Congress poised to strongly regulate model aircraft #drones #quadcopters #modelaircraft

A bill close to passage in Congress would repeal the current exemption for hobbyists from regulations and for the first time require them to take a test before flying. It also says such operators must fly no higher than 400 feet and stay clear of traditional aircraft. They may have to eventually install radio identification signals on the devices.

Source: Drone Hobbyists Angered by Congress Ending the Aerial Wild West – Bloomberg

While model aircraft have not killed anyone, users will:

  • Have to register their craft with the Federal government
  • Pass a written exam
  • Provide credentials to any law enforcement officer upon demand
  • Be limited to 400 feet above ground level (Congress insists there is a waiver process but I did not see it in the legislation)
  • The FAA will shortly propose mandatory beacon ID transponders on all model aircraft so that aircraft can be tracked at all times, in real time. This will include retrofitting millions of existing aircraft, if even possible, or otherwise grounding them.
  • There are also proposals to require filing of flight plans prior to flight (using an app) and receiving government authorization for each flight.

Think about this – model aircraft that have killed no one, must be registered, the operator licensed, be trackable in real time, and may require government authorization before flight.

Compare that degree of regulation to regulation of weapons that kill thousands every year. The priorities of Congress make no sense.

Congress is largely ignoring the long standing hobby community in favor of de facto privatizing the public’s airspace for corporate America.

What the FAA is setting up to do is to basically eliminate hobby aircraft from the skies through burdensome regulation.

In recent years, the FAA largely shut down the growing ultralight aircraft movement. Part 103 ultralights permitted the flight of light weight, single passenger aircraft with limited range and speed, outside of controlled airspace. However, post 9/11, the FAA and Homeland Security viewed ultralights as a threat. Unable to ban them, they merely did some clever rule rewriting that (mostly) eliminated two-seat training aircraft. Without training aircraft, new pilots have a challenging time learning to fly ultralights. The FAA de facto shut down ultralights.

I suspect the FAA is gearing up to do roughly the same thing to the nearly one hundred year old model aircraft hobby: over regulate it in to literal death. The costs will be borne by the hobbyists and the benefits will accrue entirely to the commercial operators.

FAA Administrator wants all model aircraft to have remote ID transponders

See: Elwell: Every drone needs ID – AOPA

The Department of Transportation’s Chief Counsel said the same thing earlier this year.

Rep. Peter Defazio (D-OR) inserted an amendment in the House bill H.R. 4 for FAA Reauthorization that would require passing a written exam and licensing of all model aircraft and quadcopter pilots, registration of all model aircraft, and establish FAA rules to require identification and presumably location transponders on all model aircraft.

The House bill passed with two contradictory amendments – the above, plus one preserving Section 336 exemptions for hobby model aircraft. The Senate is now debating its own version of the FAA reauthorization bill.

Large number of #drone aircraft deployed to inspect damage after Hurricane Florence #drones #UAS #UAV #quadcopters

(Bloomberg) — As Hurricane Florence batters the southeastern U.S., a small army of drones is being assembled to quickly help identify and even fix damage caused by the storm.

Source: Drone Army Is Ready to Swoop in for Florence Power Recovery

In the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, the FAA is restricting all drone flights to below 200 feet in all of South and North Carolina.

The Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) for Part 107 drone flights is currently offline at FAA airports in the hurricane zone.

The FAA issued a vague directive that drone operators may be subject to $20,000 fines “if they interfere with emergency response operations. Flying a drone without authorization in or near the disaster area may violate federal, state or local laws and ordinances, even if a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) is not in place”. This implies authorities can, without warning – and possibly without legal authority – declare flights illegal. This is a confusing directive.

Possible future #drones regulation

If Democrats become the majority party in the U.S. House of Representatives as of the November election, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) is likely to become the Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which is responsible for the FAA.

DeFazio has expressed support for:

  • All drones should be registered and licensed.
  • All drones should have mandatory transponder beacon IDs.
  • All drones sold in the U.S. should have mandatory geo-fencing built-in, preventing them from flight in certain specified airspace. “My biggest problem has been idiots with toy drones,” DeFazio said. “Why we allow any toy drone to be sold without geo-fencing is remarkable to me.”
  • A more rigorous licensing exam for commercial drone pilots, and a licensing exam for hobbyist pilots with concern over “the ease by which a private citizen can earn a federal drone operators license”.
  • DeFazio supports the development of drone technology for business. Business interests are the primary focus and driver of the regulations.
  • Supports technology to “passively detect, identify and track UAS or aerial drones and their ground-based operators” and “force the drone to land” in “designated safe sites around airports”.

My thoughts are that numerous idiots in the drone community are flying drones recklessly, over people, close to airfields,  over 25 mile distances, flagrantly ignoring regulations and common sense. The very people who do not want more regulations are, by their own actions, begging for more regulations. They truly are idiots who are ruining hobby model aviation for everyone else. The FAA lacks an ability to enforce existing rules against these individuals due to a lack of resources, so these individuals continue posting YouTube videos showing their reckless flights.

Where this is heading is seems obvious:

  • If DeFazio is head of the committee the current Section 336 law concerning model aircraft will be rescinded and replaced. The new rules will probably limit regulations for hobby model aircraft flown only at “community-based” model airfields
  • Outside of model airfields, all model aircraft will be heavily regulated and require a beacon ID transponder.
  • All flights will likely require a pre-filed flight plan with the FAA through an app on your phone. Authorization for the flight will likely be required before flying.
  • Flights conducted outside of model airfields will eventually require a license. There may be two classes of license – the commercial remote pilot license and a private remote pilot license.
  • Commercially sold “Consumer drones” (how will that be defined?) will require on board GPS and geo-fencing. Will existing drones be grandfathered in or grounded from further use? What about home made drones?

None of the above will be free. Mandatory geofencing will raise the cost of small “toy” class drones (many of which do not currently have GPS). Mandatory beacon IDs will add costs. Will existing drones being grandfathered or will they be required to be destroyed?

There are implementation costs (the flight plan filing and ATC authorization system), operational costs and enforcement costs. Which leads to:

  • licensing fees – currently about US$150 every 2 years.
  • registration fees – currently $5 every 3 years
  • user fees – unknown but consider a $1 or $2 fee each time a flight plan is filed for flight outside a model airfield.

These costs will act as barriers to entry to the burgeoning “quadcopter” community, likely stifling its future growth, if not causing it to shrink. Model aviation will likely continue at existing airfields. However, model aviation’s current growth has come from drone enthusiasts who want to get more involved in model aviation.  If access to drones is made difficult, this pipeline feeding into model aviation will be reduced.

Congressional representatives want to act quickly on legislation concerning drone activity. It seems likely that portions of the above would be implemented as soon as January 1, 2020.

It is also possible that little of the above will happen. But that seems unlikely. Perhaps there is an yet unidentified “third way” that will reduce risks at low costs while meeting the safety needs of the FAA and business users.

Tech manufacturers make recycling batteries extremely difficult

Tech companies view themselves as “green” companies, but they are anything but “green”. Until about half a dozen years ago, cell phones had user replaceable batteries, but then all manufacturers, about the same time, made replacing batteries very difficult. Since batteries last about 2 years or so, based on normal charge/discharge cycles and usage patterns, many people just replace their phones.

This is environmentally a mess, of course. Worse, the glued in Lithium Ion battery must be removed at recycling centers, a process taking up to 40 minutes.

I should have taken a seat — the process took 40 minutes. To get to the battery, first Flores-Hernandez has to remove the electronics on top of it. Step one: He puts the iPad on a 100-degree heating plate for about four minutes to loosen glue that adheres the screen. Then off comes broken glass, the screen and dozens of tiny screws.

….

He learned how to do this through a training program from iFixit, an online repair community. Apple and many other manufacturers don’t provide instructions or analysis software to recyclers like Cascade. ….

About 30 minutes into iPad surgery comes the most delicate part: prying out the battery glued to the back of the iPad. After heating the iPad again to loosen glue, he uses a series of plastic squeegees to nudge the battery – as flat as a plastic comb and almost as wide as the iPad – out bit by bit.

Source: The problem with recycling our old tech gadgets: They explode | OregonLive.com

Why did cell phone makers eliminate user replaceable batteries? Ostensibly it was to improve sealing against water splashes. But it seems more likely, it was intended as a way of letting phones appear to fail after about 2 years of usage, to encourage purchase of new phones.

The result, though, is an environmental mess as Lithium Ion batteries are difficult to remove, have caused fires at recycling centers, and end up increasing the amount of solid waste produced when working products are literally thrown away.

Notebook computer makers have also gone down this path of eliminating replaceable batteries. I used to use an old Macbook with replaceable batteries. I was “in the field” all day and use the Macbook to record and process video. During the course of the day, I’d go through 3 batteries – because it was easy to drop in a freshly charged battery. Today, we can no longer do that with Apple Macbook products as all have sealed batteries inside. Most notebook makers have gone down this route as well, although some can be opened with a screwdriver (or more often a special tool that you need to pay extra for) – at least many have not glued the batteries inside.

FAA administrator implies mandatory Beacon Identification transmitters will be required for all “#drones” #quadcopters #UAS #UAV

One solution, according to the Federal Aviation Administration’s acting administrator, is to require remote IDs in every drone.

Source: FAA official suggests IDs in drones during Las Vegas convention – Las Vegas Review-Journal

The Administrator goes on to give many reasons why remote ID systems are going to be necessary. He says that the FAA cannot currently mandate tracking of all model aircraft but expects Congress to change the law so they can.

Mandatory tracking transponders on model aircraft are coming – expect to see a formal proposal within months. The FAA is just waiting for Congress to pass the FAA re-authorization budget law. Once that happens, they will move swiftly to end carefree model aircraft flying.

Sadly, there are many people clamoring for heavy handed regulation – and I am not thinking of industry but of the idiots who post their reckless flying antics on YouTube for all the world to see.

Until the proposal comes forth, we have no way of knowing whether its requirements will be reasonable to implement, or expensive and unworkable (high power, heavy weight, high cost – thereby grounding small model aircraft).

Ford Motor Co. proposes simple, light-based system for remote ID of #drones #quadcopters #UAS #UAV

Specifically, our solution leverages the 10-digit code the FAA provides to those who register their drone, which must be legibly printed somewhere on the frame of the device. The challenge is that a drone’s ID cannot be read unless somebody is in close proximity to the device, making it almost impossible to identify drones that are in flight.

Therefore, we looked at using the anti-collision lights that several drones offer to improve their visibility during nighttime operations. Our patent-pending idea is to use the lights to broadcast a drone’s 10-digit code in an ASCII-encoded binary signal at a baud rate — one that could be synced for consistency across the system to ensure universal compatibility.

Source: Why a Car Company Is Looking to the Skies: A Glimpse into Ford’s Drone Research

This is from a Ford blog post in March of 2018. The Ford proposal is even simpler than Intel’s Open Drone ID system.

We will be taking a look at proposals from Amazon, Google and perhaps others. Some proposals are workable, while others have high costs and complexity and would likely end much of the model aircraft hobby, especially quadcopters.

 

MJX Bugs 3 signal loss and crash – and why it happened #MJX #Bugs3 #Quadcopters #drones

I have a small Bugs 3 quadcopter. This is a neat quadcopter that is perfect for learning to fly because its inexpensive and its 100% manual flight. There is no GPS receiver on board and no automated features.

Another plus is that for a “toy” class product, it is easily repairable. In an earlier crash I destroyed a motor and burned out an Electronic Speed Controller (ESC). The Bugs 3’s top pops off easily and I replaced the ESC and the motor with parts I bought on line.

Today, while flying the Bugs 3 at the model aircraft airfield, twice, it just stopped and fell out of the sky from about 10 feet (3 meters) high and about 75 feet (25 meters) upwind of me. The winds were gusting – in fact, I was at the max limit of what this quad could handle as I had it tilted over forward and travel into the wind was very slow. I had just decided to give up flying for the day when it fell to the ground.

But why did it lose signal?

One common cause of signal loss is bad batteries in the remote control transmitter unit but that was not the problem for me.

Eventually I found the problem: The Bugs 3 has a camera holder that can carry a GoPro camera. While I had previously flown the GoPro , this was the first time I used the GoPro’s WiFi feature and the GoPro app on my smart phone so that I could remotely turn the GoPro camera recording on or off.

And this is where we run into a control signal problem!

  • The Bugs 3 uses a 2.4 Ghz radio link to send flight control signals to the quad.
  • Simultaneously, the GoPro uses 2.4 Ghz to send data signals from the quad back to my smart phone.

See the problem!

Even though they are apparently not on the same frequency, the very close proximity of the GoPro WiFi antenna to the Bugs 3 control receiver antenna means the GoPro is desensing the Bugs 3 receiver.

In simplest terms, the GoPro’s WiFi link is interfering with the quad’s control link, causing the quad to lose the control signal. When that happens, the Bugs 3 turns off and falls out of the sky. Perhaps not the best response but it is what it is!

Hopefully this information is helpful to others who may encounter signal loss problems with their Bugs-brand quadcopters.

Safety – I was doing my test flights at a model flying club airfield where we have the space and the safety features to do this. Today I was also the only one there and flying over an open field. We also have fire extinguishers and water on site, and sand buckets to douse Lithium battery fires.

Deliveries by drone, in Rwanda #drones #uas #uav #Rwanda

Worth watching – this is cool!

Poor roadway infrastructure is overcome through small, automated aircraft deliveries. They fly to their destination, air drop the package via parachute, and then return to their base of operations.

Abdoul Salam Nizeyimana overcame unbelievable tragedy to run this operation. He’s a real superhero with the magic he’s performing to benefit many, and having a positive impact on others’ lives.

Video from Bloomberg.