every UAS sold have an individual serial number? Is there another method for identifying individual products sold without serial numbers or those built from kits?
  1. At what point should registration occur (e.g. point-of-sale or prior-to-operation)? How should transfers of ownership be addressed in registration?
  1. If registration occurs at point-of-sale, who should be responsible for submission of the data? What burdens would be placed on vendors of UAS if DOT required registration to occur at point-of-sale? What are the advantages of a point-of-sale approach relative to a prior-to-operation approach?
  1. Consistent with past practice of discretion, should certain UAS be excluded from registration based on performance capabilities or other characteristics that could be associated with safety risk, such as weight, speed, altitude operating limitations, duration of flight? If so, please submit information or data to help support the suggestions, and whether any other criteria should be considered.
  1. How should a registration process be designed to minimize burdens and best protect innovation and encourage growth in the UAS industry?
  1. Should the registration be electronic or web-based? Are there existing tools that could support an electronic registration process?
  1. What type of information should be collected during the registration process to positively identify the aircraft owner and aircraft?
  1. How should the registration data be stored? Who should have access to the registration data? How should the data be used?
  1. Should a registration fee be collected and if so, how will the registration fee be collected if registration occurs at point-of-sale? Are there payment services that can be leveraged to assist (e.g. PayPal)?
  1. Are there additional means beyond aircraft registration to encourage accountability and responsible use of UAS?

Video of the Week

New app lets drone pilots customize flight path and camera movement before takeoff

Professional-quality aerial footage with a drone takes more than just an eye for photography and a few hours of flight training. More often than not, it takes an expert pilot, sometimes along with a professional photographer, to control the camera and avoid crashing the drone into its subject. There’s a bit of a learning curve, so to help bridge the gap between novices and experts, a team of computer graphics Ph.D. students at Stanford University have developed an algorithm that levels the playing field by combining flight planning and camera control in one package.


I Was a Drone Warrior for 11 Years. I Regret Nothing

Lt. Col. T. Mark McCurley is a retired Air Force pilot and former human intelligence operator. He flew remotely piloted aircraft for over a decade and was the squadron commander of the mission that killed American terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki. This piece is partly adapted from his recently released memoir, Hunter Killer: Inside America’s Unmanned Air War.


UAV117 Don’t Fly UAS Near Airports

SkyPan International

FAA proposes $1.9 million penalty against UAS operator, Pathfinder expanded to detect UAS near airports, NAV Canada wants jail time for flying near airports, detect-and-avoid standards on the way, Boeing tests joined wing body UAS, and DARPA working to develop vanishing drones.


FAA Proposes $1.9 Million Civil Penalty Against SkyPan International for Allegedly Unauthorized Unmanned Aircraft Operations

The FAA says aerial photography company SkyPan International “conducted 65 unauthorized operations in some of our most congested airspace and heavily populated cities, violating airspace regulations and various operating rules.” Forty-three of the flights flew in restricted Class B airspace near airports.

According to the FAA, SkyPan flew commercial UAS flights over New York City and Chicago between March 21, 2012 and Dec. 15, 2014 without an aircraft airworthiness certificate, registration, or a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization.

In UAS expert: FAA’s proposed $1.9 million fine is necessary, Christina Engh, the chief operating officer for consulting firm UASolutions Group Inc. said the FAA’s actions should serve as a warning to the industry.

On its website, SkyPan says they have been operating safely for 27 years. They operate only over the private property of clients with single rotor aircraft capable of controlled autorotation descent, and “SkyPan robots are repeatedly tested and were inspected by the FAA in August 2013, deemed to be one of the safest UAV operations in the USA.”

Additionally, SkyPan says they “proactively contacted the FAA in 2005, 2008, and 2010 to explore special permitting for its commercial UAS activity, by discussing regulatory and suggested technical parameters with FAA officials in Illinois, New York and Washington, D.C. and in 2015 was awarded a ‘333’ exemption to the FAA’s blanket ban on commercial UAS operation.”

FAA Expands Unmanned Aircraft Pathfinder Efforts

The FAA entered into a Pathfinder agreement with CACI International Inc. to evaluate how the company’s sensor technology can help detect UAS in the vicinity of airports.

The FAA’s UAS Pathfinder initiative creates research partnerships with industry to explore next steps beyond the types of operations described in the sUAS NPRM.

John Mengucci, CACI’s Chief Operating Officer and President of U.S. Operations said, “The agreement provides a proven way to passively detect, identify, and track UAS… and their ground-based operators, in order to protect airspace from inadvertent or unlawful misuse of drones near U.S. airports.”

The FAA will select airports where CACI’s prototype UAS sensor detection system will be evaluated at airports.

NAV Canada CEO: ‘Jail time’ needed for reckless UAV operators

Speaking about recreational UAVs flown within 5 miles of airports, NAV Canada president and CEO John Crichton said operators should be subject to criminal penalties. “Why don’t we go out and catch a few people?” he said.

First Interim Standards for Unmanned Aircraft Detect-and-Avoid Released

An RTCA Special Committee released interim minimum operational performance standards (MOPS) for the detect-and-avoid system and command-and-control data link. The RTCA is chartered by the FAA to operate Federal advisory committees. It develops minimum performance standards that form the basis for FAA regulatory requirements.

The performance standards don’t apply to sUAS, only to civil UAVs flying to and from Class A controlled airspace (above 18,000 ft.) under instrument flight rules. The MOPS specifies sensors to detect other aircraft and provide operators on the ground with awareness and guidance. It’s run with ADS-B, TCAS, and radar. Release of the final document release is planned for 2016.

A uniquely shaped unmanned aerial vehicle undergoes tests

Boeing is testing a rigid wing version of a joined-wing UAV. Ultimately, a flexible wing version is planned for long duration surveillance missions.

The Military’s ICARUS Project Wants To Build Delivery Drones That Vanish Into Thin Air

Under DARPA’s Vanishing Programmable Resources (VAPR) program, “degradable” electronic systems physically disappear in a controlled, triggerable manner to prevent them from being captured by enemies. The DARPA Inbound Controlled Air-Releasable Unrecoverable Systems (ICARUS) project builds on VAPR to create drones that disappear after completing their mission.

How? With “polymer panels that sublimate directly from a solid phase to a gas phase, and electronics-bearing glass strips with high-stress inner anatomies that can be readily triggered to shatter into ultra-fine particles after use.”


Police: Drone crashes, burns in Sag Harbor

A multirotor burned on the sidewalk after crashing into two buildings.

UK firms develop drone-freezing ray

The Anti-UAV Defense System (AUDS) jams the communications signal for a drone, making it unresponsive.

Anti-drone rifle shoots down UAVs with radio waves

Battelle’s DroneDefenderTM is a “rapid-to-use counter-weapon to stop suspicious or hostile drones in flight.”

Senate bill criminalizes ‘reckless’ drone flights

The Safe Drone Act from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) would make it a crime to fly recklessly near restricted airspace.

Polish Air Force F-16 Jet Collided with Drone

Ground crews discovered damage to the airframe protective coating and to the fuel tank during post-flight checks.

Drone activity ‘raises risk’ for pilots, firefighters as bush-fire season nears

With the annual bush-fire season approaching in Australia, authorities there are concerned about people flying drones near bush-fires.


UAV116 Customs and Border Protection UAS

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

We talk with U.S. Customs and Border Protection Deputy Director John Murphy, Jr. about the UAS they use.


John Murphy, Jr.Guest John Murphy, Jr. is Deputy Director, National Air Security Operations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Office of Air and Marine Operations (AMO). John is responsible for providing oversight, mission alignment, and associated administrative requirements for national and foreign operations involving the P-3 Orion and MQ-9 Predator.

AMO is a federal law enforcement organization dedicated to serving and protecting the American people through advanced aeronautical and maritime capabilities. With 1,200 federal agents, 267 aircraft and 283 marine vessels operating from 91 locations throughout the United States and Puerto Rico, AMO conducts its mission between ports of entry in the maritime environment and within the nation’s interior.

We talk about the remotely piloted aircraft that CBP flies from Sierra Vista, Arizona, Corpus Christi, Texas, and Grand Forks, North Dakota. John discusses civil liberties considerations, how CBP integrates its UAS into the NAS, using the same pilots for manned and unmanned operations, and current career opportunities at CBP.

John has accumulated over 4,000 hours of flight time in a number of high performance fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, including the CH-53, UH-60, C-550, AS350, C-12C/M and N-22. He had a 20-year career with the United States Marine Corps that included tours as a CH-53E helicopter pilot, global operational experience with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, service in combat zones over Mogadishu, Somalia, and evacuation support of the U.S. Embassy Rwanda, Africa.

In 1996, John joined the former U.S. Customs Service as a Customs Pilot. He was promoted to Aviation Group Supervisor and led many P-3 detachments to Central and South America to conduct counter-narcotic defense operations. In 2005, he was selected as Director, Air Operations at the San Diego Air and Marine Branch.

In 2010, John served as the Vice Director for the Joint Interagency Task Force South, responsible for the coordination of Air and Marine Operations aviation support for the U.S. Southern Command anti-drug initiatives in the source and transit zones.

Find U.S. Customs and Border Protection at, and on Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and Instagram. Also, look for Customs and Border Protection photos and videos on The Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS).

UAV115 FAA Misses UAS Integration Date

Firefighting drone by FliteTest

Industry reacts to FAA missing the UAS integration deadline, lasers on drones, UAS testing at Wallops Island, a million drones for the holidays, and interviews from UAS Industry Days 2015.


Drones Armed With High-Energy Lasers May Arrive In 2017

Predator and Reaper manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is looking at mounting a 150-kilowatt solid-state laser onto its Avenger drone, also known as the Predator-C. This could be ready in 2017.

NASA Wallops looks to bump up drone traffic

NASA and the state of Virginia are working together on a plan to build a 3,000 foot runway for drones on Wallops Island. This UAS test range is envisioned to support commercial, government, and academic users.

FAA Fears That 1 Million Drones Could Be Sold This Holiday Season

According to Aviation Week, the FAA’s Rich Swayze says the Agency expects as many as one million UAVs to be sold during this year’s holiday season. That’s a lot of opportunity for misuse of unmanned aircraft.

AUVSI and 28 Organizations Mark Missed FAA Deadline for UAS Integration

The congressionally mandated deadline for the FAA to integrate UAS into the National Airspace System was Sept. 30, 2015. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) and 28 others sent a letter [PDF] to the FAA, stating in part:

“While the FAA has hit some milestones in the integration process, it has yet to finalize small UAS rules, let alone facilitate the full integration of UAS that Congress contemplated in 2012. The increasing number of businesses applying for Section 333 exemptions demonstrates the pent-up demand for commercial UAS operations and the immediate need for a regulatory framework.”

“In the absence of regulations, American businesses and innovators are left sitting on the sidelines or operating under a restrictive exemption process.”

“On behalf of businesses across a wide range of industry sectors in the United States, we urge the FAA to use all available means to finalize the small UAS rules immediately without any further delays and move ahead with the next regulatory steps on the path for integrating all UAS into the NAS. Once this happens, we will have an established framework for UAS operations that will do away with the case-by-case system of approvals, reducing the barriers to commercial UAS operations. And importantly, having more trained commercial operators will create a culture of safety that helps deter careless and reckless behavior.”

Interviews from UAS Industry Days

We recorded a number of interviews at the NUAIR Alliance UAS Test Site, including these two about testing done at Griffiss International Airport in Rome, New York:

Thomas Washington

Manager of Flight Test Operations, Aurora Flight Sciences. The Centaur (DA 42) optionally piloted aircraft was tested previously at Griffiss for their unmanned flight test campaign.

John Reade

A computer scientist at Quanterion working with AFRL (Air Force Research Laboratory) and two Desert Hawk III UAVs from Lockheed Martin doing collision avoidance testing in the “triangle” at Griffiss. Quanterion has also developed simulation software that evaluates the interactions of manned and unmanned aircraft in shared airspace.

Videos of the Week

Fire Fighting Drone | Flite Test

The Firecopter is a custom-made Y-6 multi-rotor equipped with a fire extinguisher for fighting fires from the air. From Flite Test.

Esperance whale encounter captures hearts across Australia

Beautiful footage of amazing marine mammals, but before you try this, review Approaching whales and dolphins in NSW and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Amendment (Marine Mammals) Regulation 2006.

Approaching whales and dolphins in NSW

UAV114 UAS Industry Days 2015

Industry Days 2015A first report on UAS Industry Days 2015 with the keynote by Lisa Ellman and an interview with Lawrence Brinker.

NUAIR Alliance and Empire State Chapter of AUVSI Second Annual UAS Industry Days: Collaboration for Innovation

Held September 22-23, 2015 at the NUAIR Alliance Hangar and at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino Events Center in New York, this conference offered speakers, exhibits, flight demonstrations, and networking opportunities.

David, Max, @dronemama, and @ProfVanderhoof attended the event, conducted a number of interviews, and recorded the presentations. This episode we bring you the conference keynote presentation and also a concluding interview with the director of the NUAIR Alliance. We’ll have more interviews and presentations in the coming weeks.


Keynote, Lisa Ellman, partner and co-chair of Global Unmanned Aircraft Systems Practice Group, Hogan Lovells.


Lawrence Brinker, Executive Director and General Counsel, NUAIR Alliance.

Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance

The NUAIR Alliance is a New York based not-for-profit coalition of more than 70 private and public entities and academic institutions working together to operate and oversee UAS test ranges in New York, Massachusetts, and Michigan. Headquartered at Griffiss International Airport, in Rome, New York, NUAIR manages one of just six UAS test sites in the United States leading the research and deployment technologies that establish the case for safe UAS operations in the nation’s commercial airspace.

Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International

AUVSI is the world’s largest non-profit organization devoted exclusively to advancing the unmanned systems and robotics community. Serving more than 7,500 members from government organizations, industry, and academia, AUVSI is committed to fostering, developing, and promoting unmanned systems and robotic technologies. AUVSI members support defense, civil, and commercial sectors.

Presentation and Interview Recordings

For audio recordings of some of the conference presentations, as well as the interviews we conducted with speakers, attendees, and exhibitors, see:


We’d like to take the opportunity to reiterate our thanks to the sponsors of The UAV Digest: GoEngineer and UAV Propulsion Tech. Their support enables us to attend events such as this in order to bring great content to our audience.

UAV113 Think First, Launch Second

Think Before You LaunchLockheed Martin adds drone flight plans to pilot briefings, the AMA takes a closer look at FAA drone sightings data, Canadian farmers don’t want onerous regulations, California legislators want more drone laws, InterDrone product announcements, and the Reaper gets a long-range update package.

Think Before You Launch

Think Before You Launch (TBYL) is an awareness campaign that seeks to educate both manned and unmanned aircraft operators about the hazards in the low-altitude environment. This alliance of UAS and aviation stakeholders wants to improve aviation safety and educate users about the safe and responsible operation and integration of UAS. See the TBYL Infographic [PDF].


Graphical drone briefing developed

Lockheed Martin adds unmanned flight plans to the weather information, NOTAMs, TAFs, and METARs already in the Next Generation Briefings online flight planning tool.

Drone hobbyists find flaws in “close call” reports to FAA from other aircraft

AMA Responds to the FAA’s Drone Sighting Report

The Academy of Model Aeronautics took a closer look at the reports of 764 close-call incidents with drones reported by the FAA in August (Pilot Reports of Close Calls With Drones Soar in 2015).

According to the AMA report New AMA Analysis: FAA Data Reveals Complex Picture of U.S. Drone Activity [PDF], the FAA data (FAA Releases Pilot UAS Reports) shows that only 27 incidents were called “near misses” by the pilots and evasive action was taken 10 times.

Some altitudes reported by pilots were too high for a UAV (19,000 – 51,000 feet) and the data included sightings of public agencies and commercial operators, as well as military flights.

The AMA says:

  • Some sightings appear to involve people flying responsibly and within the FAA’s current recreational guidelines.
  • Many things in the air – from balloons and birds to model rockets and mini blimps – are mistaken for, or reported as, drone sightings even when they are not.
  • A number of sightings have occurred over or around stadium events, wildfires, power plants and other critical infrastructure. These raise different concerns from pilot sightings.
  • In almost 20 percent (142) of the reports, local law enforcement either wasn’t notified or it was unknown whether local law enforcement was notified.

KAP doesn’t want new UAV regs to unnecessarily ground farmers

Keystone Agricultural Producers of Manitoba (KAP) president Dan Mazier views drones as tools for farmers, and recognizes the need for regulations, but he doesn’t want them to be onerous. Mazier says, “KAP would like dialogue before they (Transport Canada) make regulations. If they are going to put a certain regulation in, at least consult farm groups or farmers and ask how they can work with it.”

Transport Canada says it will amend regulatory requirements for UAVs in 2016 and proposes to create UAV classifications, establish aircraft marking and registration requirements, address personnel licensing and training and create flight rules.

Bill on drones heads to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk

Senate Bill 168 has passed the California legislature and was sent to Governor Jerry Brown for consideration. This legislation seeks to address problems seen when drones interfere with emergency responders like firefighters. It would increase the fines for drone operators who interfere with emergency responders, and it would grant immunity to emergency responders who damage or destroy unmanned aircraft during emergency operations.

Other legislation in the pipeline at the Federal level introduced by California Legislators::

  • S. 1608, the Consumer Drone Safety Act, requires safety features on consumer drones and strengthens FAA regulations that regulate drone operation.

Reaper ER Extends RPA Missions to +33 Hours

A Reaper’s maximum endurance can grow from 27 hours to 33-35 hours by installing two wing-mounted fuel tanks as a field-retrofittable package. Other modifications to accommodate the higher gross weight include an alcohol/water injection system, a four-bladed propeller, and a stronger landing gear system. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. says the Reaper ER has been operationally fielded by the U.S. Air Force.

TWiT Live Specials #254: InterDrone Conference 2015

In this 48 minute video, Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ from the Know How maker video podcast, shows us product announcements from the InterDrone 2015 conference.

Video of the Week

Blarney Castle in County Cook

Professor Vanderhoof found this stunning video from Tourism Ireland.


Man fined after flying drones over Premier League stadiums

A man was fined £1,800 and banned from buying or using a drone for two years for flying over sporting events and London landmarks.