Reactions to the Proposed UAS Rules

The big news in New England is the relentless snow pummeling the area.  We’ve been more fortunate than Boston, but it is a lot.  I haven’t found any videos of a snow-blanketed Boston taken with a UAS (guess that isn’t the first priority), but did find this one from Kitimat, British Columbia.

In the meantime, there has been a lot of news on public reaction to the NPRM.  Senator John Hoeven from North Dakota stated that the bill was a start, but that more needs to be done for businesses to be able to incorporate UAS into their operations.  If you recall, North Dakota and its test site has been pushing forward with R&D and are clearly interested in expanded the use of UAS.

Amazon was also less than impressed.  I’ve talked previously about its Amazon Prime Air.  They stated that the proposed rules would not allow it to operate Amazon Prime Air as envisioned.  They mentioned some reasons, and I have considered others as well:

  • Line of sight requirements.  Clearly Amazon does not want to have the operator remain in the line of sight of the drone – that would defeat the purpose
  • One operator per drone.  While “swarming” technology is still in its infancy, Puy de Fou and Timbre appear to be having success and the military is actively researching advanced swarming capabilities.
  • No operations overhead of people – this clearly would not work with a national package distribution plan.
  • They are also concerned that the rules will limit the ability of a drone to carry a payload.

The proposed rules are clearly a step forward, but also leave work to be done.  There is a comment period and I’m looking forward to seeing the comments come in.

On a related note, General Atomics announced that it had a successful test flight of a Predator B equipped with a prototype “Due Regard Radar” (“DRR”) system.  Frank W. Pace, president, Aircraft Systems Group, GA-ASI stated that “the prototype Due Regard Radar is a critical component of GA-ASI’s Sense and Avoid system, facilitating collision avoidance onboard the aircraft andallowing the pilot to separate the RPA from other air traffic in cooperation with Air Traffic Control [ATC].”

We have heard about how the FAA is concerned about Sense and Avoid as it applies to UAS.  General Atomics intends to adapt the prototype to work within the National Airspace System and to help define regulations.  While GA is known for its military UAS, we’ve seen military technology trickle down to civilian use many times (think GPS!).  Once this technology matures, the FAA will hopefuly open up beyond line of sight operation for domestic UAS – at least in limited applications.  I have to assume Amazon also has similar technology in the works for its fleet of Amazon Prime Air drones.

I’ll finish up with a brief thought.  Why do the rules matter, beyond the use of UAS domestically?  Our strict ITAR controls limited our space program and we saw other countries take over.  This article notes the countries with the 5 most deadly drone programs.  The United States is first and Israel is second; but China, Iran, and Russia follow – countries that we can’t necessarily call the best of friends.  We should be out front defining the industry.  If we limit R&D and commercial use domestically, UAS development will head overseas and we will lose our edge.

– Duke of Drones

FAA announced proposed UAS Rule

Yesterday, Professor Gregory McNeal of Pepperdine University wrote about a document that was leaked on the web.  It is entitled “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Regulatory Evaluation” and is an economic analysis of a proposed rule 14 CFR Part 107.  The drone world was abuzz about this, since it provided a lot of insight into the proposed rule.  I began analyzing it myself but as I was doing that I received an email about a press conference to release the proposed rule today (Sunday Feb 15) at 10:00 am.  The press conference was by phone and I could not get through since the lines were full, but some information has been released.  I won’t comment on the irony found in the FAA using a conference call line to propose rules for cutting edge technology.

Note that these are PROPOSED rules.  That means they do not have the force of law and the current regime is still in force.  That means that anyone, including you, can comment on them through the normal rule making process!

These rules are directed at UAS under 55 lbs, but the NPRM indicates a desire to have even more permissive rules for mUAS (micro UAS under 4 lbs).  The FAA has not actually proposed rules, but will review comments and decide where to go from there.  Make your voice heard if you have an opinion.

Thank you to Professor McNeal for writing his article and forcing the FAA into action – especially on a Sunday!

nanocpters

The proposed rule can be found here, a summary document here.  The Press Release is down below along with excerpts from the cost evaluation.

Summary of the proposed rule:

  • Unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 55 lbs. (25 kg)
  • Visual line-of-sight (VLOS) and daylight only (First-person view (“FPV”) camera cannot satisfy “see-and-avoid” requirement but can be used if VLOS is satisfied)
  • Small unmanned aircraft may not operate over any persons not directly involved in the operation
  • May use visual observer (VO) but not required
  • Maximum airspeed of 100 mph (87 knots)
  • Maximum altitude of 500 feet above ground level
  • Minimum weather visibility of 3 miles from control station
  • Operations in Class G airspace are allowed without ATC permission – operations in Class B, C, D and E airspace are allowed with the required ATC permission
  • No person may act as an operator or VO for more than one unmanned aircraft operation at one tim
  • No careless or reckless operations
  • Requires preflight inspection by the operator

The proposed rule sets forth certification requirements for operators and aircraft:

  • Pilots of a small UAS would be considered “operators” (not “PIC”)
  • Operators would be required to:
    • Pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center (and re-test every 24 months) – most knowledge required for the test is contained in the Aeronautical Information Manual
    • Be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration
    • Obtain an unmanned aircraft operator certificate with a small UAS rating (like existing pilot airman certificates, never expires)
  • FAA airworthiness certification not required
    • Operator must maintain a small UAS in condition for safe operation and prior to flight must inspect the UAS to ensure that it is in a condition for safe operation
    • Aircraft Registration required (same requirements that apply to all other aircraft)
  • Aircraft markings required
    • Same requirements that apply to all other aircraft
    • If aircraft is too small to display markings in standard size, then the aircraft simply needs to display markings in the largest practicable manner

Proposed rule would not apply to model aircraft that satisfy all of the criteria specified in Section 336 of Public Law 112-95 – Hobbyists can still fly under the Model Aircraft Rules

The rule proposes, but does not delineate a microUAS option that would allow operations in Class G airspace, over people not involved in the operation, provided the operator certifies he or she has the requisite aeronautical knowledge to perform the operation.

– Duke of Drones

Fin the raw data at the new “NRPM Central” Page

Happy Valentine’s Day

Cupidrone-20150211040646500I’m sure most of you have other thoughts on your mind rather than UAS, so this will be brief.  From Marketing Magazine in the UK:  an ad agency developed “cupidrone” to promote the Flower Council of Holland – which is deceptively based in the UK.  A red drone was enlisted to drop roses on young couples in Verona, Italy, which was recorded and put up on the internet.

Given that I and over 150,000 others have watched the video, I’d say it was a successful, low cost campaign!  Enjoy and Happy Valentine’s Day!

– Duke of Drones

Profile: Burnz Eye View

First some housekeeping – as my blog expands, it is no longer truly just a blog about aerial photography and, as such, I have moved it to a new domain.  As of now, I’m still working on the presentation and have not decided whether it will remain titled “Droning On” or if its name will change.  The content is still coming strong, though.  So, please update your bookmarks.

I’ve also added a MailChimp mailing list to the right hand column, so please sign up.  I won’t inundate you, and I’m thinking I’ll do a weekly email with a short summary of the week’s stories.  I had never hear about MailChimp until I heard their ad on the Serial podcast.  If you are looking to add your own mailing list, it is easy! This aspect of the blog is still a work in progress, so bear with me!

So what is with the name “Duke of Drones?”  Well, for starters www.droningon.com wasn’t available. I then attempted to be creative and came up dry, but I just finished a book about the Plantagenets who ruled England in the 11th-14th centuries and loved creating Dukedoms for various relations.  I will note that being a Duke was not necessarily conducive to a long life in Plantagenet England, but I hope that has changed.  Separately I have always enjoyed the song “Duke of Earl.”  I thought I’d self-crown myself – but designating myself the King seemed a bit presumptuous (more importantly, www.kingofdrones.com was unavailable).  So welcome to my Dukedom, or Duchy if you prefer, where I share stories about drones/UAV/UAS with the world.

Burnz Eye View

I’ve generally stopped reporting on the specific details of 333 exemptions since they’re coming a bit quicker and have become somewhat formulaic.  However, one caught my eye – Burnz Eye View.  Burnz Eye View is a company based in San Diego that creates videos for use in real estate sales.  They requested a 333 exemption in order to use UAS to film real estate from the air so brokers can include that in their marketing materials.

The owner, Mark Burns, was recently profiled in UAS Magazine.  He is a former Marine with experience in aerial photography and hopes to expand his business nationally.  As a vet myself I am more than happy to help promote other vets and their businesses!  I also think using aerial photography for real estate sales is a fantastic idea.  I haven’t used aerial photos before, but I can say that pictures make a big difference in real estate.  I always have taken my own and given them to the agent.  Sometimes the agents are well-intentioned but don’t have the photographic equipment that I do so we’ve gone through together and used my camera.  Others have failed to recognize the importance of photos, so I took the initiative myself.  However, getting a picture from above to truly understand the property is wonderful.

Example aerial images – © Burnz Eye View – used under §107 Fair Use for reporting

From my review of the exemption, they are authorized to use a DJI Phantom 2 to record aerial video of real estate.  They have guaranteed that their pilots will have at least 100 hours of flight time prior to operating under the exemption and that each will have a private pilot certificate and a third-class airman medical certificate.  They will also have a visual observer present during flight.  The exemption is not limited geographically either, good news for Burnz Eye View.

However, as with other 333 exemptions, operation within 500 feet of people, buildings, or vessels is prohibited unless the people are under cover and owners of property have granted their permission.  This will be tough when it comes to real estate, especially given recent public opinion on UAS, but since the company’s videos are geared toward luxury real estate there might be sufficient land to accommodate this requirement.  There are a number of maintenance, training, weather, reporting, and administrative requirements as well that I will not go into.  Operations are under VFR rules during the day, and they must still obtain a COA from the local Air Traffic Control tower before flight.

I’ll finish with an interesting video that was on their website.  It is long but interesting.

Altura and News Round-up

Today I am not going to focus on anything in particular but address a number of stories that caught my interest.

A company based in the Netherlands called Aerialtronics recently had one of its UAS participate in Avalanche Search and Rescue in the “angry” Norwegian winter.  The UAS is the Altura Zenith, a smaller UAS that is designed to handle winds up to 14 m/s, a payload of 3 kg, and moderate weather.  This isn’t necessarily the UAS one would think is best suited for rough winter conditions, but the team was well-trained and braved white-out conditions to accomplish the testing.

Taken by  Knut Torbjørn Moe, Special Projects Manager at Aerialtronics
Taken by Knut Torbjørn Moe, Special Projects Manager at Aerialtronics

I wanted to start on a light note, before getting to some of the less positive domestic legislative news.  The media has been highlighting negative UAS stories and what one author describes as “paranoia.”  This is why I try to write daily about at least one company or group that is using UAS in a positive way.  It is interesting how there has been a surge in negative stories and perceptions are changing noticeably – but many of the fears are not based in science or reality.

William Jelani Cobb, a professor at nearby UCONN, wrote “What Our Paranoia About Drones Says About Us” in the New York Times Magazine.  It is an interesting read, and here is what I consider the pull quote: “We increasingly glance at one another through a veil of suspicion, doubt and fear….Yet our privacy is far more vulnerable in the face of surreptitious phone photography or recording than it is to a noisy conspicuous device hovering in plain sight. The problem is not technology. It is, as it always was, us.”  He is dead on here.  Let’s be honest, few of us have lives as exciting or bodies so interesting as to warrant a stranger peeking into our private lives.  And if they were, recall how loud a UAV is – it’s not the ideal way to spy on someone.

Back to the “paranoia.” Two states are considering bills that are antagonistic to civil UAS use.  Washington is considering a bill that would add a year of jail time to sentences for crimes that are committed with a UAS.  I’m not sure why selling your drugs or the like is worse when you use a drone, but we’ll see what the state does.

While I personally consider Washington’s proposed law a bad idea, at least it is squarely within the state’s police powers.  That contrasts with Oklahoma’s proposed bill, which would provide civil immunity to one who shoots down a UAS over their property.  What Oklahoma cannot do, however, is immunize the shooter from federal prosecution under 18 USC §32 for destruction of aircraft, something I have discussed multiple times in previous posts.

Add to this California’s proposed bill SB 142.  It would ban UAS users from trespassing in airspace below what has been defined by the FAA as “navigable.”  Media outlets are already reporting that this means users of UAS cannot fly below 400 feet since navigable airspace is defined as something higher.  Again, I think this will just cause confusion.  I’m working on an article that discusses the history of navigable airspace.  The 400 foot height limit is just a guideline, not a law or regulation – furthermore, it would seem to imply that the FAA has designated anything below 400 feet as navigable for hobby UAS in certain circumstances.  Finally, the courts have spend decades defining navigable airspace for manned aircraft, and navigable airspace can include any altitude required for take-off or landing.  This is a very brief overview, and I hope to write more on this topic in the future.  In the meantime, these proposed state laws are only causing more confusion.

On the other hand, the Wyoming Senate has rejected a bill that would limit police use of UAS without a search warrant.  Last weekend I wrote that the public feels more comfortable with police use of UAS than with private use.  I think we need to balance both and both have advantages – and disadvantages.  I worry that if we put UAS just in the hands of the government and prohibit civil use, then we risk heading toward one of those dystopia’s described in recent books and movies; at least in that the government will have the means to watch us at all times.

However, the FAA did release some good news.  They have approved two COAs for the Northern Plains Test Site in North Dakota, and expects to approve two more – opening up almost 2/3 of the state to test flights.  This doesn’t allow commercial operations, just flights in conjunction with the test site, but still progress.  Hopefully this will speed up and encourage the use of the sites for R&D to integrate UAS into the national airspace.

On a lighter note, the Netherlands is planing the first “Drone Show,” called Air.  What it is is yet to be seen, but the trailer is pretty cool.  Yahoo reports that it is being put on in conjunction with the Royal Dutch Air Force.

 

And to finish up, a restaurant called Timbre in Singapore is testing using drones to help delivery food at their restaurants.  Don’t worry, you’ll still have a real waiter.  The drones will deliver your food to a location near the wait staff, and they will still give it to you after personally taking your order.

Singapore-restaurant-shows-off-autonomous-drone-waiters-01

The restaurant says it spend over $1,000,000 for this project, which includes using Infinium Robotics UAV at its five restaurant locations.  The FAA does not regulate indoors so American restaurants could do such a thing, but they are probably skittish after the Mistletoe Drone incident at TGI Fridays last Christmas.

Naval Firefighting Drones

While there is a great debate about the use of UAS for personal and law enforcement purposes, I hope one area most people can agree on is that they are well-suited for firefighting purposes.  I recently wrote about Indago, which was developed in the U.S. and which has been used successfully in Australia and the recent Drones for Good competition winner was Flyability’s Gimball, which could also be well-suited for firefighting work.

Carnegie Mellon has announced that they successfully tested a UAS as part of a Navy research program.  Carnegie Mellon is working through its Robotics Institute and a spin-off company called Sensible Machines. This is part of a Navy Research Lab sponsored program called Damage Control for the 21st Century, which has had some recent success.  Separately they reported that the The Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot (SAFFiR), a 140 pound non-aerial robot that is designed to fight fires, has been tested successfully.
Both were part of tests at the former USS SHADWELL, a former WWII landing craft, in Mobile, Alabama. The UAS is small by design – something anyone who has been on board a Navy ship can appreciate.  The UAS has an RGB-D depth camera and a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) camera to detect people potentially trapped and to monitor the fire itself.  The project had the UAS relay instructions to the SAFFiR, but I can envision it being used by human firefighters as well.  The ideas behind the Gimball could also be incorporated, although one has to take into account the ability of the material to withstand high heat.

I mentioned previously that I was part of the investigation into the fire onboard USS MIAMI.  I pulled the publicly released version of the report, which walks through a timeline of the events.  I’ll still to the relevant portions of the report as released so as to not release any sensitive information.  However, if you read starting around paragraph 140, you’ll see that it was difficult for the firefighters to find the fire and also to navigate through the dark, narrow, and smoke-filled passageways.  There was initial confusion as to the location of the fire since it was impossible to track it to its source.
USS MIAMI - May 23, 2012
USS MIAMI – Portsmouth Naval Shipyard – May 23, 2012
I was not involved in the firefighting itself on MIAMI, but by all accounts it was as if you were blind.  I recall my shipboard firefighting training, and being enclosed in what is essentially a small metal box makes the fire seem that more daunting.
Thankfully no one died or was seriously injured in that fire, but that has not always been the case.  The aircraft carrier USS FORRESTAL was consumed by a serious fire in 1967 while on station off of Vietnam in 1967.  Over 100 sailors were killed in that fire.  I met many dedicated firefighters during that investigation, but there is no doubt that firefighting, and particularly shipboard firefighting, is hazardous.  The use of UAS and other robots to fight fire, particularly shipboard fires, is a great use of research efforts.  Should another fire occur, they will hopefully be able to limit its extent and protect human life.

“Safe Skies for Unmanned Aircraft Act of 2015” | Who Owns Air?

Senator Lisa Murkowski and Congressman Don Young, both representing Alaska, have introduced the “Safe Skies for Unmanned Aircraft Act of 2015”  This is bipartisan legislation designed to push the FAA toward passing regulations for the use of UAS and to encourage R&D in the field.  In Alaska, UAS are a seen as a great opportunity – it was a big topic at the recent Arctic Encounter Symposium.  If you’ve been fortunate enough to visit Alaska (I haven’t been but would love to) or watched Ice Road Truckers, you know that Alaska is big and there are settlements separated from larger municipalities by vast stretches of treacherous terrain.

Alaska sees great opportunity for unmanned vehicles to help bridge those distances –  deliveries, law enforcement, and fire management to name a few.  Furthermore, the Coast Guard is testing UAS for various Arctic-related purposes such as monitoring oil spills (it is an AeroVironment Puma).

The bill is also aimed at addressing (1) the lack of funding for the test sites, something that has been discussed elsewhere and (2) the Wild West nature of hobby and small commercial UAS use caused by the FAA’s lack of guidance.

The bill’s sponsors used the Superbowl as an example, where a “No Drone Zone” was created that was significantly larger than that is place for normal professional sporting events and, at 2800 square miles (30 mile radius), larger than the state of Delaware.  The FAA released a short PSA, shown above.

No Drone Zone
Superbowl “No Drone Zone”

It is undoubtedly creating confusion.  There is a new website that is allowing people to sign up their property as a “No Fly Zone.”  I understand this to be a development of a few drone manufacturers, and they will use it to preprogram their UAS not to fly over those properties.  However, I do not endorse it and think it will only add to the confusion.  I fear people will think this has some legal effect, but it has none.  It also does just justify taking action against a drone – something that can subject the person to severe criminal penalties.

I am working on an article for another publication that is going to address the case law regarding ownership of airspace.  An episode of Planet Money came to my attention and it is partly right, but partly wrong too.  They state that the Supreme Court in United States v. Causby determined that one owns the air above his house up to 83 feet and that the FAA regulates airspace over 500 feet – creating a “no man’s zone” from 83-500 feet.  This is an overly simplistic analysis that took decades to clear up and pages for me to explain.  In the end, it isn’t that simple.  A UAS might be trespassing over a property – but the altitude at which a landowner has a claim is an open question that courts will have to decide.  Furthermore, the altitudes at which the FAA can regulate airspace is not that simplistic either.

The bill is not posted on Congress’ website yet, but I hope to get my hands on a copy of it soon.  I’ll review it and let you know my thoughts.

 

Anti-Poaching and Agriculture Drones

Anti-poaching 

Today’s post comes courtesy of my wonderful wife, a lover of animals. Thomas Snitch, a Visiting Professor in Advanced Computer Studies at University of Maryland and CEO of GeoQuera wrote about his work in analyzing data to combat poaching in Africa.  I have linked to his article, which is in the creative commons, but please check it out for his full report.

image-20150126-24535-w9gg8z

Amazingly, three rhinos are killed every day and one elephant every 15 minutes; with rhino horns fetching up to $500,000 and elephant tusks up to $125,000!  That is amazing for animals that are protected.  The former are being killed for the supposed medicinal properties of their horns and that latter for their renowned ivory. He is developing analytic models that incorporate a swath of data (including satellite imagery, animal ankle trackers, and even moon data).  However, UAS have revolutionized his modeling capabilities for park rangers that can effectively employ the data.

image-20150126-24531-17okr76

His goal is to use the data to determine the location of the animals, and then that can be used to target the UAS on the animals.  Sure you might miss some poachers, but the only ones that matter are the ones near the animals.  This again illustrates why UAS is the best term – the aircraft is only a small part of the overall system designed to track down poachers!

The result: where they’ve used his analytics and launched UAS, poaching has decreased dramatically.  In one instance, they went from losing a few rhinos per week to zero in 90 days!

Mr. Snitch is not the only one working to use UAS to combat poaching.  Airware, a UAS company in San Francisco, is working with the 90,000 acre Ol Pejeta Conservancy.  The Kenyan Wildlife Service supported the testing, which also incorporates ground-based analytical technology.

Acacia tree at sunrise with Mount Kenya in the  background. Ol Pejeta Wildlife Conservancy.Kenya
Ol Pejeta Conservancy with Mount Kenya in the background

South Africa’s Kruger National Park is a hot spot for legal wildlife tourism, but is heavily poached as well so the country has multiple reasons to combat poaching.  However, they note that the size of the preserves means that the typical Phantom will not suffice given its short range and higher-endurance aircraft cost over $50K.  Furthermore, any system that has the range for an African wildlife preserve is going to be strictly controlled by US export law.

Lion
Kruger National Park

Agriculture

In the US, UAS are expected to help with agriculture rather than game preserves.  We fortunately don’t have the extreme poaching problems as they do in Africa, but we have lots of farmland that feeds us.  A company called Empire Unmanned, based in Idaho and run by a retired Air Force UAS pilot, is hoping to enter the fray.

They are planning to work with potato growers in Idaho, cattle ranchers in Montana, and wineries in the Northwest.   They won’t be selling their product directly to landowners until they can be used legally by them but hope to be out by the beginning of March for planting season.  They have contracted with farmers working on  up to 14,000 acres of land and will use the UAS to detect problem crops and even to use thermal imaging to detect sick cows!

They seem to have done everything right – they have $2M in liability coverage and the article states that they are waiting on a “Certificate of Authorization” from the FAA to fly.  The aircraft, the eBee, was the subject of a separate 333 Exemption to Advanced Aviation.  It appears that Advanced Aviation has teamed up with Empire Aerospace to form Empire Unmanned, and presumably operate under the 333 exemption.

Hunting Regulatory Update

Also in the US, UAS are being outlawed in some states for hunting.  This issue is a very different issue, but it has joined both conservationists and hunters.  Many hunters believe that the use of drones disturbs the balanced playing field established by state gaming regulations and is not ethical.  Alaska did so last year.  Montana and Colorado did so as well and Idaho and Wisconsin believe current gaming regulations prohibiting use of aircraft in gaming apply to UAS.  Other states in which hunting is common have petition or proposed laws as well.

The following video has been referenced by Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, which has lobbied states to ban the use of UAS in hunting.  They agree that the use of UAS is not ethical.  I do not understand what is being spoken in the video, but they are either sightseeing or scouting for a future hunt.  Either way, the mere tone and frivolity of the video seems out of place with either nature or hunting.

Finally, UAS have been used improperly in relation to wildlife.  While the moose above seems unfazed (I don’t know how since I take a breath and any wildlife runs away from me), a lion was not.  In a video that has been since taken down, a user brought his drone close to a wild lion, which swatted it out of the air.  He’s fortunately out one drone.  Here is a still of the lion about to pounce:

lion swatIn the end, I still think these inappropriate users – whether for hunting or taunting lions, are in the vast minority.  Hopefully programs such as those in Africa and Idaho will prove successful.

 

 

Drones for Good

My posting today is going to be fairly short because I am working on another post that I hope to have out by mid-week.

The results of Drones for Good came out.  The international category was won by a Swiss company named Flyability for a collision resistant UAV called Gimball.  It looks like a drone inside of a buckyball, but will gently collide with objects and then bounce off.  It bounces off of people too without injuring them.  For anyone who has seen a drone crash, this is a great idea!

Flyability's winning "Gimball" drone design
Flyability’s winning “Gimball” drone design

The inventors explained that they were inspired in part by Fukushima, where the unmanned vehicles which were sent in could not work in the area due to obstructions hindering navigation. They had struggled to find funding for their concept, but now hope that the $1,000,000 prize will help them commercialize it within the year.  Congratulations to Flyability.

Watch the Flyability video here.

The domestic UAE competition was won by NYU Abu Dhabi for its Wadi Drone.  The Wadi Drone will be used to document flora and fauna in the country’s parks.  The team was inspired by the story of rangers talking long hikes in the heat to retrieve SD cards from camera traps in order to retrieve images.  The Wadi Drone will be able receive transmissions from the traps with more ease.  They will be using the prize money (AED 1 million (over $250,000) to implenent the program in the parks.

Watch the NYU Abu Dhabi video here.

Finally, my attention was brought to this picture that was taken by a photographer in Michigan of the Outer Light.  I’m a big fan of iced-over nautical photos to begin with, but this is absolutely gorgeous! The composition and timing is fantastic, but he is hoping to get a camera with a better sensor this spring (this is with a GoPro).  That is all that could improve this otherwise great picture.  You can see his full collection on Flickr. The ground-based photos, taken around the same time of day, have phenomenal color.  Just buying a good camera won’t get you these photo, but for one who knows how to take photos, it will help correct some of the loss of vibrance in the GoPro.

Outer Light
© Christopher Kierkus, February 6, 2015 – Used under Fair Use (17 U.S.C. §107)  Grand Haven State Park, Lake Michigan

Public Opinion on UAS

There have been some issues with the server I use, so please accept my apologies if you have not been able to connect.  On a more exciting note, the blog is now mobile friendly and I have sorted posts into categories for easier archive viewing.  Don’t forget you can always search by keyword.

A recent Reuters poll found that a plurality of people oppose UAV use by private citizens.  42% are opposed, 30% approve, and 28% have been under a rock since Christmas and are unsure.  Interestingly, 68% believe UAS should be used by police to help solve crime.  I was somewhat surprised by that number, give the number of stories about public opposition to UAV use by police.

Count J.J. Abrams as one of the 42% who are probably opposed to the use of UAS, especially since Star Wars fans have been attempting to penetrate his notoriously tight set with drones. On a related note, there is now a Battle Droid Drone(from Episodes I-III according to my older son who knows knows most Star Wars related facts).  Maybe it can go up against the Millennium Falcon drone.
Droid Drone
PrecisionHawk, which works out of Indiana, North Carolina, and Ontario Canada, recently announced LATAS (Low Altitude Tracking and Avoidance System).  This product is intended to track UAS in the National Airspace System and help safely integrate them into it.  It is advertised as providing flight planning, tracking, and sense & avoid capability – all major concerns of the FAA.  (JAN 19 hearing post).  It is still in the testing phase, but this is promising!