Drone Digest: Weekly Compilation on the The Latest & Most Important Stories

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This is the 7th edition of a weekly feature of the JDA Journal. Expect to see this compilation of stories about drones on Fridays, assuming that there is enough interesting content about UASs every seven days (a pretty safe bet).


As noted in a recent post here, the proposed DoT/FAA requirement that all but a few drones will be registered and assigned a discrete number. Here are a couple of interesting stories:

→ Breaking: DOT accepting public comments on UAS registration requirements— “In a surprise move, DOT just posted a document, Clarification of the Applicability of Aircraft Registration Requirements for UAS and Request for Information Regarding Electronic Registration for UAS, to the Federal Register for public comment. In the clarification and request for information, DOT is soliciting recommendations on all aspects of the UAS registration process, including which UAS should be exempt from the registration requirement. The clarification and request for information requests that comments be received within 15 days after the official date of publication in the Federal Register, although the comment period reportedly will remain open for the near future.”

→ The Link where comments should be submitted

→ Advice to AMA— having your Members submit X,000 individual comments is NOT a good tactic. The FAA does not count the number of documents received as a decisional factor in their NPRM process. They DO ASSIGN VALUE to well-written, thoughtful comments from a submitter whose technical knowledge is highly regarded. AMA qualifies as such an entity. One carefully crafted, something like this, will command considerable attention by the staff assigned to review the docket. NB- the FAA, by the Administrative Procedure Act, MUST read every document submitted in response to an NPRM; some poor staff persons are probably still sifting through the plethora of AMA ”fill in the blanks” comments submitted in response to the Part 107 proposal.

→ Raleigh company to help in US drone registration process— PrecisionHawk, a drone manufacturer, soon after the DoT press conference on UAS registration, announced that it is one of the members on the task force charged with setting up the process for users to register their drones. Evidently the company’s status, as a manufacturer which signed Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration to advance the research around unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) across rural area, placed it on the committee.

Enforcement Issues

uas3 Plane nearly missed a drone or so a complaint by a UAS operator claims here.

→ Security guard is first to be prosecuted for dangerous drone camera flights— the UK fined £1,800 ($2770.84) for flying drones over Premier League football stadiums and the Palace of Westminster and near Buckingham Palace. Security guard Nigel Wilson, 42, showed “flagrant disregard” for people’s safety as he shot videos to upload to his YouTube channel using three unmanned aircraft, Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard.

→ SkyPan Responds to FAA Fine— this company against which the FAA filed a $1.9 civil penalty letter, as responded. Its website shows the text (all of it?) of the answer.

  • In seven long paragraphs, it never directly refutes the FAA allegations, that “it conducted 65 unauthorized operations in some of our most congested airspace and heavily populated cities, violating airspace regulations and various operating rules, the FAA alleges. These operations were illegal and not without risk.”
  • Here is the company’s novel legal position: “SkyPan operates only in privately owned air space over the private property of its clients. Never flying over people or public spaces.”
  • Almost 100% of the argument is phrased in AUVSI-like economics assertions; the FAA does not see that private revenues or customer value matters.
  • SkyPan fails to note that the new FAA Compliance Philosophy and that the focus now is demonstrating that having been found not to be in compliance, the FAA wants to hear how, IN THE FUTURE, the company will assure that this type of event will reoccur.
  • Part 107 will someday become final and all commercial UAS operators will have to apply for a certificate from the FAA. In reviewing an application for that permanent authority, the FAA can make a determination whether the company will be able to comply voluntarily. The history of 65 unauthorized flights and then a response to the Civil Penalty letter without any recognition to change would easily justify denial of the Part 107 authority, unless in the § 333 process somehow dealt with the past transgressions and a Part 107 ticket.

Bad actors make bad law— Ozark couple finds drone peeping in window. It’s a privacy issue, but drone pilots who act irresponsibly are doing the industry no favors.

UAS and Universities

→ Kansas State University Salina and Westar Energy Build One of the Largest Enclosed Flight Facilities for UAS in the Nation new UAS Pavilion → indoors does not = airspace.

→ UW-Madison putting closer eye on use of drones on campus— “that the UW is very likely to pull the drone policy and simply prohibit any drone use on campus (including the Arb) due to serious concerns about liability and federal aviation law.”

Technology Developments

→ u44→ Sense and Avoid for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles CMU is using the following technologies to design an SandA system:

  1. Vision based aircraft detection
  2. Collision Avoidance
  3. Path Planning
  4. Autonomous Flight Control
  5. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

u33→ UK Conducts First Large Drone Flight in Unrestricted Airspace— “What we set out to prove is that it is possible to safely integrate and control a UAS in non-segregated airspace with conventional aircraft,” said Simon Hocquard, NATS operations strategy director. “Once you do that, you open up enormous potential future opportunities for unmanned flight that go well beyond the kind of lightweight UAS that we’re all familiar with.”

→ FAA tests technology to counter rogue drones CACI and the FAA are testing antidrone technology that would counter rogue drones flying within a five-mile radius of select airports. The technology is supposed to detect radio signals from rogue drones operating too close to airports.

→ Latest innovations in the World of Drones!— four new entries into the UAS marketplace.

→ ProDrone Launches Industry’s Most Powerful and Portable Consumer Drone at PhotoPlus 2015u22→ Top 5 Creative Drone Uses of the Week— favorite: This Beautiful Floating Light Timelapse.

→ Top 5 Practical Applications for Drones of the Week favorite—chasing down criminals

→ The future is now: Five applications of UAV technology favorite—creates 3D model of Christ the Redeemeru11

Market Forecast

→ Small UAV Market Forecast 2020 in Aerospace & Defense The global SUAV is expected to register growth with CAGR of 12.31%, and reach $1.9 billion by the end of 2020. Increase in civil and military applications remains the driving factors for the global small UAV market.

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