A look back at the first 200 episodes and a peek into topics that might get our attention in the future, including regulatory actions that result from FAA reauthorization.
Max and David at the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum
To celebrate the 200th episode, David and Max take a step back from the usual format and reminisce about the issues that were important when the podcast started in 2013. The main topic then was whether or not to call them “drones.” We look at how the unmanned aircraft landscape has changed since the first episode, and speculate about the topics we’ll be talking about in the future. One of those is the unmanned aircraft regulations we’ll face, which leads us to our single news story this week:
What’s Proposed for Drones in This Year’s FAA Reauthorization Bills?
The United States Senate and House both introduced bills that reauthorize the FAA and contain provisions for unmanned aircraft.
DARPA calls for drones that vanish, the U.S. Coast Guard tests the ScanEagle, more Amazon drone patents, a shortage of military drone pilots, Microsoft drones for good, the Trump administration’s regulatory policy throws confusion at the UAS industry, 3DR operates drones at the Atlanta airport, and a biometric drone based on the bat.
Inbound, Controlled, Air-Releasable, Unrecoverable Systems (ICARUS), is a DARPA program “driven by a vision of vanishing air vehicles that can make precise deliveries of critical supplies and then vaporize into thin air.” Small items could be supplied/resupplied to military or humanitarian assistance teams operating in difficult-to-access areas, and then the drones would dispose of themselves.
The U.S. Coast Guard tested a small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) on the national security cutter (NSC) Stratton. Deployment on Stratton planned is for this winter, initially using the ScanEagle sUAS.
Amazon has another patent for a delivery drone concept, this a foldable-wing design. With wings folded, the drone is stable on the ground for a vertical takeoff. Then the wings unfold for horizontal flight and fold again for the landing.
Amazon Illustration via USPTO
Another Amazon patent was recently published for a system for determining the center of gravity for a delivery drone payload. The drone can then adjust the payload position to balance itself in flight.
This U.S. Government Accountability Office press release states, “The Air Force and the Army have not fully applied four of the five key principles for effective strategic human capital planning for managing pilots of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) that are important for resolving the Air Force’s pilot shortages and the Army’s training shortfalls.”
In 2015, Microsoft announced Project Premonitions, which envisions using drones to detect mosquito breeding areas. In June 2016, Microsoft formed the Aerial Informatics and Robotics (AIR) group. Their goal is to develop autonomous drones that use machine intelligence, robotics, and human-centered computation.
The Trump administration first froze new regulations, then issued an executive order requiring that for every new regulation, two old ones must be identified for elimination. The impact on the drone industry is uncertain since new regulations are needed for flight over people, enabling package delivery, etc.
The FAA granted the waiver for flight in Class B airspace. 3D Robotics conducted seven flights on January 10, 2017, at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The mission was data collection for a demolition project.
The owner of an FPV flying wing company describes their design, construction, and applications. In the news, Amazon patents a floating warehouse concept, and the EU moves closer to an RPAS regulations roadmap.
Ruben Jauregui, owner of SweepWingsRC
Ruben Jauregui is the owner of SweepWingsRC, a maker of FPV flying wings. In 2010, Ruben received a little UMX Vapor indoor flyer and over time he grew more interested in RC flying. He built his own RC aircraft in 2011, and then FPV flying wings came along for him in 2012. He soon went out and sourced the materials to make his own wings. By 2013, Ruben had made and tested his own design and came up with the name for his brand. By 2014, Ruben was officially a small company owner.
We talk about flying wing design, construction, and applications. Ruben tells us how flying wings and multirotors differ from the operator’s perspective. He describes his flying wing designs, their payload capabilities, and the impressive speeds they can reach.
The patent, Airborne fulfillment center utilizing unmanned aerial vehicles for item delivery, describes “an airborne fulfillment center (‘AFC’) and the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (‘UAV’) to deliver items from the AFC to users. For example, the AFC may be an airship that remains at a high altitude (e.g., 45,000 feet) and UAVs with ordered items may be deployed from the AFC to deliver ordered items to user designated delivery locations. As the UAVs descend, they can navigate horizontally toward a user specified delivery location using little to no power, other than to stabilize the UAV and/or guide the direction of descent. Shuttles (smaller airships) may be used to replenish the AFC with inventory, UAVs, supplies, fuel, etc. Likewise, the shuttles may be utilized to transport workers to and from the AFC.”
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in Europe is working on the preparation of a Specific Operation Risk Assessment (SORA), and Operations Manual. RPAS Regulationsis a guide to international rules and regulations for remotely piloted aircraft systems. (Note this is a restricted access site – registration is required.)
Rulemaking for sUAS flights over people moves forward, fuel cell-powered UAVs, a drone detection system, a Predator for humanitarian relief, drones flying in formation, and autonomous aircraft collaboration.
Hywing long endurance fixed-wing UAV demonstrator, courtesy H3 Dynamics
Hogan Lovells reports that the FAA sent to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) the proposed rulemaking for the operation of sUAS over unsheltered people not directly participating in the operation. OIRA reviews draft regulations before they are implemented and any member of the public can request a meeting with the agency to discuss the proposed rule.
This article is a round-up of a number of newsworthy drone stories, including:
Singapore energy storage company H3 Dynamics has applied fuel cell technology to its Hywings UAV and claims up to 10 hours flight endurance. The company also created Dronebox that can be used as a remote base station for drones. Dronebox can recharge drone using solar panels, and offers the possibility for stationing drones for autonomous missions, like crop surveys.
Elbit Systems in Israel announced ReDrone which detects, tracks, and takes out drones. The system can determine the direction of the drone and the operator, operates over 360 degrees and provides real-time situational awareness of multiple drones.
General Atomics is offering the Angel One for humanitarian relief missions. Based on the Predator-C Avenger UAV, it can carry up to 8,500 pounds of Humanitarian Daily Ration packets (HDRs) for 3,400 people
AeroVironment is looking to the commercial market with its Quantix vertical takeoff and landing quadrotor drone. Controlled with an Android tablet, data can subsequently be processed within the AeroVironment Decision Support System (AV DSS). Availability is expected by spring 2017.
A drone was observed flying over 300 protesters marching in Philadelphia. Police and news helicopters followed the drone which led them to a man operating the drone from a rooftop. A SWAT team took a 20-year-old man into custody inside the building. He could face various charges, including recklessly endangering another person and risking a catastrophe.
The “Starbright Holidays” in Orlando will feature 300 Intel Shooting Star quadcopters with LED lights. Each weighs a little over half a pound and is constructed of soft materials such as plastics and foam. The drones are assigned light show roles only after each has been queried by the system to assess details like battery level and GPS signal. Then each gets its assignment and an operator deploys them all with the push of a button.
Lockheed Martin conducted a demonstration of firefighting and search-and-rescue capability using four autonomous vehicles. The optionally-piloted Kaman K-MAX, the Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft (SARA), the Indago quadrotor, and a Desert Hawk 3.1 fixed wing UAS worked collaboratively. Indago located hot spots, sent that information to an operator who directed the K-MAX to autonomously retrieve water from a pond and drop it on the fire. Then, the Desert Hawk located the missing person, and the K-MAX and SARA completed the search and rescue mission.
International agreement on armed UAS import/export, quadcopter power by induction, California allows first responders to take out drones, a droneport concept, drones interrupting airport operations, an underwater UAV launch, and a very different concept for an aerial video platform.
Is transmitting power wirelessly, through thin air, science fiction? Maybe not. A quadcopter flew a short distance in a proof of concept demo. The Wirelessly Powered Quadrotorvideo shows a quadrotor being powered completely wirelessly via magnetic induction.
California Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 807, under which “An emergency responder shall not be liable for any damage to an unmanned aircraft or unmanned aircraft system, if that damage was caused while the emergency responder was providing, and the unmanned aircraft or unmanned aircraft system was interfering with, the operation, support, or enabling of the emergency services…”
Jonathan Daniels, CEO, and founder of Praxis Aerospace Concepts International Inc., wants to partner with the FAA and develop a droneport in Boulder City, Nevada. Initially used to test drone landings and departures without interfering with manned aircraft, the long-term concept is support for high volume drone movements.
Operations at Dubai International Airport were disrupted for almost an hour due to unauthorized unmanned aerial vehicle activity. This wasn’t the first time, either. United Arab Emirates (UAE) state Abu Dhabi has banned drone sales to the public because of the potential threat they pose to civil aviation.
In a cross-domain command and control event hosted by the U.S. Navy, a small Vector Hawk UAV was launched from a Marlin autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV). At the same time, the Submaran unmanned surface vehicle (USV) developed by Ocean Aero provided surface reconnaissance and surveillance.
The Tesla Drone is a concept from U.K. based designer, Fraser Leid. Dual propellers can operate horizontally or vertically and provide enough stability that a gimbal is not required. The MagDock acts as a wireless charging station offering a 60 minute flight time from the 10,000 mAh Li-ion Powercell® battery.
Listener Kenrecently traveled to Sedona, Arizona in his 1980 Bonanza A36TC and he brought along his 3DR Solo with a GoPro 4 Black. The video is a perfect crossover between The Airplane Geeks podcast and The UAV Digest.
We talk with a Part 61 pilot who has successfully completed the FAA UAS online training course. We also look at consumer drone vulnerabilities, the threats that drones represent to aviation, using big data to develop a contextual route-plan for autonomous drones, a globe-trotting drone racer, and flying drones in public parks.
Flock flight planning tool
The new small drone rule for non-hobbyists (also known as Part 107) becomes effective August 29, 2016. The person flying a drone must have a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating, or be directly supervised by someone with that certificate.
To qualify for the certificate, you must either pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center or have an existing non-student Part 61 pilot certificate.
Those with a Part 61 pilot certificate must have completed a flight review in the previous 24 months and take an FAA UAS online training course.
Max Trescott is a certified flight instructor and co-host on the Airplane Geeks podcast. Max completed the ALC-451, Part 107 Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) online course and tells us about his experience.
At the FAA Safety Team website, pilots can start by clicking the Part 107 image at the top of the page. After completing the course, print the completion certificate or email to yourself. Then, on or after August 29, 2016, sign into IACRA.faa.gov and fill out the application for a Part 107 license. Flight Instructors, pilot examiners, and FAA inspectors can then approve pilot as a commercial drone operator. The materials can be reviewed by clicking the “Part 107 Knowledge Test Prep” button at www.faa,gov/uas.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University’s Whiting School of Engineering have been testing consumer drones for vulnerabilities. They found they could overload the drone’s CPU with wireless connection requests and cause an uncontrolled landing, they could crash the drone by sending it a large data packet and causing a buffer overflow, and the drone made an emergency landing when researchers confused the controller with false data packets.
Lanier A. Watkins, the cybersecurity researcher who supervised the recent drone research, said, “You see it with a lot of new technology. Security is often an afterthought. The value of our work is in showing that the technology in these drones is highly vulnerable to hackers.”
Artificial intelligence company Flock uses “Big Data” to drive a contextual route-planner for drones. Their AI platform “tracks in real time the position of people, vehicles, structures, weather systems and more, calculating the safest possible flight-paths for drones to fly through congested urban environments.” The algorithm “visualises population density and traffic statistics using real-time data streams.”
26-year old Andrew “MayMayDay” Meyer is traveling the world competing in drone races. Places like Canada, the United States, Dubai, and South Korea. He competed at Canada’s Drone Nationals last year, he placed 10th at the U.S. National Drone Racing Championships in New York City this year, he flew at South Korea’s Chuncheon Drone Race World Cup just recently, and he’s entered in the Drone World Championship in Hawaii in October. Find Andrew on Facebook.
The Bay Area District of the State of California Department of Parks and Recreation has banned drones and other unmanned aircraft. Park officials are concerned about “potential disturbances to wildlife, public safety issues, and negative impacts on other park patrons.”
International Drone Expo, December 9-10, 2016 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. IDE draws over 100 international exhibitors and more than 3,500 buyers from around the world. It’s a two-day event that features an exhibit floor displaying a variety of drones, parts, and services for all the commercial applications. A commercial drone conference is also hosted at IDE. New this year will be IDE’s first annual drone racing event.
BayRC.net – A community of R/C enthusiasts and professionals.
Cell coverage provided by drones, sUAS conflicting with aerial applicators, controlling swarms with your mind, another package delivery milestone by Flirtey, a drone pilot is arrested, and using drones to find old land mines.
A Bird’s Eye View of AT&T’s Drone Inspection Program
AT&T uses Cell On Wheels (COW) equipment to temporarily add cell capacity for large events, or bring coverage to disaster scenes. Now the company is looking at a new kind of COW that used drones: Cell On Wings. In the company blog, Drones Taking Our Network to New Heights, AT&T says, “We’re researching how in-flight drones can use our LTE network to send large amounts of data in real-time. This capability may benefit areas such as insurance, farming, facility and asset inspections, and even delivery service companies.” AT&T is already using drones to perform cell tower inspections. (Video above.)
Most groups with an interest in using sUAS commercially are in favor of the Part 107 rules, including the agriculture business. But the National Agricultural Aviation Association thinks “the FAA set the bar a little low” when it comes to safety and certification requirements.
Note: The Small UAS Rule (Part 107), including all pilot and operating rules, will be effective on August 29, 2016. These resources are provided by the FAA:
Arizona State University is researching technology that allows human brainwaves to control up to four robot vehicles. Electrodes on a skullcap pick up electrical brain activity, software processes the data, and the drones are controlled via a Bluetooth connection. ASU says that to make the drones move, the operator watches on a monitor, and thinks and pictures the drones performing various tasks.
Flirtey and 7-Eleven announced they have completed the first fully autonomous, FAA-approved drone delivery to two residential homes in Reno, Nevada. The Flirtey drone delivered a 7-Eleven chicken sandwich, donuts, hot coffee, and Slurpees. The Flirtey drone hovered over the residents’ backyards and lowered the packages. The two companies plan to expand their delivery services in the future.
Two former Afghan refugees are developing technology that would allow a drone to safely sweep an area and destroy old land mines. The UAS would use ground penetrating radar and metal detectors to locate the mines. A small charge could then be placed by the drone and detonated remotely. The brothers are using a Kickstarter campaign to fund the Mine Kafon Drone.
The MQ-25 Stingray UAS, Star Wars drones, an Amazon patent for sUAS flight decks, Customs and Border Protection solicitation for small drone studies, how drones might make the future of aviation brighter, an arrest for a drone flight, new geofencing firmware, and Facebook laser drones.
Amazon was awarded U.S. patent number 9387928 for sUAS docking stations that can be attached to structures such as telephone poles or street lamps. Amazon proposes that these multi-use UAV docking stations can be networked and provide package handling facilities, and act as a final destination or a delivery hub. The docking stations could recharge or refuel UAVs, become navigational aids, and provide routing information from a central control system.
The UAS that had been called the Carrier Based Aerial Refueling System (CBARS) will be now known as MQ-25 Stingray. Developed from the X-47B, it will use the current Navy refueling pod as its equipment. The system is being tested using a Gulfstream jet as a surrogate and the RFP for the MQ-25 prototypes requests a flyoff in 2017.
Propel is making X-wing, Millennium Falcon, TIE Interceptor, and Speederbike quadcopters with clear props to give the illusion of flight. The drones are outfitted with lasers that allow game playing similar to laser tag.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is looking for new ways that Customs and Border Protection could use UAVs and has published an Other Transaction Solicitation (OTS) to fund studies. The OTS Call on Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Word doc) offers grants of $50,000 to $200,000, and describes three objectives:
User interfaces for effective communication and enhanced immediacy for reaction.
Sensors to improve situational awareness and the ability to track multiple targets.
Platform security improvement for UAS self-defense capabilities.
Aerospace and defense industry researcher Teal Group says the United States is now ahead of Europe after developing sUAS regulations. The U.S. is “putting pressure on Europe to come up with its own set of regulations.”
Facebook and Internet.org have been developing the Project Aquila fixed-wing drones to provide internet access to remote locations using lasers to transmit data. However, light sent through the atmosphere can produce an undesirable “twinkling” effect. The Facebook team has a solution that uses a structure covered with wavelength shifting dyes that re-emit the light at a different wavelength and reduce the twinkling effect.
A workshop to teach educators how to introduce drones to students, Flirtey is in the news again with another package delivery milestone, and a report on the Hogan Lovells sUAS Part 107 webinar.
Princess Aliyah Pandolfi updates us on the exciting projects being undertaken by the Kashmir World Foundation. We last spoke with Aliyah when we covered the DaVinci Build-a-Drone workshop in Episode 124. In order to create a more sustainable program and bring this highly successful STEM program to a broader audience, this special workshop was created for educators who can then teach students at their schools and universities.
The first educator workshop is July 11-15, 2016 at Foxcroft School in Middleburg, Virginia. Registration deadline is July 8, 2016. Visit www.kashmirworldfoundation.org for more information.
Aliyah Pandolfi and David Vanderhoof
Aliyah also explains a new project to monitor sea turtle activity with MiSHELL drones. To conduct their research, biologists must painstakingly locate sea turtle tracks on the beach and follow them to the nests. Kashmir World Foundation has partnered with Georgia Southern University at St. Catherines Island to discover how sUAS could be used to greatly increase the efficiency of the process.
In addition, Aliyah is conducting a private workshop this summer for girls and technology. This is sponsored by Eagle Ray, a woman-owned business specializing in strategic transformation services.
As a related resource, the Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application(IACRA) is the web-based certification/rating application that takes you through the FAA’s airman application process. Remote Pilot certificates for small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) will come to IACRA in late August 2016.