Tag Archives: FAA

UAV144 UAS Traffic Management (UTM) Research Platform

A milestone for the UTM research platform, controlling drones with brain waves, FAA approval for night flying, rules for sUAS get one step closer, more from the Drone Dealer Expo, and a Flirtey goes into the Smithsonian.

Flirtey founder and CEO Matthew Sweeny

Flirtey founder and CEO Matthew Sweeny

News

NASA Marks Success for Most Complex Drone Traffic Management Test Yet at FAA Test Sites

A three-hour field test of NASA’s UAS Traffic Management (UTM) research platform included 24 drones flying in all six FAA UAS test sites. Operators planned operations, entered flight plans,  and used a variety of aircraft and software. Up to 22 drones were operated simultaneously. The UTM research platform checked for conflicts, approved or rejected the flight plans, and notified users of constraints. This Technical Capability Level One test addressed rural UAS operations within line-of-sight.

University of Florida held the world’s first brain-controlled drone race

Sixteen pilots at the University of Florida used a brain-computer interface (BCI) to control DJI Phantoms down a 10-yard course. Each pilot was calibrated with electroencephalogram headsets measuring neuron activity, which was then bound to the controller for flight.

Nocturnal UAV ops approved

Tremco Roofing and Building Maintenance has become the first commercial drone operator to be granted approval by the FAA to conduct UAV operations at night. Tremco plans to inspect buildings at night for energy leaks, rooftop damage, deteriorating façades, safety issues, etc. In partnership with Toronto-based Industrial SkyWorks, they’ve developed the SkyBEAM (Building Envelope Aerial Mapping) UAV using an Aeryon Skyranger quadcopter with HD video and infrared cameras.

Big News: Small UAS Rule at OIRA for Final Review

Law firm Hogan Lovells reports that “the FAA has sent the Small UAS NPRM to the White House for a final interagency review.” The Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) rule must go through a review process at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) at the White House. OIRA received the FAA’s Small UAS rule on April 20, 2016. Their review period averages 53 days.

Interview with Drone Nerds from Drone Dealer Expo

Continuing with Tim Trott’s interviews recorded at Drone Dealer Expo, we bring you his conversation with Lance Knowles from Drone Nerds, Incorporated, a distributor for brands like DJI and Monster X heavylift craft for commercial applications. Tim and Lance talk about the impact of regulations, the responsibilities of drone manufacturers and dealers, knowledge exams and check rides for drone operators, and measuring commercial drone operator proficiency.

Mentioned

The Flirtey drone used to make the first FAA-approved delivery in the U.S. has been accepted into the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

The Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum’s Innovations in Flight Family Day and Outdoor Aviation Display on Saturday, June 18, 2016, at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. See recreational and home-built aircraft as well as classic automobiles. Enjoy presentations, demonstrations, special tours, and hands-on activities for all ages.

 

UAV141 A New Drone Alliance

The Drone Manufacturers AllianceThe Drone Manufacturers Alliance is formed, a Digital Notice and Awareness System for airports starts, the Micro UAS Aviation Rulemaking Committee report is published, a satellite navigation system competition begins, and a new facial-recognition drone is available.

News

Drone coalition splits as DJI, GoPro faction quits

The Small UAV Coalition was formed to advocate “for law and policy changes to permit the operation of small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) beyond the line-of-sight, with varying degrees of autonomy, for commercial, consumer, recreational and philanthropic purposes.”

Now DJI, GoPro, 3DR, and Parrot have left the Coalition to form The Drone Manufacturers Alliance to focus on small drone and consumer issues. The Alliance hasn’t yet developed official policy statements, but they do say they the Alliance “… will serve as the voice for drone manufacturers and our customers across civilian, governmental, recreational, commercial, nonprofit and public safety applications. We will advocate for policies that promote innovation and safety, and create a practical and responsible regulatory framework.”

Furthermore, “The Drone Manufacturers Alliance believes a carefully balanced regulatory framework requires input from all stakeholders and must recognize the value and necessity of continued technological innovation. By highlighting innovation and emphasizing education, we intend to work with policymakers to ensure drones continue to be safely integrated into the national airspace.”

AirMap and AAAE Launch UAS Notice System

AirMap and the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) have released the Digital Notice and Awareness System (D-NAS), designed to allow airport operators to be aware of drone flights in the area. D-NAS lets UAS operators transmit encrypted digital flight notices through a mobile device app to the airport’s operations center. The “flight plan” shows up on an airport computer with the planned location of the flight, radius, height, and duration.

The AP has learned a government-sponsored panel is backing standards that could allow commercial drones

The Micro Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Aviation Rulemaking Committee (the “ARC”) has delivered its report on proposed rules for flying over populated areas. The stated objective of the ARC was “to consider recommendations for a performance-based standard that would allow for micro UAS to be operated over people who are not directly participating in the operation of the UAS or under a covered structure,” which would ultimately contribute to an enforceable rule imposed by the FAA.

The Committee report Micro Unmanned Aircraft Systems Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC):  ARC Recommendations Final Report, [PDF] proposes to divide small UAS into four categories:

Under Category 1, a small UAS may operate over people if the weight (including accessories/payload, e.g., cameras) is 250 grams or less. The ARC believes that the level of risk of injury posed by this category of UAS is so low that no performance standards and no operational restrictions beyond those imposed by the proposed part 107 are necessary.

Under Categories 2, 3, and 4, a small UAS may operate over people if it does not exceed the impact energy threshold specified for each category, as certified by the manufacturer using industry consensus test methods, and if its operator complies with operational restrictions specified for each category. Because the level of risk increases between Categories 2, 3, and 4, the performance-based standards and operational restrictions are scaled-up in each category to mitigate the increased risks.

Category 2 applies to the larger multirotor UAS that are common for recreational and commercial drones. The UAS may operate over people if the manufacturer certifies to the FAA that the UAS does not, in the most probable failure modes, exceed the typical or likely impact energy threshold, and if it complies with industry consensus performance standards. The operator must also comply with the operator instruction manual, must maintain minimum set-off distances of 20 feet above people’s heads, or 10 feet laterally away from people, and may not operate so close to people as to create an undue hazard to those people.

Category 3 applies to UAS in commercial applications where the small number of people over which it might fly are all part of the commercial activity. The operation must be conducted over a closed or restricted-access work site with the permission of the site’s owner or operator. Overflight of people is limited to those who are transient or incidental to the operation.

Category 4 applies to small UAS that may operate over people, including flights over crowds or dense concentrations of people not included in Category 3. The manufacturer of the UAS must certify that the UAS does not, in the most probable failure modes, exceed the typical or likely impact energy threshold, and the UAS must comply with industry consensus performance standards. Significantly, the operation must be conducted in compliance with a documented, risk mitigation plan, which was developed and adopted in accordance with industry consensus standards for conducting risk mitigation.

For commercial operations, the Air Line Pilots Association and helicopter and crop dusting industry representatives wanted an aviation knowledge test administered by the FAA and a background check from the TSA. However, most Committee members wanted only an online knowledge test.

European Satellite Navigation Competition – Awarding Galileo Enabled Applications

The European Satellite Navigation Competition (ESNC) is said to be the largest international competition for the commercial use of satellite navigation. Thorsten Rudolph, the CEO of Anwendungszentrum GmbH Oberpfaffenhofen and initiator of the competition said, “We believe civilian drones have enormous potential in connection with the ESNC. We want to focus even more on the topic this year to promote the foundation of more visionary companies in the surrounding future market.”

The submission phase for services, products, and business innovations runs from 1 April to 30 June 2016. Visit the European Satellite Navigation Competition website for more information.

Facial recognition drone gives your selfie stick wings

People are obsessed with selfies these days. “Dronies” are the next technological step, and now we have the $349 ROAM-e drone from IoT Group that uses facial recognition technology to take self-portraits. The ROAM-e will follow you in the air for up to 20 minutes, fly within 25m of you, and always stay in constant view.

Images of the Week

Aerial views of fairy tale castles from around the world

Images of restored ancient fortresses as captured by drones.

Mentioned

CASA develops new regulations for drone operation

What the SUAS Industry Really Thinks about U.S. Drone Regulations

A five-minute survey for drone pilots.

UAV140 Package Delivery by Drone Takes Another Step Forward

Flirtey package delivery droneAn autonomous package delivery drone, blanket COA altitude limit raised, FAA forecasts UAS sales, in U.S., states eye drone applications, NASA and AFRL developing a fully autonomous UAS, JPL applies Mars sensor technology to earth-bound drone, and the Pentagon will pair manned and unmanned jets.

News

First US autonomous, urban drone delivery in Nevada

Flirtey package delivery droneIn Episode 59 we reported that Flirtey was conducting package delivery tests in Australia. Flirtey now says they have successfully completed the first fully autonomous, FAA-approved, urban drone delivery in the United States, in an uninhabited residential setting in Hawthorne, Nevada.

The company successfully used a drone to deliver a package that included bottled water, emergency food, and a first aid kit. The six-rotor drone flew itself along a predetermined delivery route and lowered the package at a precise drop-off location. A Flirtey pilot and several visual observers were on standby during the delivery as a backup to the autonomous system but were never needed.

This test was completed through a partnership with the Nevada Advanced Autonomous Systems Innovation Center at the University of Nevada, Reno. Both partners are also working with NASA to develop a low-altitude air traffic management system. Additionally, Flirtey has partnered with the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) and the FAA-designated Nevada UAS Test Site.

FAA Doubles “Blanket” Altitude for Many UAS Flights

After conducting a risk analysis, the FAA has decided to raise the blanket altitude authorization for Section 333 exemption holders and government aircraft operators. Previously, the nationwide Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) limited such flights to 200 feet. The new COA policy [PDF] allows commercial use to 400 feet anywhere in the country, other than in restricted airspace or where the FAA prohibits UAS operations.

Rupprecht Law’s In-Depth Analysis of the New 400ft Blanket COA for Commercial Drone Operators

Attorney Jonathan Rupprecht describes how the original blanket authorization was written to avoid a COA choke-point. However, many radio towers are between 200 and 400 feet tall, and each of these towers needed a new, 400 foot site-specific COA. This bogged down the system tremendously.

The FAA estimates that the new blanket COA will lessen the need for individual COAs by 30 to 40 percent. The blanket COA also addresses the inconsistency where recreational drone operators can fly up to 400 feet while commercial operators were restricted to 200 feet unless they obtained another COA.

Other changes to the blanket COA include see-and-avoid requirements, reporting involving certain accidents/mishaps involving UAS operations, ATC special provisions, and flight planning.

The Future of Commercial Drone Use

The latest FAA forecast shows hobbyist and commercial UAS unit sales growing from 2.5 million in 2016 to 7 million in 2020. Hobbyist purchases were 1.9 million in 2016 and the forecast is 4.3 million by 2020. Commercial sales were 600,000 in 2016 and could grow to 2.7 million by 2020.

The FAA forecast for the top five commercial drone markets:

  • Industrial Inspection: 42%
  • Real Estate/Aerial Photography: 22%
  • Agriculture: 19%
  • Insurance 15%
  • Government 2%

Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office to receive $1M in state funding for drone program

State funding for a drone pilot program at the Palm Beach Florida County Sheriff’s Office should allow them to use unmanned aircraft for “search and rescue, disaster assessment and assistance, interdiction of drug and human-trafficking activities, and situational awareness of a person whose life is in imminent danger.”

Michigan testing drones for bridge inspections

A survey by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials shows that 33 states have studied or used drones, develop drone policies, or aided in drone research.

Michigan transportation officials are considering assessing bridge decks, traffic monitoring, inspecting confined spaces, and will conduct a two-year study. Minnesota tested a drone to help conduct safety inspections of bridges. Vermont is studying the use of drones to monitor river flooding and assist with road work. Massachusetts has been looking at the pros and cons of drone use.

NASA’s Traveler To Demo ‘Trustworthy’ UAS Autonomy

FireFLY6NASA and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) hope to demonstrate the Traveler UAS that can autonomously plan, launch, navigate, and refuel itself. The FAA supports the idea and will use data from the program to help set future standards for UAS operations. A Traveler project demonstration flight outside of restricted airspace is planned for later in 2016. An autonomous mission without a safety pilot could take place in 2017. The demonstrations will use a modified BirdsEyeView Aerobotics FireFLY6 VTOL UAV, named “Elissa.”

Mini NASA Methane Sensor Makes Successful Flight Test

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has successfully flight-tested a miniature, highly sensitive methane gas sensor onboard a small quadcopter. With application for pipeline inspection, the sensor is similar to the one JPL developed for use on Mars.

Pentagon touts “Loyal Wingman” for combat jets

Deputy defense secretary Robert Work says that the air force will pair unmanned F-16s with F-35s in future battles. The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is developing the autonomy algorithms needed to control the unmanned fighter jets. These algorithms would be hosted in line-replaceable units and thus, could easily be transferred between aircraft.

Video of the Week

Beachy Head in 4k by drone

Filmed at an area called Beachy Head, in Sussex, on the south coast of England. This scenic area is very similar to the white cliffs of Dover.

Mentioned

Robotics: Aerial Robotics, University of Pennsylvania

An aerial robotics course offered through Coursera. It focuses on the flight dynamics and controls for quadcopters. Enrollment is free.

UAV Propulsion Tech Representing DST Controls to Market their Gyro-Stabilized EO/IR Systems and Thermal Imagers in the US and Canada

UAV Propulsion Tech has signed a reseller agreement with DST Control to market their lightweight, high performance gyro-stabilized electro-optical systems, and small, lightweight thermal imagers into the US unmanned vehicle and manned aircraft markets. UAV Propulsion Tech is a U.S. company that markets German, Canadian, Australian and now also Swedish technology into the North American UAV market. This includes propulsion, autopilot, servo/actuator, and rescue/recovery parachute solutions.

UAV Operations: Preparing to meet the anticipated FAA knowledge test requirements for UAS Operator and/or Pilot UAS Rating (14CFR§107)

Tim Trott has written an e-book study manual in anticipation of the written test requirement for UAV operators that is included in current FAA authorization legislation. The book includes all 11 of the areas listed in the NPRM/14 CFR107 and a 50 question practice test with answer key. This material can provide preparation for the FAA test that may be coming.

New Online Registration for Commercial UAVs

Tim also tells us that as of March 31, 2016, there is a checkbox for commercial registration at registermyuas.faa.gov. Once the process is completed, a certificate number is assigned, and a certificate of registration issued for each UAS registered with the company. The new online system provides a certificate ID number instead of an N number. Those who want an N number must use the paper process.

UAV138 Blanket Drone Approval for New Section 333 Exemptions

Aerotain Skye droneA significant change for Section 333 holders, a carrier-based aerial-refueling system, mapping with UAVs, a drone that romps in the crowd, using drones for health care, extrapolating birdstrike data to drone strikes, an unmanned underwater vehicle, and a fuel cell-powered drone.

News

UAS: blanket approval granted for 1,120 drones . . . But only going forward

In the past, Section 333 exemption applicants had to list the makes and models of all UAS intended for use. If an exemption holder later wanted to fly a different UAS, an amendment was required. Now, however, newly granted exemptions say there is a:

“… list of Approved Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) under Section 333. The list, which is updated monthly, is posted at www.regulations.gov under docket number FAA-2007-3330. The petitioner is also authorized to operate any UAS on that list, when weighing less than 55 pounds including payload while this exemption is valid.”

The current list dated March 4, 2016 “Approved Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Make/Model under Section 333 – March 4, 2016 (Corrected)” [PDF] has 1,120 UAV makes and models, from the “3D Robotics Aero” to the “Zeta Science Buffalo FX79.”

The FAA says, “It includes UAS readily available for purchase as well as those built by petitioners which are not available for purchase from retailers.”

US Navy descoping stealth requirement for Stingray tanking UAV

The Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) program was originally envisioned to create an unmanned intelligence and strike asset. The Pentagon has now changed the program into the Carrier-Based Aerial-Refueling System (CBARS) to create an unmanned carrier-based aerial tanker called the MQ-25 Stingray.

3D Robotics partners with Sony on a drone that can map the world in 3D

3D Robotics is partnering with Autodesk and Sony on a project that uses a modified Solo drone to scan a location and create a 3D map. The model or map would be uploaded while the drone is in the air, which would then be available to others offsite. The system uses the soon-to-be-released Sony UMC-R10C camera, and will come with a Sony tablet preloaded with Autodesk’s FORGE software. 3D Robotics says it is planning to introduce a multispectral and thermal camera, hardware specialized for scanning agricultural sites, chemical plants, and oil rigs.

Drone meets blimp for crowd-friendly UAV

Aerotain had developed the helium-filled Skye drone to be used safely in crowds of people. The 3-meter diameter sphere has four motors to maneuver it almost like a flying eye. The Skye has a two hour flight time, and the rotor blades are not exposed, making it safe to use in a crowd. Applications include audience engagement at events, advertising, and live event HD video streaming.

Using drones to save lives in Malawi

10,000 children died of HIV-related illnesses in Malawi in 2014. There are only eight labs in the country that can test blood, and since many of the children live in remote villages, the samples are often transported by motorbike over dirt tracks. Now, in partnership with Unicef, a drone from California-based Matternet is being used in an experiment to deliver blood samples quickly and autonomously by air.

We talked about Matternet in UAV103 Matternet Tests Autonomous Package Delivery, July 2015 when freight carrier Swiss WorldCargo announced that testing had begun using the Matternet ONE drone for small package delivery.

New Research Suggests the FAA Exaggerates the Threat that Drones Pose to Airlines

Two researchers from George Mason University in Fairfax Virginia wanted to find out if drones really pose a risk to the airspace. So the researchers examined 25 years of data from the FAA’s wildlife strike database and published the results of their study in Do Consumer Drones Endanger the National Airspace? Evidence from Wildlife Strike Data.” Their conclusion:

“Although aircraft collide with birds many thousands of times per year, only a tiny fraction of those collisions result in damage to the aircraft, much less human injuries or deaths. The most serious reported incidents typically involved flocks of large birds. Since the addition of UAS to the airspace is similar in many respects to an increase in the bird population, we conclude that the risk to the airspace caused by small drones (for example, weighing up to 2kg, or 4.41 pounds) flying in solitary formation is minimal.”

Boeing Introduces Long-Endurance UUV, Echo Voyager

Boeing’s 51-foot Echo Voyager is an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) that can operate autonomously for months under water. Unlike other UUVs, the Echo Voyager does not require a surface support ship, and it can surface and transmit collected data back to users. Sea trials begin this summer off the California coast.

Video of the Week

Home with my Drone

Watch what happens when a ten-year-old boy is left alone at home and gets a visit from the local law enforcement agency for flying his drone in his own backyard.

Mentioned

Drone flight powered by lightweight hydrogen-producing pellets

A Raptor E1 electric drone made a successful test flight using a fuel cell. Fuel pellets manufactured by Cell Energy are heated to produce hydrogen gas, which runs a fuel cell from by Arcola Energy. For the “makers” out there, Arcola Energy sells 1.5 to 30W Hydrogen Fuel Cell Developer Kits that integrate with the Arduino, mbed, and Raspberry Pi boards.

UAV137 Aurora’s LightningStrike Hybrid-electric X-plane

Aurora Flight Sciences LightningStrikeThe Aurora Flight Sciences unmanned VTOL X-plane, shore-to-ship package delivery, Senate FAA reauthorization bill impacts UAS, more proposed local drone legislation, a new DJI Phantom, and high-altitude sUAS flying.

News

Aurora Wins Darpa Contract to Build Novel Drone Demonstrator

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) awarded second- and third-phase contract awards to Aurora Flight Sciences for the “LightningStrike” technology demonstrator. Aurora plans to start flight testing the vertical takeoff and landing experimental plane (VTOL X-Plane) in 2018.

The LightningStrike features two large rear wings and two smaller front canards. The same Rolls-Royce AE 1107C turboshaft engine used in V-22 Osprey tiltrotor is mounted in the fuselage and powers three Honeywell generators which drive 24 ducted fans on the wings and canards. The wings and canards rotate to direct the fan thrust for hovering, transition, and forward flight.

Aurora’s LightningStrike VTOL X-Plane

Maersk Tankers Claims First Drone Delivery to Ship at Sea

A French Xamen Technologies drone dropped a small package onto a Maersk tanker in Denmark as a test to see if drones could be used to deliver spare parts, mail, or medicine to a ship. Compared to traditional means of delivery, the potential cost savings is significant.

Bipartisan Senate FAA bill shuns Shuster’s ATC proposal

The U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee has introduced a bipartisan FAA reauthorization bill that does not include any proposal for air traffic control privatization. However, under the Senate bill, the US National Institute of Standards (NIST) and the FAA would “develop risk-based, consensus industry standards on [UAV] aircraft safety.”

“The FAA would also establish a process for the airworthiness approval of small [UAVs] based on the consensus standards, in lieu of the more cumbersome certification process used for the approval of other aircraft. These standards … approved by FAA would ultimately improve safety by prescribing which safety technologies would be built into unmanned aircraft systems sold in the United States.”

Drone-Mounted Handgun, Flamethrower Reignite Lawmaker Debate

Reacting to the well-publicised drone weaponization exploits of a Connecticut teen, state legislators have conducted public hearings and proposed legislation to outlaw certain activity.

One bill would make it a class C felony, punishable by one to ten years in prison, to use a drone to release tear gas or other substances, or to control a deadly weapon or explosive device. Another bill would also limit how law enforcement and state agencies can use drones. But Peter Sachs, author of the Drone Law Journal, says one version of the bill exempts police from the ban on weaponized drones.

Proposed Utah legislation would allow cops to shoot down drones

Utah is not fooling around when it comes to drones. The recently introduced Senate Bill 210 would designate certain drone activity as aerial trespassing, and create guidelines for enforcement, including an option for police to shoot down rogue UAVs. State Senator Wayne Harper wants to address three issues: privacy, non-interference with airports and aircraft, and non-interference with emergency situations.

The bill would ban drones within 500 feet of correctional institutions or within three miles of a wildfire, and make it illegal to use a drone in the surveillance of large crowds or for stalking someone in a voyeuristic way. Violating drones could be neutralized by first responders or law enforcement officers.

DJI’s New Phantom 4 Drone Is Smarter, More Expensive and Available From Apple

DJI introduced the Phantom 4 which can dodge obstacles and track humans. The Phantom 4 features two sensors that allow it to react to and avoid obstacles in its path. The TapFly mode lets you tap on the live view on your smart device screen to direct the Phantom 4 in that direction. Flight time increases to 28 minutes, which is 25% more than the Phantom 3 Professional.

Someone thought it would be a good idea to fly a drone at 11,000 ft—it wasn’t

An anonymous YouTuber claims to have flown a modified DJI Phantom 2 to an altitude of 11,000 feet. Not all drone enthusiasts are impressed.

Video of the Week

African kids see drone for the first time!

Mark Brandon Smith was filming in Uganda when the headmaster of a school there asked him to give the kids a show with the drone. Watch the reaction from the kids as he flew the DJI Phantom 3 Professional for a short flight.

Mentioned

High-tech ‘bazooka’ fires a net to take down drones

The SkyWall 100 from U.K.-based OpenWorks Engineering fires projectiles at drones from a shoulder-mounted compressed air launcher. The Skywall locks on the drone, tracks the drone’s flight path, calculates an intercept trajectory, and fires a cannister with a net.

Watch high tech ‘bazooka’ take down a drone Fox News

Watch This Jet Ski Destroy a Drone, and Catch Some Serious Air

 

 

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.

UAV129 Drone Defense Systems

Max and David recording the episode on BlabAnti-drone systems and shooting down drones, more legislation from California, the authority to control the airspace, the FAA clamps down on R/C and drone clubs in Washington, D.C., formation flying, drones in television and film, stealth UAVs, and the B4UFLY app.

And now, for something completely different…

Instead of recording this episode over Skype for an audio program, we tried a bit of an experiment and recorded a video show live on Blab.im with an audience participating.

Blab is a service where you schedule a video show on the topic of your choice. Up to four people at a time with webcams can participate in the video portion. Those watching can communicate in a chat session that runs alongside the video. The audience can jump into the video when one of the four seats opens up.

We were joined in the video by flight instructor and Airplane Geeks co-host Max Trescott. Mike Wilkerson from the 2GuysTalking Podcast Network also talked with us. Thanks to them and all the others who joined us live on Blab!

News

Counter-UAV Camera System Revealed

According to Ubergizmo, Airbus have developed a “Counter UAV” system that uses sensors to detect drones around aircraft. The system then spoofs the drone’s control frequencies and takes over command. Or the frequencies can be jammed to disable the drone. The technology comes from Airbus Defence and Space.

Drone wars: new UAV interceptor billed as net-firing solution to rogue flying

Michigan Technological University has developed an octocopter that fires a net up to 12 meters to capture rogue drones. The MTU drone can grab another drone with its net and carry it away, either autonomously or under human control.

Robotic Falconry – Drone Catcher System for Removing the Intruding Drones

A video of the Drone Catcher in action: Proof of concept prototype of a drone catcher system to intercept and physically remove the intruding multi-rotor drones from the protected areas (patent pending). This system offers a viable solution when force-landing or shooting the drones would jeopardize the safety. A patent has been filed.

Net Gun Drone – Excipio | Flite Test

In this video from Flite Test, a DJI Flamewheel F550 equipped with the Excipio Net Gun captures another drone in mid-air.

Drone Legislation Would Require Owners To Buy Insurance, Get UAV ‘License Plates’

California Assemblyman Mike Gatto introduced the Drone Registration/Omnibus Negligence-prevention Enactment (DRONE) Act of 2016. If enacted, this would require that drone owners obtain insurance policies, register their drones, and obtain physical or electronic “license plates” for drones.

Gatto’s logic is, “If cars have license plates and insurance, drones should have the equivalent, so they can be properly identified, and owners can be held financially responsible, whenever injuries, interference, or property damage occurs.”

Assemblyman Mike Gatto Announces The DRONE Act of 2016

According to the press release, the “DRONE Act” would:

  • Require registration of, and tiny physical or electronic license plates for, drones.  All efforts to hold owners responsible (for example, for interfering with firefighting efforts) require this.
  • Require inexpensive ($1, or so) insurance policies sold at the point-of-sale, much like CRV is collected for bottles and cans.  This will ensure that if a drone hurts someone or damages property, the victim can be compensated, and is akin to the auto-insurance requirements under existing law.
  • Mandate that drones of a certain size, and equipped with GPS capability, feature automatic shut-off technology that would activate if approaching an airport.  This technology already exists, and is critical to protecting commercial passenger flights.
  • Implement various other provisions designed to enhance responsibility and mitigate risk.

Feds to Washington, D.C., Drone Enthusiasts: You’re Grounded

Under a new special flight rules area (SFRA), UAVs are now prohibited from flying within a 30-mile radius of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. The FAA says UAS are aircraft and aircraft are subject to the SFRA.

100 drones fly in formation to set new Guinness World Record

Intel and Ars Electronica Center in Austria have set a new world record by flying 100 drones in a pre-programmed formation. On November 4, 2015, 100 LED-equipped drones flew over an airfield near Hamburg, Germany. The official title of the record is: Most Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) airborne simultaneously.

Mentioned

Tri Drone JourneyListener Neil’s first drone video with his Inspire 1 in Brisbane.

Video version of the episode

You can watch the video version of the episode below. You’ll likely want to fast forward to about 12:36 into the program to bypass our struggles to get something new working. Next time we’ll do better!

UAV128 Get the App Before You Fly

Tactical Robotics AirMuleRegistration of model aircraft moves to the courts, FAA releases an app and answers more registration questions, a cargo delivery UAV makes a first untethered flight, and a new drone challenge.

News

FAA Sued In Federal Court Over Drone Registration Rules

Attorney and model airplane enthusiast John A. Taylor from Silver Spring, Maryland believes that the FAA requirement for sUAS registration is a violation of Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. Taylor requested an emergency stay of the registration requirement, but that was denied. The lawsuit is proceeding through the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, with a filing deadline of January 27, 2016.

FAA Administrator Huerta Addresses UAS Registration and Integration at CES

Administrator Michael Huerta spoke at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, praising the work of the Registration Task force and noting that as of January  6, 2016, 181,061 operators had registered their drones.

Huerta was joined by Registration Task Force members:

  • Dave Vos, project lead for Google X’s Project Wing
  • Nancy Egan, 3D Robotics general counsel
  • Brendan Schulman, vice president of policy and legal affairs for DJI
  • Doug Johnson, vice president of technology policy for the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)

Schulman expressed concern about the ability to find an operator’s home address by looking up their registration number. On enforcement, Huerta says the FAA is trying for “voluntary compliance” but also that the FAA works closely with local enforcement.

FAA Releases B4UFLY Smartphone App

B4UFlyAlso at CES, Huerta announced the public release of the B4UFLY app for iOS, and the beta of a version for the Android operating system. The FAA says, “B4UFLY tells users about current or upcoming requirements and restrictions in areas of the National Airspace System (NAS) where they may want to operate their unmanned aircraft system (UAS).”

 

UAS Registration Q&A

The FAA Registration FAQs were updated to further explain the process:

Q52. Who can see the data that I can enter?

A. The FAA will be able to see the data that you enter. The FAA is using a contractor to maintain the website and database, and that contractor also will be able to see the data that you enter. Like the FAA, the contractor is required to comply with strict legal requirements to protect the confidentiality of the personal data you provide. Under certain circumstances, law enforcement officers might also be able to see the data. In the future, the registration database will be searchable by registration number only, but not by name or address. However, it is not searchable at this time.

Q2. Does it cost anything to register?

A. Federal law requires owners to pay $5 to register their aircraft. However, registration is free for the first 30 days to encourage speedy registration of UAS. During the first 30 days, you must pay $5 with a credit card, a pre-paid credit card or a debit card from a major bank. A $5 credit will appear 5-10 days afterwards.

Q9. Does the FAA have two different registration systems? If so, why?

A. Yes, there are two systems. The online system is currently only required for UAS used for hobby or recreational purposes. This new registration process is quick and easy and provides the registrant with a registration certificate immediately. The paper-based system is for manned aircraft and unmanned aircraft that are not solely used for [non-]hobby or recreational purposes or weigh more than 55 lbs. This process takes much longer to complete and the $5 registration fee is non-refundable. The FAA will transition the paper-based system to a web-based tool later in 2016.

Q11. Are non-U.S. citizens visiting the United States on vacation or for drone competitions required to register?

A. Everyone, including foreign nationals and tourists, who operate a UAS for hobby or recreational purposes outdoors in the U.S. must use the FAA’s online registration system. These non-U.S. citizens or non-permanent U.S. residents will receive the same registration certificate as U.S. Citizens or permanent U.S. residents. However, this certificate will function as a “recognition of ownership” document. This document is required by the Department of Transportation for foreign nationals to operate legally in the US.

Q19. I would like to fly my Radio/Remote Controlled (RC) aircraft outdoors, do I have to register it?

A. Yes, RC aircraft are unmanned aircraft and must be registered online if they weigh more than 0.55 lbs. and less than 55 pounds.

AirMule: Autonomous Cargo Delivery, Beyond Line of Sight

Tactical Robotics Ltd announced a successful untethered first flight of the AirMule Vertical TakeOff and Landing UAV. This cargo vehicle with internal lift rotors should be operational in a few years.

Ford Targets Drone-to-Vehicle Technology to Improve Emergency Services, Commercial Business Efficiency

The $100,000 2016 DJI SDK Developer Challenge brings DJI and Ford together to create drone-to-vehicle communications using Ford SYNC®AppLink or OpenXC. This is an opportunity for you to design an unmanned rescue aircraft that can be used for search missions.

“The aircraft must autonomously enter the ‘disaster area’ and gather information on the location of the ‘survivors’, and transmit it back to the computing device in the vehicle. Having captured all necessary information, it must then automatically return and land on the moving vehicle.”

  • Primary Technical Challenge: Automatic landing on a moving vehicle
  • Secondary Technical Challenge: Vision Guided Flight
  • Tertiary Technical Challenge: Object Recognition

Video of the Week

CES 2016: Intel drone dodges ‘falling tree’ on stage

Intel demonstrated a drone at CES that flew an obstacle course and autonomously detected and avoided an object that fell in its path.

Mentioned

AMA Air – January 2016

AMA Government and Regulatory Affairs team members Chad Budreau and Rich Hanson talk about UAS registration.