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Should we be satisfied with strict regulations if that will allow commercial operation of UAVs to begin? Also: The FAA looks to focus on drone certification and pilot standards, Canada makes it easier to fly small UAVs, UAS pilot training, model aircrafters getting swept up in drone regulations, and a proposal to allow drones to fly in US National Parks.
Ryan Morton is a roboticist. He’s the Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of SkySpecs, which produces innovative drone technologies that help pilots focus on the mission without worrying about what they might crash into next. SkySpecs is also working with various government agencies to integrate drones into the airspace.
Ryan was recently interviewed for the Wired article, The FAA’s Drone Rules Are Too Narrow, But They’re Better Than Nothing.
Ryan is a veteran of the USAF and graduated from both the California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo and the University of Michigan. He was a member of the winning team at MAGIC 2010, a US/Australian-funded multi-robot exploration competition wherein (mostly) autonomous ground-based robots explored an unknown environment and detected various objects of interest.
At the Executive Order 12866 meeting at the White House with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Ryan had the opportunity to assist Lisa Ellman and others from McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP (MLA), as well as another industry startup, Measure, in discussing some views on sUAS integration. One of those is that stalling the process to get the UAS regulations “perfect” from the start is a mistake. Instead, we should implement some regulations now, even if overly restrictive, then iterate.
The excellent MLA blog Plane-ly Spoken covers topics such as recent decisions and litigation, legal trends, airworthiness directives, regulatory interpretations, FAA counsel opinions, and FAA enforcement actions.
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta reconfirms that the FAA intends to issue the proposed small UAS regulations by year-end. He says, “I can’t say what is going to be in it but broadly speaking, what we are looking at are all the questions relating to how we certify the aircraft and what are the qualifications of the operator as well as what uses they can be put to.”
Transport Canada released Advisory Circular (AC) No. 600-004, Guidance Material for Operating Unmanned Air Vehicle Systems under an Exemption. This introduces two exemptions that will not require a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC). These are for very small UAVs (under 2 kg) and small UAVs (between 2 kg and 25 kg).
As we speculate about what the FAA will propose for sUAS regulations, it’s a pretty good bet that some type of operator certification or license will be required. That implies there will be some training for pilots. Flight training provider Gold Seal has teamed up with Unmanned Experts to adapt the manned aircraft training for UAS. The UAV Ground School PPL Course is now available for purchase.
A project of the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics would have autonomous drones perform warehouse operations like stock taking and record keeping. Under the InventAIRy Project, warehouses wouldn’t have to shut down while employees took a physical inventory.
In a conventional RFID inventory tracking system, the chips are in the goods which are recorded as they pass by the antennas. In this system, the chips remain stationary, but the antennas move – on a flying robot.
The writer is concerned that the model airplane hobby is getting swept into the whole UAS regulations process, and this isn’t good for R/C and it isn’t good for full sized aviation either.
Video of the Week
Listener Frank sends us this beautiful video of a drone flying in the mist.
Listener Andy offers three points concerning the US National Park ban on UAVs:
- As a hiker, scrambler, and a lover of peace, quiet, and solitude… I do not want some bozo flying these things around me or my family while I am trying to enjoy mother nature. The reason I am there in the first place is to get some respite from some of the bozos in my everyday life.
- As a photographer/videographer, and lover of all things that fly (except mosquitoes – the bug, not the plane), I also love getting that unique viewpoint that only a drone/UAV can provide.
- But… Point 2 cannot be at the expense of safety or annoying someone who relates to Point 1.
Andy describes how most National Parks are large, with visitors tending to concentrate in a few areas, leaving many isolated locations away from the crowds. There is plenty of space to fly to get unique aerial footage without compromising safety, space, and solitude.
With that, Andy recommends that hobby drone/sUAV flight should be permitted in the National Parks with the following guidelines…
- No flying at High Density Area Lookouts/Features or Ecologically sensitive locations (e.g. Mt. Rushmore/Yosemite ValleyOld Faithful Geyser Basin). This can be defined/zoned and given to the pilot when they obtain a permit.
- Charge a permit fee – make it reasonable ($10 a day, $20 a week). The permit process would force the “pilot” to get current information on where flying is or is not permitted.
- Operator must be an AMA member or certificated pilot. This would ensure at least some training/knowledge/exposure to things that fly as compared to the standard individual.
- As part of the conditions of the permit: common courtesy. If there are any other visitors in the vicinity that flying disrupts or once an objection is raised, the operator must quit. (Offering the other guests a dronie may help promote positive responses.)
- General AC 91-57 adherence (400 feet, LOS, etc.).
- No Wildlife harassment (set a distance restriction.)
In his visits to the Badlands, Custer State Park, and Mt Rushmore, Andy noticed helicopter operations present. These, he says, are noisier than typical multicopters.