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.


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.

UAV112 Know Before You Fly at Point-of-Sale

An Interview with the National Retail Hobby Stores Association, bad drone legislation vetoed in California, UAS awards, and mass jackassery.


National Retail Hobby Stores Association

We wanted to know how hobby shop retailers feel about their responsibilities toward UAV buyers at point-of-sale. So we called Noel Bays, the president of the National Retail Hobby Stores Association (NRHSA), and asked him. He was happy to explain the position of NRHSA, and how he personally implements this at HobbyForce in Ontario, Ohio.


California governor vetoes drone bill

California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the legislation that would have made it unlawful to fly  drones at altitudes less than 350 feet over private property without the owner’s permission.

California Governor Jerry Brown veto

Drone Industry Launches Technology & Innovation Awards

The Unmanned Air Systems Technology & Innovation Awards are open to any organization that is part of the unmanned aviation industry. Four awards will be issued:

  • Start-up of the Year 2016
  • The Innovation Award 2016
  • Service Solution of the Year 2016
  • The Award for Business Growth 2016

Nominations will be accepted up to December 20, 2015 and can be for organizations across the globe. Winners will be selected by a select panel of judges, and announced during the SkyTech 2016 trade show in London on January 27, 2016.

To submit a nomination, visit the Awards website.

3D Robotics’ Chris Anderson on the rise of ‘mass jackassery’ in the hobby drone community

Chris Anderson, co-founder and chief executive of 3D Robotics, is concerned about irresponsible flying by some multicopter operators. “[It’s] bad and it’s going to get worse. And if we don’t do something about it, no one’s been killed yet, but someone’s going to do something really stupid.” Anderson says the solution needs to come from manufacturers in the form of software-based geofencing.

Anderson also describes three eras of consumer drones. The first era was getting drones to fly. The second era was gimbal-mounted video cameras capable of producing high quality video. Now we have the third era: drone autonomy that removes the need for a pilot.

Video of the Week

Harvest Ballycullane

Spring barley harvest in Kildare with a Claas Lexion 570C.


Drone Radio Show, a weekly podcast series about drones and the people who use them.  

Guillermo from Valencia, Spain, tells us about the first Drone Pilot class from the Universitat Politècnica de València, offering theory and practice in a 320-hour course.

Demostración de vuelo: multicóptero AibotX6 (Flight demonstration: Aibot X6 Multicopter)


University extension diploma in piloting unmanned aircraft systems by remote control (RPAS)

RPAS pilots from EASA

They have also appeared on TV News in Spain:

RPAS UPV en Antena 3 Televisión

Jornada Drones TVE

The first Drone Pilot class from the Universitat Politècnica de València

The first Drone Pilot class from the Universitat Politècnica de València

Volocopter VC200 First Flight

World’s first manned flight with an electric multicopter

The Swarm Manned Aerial Vehicle Multirotor Super Drone Flying

UAV111 UAVs and the Law

Drones reported by pilots to the FAA

Local and state drone laws and regulations at odds with federal authority, a reported mid air collision and other reports by pilots, updated model aircraft guidance from the FAA, two UAS executive positions filled by the FAA, and Sony shows us its camera-equipped quadcopter.


Sarah Nilsson, JD, PhD, MASSarah Nilsson has both an aviation and a legal background. She holds an airline transport pilot certificate for single and multi-engine fixed-wing airplanes.  She has also flown air cargo and private business jets, and is a gold seal flight instructor.

In addition, Sarah is a licensed attorney in the State of Arizona. She graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, with minors in Aviation Business Administration and Aviation Safety.

Sarah also obtained her Master of Aeronautical Science from Embry-Riddle with concentrations in Aviation Safety, Aerospace Operations, and Human Factors. She holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration from Northcentral University. She also graduated with honors with a Juris Doctorate from Arizona Summit Law School.

Currently, Sarah is the managing attorney of Nilsson Law, PLLC, which she founded.  Since January of this year, Sarah has served as full-time faculty at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona, where she teaches Aviation Law, Business Law, and Business Ethics.

Sarah volunteers with the FAA as a FAASTeam Safety Representative and is co-author with Scott Hamilton of the 6th edition of Practical Aviation and Aerospace Law, a national aviation law textbook.

Find Sarah’s personal website at There you’ll see a number of Aviation topics, including a UAS-UAV Drone News section where Sarah has a very detailed analysis of the new Advisory Circular on Model Aircraft Operating Standards. Look for “AC 91-57A Clarified.” You can also browse through her collection of State-by-State UAS Laws.

Disclaimer:  Please note that nothing said in this podcast should be construed as legal advice. Each case is different and you should seek an attorney in your own state who can advise you for your particular situation.


Poway approves first-of-its-kind drone law

The Poway, California City Council voted to ban drones from flying over most of the city. What started out as an attempt to address concerns over drones interfering with firefighting efforts, grew in scope to cover 75% of the city.

The mayor says, “This is not the perfect ordinance. We are not going to use this like a hammer, and say you can’t play with your drone in your driveway. You won’t see us enforce this unless we have a wildfire and someone is interfering with first responder efforts.”

As Drones Flood US Skies, States Are On A Legal Collision Course

The growing patchwork of state and local laws and ordinances has commercial drone operators nervous, and with good reason. There are questions of jurisdiction to enact laws, overreaching laws that stifle innovation and commerce, and enforceability.

Drone reports detailed

This article from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) says that 51% of the drone sightings reported by pilots to the FAA have come from California, Texas, Florida, New Jersey, and New York.

Unconfirmed midair between Piper Apache and unidentified RPA (update)

FAA Investigating Reported UAV Collision with Piper Twin

A twin-engine Piper PA-23 Aztec was struck at 2,500 feet near Lewis University Airport (KLOT) in Illinois on August 27, 2015. The pilot says it was a UAV that damaged a horizontal stabilizer leading edge. Some reports say it was a bird strike. The FAA is investigating.

FAA Releases Updated Model Aircraft Guidance

The FAA published Advisory Circular No. 91-57A, Model Aircraft Operating Standards [PDF] to update the guidance from 1981 to reflect “current law governing hobby or recreational use of unmanned aircraft.” That previous guidance was written in 1981, and “did not reflect the rules Congress wrote into Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.”

The AC incorporates the description of model aircraft operation found in the 2012 law. Also, model aircraft operators must comply with all Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR), and should be aware of Notices to Airmen (NOTAMS). And careless or reckless operation and interference with manned aircraft may be subject to FAA enforcement action.

Advisory Circular 91-57 Canceled and Updated with AC 91-57A

Commercial pilot, flight instructor, and attorney Jonathan Rupprecht provides his analysis of AC 91-57A. He finds that model aircraft must comply with the new guidance (it is not voluntary), and that it lacks clarity in some areas.

FAA Selects New Unmanned Aircraft Executives

The FAA has filled two new executive-level positions that they say, “will guide the agency’s approach to safe, timely and efficient integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into U.S. airspace.”

The Senior Advisor on UAS Integration is Hoot Gibson. He will “focus on external outreach and education, inter-agency initiatives and an enterprise-level approach to FAA management of UAS integration efforts.”

The Director of the UAS Integration Office is Earl Lawrence, who will “lead the FAA’s efforts to safely and effectively integrate UAS into the nation’s airspace.” That Office is within the FAA’s Aviation Safety organization.

Gibson was Executive Director of the NextGen Institute, providing professional services to the UAS Joint Program Development Office. He owned his own aviation consulting firm, and comes from a 33-year career in the U.S. Air Force.

Lawrence was Director of the FAA Small Airplane Directorate, and had been Vice President for Industry & Regulatory Affairs at the Experimental Aircraft Association.

Bonus Topic

Sony’s quadcopter takes smartphone tech to the skies

In Episode 110 we talked about AeroSense, the joint venture between Sony and ZMP, and their VTOL drone prototype. Now we see from AeroSense the AS-MC01-P, which incorporates a high resolution sensor from the QX30 digital camera into the bottom of the quadcopter. The quad is intended to be used in areas like construction zones. It weighs about 3 kilograms and can fly for 15 to 20 minutes on a battery charge.

The AS-MC01-P can operate autonomously, has GPS, Wi-Fi, an inertial navigation system, and a high-speed data transfer module using Sony’s wireless TransferJet technology.

Videos of the Week

No Pole Necessary — Watch as Farmer Hooks a Fish With His Drone

It works as long as the fish is smaller than the drone.

Milford Sound – the Eighth Wonder of the World in 4K! Play On In New Zealand

Via listener Jim. Watch this, then buy your plane tickets to New Zealand!

UAV110 Drone Legislation

Sony AeroSense prototype

Drone legislation in the news: private property overflights in California, mandatory drone geofencing, and weaponized drones for law enforcement. Also, ALPA responds to pilot encounters with drones, counter-drone systems, and a Sony prototype drone.


Drone no-fly zone in California will stifle innovation, say industry advocates

The California Assembly has passed a bill (SB 142) that prohibits flying a drone under 350 feet over private property without permission. The bill is awaiting signature by Governor Jerry Brown and if it becomes law, flying below 350 feet would be considered a trespass violation.

State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, who authored the bill said, “People should be able to sit in their backyards and be in their homes without worrying about drones flying right above them or peering in their windows. We need to balance innovation with personal and societal expectations.”

AUVSI Statement on Passage of SB 142 in the California Assembly

Brian Wynne, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), released a statement on the passage of SB 142 in the California Assembly. The statement says, in part:

“AUVSI is deeply disappointed with the passage of SB 142 in the California Assembly. While the industry supports the safe, non-intrusive use of UAS technology, SB 142 creates inconsistencies with federal law that has the potential to further confuse UAS users and stifle economic growth in California. The Supreme Court has ruled that property rights do not extend infinitely into the sky. Only the FAA can regulate airspace; states and municipalities can’t.

“The passage of SB 142 is further proof that it is necessary for the FAA to finalize its long awaited rules on small unmanned aircraft. There is much uncertainty about where operators should and shouldn’t fly and for what purpose. For the safety of our skies and to ensure that there is no confusion between state and federal law, we need Washington to make finalizing these rules a top priority.”

ALPA: Airline pilots ‘very concerned’ about UAVs

Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) president Tim Canoll noted, “pilot reports of unmanned aircraft have increased dramatically over the past year, from a total of 238 sightings in all of 2014 to more than 650 by Aug. 9 of this year.”

With respect to small UAVs operated below the airspace used by commercial aircraft, ALPA advocates: educating operators, using “geo-fencing” to keep small UAVs from operating within 5 mi. of airports, UAV registration at point of sale so owners can be identified after an incident, and “more formalized” enforcement.

For larger UAVs sharing the airspace with airliners, ALPA would like to see FAA regulations and oversight the same as for airliners: operator licensing and collision avoidance technology.

US senator to introduce proposal for mandatory drone geofencing

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer proposed an amendment as part of the FAA Reauthorization Bill that would require manufacturers to implement geofencing on all drones.

Chuck Schumer’s No-Fly-Zone Rule for Drones Won’t Work

At the recent DEF CON hacker conference in Las Vegas, researchers easily defeated the Phantom geofencing. The DJI Phantom III’s geofence uses a database that contains a country, city, a timestamp, and, the latitude and the longitude of the no-fly zones. The hacker downloaded the database and started just changing entries to make the Phantom ignore the no-fly zones set by DJI.

Additionally, some Chinese researchers reported they could disrupt the geofencing through GPS spoofing, which is illegal but not impossible.

Exclusive: U.S. government, police working on counter-drone system – sources

U.S. government agencies are working with state and local police forces to develop protection systems for vulnerable sites. New York police used a microwave-based system last New Year’s Eve in an attempt to track a drone in Times Square. This test was part of a program with the Department of Homeland Security, the FAA, and the Defense Department.

Sony shows off Aerosense camera drone prototype

Sony and ZMP Inc. have formed the joint-venture company AeroSense and they have a prototype drone that can take off and land vertically. Payload capacity is expected to be 22 pounds, with a two hour plus flight time and a top speed of 106 miles an hour. These autonomous drones could be used for infrastructure inspection and land surveys in difficult to access areas.

First State Legalizes Taser Drones for Cops, Thanks to a Lobbyist

Law enforcement in North Dakota can now fly drones with “less than lethal” weapons, such as Tasers, rubber bullets, and tear gas. The original draft of House Bill 1328 actually prohibited weaponization of drones, but a law enforcement lobbyist added language that significantly modified the intent of the bill.


Robots in the Sky: Cracking Down on Drone Law

An infographic highlighting current laws surrounding drone usage, and what changes we may soon see in the future.

Batteries Carried by Airline Passengers: Frequently Asked Questions [PDF]

The FAA describes the kinds of batteries allowed in the cabin, those allowed in checked luggage, how to calculate wattage, and other important information.


UAV109 Who has the Right to Write Drone Laws?

Dr. Ella Atkins in the Autonomous Aerospace Systems (A2SYS) Lab

We talk with Dr. Ella Atkins about UAS privacy regulations, regulatory and legislative jurisdiction over the airspace, developing a drone safety culture, and UAS air traffic management challenges.


Dr. Ella Atkins is an Associate Professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Michigan, where she is director of the Autonomous Aerospace Systems (A2SYS) Lab.

Dr. Ella AtkinsElla received her BS and MS in Aeronautics and Astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and her MS and PhD in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of Michigan.

Her research focuses on task and motion planning, guidance, and control to support increasingly autonomous systems, with a focus on small UAS and aviation safety applications.  She has an extensive history of successful collaboration with NASA.

Ella has authored over 150 journal and conference publications and has served long-term as an associate editor of the AIAA Journal of Aerospace Information Systems (JAIS). She has served on numerous review boards and panels, including the 2013 NRC committee to develop a research agenda for autonomy in civil aviation, the NRC Aeronautics Roundtable, NRC NASA Aviation Safety program review board, and Decadal Survey of Aeronautics (Panel E).

Ella is past-chair of the AIAA Intelligent Systems Technical Committee, AIAA Associate Fellow, IEEE senior member, small public airport owner/operator (Shamrock Field, Brooklyn, MI), and a private pilot. She serves on the National Academy’s Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB) (2011-2017) and was a member of the IDA Defense Science Studies Group (2012-2013).  She currently serves on the steering committee and as Graduate Program Chair to the new University of Michigan Robotics Program.

The Flying Robots video features Professor Ella Atkins describing the unusual unmanned aircraft that are being built at the University of Michigan Aerospace Department.

UAS Privacy Regulations

Should we create privacy rules specifically for UAS, rather than dealing with privacy more broadly? Privacy is already covered under existing ground-based laws, and new technology doesn’t necessarily imply a requirement for new laws.

Peeping drones: UAV caught creeping on Vancouver sunbather

A woman sunbathing topless on her private balcony says a quadcopter tried to take pictures of her.

Regulatory and Legislative Jurisdiction over the Airspace

Who controls what airspace: the federal regulatory agency or State or local communities? The FAA has claimed purview over all the airspace, but the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Causby stated that landowners own and control the “immediate reaches of the enveloping atmosphere” just above their properties. More discussion is needed about the low-altitude airspace and the ability of local communities to create their own standards based on their local situation.

Current Unmanned Aircraft State Law Landscape

In 2015, 45 states considered 156 bills that were related to drones. In total, 26 states have enacted drone laws, and six more states adopted resolutions.

Austin, TX Requires PPL For UAV Flying

Austin, Texas now requires a private pilot certificate to fly a UAV. However, one can fly if they have a document indicating permission from the property owner.

Developing a Drone Safety Culture

The lack of common-sense rules at any government level is resulting in anarchy.  Manufacturers claim they can “stay out of legal trouble” by marketing to hobbyists who are unregulated and who don’t know where to fly.

Some solutions:

  • Achieving a drone safety culture requires that manufacturers, commercial operators, and regular citizens learn responsible behaviors. “Know Before You Fly” will gradually catch on once we make it through a generation that grows up with drones.
  • Creating “drone parks” in urban areas would give people a place to freely fly.  Right now hobbyists really don’t have guidelines of where to go (apart from rural AMA fields which were typically designed for fixed-wing model aircraft) so they fly wherever they like.
  • Focus separately on “safety” and “privacy,” otherwise the solutions may not make sense. For example, it may be safe to fly over a large open field, but the landowner may not want to be filmed at low altitude.  Or, everyone might want great aerial views of a public concert in the park, but such flights are very risky until we are really confident the drones won’t have problems and crash into the crowds.

Pilots Who Fly Drones Into Wildfires Are Idiots. Punish Them

Kentucky Man Faces up to 10 Years in Prison for Shooting Drone Trespasser

License Plates for Drones Could Make Rogue Operators Accountable

University of California, Berkeley researchers have developed LightCense, a low altitude identification system for drones. The hope is that it would make drone operators more accountable.

Air Traffic Management

Recent proposals for management of unmanned commercial traffic involve altitude layering. But those do not contemplate the immediate reaches above the landowners, or what may be on the ground below.

This presents challenges, such as dealing with commercial drone entries into immediate reaches (landowner-controlled) airspace, and integrating drones into airspace clearly needed for manned flight operations. It may be appropriate to reconsider the 500 foot altitude line of demarcation, and also to add an “immediate reaches” layer.

A “drone highway in the sky” would not necessarily follow a ground-based road network. The real question is whether a low-altitude “highway in the sky” would be designated and “taken with compensation” like our ground-based roads, or whether the “sky” will be “taken without compensation.”

Compounding the difficulties in resolving these issues is the problem that people are very polarized – they either “love” or “hate” drones. A more informed public view would almost certainly be more moderate and reasonable.

Do We Really Want Amazon’s Drones to Swarm Our Skies?

University of Michigan

The University of Michigan offers opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students: student team competitions, undergraduate or graduate research projects, and course projects.

Design and use of UAS can be found in the engineering, aerospace, robotics, and computer science departments. Others such as civil engineering, architecture, biology, and journalism do not design UAS or their software, but they have begun to use UAS to support their research and education activities.

UAV108 Drone Sightings by Manned Aircraft Pilots on the Rise

Google Project WingReports of unmanned aircraft sightings by pilots on the rise, FPV racing gets a financial boost, Google tests package delivery, proliferation of rogue drones, and knocking down drones with light, sound, and shotguns.


Pilot Reports of Close Calls With Drones Soar in 2015

According to the FAA, pilots reported 238 unmanned aircraft sightings in 2014. Through August 9, 2015, more that 650 sightings had been reported at altitudes of up to 10,000 feet. The FAA is doing four things:

  • The FAA is working with industry partners through the “Know Before You Fly” campaign to educate unmanned aircraft users about where they can operate within the rules. The Campaign was founded by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), and the Small UAV Coalition.
  • The FAA is supporting the “If You Fly, We Can’t” efforts to help reduce interference with firefighting operations.
  • The FAA is working with law enforcement officials to identify and investigate unauthorized unmanned aircraft operations.
  • The FAA is encouraging the public to report unauthorized drone operations to local law enforcement.

Drone roundtable: Cooling down the UAV hype

Fortune gathered up a roundtable of drone experts, and reported on their comments concerning the sUAS NPRM, the Section 333 exemption process, regulations, and obstacles to airspace integration.

Drone racing league receives a $1 million investment from Miami Dolphins owner

Billionaire Miami Dolphins owner and billionaire property developer Stephen Ross has invested $1 million in the startup The Drone Racing League. CEO of the new League ,Nick Horbaczewski, has previous experience producing sporting events, and is planning to hold the first race later this year. They hope to turn FPV racing into a significant spectator sport.

Google is testing drones in US airspace by piggybacking on NASA exemption

According to the Guardian, Google has been testing its Project Wing drone delivery system for over a year in US airspace under NASA’s Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA). Google intends to demonstrate the use of cellphone signals for automatic air traffic control. This might involve using cellphone frequencies to file flight plans and receive direction from air traffic control systems.

Boeing shoots down UAV with 2 kW laser

As a part of exercise Black Dart, an anti-UAS exercise took place at Point Mugu in California. Boeing used its Compact Laser Weapon System (CLWS) with a two kilowatt laser to shoot down a UAV by holding  a beam on its tail for 10 to 15 seconds. It was guided by an infrared sensor with a range of up to 40 kilometers.

Sounds can knock drones out of the sky

The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) has been looking at the effects of resonance on the inexpensive gyroscopes used in drones. Researchers found that some gyroscopes could be forced to resonate at frequencies that caused them to generate erroneous outputs, causing the drones to fail.

Videos of the Week

Will Sutton: Homefree (Freerunning the Isle of Man)

Sent to us by Rob in Perth, this impressive video of freerunner Will Sutton was filmed from an octocopter.

When Animals Silence the Drones

@dronemama found this compilation video of animals taking down drones. It includes the recent video Eagle punches drone out of sky.

Listener Feedback

Listener David takes us to task on our comments in Episode 103 on Fly4Me gets FAA approval, launches ‘Uber for drones’. Is Fly4Me expanding its business on the basis of its Section 333 exemption, or not?

Kenneth sends us Man Shoots Down a Drone with a Shotgun and wonders if there will be a business model some day to equip homes with automated drones that are used to chase other drones off your property! We talk about this growing trend where property owners are taking “defensive” action.

Ron writes to us with some information and advice about the use of LiPo batteries in hobby applications like quadcopters. These batteries can be extremely dangerous if not stored, used, and charged properly. We advise all LiPo battery users to be informed and heed all safety procedures.

Chad sent us Boys flying high in Jamestown that describes some youngsters who are doing shoots with a DJI Phantom 3 and a camera for real estate companies, and getting paid for it. While you could laud the boys for their industriousness, you might also question the legality of their commercial activity.

Charles sent in Rogue drones a growing nuisance across the U.S. where we see that stories about rogue drone operators are showing up with alarming frequency. They have impeded firefighting efforts, buzzed commercial aircraft, crashed into objects, and injured people. FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta says, “I’m definitely getting much more concerned about it.” and that the FAA will adopt “more stringent enforcement” measures in cooperation with law enforcement.

UAV107 Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Unmanned Aerial Systems

Embry-Riddle Unmanned Aerial Systems

We talk with faculty members from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University about their unmanned systems degree programs. Embry-Riddle Worldwide’s College of Aeronautics currently offers a Master of Science in Unmanned Systems, a Bachelor of Science in Unmanned Systems Applications, and an undergraduate minor in Unmanned Aerial Systems.

We talk about how programs are developed, the types of programs offered, the value they provide to students, and the opportunities available in this emerging industry. Embry-Riddle actively works to bring UAS awareness to the aviation community with participation at events like AirVenture Oshkosh and the Reno Air Races.

For a detailed look at the career opportunities, see the Embry-Riddle study, ERAU-Worldwide Unmanned System Related Career Opportunities: 2015 [PDF].


Faculty from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Worldwide

Dr. Ken WitcherDr. Ken Witcher is the dean of the College of Aeronautics. In this role, Ken leads a team of more than 700 active faculty members who support more than 14,000 students enrolled in 15 degree programs. Witcher’s aviation experience includes 20 years of service in the United States Air Force. During this time, he served as superintendent of an operational test and evaluation squadron and field training detachment chief for F-15, F-16, F-22, H-60, A-10, MQ-1, and MQ-9 aircraft and supporting systems. He also served as a team member of the United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, Thunderbirds. Witcher was an appointed member of the Nevada UAS test site selection panel and previously served as Chair of the Nevada Aerospace and Defense Sector Council reporting directly to the Governor’s Workforce Investment Board. Reach Dr. Witcher at

David ThirtyacreDavid Thirtyacre is an assistant professor and chair of unmanned flight operations in the College of Aeronautics. He has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, master’s degree in aerospace science, and is currently a doctoral student in aviation at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach campus. Thirtyacre recently retired from the U.S. Air Force with 27 years of duty in the fighter community and over 3,500 hours in fighter aircraft. He spent the last 17 years of his career at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas and served as an operational test pilot and director of advanced programs at the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center. In this role, he was the point person for advanced program operational planning; and the integration of air, space, and cyberspace domains with fifth-generation aircraft, unmanned systems, national capabilities, and other Department of Defense assets. Additionally, he is a multi-engine commercial pilot and certified flight instructor – instrument. Reach David Thirtyacre at

Stefan KleinkeStefan Kleinke is an assistant professor and program chair for the Bachelor of Science in Unmanned Systems Application (BSUSA) degree program in the College of Aeronautics. Stefan earned a Master of Aeronautical Science degree from Embry-Riddle Worldwide in 2010 and is a military aviation veteran with 15 years and 3,000 total flying hours experience as pilot and instructor on Tornado and T-38 jet aircraft. In this role, he was heavily involved in student and instructor training, standardization and evaluation, and aspects of air traffic control and airfield management. He also holds civilian qualifications that include Airline Transport Pilot License, Commercial Pilot License for helicopter and seaplane, Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic and Aircraft Electrical Technician certifications, as well as FCC GMDSS Radio Operator and Maintainer license with Ship Radar Endorsement. Reach Stefan Kleinke at

Video of the Week

AtlantikSolar – 81 hour endurance world record flight

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich recently established a new world flight endurance record with an 81-hour continuous solar-powered and autonomous flight. The 6.8kg aircraft is called the AtlantikSolar 2 UAV. This demonstrator flight is a precursor to an Atlantic Ocean crossing next year.



UAV106 UAS Traffic Management

NASA UTM Chart]Observations from the NASA Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Traffic Management Convention, including the Amazon Prime Air proposal for drone traffic management.


Max Trescott attended the NASA Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Traffic Management Convention (or UTM) and gives us his impressions of the event. Max is a general aviation pilot, a certified flight instructor, an aviation author, and a glass cockpit expert. He also flies quadcopters.


The UTM convention was an opportunity for NASA and others to share their visions for managing low altitude commercial drone traffic. Presentations were given by Amazon, Google, Cisco, FAA, NTSB, DOD, California DOT, law enforcement, and others. There were panel discussions, vendor displays, and demonstrations.

Google talked about the role of “Airspace Service Provider” (ASP). Under this concept, UAV operators would file flight plans with an ASP, which would then coordinate these with other ASPs to ensure non-conflicting flights. Google is said they are developing a lightweight, low-cost dual band ADS-B transceiver. FreeFlight Systems showed prototype weighing just 215 grams.

Amazon details its plan for how drones can fly safely over U.S. skies

Amazon drone management proposal

Amazon Prime Air vice president Gur Kimchi described Amazon’s idea for a drone air traffic management system. In Amazon’s view, drones with different capabilities would have different airspace rights, with an underlying control system managing it all.

Airspace under 200 feet would be designated for low-speed local traffic. Drones in that zone wouldn’t require the most sophisticated collision-avoidance technology. Airspace from 200-400 feet would be for high-speed transit – the highway for drones. Sophisticated sense-and-avoid technology would be a requirement there. Finally, a no-fly buffer zone would exist from 400 to 500 feet.

UTM builds

As a technology enabler, NASA is developing an airspace management control system. They plan four “builds” of the software over the next 4 years. Build 1 is a reservation system for exclusive access to the airspace and is due out August 2015. The culminating Build 4 in March 2019 would manage beyond line-of-sight drone flights in congested urban areas.