UAS Digest #11This week’s most important news on the drone industry

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Another mass of news. Each week the Digest will publish interesting, worthwhile and relevant article under same topics headings. The subjects are listed in alphabetical order.


Bad News

→ Drone pilot is grounded and must forfeit device after interfering with LAPD search—An LA resident and irresponsible drone operator pleaded no contest to obstructing a police officer when he flew the device near an LAPD chopper hovering over a neighborhood where the police were searching for a dangerous criminal. His punishment was to forfeit his $6,000 drone system, perform 30 days of community labor and promise not to own or fly a drone or any other unmanned remote aircraft during his three years of probation. Such behavior adds to the public perception of bad drones.


→ WE T-BAGGED THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN!!!—A viral video of a drone assault on the iconic Hollywood sign by juvenile operators. Note: the audio is profanity laced and full of comments detrimental to the public’s perception of ordinary UAS pilots.




→ Hobbyist UAV Workshop coming up in Blacksburg—The National Weather Service and the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership offer a workshop open to the public about how to properly operate drones. NWS is interested in getting amateur images of weather damage and have created a page where pictures can be posted. GREAT INITIATIVE; SHOULD BE REPLICATED AT OTHER VENUES.


FAA Policy and Authorizations

→ FAA to Examine How Well Drones Can Stay Out of Trouble Areas—“Using drones equipped with software developed by Precision Hawk, the FAA will also test how the devices respond to unplanned dilemmas, such as an encounter with an airplane. Precision Hawk is working on a system that would make drones flying out of an operator’s sight safer, making the company a logical selection for the FAA’s program. Using Precision Hawk’s in-progress low-altitude tracking and avoidance system (LATAS), a drone would turn around or stop flying all together if it got too close to a designated object or an area that it shouldn’t be flying in, like an airport or a place where emergency personnel are operating. LATAS uses Verizon’s cellular network, satellite links, or aircraft location beacons to communicate with the far-off drone.”

→ FAA Will Test Drones’ Ability to Steer Themselves Out of Trouble—“The trials starting next week will involve flying conventional aircraft close to drones to test how they can safely respond. In the first test an “intruding aircraft” – a role to be played Monday by a powered paraglider – will approach a drone flying within its pilot’s line of sight to test at what distance he or she can detect and respond to it.” [NOTE: great development; horrible headline which suggests that “client” FAA is in trouble.]


→ FAA: Drone Registration Will Be Easy, Don’t Pay Someone Else to Do It—One writer interpolates FAA’s statement about firms offering to register as meaning that the 11/20 recommendations will be “easy.”

  • Agency Talks Could Lead to Larger NASA Role on Drones—“The Federal Aviation Administration and NASA are discussing a joint approach to introducing small drones into the airspace that could give the space agency a larger role in the effort. NASA’s Ames Research Center is already leading the development of an Unmanned Aerial System Traffic Management, or UTM, system that would manage low-flying drones. The current discussions could lead to even broader participation by the space agency, said the FAA’s lead executive for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)…’We’re currently in deliberations,’ confirmed Marke “Hoot” Gibson, FAA senior advisor for UAS integration. ‘We have a great relationship with NASA; they do a lot of the fundamental science and research on a number of topics in aerospace—this being one of them.’ What the two agencies are considering is ‘should we broaden that relationship, not just the UTM focus,’ he added. ‘It would be something that focuses our energies and collaboration on UAS, and it’s not clear yet what that will look like.’”

→ FAA Grants Sentera 333 Exemption for Commercial Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Use—Sentera, LLC, was granted a §333 exemption, but not to fly in revenue service, but rather as a R&D function for its  sensors, software, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Sentera’s exemption for both fixed-wing and quadcopter UAVs ensures the company can capture a wide range of data types that are relevant to customer applications, including very high resolution visual, multispectral, and thermal imagery, as well as specialized non-image information.


Good news

→ Aerigon UAV Captures Chase Scene in Spectre—The next James Bond movie, Spectre, used an Intuitive Aerial‘s Aerigon UAV was used on a key action scene. Helicopter Film Services (HFS) flew its Aerigon just above the rooftops near Trafalgar. The sequence required camera work just above the rooftops, too low for a helicopter to operate safely. HFS had to receive special permission from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to fly because the scene was filmed at night and in the congested area of central London. Such positive use of the technology will excite the public and add to a positive impression among the general public.q44



→ Many drones flown in violation of regulations—An insurance attorney warns, “There are significant risks to violating FAA regulations and the regulator can issue fines of up to $10,000 for unauthorized commercial drone usage. Historically, though, the FAA issues warning letters, except for situations where the drone was operated recklessly, but the authority is watching drone usage closely… ‘It’s likely that an insurance carrier would deny claims related to such an unauthorized use,’ said Walbesser…”

→ Is the insurance industry ready for the onslaught of 30,000 drones?—“Some carriers, such as AIG and Zurich, are already in the market and are preparing to underwrite billions of dollars in liability coverage for drones…bear many similarities to auto insurance plans, covering both ‘broad physical damage’ and ‘third party liability coverage.’ However, as they are written especially for drones, the policies also cover drone ‘operators’ and on-ground crew members, as well as electronic malfunctions and component failure…The coverage excludes problems such as hijacking, unlawful seizure, hacking or ‘spoofing.'”



→ 3 Drone Companies Worth Investing In: GoPro, Lockheed Martin, AeroVironment—Three specific “buy” recommendations plus a strong sector assessment- “In 2015, the drone market is estimated to have a $10 billion value. By 2020, the size of the industry is expected to increase to $15 billion. It’s a promising industry that could pay off, especially as governments shift toward unmanned aerial vehicles and consumers are enticed by affordable models for photography.” The dire predictions, that the drone industry in the US would be harmed by the slow release of the FAA rules, do not correlate with this assessment.


Legislative Information

→ Sen. Roberts praises pace of progress in unmanned technology for agriculture—The Senator from Kansas chairs the Agriculture Committee and after flying his first drone flight commented that its application in that sector is exciting. He reflected the FAA’s cautious approach when he said “it is a step by step process.”q55


Market Forecast

→ New Market Study, “Global Multirotor UAV Market 2015-2019”, Has Been PublishedTechnavio’s analysts forecast the global multirotor UAV market to grow at a CAGR of 21.62% over the period 2014-2019…More Details on this Report and a Full Table of Contents at Global Multirotor UAV Market 2015-2019.

→ Kiwi drone company really taking off in the US“Hastings innovator Simon Morris left yesterday for another North American trade expo with his head still in the clouds as he tries getting to grips with the takeoff of a new venture which is almost as quick as that of the drones he’s now marketing around the world.” The dire predictions, that the drone industry in the US would be harmed by the slow release of the FAA rules, have not blocked this company to seeking sales here.q66

→ First Day of Drone World Expo Exceeds Expectations Verizon Ventures, FAA, NASA and Google X Lead Opening Session with a Theme of Collaboration

  • Marke “Hoot” Gibson, Senior Advisor of UAS Integration, Federal Aviation Administration, said, “We have begun to embrace the greatest revolution in aviation in our lifetime which is changing the way we at the FAA think and collaborate with industry.”
  • Brendan Schulman, DJI’s director of Policy announced that DJI will begin offering a new “geofencing” safety system that the company says will better keep drones out of restricted areas. “By default, starting in December, users of DJI-brand drones will not be able to enter into, or take off from, areas like prisons or power plants.q77


Operational Developments

→ Drone unveiled as new weapon to tackle fires“The UAV, which also has the ability to be used at night, was purchased thanks to a £20,000 grant from the Welsh Government…Fire fighters can look at video footage on an iPad it in real time but because it also has 4G capability they could stream the images, securely, to their principle officers in the command room.”

→ Unmanned aircraft makes history in New Mexico ScanEagle makes America’s first-ever ‘over the horizon’ commercial UAS flight in lower 48 states

→ 3DR’s Solo Drone Will Help You Be a Responsible Drone Pilot—“AirMap is an existing service that tells you where you can and can’t fly your pet drone. 3DR is taking that database, and plugging it straight into the Solo app that you use with the drone’s remote control. So, when you open the app up, you’ll see a yellow (warning/restriction) or red alert, which they can tap on to get more info.”q88

→ Drone Landscape Still Evolving as Realtor®, Other Commercial Use Grows—“This technology is an incredible tool for real estate professionals, but can be dangerous if the wrong person is in control,” said session moderator Kolleen Kelley, Realtor® and 2015 Risk Management Committee vice chair…“Commercial drones represent an opportunity to create jobs and businesses, as well as to support the business of real estate,” said Polychron. “NAR is pleased to see this important issue get the attention it deserves and will continue working with the FAA to advance clear regulations that are affordable for users, safe for their communities, and mindful of the safety and privacy of individuals.”

→ NBAA: UAVs find their place in business aviation—“Chris Broyhill of Exelon Aviation, which operates the Dassault Falcon 2000 and 7X, is acquiring three DJI S900 quadcopters to help coordinate and speed up power restoration after damaging weather events…’When any new technology is available in flight operations, and this has been my experience in the air force and in business aviation, you can either get in front of it or get rolled over by it,’ he says.”

→ Drones for social good—“In July, Amukele worked with two UAV engineers to perform a proof-of-concept test at a site outside of Baltimore. They took 56 blood samples donated by volunteers and loaded them into a drone for flights of up to 38 minutes in length…For comparison, another 56 samples were transported by car…In the end, the drone-flown samples showed no deterioration in important characteristics like red cell counts and glucose levels, proving that drones could be a viable alternative for transporting samples…This delivery method would work for the most common lab tests, which make up about 80 percent of all lab tests conducted…To expand on this proof of concept, Amukele conducted a second phase of testing in late October to examine the effect of drone flight on live microbe samples. These are the kind used for less common (though equally important) microbe biological tests, such as those used to grow bacteria for a lung or urinary tract infection in order to determine sensitivity to specific antibiotics.”


People in Drone Nation

→ Women Of The Drone Industry: Kelly LeClair—“As a former television news reporter, Kelly knows the significance of conveying a story visually, especially through high-quality videography. So, when she made the transition into real estate with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, she knew video would play an important role in selling her Southern California properties…Kelly uses the DJI Phantom Pro 3 and GPC Phantom 3 Plus Case to show the landscape of homes on sale and provide potential buyers with context – lot size, proximity to the ocean, canyon, downtown, and neighboring houses. Drones allow her to tell the story of a property, educating potential buyers on the high-level intricacies of their future home, as well as capturing compelling birds-eye views of her listings.”




→ FAA Urged To Consider Privacy Issues In Developing Registration Program—The Electronic Privacy Information Center (“EPIC”) recently submitted comments to the FAA regarding the soon to be announced registration program for drone hobbyists.  EPIC urged the FAA to consider both privacy and safety risks in developing the regulations which will form the framework for registration of all drones in the national airspace.q1111




→ UT UAV team designs drones for research, rescue—“Ten years ago, hummingbirds inspired engineering professor Maruthi Akella and his coworkers to create drones that can move quickly and sense their surroundings…The new City of Austin Rescue Robotics team is the first city department to gain permission to use drones in the US. Currently, firefighters and paramedics have to head into dangerous situations such as wildfires, floods or abandoned buildings to quickly find victims that may or may not be alive. Drones can help first responders locate people trapped in areas with debris and low visibility…While the fastest smaller drones can go is 10 meters per second, these unmanned vehicles will move as fast as twice the speed of sound. They will have to move independently, since outside signals are often blocked by enemy forces.”




Regulatory Policy

→ CNN and Turner Broadcasting System Inc.: Technology—the CNN’s law department is recognized for its use of technical experts in positive, proactive approach to convince the FAA to allow the news organization to use drones in their reporting. Rather than express anger and frustration with the federal organization, they understood its safety mandate and defined a win/win strategy. As a consequence, CNN is in the lead of drone journalism.q1313


Technology Development and Research

→ DJI Updates Drones To Prevent Invasion Of Restricted AirspaceDJI, the world’s biggest consumer drone maker, has created an advanced ‘geofencing’ system that will not only warn users of temporary and permanent flight restrictions, but will actually prevent them flying into the zones. This is an incredibly important development given the security issues.q1414

→ Army looking for help in defending against small UAS—While not technically  civil drone news, this USAF research could identify technologies “capable of detecting UASs weighing less than 20 pounds, identifying what type they are, and then using non-kinetic methods such as radio frequency or GPS jamming to neutralize them.” The FAA clearly could use the results of this project.

→ MIT develops collision avoidance technology for small UAS—If MIT is able to provide an effective, affordable SEE AND AVOID system, many of the limitations found in Part 107 might be reconsidered (with the unfortunate delay occasioned by the slow NPRM process).q1515

→ Insitu conducts historic beyond-line-of-sight flights for BNSF—Another potential technology which will have dramatic impact on the safety premises of Part 107. Beyond-line-of-sight technology would increase the operating flexibility of Amazon, Google and even the beer-delivering drone to ice fisherman.

→ Compact Drone Wins Proto Labs’ Cool Idea! Award—Ascent AeroSystems, developers of the Sprite, a small, durable drone the size of a water bottle.q1616



Restrictions from other than the Federal Government

→ Should communities regulate drones?A thoughtful editorial exploring the why’s and why not’s for a community to enact local ordinances.

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