Archive for the ‘Drones & The FAA’ Category

Registration will be free for the first 30 days


WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today announced a streamlined and user-friendly web-based aircraft registration process for owners of small unmanned aircraft (UAS) weighing more than 0.55 pounds (250 grams) and less than 55 pounds (approx. 25 kilograms) including payloads such as on-board cameras.

The Registration Task Force delivered recommendations to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on November 21. The rule incorporates many of the task force recommendations.

“Make no mistake: unmanned aircraft enthusiast are aviators, and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Registration gives us an opportunity to work with these users to operate their unmanned aircraft safely. I’m excited to welcome these new aviators into the culture of safety and responsibility that defines American innovation.”

Registration is a statutory requirement that applies to all aircraft.  Under this rule, any owner of a small UAS who has previously operated an unmanned aircraft exclusively as a model aircraft prior to December 21, 2015, must register no later than February 19, 2016. Owners of any other UAS purchased for use as a model aircraft after December 21, 2015 must register before the first flight outdoors. Owners may use either the paper-based process or the new streamlined, web-based system.  Owners using the new streamlined web-based system must be at least 13 years old to register.

Owners may register through a web-based system at www.faa.gov/uas/registration

Registrants will need to provide their name, home address and e-mail address. Upon completion of the registration process, the web application will generate a Certificate of Aircraft Registration/Proof of Ownership that will include a unique identification number for the UAS owner, which must be marked on the aircraft.

Owners using the model aircraft for hobby or recreation will only have to register once and may use the same identification number for all of their model UAS. The registration is valid for three years.

The normal registration fee is $5, but in an effort to encourage as many people as possible to register quickly, the FAA is waiving this fee for the first 30 days (from Dec. 21, 2015 to Jan 20, 2016).

“We expect hundreds of thousands of model unmanned aircraft will be purchased this holiday season,” said FAA Administrator Huerta. “Registration gives us the opportunity to educate these new airspace users before they fly so they know the airspace rules and understand they are accountable to the public for flying responsibly.”

The online registration system does not yet support registration of small UAS used for any purpose other than hobby or recreation – for example, using an unmanned aircraft in connection with a business. The FAA is developing enhancements that will allow such online registrations by spring of 2016.

The full rule can be viewed here: www.faa.gov/news/updates/media/20151213_IFR.pdf

Source:  www.faa.gov/news/updates/media/20151213_IFR.pdfSource: http://www.faa.gov/news/press_releases/news_story.cfm?newsId=19856

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Drone deliveries in the U.S. will soon be an official, government-sanctioned activity. On July 17, the Federal Aviation Administration will allow a collaboration between NASA, Flirtey and Virginia Tech to fly unmanned aircraft to deliver pharmaceuticals to a free medical clinic in West Virginia. The fixed wing aircraft from NASA Langley and multi-rotor delivery drones from Flirtey will become the world’s first autonomous aerial delivery services.

The event organizers hope to prove that drone usage need not be nefarious or purely for enthusiasts. In fact, the goal of these drones is to bring life-saving meds to an under-served community.

“This is a Kitty Hawk moment not just for Flirtey, but for the entire industry,” said Flirtey CEO Matt Sweeny in a statement. “Proving that unmanned aircraft can deliver life-saving medicines is an important step toward a future where unmanned aircraft make routine autonomous deliveries of your every day purchases.”

The hexacopter that Flirtey uses, which is made by the University of Nevada, Reno, is made of carbon fiber and aluminum. It also sports some 3D printed components. It can range more than 10 miles from home base, and can lower cargo via tethered line. Built-in safety features, such as a low battery alert, will automatically return the craft to a safe location. In case of a low GPS signal or full communication loss, there’s also an auto-return home feature.

The drones will deliver up to 24 packages of prescription medication, weighing 10 pounds. The event is part of the Wise County Fairgrounds’ Remote Area Medical USA and Health Wagon clinic. Other than free medications, which will be flown to the Lonesome Pine Airport before being drone lifted to the fairgrounds, attendants will receive free eye, dental and other healthcare services.

Flirtey, which bills itself as the world’s first commercial drone delivery service, conducted its first tests in Sydney, Australia in 2013. It started by delivering more than 100 textbooks. It went on to offered humanitarian relief in New Zealand, during a search and rescue mission. In May, 2015, the company conducted what it calls the first drone delivery over a populated area, sending auto parts via hexacopter.

The event blurs the lines between commercial and public use of drones. For drones to be used for commercial use, a company must apply for an FAA exemption. The usage must be deemed as low risk and being performed in controlled environments. Drones can only be used without an exemption for set periods of time in set locations by public entities (government, law enforcement, universities).

Source: http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2015/06/22/first-faa-approved-drone-deliveries-coming-july-17/

Whether you call them drones or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), they’re here to stay.

Few rules yet govern the commercial use of drones, which have been banned by national parks even as Google, Facebook and Amazon draw up business plans to use the controversial devices as flying package delivery systems or wireless Internet hotspots.

The fact that the regulatory universe and its aircraft overseer, the Federal Aviation Administration, hasn’t caught up to technology or industry demand shouldn’t be surprising to anyone. No one should realistically believe that the process of passing laws or enacting regulations will ever move as quickly as innovation.

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FAA begins program to research drone expansion

 

Advances in UAS technology are dragging the FAA, sometimes reluctantly, along. At the same time, privacy laws and guidelines are well developed and will easily adapt to this new technology. Americans with privacy concerns about drone use can relax – for now.

So, where are we? The FAA has been steadily working away at the backlog of exemption requests seeking approval to operate UAS. Several hundred have been granted and, as the FAA gets better at it, the pace of approvals is picking up. To date, the FAA has approved the use of UAS for the “aerial” collection of information in cases like pipeline inspection, insurance underwriting and claims management, cell tower inspection, and agriculture. The agency has also approved drone use for movie-making on “closed sets,” where the actors and crew are in relatively close proximity to the UAS doing the filming.

But Congress is impatient. Earlier this month, Sens. John Hoeven of North Dakota and Cory Booker of New Jersey introduced legislation to effectively shortcut the regulatory process and create their own set of UAS regulations to “unlock” innovation in drone use. Some have suggested there’s a certain amount of grandstanding when Congress chooses to enact laws which prescribe standards of safety and operation for UAS.

The frustration of Congress, which in many respects reflects the frustration of industry leaders and donors, is understandable. The FAA got started way too late in the process. Regulators are years behind where they should be and are frantically trying to catch up.

The recent announcements regarding the FAA’s push in the area of UAS that fly beyond their operator’s visual line of sight is encouraging, but it’s not enough. The FAA needs more funding and resources to do the job right. What Congress ought to be doing instead of enacting operational rules for flying UAS is give the needed money to the FAA – and then step back.

The FAA is a superb organization, charged with the monumental task of insuring the safety of our airspace. And it’s a job the agency has done well. Congress should do what it does best – allocate funds – and let the regulators regulate, even if they entered the game too late and have moved too slowly.

The real concern everyone should have is air safety. The rules currently proposed by the FAA set the bar pretty low for entry into the UAS business. Moreover, at least publicly, the FAA hasn’t been very aggressive so far in its pursuit of people who choose to be in the UAS business but operate without any FAA exemption or permission.

“Whatever you choose to call them, they’re airplanes operating in the national airspace. Those who choose not to recognize that fact should be dealt with severely as this new, innovate industry takes wing.”

During the next 18 months or so, while we await the enactment of new rules, let’s hope the FAA acts in a proactive fashion, aggressively prosecuting offenders in a manner calculated to deliver a message of deterrence. This is an area where criticism of the FAA is warranted. Too many people still see UAS as toys – as recent drone use incidents at the White House should remind us. It’s time to take off the gloves and come down on offenders with an iron fist. If Congress really wants to make a contribution, they should pass a law which focuses on offenders and makes illegal UAS operation a federal criminal offense.

No one can doubt the effectiveness of the FAA and the aviation industry working together to create the safest aviation system in the world. There’s no reason why the introduction of commercial drones into that system should compromise the extraordinary level of safe operation which has been achieved.

Call them drones! Call them UAS! Whatever you choose to call them, they’re airplanes operating in the national airspace. Those who choose not to recognize that fact should be dealt with severely as this new, innovate industry takes wing.

 

Little by little, the FAA seems to be unclenching from its strict regulatory limits on commercial-drone use.

Earlier this week, the agency said it would allow three companies to push past the boundaries of restrictive drone guidelines the FAA proposed earlier this year. Specifically, the FAA will allow these companies to test commercial drones that operate beyond their operator’s direct vision and, in one case, in urban areas.

Would-be commercial drone operators—particularly Amazon and its proposed Prime Air delivery service—have long chafed at the FAA’s unwillingness to allow broader testing and use of remotely piloted copters. The FAA’s proposed rules, for instance, would force all commercial-drone operators to obtain FAA certification, limit flights to daylight hours and altitudes of less than 500 feet, and require drones to remain within their operators’ lines of sight.

See also: The FAA Finally Suggests Drone-Use Rules—And They Don’t Allow Much

Now, however, the FAA says it will allow PrecisionHawk, a North Carolina-based remote sensing and data processing company, to use drones to survey crops in rural areas beyond visual range of their operators. BNSF Railroad, meanwhile, will do something with drone inspections of its rail infrastructure, again outside operator line-of-sight.

In a separate effort, CNN will explore using drones for news gathering in populated urban areas.

“Even as we pursue our current rulemaking effort for small unmanned aircraft, we must continue to actively look for ways to expand non-recreational [unmanned aircraft systems] uses,” FAA administrator Michael Huerta said at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Unmanned Systems 2015 conference this week. “This new initiative involving three leading U.S. companies will help us anticipate and address the needs of the evolving UAS industry.”

Drone enthusiasts find the FAA’s move heartening.

“It’s a very big development,” Michael Drobac, executive director of the Small UAV Coalition, said in an interview with ReadWrite. “Based on what they had been saying, the future of commercial drone use and even continued excitement around consumer drone use looked somewhat bleak. This represents a significant pivot on their part.”

Source: http://readwrite.com/2015/05/08/faa-drone-regulation-line-of-sight

San Diego County is a hub for drone manufacturing. There are nearly a dozen companies around the county involved in the manufacturing of drones and drone parts.

Innov8tive Designs in Vista is one such company.

KPBS Evening Edition spoke to Innov8tive Designs CEO Lucien Miller about how regulations may be affecting the drone manufacturing business and various uses for drones. Drones are being considered for use in firefighting and search and rescue.

Meanwhile, Amazon is considering using drones for package deliveries.

Just this week the Federal Aviation Administration gave retail giant Amazon the green light to begin testing its air-delivery drones. The FAA issued a certificate for the company to experiment with drones for research, development and crew training.

The FAA said Thursday that under the provisions of the certificate, the flights must be conducted at 400 feet or below during daylight hours. The drone must also remain within line of sight of the pilot and observer. The person flying the aircraft, meanwhile, must have a private pilot’s certificate and current medical certificate.

Amazon must also provide monthly data to the FAA on the number of flights conducted, pilot duty time per flight, unusual hardware or software malfunctions and other information.

Amazon had asked the FAA for permission to fly drones for package deliveries last July.

Source: http://www.kpbs.org/news/2015/mar/20/san-diego-drone-manufacturer-regulations-uses/


After years of waiting, a Federal Aviation Administration official said the agency was close to releasing a ruling that would give commercial entities greater access to fly small unmanned aerial system in the domestic airspace.

The proposed ruling, which the agency has been working on over the past year, is currently being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget, Jim Williams, manager of the FAA’s UAS integration office, said on Nov. 5.

“We’re taking great strides to authorize commercial operations in the U.S., and the small unmanned aircraft systems rule that we’ve all been waiting on so long is getting really close to being done. We hope that it will be published before the end of this year,” Williams said during the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s annual program review.

Williams said he could not discuss specifics, but that the ruling “will open the door to a lot of commercial operations that aren’t authorized today.”

Under the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act, Congress mandated that the agency integrate small UAS — defined as systems less than 55 pounds — into the domestic airspace by September 2015.

Recreational drone users already enjoy flying their craft within line of sight, away from airports and under 400 feet. Commercial entities, on the other hand, are barred from flying drones until the FAA releases the much-anticipated small UAS ruling.

In late September, commercial users saw a glimmer of hope when the FAA announced it had granted six movie production companies regulatory exemptions to fly small UAS at controlled sets. Shortly after, a seventh company was exempted. Williams said the first filming would start this week.

The exemptions are permitted under section 333 of the modernization act, which gives the FAA more flexibility in allowing some commercial entities to fly small UAS safely, he said.

Williams said the agency had received 117 exemption requests as of Nov. 5, and the number increases every day. The FAA hopes to answer them within 120 days of their submission.

Many companies have expressed disappointment and frustration with the FAA because of what they perceive as delays in fulfilling its congressional mandate. AUVSI, for example, has been publicly vocal about the need for the FAA to speed up the small UAS ruling.

Eric Hudson, a senior analyst at the Government Accountability Office, said the GAO has been researching integration since 2008. While progress has been made within the FAA, more must be done. Specifically, it is imperative that the agency release the small UAS ruling.

“It’s critically important … because there continues to be additional users out in the airspace,” Hudson said. “It has kind of become a little bit out of a wild west out there. Obviously Congress isn’t interested in an accident happening, [and] the FAA’s not interested in an accident happening.”

While the Section 333 exemptions are a good step forward, the FAA must go further, he noted.

“There’s more and more requests each day for those exemptions and there’s no way those individual exemptions can keep up with demand,” Hudson said.

Despite criticism, Williams said the FAA is on its way to meeting its September 2015 deadline, though that doesn’t mean full integration will be completed.

“If you go look carefully at what the legislation actually says for the 2015 deadline, it says we have to have a comprehensive plan that describes what safe integration looks like by 2015, which we have, and we’ve got milestones along the way. We’re going to show progress by 2015 toward that safe integration, but the bottom line is Congress wanted us to be safe,” Williams said.

Last year, the FAA released a roadmap that detailed its plan for integration. Additionally, the organization in 2014 opened six UAS test sites throughout the country to research how to safely integrate the technology into the national airspace.

This is “an incremental process,” Williams said. “Yes, there are things we’ll have done by 2015 … [that] we’ll be very proud of. There’s a lot more work to be done that won’t be done by 2015 as well.”

As for when there would be full integration, Williams said he couldn’t answer that.

Source: http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=1663

The new FAA rules: http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FAA-2014-0396-0001

It’s hard to know where to even begin with the new FAA rules that could soon the law of the land when it comes to model aviation. This reminds me of when Senate Bill 71 got rolling here in Oregon – except that I immediately grasped that threat.

FAA_PQ_01For me, personally, this latest twist in the seemingly unending saga to establish a regulatory framework for civilian drone operations in the United States came with a slow-burning fuse attached. I was busy with other projects and, frankly, I didn’t take the time focus on this subject – even as e-mails with subject lines like, “This is Really BAD!” started stacking up in my inbox.

Part of it, I think, was that I could not conceive that such sweeping, draconian regulations could be put into place by the FAA on a whim. (Actually, there is a pretty good legal argument to be made that they can’t – but we don’t want to be tied up in court for years on this issue, so long as we have better options available to us).

And, make no mistake, these new rules are terrible. They would undermine everything that many of us have been working on for years. Here are some highlights:

  • FAA_PQ_02FPV is gone – a clear violation of FAA regulations;
  • All aeromodelers are held to heretofore unimagined standards within the federal aviation regulations requiring, in some instances, that they hold full-sized, manned aircraft pilots’ licenses; and,
  • Doing pretty much anything related to model aviation for pay – like reviewing a new model for a magazine or receiving a sponsorship – is forbidden.

…and I’m really just scratching the surface here. There are depths of badness within this proposal that require spelunkers more dauntless than myself to bring into the daylight – and perhaps the most galling thing about this proposal is that the FAA could have simply enacted it without allowing public comment. They have given us until July 25 to provide feedback as a “courtesy.”

(more…)

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Marking a milestone for the industry, Monrovia drone maker AeroVironment Inc. announced a contract to use an unmanned aircraft to perform routine commercial services over land in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration regulations.

The company’s small drone, called Puma AE, is now scouring BP Exploration Inc.’s Prudhoe Bay oil field in Alaska, a first under FAA authorization.

“These surveys on Alaska’s North Slope are another important step toward broader commercial use of unmanned aircraft,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “The technology is quickly changing, and the opportunities are growing.”

Since Sunday, the drone has been flying above the largest oil field in North America using high-tech sensors to create 3-D computerized models of roads, pads and pipelines for industrial applications.

The five-year contract could be a sign of things to come as drone technology becomes more advanced and demand increases from police agencies and others for using drones in the commercial world.

Melanie Hinton, spokesperson for Assn. for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the nation’s largest drone trade group, said the milestone is “an exciting moment in the integration process.”

Drones “have proven adept at safely and effectively performing aerial surveys, and can be an effective tool for the oil and gas industry,” she said. Hinton said her group believes more needs to be done to allow for such operations, with limits.

The Puma, which takes off after being thrown into the air, was designed to give troops on the ground a bird’s-eye view of what’s happening over a ridge or around a bend.

In one mission for BP, the AeroVironment drone assisted drivers moving  3.5-million-pound drill rigs on tight roadways in low visibility conditions by giving them high resolution 3-D models of the road ahead.

“This is an important achievement for our joint team and for the industry in demonstrating the safe and effective use of our proven UAS technology for commercial applications,” said AeroVironment Chief Executive Timothy E. Conver in a statement.

AeroVironment is the Pentagon’s top supplier of small drones — including the Raven, Wasp and Puma models. But the company, which makes drones in its Simi Valley facilities, has seen sales decline as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have come to a close.

Hoping for new revenue streams, AeroVironment has been waiting for the FAA to allow drones fly freely for commercial purposes here at home.

Currently, drones are not allowed to fly in the U.S. except with special permission from the FAA. As demand increases from commercial industries, though, the agency has moved to ease restrictions.

Oil and gas companies, like BP, want to utilize them to keep an eye on their pipelines. Movie makers want to use drones to film action scenes. The idea of using robotic aircraft as transport vehicles has been discussed as a way to deliver books for Amazon.com and pizza for Domino’s.

The FAA is working to meet a congressional mandate to integrate the airspace with robotic aircraft by September 2015.

However, the prospect of thousands of unmanned aircraft flying around U.S. airspace in populated areas beginning at that time appears unlikely. The FAA has said that remotely piloted aircraft aren’t allowed in national airspace on a wide scale because they don’t have an adequate “detect, sense and avoid” technology to prevent midair collisions.

Last summer, the FAA gave away two first-of-its-kind certificates that permitted operators to fly drones for commercial purposes. However, they were in remote areas over water.

The oil field at Prudhoe Bay is in the northernmost part of Alaska, near the Beaufort Sea. There, AeroVironment’s Puma, which has a wingspan of about 9 feet, flies at 200 to 400 feet above ground level for up to 3.5 hours at a time.

“This technology will help BP optimize the planning and implementation of maintenance programs for the North Slope infrastructure throughout Prudhoe Bay,” said Dawn Patience, a BP spokeswoman. “Targeting maintenance activities on specific road areas will save time, and address safety and reliability.”

Source: http://www.latimes.com/business/aerospace/la-fi-faa-bp-drone-20140609-story.html

 

North Dakota will soon get a glimpse of a future where farmers can monitor their crops using small, flying drones. That’s because the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has given the state the go-ahead to start using its unmanned aerial systems (UAS) test site. It’s the first one to become operation among the six commercial UAS testing program sites chosen by Congress in 2013. The state’s Department of Commerce will hold two rounds of flight tests using Draganflyer X4ES drones not only to monitor crops, but also to test soil quality. These are relatively small, helicopter-like machines, which measure 36.25 inches in length and width and are equipped with Sony cameras.

While the mission’s main goal is to prove that drones can be used for those aforementioned farming tasks, authorities will also be collecting safety data from the flights.

According to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta:

These data will lay the groundwork for reducing risks and ensuring continued safe operations of UAS. We believe the test site programs will be extremely valuable to integrating unmanned aircraft and fostering America’s leadership in advancing this technology.

In other words, missions conducted in the six test sites will determine the future of UAS in the country and perhaps even to make the public realize that not all drones are harbingers of doom. The Draganflyer X4ES drones will take to the skies on the week of May 5th at North Dakota State University’s Carrington Research Extension Center and then again at Sullys Hill National Game Preserve this summer. But, as the permit to operate the site is good for two years, the drone will likely roam more Peace Garden state fields in the future.

Source: (Thanks Kevin!) http://www.engadget.com/2014/04/21/drone-test-site-north-dakota

Unmanned drones, which may look like the one above, are being tested in six parts of the United States. If successful, the aircraft could be utilized by the likes of Amazon to transport goods.
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WASHINGTON — New York was among six states selected Monday to develop sites to test drones, a decision that likely will bring the unmanned aircraft to New York’s skies and badly needed jobs to upstate.

The New York site will be at Griffiss International Airport, a former Air Force base in upstate Rome. Aerospace firms and universities in New York and Massachusetts will be involved in the research.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s selection of the test sites represents a big step toward the commercial use of drones by businesses, farmers and researchers.

Congress members lobbied to bring the work to their states. One study claims that Monday’s designation could could bring 2,700 jobs to New York and Massachusetts, boosting local economies.

In addition to New York, Alaska, Nevada, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia were chosen after a 10-month selection process during which the agency sifted through 25 proposals submitted from 24 states.

RELATED: COMMERCIAL DRONE INVASION MAY NOT BE FAR OFF

Six sites seen on the map above will be test sites for commercial use of unmanned drones.

Six sites seen on the map above will be test sites for commercial use of unmanned drones.

The FAA said the six finalists were picked after the agency considered “ground infrastructure, research needs, airspace use, safety, aviation experience and risk.”

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicle, are used primarily for military purposes but in 2013 the FAA began issuing licenses for commercial use of the aircraft units on a case-by-case basis.

Consumers were appalled in December when Amazon revealed it was testing how it could use drones to deliver packages as part of its Amazon Prime Air service.

RELATED: AMAZON TESTING DRONES TO DELIVER PACKAGES

“It looks like science fiction, but it’s real,” the company said, adding that Amazon was “ready to enter commercial operations as soon as the necessary regulations are in place.”

The expansion of drones has not come without protest, though. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) famously launched a 12-hour filibuster in March to raise attention to how drones could violate the Fifth Amendment right to due process if the government used a drone to attack an American on U.S. soil.

In announcing the testing sites, the FAA tried to offer assurances to the public of its commitment to “ensuring that privacy and civil liberties are protected at the test sites.”

“Test site operators must comply with federal, state, and other laws protecting an individual’s right to privacy, have publicly available privacy policies and a written plan for data use and retention, and conduct an annual review of privacy practices that allows for public comment,” the FAA said in a statement.

Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/6-states-chosen-drone-test-sites-article-1.1561480

On August 7th, 2013, Innov8tive Designs founder, Lucien Miller and ROV Systems CEO, Keith McLellan spoke at the Reuben H Fleet Science Center on behalf of The Center For Ethics In Science and Technology. They discussed the ethics and benefits of UAV’s in a commercial market.

Photos of the speech:

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