Monthly Archives: September 2015

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.

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!