Tag Archives: Amazon

UAV183 An Autonomous Taxi Drone

Dubai plans to address traffic problems with a taxi drone, the Drone Advisory Committee looks at UAS tasks, a concept for very large racing drones forms in Australia, a tower trade organization issues a UAS guidance document, investing in drone technology, an NDVI data gathering solution for growers, a Microsoft UAS simulation platform, and Amazon looks at controlled descent of ejected packages.

Ehang 184 Taxi Drone

Ehang 184 Autonomous Taxi Drone

UAV News

Dubai To Launch Flying Drone Taxis In July

By the year 2030, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) wants 25 percent of all passenger trips in Dubai to be provided by autonomous vehicles. The head of Dubai’s Roads & Transportation Agency says they have been experimenting with the Ehang 184 as an autonomous taxi drone.

The single-seat taxi drone has a 30-minute flight time with a 50-kilometer range. The passenger selects the destination on a touchpad, and the drone flies there autonomously. Flights would be monitored remotely at a control room.

See the video: EHANG 184 Flight Test, published on Dec 28, 2016, and also Dubai is buying 200 Tesla vehicles as part of its ambitious self-driving taxi plan

Drone Advisory Committee Builds Consensus

At the second meeting of the Drone Advisory Committee (DAC) on January 31, 2017, three draft tasking statements were reviewed:

  1. The roles and responsibilities of federal, state, and local governments in regulating and enforcing drone laws.
  2. Technological and regulatory mechanisms that would allow drone operators to gain access to the airspace beyond what the agency currently permits under the Small UAS Rule.
  3. Funding to offset the cost of supporting unmanned aircraft integration into the nation’s airspace.

Giant drone racing is here, and it’s just as awesome as it sounds

Australian Chris Ballard thinks he has a better idea for the sport of drone racing. He founded startup Freedom Class Giant Drone Racing and is designing, building, and testing giant racing drones. Ballard says he’s “looking to achieve the Formula 1 of the drone-racing world.” See the video: Freedom Class Giant Drone – Initial Flight Test – January 2017.

NATE Unveils 2nd Edition of Unmanned Aerial Systems Safety Resource

The National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) has released the 2nd Edition of the resource document NATE Unmanned Aerial Systems Operations Around Vertical Communications Infrastructure. [PDF] The document is intended to address UAS operations around wireless infrastructure, cellular towers, broadcast towers and utility structures. The 2nd Edition incorporates updates associated with the FAA Part 107 rules for the commercial operation of UAS.

How to Invest in Drone Technology

With DJI commanding a large market share, what other options do investors have? There are large companies in the industry, such as Lockheed Martin, GoPro, Boeing, Amazon, United Parcel Service, and Intel. There is even an exchange-traded fund. But drone component companies are another option.

Sentera Adds TrueNDVI™ to DJI Phantom 4 Pro Drone

Sentera produces sensors that image Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) data to help growers manage crop health. Now Sentera has announced they can convert a DJI Phantom 4 Pro drone into a system that collects TrueNDVI™ crop health data. A single flight can capture visual-band RGB, near-infrared (NIR), and NDVI data.

Aerial Informatics and Robotics Platform

Microsoft’s open-source Aerial Informatics and Robotics platform addresses “the large data needs for training, and the ability to debug in a simulator.” The system “provides realistic simulation tools for designers and developers to seamlessly generate the copious amounts of training data they need. In addition, the platform leverages recent advances in physics and perception computation to create accurate, real-world simulations.”

Amazon considers parachutes for drone delivered packages

Amazon has a patent for “Maneuvering a package following in-flight release from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).” Now we have the possibility of delivery drones that land, those that lower their package, and those that eject their package. The descent of ejected packages could be controlled by a parachute, landing flaps, or compressed air canisters.

Verizon Acquires Skyward to Simplify Drone Operations and Reduce Complexity for Businesses

Verizon announced a deal to buy Skyward for an undisclosed sum. The maker of drone operations software says, “Skyward’s drone operations management platform combined with Verizon’s network, reliability, trusted brand, and expertise in building enterprise solutions will help [Skyward] deliver the solutions our customers need faster than ever before.”

UAV Video of the Week

The eagles: new anti-drone weapons

Screen capture from the TF1 television newscast of 12 February 2017.

The eagles: new anti-drone weapons

The French Armed Forces are using birds of prey to capture drones in flight. The video shows how the birds are trained and how they take down drones.

Mentioned

Papa John’s Commercial 2017 Drones

Patrick sent us this commercial where pizza delivery drones run amuck.

 

 

UAV182 Super Bowl Goes Gaga Over Drones

Drones appear at the Super Bowl, Kansas wants to be an unmanned aircraft leader, UAS for newsgathering gains momentum, an unmanned air combat drone, drones that seed clouds, and those that pollinate.

Intel drones light show

Intel® Shooting Star™ drones light show at Super Bowl LI

UAV News

Lady Gaga Halftime Drone Swarm Was Pretaped to Shield Crowd

The Super Bowl LI halftime show included 300 drones choreographed by Intel. The drones were filmed in advance to comply with the requirement for no flights over people, and the TFR in effect for the event. Also, One of Amazon’s delivery drones showed up in a Super Bowl ad. In the Amazon TV commercial, an Amazon Echo is used to order Doritos from Amazon Prime Air, then the drone appears outside the window.

Kansas UAS director outlines initial drone plans

Kansas Department of Transportation’s unmanned aircraft systems director Bob Brock wants to make the state a leader in UAS technology. Brock wants to protect privacy, ensure public safety, help farmers and ranchers adopt UAS to reduce costs and increase yields, and make Kansas a leader in the UAS industry.

WBRC FOX6 News first to use drones for news, weather, traffic coverage

WBRC FOX6 News in Birmingham, Alabama now has two licensed drone pilots. They plan to use their “Sky Tracker” drone for weather and traffic coverage, newsgathering, marketing and creative services, tower inspections, and sales initiatives.

More Details Emerge On Kratos’ Optionally Expendable Air Combat Drones

Kratos Unmanned System Division (KUSD) is developing the XQ-222 unmanned air combat vehicle (UCAV). In 2016, Kratos was awarded a demonstration contract with the Air Force Research Laboratory under the Low-Cost Attritable Strike Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Demonstration (LCASD) initiative. KUSD said under the contract award, they “will design, develop, deliver, demonstrate and test a technical baseline for a high-speed, long-range, low-cost, limited life-strike UAS.”

Can drones make it rain? Nevada officials upbeat on cloud-seeding prospects

In 2016, the Nevada Institute For Autonomous Systems (NIAS) successfully tested a cloud-seeding payload flown by a fixed-wing drone. This generated a lot of interest from around the world. They expect to make major strides with cloud-seeding operations within the next few weeks.

Scientists Are Building Bee-Like Drones to Fight the Coming Bee-Pocalypse

Some data suggests that the bee population is shrinking worldwide. Bees are critical for pollination so the potential impact on crops is large. Now scientists from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Japan are exploring a solution. They found that a certain sticky substance was good at picking up pollen. Then they glued animal hair to the bottom of a tiny G-Force PXY CAM drone and applied the sticky goo to the hair. Just by flying around and knocking into flowers, the drone picked up and deposited pollen grains.

UAV Videos of the Week

DARPA demonstrates SideArm UAS capture system

DARPA’s SideArm research effort seeks to create a self-contained, portable apparatus able to horizontally launch and retrieve unmanned aerial systems of up to 900 pounds. In December 2016, Aurora Flight Sciences successfully tested a full-scale technology demonstration system.

Mavic Pro on Floats

Listener Mike attended the Central Florida Mavic Owners group meet-up, and one of the guys had a Gator Skinned Mavic on floats. He recorded some video of the float Mavik with his own Mavic.

Mentioned

The  “RETREEV Compact Retrieval Tool” from TEC Accessories, a very small pocket-sized grappling hook that might be helpful to retrieving drones from trees (or your keys from a storm drain).

 

 

UAV181 Vanishing Drones

DARPA calls for drones that vanish, the U.S. Coast Guard tests the ScanEagle, more Amazon drone patents, a shortage of military drone pilots, Microsoft drones for good, the Trump administration’s regulatory policy throws confusion at the UAS industry, 3DR operates drones at the Atlanta airport, and a biometric drone based on the bat.

Otherlab is developing APSARA drones

APSARA drone, courtesy Otherlab.

UAV News

These mushroom-based drones eat themselves at mission’s end

Inbound, Controlled, Air-Releasable, Unrecoverable Systems (ICARUS), is a DARPA program “driven by a vision of vanishing air vehicles that can make precise deliveries of critical supplies and then vaporize into thin air.” Small items could be supplied/resupplied to military or humanitarian assistance teams operating in difficult-to-access areas, and then the drones would dispose of themselves.

San Francisco-based R&D firm Otherlab is responding with Aerial Platform Supporting Autonomous Resupply Actions (APSARA) drones which will ultimately be made from mycelium, a mushroom-based material. See their press release, Industrial Paper Airplanes for Autonomous Aerial Delivery.

Coast Guard Conducts small Unmanned Aircraft System Testing On Cutter Stratton

USCG NSC flying ScanEagle drones

NSC and ScanEagle drone

The U.S. Coast Guard tested a small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) on the national security cutter (NSC) Stratton. Deployment on Stratton planned is for this winter, initially using the ScanEagle sUAS.

USCG resources:

Amazon’s latest drone patent features foldable wings for flippable flight

Amazon has another patent for a delivery drone concept, this a foldable-wing design. With wings folded, the drone is stable on the ground for a vertical takeoff. Then the wings unfold for horizontal flight and fold again for the landing.

Amazon patent for folding wing drones

Amazon Illustration via USPTO

Another Amazon patent was recently published for a system for determining the center of gravity for a delivery drone payload. The drone can then adjust the payload position to balance itself in flight.

Air Force and Army Should Improve Strategic Human Capital Planning for Pilot Workforces

This U.S. Government Accountability Office press release states, “The Air Force and the Army have not fully applied four of the five key principles for effective strategic human capital planning for managing pilots of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) that are important for resolving the Air Force’s pilot shortages and the Army’s training shortfalls.”

Microsoft’s Mosquito-Tracking Drones Could Save Lives

In 2015, Microsoft announced Project Premonitions, which envisions using drones to detect mosquito breeding areas. In June 2016, Microsoft formed the Aerial Informatics and Robotics (AIR) group. Their goal is to develop autonomous drones that use machine intelligence, robotics, and human-centered computation.

Drone Industry Fears Trump Turbulence in Rule Expanding Flights

The Trump administration first froze new regulations, then issued an executive order requiring that for every new regulation, two old ones must be identified for elimination. The impact on the drone industry is uncertain since new regulations are needed for flight over people, enabling package delivery, etc.

The FAA gave the first ever go-ahead for a drone to fly at a major airport

The FAA granted the waiver for flight in Class B airspace. 3D Robotics conducted seven flights on January 10, 2017, at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The mission was data collection for a demolition project.

Video of the Week

Bat Bot Wins Flexible Flier Miles

An extremely flexible flying robot called the “Bat Bot” is made from a carbon fiber skeleton and a silicon membrane wing. This was reported in the Science Robotics article, A biomimetic robotic platform to study flight specializations of bats.

Mentioned

Drones set to invade accounting profession

 

 

UAV177 FPV Flying Wings

The owner of an FPV flying wing company describes their design, construction, and applications. In the news, Amazon patents a floating warehouse concept, and the EU moves closer to an RPAS regulations roadmap.

Ruben Jauregui, owner of SweepWingsRC

Ruben Jauregui, owner of SweepWingsRC

Guest

Ruben Jauregui is the owner of SweepWingsRC, a maker of FPV flying wings. In 2010, Ruben received a little UMX Vapor indoor flyer and over time he grew more interested in RC flying. He built his own RC aircraft in 2011, and then FPV flying wings came along for him in 2012. He soon went out and sourced the materials to make his own wings. By 2013, Ruben had made and tested his own design and came up with the name for his brand. By 2014, Ruben was officially a small company owner.

We talk about flying wing design, construction, and applications. Ruben tells us how flying wings and multirotors differ from the operator’s perspective. He describes his flying wing designs, their payload capabilities, and the impressive speeds they can reach.

SweepWingsRC videos:

FPV Paradise – Hawaii – Flying Wing

FPV Paradise Tour – Las Vegas – Sweepwings

Sweepwings at Drone World’s – Hawaii 2016

UAV News

Amazon patent hints at floating warehouses in the sky

The patent, Airborne fulfillment center utilizing unmanned aerial vehicles for item delivery, describes “an airborne fulfillment center (‘AFC’) and the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (‘UAV’) to deliver items from the AFC to users. For example, the AFC may be an airship that remains at a high altitude (e.g., 45,000 feet) and UAVs with ordered items may be deployed from the AFC to deliver ordered items to user designated delivery locations. As the UAVs descend, they can navigate horizontally toward a user specified delivery location using little to no power, other than to stabilize the UAV and/or guide the direction of descent. Shuttles (smaller airships) may be used to replenish the AFC with inventory, UAVs, supplies, fuel, etc. Likewise, the shuttles may be utilized to transport workers to and from the AFC.”

Roadmap for drone operations in the European Union (EU), The roll-out of the EU operation centric approach [PDF]

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in Europe is working on the preparation of a Specific Operation Risk Assessment (SORA), and Operations Manual. RPAS Regulations is a guide to international rules and regulations for remotely piloted aircraft systems. (Note this is a restricted access site – registration is required.)

UAV Video of the Week

BMT UAV performs perched landing using machine learning algorithms

sUAS News reports that the University of Bristol in partnership with BMT Defence Services (BMT) has used machine learning algorithms to allow a UAV to make a perched landing.

Video: Learning to perch a UAV on the ground using deep reinforcement learning

Mentioned

Drone delivery makes it into a Garfield cartoon.

 

 

UAV176 The Ion Tiger Fuel Cell-Powered Drone

The Naval Research Laboratory powers a drone with a new fuel cell design, an Amazon patent to identify threats to drones, PrecisionHawk reports on BVLOS technology needs, and the FAA drone registration system reaches its one-year anniversary.

NRL Ion Tiger

Members of the chemistry and tactical electronic warfare divisions from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory with the Ion Tiger unmanned air vehicle. Photo courtesy U.S. Naval Research Laboratory.

News

NRL completes first flight of UAV with custom hydrogen fuel cell

Fuel Cell

Scheme of a proton-conducting fuel cell, courtesy Wikipedia.

 

A team from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has developed and flown the Ion Tiger powered by a new hydrogen fuel cell developed at NRL. The program manager at the Office of Naval Research said, “NRL having the know how to build their own fuel cells in-house gives ONR and the U.S. Navy the understanding and tools needed for transitioning fuel cells to the fleet.”

 

Amazon gets US patent for ‘countermeasures’ to protect drone delivery

Amazon was awarded a technology patent for a system of “countermeasures of threats to an uncrewed autonomous vehicle.”  The system is based on a mesh network and communication between multiple drones that detect possible signs of a compromise.

Precisionhawk Research Outlines Operations Risk for Drones Flying Beyond Line of Sight

Under the FAA Pathfinder Program, PrecisionHawk’s Phase 2 research indicates technology assist is critical for beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations. PrecisionHawk found that human control is subject to variability and cannot be relied upon exclusively for safe BVLOS flight. Good situational awareness technology is also needed.

Drone Registration Marks First Anniversary

December 21, 2016, marked the one-year anniversary of the FAA web-based drone registration system. More than 600,000 owners have registered and the FAA calls the system “an unqualified success.” Also, “The rule and the registration system were primarily aimed at the thousands of drone hobbyists who had little or no experience with the U.S. aviation system. The agency saw registration as an excellent way to give them a sense of responsibility and accountability for their actions. The agency wanted them to feel they are part of the aviation community, to see themselves as pilots.”

One-Year Anniversary of the FAA’s Drone Registry

Videos of the Week

Watch the 6 Most Innovative Drone Videos of 2016

Time selected six drone videos they considered to be those that most challenged our perspectives:

  1. The Nature Video Perfected
  2. The Destruction of Aleppo
  3. The Construction of Apple Campus 2
  4. The Tight Squeeze Approach
  5. The Single Shot Approach
  6. The Top Down Approach

Human Flying Drone

This super heavy lift multirotor has enough power to lift a man. Filmed in Finland. Be sure to also watch the “behind the scenes” video.

 

UAV175 Amazon Prime Air Delivers

Amazon Prime Air begins a package delivery beta test, a DOT audit finds some FAA deficiencies, Defiant Labs shows a new VTOL long endurance drone, three models of aerodynamic lift are called into question, some drone tips for growers, and a wild video of the week.

Amazon Prime Air beta test drone

Package delivery drone, courtesy Amazon Prime Air

News

Amazon Claims First Successful Prime Air Drone Delivery

Amazon Prime Air delivered a TV streaming stick and a bag of popcorn to a Cambridge, UK customer in a private beta test. The process from order to receipt lasted 13 minutes and included a fully autonomous flight with no human pilot involved in the process. Amazon plans to expand the test, add more customers to the program, and collect operational data for further development of package delivery concepts. See the Amazon promotional video: Amazon Prime Air’s First Customer Delivery.

FAA Lacks Risk-Based Oversight Process for Civil UAS

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a 20-page audit report titled, FAA Lacks Risk-Based Oversight Process for Civil Unmanned Aircraft Systems [PDF]. The report notes that “FAA does not have a fully developed risk-based process to oversee UAS operations, a key tool for focusing resources on a range of emerging risks, such as increased reports of UAS operating near airports.” The OIG offers six recommendations, four of which the FAA says are already accomplished.

New 24-Hour Endurance Hybrid Drone Developed for Monitoring & Inspection

Canadian company Defiant Labs has announced their new DX-3, a vertical take-off and landing drone with a fixed wing for flight. Applications for the long endurance, hydrogen fuel cell-powered drone include monitoring and inspecting remote infrastructure such as pipelines and power transmission lines. The DX-3 will be designed, manufactured, and produced in Canada.

Listener Ken captured some photographs of the DX-3 at the International UAS Show in Toronto:

Defiant Labs DX-3

Defiant Labs DX-3

Birds flying through laser light reveal faults in flight research, Stanford study shows

Stanford researchers wanted to test three predictive models of airflow that are based on flying animals. These models are sometimes used in the design of flying robots and drones. Using a trained bird flying through a laser sheet that illuminated micron-sized aerosol particles, the study found that all three models failed to predict the actual lift generated by the bird.

Stanford researchers debunk popular flight models by flying birds through lasers

UAVs: 10 tips from users

Two Iowa State University agricultural biosystems engineers provide Corn & Soybean Digest readers with tips learned first-hand.

Video of the Week

The Pilots Arrive | FlightLab: Mojave Boneyard | Intel

Take a wild quadcopter ride through a Mojave boneyard of retired jumbo jets, and watch the obstacle avoidance of Intel’s Yuneec drone.

 

 

UAV168 Unmanned Aircraft Safety with Dr. Todd Curtis

Aviation safety analyst Dr. Todd Curtis discusses unmanned aircraft safety.

Guest

Dr. Todd Curtis

Dr. Todd Curtis

Dr. Todd Curtis is an aviation safety analyst, author, and publisher. He founded AirSafe.com in 1996 to provide the public with useful information about airline safety, fear of flying, plane crashes, TSA security, and other issues of concern to the traveling public.

Todd was an airline safety engineer at Boeing, and he’s a frequent on-air aviation expert on CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, MSNBC, Fox News, CBC, BBC, Discovery Channel, NPR, and many other major news media outlets around the world. Follow him on Twitter at @airsafe.

Unmanned Aircraft Safety

We talk with Todd about the safety parallels between manned aviation and unmanned aviation, what unmanned can learn from manned, and how unmanned aviation impacts safety for manned aviation. Also, Todd tells us about the new safety challenges that unmanned aviation creates.

News

Drone startup funding crashes

Funding for drone companies in the third quarter of 2016 was 48% below the second quarter, and down 59% from the third quarter of 2015. Granted, startup funding, in general, is down 39% over the 2015 quarter 3 level, but funding is down even more.

Self-driving truck makes first shipment: 50,000 cans of beer

The first commercial shipment by self-driving vehicle took place on October 20 when Budweiser teamed up with autonomous vehicle company Ottomotors for a 120-mile tractor-trailer trip along a Colorado highway.

Amazon Looks to add Alexa Intelligence Technology to UAS

Amazon sees a future where its patented Alexa intelligence is added to very small drones, for missions like finding lost children, locating your car in a parking lot, and acting as a personal security guard.

Sweden bans cameras on drones

The Supreme Administrative Court of Sweden ruled that cameras mounted to drones are “surveillance cameras,” and thus require an expensive and difficult to obtain permit.

Israel Refuses To Sign US Regulation Of Drone Exports Document

Israel says it will not sign the US document on the regulation of drone exports. They say it could damage Israeli exports.

Hero Uncle Terrorizes Public With Drone-Mounted Angel of Death

With Halloween upon us in the U.S., it’s time again for spooky costumes, and that includes scary flying drones.

The Baywatch Inspired Drone

The Amphibious Joint Lifeguard UAV is a surveillance drone concept that is also a floatation device. First, the drone flies to the victim, then drops onto the water. The victim grabs the drone, which then powers the victim to shore.

 

 

 

 

 

UAV155 Amazon Docking Station for sUAS

The MQ-25 Stingray UAS, Star Wars drones, an Amazon patent for sUAS flight decks, Customs and Border Protection solicitation for small drone studies, how drones might make the future of aviation brighter, an arrest for a drone flight, new geofencing firmware, and Facebook laser drones.

News

Amazon patents special drone housing in the sky

Amazon docking station concept]Amazon was awarded U.S. patent number 9387928 for sUAS docking stations that can be attached to structures such as telephone poles or street lamps. Amazon proposes that these multi-use UAV docking stations can be networked and provide package handling facilities, and act as a final destination or a delivery hub. The docking stations could recharge or refuel UAVs, become navigational aids, and provide routing information from a central control system.

USN carries out MQ-25 aerial refuelling surrogate testing

The UAS that had been called the Carrier Based Aerial Refueling System (CBARS) will be now known as MQ-25 Stingray. Developed from the X-47B, it will use the current Navy refueling pod as its equipment. The system is being tested using a Gulfstream jet as a surrogate and the RFP for the MQ-25 prototypes requests a flyoff in 2017.

Star Wars Drones You Can Battle With

Propel is making X-wing, Millennium Falcon, TIE Interceptor, and Speederbike quadcopters with clear props to give the illusion of flight. The drones are outfitted with lasers that allow game playing similar to laser tag.

Border Patrol calls on Silicon Valley for advice on small drones

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is looking for new ways that Customs and Border Protection could use UAVs and has published an Other Transaction Solicitation (OTS) to fund studies. The OTS Call on Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Word doc) offers grants of $50,000 to $200,000, and describes three objectives:

  • User interfaces for effective communication and enhanced immediacy for reaction.
  • Sensors to improve situational awareness and the ability to track multiple targets.
  • Platform security improvement for UAS self-defense capabilities.

Why Drones May Save Aviation

This opinion piece describes how sUAS might be a pathway to bring people into aviation.

California makes first arrest for drone flight over wildfire

A man charged with hampering firefighting efforts was caught after he posted his videos on YouTube. He faces FAA fines of up to $27,500 and possible jail time.

DJI drones will now get real-time wildfire alerts

New software updates bring geofencing to temporarily restricted areas.

Report claims small UAV ruling places USA ahead of Europe

Aerospace and defense industry researcher Teal Group says the United States is now ahead of Europe after developing sUAS regulations. The U.S. is “putting pressure on Europe to come up with its own set of regulations.”

Facebook wants to use fluorescence to make its laser drones work better

Facebook and Internet.org have been developing the Project Aquila fixed-wing drones to provide internet access to remote locations using lasers to transmit data. However, light sent through the atmosphere can produce an undesirable “twinkling” effect. The Facebook team has a solution that uses a structure covered with wavelength shifting dyes that re-emit the light at a different wavelength and reduce the twinkling effect.

Video of the Week

Drone helps in rescue of stranded boaters near Algona

Listener Todd pointed us to this video that documents a DJI Phantom 4 used to locate a man and his 10-year-old granddaughter who stranded in their boat.

 

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.

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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.

Guest

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.

Discussion

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.