Tag Archives: CBP

UAV208 The Bladeless Drone

A bladeless drone wins a design award, women to watch in UAS, drone support for Hurricane Harvey, DJI issues a mandatory firmware update, Customs and Border Protection nabs a drug runner, video gamers as drone pilots, and talking drones from Amazon.

The Edgar Herrera designed bladeless drone concept.

The Edgar Herrera designed bladeless drone concept.

UAV News

The Dyson of Drones

Mexican designer Edgar Herrera has created a concept for a bladeless drone that is a winner in the 2017 Red Dot Design Concept Award. In this design concept, three bladeless air ducts control direction and can rotate 20 degrees. A fourth central duct provides lift. Is it a viable design? Maybe yes, maybe no.

2017 Women to Watch in UAS

Drone360 magazine and Women and Drones announced the 2017 Women to Watch in UAS List. Nine women were chosen “for their work disrupting, innovating, and shaping the future of the UAS industry.”  The women are:

  • Holly Kasun, COO/CMO and Cofounder of Flybrix based in San Francisco, CA.
  • Mary Wohnrade, Civil engineer, Part 107 operator, and President/Owner of Wohnrade Civil Engineers, based in Broomfield, CO.
  • Karen Joyce, Scientist and Senior Lecturer at James Cook University, Cofounder of She Flies, based in Queensland, Australia.
  • Lexie Janson, FPV drone racer, software developer, drone certification teacher based in Gdynia, Poland.
  • Natalie Cheung, General Manager of Drone Light Shows in the UAV Group at Intel based in Santa Clara, CA.
  • Catherine Ball, Cofounder of World of Drones Congress, Cofounder and Chief Engagement Officer at She Flies, Founder and Publisher of Gumption Trigger, based in Queensland, Australia.
  • Helena Samsioe, Founder and CEO of GLOBHE based in Stockholm, Sweden.
  • Gretchen West, Senior Advisor at Hogan Lovells U.S. LLP, Co-Executive Director at the Commercial Drone Alliance, and Cofounder of Women of Commercial Drones, based in Menlo Park, CA.
  • Leah LaSalla, Technical Founder and CEO at Astral AR based in Austin, TX.

FAA Supports Drone Assessments for Houston Response and Recovery

As of August 31, 2017, the FAA had issued 43 unmanned aircraft system authorizations to drone operators supporting the response and recovery for Hurricane Harvey or covering it as part of the media.

DJI will ground Spark drones on September 1st unless owners install an update

DJI is pushing out a firmware update to fix the problem with some Spark drones falling out of the sky.This is a mandatory firmware update. Your Spark won’t fly without the update. DJI says the problem is related to the battery management system and power supply.

See the DJI press release: DJI Spark Firmware Update Enhances Flight Safety

Border Patrol Spots Meth-Carrying UAV in San Diego

The Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection has arrested a 25-year-old man for using a consumer drone to transport several pounds of methamphetamine across the Mexican border.

Would Video Gamers Make Better Unmanned Aircraft Pilots Than Actual Pilots?

Psychologists at the University of Liverpool in the UK conducted a study. “Findings support the idea that VGPs (video game players) could be considered a resource in UAS operation.” The report is published in the journal Cogent Psychology: Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) operators’ accuracy and confidence of decisions: Professional pilots or video game players?

Look for Military Drones to Begin Replacing Police Helicopters by 2025

Defense contractors see a market opportunity for large military-style drones to be used instead of police helicopters. General Atomics is investing in a new version of the Reaper.

Alexa-enabled Amazon drones could talk with customers when delivering packages

An Amazon patent envisions drones that interact with people – live audio and video. This could be used to warn someone standing too close to the landing zone or to have a conversation with customer support.

UAV Video of the Week

RDDC2016: Bladeless Drone

Photos of the Week

Solar Eclipse, Cerulean, KY by Max Flight

Solar Eclipse, Cerulean, KY by Max Flight

Reaper by David Vanderhoof

Reaper by David Vanderhoof



UAV190 The Application of ADS-B to Drones

Putting ADS-B on small drones, faster and more agile drones for the Drone Racing League, speeding up Part 107 approvals at the FAA, and equipping U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents with sUAS.

ping ADS-B transceivers and transponders

ping ADS-B transceivers and transponders shown to scale with a DJI Matrice 100. Courtesy uAvionix.


Tim Trott, “The Drone Professor,” talks with Ryan Reed from uAvionix at the 2017 Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-In Expo held April 4-9, 2017 in Lakeland, Florida. They discuss the emerging ADS-B options for drones, and how uAvionix is addressing the problems of spectrum congestion and screen clutter.

UAV News

ESPN’s Drone Racing League returns with faster, bigger races

The Drone Racing League is introducing the Racer3 drone for season two. All competing pilots will use the Racer3, which is more powerful and agile than the Racer2. The new drone features 209 LED lights with a built-in LED matrix display, a custom 1,800mA battery, and proprietary internal long range radios for live events and broadcast.

In DRL’s next-gen Racer3 drone combines speed, performance, ESPN quotes DRL founder and CEO Nick Horbaczewski: “It is dramatically more powerful, faster and more agile than the Racer2. The Racer3 can go from zero to 80 miles an hour in less than a second, which means it can basically accelerate on a dime — which makes for really exciting racing and allowed us to create larger courses, more extreme courses.”

Races air on ESPN starting June 20, 2017.

FAA Will Release Maps to Speed up Drone Authorization Applications

The FAA wants to help drone operators improve the quality of their Part 107 airspace authorization requests, and speed up the processing of requests. On April 27, 2017, the FAA plans to release a set of UAS facility maps that show areas and altitudes near airports where UAS may operate safely. These maps will be available at http://www.faa.gov/uas for download in several formats and can be viewed on mobile devices.

Drone pilots can refer to the facility maps and align their applications with altitudes that the maps indicate are likely to be approved for small UAS operations. This simplifies the process and increases the likelihood that the FAA will approve the requests.

The US Border Patrol is trying to build face-reading drones

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is soliciting proposals for small UAS to be used by Border Patrol agents in the field. They are looking for drones that can be carried in a truck, deployed by a single Border Patrol agent in under 5 minutes, include sensors such as infrared cameras and facial-recognition, and distinguish between people, animals, and vehicles. CBP expects to be able to cross-reference drone observations with law enforcement databases.

UAV Video of the Week

Safety Drone?!? Check out the Tracker Drone Bojiang S5C-2 Review – TheRcSaylors

The RcSaylors YouTube channel covers RC, but they frequently provide consumer drone unboxings, reviews, and giveaways.



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.


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.


UAV116 Customs and Border Protection UAS

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

We talk with U.S. Customs and Border Protection Deputy Director John Murphy, Jr. about the UAS they use.


John Murphy, Jr.Guest John Murphy, Jr. is Deputy Director, National Air Security Operations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Office of Air and Marine Operations (AMO). John is responsible for providing oversight, mission alignment, and associated administrative requirements for national and foreign operations involving the P-3 Orion and MQ-9 Predator.

AMO is a federal law enforcement organization dedicated to serving and protecting the American people through advanced aeronautical and maritime capabilities. With 1,200 federal agents, 267 aircraft and 283 marine vessels operating from 91 locations throughout the United States and Puerto Rico, AMO conducts its mission between ports of entry in the maritime environment and within the nation’s interior.

We talk about the remotely piloted aircraft that CBP flies from Sierra Vista, Arizona, Corpus Christi, Texas, and Grand Forks, North Dakota. John discusses civil liberties considerations, how CBP integrates its UAS into the NAS, using the same pilots for manned and unmanned operations, and current career opportunities at CBP.

John has accumulated over 4,000 hours of flight time in a number of high performance fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, including the CH-53, UH-60, C-550, AS350, C-12C/M and N-22. He had a 20-year career with the United States Marine Corps that included tours as a CH-53E helicopter pilot, global operational experience with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, service in combat zones over Mogadishu, Somalia, and evacuation support of the U.S. Embassy Rwanda, Africa.

In 1996, John joined the former U.S. Customs Service as a Customs Pilot. He was promoted to Aviation Group Supervisor and led many P-3 detachments to Central and South America to conduct counter-narcotic defense operations. In 2005, he was selected as Director, Air Operations at the San Diego Air and Marine Branch.

In 2010, John served as the Vice Director for the Joint Interagency Task Force South, responsible for the coordination of Air and Marine Operations aviation support for the U.S. Southern Command anti-drug initiatives in the source and transit zones.

Find U.S. Customs and Border Protection at www.cbp.gov, and on Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and Instagram. Also, look for Customs and Border Protection photos and videos on The Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS).

UAV024 – UAV Licensing and Permitting Proposal

DJI Phantom

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

Proposal for UAV/sUAV Licensing/Phased Permitting Plan

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

Class E – Experimental/Photographic

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

Class D – Motion Picture/Corporate/News/Journalist

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

Class C – Agricultural/Industrial

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

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

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

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

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

Class O – Observer

Requires written Basic Safety test.

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

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

Find Tim at Tim Trott Productions and Flying Eye Video.

The News:

U.S. Border Protection Agency Grounds Drone Fleet

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

Is whale watching with drones next big trend?

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

FAA Stops Beer Drone Delivery

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