A Big News Week for UAS

In Military News

Textron Systems (whose lines include Lycoming Engines, Bell Helicopters, and Beechcraft – some of my flight training was on an old but trusty Beechcraft Muskateer) has won an IDIQ contract with the Navy to provide contractor-based ISR support through Textron’s Aerosonde UAS. At 80 lbs with a 20 lb payload, mainly focused on ISR components, this falls into the small/medium-sized UAS category. Back in the day (2014 is ancient history in the UAS world), Textron used a 333 exemption to test the Aerosonde at MAAP’s site in Virginia. Here is another article about the DOD’s increasing budget for small-medium size UAS IDIQ contracts.

A 1930’s era Lycoming engine that I always check out at Udvar Hazy, since it is a basic but reliable engine similar to those still made today.
The Beechcraft Muskateer I took lessons on.

A little ITAR refresher: It has a range of 140 km but an endurance of 14+ hours, so this should qualify as an MTCR Category II UAS (remember, 300 km range is defined differently for the MTCR than for most marketing applications). The “Purpose-built Lycoming EL-005 engine” is therefore likely ITAR since it wouldn’t qualify under the specially-designed catch and release provisions.

An Israeli SF Reservist who helped co-found Duke Robotics has secured sales to the Israeli IDF of the TIKAD, a hexacopter modified to carry weapons and to be used in Urban Warfare. What makes this so innovative, beside for its agility and ability to keep friendly forces away from fighting in tight urban areas and IED’s? How they have overcome Newton’s Third Law (every action has an equal and opposite reaction) – “through a system of flexibly connected plates, the TIKAD distributes the backward momentum in a way that keeps the vehicle stationary in the air.” They have been recognized by the DOD for innovation in counter-terrorism and we might see a contract with the U.S. military in the future. Stay tuned!

In Civil UAS News:

A story out of Arizona has been circulating about a man arrested and charged for flying his photography UAS over a wildfire. He was charged with violating a year old Arizona law (Arizona Law 13-3729) that makes it illegal to interfere with emergency services and he allegedly caused the grounding of 14 emergency aircraft who were at risk due to his UAS’s presence. The article references FAA restrictions, and while I can’t full up the NOTAM since it has since expired, there does appear to have been one in effect at the time. Even if there was not a TFR, FAA could go after him – and very well might still – for reckless operation if he was endangering other aircraft or personnel/property on the ground (it is also contrary to a generally applicable federal regulation prohibiting the interference with a fire on public lands43 CFR §9212.1(f)).

Students at MIT have developed a gasoline powered (5 HP) UAS that can carry 10-20 pounds of telecommunications equipment for up to 5 days and has a ceiling of 15,000 ft. It is apparently relatively inexpensive and is designed to bring temporary telecommunications services in disaster areas.  They are depicted in the cover photo for this post.

The first meeting of the FAA’s UAS Identification and Tracking Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) on June 21-23 advanced key policies of concern to the FAA, industry and law enforcement.

Here is an interesting twist of the use of UAS over wildlife, which I have reported on extensively and is generally beneficial. In Australia – and by extension its territorial waters (generally 3 nm) – one must have a permit to use a UAS in conjunction with wildlife. The Australian Broadcasting Network, warned its readers about using drones to view the whale migrations. While there is no comparable law in the United States, it did remind me of my early days of Op Law in the Navy. The Marine Mammals Protection Act (MMPA), enforced by the EPA and protecting all Marine Mammals, makes it a crime to “take” a marine mammal is U.S. territorial waters or by a U.S. citizen on the high seas. You might think you are safe, because how is your DJI quadcopter going to “take” a whale, but think again. A “taking” is legally defined to include harassing a marine mammal – which could easily be construed as encompassing your UAS running out of batteries and landing on it or buzzing to close. Do not take this law lightly!

A drone video of fireworks at Montauk, or as locals say “The End.” I guess the word did not get around about drones and fireworks, but fortunately no one got hurt and there are no negative Fourth of July drone stories that I have found.