Monthly Archives: January 2014

UAV024 – UAV Licensing and Permitting Proposal

DJI Phantom

A proposal for licensing and permitting small UAV operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection grounds their fleet, quadcopters filming whales, and drinking and droning don’t mix.

Proposal for UAV/sUAV Licensing/Phased Permitting Plan

Listener Tim Trott submitted a proposal for a collection of UAV classes, each with requirements for airframe type (multi-copter or fixed wing), weight, altitude, operation in private or public areas, VLOS or FPV, logging, observer requirements, safety and flight testing, insurance, and collision avoidance capability:

Class E – Experimental/Photographic

Under 5 pounds, VLOS only, under 100 feet above terrain, private property only (no public areas). No spectators within 25 feet. Observer required. Multicopter (sUAV) only. Insurance required (AMA or better). Airframe Certification form, logging required. Written safety test, Level E Proficiency flight test. Interim 1 year temporary permits pending full rule implementation.

Class D – Motion Picture/Corporate/News/Journalist

Under 20 pounds, VLOS only, limited to 400 ft above terrain unless flight plan filed and approved. Insurance required, private property only (no public areas without permit). Observer required. No spectators within 25 feet. Fixed wing and multicopter sUAV. Airframe Certification form, logging required. Written safety test, Level D Proficiency flight test.

Class C – Agricultural/Industrial

Under 25 pounds, FPV supervision, limited to 400 feet above terrain. Insurance required, private property only (no public areas). Observer required, no spectators within 25 feet. Fixed wing and multicopter UAV. Observer required. Airframe Certification form, logging required. Written safety test, Level C Proficiency flight test.

Class B – Public Safety/Utility (Fire, rescue, public safety, pipeline and waterway monitoring)

Under 30 pounds, FPV supervision. Under 400 feet above terrain, above 400 feet with filed flight plan. No spectators within 25 ft. Public and private airspace. Fixed wing and multicopter UAV. FAA Review. Collision Avoidance System required. (LIDAR) Airframe Certification form, logging required. Written safety test, Level B Proficiency flight test. Commercial/Private Pilot Rating accepted in lieu of written test.

Class A – Heavy Class (State, Municipal, Federal Agency)

Over 30 lbs, FPV supervision, under 400 feet above terrain, above 400 feet with filed flight plan, Insurance. Tracking or visual observer required, no spectators within 25 feet. Fixed wing and multicopter UAV. FAA Review. Collision Avoidance System required. (LIDAR) Airframe Certification form, logging required. Written safety test, Level A Proficiency flight test. Commercial Pilot Rating accepted in lieu of written test.

Class O – Observer

Requires written Basic Safety test.

Proficiency Flight Test may be administered by designated certification instructor or licensed flight instructor.

Safety Test would be comprised of questions relating to 400 foot height limits, knowledge of 500 foot limits for manned aircraft, restrictions related to airports and heliports, spectator distance, VLOS requirement, observer requirement, minimum flight distance from utilities, highways, railroads and buildings, other rules.

Find Tim at Tim Trott Productions and Flying Eye Video.

The News:

U.S. Border Protection Agency Grounds Drone Fleet

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection Predator B experienced mechanical failure and was unable to return to base. So the flight crew ditched the Predator in the Pacific Ocean and has grounded the fleet. The Predator B is flown by the CBP Office of Air and Marine.

Is whale watching with drones next big trend?

A California whale-watching organization used a quadcopter to create video of a whale at sea. This has created new questions about this type of UAV application. The Marine Mammal Protection Act makes it illegal to harass or alter the behavior of marine mammals. NOAA has whale-watching guidelines that suggest boaters keep 100 yards away from whales, and planes and helicopters stay 1000 feet above. What about a sUAS fifty feet above a whale?

FAA Stops Beer Drone Delivery

Lakemaid micro brewery was delivering 6 packs to ice fishermen via multi-copter, but the FAA said, “No!”


UAV023 Shooting Video from UAS

American Aerospace RS-16

This Episode:

Commercial use of drones, what the FAA plans to deliver by 2015, sites developing UAS technology other than the selected six, and a common operating system for drones.

The News:

Federal ban on drones doesn’t stop photography

The FAA has a ban on commercial use of use of unmanned aircraft. Yet some people seem to be pulling it off. How? According to the website of Phoenix real estate photography company Aerial Raiders, they “fly for free.” They do, however, charge for editing and consulting.

FAA: ‘Demonstrations,’ Not Integration of Unmanned Aircraft in U.S. Skies in 2015

The U.S. Congress mandated that the FAA fully integrate unmanned aerial vehicles into the national airspace by 2015. When asked by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee if the FAA would meet that date, FAA chief Michael Huerta didn’t exactly say “yes.”

Weeks After FAA Test Site Designation, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Conducts Drone Research

The FAA picked the six UAS test sites, and activity is starting right away. Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi is testing the American Aerospace RS-16 UAV over ranchland.

New UAS testing, training facility proposed

But others are also taking action. The Arizona Sierra Vista Economic Development Foundation (SVEDF) says they will provide a 160-acre testing and training facility to businesses for commercial UAS applications. The Tucson-based Cyclone Autonomous Design Group is one of the companies planning to test its UAS ISR product (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) for safety applications, to assist firefighters, police, soldiers, etc.

Ohio, Indiana push for place in drone industry

Duane Embree, the executive director of the Indiana Office of Defense Development, says “Companies and others will need places where they can test a little, design a little, and then test more. We can essentially do everything we were going to do — just without the FAA designation.”

US Army to install ground-based UAV radar at five sites by 2016

The Ground-Based Sense and Avoid Network or GBSAA is designed to meet the FAA requirements for full size drones in domestic airspace. The sites (at Army installations) were chosen were because they currently have a mission using MQ-1C Grey Eagle, the largest UAS currently operated by the US Army.

Windows for drones? One start-up is dreaming big

The Defense Department would like to see some standard, cross-platform, off-the-shelf software. LA-based DreamHammer has created the open Ballista OS.

From the Listeners:

UAV022 Manie Kohn – Don’t Tell Me Show Me

UAV022 Manie Kohn - Don’t Tell Me Show Me

Guest Manie Kohn is the Owner and Creative Director of, and a trained, certified, and insured civilian drone operator.

Manie tried using helicopters for real estate shoots, but found those lacking in some important aspects. After trying alternatives, nothing satisfactory, he turned to UAVs. Manie found those better, but not perfect for his needs.

He began to share his experiences and advice with the manufacturers and also the insurance underwriters, focusing on safety and drone capability, With the accessibility of drones, there is a need for training and certification to help ensure safe operation. That includes minimum training standards, such as FAA ground school or other approved training programs.

Manie considers four important components for his ideal drone: the flight characteristics of the aircraft itself, the gimbal that stabilizes the camera, the camera itself (still, video, or both), and the FPV and data link.



DJI Phantom


UAV021 NUAIR, Making Future Skies Safer


NUAIR AllianceGuest Lawrence H. Brinker is Executive Director and General Counsel for the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research (NUAIR) Alliance, the New York and Massachusetts UAS research and test site. Larry is also a former Air Force and commercial pilot.

We talk about the formation of the NUAIR Alliance as the managing UAS site operator for New York and Massachusetts, where the main test objective is going to be air and ground borne sense and avoid radar.

Larry tells us about the facilities at Griffis and Joint Base Cape Cod, and the corridors that will be instrumented for collection of data to establish sense and avoid protocols. Manufacturers and other parties who will use the test range will have the ability to test their technology. The FAA is but one customer of the range. They’ll analyze the data to come up with regulations.

Besides collaboration with the other UAS test sites, NUAIR sees public education as part of their mandate. They intend to take a lesson from early commercial aviation where World War One pilots barnstormed across the country, thus introducing airplanes to a population concerned about safety. Larry says public perception and public demand are keys to commercial success.

Visit the NUAIR Alliance website and follow them on Twitter.


UAV020 FAA Selects Six UAS Test Sites

Selected UAS Test Site Operators

This Episode:

At the end of December, the FAA announced the six congressionally-mandated UAS research and test sites that are a key part of the U.S. roadmap integrating UAS into the national airspace. These sites, operated by public entities, will perform research, and develop operational experience and needed technologies.

The Sites:

The University of Alaska

Geography: seven climatic zones, and locations in Hawaii and Oregon.

Mission: standards for unmanned aircraft categories, state monitoring and navigation, safety standards for UAS operations.

State of Nevada

Geography: geographic and climatic diversity.

Mission: UAS standards and operations, operator standards, certification requirements. Also, how air traffic control procedures will evolve with the introduction of UAS into the civil environment, integration with NextGen.

New York’s Griffiss International Airport

Geography: The congested, northeast airspace.

Mission: Test and evaluation, verification and validation processes under FAA safety oversight. Sense and avoid capabilities for UAS.

North Dakota Department of Commerce

Geography: Temperate (continental) climate zone

Mission: UAS airworthiness essential data, validate high reliability link technology, human factors research. (Local officials are hoping to also look specifically into agricultural applications.)

Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi

Geography: geographic and climactic diversity.

Mission: System safety requirements for UAS vehicles and operations, protocols and procedures for airworthiness testing.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech)

Geography: locations in Virginia and New Jersey.

Mission: UAS failure mode testing, operational and technical risks areas.