Drone Digest: 6th Edition

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The 6th edition (click here to see all of the editions) of this précis of stories about UAS includes a wide range of issues from the US and the UK. These thoughts are worth repeating in the case that Drone World did not see the original articles:

A. Interview of Administrator Huerta by AIA A lengthy, in depth interview with the FAA’s #1 executive who sets the agency’s policies. The above link will take you to the full text. Below are excerpts from his informative answers to questions about drones:

“Our highest priority is how we ensure safety for people both in the air and on the ground.”c11

“On the educational side, chances are many of the people buying small unmanned aircraft are not familiar with the concept of a national airspace system and there are rules for operations. They do not want to cause a problem but they don’t know what the rules are.”

“What we’ve tried to establish is a flexible framework that will evolve as the industry evolves.”

“When you’re looking at a rapidly evolving technology like this you could adopt one of two approaches. You can try to figure everything out…with a consolidated approach, or you can do what we are doing, which is a much more staged approach, where we focus on what are the things we can authorize and how do we gradually grow this. I think this is more in the spirit of truly achieving UAS integration.”

“The public perception in just the last 18 months has evolved and changed pretty dramatically. Eighteen months ago the big concern was privacy…. That’s still out there, but then six months later the focus was on how do we make this happen faster and faster. How do we get out of the way of this exciting industry and allow it to innovate? Now with a lot of these things flying around, this is raising safety concerns. What we’re trying to do is find the balance that fosters the innovation that is so important to allow the industry to develop, but at the same time ensures a level of safety.”

“We’ve also starting a conversation with the industry about looking at technologies that you can use that can limit unmanned aircraft from getting into situations that might be unsafe. For example, geofencing that repels you from going into a particular area, or geofencing placed in a UAS that puts limits on its altitude and range.”

→ “AIA: What is your assessment on how FAA is meeting the congressional mandate on UAS integration?

Huerta: Congress gave us direction for safe integration of unmanned aircraft by next month in 2015. And I think we have demonstrated what a framework for what safe integration looks like through the rulemaking process and the exemptions that we have authorized, through the test sites and a whole lot of other activities. That is different than the perception that I think some people have that there is a magic day when you pull the switch that suddenly unmanned aircraft of all times can operate unimpeded in the national airspace system. I don’t think that anyone really was looking at that or wants that because there’s a lot we don’t know and there’s a lot we don’t fully understand about how this technology is really going to be used.”

“…Pathfinder program as a research partnership program where someone in industry comes to us and says, ‘Look, I have a new technology that I would like to test for something like beyond line of sight activities. I’m willing to invest my money in actually doing the research, but what I need from the FAA is the space to come see if it works.’ What we do is provide them authorization to conduct a negotiated set of activities. They make the investment in it. In exchange for us providing that authorization they agree to share that information broadly across the industry.”

B. Technology, Research Developments

Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) Outflies Amazon (AMZN) with Drone Delivery on the Horizon The author says that Google X, utilizing its close relationship with NASA, has “registered” [not clear what that means in regulatory terms] two delivery drones, codenames M2 and B3 with the FAA, on October 2 and 7 respectively. It is fair to assume that the company is seeking airworthiness certification through some test regime. It has been reported that they both “are fixed-wing aircraft with two electric motors, and both weigh less than 55 pounds.” The end goal would appear to be that these UAS will be authorized to fly in some (all) of the national airspace. A Google search resulted in this image:c22

Simpson partners with Stanford, FAA on drone research The FAA named Simpson College in Indianola an affiliate member of its Centers of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation program. The research will be performed in a partnership with Stanford University. “It can have massive long-term ramifications,” said Chris Draper, director of EMERGE@Simpson. “What we have right now is a tremendous opportunity to be extremely influential in this process, and this is where the partnership with Stanford is highly valuable.” c3232

Feds Give City Of Murfreesboro State’s First Go-Ahead To Fly Drones The City was awarded a §333 and a COA plus Middle Tennessee State University has its own FAA permission to fly drones for research. The school even offers an undergraduate degree in unmanned aircraft operations. In was noted that larger cities would have a more difficult safety proof because of populous communities and busy airports pose risks. Large cities have a tougher time because of how busy their airports are. c44

 C. Legal and Regulatory Developments

Have an FAA exemption to fly your drone for business? You could still get fined— Though this editorial includes a disclaimer,[1] the advice given should be carefully considered by §333 and COA holders. The specific conditions in those two documents provide bases for FAA enforcement actions. Flying higher than your 200’ limitation, go beyond the VLOS or any other limitations, the FAA can and WILL take action. Remember that while you will have to pay for your lawyers’ fees to defend an enforcement action, the FAA salaries are already paid, by your taxes.c55

[1] The material provided here is for informational purposes only and is not intended and should not be considered as legal advice for your particular matter. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.

Ski Resorts Clamp Down on Filming Drones In addition to restrictions which federal, state, county and cities may impose, private land owners (some, maybe not all) may restrict your UAS flights. Fearing that inexperienced drone pilots will hurt fellow skiers and damage property, the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) has outlined bans on hobbyist and commercial drones at ski areas in the U.S.c66

NAV Canada CEO: ‘Jail time’ needed for reckless UAV operators— The head of the Canadian ATC asks Parliament to pass legislation making a UAS flight within 5 miles of an airport to require, upon a guilty verdict, that the operator serve hard time.c88 UK claims to be ahead of international UAV regulators— The UK’s Department for Transport has claimed the country is pioneering ahead of European and international airspace regulators to rapidly look at integrating unmanned air vehicles into national airspace. Paul Cremin, head of UK aviation operational safety and emerging technologies at the DfT, says. “We’re accelerating the pace, and if EASA and ICAO can keep up, then that’s great, but we [the UK] are upping the pace.” The DfT’s acceleration is propelled by holding public dialogue sessions that will lead onto a public consultation and the release of a strategy/vision paper in 2016 that will cover a decade of planning for the UK. The ultimate aim is regular access for UAVs to controlled airspace by 2018.c99

It’s interesting to see that the DfT thinks that it is in a race with EASA.

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