Tag Archives: NASA

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.

UAV115 FAA Misses UAS Integration Date

Firefighting drone by FliteTest

Industry reacts to FAA missing the UAS integration deadline, lasers on drones, UAS testing at Wallops Island, a million drones for the holidays, and interviews from UAS Industry Days 2015.

News

Drones Armed With High-Energy Lasers May Arrive In 2017

Predator and Reaper manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is looking at mounting a 150-kilowatt solid-state laser onto its Avenger drone, also known as the Predator-C. This could be ready in 2017.

NASA Wallops looks to bump up drone traffic

NASA and the state of Virginia are working together on a plan to build a 3,000 foot runway for drones on Wallops Island. This UAS test range is envisioned to support commercial, government, and academic users.

FAA Fears That 1 Million Drones Could Be Sold This Holiday Season

According to Aviation Week, the FAA’s Rich Swayze says the Agency expects as many as one million UAVs to be sold during this year’s holiday season. That’s a lot of opportunity for misuse of unmanned aircraft.

AUVSI and 28 Organizations Mark Missed FAA Deadline for UAS Integration

The congressionally mandated deadline for the FAA to integrate UAS into the National Airspace System was Sept. 30, 2015. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) and 28 others sent a letter [PDF] to the FAA, stating in part:

“While the FAA has hit some milestones in the integration process, it has yet to finalize small UAS rules, let alone facilitate the full integration of UAS that Congress contemplated in 2012. The increasing number of businesses applying for Section 333 exemptions demonstrates the pent-up demand for commercial UAS operations and the immediate need for a regulatory framework.”

“In the absence of regulations, American businesses and innovators are left sitting on the sidelines or operating under a restrictive exemption process.”

“On behalf of businesses across a wide range of industry sectors in the United States, we urge the FAA to use all available means to finalize the small UAS rules immediately without any further delays and move ahead with the next regulatory steps on the path for integrating all UAS into the NAS. Once this happens, we will have an established framework for UAS operations that will do away with the case-by-case system of approvals, reducing the barriers to commercial UAS operations. And importantly, having more trained commercial operators will create a culture of safety that helps deter careless and reckless behavior.”

Interviews from UAS Industry Days

We recorded a number of interviews at the NUAIR Alliance UAS Test Site, including these two about testing done at Griffiss International Airport in Rome, New York:

Thomas Washington

Manager of Flight Test Operations, Aurora Flight Sciences. The Centaur (DA 42) optionally piloted aircraft was tested previously at Griffiss for their unmanned flight test campaign.

John Reade

A computer scientist at Quanterion working with AFRL (Air Force Research Laboratory) and two Desert Hawk III UAVs from Lockheed Martin doing collision avoidance testing in the “triangle” at Griffiss. Quanterion has also developed simulation software that evaluates the interactions of manned and unmanned aircraft in shared airspace.

Videos of the Week

Fire Fighting Drone | Flite Test

The Firecopter is a custom-made Y-6 multi-rotor equipped with a fire extinguisher for fighting fires from the air. From Flite Test.

Esperance whale encounter captures hearts across Australia

Beautiful footage of amazing marine mammals, but before you try this, review Approaching whales and dolphins in NSW and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Amendment (Marine Mammals) Regulation 2006.

Approaching whales and dolphins in NSW

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.

UAV101 Wildlife Conservation UAV Challenge

Aurora Flight Sciences CentaurThe optionally piloted Centaur flies at a UAS test site, a NASA-led team tests a sense and avoid system, more bad drone behavior, and an interview with the founder of the Kashmir World Foundation.

News

Remote-controlled passenger flights 5 years away, CEO says

An Aurora Flight Sciences Centaur was flown over the New York UAS test site from Griffiss International Airport. The Centaur is an Optionally Piloted Aircraft (OPA) based on the Diamond DA42 twin engine airplane. It becomes the first large-scale fixed wing unmanned aircraft to fly at an FAA-approved test site.

Aurora CEO John Langford believes that unmanned aircraft will ultimately make aviation safer, and we may some day see passenger flights with aircraft like the Centaur. The Aurora website has a video of the flight.

NASA tests advanced Ikhana and Global Hawk technology

A team led by NASA is testing a sense and avoid system using the Ikhana UAV, a General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9 Predator B that was acquired by NASA in 2006. Testing in June included 23 encounters with a Beech C90 King Air acting as the intruder. Besides NASA, the team includes General Atomics, the FAA, and Honeywell.

The current test phase includes validation with the Ikhana of sensor, trajectory, and other simulation models. Other tests will utilize a Lockheed S-3B Viking jet from NASA’s Glenn Research Center acting as a high-speed piloted surrogate aircraft.

Seattle police seek pilot after woman knocked out by falling drone

A drone crashed into a building during a parade in Seattle, then fell and struck a woman in the head. Unconscious, she collapsed into her boyfriend’s arms. The drone was turned over to police, as were a physical description and photographs of the man believed to be the pilot. The drone was described as costing about $1,200 and weighing about two pounds.

Guest

Princess Aliyah PandolfiPrincess Aliyah Pandolfi is founder of the Kashmir World Foundation, established in 2008 to improve the lives of people and animals worldwide. Their projects create healthy habitats for humans and wildlife, and emphasize education, vocational training, job creation programs, and endangered species protection.

Kashmir-Robotics is hosting the worldwide Wildlife Conservation UAV Challenge to foster innovation and invention in the design, fabrication, and utilization of unmanned aircraft to assist with counter poaching and illicit wildlife trafficking.Kashmir World Foundation
Can 3-D Printed Drones Help Save Wildlife? is a National Geographic video about the Wildlife Conservation UAV Challenge.

Wildlife Conservation UAV Challenge

Videos of the Week

FPVRACING.TV Time Trial Course #2

This video shows what FPV multicopter racing looks like from the quad’s perspective.

Sticks of a Mini Beast

A dramatic view of high speed FPV flying that shows the video feed from the multicopter as well as the operator’s hands on the controller. For more, see Mr. Steele’s Youtube channel

Flytrex Sky – The first delivery drone

The Flytrex Sky claims to be the world’s first internet connected drone that serves as a personal courier.

 

UAV097 Drone Lawyer Jonathan Rupprecht

Boeing patents drones that can be charged midair, from PatentYogiConversation with drone lawyer Jonathan Rupprecht, a NASA and Verizon UAS tracking system, the Google Internet HALE drone crashes, and Boeing patents a drone charging concept.

Guest

Jonathan Rupprecht, Esq.In December 2014, Jonathan Rupprecht formed Rupprecht Law, a firm providing legal services for operators of unmanned aerial vehicles.

Jonathan authored a book on the law in the United States pertaining to unmanned aircraft called Drones: Their Many Civilian Uses and the U.S. Laws Surrounding Them. He later was an advisor for one of the amicus briefs for the Huerta v. Pirker case.

We talk with Jonathan about the state of drone law, areas that need to be figured out (like export control, frequency allocation, federal versus local jurisdiction), and what lawyers can offer (such as support for building the business plan.) Jonathan discusses how issues like privacy might already be covered under existing laws, the open issue of navigable airspace, and the notice and comment process.  We also consider building safety awareness among the general drone-flying public.

Jonathan Rupprecht is a commercial pilot for single and multi-engine aircraft ratings and also a flight instructor for airplanes and instruments. He obtained a Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Magna Cum Laude, and a Juris Doctor from Florida International University School of Law.

The first book led into him being requested to be a co-author on an American Bar Association book called Unmanned Aircraft in the National Airspace: Critical Issues, Technology, and the Law. Jonathan wrote on administrative law, the FAA rule making process, and the special rule on unmanned aircraft.

News

NASA Developing Unmanned Aerial System Traffic Management

NASA and Verizon plan to monitor US drone network from phone towers

The NASA Unmanned Aerial System Traffic Management system, or UTM, is a  cloud-based concept to manage air traffic operated beyond visual line of sight at low altitudes. UTM Principal Investigator Dr. Parimal Kopardekar says, “We need a way to organize the UAS traffic, whether that’s by crisscrossing or with a bike lane or HOV lane kind of construct. The system can make these things happen based on demand. UTM is a virtual system.”

To learn more, the Guardian filed a Freedom of Information Act request for documents and learned that last year telecom company Verizon signed an agreement with NASA “to jointly explore whether cell towers … could support communications and surveillance of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) at low altitudes.”

Google’s High-Flying Internet Drone Crashed in New Mexico Weeks Ago

The Solara 50 drone built by Google-owned Titan Aerospace crashed shortly after takeoff. The solar powered, 50 foot wingspan drone is designed to linger at 65,000 feet and provide Internet connectivity. The NTSB is investigating.

Boeing patents system for airborne drone charging

The Boeing patent is titled, “Autonomous aircraft with disconnectable tether” and describes a system where drones drop tethers to ground-based charging stations.

Video of the Week

Sky Pixel LA – SBC Flooding Part 1

Listener Heath sent in the link to this video showing some of the flooding around the Shreveport, Louisiana area. It’s a very artistic portrayal of a very serious situation. Part 2 is more of a look at the effect of the flooding on people.

Mentioned

Here and There June 3, 2015 Max Flight

Max appeared on the KSFR 101.1FM, Santa Fe Public Radio show, Here and There with journalism pro Dave Marash. They talked about drones, applications, regulatory issues, privacy, and more.

Enrique Iglesias Undergoes Hand Surgery After Drone Accident

Singer Enrique Iglesias catches a quadcopter with his hand in his act. Things didn’t go so well for Iglesias in the Tijuana performance.

Extreme Sandbox

Extreme Sandbox in Hastings, Minnesota opened an extreme adventure attraction called RC Adventure where visitors can operate DJI Phantom 2 drones on obstacle courses.

UAV094 The Amazon Patent for Package Delivery by Drone

Amazon Patent 20150120094Amazon patents package delivery by drone, using drones to plant trees, a new Israeli UAV company, another manned aircraft maker goes unmanned, and the Arctic becomes a no drone zone.

News

Here are Amazon’s plans for delivery drones

Amazon Technologies, Inc. of Seattle, Washington was awarded Patent 20150120094 on April 30, 2015. The patent “…describes an unmanned aerial vehicle (“UAV”) configured to autonomously deliver items of inventory to various destinations. The UAV may receive inventory information and a destination location and autonomously retrieve the inventory from a location within a materials handling facility, compute a route from the materials handling facility to a destination and travel to the destination to deliver the inventory.”

Drones to repopulate forests, 1 billion trees at a time

BioCarbon Engineering of Oxford, England-based is planning to use drones to assist in populating the world’s forests. Scout drones survey the area to create a 3D map, then drones with pressurized air canisters launch and shoot biodegradable pre-germinated seed pods into the ground. The drones are designed and built by VulcanUAV and designed to carry the heavy load of seeds and delivery hardware.

Meteor, New Israeli UAV Company

Yitzhak Nissan, the former president of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), has formed Meteor, a new company that wants to develop “a new breed” of unmanned aerial vehicles. The Israeli Ministry of Defense said that Meteor is planning to demonstrate an affordable UAS with a maximum takeoff weight of about 350 Kilograms.

Sonex Enters UAV Market

Kitbuilt airplane maker Sonex Aircraft is collaborating with Navmar Applied Sciences Corp. (NASC) to research, engineer, and produce UAVs for the U.S. Defense Department. The first project is named Teros and will be based on the Xenos motor glider, powered by the AeroVee Turbo 100 hp piston engine. First prototype delivery is planned for June, 2015.

[AECO] Bans use of UAV’s in the Arctic

If you take an Arctic cruise with a member of the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO), you will not be able to bring and use UAVs when visiting the Arctic.

NASA Cohosts Forum on Managing Expanding Unmanned Aerial System Traffic

NASA and the Silicon Valley Chapter of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) are partnering to co-sponsor the 2015 Unmanned Aerial Systems Traffic Management (UTM) Convention, July 28-30, at the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. Convention speakers are to include­­ NASA and FAA executives, industry thought leaders, innovators and stakeholders. Exhibits and flight demonstrations will feature the latest developments in unmanned aerial systems technology, and how they will impact the future of low-altitude flight.

Video of the Week

NASA Greased Lightning GL-10 prototype

Ten-Engine Electric Plane Completes Successful Flight Test

NASA Langley researchers designed and built a battery-powered, 10-engine remotely piloted aircraft. The Greased Lightning GL-10 prototype has a 10-foot wingspan and can take off like a helicopter and fly efficiently like an airplane. In this video, engineers successfully transition the plane from hover to wing-borne flight in tests at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia.

Mentioned

PhoneDrone: Let your smartphone be your personal drone

PhoneDrone is a Kickstarter project which turns your your smartphone into a quadcopter. Two versions are planned: one RTF and one where you 3D print the frame.

 

UAV070 Preview of the FAA sUAS NPRM

NAB Chernobyl Aerial VideoSneak peak at the FAA sUAS regulations, NZ drone regs, bioengineered drones, busting poachers, the threat to airliners, first amendment issues, and GoPro to enter the UAV market.

News

Drone Flights Face FAA Hit

The Wall Street Journal reports that “people familiar with the rule-making process” are talking about what we can expect in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) from the FAA for sUAS.

The expectation is that the FAA will:

  • Lump all sUAS under 55 pounds under the same regulations
  • Require sUAS operators to have a manned-flight pilots license
  • Limit flying to daytime hours, below 400 feet, line of sight.

The NPRM is still expected before year-end, followed by a public comment period.

New Zealand to introduce civil UAV regulations

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) plans to issue New Zealand’s notice of proposed rulemaking for unmanned air vehicles on December 4. There are no details on what the proposal will contain, but the CAA had input from the UAVNZ industry group and Callaghan Innovation, an entity that promotes economic progress in New Zealand. The CAA says that certification will likely be required for operators of high risk UAVs.

NASA Is Working on Creating Bioengineered Drones Made of Mushrooms and Bacteria

NASA is supporting the Prototyping a Biological UAV project “to grow a mycelium-based chassis for [a] biological drone.” One motivation for this program is to create lightweight sensors that require no electrical energy.

Poachers Caught by ShadowView Drones

ShadowView Foundation drones were used during an anti-poaching operation in the Greater Kruger Area in South Africa.  Rhino poachers were apprehended as a result.

This is believed to be the first time drones were used for this purpose.

ShadowView used information from the drone to direct local rangers on the ground. “One of the rangers reported via radio the poachers were heavily armed and immediately engaged upon sight. During the ensuing firefight, the rangers unfortunately killed one of the poachers.”

Is The Small-UAV Threat To Airliners Overrated?

Regulatory agencies require that commercial aircraft withstand impact by birds. This article wonders if existing regulations for bird strikes can be extended to include small UAVs.

Up in the Air: The free-speech problems raised by regulating drones

Ferguson, Missouri has been the scene of protests and vandalism after a Ferguson Police Department officer fatally shot an 18-year-old man. The FAA granted no-fly zone requests, but there are indications that this was done to keep news helicopters out of the area. This article explores possible First Amendment issues associated with news gathering by drone.

WSJ: GoPro Is Going to Make Its Own Drones

Reportedly, GoPro is going to start making its own multi-rotor helicopters in the $500-1,000 range. Availability is said to be late 2015.

The 19 best drone photos of 2014

Mashable picks 19 awesome images that could only have been created from an aerial perspective.

Video of the Week

Chernobyl by Drone  

Eerie video of the Chernobyl Exclusion Area almost 30 years after the meltdown.

UAV059 Sense and Avoid

NASA Predator B Unmanned Science and Research Aircraft SystemSense and Avoid by NASA and General Atomics, South African rules by 2015, Amazon’s drone page, package delivery by Flirtey and Google, and cease and desist letters from the FAA.

Guest

Maj. Gen. Charles Frank Bolden, Jr., (USMC-Ret.), the NASA Administrator since July, 2009.

In this clip from a longer interview recorded for the Airplane Geeks podcast, Charlie talks about NASA’s activity to develop autonomous flight technologies with the UAS test sites, focusing on sense and avoid. NASA is looking at low altitude sUAS air traffic control, and they are finalizing an agreement with Google on sense and avoid technology for package delivery systems. NASA wants to help the FAA get out ahead of the developing market.

News

General Atomics Readies for ‘Detect and Avoid’ Demo

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is developing aircraft detect-and-avoid (DAA) systems for unmanned aircraft. First, they’ll conduct software regression and hardware functional testing on their Predator B at the company’s flight operations facility in Palmdale, California.

Then, they’ll move the system to the NASA Predator B Unmanned Science and Research Aircraft System named “Ikhana,” a Native American Choctaw word meaning intelligent, conscious, or aware. Five weeks of collision avoidance trials will be performed where the Predator will be flown against “intruder” aircraft.

CAA on track to introduce UAV regulations by March 2015

The South African Civil Aviation Authority says it will finalize UAV regulations by March, 2015.

The CAA says until then, UAV operation in civil airspace is illegal and operators could be subject to a fine or up to ten years in prison, or both. Flying on private land or in restricted airspace is also illegal.

However, the director and chairman of the Commercial Unmanned Aircraft Association of South Africa (CUAASA) says you cannot be fined by the CAA because there are no laws in place.

Guess Which Giant Retailer Has Officially Opened Up a “Drone Store”

Amazon.com has officially opened a “Drone Store” featuring the DJI Phantom and the Parrot Drone. Coming soon is the TechJect Dragonfly, a “Wi-Fi enabled robotic insect.”

Mike Fortin, the CEO of CineDrones thinks selling hobby-grade equipment without emphasizing education or safety is irresponsible. But Amazon’s Drone Store web page has a “Fly Responsibly” link that takes you to more “links for informational purposes only:”

Drone Startup Flirtey Partners with The University of Nevada, Reno To Push UAV Delivery Forward

In October 2013, Flirtey started drone delivery tests in Australia. They now have more than a hundred successful test deliveries of textbooks, with its partner Zookal, a company that sells textbooks online.

Now Flirtey has teamed up with UAS research center University of Nevada, Reno. The University gets equity in the company, and Flirtey gets collaboration with the University’s R&D labs for design, manufacture, and research. Flirtey also gets access to the University’s graduate students and indoor flight-testing facilities.

Flirtey is going commercial in New Zealand, which is launching Airshare as a UAV hub where commercial operators can log flight information.

2 Arrested for Flying Drones Near Brooklyn Bridge, US Open: NYPD

The first individual arrested was allegedly flying over the Brooklyn Bridge. He was reported to police by transit workers. The man was visiting from Russia.

The second arrest was for an overflight of the National Tennis Center, hosting the U.S. Open.  The operator, a filmmaker, reportedly stated that he thought he was flying in an “appropriate park space.” The National Tennis Center is a private facility adjacent to Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which is a public space.

Undeclared drone batteries sparked plane fire at Melbourne airport

We’ve seen stories about how certain kinds of Lithium-Ion batteries get hot and cause fires on airplanes. Here, a passenger’s hard plastic case in the hold contained Lithium-ion polymer batteries intended to power a remote control drone. Just prior to takeoff, the captain of the Fiji Airways plane detected the smoke from the cargo hold and called a mayday.

FAA Scans the Internet For Drone Users; Sends Cease and Desist Letters

In January, Governmentattic.org made a Freedom of Information Act request to the FAA for “copies of any letters, e-mails, or other written or electronic communications requesting or demanding individuals and organizations cease and desist, stop operating, or stop advertising unmanned aerial vehicles.”

The FAA responded with records of 17 “warning letters and e-mails [PDF] sent out by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regional offices to individuals…” Most of the cease and desist letters went to aerial video companies, but two universities were asked to stop operations associated with drone journalism studies.

The FAA communications list 3 ways under which UAVs can be operated:

  1. Certificate of Authorization (COA)
  2. Experimental Certification
  3. Recreational hobbyists

None allow commercial operation for aerial photography for hire.

Video of the Week

Gawk at Richard Branson’s tropical hideaway via aerial drone

You can’t afford to vacation at this private island, but Sir Richard is pleased to present this aerial tour.

Feedback

Paul Braun of TATTS writes to tell us that, “the Taking Autism To The Sky project (TATTS) was notified by Timothy Reuter of the Washington DC Drone User Group the other day that we are a finalist for the Social Drone Innovation Award.” Watch their Drone Social Innovation Award Submittal video and give them a “like.”

UAV051 Martha Stewart on Drones

Gobble HawkMartha Stewart’s farm via DJI Phantom, UAS competitions, Amazon.com petitions the FAA, and a utility company to start drone testing.

News:

Amazing Aerial Photos Of My Farm

One of Martha Stewart’s security employees took a tour of Martha’s farm with his new DJI Phantom. On her blog, she posted photos taken by the quadcopter, much to the delight of her fans. Is that commercial use by Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Martha’s company?

Shaken or stirred? Drone bartender battles bots in design challenge

The Electrolux Design Lab is a design competition where students submit innovative ideas for households of the future. Among the 35 finalists this year, we see one that carries either hot or cold beverages to thirsty bar patrons, and dispenses the drinks into cups. Control is intended to be by voice or mobile app.

‘Gobble Hawk’ Wins NASA High-Altitude UAV Design Competition

There was another recent contest for students, this one specifically for UAVs that track hurricanes. NASA was looking for a lower cost high endurance UAS, and they chose the twin-fuselage Gobble Hawk design concept from Virginia Tech.

The second place OQ451-5 Trident from Purdue would be powered by hydrogen engines, with an endurance of 7 days. Third place was the University of Virginia Big WAHOO (Worldwide Autonomous Hurricane and Oceanic Observer), also hydrogen-powered..

Amazon asks the FAA for permission to play with its drones outside

Amazon.com has been operating its package delivery drones in an indoor test facility in Seattle. On July 9, they sent a Petition for Exemption to the FAA asking to move outside.

Amazon is serious about package delivery by drone. In part, their petition says:

Amazon Prime Air, a new delivery system that will get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less using aerial vehicles, is one invention we are incredibly passionate about.  We believe customers will love it, and we are committed to making Prime Air available to customers worldwide as soon as we are permitted to do so.

We also see that Amazon has made significant progress:

In the past five months, we have made advancements toward the development of highly-automated aerial vehicles for Prime Air, including:

  • Testing a range of capabilities for our eighth- and ninth-generation aerial vehicles, including agility, flight duration, redundancy, and sense-and-avoid sensors and algorithms;
  • Developing aerial vehicles that travel over 50 miles per hour, and will carry 5-pound payloads, which cover 86% of products sold on Amazon; and
  • Attracting a growing team of world-renowned roboticists, scientists, aeronautical engineers, remote sensing experts, and a former NASA astronaut.

Finally, Amazon summarizes:

One day, seeing Amazon Prime Air will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today, resulting in enormous benefits for consumers across the nation.  We respectfully submit this petition for exemption so that Prime Air can be ready to launch commercial operations as soon as eventually permitted by subsequent FAA action.

Eagle shot wins drone photography competition

A competition for drone photographs recently concluded and the winning photo is a birdseye view of an eagle in flight over Bali Barat National Park in Indonesia. You can see the contest winners at Dronestagram, a website dedicated to aerial photographs. Sponsorship was provided by National Geographic, Go Pro, Picanova, Droneshop and Parrot.

SDG&E Is First (Utility) in Unmanned Flight With Drone Testing

The San Diego Gas & Electric Co. says the FAA has given them permission to conduct test flights of a small camera-equipped quadcopter. Ultimately, the utility wants to use the UAVs for infrastructure inspection. Test flights are limited to rural areas away from houses.

MultiRotorForums Petitions White House to Adopt UK Drone Policy

DroneLive.com reports that MultiRotorForums.com created a petition on WhiteHouse.gov asking that the Obama Administration compel the FAA to adopt the UK’s commercial sUAS standards immediately. 100,000 signatures are needed by August 3, 2014.

 Lifeguard drone to the rescue!

In this concept from RTS, multicopters are fitted with life preservers, a FLIR camera, and the ability to detect swimmers in distress. They fly to the person and drop a life preserver faster than a human lifeguard could arrive.

Video of the Week

Flying Down Low Around Las Vegas Back Alleys with my RC UAV Drone for Aerial Photography

Mentioned

Drone Operators Arrested After Close Call with NYPD Helicopter

Two men were arrested and charged with reckless endangerment after flying a drone within 800 feet of a police helicopter at 2,000 feet near the George Washington Bridge.

Stronger privacy laws needed to protect public from drones, parliamentary committee says

An Australian federal government committee is recommending stronger privacy laws, particularly related to drones. Their report is called Eyes in the Sky: Inquiry into drones and the regulation of air safety & privacy. [PDF]

Eye in the sky keeps close watch on livestock
Kiwi ranchers use a hexacopter and GoPro.

Recommended Books

Amazon.com links to two good books for those just getting started:

The Beginner’s Guide to FPV

Getting Started with Hobby Quadcopters and Drones: Learn about, buy and fly these amazing aerial vehicles

 

UAV041 Regulating UAS

Flying Fire Breathing Dragon

UAS regulation proposals from CASA in Australia and from a listener in the U.S., a “Ten best drones” list, NASA testing sense and avoid with a Predator, and bright job prospects for those with UAS skills.

The News:

NPRM 1309OS – Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems
Australia’s ‘low risk’ drone strike stance could bring down airliners
Certified UAS operators in Australia hits 100

The Australian CASA released an NPRM (a Notice of Proposed Rule Making) on May 14 concerning Remotely Piloted Aircraft (or RPA) used for commercial operations. It excludes model aircraft used for recreational purposes, but it does have provisions for a “low risk” class of RPA with a gross weight of no more than 2 kilograms:

10 Best Remote Control Drones for 2014

The editors at Faveable made a list of what they believe to be the ten best consumer drones available today.

NASA Wants To Prove Predator Drones Can Play Nice With Airliners

NASA plans to fly an MQ-9 Predator B and two manned manned aircraft in the same airspace. The idea is to test sense and avoid algorithms under real world conditions.

Graduates with drone skills are going to be in demand soon

If you can design, build, or operate drones, you might have a bright future ahead of you. In a 2013 report, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International says we could see 70,000 new jobs in the U.S. within three years, and 100,000 new jobs by the year 2025.

Video of the Week:

Drone HDR with HDRinstant

Use stacking and morphing technology to create HDR images from your drone videos.

Listener Feedback:

Roy submits two articles for consideration:

Question: What Should the FAA Do About Small UAS? – General Aviation needs to participate in the conversation.

UAVs: Chafing (Rightfully) Against Regulation – The UAV industry and enthusiasts are different than “legacy” aviation. They are historically unrestrained by regulations, and live in a world of fast technology change. The FAA is talking like they are in charge, but they aren’t.

Roy also offers the things he thinks the FAA should be looking at when classifying UAS: weight, speed, and type of control. Type of control defined as:

    • Line of sight and the pilot has to watch it.
    • Point of view and the pilot flies it by watching a video feed from the drone.
    • Completely autonomous, so no pilot is required.