Tag Archives: Reaper

UAV113 Think First, Launch Second

Think Before You LaunchLockheed Martin adds drone flight plans to pilot briefings, the AMA takes a closer look at FAA drone sightings data, Canadian farmers don’t want onerous regulations, California legislators want more drone laws, InterDrone product announcements, and the Reaper gets a long-range update package.

Think Before You Launch

Think Before You Launch (TBYL) is an awareness campaign that seeks to educate both manned and unmanned aircraft operators about the hazards in the low-altitude environment. This alliance of UAS and aviation stakeholders wants to improve aviation safety and educate users about the safe and responsible operation and integration of UAS. See the TBYL Infographic [PDF].

News

Graphical drone briefing developed

Lockheed Martin adds unmanned flight plans to the weather information, NOTAMs, TAFs, and METARs already in the Next Generation Briefings online flight planning tool.

Drone hobbyists find flaws in “close call” reports to FAA from other aircraft

AMA Responds to the FAA’s Drone Sighting Report

The Academy of Model Aeronautics took a closer look at the reports of 764 close-call incidents with drones reported by the FAA in August (Pilot Reports of Close Calls With Drones Soar in 2015).

According to the AMA report New AMA Analysis: FAA Data Reveals Complex Picture of U.S. Drone Activity [PDF], the FAA data (FAA Releases Pilot UAS Reports) shows that only 27 incidents were called “near misses” by the pilots and evasive action was taken 10 times.

Some altitudes reported by pilots were too high for a UAV (19,000 – 51,000 feet) and the data included sightings of public agencies and commercial operators, as well as military flights.

The AMA says:

  • Some sightings appear to involve people flying responsibly and within the FAA’s current recreational guidelines.
  • Many things in the air – from balloons and birds to model rockets and mini blimps – are mistaken for, or reported as, drone sightings even when they are not.
  • A number of sightings have occurred over or around stadium events, wildfires, power plants and other critical infrastructure. These raise different concerns from pilot sightings.
  • In almost 20 percent (142) of the reports, local law enforcement either wasn’t notified or it was unknown whether local law enforcement was notified.

KAP doesn’t want new UAV regs to unnecessarily ground farmers

Keystone Agricultural Producers of Manitoba (KAP) president Dan Mazier views drones as tools for farmers, and recognizes the need for regulations, but he doesn’t want them to be onerous. Mazier says, “KAP would like dialogue before they (Transport Canada) make regulations. If they are going to put a certain regulation in, at least consult farm groups or farmers and ask how they can work with it.”

Transport Canada says it will amend regulatory requirements for UAVs in 2016 and proposes to create UAV classifications, establish aircraft marking and registration requirements, address personnel licensing and training and create flight rules.

Bill on drones heads to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk

Senate Bill 168 has passed the California legislature and was sent to Governor Jerry Brown for consideration. This legislation seeks to address problems seen when drones interfere with emergency responders like firefighters. It would increase the fines for drone operators who interfere with emergency responders, and it would grant immunity to emergency responders who damage or destroy unmanned aircraft during emergency operations.

Other legislation in the pipeline at the Federal level introduced by California Legislators::

  • S. 1608, the Consumer Drone Safety Act, requires safety features on consumer drones and strengthens FAA regulations that regulate drone operation.

Reaper ER Extends RPA Missions to +33 Hours

A Reaper’s maximum endurance can grow from 27 hours to 33-35 hours by installing two wing-mounted fuel tanks as a field-retrofittable package. Other modifications to accommodate the higher gross weight include an alcohol/water injection system, a four-bladed propeller, and a stronger landing gear system. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. says the Reaper ER has been operationally fielded by the U.S. Air Force.

TWiT Live Specials #254: InterDrone Conference 2015

In this 48 minute video, Fr. Robert Ballecer SJ from the Know How maker video podcast, shows us product announcements from the InterDrone 2015 conference.

Video of the Week

Blarney Castle in County Cook

Professor Vanderhoof found this stunning video from Tourism Ireland.

Mentioned

Man fined after flying drones over Premier League stadiums

A man was fined £1,800 and banned from buying or using a drone for two years for flying over sporting events and London landmarks.

UAV063 A New UAV Coalition is Launched

Small UAV Coalition

The Small UAV Coalition launches, law enforcement using drones, UAVs showcased, a spat over the MQ-9 Reaper, GNSS developments, and logbooks for UAV pilots.

News

Small UAV Coalition formed to promote civil and commercial use of small UAVs

Eight companies have formally launched the Small UAV Coalition to facilitate the entry of small UAVs in the United States and abroad. The Coalition intends to advocate for commercial, consumer, recreational, and philanthropic use of UAVs by removing  “unnecessary policy or regulatory hurdles that impede small UAV development, sales, job creation, and services.”

Founding members of the Small UAV Coalition are: 3DR, Aerialtronics, Airware, Amazon Prime Air, DJI Innovations, Google[x]’s Project Wing, GoPro, and Parrot. Attorneys at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP support the Coalition.

North Dakota cops use a drone to nab three suspects in a cornfield

When a car was pulled over by the Grand Forks, North Dakota police department for drunk driving, the occupants ran into a cornfield. The police brought out their AeroVironment Qube quadcopter and quickly found several of them hiding in the corn.

Aeronautics unveils new Orbiter 3b UAV

Aeronautics has unveiled the Orbiter 3b, offering more range and endurance than the previous model.

The Orbiter Mini UAV System is designed for use in Military and Homeland Security missions such as over the hill reconnaissance, low intensity conflicts, and urban warfare operations, as well as close range ISR.

It is catapult-launched from a vehicle, and recovery is by parachute and airbag.

Air Force rebuts Defense Department report on planned Reaper buys

The U.S. Defense Department Inspector General issued a report critical of the Air Force acquisition program for the MQ-9 Reaper.

The Air Force wants to spend $76.8 billion to buy 401 Reapers, but the IG says Air Combat Command didn’t obtain the proper approval or perform a verifiable analyses of number of Reapers to buy.

The Air Force issued a statement on their website titled, Air Force rebuts report due to outdated data, saying the IG report “is based on data that is out of date.”

UAVs at INTERGEO: Applanix, Others Announce GNSS-Guided Systems

A special session at the InterGEO conference and exhibition in Berlin, Germany, “UAVs in Practice,” gave attendees an opportunity to see systems for aerial surveying and mapping, environmental monitoring, and other civil applications.

Manufacturers at the show were mainly from Germany and other European countries.

Applanix Corporation from Canada announced its new APX-15 UAV GNSS-Inertial System. This reduces Ground Control Points (GCPs) and sidelap.

Germany-based Aibotix GmbH showed their Aibot-X6 V2, a six-rotor UAV with navigation by a GPS receiver integrated with gyroscope, accelerometer, barometer, magnetometers, and ultrasonic sensors.

The Hirrus Mini UAV System from Teamnet International can carry CCD or IR video cameras, photo cameras, radiation detectors, and other sensors.

Videos of the Week

Incredible Close-Up Drone Video of an Erupting Volcano in Iceland

Watch a brave drone get dramatically close to an erupting volcano

Mentions

14 CFR 61.51 – Pilot logbooks – In the U.S., the FAA prescribes the Federal Aviation Regulations, or FARs, part of Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). 14 CFR 61.51 describes the pilot logbook requirements for manned aircraft. They may provide some clues as to what to expect should the FAA ultimately require logbooks for unmanned aircraft.

Going electronic with logbooks  This AOPA article describes some pilot logbook apps.

The Best Electronic Pilot Logbook – Reviews by Pilotman Aviation & Pilots Network

Pilot Pro Logbook – A cloud-based pilot logbook

Pilots of America Forum – A forum thread about electronic logbooks

Watch the Navy’s New Unmanned Swarm Boats In Action

Drones and the magical age of aviation

UAV027 Policing UAS Use

Elbit Systems Hermes 900

A DJI Phantom watches baseball spring training, FAA policing UAS usage, Canada wants to buy drones, so does the Russian military, and Korea seeks to be a UAS supplier.

The News:

Nationals using aerial drone to record footage of spring training

The Washington Nationals baseball team is observing spring training through the eyes of a GoPro mounted on a DJI Phantom. They say they’ll also use aerial footage on the scoreboard for games.

Runaway Drones Map Land, Film ‘Wolf,’ Knock Down People, as FAA Gives Chase

The FAA takes a dim view of UAVs and has notified many operators to cease operations. Some people are ignorant of the FAA policy. Others are aware but ignore it. Even others believe their activities are allowable. But is it even possible for the FAA to police the use of UAVs?

Heron, Reaper and Hermes 900 Compete for Canada’s Arctic mission

Canada wants an an advanced system for operation in the Arctic. Under consideration are the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Heron unmanned air system, General Atomics Reaper, and Elbit Systems Hermes 900.

Russian Defense Ministry Unveils $9B UAV Program
Russia delays testing of UAE’s United 40 Block 5 UAV

The Russian military operates 500 drones, and they expect to spend 320 billion rubles (US $9 billion) by 2020 for more. Russian President Vladimir Putin is a big supporter of UAVs and believes Russia needs to develop combat and reconnaissance variants.

Singapore Airshow 2014: KAI promotes Devil Killer UAV as maritime weapon

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) is marketing the “Devil Killer” internationally to acquire a first customer that will put the UAV into production. Intended to loiter above potential targets, this “tactical suicide combat UAV” would be operator-guided to the target, crash into the target, and detonate its 2 kg payload.

Video of the Week:

Building Tensile Structures with Flying Machines – Quadcopters with spools of rope weave tensile structures. (Submitted by Colin Sweetman.)

FAA and the UAVs An opinion piece by Tim Trott

Which of these photos is “legal”? Which one represents an illegal “commercial use” of a UAV? 

Which of these photos is legal

Was the UAV controlled by a hobbyist or a commercial photographer? Does one represent more safety than the other? Obviously both are the same picture, and that is exactly the point. (And it is NOT for sale).

The FAA’s current approach to the UAV revolution, and it is a revolution, is like catching the tiger by the tail, and the FAA only plans to catch up with the tiger ….in a few years. Or so.

That was demonstrated in a recent survey report that found some people who claimed they didn’t know anything about the FAA’s position and others who were unconcerned or even defiant. Some of those enjoying “unregulated” hobby use of UAVs brag about how high and far they can fly, clearly outside of the FAA’s “recommendation” for visual line of sight under 400 feet. Airline and helicopter pilots continue to express serious safety concerns, while comments on the other side tend to minimize any real dangers and the unlikely event of an encounter between a UAV and a commercial aircraft… even in the face of reports of several “close calls” reported by pilots. None of this will improve with time.

In the meantime, don’t look for any mention of the FAA anywhere on web sites of the manufacturers or companies selling UAVs. My own communication with B&H Photo, a well respected professional photography store, gave clear indication that they have no interest or any intention of including anything about any restrictions in the US, while describing their products as “Designed for professional photography”.

Of course not! A caution could affect sales to people like me who learned about the FAA’s unwritten rules against “professional use” only AFTER my purchase arrived. They did offer a refund, but would still not consider or discuss a caution message on the web site.

FAA staff members are apparently spending a lot of time scanning you tube channels and web sites looking for “commercial” users of UAVs and sending out random warnings and a few Cease and Desist orders. It would be a much less daunting task to find the companies SELLING them and request that they include logical safety precautions either packed with the products or sent emails to those who have already purchased them. However, there remains the untenable distinction between commercial and hobby use.

While commercial users, it could be argued, might be more concerned about being liable for damages, the hobbyist is thinking more about enjoying the sport of flying. But they both need to stay out of air traffic lanes, stay below 400 ft, and exercise reasonable caution with regard to public safety.

There is no logical basis for the restriction against commercial use. Hobbyist or commercial, either way the operator can cause damages or injuries. The FAA’s position has done little to affect the explosion in UAVs being used.

My sneaking suspicion is that the FAA’s hesitation is less about safety and more about UAV’s threat to the manned aerial photography business.

There is a simple and obvious solution to this situation and it is this:

The FAA could and should IMMEDIATLY provide for LIMITED INTERIM registration for all UAVs, defining the 400 ft stipulation, cautions against flying over people and so on. The FAA should also provide the guidelines to retailers selling to US citizens, requesting that the guidelines be included on retailer web sites and distributed by the UAV community.

That’s the ONLY logical solution and there is no good reason to wait until 2015 and hundreds of reasons not to wait being sold every month.

The use of UAVs will continue to grow. Waiting until there are many more thousands of them in the air years from now is not a logical course for the FAA. The FAA needs to face the fact that the bird is already out of the nest. So to speak.

Tim Trott

UAV006 Spy on the Chicken

PUMA AE beach launch

PUMA AE beach launch. Courtesy AeroVironment, Inc.

This Episode:

The Reaper is turned into a Jammer, drones are spying on chickens in Australia, FAA rules for small UAS’s delayed again, UAV privacy questions remain, a new UAS Test Center in the UK, monitoring wildlife with a PUMA and the weather with a Global Hawk, FEMA shuts down Colorado UAV flights, and more multi-rotor’s come down in crowds.

The News:

Jamming Pod Demonstrated on MQ-9 Reaper UAV

General Atomics has fitted a Northrop Grumman jamming pod to an MQ-9 Reaper. The test flight occurred back in April during a U.S. Marine Corps weapons and tactics instructor (WTI) course, but has only recently been made public. Planned for the October WTI course is a demonstration with EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare (EW) jets and smaller unmanned aircraft.

Animal Liberation activists launch spy drone to test free-range claims

Australian activists are concerned that some large free-range chicken farms are not in fact free-range. So for $17,000 they purchased a hexacopter, fitted it with an HD video camera, and flew it over the farms to document their claims. The group says this does not violate trespass laws.

First Commercial UAS Flight Due; Small UAS Rule Delayed

An Insitu ScanEagle was expected to make the first commercial flight of an unmanned aircraft on September 11, under a restricted category type certification the FAA awarded in July. ConocoPhillips was to launch the ScanEagle from a research vessel in the Arctic Ocean west of Alaska to monitor whale migrations and ice flows.

The FAA’s release of a Notice of Proposed RuleMaking (NPRM) which would govern the operation of small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) weighing up to 55 pounds has been delayed until early in 2014.

UAV Operations in National Air Space Advance as Privacy Fight Heats Up

The standards being developed for sUAS over: UAV design, including command and control systems, batteries, production, quality assurance, maintenance, and continued airworthiness, the aircraft flight manual, and operations over populated areas.

ASTM International developed the initial standards for the FAA Aviation Rulemaking Committee that was chartered in 2008. That feeds the NPRM process which includes a mechanism for public comment.

The ASTM standards committee for large UAS was unable to make enough progress, so it’s mission was changed to minimum operational performance standards (or MOPS) for detect-and-avoid equipment.

Unlike the slow rule-making progress for commercial UAS, Government agencies (like law enforcement and public safety) can move quickly as a result of the March MOU between the FAA and the Department of Justice.

UK Inaugurates National UAS Test Center

Two UK airports (West Wales Airport and Newquay Cornwall Airport) have launched a “National Aeronautical Center” (NAC) to develop, test and demonstrate unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), both commercial and military.

More drones coming Saturday in NOAA tests

NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations is testing the PUMA UAS in the Florida Keys to monitor wildlife without disturbing them.

 

NASA Global Hawk

A NASA Global Hawk undergoes systems testing while parked on the ramp at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center on the edge of Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., in preparation for participation in NASA’s Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes, or GRIP, hurricane mission.

Spy Drones Turning Up New Data About Hurricanes And Weather and NASA to Investigate Tropical Storm Humberto: Atlantic’s Second “Zombie Tropical Storm”

NASA is flying two Global Hawks from Wallops Island over Hurricanes under the five-year HS3 (Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel) Mission.

Falcon UAV Supports Colorado Flooding Until Grounded by FEMA

The Falcon UAV was providing valuable aerial imagery of the recent tragic Colorado floods. However, FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) has arrived with conventional manned aircraft and the Falcon was ordered to stand down.

Multirotor Crashes into Crowd in Spain and Pirate Party Crashes Spy Drone in Front of German Chancellor Angela Merkel

A hexacopter comes down into a packed crowd in Spain, allegedly injuring several people. Meanwhile, in Dresden, Germany at a political party campaign rally, another copter came down in front of the podium.