I have not been able to post since Unmanned Systems 2015, but I serendipitously came upon an idea for a post yesterday evening. I stray from UAS for a bit, but keep reading and I promise it will circle back to UAS.
My wife and I enjoy visiting Madison Wine Shop in downtown Madison, CT, a family-owned shop that was rebuilt after a devastating fire in June 2013. On Friday evenings there is often a wine tasting and the owners, Whitney and John Algieri make wonderful selections that have expanded our wine horizons. You can follow them on Facebook for updates.
Yesterday evening they had Riccardo Bertocci from Paolo e Noemia d’Amico in Tuscany running a tasting of wines from Italy. The wines were all absolutely amazing, particularly the Umbrian Cabernet Franc, Atlante. Unfortunately at $85 it was above our price range for a casual Friday night, but it was a pleasure to taste. We did get a couple of more moderately priced, but still amazing, wines from them – shown below.
Paolo e Noemia d’Amico is located in Italy and I’ve attached a map with its general location. It is a beautiful estate, and the wine cellar is particularly stunning. I’ve also attached a few pictures, and a Condé Nast Traveller article about the estate.
Most importantly for the blog, there is a video shot by a drone. It even goes into the wine cellar with an exciting trip through the halls leading to it. I don’t have an embed code, but click on the link in the previous sentence and the video should start after it loads. I hope to get a bit more information about the video, but for now enjoy the amazing views.
According to a spokesman: “During the show a drone is used to get crowd shots and some nights Enrique grabs the drone to give the audience a Point of View shot. Something went wrong and he had an accident,” the statement read. “He decided to go on and continued playing for 30 minutes while the bleeding continued throughout the show.” This wasn’t a rogue drone, but one that was part of the presentation, he didn’t seem too hurt, and the show continued.
He was confronted by both police and Phillies security. One should note that he was asked to erase the data because it contained intellectual property. This is another consideration of imaging with drones – make sure you’re not recording something that is protected IP! Citizen’s Bank Park is in a restricted Class B airspace since it is near Philadelphia International Airport, and the FAA prohibits UAS near stadiums while professional sporting events, including MLB games, are in progress.
Silent Falcon UAS Technologies (SFUAS) announced last week that its Silent Falcon UAS is entering “low-rate commercial production” to fill its first commercial orders. This is the first solar-powered UAS to enter such a developmental phase. SFUAS is a former subsidiary of Bye Aerospace, Inc., which formed the company in 2010.
The 30 lb hybrid aircraft has interchangeable wings, which will allow users to customize it to a given civilian or military application. The design allows for an endurance of over 8 hours! More detailed specifications are available here.
SFUAS is based in Albuquerque, New Mexico and its former parent is based in Denver, Colorado. Bye Aerospace was formed in 2007 to apply clean energy to aviation applications.
Ascent Solar Technologies Inc. was selected to aid in the solar cell development aspects of the project. Ascent gave a presentation to investors on March 16, 2015, which addresses Ascent’s various products and specifically addresses UAS on pages 16-20.
I also discussed UAS solar panels in a previous post about Alta Devices. Finally, if you’re wondering how fixed-wing UAS without landing gear take off, check out the Silent Falcon launch video below:
San Diego Gas & Electric Company
San Diego Gas & Electric Company received a 333 exemption from the FAA on March 26, 2015 that allows it to use an InstantEye Mk-2 Gen2 to to conduct aerial inspections of its electric and gas facilities, including emergency response damage assessments throughout its service territory. This follows a Special Airworthiness Certificate that was granted to SDG&E in July 2014, which allowed the company to research and test potential uses for UAS. Now they have been authorized to use UAS in day-to-day operations!
The 333 exemptions are starting to appear quite standardized. The exemption even has conditions “if this exemption permits closed-set motion picture and television filming and production,” which clearly don’t apply. The general conditions are enclosed in the exemption and listed below:
Operations authorized by this grant of exemption are limited to the InstantEye Mk-2 Gen2 when weighing less than 55 pounds including payload. Proposed operations of any other aircraft will require a new petition or a petition to amend this exemption.
Operations for the purpose of closed-set motion picture and television filming are not permitted.
The UA may not be operated at a speed exceeding 87 knots (100 miles per hour). The exemption holder may use either groundspeed or calibrated airspeed to determine compliance with the 87 knot speed restriction. In no case will the UA be operated at airspeeds greater than the maximum UA operating airspeed recommended by the aircraft manufacturer.
The UA must be operated at an altitude of no more than 400 feet above ground level (AGL). Altitude must be reported in feet AGL.
The UA must be operated within visual line of sight (VLOS) of the PIC at all times. This requires the PIC to be able to use human vision unaided by any device other than corrective lenses, as specified on the PIC’s FAA-issued airman medical certificate or U.S. driver’s license.
All operations must utilize a visual observer (VO). The UA must be operated within the visual line of sight (VLOS) of the PIC and VO at all times. The VO may be used to satisfy the VLOS requirement as long as the PIC always maintains VLOS capability. The VO and PIC must be able to communicate verbally at all times; electronic messaging or texting is not permitted during flight operations. The PIC must be designated before the flight and cannot transfer his or her designation for the duration of the flight. The PIC must ensure that the VO can perform the duties required of the VO.
This exemption and all documents needed to operate the UAS and conduct its operations in accordance with the conditions and limitations stated in this grant of exemption, are hereinafter referred to as the operating documents. The operating documents must be accessible during UAS operations and made available to the Administrator upon request. If a discrepancy exists between the conditions and limitations in this exemption and the procedures outlined in the operating documents, the conditions and limitations herein take precedence and must be followed. Otherwise, the operator must follow the procedures as outlined in its operating documents. The operator may update or revise its operating documents. It is the operator’s responsibility to track such revisions and present updated and revised documents to the Administrator or any law enforcement official upon request. The operator must also present updated and revised documents if it petitions for extension or amendment to this grant of exemption. If the operator determines that any update or revision would affect the basis upon which the FAA granted this exemption, then the operator must petition for an amendment to its grant of exemption. The FAA’s UAS Integration Office (AFS-80) may be contacted if questions arise regarding updates or revisions to the operating documents.
Any UAS that has undergone maintenance or alterations that affect the UAS operation or flight characteristics, e.g. replacement of a flight critical component, must undergo a functional test flight prior to conducting further operations under this exemption. Functional test flights may only be conducted by a PIC with a VO and must remain at least 500 feet from other people. The functional test flight must be conducted in such a manner so as to not pose an undue hazard to persons and property.
The operator is responsible for maintaining and inspecting the UAS to ensure that it is in a condition for safe operation.
Prior to each flight, the PIC must conduct a pre-flight inspection and determine the UAS is in a condition for safe flight. The pre-flight inspection must account for all potential discrepancies, e.g. inoperable components, items, or equipment. If the inspection reveals a condition that affects the safe operation of the UAS, the aircraft is prohibited from operating until the necessary maintenance has been performed and the UAS is found to be in a condition for safe flight.
The operator must follow the UAS manufacturer’s maintenance, overhaul, replacement, inspection, and life limit requirements for the aircraft and aircraft components.
Each UAS operated under this exemption must comply with all manufacturer safety bulletins.
Under this grant of exemption, a PIC must hold either an airline transport, commercial, private, recreational, or sport pilot certificate. The PIC must also hold a current FAA airman medical certificate or a valid U.S. driver’s license issued by a state, the District of Colombia, Puerto Rico, a territory, a possession, or the Federal government. The PIC must also meet the flight review requirements specified in
14 CFR § 61.56 in an aircraft in which the PIC is rated on his or her pilot certificate.
The operator may not permit any PIC to operate unless the PIC demonstrates the ability to safely operate the UAS in a manner consistent with how the UAS will be operated under this exemption, including evasive and emergency maneuvers and maintaining appropriate distances from persons, vessels, vehicles and structures. PIC qualification flight hours and currency must be logged in a manner consistent with 14 CFR § 61.51(b). Flights for the purposes of training the operator’s PICs and VOs (training, proficiency, and experience-building) and determining the PIC’s ability to safely operate the UAS in a manner consistent with how the UAS will be operated under this exemption are permitted under the terms of this exemption. However, training operations may only be conducted during dedicated training sessions. During training, proficiency, and experience-building flights, all persons not essential for flight operations are considered nonparticipants, and the PIC must operate the UA with appropriate distance from nonparticipants in accordance with 14 CFR § 91.119.
UAS operations may not be conducted during night, as defined in 14 CFR § 1.1. All operations must be conducted under visual meteorological conditions (VMC). Flights under special visual flight rules (SVFR) are not authorized.
The UA may not operate within 5 nautical miles of an airport reference point (ARP) as denoted in the current FAA Airport/Facility Directory (AFD) or for airports not denoted with an ARP, the center of the airport symbol as denoted on the current FAA- published aeronautical chart, unless a letter of agreement with that airport’s management is obtained or otherwise permitted by a COA issued to the exemption holder. The letter of agreement with the airport management must be made available to the Administrator or any law enforcement official upon request.
The UA may not be operated less than 500 feet below or less than 2,000 feet horizontally from a cloud or when visibility is less than 3 statute miles from the PIC.
If the UAS loses communications or loses its GPS signal, the UA must return to a pre- determined location within the private or controlled-access property.
The PIC must abort the flight in the event of unpredicted obstacles or emergencies.
The PIC is prohibited from beginning a flight unless (considering wind and forecast weather conditions) there is enough available power for the UA to conduct the intended operation and to operate after that for at least five minutes or with the reserve power recommended by the manufacturer if greater.
Air Traffic Organization (ATO) Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA). All operations shall be conducted in accordance with an ATO-issued COA. The exemption holder may apply for a new or amended COA if it intends to conduct operations that cannot be conducted under the terms of the attached COA.
All aircraft operated in accordance with this exemption must be identified by serial number, registered in accordance with 14 CFR part 47, and have identification (N- Number) markings in accordance with 14 CFR part 45, Subpart C. Markings must be as large as practicable.
Documents used by the operator to ensure the safe operation and flight of the UAS and any documents required under 14 CFR §§ 91.9 and 91.203 must be available to the PIC at the Ground Control Station of the UAS any time the aircraft is operating. These documents must be made available to the Administrator or any law enforcement official upon request.
The UA must remain clear and give way to all manned aviation operations and activities at all times.
The UAS may not be operated by the PIC from any moving device or vehicle.
All Flight operations must be conducted at least 500 feet from all nonparticipating persons, vessels, vehicles, and structures unless
Barriers or structures are present that sufficiently protect nonparticipating persons from the UA and/or debris in the event of an accident. The operator must ensure that nonparticipating persons remain under such protection. If a situation arises where nonparticipating persons leave such protection and are within 500 feet of the UA, flight operations must cease immediately in a manner ensuring the safety of nonparticipating persons; and
The owner/controller of any vessels, vehicles or structures has granted permission for operating closer to those objects and the PIC has made a safety assessment of the risk of operating closer to those objects and determined that it does not present an undue hazard.
The PIC, VO, operator trainees or essential persons are not considered nonparticipating persons under this exemption.
All operations shall be conducted over private or controlled-access property with permission from the property owner/controller or authorized representative. Permission from property owner/controller or authorized representative will be obtained for each flight to be conducted.
Any incident, accident, or flight operation that transgresses the lateral or vertical boundaries of the operational area as defined by the applicable COA must be reported to the FAA’s UAS Integration Office (AFS-80) within 24 hours. Accidents must be reported to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) per instructions contained on the NTSB Web site: www.ntsb.gov.
I had the opportunity to meat Brendan at AUVSI in Atlanta and it was a pleasure to meet someone whose passion for drones is matched by incredible legal skill. I congratulate Brendan and wish him the best!
I have been remiss in discussing one of the companies that I met down at AUVSI. I’ve been wanting to do a more thorough profile, but time has been escaping me.
Stratasys is a company that performs 3D printing services near my old home of Boston. Massachusetts has been a hotbed of UAS innovation lately and I have been talking about the area quite frequently, so the location is well-suited for the company.
I’ve heard a lot about 3D printing, but this was the first opportunity I’ve had to learn more about it and see it in person. Stratasys discusses the process on their website, and on this page they have a great video about bionic arms they created for a little girl! I’ve also included a video below that shows a part being made in time-lapse.
One reason that 3D printing and UAS go together is that there are numerous unique parts that have to be designed, and they need to be both lightweight and strong. This is where traditional casting hits a wall. Some of the parts cannot be cast in a single piece, and it is impossible to weld multiple pieces together in a way that makes them both sufficiently strong and light.
The second reason that 3D printing goes well with UAS is that the industry is still young and many parts are not being mass-produced. Traditional methods would require one to develop a cast for the unique piece, adding time and money. With 3D printing, one inputs the data file to the printer and it spits out the part!
Finally, 3D printing can include “soluble cores.” In this case one has two options. The printer can print two separate materials and the final object is immersed in a solution that dissolves the soluble material. This creates a void. Alternatively, a mold can be made from the soluble material and used to cast a traditional object, then dissolved. This is great for prototypes and other situations where one does not want the cost of creating a traditional cast.
I’ve included a picture of the swag they were giving out, a small 3D printed keychain. The material is a long, wound-up plastic filament that is printed as shown in the video, which remains in the final product.
I am going to start with the most exciting part of my day, meeting with the 3D Robotics team. This was one of the interviews I was most excited about, and the 3DR team did not disappoint. I met with Dan McKinnon, who joined the company recently to develop 3DR’s Enterprise program (i.e.: commercial applications). Of course the Solo is the big hit, and it is actually central to their Enterprise program as well. It was great to meet a company filled with young and energetic engineers, and in a lighter moment he had to step away since he left a bag in an Uber car last night. But using Uber, they were able to get in touch with the driver and get his bag back – modern technology and innovation!
Dan’s background in in agricultural surveying. About halfway through his PhD program he started an agricultural survey business with his father. It is still running and is called Agribotix, and their use of 3DR UAS is what brought him to 3DR.
He and Jeremiah Johnson, a senior product engineer at 3DR, went over the versatility of the product and how it makes aerial photography and cinematography much easier. The Solo has “cable” and “orbital” functions for taking video. This means you can set the Solo to follow a path or circle an object respectively, and it will take care of the flight through its powerful Linux computer allowing you to focus on camera operation.
These features make for great consumer videos, but will also make the Solo a powerful Enterprise tool. For example, one can circle a cell tower for an inspection or plan a flightpath along a pipeline. Additionally, the Solo is entirely modular. This will allow for commercial application since users will be able to employ different imaging sensors and 3DR plans to add a mission planning component for advanced users.
I then met with Colin Guinn, a co-founder of 3DR. He is undoubtedly a busy person and a headline speaker at the conference, so I am grateful that he took the time to meet with me. His background is in cinematography, and we share some non-UAS similarities in boating so we got sidetracked for a short bit.
He started taking ground photos for home builders and eventually built an RC helicopter for a camera (I believe he said a Canon 5D, but it was hard to hear). The videos were shaky, so he set off to create the best UAS gimbal on the market, and now arguably the best consumer UAS on the market.
We discussed the modularity of the Solo, which also applies to consumer upgrades of various components. 3DR’s model is open innovation and modularity. They are working on a tethered drone for long-term operations and have partnered with Aurora Flight Sciences‘ Panoptes to work on Sense and Avoid issues. Panoptes is based in Cambridge, Mass and has developed a basic collision avoidance system for the Phantom and 3DR’s Iris.
I’ll round up the day chronologically now. The day began with two announcements, one from AUVSI and one from the FAA. The Unmanned Systems conference is being rebranded as “Exponential,” starting with “Xponential 2016” in New Orleans, LA. “Xponential encapsulates the tremendous growth and innovation in the unmanned systems industry, as well as the broad societal benefits of the technology,” says Brian Wynne, president and CEO of AUVSI. “Xponential will help the world understand the potential of this industry by providing a single gathering place where people can see and interact with the technology and systems that will soon become part of our everyday lives.”
The FAA made their own announcement. They will release the B4UFLY App this summer and the Pathfinder Program. The app’s purpose if fairly self-explanatory and will be entering beta-testing. The latter is is a partnership with three businesses to research how to best harness UAS for various purposes. The three companies are: CNN (VLOS for news-gathering in urban areas), PrecisionHawk (BLOS to survey crops), and BNSF Railroad (BLOS to inspect rail infrastructure in isolated areas).
I stopped by NUAIR’s booth, which runs the test site in upstate New York and Massachusetts. I’ve linked to my previous article about them, and it was a pleasure to meet their Executive Director, Lawrence H. Brinker.
I also dropped in on my friends at American Aerospace, whose test flight I attended in Cape May a few months ago. Their work has been going well and they just received a COA from the FAA to start operations out of Cape May Airport. They are also hoping to being flights at the Massachusetts test site (which is linked to the New York test site and NUAIR) in the near future. Not only do they have great pilots and technology, but they have a knack for finding the best locations to fly!
I then went to Airware’s booth. They produce operating systems and hardware for commercial drones across the world, including the DAx8 shown below.
I went to NASA Langley’s booth and got to put on goggles to watch a flight of an experimental UAS. It is called the Greased Lightning GL-10 VTOL UAS. It currently runs on LiPo batteries, but they are developing a hybrid diesel. Hence the name Greased (it can run on Biofuel) Lightning (the electric propulsion system).
Finally, I ran across Persistent Systems. They are in communications, which is not my forte, and I will admit I went to the booth for the swag (a Nalgene bottle). Their company grew out of a PhD project and has been focussed on military communication applications. They have tested their systems in the cavernous midtown section of Manhattan and have had found that the WaveRelay system has great range. It is also applicable to UAS, since it can be used to send multiple encrypted video feeds from a single UAS. It sounds like a great company, and I suggested they test shipboard applications by heading over to the Intrepid Museum in NYC and testing it in there.
There are some interesting stories relating to the LOCUST program, which I wrote about the other day. There is a project run by researchers from the Universities of Sheffield and Sussex in the UK that are attempting to recreate the honey bee brain and use that information to automatically pilot a drone. In the video below, a UAS used the checkerboard pattern to aid in navigation with an early version of a honey bee brain. You can find out more about the “Green Brain Project” at the group’s website, and the image credit above goes to them.
Separately, Brig. Gen. Kevin Killea, head of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory in Quantico wants to develop the ability for multiple UAS to work together without relying on the RF spectrum and its inherent unreliabilities (hacking, weather, etc). He is looking at termites, who use pheromones to work together, for inspiration. “Without communicating they sense the environment change around them, and they instinctively know which way to go.”
The Project notes that the U.S. is one of the few countries with guidance currently in place, which is found in Autonomy in Weapons Systems (Department of Defense Directive 3000.09, dtd Nov 21, 2012). In short, it requires that “autonomous and semi-autonomous weapon systems shall be designed to allow commanders and operators to exercise appropriate levels of human judgment over the use of force” and “complete engagements in a timeframe consistent with commander and operator intentions and, if unable to do so, terminate engagements or seek additional human operator input before continuing the engagement.” It is signed by then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter (now Secretary of Defense).
I think it would be interesting to understand how a bee’s mind works and apply that to UAS, but I firmly agree that rational human decision-making, and accountability, need to be responsible for the ultimate actions of the system – specifically use use of force and other defined mission goals. The policy is a good first step, but the Project on Ethical Autonomy and others like it will help put meat on the bone of the basic DoD policy and hopefully work toward internationally recognized rules of unmanned warfare.
To finish on a light note, I have a video below. I’m not a South Park fan, so I’m admittedly behind on this one. The clip certainly touches on a perception among portions of the public, but it is amusing. As is another South Park clip, which is borderline-NSFW, depending upon your workplace.
The Office of Naval Research announced tests of its Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology (LOCUST) program. “The ONR demonstrations, which took place over the last month in multiple locations, included the launch of Coyote UAVs capable of carrying varying payloads for different missions. Another technology demonstration of nine UAVs accomplished completely autonomous UAV synchronization and formation flight.” As part of this program, ONR tested a BAE Systems/Sensintel Coyote, which can be launched from the air or ship and was developed under a ONR Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant. The video below is quite interesting.
The interestingly-named “Gooney Bird” is going to attempt to break the <55 lb UAS endurance record this summer by flying over 5,000 nm. The Gooney Bird is another name for an Albatross, known for its efficiency in the air and ability to dynamically soar. It is designed by Rob Coatney, an aero/mechanical engineer at Zepher Inc.
Unfortunately, they had a rough rounding of Cape Horn and damaged their mast near the bottom of the world! Fortunately everyone was ok, but it cost they had to retire from the leg and lost points for the Aukland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil leg of the race.
Here is video of the damage during the storm:
Some photos from Dongfeng’s Facebook page on the progress of the replacement mast, and one beautiful shot with dolphins along side are below (various credits, see Facebook) . You can follow the team’s progress and they should be getting into Itajai anytime. I wish them luck with the new mast and hope to get some more great footage from Sam as they sail up to Newport! I’m looking forward to seeing them and the other boats in May.
Today was the Team Delaware International Drone Day at Brandywine Creek State Park. It was a chilly day but a beautiful park and a great place for the event. My wife was reminiscing about the cross country races she ran there when she was at Padua Academy in Wilmington, but the rolling hills and large fields made it a great place for flying drones too!
Thank you to everyone who listed to me speak. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested in insurance coverage, wife Kristen at email@example.com can help. (as my wife, I guess she is technically the Dutchess of Drones, but she’s fine with just “Kristen”). Also, I wasn’t able to catch too many names while I was there. If you see a picture below that is of you or your drone, please let me know. I’m happy to credit you and/or send you the full size file.
There were a number of tents set up with local companies that sell and operate UAS, an FPV race course, and a flight line for standard flying. The team received permission from the park to fly, had the FAA issue a NOTAM for the event, and ensured that everyone was operating safety. It was a great event and I am thankful that Dan Herbert of Sky Gear Solutions invited me to speak.
I gave a brief talk on risk mitigation for UAS operation and mentioned some of the good uses for UAS – the Koala research along Australia’s Sunshine Coast seemed quite appealing given the chilly day. I won’t summarize my talk since all has been discussed here before. I was hoping to stay longer but the baby was tired and we had to get on the road back to Connecticut.
Legal, Photographic, and Other Drone-related News From the "Duke of Drones"