Monthly Archives: February 2016

UAV135 Micro UAS Legislation Will Have to Wait

The Ocuair Enduro multirotorThe House FAA reauthorization bill returns to Committee, package delivery by drone in Singapore, a quadcopter crosses the English Channel, filming wildlife with drones, a drone detection system for airports, and putting UAVs on the internet.

News

House FAA reauthorization legislation delayed

The “AIRR Act” that passed the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on February 11 with “micro UAS” provisions has met broad opposition, largely over the topic of air traffic control privatization. As a result, the Act has returned to the Committee for revision, thus delaying action on both small and micro UAS.

Airbus Helicopters and Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore Sign MoU for UAS Experimentation Project

Under the Skyways Experimentation Project, Airbus and CAAS expect to conduct package delivery proof-of-concept trials in Singapore in two phases. In the first phase, Airbus will create a network of parcel stations on the campus of the National University of Singapore (NUS). Phase two would test package delivery from a station on the Singapore coast to ships anchored in the bay.

Drone makes historic 72-minute flight across English Channel

UK commercial drone operator Ocuair™ has successfully flown a quadcopter across the English Channel. The customized Enduro quadcopter flew 35 km (21.7 miles) in 72 minutes, with an operator staying within 500 meters in a chase boat. Along the way, the drone encountered a GPS guidance problem, requiring manual guidance for the last part of the flight.

Making Aviation History – The First Quadcopter Drone to Fly Across the English Channel

Attenborough calls in the drones for his new series: Broadcaster will use technology to capture elusive and dangerous animals

For his new six-part Planet Earth II series, Sir David Attenborough has used ultra-high-definition and ultra-high-speed cameras mounted on drones to capture dramatic footage of dangerous and elusive animals.

Anti-drone system for airports passes tests

As reported in Episode 117, the FAA entered into a Pathfinder agreement with CACI International Inc. to evaluate using the company’s sensor technology to detect rogue UAS in the vicinity of airports. Now the CACI proof-of-concept system has been tested at the Atlantic City International Airport. The SkyTracker system uses radio frequency sensors positioned around an airport which detect frequencies typically used by unmanned aircraft. Then it triangulates the signals to provide the location of the UAS and its operator. FAA press release: FAA, DHS, CACI, UMD Perform UAS Detection Work.

AT&T and Intel to Test Drones on LTE Network

AT&T and Intel are working to understand how drones could be connected via a ground-based network. Intel will partner with the AT&T Internet of Things (IoT) team, and the AT&T Foundry innovation center in Palo Alto, California.

Video of the Week

Raffaello D’Andrea: Meet the Dazzling Flying Machines of the Future

Autonomous systems expert Raffaello D’Andrea demonstrates a flying wing that can hover and recover from disturbance, an eight-propeller craft that’s ambivalent to orientation, and a swarm of tiny coordinated micro-quadcopters. Filmed February 2016 at TED2016.

 

UAV134 A Proposed “Micro UAS” Drone Category

Powervision PowerEggDavid, Max, and guest Tim Trott (“The Drone Professor”) try their hand at broadcasting a live episode. We discuss the Micro UAS amendment to the FAA reauthorization bill, another lawsuit challenging the FAA right to require drone registration, and the results of two UAV criminal cases.

News

A Giant Step for Micro Drones

On February 11, 2016, Illinois Congressman Rodney Davis introduced a micro UAS operations amendment [PDF] to H.R. 4441, the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act of 2016. The amendment would add a new “Micro UAS operations” section to Chapter 455 of title 49, United States Code, and permit commercial operations under simplified and streamlined requirements and restrictions.

A micro UAS is defined as weighing 4.4 pounds (2 kg) or less. For commercial operation, there would be no airman certification requirements, no aeronautical knowledge test, no age or experience requirements, and no airworthiness certification requirements. Registration would still be required.

The requirements for the proposed Micro UAS category are:

  1. fly below 400 feet above ground level;
  2. fly no faster than 40 knots;
  3. fly within visual line of sight;
  4. fly only during daylight hours; and
  5. stay at least 5 statute miles from the geographic center of a tower-controlled airport… unless the pilot provides prior notice to the airport operator and the pilot receives, for a tower-controlled airport, prior approval from the air traffic control facility located at the airport.

The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee voted to accept the micro UAS amendment and approved the entire AIRR Act, as amended.

Think Tank Sues FAA In Federal Court Over Drone Registration Rule

DC think tank TechFreedom has filed a lawsuit in the District of Columbia Court of Appeals seeking to overturn the FAA’s drone registration requirement. TechFreedom says the FAA’s action violates Section 336 of a 2012 FAA authorization law prohibiting the FAA from promulgating ”any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft.” The lawsuit claims the FAA’s failure to provide the public with notice of the new regulation and an opportunity for comment was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion.”

NJ Drone Shooter Pleads Guilty

In September 2014, Russell Percenti shot down a drone flying near his property. The drone’s owner said that he was taking aerial pictures of a friend’s home, retrieved his damaged drone, and called the police. Percenti, who admitted shooting the drone, was charged with criminal mischief and possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes.

Judge: Park ranger’s use of taser on drone operator was justified

A man flying his drone in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was asked to land by park rangers. He initially refused to land and refused to provide identification. The park ranger used a Taser to disable the man as he started running away. The judge fined the man $1,000 and banned him from the park for one year.

Video of the Week

PowerEgg – The Flying Robot by PowerVision

The arms and rotors of the PowerVision PowerEgg unfold to reveal a UAV with a 360-degree panoramic 4K HD camera on a 3-axis gimbal, real-time video transmission, and an optical flow indoor positioning system.

 

UAV133 UAS Legal Action

“Drone lawyer” Jonathan Rupprecht talks about current legal cases that will have major implications for model airplane enthusiasts and sUAS operators.

Guest

Jonathan Rupprecht, Esq.Jonathan Rupprecht is a commercial pilot with single and multi-engine aircraft ratings and also a flight instructor. He has a Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and his law degree from Florida International University School of Law. Rupprecht Law provides legal services for operators of unmanned aerial vehicles.

Jonathan authored the book Drones: Their Many Civilian Uses and the U.S. Laws Surrounding Them, Drone Operator’s Logbook, and he co-authored Unmanned Aircraft in the National Airspace: Critical Issues. Technology, and the Law.

Our discussion with Jonathan includes:

  • The FAA’s interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. Can the FAA regulate model aircraft?
  • The boundaries of navigable airspace: Down to the ground or something higher? This impacts the notion of trespass by drone, privacy, and federal versus local jurisdiction to regulate.
  • The Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) around Washington D.C. and its impact on those who fly model aircraft and UAS.

News

Area 51 Bans Drones… Your Drones, At Least

Area 51 is now posted as a no drone zone.

Video of the Week

Safely Travel Deep Inside a Glacier Through the Eyes of a Drone

Flyability partnered with the team from Zermatt Mountain Rescue in the Swiss Alps to explore glacial crevasses.

UAV132 First Look: Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act of 2016

sUAS and the proposed FAA reauthorization bill, ALPA proposes to lock sUAS, a universal UAV control interface, Amazon Prime Air testing outside the US, and EASA drone rules.

News

Rep. Bill Shuster: How to fix America’s crumbling aviation system

Representative Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, introduced the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act of 2016 (the “AIRR” Act, or H.R. 4441) [PDF] to Congress February 3, 2016.

Here’s a summary of some of the key elements of the Act, under Title IV Safety, Subtitle B – Unmanned Aircraft Systems:

Sec. 432. Codification of existing law; additional provisions.

The term “model aircraft” means an unmanned aircraft that is (A) capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere; (B) flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft; and (C) flown for hobby or recreational purposes.

Special rules for model aircraft:

(a) …the FAA may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft, or an aircraft being developed as a model aircraft, if

(1) the aircraft is flown strictly for hobby or recreational use;

(2) the aircraft is operated in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a community-based organization;

(3) the aircraft is limited to not more than 55 pounds unless otherwise certified through a design, construction, inspection, flight test, and operational safety program administered by a community-based organization;

(4) the aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft; and

(5) when flown within 5 miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft provides the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower… with prior notice of the operation (model aircraft operators flying from a permanent location within 5 miles of an airport should establish a mutually agreed upon operating procedure with the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower…)

(b) A flight of an unmanned aircraft shall be treated as a flight of a model aircraft… (regardless of any compensation, reimbursement, or other consideration exchanged or incidental economic benefit gained in the course of planning, operating, or supervising the flight), if the flight is

(1) conducted for instructional or educational purposes; and

(2) operated or supervised by an eligible not-for-profit organization.

(c) Nothing… may be construed to limit the authority of the Administrator to pursue enforcement action against persons operating model aircraft who endanger the safety of the national airspace system.

Sec. 434. Unmanned aircraft systems senior leadership and staffing.

The Administrator shall designate a sufficient number of safety inspectors to focus on the safety oversight of unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system…

Sec. 435. Sense of Congress regarding unmanned aircraft safety.

The FAA should pursue all available civil and administrative remedies available to the Administrator, including referrals to other government agencies for criminal investigations, with respect to persons who operate unmanned aircraft in an unauthorized manner; the Administrator should place particular priority on continuing measures, including partnerships with nongovernmental organizations, to educate the public about the dangers to the public safety of operating unmanned aircraft near airports without the appropriate approvals or authorizations; and manufacturers and retail sellers of small unmanned aircraft systems should take steps to educate consumers about the safe and lawful operation of such systems.

Sec. 438. Facilitating unmanned aircraft authorization in support of fire fighting operations.

The FAA shall enter into agreements with the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture as necessary to continue the expeditious authorization of safe unmanned aircraft system operations in support of fire fighting operations…

Sec. 439. Low altitude unmanned aircraft system traffic management.

The FAA shall establish an advisory committee comprised of government representatives and appropriate industry representatives to:

(1) assess the necessity, feasibility, and benefits of establishing unmanned aircraft traffic management systems for airspace between the surface and 400 feet above ground level;

(2) develop recommendations for government oversight of such systems; and

(3) address any other issues the advisory panel considers necessary and appropriate.

The committee report is due in one year.

Sec. 440. UAS detection systems pilot program.

The FAA will establish a pilot program to deploy and evaluate the effectiveness of unmanned aircraft detection systems in maintaining the safety of air commerce and navigable airspace in light of aviation safety hazards posed by unauthorized operations of unmanned aircraft in proximity to airports. Three airports are to be chosen for pilot program, with the report due in 18 months.

Sec. 441. Evaluation of aircraft registration for small unmanned aircraft.

Within 180 days, the FAA shall develop and track metrics to assess compliance with and effectiveness of the registration of small unmanned aircraft systems by the FAA… including metrics with respect to

(1) the levels of compliance…

(2) the number of enforcement actions taken by the Administration for violations of or noncompliance… together with a description of the actions; and

(3) the effect of the [rule] on compliance with any fees associated with the use of small unmanned aircraft systems.

ALPA: Congress should mandate online training for UAV operators

Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) president Tim Canoll wants the FAA reauthorization legislation to require that sUAS operators must enter a “key code” before the UAV will fly. To obtain a key code, UAV owners would have to pass an online training course. Canoll said, “I’d like [UAV manufacturers] to voluntarily do it, but I believe if we could mandate it, it would take a lot of pressure off them.”

U.S. Army working on universal unmanned aircraft control interface

The US Army is developing a universal UAS control interface that would allow operators to fly different UAV types with the same controls. Currently, UAS types each have their own controls, and operators are trained to fly a specific type.

Amazon’s Drone Testing Takes Flight In Yet Another Country

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says the company is testing drones for Amazon Prime Air in Canada, the United Kingdom, and now the Netherlands. Significant FAA restrictions on flying in the U.S. are driving commercial operators like Amazon out of the U.S. to develop their technology.

Speaking of the Netherlands, law enforcement in that country is looking at using eagles to grab rogue drones.

EASA ruling may lead to unregulated commercial UAV ops

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) released a revised UAS regulation technical opinion in December. Head of operations at Resource Group – Unmanned Aviation Services, Neil Williams, believes the EASA proposal is too liberal.

Flightglobal reports that “The ‘open’ category proposed by EASA would allow for users to operate UAVs weighing 25kg (55lb) or less for whatever purpose, so long as ‘safety is ensured through compliance with operational limitations, mass limitations as a proxy of energy, product safety requirements, and a minimum set of operational rules.’”.

Williams worries that EASA focuses on UAV size, weight, and kinetic energy. Other factors that impact safety like training and insurance are not considered.

Resource Group – Unmanned Aviation Services is accredited by the UK CAA to assess for pilot competency for drones of 20Kgs or below, and verify that organisations meet the UK CAA requirement for Permissions For Aerial Work (PFAW).

New FAA video explains that the Super Bowl is a No Drone Zone

The Federal Aviation Administration launched a public service announcement, including a 20-second The Super Bowl is a No Drone Zone video, to let people know the airspace around Levi’s Stadium is a No Drone Zone during the Super Bowl.

TFRs will prohibit certain aircraft operations, including unmanned aircraft operations, within a 32-mile radius of the stadium in Santa Clara, California on game day. The restrictions will be in effect from 2 p.m. to 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016.

Video of the Week

First Droneboarding

You’ve heard of kiteboarding? Welcome to droneboarding.