Category Archives: Drones

FAA is establishing Remote ID technical standards before reviewing public comments

FAA Press Release

For Immediate Release
May 5, 2020
Contact: pressoffice@faa.gov WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today announced the eight companies that will assist the Federal government in establishing requirements for future suppliers of Remote Identification (Remote ID). Remote ID will enable Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), commonly called drones, to provide identification and location information while operating in the nation’s airspace.

The FAA selected the following companies to develop technology requirements for future Remote ID UAS Service Suppliers (USS): Airbus, AirMap, Amazon, Intel, One Sky, Skyward, T-Mobile, and Wing. These companies were selected through a Request for Information process in December 2018.

“The FAA will be able to advance the safe integration of drones into our nation’s airspace from these technology companies’ knowledge and expertise on remote identification,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

This initial group will support the FAA in developing technology requirements for other companies to develop applications needed for Remote ID. The applications will provide drone identification and location information to safety and security authorities while in flight.

The technology is being developed simultaneously with the proposed Remote ID rule. Application requirements will be announced when the final rule is published. The FAA will then begin accepting applications for entities to become Remote ID suppliers. The FAA will provide updates when other entities can apply to become qualified Remote ID USS on FAA.gov.

Drones are a fast-growing segment of the transportation sector with nearly 1.5 million drones and 160,000 remote pilots now registered with the FAA. The agency’s ability to develop Remote ID technology simultaneously with the rule enables the FAA to continue to build on a UAS Traffic Management (UTM) system that has demonstrated global leadership through the small UAS rule and the implementation of the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC), which automates the application and approval process for most UAS operators to obtain airspace authorizations.

The FAA bungled this press release. The Remote ID Cohort group was something in the works long ago. The FAA, though, issued this press release without clearly explaining that the review of pubic comments is ongoing and that the public will not be ignored. Many of us (just look at social media) saw this press release and read it as saying that public input in the NPRM on Remote ID was being ignored. The FAA really bungled this.

I’ve emailed an inquiry to the FAA to see if they can elaborate on what this is about and what is happening in regards to the public comments. Why does the comment evaluation period need to be done in total secrecy – no information on how it is performed, how many comments have been processed, or any time frame information.

Update: May 8 – FAA has issued a 2nd press release on this

Thanks for the questions we received after yesterday’s press release on the Remote ID Cohort. To clarify, the Cohort is  not part of the decision-making process for the  proposed Remote ID rule final rule. The Cohort will help the FAA develop technology requirements for other companies to develop applications needed for Remote ID.  The comment period on the  Remote ID Notice of Proposed Rulemaking  closed on March 2, 2020, and the FAA is reviewing the more than 53,000 comments

Transportation: Tesla deletes car features via software update, after cars are sold, used

Should Tesla be allowed to remove features from a vehicle that’s bought secondhand?

Source: Tesla yanks Autopilot features from used car because ‘they weren’t paid for’ | ZDNet

This is a troubling issue where we rely on software for every feature of consumer products. Software that can be updated to add features can also be downgraded to remove features.

Years ago, Amazon deleted e-book copies of George Orwell’s novel, 1984. Apparently Amazon did not have the distribution rights signed up correctly and customers who had bought the e-book addition discovered Amazon remotely deleted their copy of the book. (Amazon did refund the purchase price). That this was a giant corporation removing, of all things, 1984, was a bit of a shock to many.

Meanwhile, the FAA has proposed a massive, Rube Goldberg-like regulatory scheme for small unmanned aerial systems (SUAS), also known as remote control model aircraft. The FAA envisions a world where all model aircraft regulations are enforced by software, logging their position with government designated Internet databases, once every second during flight – rather than the traditional trust and enforcement mechanisms of all other laws. There are multiple issues with the FAA’s proposal, but one side effect of their attempt to enforce the law via software is they’ve managed to eliminate essentially all indoor flight by model airplanes and quadcopter – because a one-size fits all rule does not work. They’ve also created a monster that would enable automated  drone fleets – and consumer drones – to be enlisted by foreign adversaries in international espionage, permitting – indeed, encouraging – all drones to collect aerial imagery and other data as they fly over our homes and cities.

FAA plans to regulate home built model aircraft out of existence – you need to file comments now

The FAA’s Notice of Proposed Rule Making for Remote ID goes well beyond just remote ID. I have not had time – yet – to read the entire proposal, but it does include a requirement that all model aircraft be tracked in real time, once per second. Where “Internet is available” (which they mean 3G to 5G cell service), the position information must be relayed through a phone app to an Internet cloud database for real time tracking. They propose that third parties will run this air traffic management system and everyone will be charged an annual subscription fee. They’ve pulled a number out of a hat and say this might cost $30 per year (presumably PER aircraft); if this estimate is as accurate as the Affordable Care Act estimates were, then it will probably cost more like $100 per year. They will also change pilot registration to per aircraft registration, charging $5 per aircraft to be registered.

This is contrary to the recommendation of their own consensus of stakeholders advisory committee which recommend EITHER Internet tracking OR broadcast remote ID depending on the use and application. The FAA instead said it wants BOTH to be mandated. It is not entirely clear what happens when Internet is not available, and how they define that. If you have TMobile and no service, but Verizon has coverage are you required to also have Verizon service? While you can fly without Internet service such as in remote lands, there may be enforced restrictions such as a 400 foot horizontal limit (enforced by the certified quadcopter controller).

When the rule takes effect, they say all existing drones will be prohibited from flight after a grace period. Only new drones with certified real time tracking will be permitted. Only certain manufactured drones that can be updated by the manufacturer could be updated with transponder remote ID support. All others must be trashed.

The proposal would limited home built model aircraft to selected FAA approved sites only. This part of the rule is written in away that it gradually eliminates the sites over time and eventually, it will be illegal to fly any home built model aircraft. Only manufactured aircraft with certified remote IDs would be permitted.

Start here https://www.faa.gov/news/updates/?newsid=89404

We have 60 days to file public comments. Do that here

https://www.regulations.gov/searchResults?rpp=25&po=0&s=FAA-2019-1100&fp=true&ns=true

While it is easy to post a rant comment, it will be more effective to write logical, fact and evidence based comments. It is likely that in the next days to weeks that we will see recommended talking points from the AMA, and FPV organizations. If you are not following discussions on social media, you may wish to look for FPV groups, drone groups and model aircraft groups on such places as Facebook. Several of them are or soon will be posting guides to help with comments.

It will be helpful for the sheer number of comments to be large, even if you only say little. With the FAA saying there are low millions of quadcopters, there needs to be more than 100,000 comments filed in opposition.

It is clear that the FAA’s intent is to raise very high hurdles for recreational use of the low altitude airspace – effectively, the FAA is attempting to privatize and sanitize the low level airspace for the de facto exclusive use of corporations such as Amazon and UPS. They are not even hiding that this is the goal.

Reminder: Quadcopters have killed zero people.

In the 4 days after the FAA released their preliminary proposal, there were 3 light plane crashes in Hawaii, Louisiana and Maryland, taking 13 lives. In late 2018 and early 2019, 346 people lost their lives in the crash of the FAA certified 737 MAX. In that case, the FAA had sold itself to Boeing, and the FAA has now sold itself to Amazon and UPS.

There were 14,400 aircraft collisions with birds at just 700 of the 15,000 airports in the U.S. in 2017. 285 people have died since 1988 due to bird strikes. From 1990 to 2017, there were 311 human injuries attributed to wildlife strikes with US civil aircraft.

0 people died due to drones.

Source: https://www.faa.gov/airports/airport_safety/wildlife/faq/

Adds perspective to the hysterical mania regarding the public use of model aircraft and their alleged danger to aircraft.

Again, there have been zero deaths due to model aircraft. The FAA is intent on regulating them out of existence while the FAA’s own malfeasance on the 737 MAX contributed to the death of 346 people in the past 16 months.

Transportation: #Drone delivery of consumer packages is mostly hype but does have some specific good use cases

This euphoria is largely based on assumptions that drones inevitably deliver better customer service at lower costs with a better environmental footprint than conventional delivery by a driver in a parcel van. These claims are little more than flights of fancy that cloud a more realistic assessment of the potential for the use of drones in logistics.

For the technology to work in commercial practice, however, the economics must also work.

Source: Commentary: Drone-Delivery Projects Must Look Beyond the Hype – WSJ

The primary value in drone delivery may be

1. Delivering value dense items that need to be delivered quickly. Medicine is the classic example.

2. Very short hop delivery. The USPS is experimenting with drones that launch from your local postal delivery vehicles to carry small packages up to home door steps, rather than having the postal worker have to take time to walk that distant (and deal with loose dogs!)

3. Delivering items to remote customers, not urban customers. When a delivery truck comes through my neighborhood, they commonly stop and deliver packages to multiple homes. This is pretty efficient. But delivering to remote (e.g. farms, ranches) and rural properties is not as efficient.

The dreams promoted by Google, Amazon and UPS of zillions of drones flying miles out from warehouses to drop off low value packages at consumer homes are not realistic at this time.

Extinction Rebellion plans “terror” op to shut down Heathrow Airport by attacking it with quadcopters

Final planning documents, seen exclusively by The Mail on Sunday, show that the protesters will fly toy drones at head height over the airfield at Heathrow to stop aircraft landing or taking off.

Source: Climate change extremists are plotting a drone attack to shut down Heathrow airport | Daily Mail Online

They are targeting the week of September 13th, 2019.

The drone community is viewing Extinction Rebellion as a terrorist operation. If they pull this off, many bad things will happen, including the potential end of the recreational model aircraft hobby. A hobby that in 90 years has not killed anyone.

Canada issues new, restrictive #drone regulations. Visitors to Canada to be banned from flying model aircraft in Canada. #quadcopters #drones

Only Canadian citizens or permanent residents will be allowed to fly model aircraft in Canada. Visitors are banned from flights in Canada.

All operators must be licensed, either Basic or Advanced. The latter requires passing an in-person Flight Review, covering a broad set of topics and demonstrating flight competency, at a designated drone flight school (this will be expensive).

Each individual aircraft must be registered with the government with a separate fee for each aircraft. (The U.S. registers the pilot, and the same registration number is then used on multiple aircraft owned by the pilot.)

Basic license holders may not fly a model aircraft within 100 feet of other people which largely shuts down model aircraft flying clubs.

  • Registered owners of drones must be at least 14 years old and a citizen or permanent resident of Canada. Corporations and federal, municipal or provincial governments can also own drones.
  • If you want to fly a drone in conditions where it’s not in visual line of sight at all times, you’ll need a special certificate (among situations where a certificate is needed). The operator of a drone also won’t be allowed to fly it too close to airports or heliports or in controlled airspace, and will have to give way to aircraft, airships, gliders and balloons.
  • With the exception of police, rescue and firefighting operations, nobody will be allowed to fly a drone over or within a security perimeter set up by officials in response to an emergency. That could prohibit news organizations from using drones equipped with cameras to get aerial footage of crimes, disasters or terrorist attacks.
  • Drinking alcohol within 12 hours of being on a drone flight crew is prohibited, as is being “under the influence of alcohol” or “any drug that impairs the person’s faculties to the extent that aviation safety or the safety of any person is endangered or likely to be endangered.”
  • Anyone who is tired or otherwise unable to properly perform their duties is prohibited from operating a drone or taking part in a drone flight crew.
  • No one will be allowed to fly a drone when the weather conditions prevent seeing it at all times, or when frost, ice or snow are stuck to it. Anyone wanting to fly a drone at night will need special lights.
  • To fly a drone over a concert or sporting event, the operator will need a special flight operations certificate. It will also take a special flight operations certificate for a drone to transport things like explosives, weapons, ammunition, or flammable or biohazardous material.
  • There will be two levels of pilot certificates to operate a drone. Those with a basic certificate will have to be at least 14 years old and pass a test. However, the regulations also provide for someone under 14 to operate a drone if supervised by someone 14 or older who has a certificate.
  • Those with advanced operations certificates will get to fly closer to airports and controlled airspace. They will have to be at least 16 years old and pass an exam and a flight review.

Must also be at least 30 meters from other people. That shuts down many model aircraft airfields run by flying clubs. For example, at my model aircraft club, our runway is may be 20 meters from the parking area, and less than that from our setup and maintenance tables.

Everyone who flies a drone in Canada will be required to pass a written exam, and if you wish to, say, fly as a group at your model airfield, you will also be required to pass an in person Flight Review, including an oral exam and a flight exam, at designated drone schools (this will be expensive).

To fly within less than 30 meters of people, you must pass an in person flight review (in person flight exam) at a registered drone flight school and operate a certified drone, only.  (These are all high end, expensive, commercial aircraft. Hobbyist and home built aircraft are prohibited in this category.) This is an in-person exam and may cover any of these topics.

Every aircraft must be registered. For model aircraft hobbyists, who often have many aircraft, this will be expensive.
Source: New rules for drones: Pilot certificates, avoiding airports — and no drunk droning | CBC News

In short, you will need a full scale remote pilot’s license to continue flying model aircraft a model airfield, with your friends. This will cost a considerable amount of money to obtain, and a significant effort in order to pass the in person Flight Review.

In effect, these new rules are de facto intended to eliminate most model aircraft operations by creating large barriers to entry.

#Drone pilots in India required to be licensed and to pass a security clearance #quadcopters #UAS #UAV #modelaircraft

To fly a model aircraft in India over 2 kg mass will require remote pilots to have received certified flight training from an approved training organization, to pass a government license exam and security clearance, and the operator must be at least 18 years old. Pilots will also need permission of any property owner for take off and landing on the property.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has come out with strict rules to keep a tab on people operating remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS). Strict rules

Source: Flying permit – Want to fly drones? Get trained first | The Economic Times

Elsewhere, the Wall Street Journal reports the FAA is behind in developing standards for remote UAV identification. There are indications, such as past FAA study papers, that the government intends to require all (or most) model aircraft to carry on board radio identification transponders to continuously report their position, with hints the government will charge an annual fee to pay the government’s tracking infrastructure. Some proposals would require model aircraft transponder signals, which would have limited range, to be received by a smart phone app and then relayed into a national air traffic infrastructure via a smart phone network connection. (Would flight be prohibited in areas without cellular service?)

Other proposals are that all commercially built craft will require “geofencing”; it is unclear what the government intends to do about home built aircraft or how this would stop terrorists (who obviously would not use geofencing or remote IDs).

Depending on what the FAA decides, the nearly century long hobby of safely flying model airplanes could be negatively impacted with burdensome new rules.

As I’ve written about on this blog in the past, I anticipate there will be a recreational UAV license requirement and a remote ID transponder requirement, with a possible exemption for craft flown only at “community-based organization” model air fields, and possibly for craft flown in Class G air space. Everywhere else will likely require licensing and ID tracking, and depending on location, the filing of a flight plan before flying.

To put this in context, model aircraft have never killed anyone but will require licensing and transponders to track their location. Similarly, the government will require automatic braking systems on new vehicles, starting in 2022. Yet guns, implicated in over 33,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2017 require no licensing or tracking – presumably the government will mandate real time tracking and licensing of weapons eventually too.

AOPA reports that the FAA is expected to charge fees to fly #drones #quadcopters #modelaircraft

The fees would be used to pay for the traffic management system the FAA is tasked with implementing.

the new law directs the FAA and Government Accountability Office to study how the federal government could raise money to pay for drone-related services, including a future unmanned aircraft system traffic management (UTM) program that will be a key to facilitating large-scale use of unmanned aircraft for package delivery and other operations beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS).

Says the government is to complete a study within 6 months on how to pay for all this.

The FAA is also ordered to define a beacon identification/transponder system for all drones:

Section 372 requires the FAA to establish a remote detection and identification program that law enforcement can use to track drones that violate regulations, and submit annual reports to Congress detailing drone transgressions such as flying too close to airports or inside of restricted airspace.

Source: Drone fees, new rules expected – AOPA

Hopefully these new regulations will not apply to model aircraft flown at authorized model aircraft airfields, nor in Class G airspace (unregulated airspace).

It seems likely these future rules will be applied to most airspace around cities. The costs of model aircraft flying will certainly head up if it becomes necessary to pay for air traffic control services, plus the costs of transponders (if they can even be retrofitted to existing model aircraft) and possibly related communication links (some transponder proposals have the aircraft linked to your smart phone which then ties into the ATC traffic management system-assuming phone service is available). Hopefully sufficient areas will be exempt in order to allow the long standing model aircraft community activities to continue.

FAA’s Committee Report on ID and Tracking of #drones, may be even kites?

This report was issued in September 2017 as a set of “Recommendations Final Report” as to what the FAA ought to do about remote identification of drones, including model aircraft.

Source: UAS ID ARC Final Report with Appendices.pdf

Their report proposes that UAS be exempt from the remote ID requirement if the UAS is “operated within visual line of sight of the remote pilot and is not designed to have the capability of flying beyond 400′ of the remote pilot”.

However, any UAS that can autonomously navigate from one point to another without direct piloting from the operate, or which could be operated at greater than 400′ would require remote identification.

The 400′ limitation is problematic in that radio signals do just stop at a specific distance but gradually decrease in strength. In other to reliability operate a craft at 400 feet distance, the transmitter signals must be sufficiently strong through out the entire circle of the operator. This means that such a signal will, in fact, be usable at times beyond 400′. Consequently, this 400′ rule would likely mean that aircraft could be safely operated within a much smaller circle of as little as 200′ to 300′. To illustrate the difficulty of this, our model aircraft flying club has a paved runway that is 450′ long.

Most all of the popular quadcopters such as those made by Yuneec, DJI, and even some of the toy-class quadcopters made by MJX (Bugs 5W for example) have autonomous and return to home capabilities. Thus, to be legal in the FAA’s future world of remote ID, these devices would require a remote ID transponder. The report does also recommend that the FAA include a waiver mechanism, which might enable grandfathering of some existing UAS craft. The report also suggests that safety features like”return to home” be considered for an exemption to the remote ID requirement.

Products manufactured with built-in remote ID would be required to prohibit disabling the remote ID.

The remote ID would likely require transmission of identification, location and speed of movement evey one second during flight. This could have significant ramifications for battery life and payload of UAS.

The proposal for remote ID envisions two kinds of remote ID transmissions:

  • Direct broadcast to other local aircraft or law enforcement on the ground.
  • Network broadcast. In this form, the ID must be transmitted through a network, such as a cellular network, or from the aircraft to a cellular phone that links into the cellular network. (How this would work outside of cellular phone coverage is not explained.)

The above chart identifies their general concept.

Tier 0 – limited to 400′ craft not having autonomous capabilities

Tier 1 – Remote ID required, may require either Direct Broadcast or Network Broadcast. When conducted in controlled airspace, all flights would require filing of a flight plan and receiving authorization before flight. Note that most of the U.S. population living in cities and metro areas will be within the boundaries of Class B, C or D airspace where this would be required.

Tier 2 – Part 107 operations above 400′ (in other words, not hobbyist flights) or in controlled airspace or operating over people would require both Direct Broadcast and Network Broadcast capability.

Tier 3 – Advanced drones weighing more than 55 pounds, operating beyond line of sight would be treated as regular aircraft operations and all that implies.

The recommendation report suggests that all UAS users (including hobbyists and sport flyers) “may wish to voluntarily share the mission type by loading into the database that public officials could access during their response to an event. This information (along with route data…) would help public safety officials understand the nature of a UAS operation and assist in anticipating flight behavior”.

While filing a flight plan would be voluntary (and likely cost a fee), the alternative is that law enforcement, under the new law, can see any quadcopter as a “credible threat” and shoot it down. In other words, this is voluntary only if you don’t care if your quadcopter may be shot down because lack of a flight plan makes it a “credible threat”.

For flight in controlled airspace (which as noted, is where most everyone lives), remote ID, flight plans and tracking would be a requirement. In conjunction with this, the report foresees and integration of remote ID and tracking with a Universal Traffic Management (UTM) system – basically air traffic control on steroids. The report also foresees the Federal government creating a long term database of all UAS flights, based on their tracking data.

The FAA has not yet issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. However, this preliminary “final report” specifies the starting point for the FAA’s NPRM.

Another aspect is cost:

  • Cost of devices
  • Cost of network access
  • Cost of network services (issuance of unique UAS ID, real-time tracking database, other services).

It seems likely that the potential costs of flying UAS, and model aircraft outside of approved flying fields, will likely be so high as to discourage most UAS flights but any one other than a commercial operation. This may, in fact, be the goal, as a way of clearing the airspace for commercial users.

Rupprecht Law summarizes the cost issue this way based on the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act, which has been signed into law:

User fees for drones? Tells the Comptroller General of the United States to do a study on appropriate fee mechanisms to recover the costs of “the regulation and safety oversight of unmanned aircraft and unmanned aircraft systems” and “the provision of air navigation services to unmanned aircraft and unmanned aircraft systems.” Does this mean having unmanned aircraft flyers pay for UTM?

A sequence of FAA rule makings since 2001 largely eliminated the Part 103 ultralight aircraft scene by making it nearly impossible to obtain two-seater training in an ultralight aircraft. This was done because of Homeland Security’s fear that ultralights could be used for some sort of terror operations. Through clever rulemaking, the FAA basically snuck a series of rules into existence that de facto eliminated most ultralight training.

My suspicion is that Homeland Security, especially, would like to largely eliminate the operation of small model aircraft by the general public. Politically, they cannot quite do that. But they can, working with the FAA, push through a set of rules that will confine model aircraft to authorized flying fields, or requiring commercial licenses (Part 107) and pricey remote ID and network services for all other flights.

Hopefully they will continue to allow flights in mostly rural Class G airspace. However, the recent FAA Reauthorization Bill permits the FAA to regulate toy quadcopters even in Class G airspace.

And by the way, yes, the new law gives the FAA Reauthorization Act gives the FAA permission to regulate children’s kites with this very general definition of model aircraft:

5) MODEL AIRCRAFT.—the term ‘model aircraft’ means an unmanned aircraft that is—

“(A) capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere;

“(B) flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft; and

“(C) flown for hobby or recreational purposes.

Since the FAA may now regulate “model aircraft”, and kites fall within the definition, kites will now be regulated by the FAA. This also likely means you will not be allowed to fly a kite inside a national park – as all unmanned aerial systems craft are already banned inside all national parks and Congress has just declared kites as a form of unmanned aircraft. Good grief.

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.