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