Telecommunication drone tests from MIT and Verizon, flying near firefighters, pipeline inspection, drone registration refunds for recreational operators, and the UAS Identification and Tracking Aviation Rulemaking Committee.
Testing the RS-20 as a telecommunications drone. Courtesy American Aerospace Technologies Inc.
This fixed-wing, long-endurance UAV was developed to provide temporary telecommunications service for disaster areas, or possibly for environmental monitoring. With a 24-foot wingspan and a 15,000 feet ceiling, the GPkit software modeling tool was used to evaluate different aircraft parameters.
Verizon, American Aerospace Technologies Inc., and Cape May County in New Jersey collaborated to test an AATI RS-20 fixed-wing aircraft flying BVLOS and broadcasting a Verizon Airborne LTE signal. Verizon has been building a suite of tools with “barnyard” names, including: cell on wheels (COW), generator on a trailer (GOAT), and cell on light truck (COLT).
54-year old Gene Alan Carpenter was arrested after flying his drone over an Arizona wildfire. He is charged with felony endangerment and unlawful operation of an unmanned aircraft in violation of Arizona law that makes it illegal for drones to impede emergency or law-enforcement activities. In response to the drone flight, officials were forced to ground all the aircraft in the area.
In light of the court ruling that the FAA violated section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 when it implemented drone registration for recreational operators, the FAA is offering a refund. Recreational drone operators can expunge their registration information and get their $5 registration fee back from the FAA by mailing a form [PDF]. See the FAA Registration Deletion page for more details.
The first meeting of the UAS Identification and Tracking Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) was held June 21-23, 2017. This group of 74 unmanned aircraft stakeholders [PDF] was chartered [PDF] to investigate technologies for remote identification and tracking of UAS. The ARC will recommend solutions that meet the requirements of security and public safety organizations.
A look back at the first 200 episodes and a peek into topics that might get our attention in the future, including regulatory actions that result from FAA reauthorization.
Max and David at the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum
To celebrate the 200th episode, David and Max take a step back from the usual format and reminisce about the issues that were important when the podcast started in 2013. The main topic then was whether or not to call them “drones.” We look at how the unmanned aircraft landscape has changed since the first episode, and speculate about the topics we’ll be talking about in the future. One of those is the unmanned aircraft regulations we’ll face, which leads us to our single news story this week:
What’s Proposed for Drones in This Year’s FAA Reauthorization Bills?
The United States Senate and House both introduced bills that reauthorize the FAA and contain provisions for unmanned aircraft.
The director of the GENIUS NY accelerator competition for unmanned systems describes how they are helping UAS companies become successful.
Jonathan Parry, Director of GENIUS NY
Jonathan Parry is the Director of GENIUS NY, an in-residence business accelerator program at the CenterState Corporation for Economic Opportunity (CEO) Tech Garden in Syracuse, New York. As the world’s largest accelerator competition for unmanned systems, GENIUS NY has invested $3M directly into six early stage technology companies focused on hardware, software, and analytics to support the emerging unmanned systems industry.
The six 2017 finalist companies are AutoModality, Ascent AeroSystems, OmniMesh, EZ3D, SkyOp, and Akrobotix.
In addition to funding, the GENIUS NY program provides support with executive advisors, business development resources, networking events, and investor opportunities.
Jon has a background working with a diverse group of renewable energy and sustainable technology companies. He began his career with a biomass gasification startup, and he has implemented distributed energy systems in Europe and North America. In 2013, Jon joined an innovative sustainable materials company called Ecovative Design as business development manager. Jon has also developed global sales and manufacturing partnerships.
New York State has invested over $250M directly into the Central New York region to support UAS development, regulation, and economic growth. The region is home to a cluster of businesses focused on radar and sensor technology, and it operates one of the FAA-designated UAS test sites. Recently announced was the investment of a 50-mile operational UTM corridor.
The GENIUS NY 2.0 accelerator program is currently open for applications to select its second-year cohort. Applications are due by October 1, 2017, and the six finalist teams will be invited to participate in GENIUS NY throughout 2018.
The Drone Racing League gains sponsors and additional funding, NASA UAS traffic management testing, the impact of Taylor v. FAA on commercial drone operators, iRobotics proposes a drone race across the Pacific, and drones swarm in China.
The Drone Racing League (DRL), announced multi-year, international partners and sponsors. Allianz was already announced as the global title sponsor, and Toy State as a sponsor. New sponsors include Amazon (Prime Video), Swatch, FORTO Coffee Shots, and the U.S. Air Force. The DRL season begins June 20, 2017, on ESPN and is to be broadcast in over 75 countries.
DRL also announced a $20 million round of financing led by Sky, Liberty Media Corporation (owner of Formula 1) and Lux Capital (which invests in emerging science and technology ventures). Additional new investors include Allianz and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), and other partners in the round include: Hearst Ventures (a corporate venture fund for media and technology), RSE Ventures (a sports, technology, and entertainment venture firm), Lerer Hippeau Ventures (a seed stage venture capital fund), and Courtside Ventures (a sports, technology, and media VC). DRL has also added CRCM Ventures (seed and early stage companies in Silicon Valley and China) supporting DRL’s expansion into China.
As part of the NASA UAS Traffic Management (UTM) program, tests have been completed at the six FAA UAS test sites. The missions were monitored in real-time at the NASA Ames’ Airspace Operations Lab, which will now analyze the data collected. There is much more to be done, and NASA’s UTM Technical Lead Joey Rios, says, “We have work on the UAS platforms themselves, we have software development, we have simulation development. We have a lot of human factors work to figure out how to interact with these systems.”
The drone registration program implemented by the FAA in 2015 was struck down in court. This article points out that while recreational drone operators no longer have to register, commercial operators are unaffected.
Japanese drone start-up iRobotics is proposing a race from Tokyo to San Francisco that is open to anyone. Red Bull describes in Want to race this drone across the Pacific? that iRobotics is interested in the middle market – between small drones typically used for recreational and commercial purposes at low altitude, and large, high-altitude drones such as those that Facebook and Airbus are contemplating.
A large number of people in the Silicon Valley city of Mountain View lost power for 3 hours when a drone flew into a high-voltage wire. A white-haired, white adult man was seen fleeing the scene driving a white car.
China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC) says they have set a new record for a swarm of drones. The swarm of 119 fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicles bests the CETC swarm of 67 drones launched during the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai. The Global Times says the drones employed “catapult-assisted take-offs and performed aerial formations.”
NASA UAS Traffic Management system testing at the UAS test sites, Arizona law enforcement uses a drone to find a missing man, a drone company becomes a drone data company, DARPA studies mid-flight multitasking for small drones, a University of Calgary study of drone incidents, and fuel cells for drones.
The Kespry fully autonomous aerial intelligence system. Image courtesy Kespry.
Tests for NASA’s Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Traffic Management (UTM) system are being conducted at the six UAS test sites in the “Technology Capability Level 2 (TCL2) National Campaign.” The first tests were held at the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems.
Kespry says they are “focused on making it easy to capture, process, use and share high-resolution information from the field.” They offer “a fully autonomous aerial intelligence system” that tries to eliminate the need to integrate multiple systems from multiple vendors. In effect, their complete drone solution makes them more of a data company than a drone company.”
A new University of Calgary study finds there are more drones in the air than manned aircraft. There were 355 drone incidents reported in Canadian airspace between November 2005 and December 2016, and 22% of them involved close encounters between drones and piloted aircraft. Most incidents involve non-licensed operators.
Three options today for increasing electric UAV time-in-the-air are tethered devices, solar power, and in-the-field rapid battery replacements. However, fuel cell power systems are gathering steam and two private companies are innovating and offering products: Protonex, based in Massachusetts, is focused on Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) technology for small, light UAV applications; China-based MMC is currently manufacturing and distributing two models of fuel cells.
Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Traffic Management (UTM) system trials are taking place in Australia. The trial that Nova Systems participated in explored different Remotely Piloted Aircraft types and sizes, payload capabilities (including live payload distribution over an LTE network), the effectiveness of each UTM (some of which relied upon the LTE network), control of drones over the LTE network, and a new approach to range safety.
The DJI Spark, Snap Inc. interest in drones, the ANSI UAS Standardization Collaborative, the Drone Federalism Act of 2017, Florida utility company using drones, the MQ-25A Stingray carrier-launched unmanned tanker, a drone camp for girls, and NATE embraces drones.
The $499 DJI Spark mini-drone recognizes your face and launches and lands on the palm of your hand. It can be controlled with hand movements, a remote controller, a mobile device, or DJI goggles. Featuring obstacle detection and image stabilization, the Spark can follow flight maneuvers preset with your mobile device. It can also follow you.
Is the company that owns Snapchat getting into the drone business? It’s unclear, but Snap Inc. acquired drone company Ctrl Me Robotics last year and has reportedly looked at another company in that space.
Last September, Snapchat said it was rebranding itself as a camera company and getting into hardware. Snap also manufacturers a wearable camera called Spectacles. These “smartglasses” record video and connect to your Snapchat account.
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a private non-profit organization that oversees the development of voluntary consensus standards. ANSI has decided to form a “Standardization Collaborative” for UAS. The Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Standardization Collaborative (UASSC) will create standards and conformity assessment programs for facilitating the safe integration of UAS into the United States national airspace system (NAS). An initial kick-off meeting is planned for the third quarter of 2017. To stay up-to-date regarding future developments, email Jim McCabe, ANSI senior director, standards facilitation, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Drone Federalism Act of 2017 has been proposed by U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Mike Lee, R-Utah; Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; and Tom Cotton, R-Ark. The Act is an attempt to bring UAS regulation down to the local level.
Feinstein says the bill “allows communities to create low-altitude speed limits, local no-drone zones or rules that are appropriate to their own circumstances.”
Blumenthal says, “This legislation protects the rights of state and local governments to implement reasonable restrictions on drones in their communities while ensuring that the Federal Aviation Administration keeps our national airspace the safest in the world.”
So how does it work?
Keeps the FAA’s “general authority over the national airspace while preserving the authority of state, local and tribal governments to issue reasonable restrictions on the time, manner and place of drone operations within 200 feet of the ground or a structure.
Reaffirms that the federal government “will respect private property rights to the airspace immediately above a property, including the first 200 feet.”
Directs the FAA “to partner with a diverse group of cities and states to test out different approaches, inform the unmanned traffic management pilot program and report best practices.”
See Drone Federalism Act of 2017 (Senate Bill 1272) by Jonathan Rupprecht for a quick summary of important facts of the Drone Federalism Act of 2017, problems with the Drone Federalism Act of 2017, who supports it, and the actual text of the Drone Federalism Act.
With hurricane season coming soon, Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) is being proactive. They’ve trained more than 1,200 employees and that training includes the use of unmanned aircraft. FPL demonstrated the use of UAS for surveying damage areas and how they can speed up restoration efforts.
The MQ-25A Stingray is a carrier-launched tanker designed to extend the combat range of carrier aircraft like the F/A-18 Super Hornet and F-35C Joint Strike Fighter. The Navy is starting an industry competition for the Stingray, which it plans to enter carrier deck service in the early to mid-2020s. In advance of the formal proposal to industry this summer, the Navy awarded four development contracts: Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Atomics, and Northrop Grumman.
The UAS Camp is sponsored by the Women’s Fund from the Grand Forks Community Foundation. Girls ages 8 to 12 will learn about drones, with hands-on experience with small unmanned aircraft. The camp will take place in two sessions at Robin Hall: from July 31 through Aug. 4 and from Aug. 7 through 11, 2017. Registration is $20 and space is limited. For more information, call Amanda Brandt with the UND College of Aerospace at (701) 732-0592.
The National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) “has proactively embraced the utilization of drones in the wireless and broadcast infrastructure industries due to the enormous safety and efficiency benefits associated with their use.” Their new Climber Connection Unmanned Aerial Systems video was distributed industry-wide at the 2017 Drone Focus Conference in Fargo, North Dakota.
A court ruling halts recreational drone registration in the U.S. while China implements a new drone registration requirement. Also, a fast fixed-wing VTOL UAV, heavy-lift delivery drones, remote pilot training in Australia, a long-endurance solar powered unmanned sailplane, and some new drone swarming applications.
The Marlyn VTOL mapping and surveying drone. Courtesy Atmos UAV.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has struck down the FAA’s drone registration requirement for recreational UAV operators. The three-judge panel agreed with John A. Taylor, a drone hobbyist represented by attorney Jonathan Rupprecht, who argued that the FAA requirement violated the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act passed by Congress. Read the Court Opinion [PDF] and the Court Order [PDF]. Note that the ruling does not affect aircraft operated for commercial operations under Section 333 or Part 107. Rules for commercial operations remain the same. More details: Complete Guide to Taylor v. FAA (Drone Registration Lawsuit).
“We are carefully reviewing the U.S. Court of Appeals decision as it relates to drone registrations. The FAA put registration and operational regulations in place to ensure that drones are operated in a way that is safe and does not pose security and privacy threats. We are in the process of considering our options and response to the decision.”
The Atmos UAV Marlyn is a fixed-wing, VTOL UAV designed for high-speed mapping applications like land surveying, mining, precision agriculture, and forestry. It can be deployed from any surface, can map up to 10 times faster than a multirotor, and can fly in a broad range of weather conditions.
JD.com says they are China’s largest retailer, online or offline, and they plan to build China’s largest low-altitude drone package delivery network. The heavy-lift drones are expected to carry more than a ton, transport products to remote areas, and move agricultural produce to cities. JD.com will also establish an R&D campus in partnership with the Xi’an National Civil Aerospace Industrial Base (XCAIB) where unmanned systems will be developed, manufactured and tested.
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), Australia’s national aviation authority is changing the practical training requirements for receiving an Australian Remote Pilot Licence (RePL) effective 1 June 2017. RePL applicants will satisfy the training requirements by completing a RePL training course conducted by a person holding a RPA Operator’s Certificate (ReOC) that authorized the training. Applicants can also apply to CASA for a flight test. CASA-approved training organisations are located across Australia, and a list of approved drone operators including those who can conduct training, is on the CASA website. More information about the advantages of holding a RePL can be found in Flying drones/remotely piloted aircraft in Australia.
Pilots of drones weighing 250 grams or more (0.55 pound) will be required to register with the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). This requirement is effective June 1, 2017. Registration is online and real names must be used.
The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory is looking at long endurance unmanned sailplanes that use solar power. The Navy says, “The Solar Photovoltaic and Autonomous Soaring Base Program and the U.S. Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Energy Office (E2O) want to improve the ability of unmanned platforms to support 24-7 information, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.
DroneSeed has received approval from the FAA to deliver agricultural payloads with drone swarms. The company says, “We’re working with commercial foresters to make reforestation more efficient. Offering a one-stop solution, our team of drones plants tree seeds and sprays fertilizer and herbicides to keep trees healthy.”
At the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference, the vice president of science and technology at Cintel said a web of swarming unmanned aircraft systems that can spoof enemy drones could be a solution to the shot doctrine problem when exercising counter-UAS capabilities.
Lockheed Martin successfully launched a Vector Hawk UAV on command from the Marlin MK2 autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV). At the same time, the Submaran unmanned surface vehicle (USV) developed by Ocean Aero provided surface reconnaissance and surveillance.
The CEO of SkyFire Consulting explains the use of drones by public safety agencies, such as law enforcement, firefighting, and first responders.
Matt Sloane, CEO of SkyFire Consulting
Matt Sloane is the CEO of SkyFire Consulting, a consulting company focused on the use of drones by public safety agencies. Started by four public safety professionals and a commercial pilot, SkyFire delivers professional level training, FAA consulting, and equipment sales and consultation. This provides departments with a one-stop-shop for starting drone programs.
Matt describes how and why public safety agencies, like law enforcement and firefighting, are using drones. We talk about regulatory requirements, the drones and sensors being employed, as well as privacy and rights issues. Matt also offers some good advice for drone owners who want to assist public safety agencies.
SkyFire offers training for agencies that want to include drones in their arsenal of tools, and Matt describes what they offer. We also note that the SkyFire Public Safety UAV Symposium will be held June 21-23, 2017, at the Hilton Fort Collins, in Fort Collins, Colorado. That event will bring together experts in drones, thermal imaging, public safety UAV operations, lawmakers, and public safety professionals to provide training on the latest information.
Matt is an FAA-certified manned aircraft pilot as well as an accomplished drone pilot. He also serves on the National Fire Protection Association’s committee on UAVs, which is working to establish the first real UAV guidelines for the fire service.
The impact of drones striking people, geo-restrictions in war zones, monitoring volcanic ash, structure inspections using UAVs and artificial intelligence, keeping wildlife away from crops, waste management with drones, swarming tactics, Project Wing update, and drone weaponization for law enforcement.
A UAS crash test dummy provided data for a UAS ground collision severity study.
In order to create regulations for flying drones over people, the FAA needs to know what happens when a UAV strikes a human. A consortium of universities has been studying this, and their report identifies dominant injury types applicable to small drones. See: FAA and Assure Announce Results of Ground Collision Study.
NASA has awarded a contract to Black Swift Technologies to develop and deliver a sUAS solution to explore volcanoes. Black Swift will provide an airframe, avionics, and sensors to measure gases, temperature, pressure, humidity, and winds, as well as particle sizes and trace gases. All this for improved air traffic management systems and more accurate measurements of ashfall.
In Tanzania, elephants sometimes graze on crops and destroy them, presenting a huge problem for the people trying to grow food. The U.S.-based nonprofit Resolve is testing the use of drones to drive the animals away.
A quadcopter is being used to map a regional landfill and provide volumetrics to the landfill management company. This information about the amount of air space remaining in existing landfill cells is critical for future development plans.
DARPA created the Service Academies Swarm Challenge where U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Air Force academy teams compete and go from “zero to swarm in 8 months.” The research effort is an experiment where students develop offensive and defensive tactics for swarms of small UAVs.
Legislation proposed in Connecticut would have made that state the first in the U.S. to allow law enforcement to use weaponized drones. However, the legislature’s Public Safety and Security Committee decided to let the legislation die. This was after drone attorney Peter Sachs wrote an email to all members of the Committee asking them to vote against the proposal.
The USS Alabama (BB-60) is a South Dakota Class Battleship, launched on April 16, 1942. It served during World War II in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. This video was shot using a hexacopter with a GoPro at the USS Alabama Memorial Park.
Drone vulnerability to hacking, the ScanEagle gets fuel cell power, Grand Sky UAS Park adds a major tenant, drone privacy issues in Australia, swarming biobots, and Uber collaborates with Aurora Flight Sciences for an air taxi.
Researchers at the Cyber-Physical Systems Security Lab at the University of Texas at Dallas hacked into a small quadcopter and took control. UT Dallas researcher Junia Valente said, “The device contains an open access point not protected by any password and a misconfigured FTP server that allows unauthorized users to read and write to the drone filesystem. One of the attacks we did was precisely to overwrite sensitive system files to gain full root access.”
A ScanEagle UAV manufactured by Boeing subsidiary Insitu has been tested with a Ballard Power Systems’ fuel cell system. Ballard lists five advantages that fuel cell propulsion of UAVs has over internal combustion systems.
The Grand Sky Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Business and Aviation Park, located near Grand Forks, North Dakota has welcomed new tenant Northrop Grumman to a 36,000 square-foot facility. The park has access to Grand Forks Air Force Base, where Northrop Grumman provides systems and technology to the U.S. Air Force, including the RQ-4 Global Hawk.
A woman returned to her home in Darwin from an evening gym session, got undressed, and began to enjoy her secluded backyard pool. Soon, a small camera-mounted quadcopter appeared overhead. She doesn’t know who was operating the drone.
In Australia, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) does not prevent drones from flying over private property. Australia lacks a tort of privacy so even if she could find him, the woman couldn’t sue the drone operator for a breach of privacy.
North Carolina State University researchers have created the hardware and software to use UAVs and insect cyborgs (or biobots) as a way to map areas like collapsed buildings after a disaster. Biobots could move freely within a defined space and map the area as they go.
Uber selected Aurora Flight Sciences as a partner to develop an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft for its Uber Elevate Network. Aurora’s eVTOL concept is derived from its XV-24A X-plane program currently underway for the U.S. Department of Defense and other autonomous aircraft the company has developed over the years.