Drone News: Much Ado About Something!!!

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The release of the FAA sUAS NPRM has generated a lot of relevant information. Here’s a sampling on some of the pertinent news:

A. The NPRM has been published. The proposal was announced on a Sunday morning press conference by Secretary Foxx and Administrator Huerta on February 15. The text was released simultaneously, but the Federal Register notice, which is the technical start to the process, was not published until February 23, 2015. That’s very unusual. Under the procedures set, the public has until April 24, 2015 to comment. Here’s where comments may be submitted on regulations. gov.

i. Based on considerable experience, flooding the docket with thousands of comments really does not improve the FAA’s review. Submissions by individuals do not receive great credibility from the staff reading comments; they do not know what that person’s technical or operational expertise is.

ii. In contrast, the FAA knows trade associations involved in aviation. AUVSI and others have demonstrated their understanding of the operations; the FAA listens to them.

iii. SUGGESTION: if you have some ideas which you believe will contribute to the quality of Part 107, contact an aviation association and ask it to include your ideas. The likelihood that the FAA will adopt submissions from known stakeholders is much higher than a single sUAS owner.

B. Thoughtful Discussion– the internet is filled with opinions, some articulate and others not that useful. This interview on BloombergBusiness provides some very useful insights. The most impressive observation made by Skycatch CEO Christian Sanz is his recognition that the NPRM is a first step and WILL EVOLVE. Wise counsel.

C. UAS test site attracts business—the competition for the FAA designation signified the economic development benefits of the test site selection. North Dakota requested and received from the FAA an expansion of the airspace in which UAS may fly under the tutelage of the North Plains Test Site. This story about a Florida UAS coming moving to the North demonstrates how powerful the§ 333 authority and the added test space have served as a magnet.

D. More § 333 Exemptions—the FAA announced that it has recently granted more authorities for commercial operators to fly sUAS vehicles. That’s 33 entities which now may operate their sUAS and that experience will aid the FAA in issuing its final rules for sUAS’s. For example, one of the exemptions user permits the user to fly over houses to examine damage. How can a sUAS flying to examine roofs without being above people uninvolved in the operations?

E. Probably not a wise example to be publicized–Raphael “Trappy” Pirker is a notorious name in the UAS world.

i. He was the first operator against whom the FAA sought enforcement action. Depending on your perspective, the GoPro® video was either “totally awesome” or a textbook example of a § 91.9 violation.

ii. The linked GIGAGOM piece describes “Trappy” flying a sUAS using his First Person View to fly the vehicle. “Trappy” is in the business of “develop[ing]s and sell[ing]s drones from Hong Kong, travel[ing]s the world shooting familiar sites from new perspectives”[to quote the author].

iii. As such, Mr. Pirker was arguably operating a commercial sUAS with relying on something more than eyesight. The video, which is included in the article, begins with information which a prospective buyer of Mr. Pirker’s products and service might like to buy.

iv. Further the Marago, CA race appears to be in less than full VFR status.

v. Aside from the potential FAR violations, Mr. Pirker’s Team Black Sheep promotes a style of UAS flying which the thousands of young, true amateurs may imitate. His style is thrilling but lacking the proper level of safety for a sUAS role model. It is quite possible that if someone flies a UAS with an FPV (which looks forward) may collide with a trailing aircraft leading to a terrible accident.

The initial success or failure of UAS will be enhanced by safe operation of these innovative vehicles. Most of the above news is pointed in that direction. The last example is, at best, disappointing.

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