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FAA drone registration is now part of the law

FAA drone registration is now part of the law

Get ready to fork up a few dollars to register that hefty but totally innocent drone of yours. The FAA’s requirement to have drones of certain weights registered is now back and this time it has some staying power. More than just an FAA rule, it has become part of the US law. That is partly due to the fact that the registration requirement is just a very small part of a larger, and more expensive, National Defense Authorization Act that US President Trump just signed into law.

 The Federal Aviation Administration’s 2015 rules requiring owners of drones weighing between 0.5 and 55 lbs to register their flying robots was shot down just last May by a D.C. appeals court. The court argued that the FAA didn’t have the authority to regulate such products, which it categorized under model aircraft. The FAA, naturally, said it would think of another strategy.

That strategy might have been to sneak in the requirement into a broader law, one that Trump would undoubtedly sign. The $700 billion act was, after all, in line with Trump’s goal of boosting the US’ military chops. He might have been willing to overlook a minuscule part of the Act that would have repercussions for unassuming consumers.

The FAA is naturally happy about the turn of events, but it’s not going to be smooth-sailing forward. Before the courts shot down its registration rule, the FAA already collected $5 from the 838,620 owners who already registered. The agency already started refunding those in response to the ruling. Now both the FAA and drone owners are left in limbo on how to proceed now that the requirement has been reinstated.

While many consumers, especially those with tiny drones, will be none too happy, it’s not exactly surprising that the law has headed in this direction. The number of drones taking to the skies is growing rapidly, and some of them flying into places they have no business being in. Unsurprisingly, there are even those, including US officials, who have come to see drones as potential weapons or, at the very least, spying machines for other governments.

by JC Torres


2017-12-13T10:21:12-07:00 December 13th, 2017|Aviation News, Aviation Safety, Blog, drones, FAA|

Centennial Airport Primary Runway Closure Scheduled for Aug. 22 to Sept. 30

Centennial Airport (APA), in Denver, CO, will close the primary Runway 17L/35R beginning Aug. 22 due to a runway rehabilitation project. The closure will remain in effect through Sept. 30.

The rehabilitation project will include:

  • Complete resurfacing of the entire length of 17L/35R by mill and overlay.
  • Replacement of existing runway lighting system with energy-efficient LED units.
  • Installation of new elevated runway guard (wig-wag) lights at all TWY B connectors on 17L/35R.

Operational Impacts

While Runway 17L/35R is closed, Runway 17R/35L will be the primary arrival runway. Runway 10 will be the primary departure runway. There are several anticipated impacts related to this event, including:

  • Depending on aircraft type and/or density altitude, the use of Runway 17R/35L will be necessary for departing aircraft, which may result in departure delays up to 30 minutes. These delays are contingent upon associated traffic volume.
  • There are no high speed exits available on Runway 17R/35L. This will require increased miles-in-trail on final to allow aircraft to exit the runway after landing as well as to depart any waiting aircraft.
  • There are no precision approaches to either Runway 17R or Runway 35L, requiring the use of a circling/sidestep approach (with increased minimums) during LVMC or IMC conditions.
  • Due to the construction project, there will be limited taxi routes between the ramp areas and Runway 17R/35L, which could lead to time periods of increased ground congestion.
  • Runway 28 may be available for arrivals on a case by case basis after considering the wind speed/direction and the arrival/departure demand.
  • Practice approaches (VFR or IFR) will be extremely limited or unavailable. Requests for practice approaches will be handled on a case by case basis and are dependent on traffic demand.

ATC Traffic Management Initiatives and Delays

Arrival and departure delays are likely during peak times during the closure. Due to longer runway occupancy times, the airport arrival rates will be reduced. ATC will use mile-in-trail restrictions, fix balancing, time based flow management and possibly ground stops off the internal and first tier airports.

Planned Surface Impacts

The project will be completed in two phases.

During phase one, all connectors, with the exception of A8 and A14, will be closed. A8 and A14 will remain open to facilitate traffic crossing TWY A to Runway 17R/35L.

During phase two, all connectors, with the exception of A4 and A18, will be closed. A4 and A18 will remain open to facilitate traffic crossing TWY A to Runway 17R/35L.

During the construction project, Centennial Airport asks tenants, pilots and other airport users to:

  • Check NOTAMs often
  • Listen closely to ATCT instructions
  • Expect unusual taxi instructions
  • Watch for people and equipment
  • Pay attention to flaggers at the connectors
  • Be patient and stay alert

Safety or security concerns may be reported to APA operations at (303) 877-7307.

View the Runway 17L-35R Overall Site Plan. (PDF)

by NBAA   Aug. 8, 2016

2017-06-13T02:14:29-06:00 August 8th, 2016|ATC, Aviation News, Aviation Safety, Blog, FAA, General Aviation|

Colorado Dept of Agriculture Safety Video

Flying drones is fun, but many people don’t realize how many crop-dusting aircraft and other low-flying aircraft share the skies with you. Can crop-dusting pilots see a drone to avoid hitting it? This shows you the answer. Take a look and see why drone pilots have to do more than just look up in the air for other aircraft.

 Agriculture Safety Video

VIDEO by the Colorado Department of Agriculture Digital Media Program, James Amos.


2015-12-02T11:02:01-07:00 December 2nd, 2015|Aviation Safety, Carriere & Little News, drones, UAS, UAV|

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx Announces UAS Requirement

New Task Force to Develop Recommendations by November 20

WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta today announced the creation of a task force to develop recommendations for a registration process for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS).

The task force will be composed of 25 to 30 diverse representatives from the UAS and manned aviation industries, the federal government, and other stakeholders. The group will advise the Department on which aircraft should be exempt from registration due to a low safety risk, including toys and certain other small UAS. The task force also will explore options for a streamlined system that would make registration less burdensome for commercial UAS operators.

The task force may make additional safety recommendations as it deems appropriate. Secretary Foxx directed the group to deliver its report by Nov. 20.

“Registering unmanned aircraft will help build a culture of accountability and responsibility, especially with new users who have no experience operating in the U.S. aviation system,” Foxx said. “It will help protect public safety in the air and on the ground.”

Every day, the FAA receives reports of potentially unsafe UAS operations. Pilot sightings of UAS doubled between 2014 and 2015. The reports ranged from incidents at major sporting events and flights near manned aircraft, to interference with wildfire operations.

“These reports signal a troubling trend,” Huerta said. “Registration will help make sure that operators know the rules and remain accountable to the public for flying their unmanned aircraft responsibly. When they don’t fly safely, they’ll know there will be consequences.”

While the task force does its work, the FAA will continue its aggressive education and outreach efforts, including the “Know Before You Fly” campaign and “No Drone Zone” initiatives with the nation’s busiest airports. The agency also will continue to take strong enforcement action against egregious violators. At the same time, it will continue working with stakeholders to improve safety to ensure further integration and innovation in this promising segment of aviation.

Secretary Foxx was joined by representatives from the following stakeholder groups:

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International
Academy of Model Aircraft
Air Line Pilots Association
American Association of Airport Executives
Helicopter Association International
AirMap/ Small UAV Coalition
Consumer Electronics Association
Monday, October 19, 2015

2017-06-13T02:14:50-06:00 October 19th, 2015|Aviation News, Aviation Safety, drones, FAA Authorization, Section 333, UAS, UAV|

Monitoring the Oil Patch by UAS

Oil-Patch-2 Section 333

At a South Texas ranch, a drone mounted with cameras flew above and around a flare stack that burned natural gas. Live, high-definition images were transmitted back to the ground, where company officials watched video of the flare stack as it was operating, asking that the drone move this way or that to get a better image or different angle.

It’s a scene that played out recently, and it may become more common. Though drones are in their commercial infancy, their use in the oil field is on the increase.

In the case of the South Texas flare stack, a drone from San Antonio-based Midstream Integrity Services helped a client check its flare stack while avoiding a shutdown of equipment. “They could see what they needed to order to replace in the future,” said Landon Phillips, program manager for unmanned aerial systems (UAS) at Midstream Integrity Services. “The image is very stable, and we can look straight down into equipment while it’s operating.”

Jerry Hendrix, executive director of the Lone Star Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center of Excellence & Innovation at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, said that Texas is a natural fit for drone use and research, and it’s not just the oil industry looking at how to use drones. Hundreds of companies and industries are looking into drones for inspection and monitoring of things such as railroad tracks, bridges, wind turbines, utility lines or agricultural fields. Drones can monitor red tide on the coastline, or might be used by first responders after a natural disaster such as a hurricane.

“There’s the potential for the use of UAS to spot oil spills and things of that nature,” Hendrix said. “There’s a lot of tremendous applications of UAS.”

Oil-Patch-3- Section 333

For the oil and gas industry, Joe Henry of Camber Corp., which works with A&M-Corpus Christi’s UAS center, said the facilities best suited for drone use — with obvious cost and safety benefits — are industrial plants. Some facilities shut down as many as 26 times per year for inspections, he said, each time building and then tearing down scaffolding at great expense.

“Just imagine reducing the cost of raising scaffolding and tearing down scaffolding and having to shut the plant down for those inspections,” Henry said.

The idea of inspecting and monitoring with drones is new, though Henry noted that companies will look at drones as a way to save money. “None of this is defined yet,” Henry said. “You can look at the cost of oil. They’re looking at how to reduce cost and let money flow into the bottom line.”

For now, drones are not allowed to operate beyond the line of sight, about 1 mile usually, Phillips said, and their use requires a pilot and a visual observer.

Midstream Integrity’s drones can shoot video that will send a live feed back to the ground. Point-and-shoot cameras can be used to stitch images together afterward to measure things such as distance and structures, or dying vegetation that can indicate a problem with a pipeline or piece of equipment. An infrared image can show things such as the health of plants, through the level of chlorophyll in them. Laser methane detectors, which measure reflected energy, can tell how much methane is in the air. Phillips said that it could be possible to take air samples while flying.

Oil-Patch-1-Section 333The company’s leadership includes Phillips and Steven Fargo, childhood friends who became Air Force pilots — Phillips flying the A-10 Warthog and Fargo flying the F-16. Now, Phillips serves in the Air Force Reserves and Fargo serves in the Texas Air National Guard.

For an experienced pilot with thousands of flight hours, learning to fly a drone is fairly straightforward, Phillips said. What’s important for the company is that drone pilots have an understanding of aviation culture. “We have guys that understand air space. You have to know how to speak FAA,” Phillips said. “It’s understanding how to operate in the national air space system.”

The company also has to navigate the oil and gas industry, which has its own culture and safety concerns. Midstream Integrity’s industry partners are BlackBrush Oil & Gas LP and Flat Rock Engineering and Environmental LP, both based in San Antonio. Midstream Integrity also has a research agreement with the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Hendrix said the Lone Star Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center is developing a credentialing program, which could be available early next year, as a way to reassure oil and gas companies that drone operators understand their safety concerns and the high value of the equipment in the field. They also need to understand aviation regulations, and be competent at flying the drones.

“What we’re finding out in the oil and gas sector is they’re extremely safety conscious. They need to protect their intellectual property,” Hendrix said. “This would be an enabler for the industry to grow.”

Photos: William Luther / San Antonio Express-News

Source: San Antonio Express-News  


2017-06-13T02:14:51-06:00 October 14th, 2015|Aviation News, Aviation Safety, drones, FAA, UAS, UAV|

NBAA: ‘Urgent Need’ for FAA To Issue Small UAS Rules

A hearing yesterday before the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s aviation subcommittee highlighted the “urgent need” for the FAA to issue federal regulations for the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) industry, acccording to NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen. “It is now more apparent than it’s ever been that we urgently need guidance, through the established rulemaking process, that produces a national regulatory framework that enhances safety and creates a reliable set of operating procedures for UAS operators and the broader public alike,” he noted.

A hot topic at the hearing was the FAA’s failure to meet the September 30 deadline—set by Congress in 2012—to implement regulations governing the use of small UASs. The agency issued a proposed framework earlier this year, though a final rule isn’t expected until next year.

NBAA has been directly involved for years in efforts to assist the FAA in moving ahead on UAS policies and regulations in a “deliberative, though expeditious, manner,” according to Bolen. “NBAA has long maintained that it is imperative that any introduction plan for UAS be focused on safety,” he added. “This means UAS should not share the same airspace with manned aircraft until they have equivalent certification and airworthiness standards as manned aircraft, including the ability to take timely directions from air traffic control, and to sense and avoid other aircraft and UAS.”

By Aviation International News

October 8, 2015

2017-06-13T02:14:52-06:00 October 8th, 2015|Aviation News, Aviation Safety, Blog, Business Aircraft Industry News, drones, FAA, UAS|

FAA announces largest civil penalty proposed against a UAS operator SkyPan

NEW YORK – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today announces the largest civil penalty the FAA has proposed against a UAS operator for endangering the safety of our airspace.


The FAA proposes a $1.9 million civil penalty against SkyPan International, Inc. of Chicago. Between March 21, 2012, and Dec. 15, 2014, SkyPan conducted 65 unauthorized operations in some of our most congested airspace and heavily populated cities, violating airspace regulations and various operating rules, the FAA alleges. These operations were illegal and not without risk.   


The FAA alleges that the company conducted 65 unauthorized commercial UAS flights over various locations in New York City and Chicago between March 21, 2012 and Dec. 15, 2014.  The flights involved aerial photography.  Of those, 43 flew in the highly restricted New York Class B airspace.


“Flying unmanned aircraft in violation of the Federal Aviation Regulations is illegal and can be dangerous,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.  “We have the safest airspace in the world, and everyone who uses it must understand and observe our comprehensive set of rules and regulations.”


SkyPan operated the 43 flights in the New York Class B airspace without receiving an air traffic control clearance to access it, the FAA alleges.  Additionally, the agency alleges the aircraft was not equipped with a two-way radio, transponder, and altitude-reporting equipment.


The FAA further alleges that on all 65 flights, the aircraft lacked an airworthiness certificate and effective registration, and SkyPan did not have a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization for the operations.


SkyPan operated the aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger lives or property, the FAA alleges.


SkyPan has 30 days after receiving the FAA’s enforcement letter to respond to the agency.

Date: October 6, 2015

Contact: Les Dorr or Alison Duquette

2015-10-06T11:34:45-06:00 October 6th, 2015|Aviation News, Aviation Safety, drones, FAA, FAA Authorization, UAS, UAV|

FAA Drone Safety Campaign at Denver International Airport

Denver International Airport and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are partnering to raise awareness about safe unmanned aircraft operations ( drones ).

The agencies teamed up on a Public Service Announcement that will run on the video towers in the airport’s main terminal. The PSA uses the “No Drone Zone” slogan to drive home the point that flying an unmanned aircraft near a manned aircraft is illegal and dangerous. It refers viewers to the FAA’s unmanned aircraft website and to the knowbeforeyoufly.org website for further information and guidance on flying unmanned aircraft safely and responsibly.

The PSA will air all day today following its unveiling at an unmanned aircraft safety press event that the airport organized and hosted. After that, it will air for two weeks surrounding the winter holidays – a time when many people will be getting drones as gifts. Denver also will post the PSA on the airport website so it will reach travelers every day of the year.

The FAA has partnered with leading unmanned aircraft industry and hobbyist groups in the Know Before You Fly education campaign, and the campaign materials are now featured in product packaging for several types of UAS.

Source: Press Release


2015-10-06T11:36:08-06:00 October 1st, 2015|Aviation News, Aviation Safety, drones, FAA, UAS|

FAA Releases Updated Model Aircraft Guidance

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently published updated guidance on model aircraft operations that reflects current law governing hobby or recreational use of unmanned aircraft.

Advisory Circular (AC) 91-57A replaces the previous guidance that, as written in 1981, did not reflect the rules Congress wrote into Section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.

The updated advisory circular details the 2012 law’s description of a “model aircraft operation”:

  • The aircraft is flown strictly for hobby or recreational use;
  • The aircraft operates in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization (CBO);
  • The aircraft is limited to not more than 55 pounds, unless otherwise certified through a design, construction, inspection, flight test, and operational safety program administered by a CBO;
  • The aircraft operates in a manner that does not interfere with, and gives way to, any manned aircraft; and
  • When flown within 5 miles of an airport, the operator of the model aircraft provides the airport operator or the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport) with prior notice of the operation. Model aircraft operators flying from a permanent location within 5 miles of an airport should establish a mutually agreed upon operating procedure with the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport).

The guidance stresses model aircraft operators must comply with all Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR), that they may not fly in any type of restricted airspace without prior authorization, and that they should be aware of Notices to Airmen (NOTAMS) that address flights near federal facilities, stadiums, and other public and industrial areas.

The guidance also makes it clear that model unmanned aircraft operations that endanger the safety of the nation’s airspace, particularly careless or reckless operations and interference with manned aircraft, may be subject to FAA enforcement action.

Source: FAA Press Release, September 2, 2015

2017-06-13T02:14:55-06:00 September 4th, 2015|Aviation News, Aviation Safety, Blog, drones, FAA, UAS, UAV|

Airline Pilots Union: Drones Could be Link in Accident Chain

Aviation accidents often result from a chain of missteps, and the presence of unauthorized small drones in controlled airspace is one potential link that cannot be discounted, said the president of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA). With incidents of rogue drone encounters on the rise, the pilots’ union is backing legislation that would give the Federal Aviation Administration more power to regulate the recreational use of unmanned aircraft.

No accident is the result of a single event,” said Tim Canoll, a Delta Air Lines MD-88 captain and former U.S. Navy pilot who took over as ALPA president in January. “We think of it as a chain of events—each link of the chain being an element that, if removed, would have prevented the accident. We always look at each element—whether it be weather, air traffic control, fatigue, aircraft design, unmanned aerial systems—as potentially adding to an accident. We’re constantly looking for ways to mitigate the threat posed by that link in the chain, and that’s the way we’re looking at unmanned aerial systems. They are a link in a chain that could lead to an accident.”

Canoll offered his thoughts on recent records releases by the FAA that brought to light hundreds of reported drone sightings by airline and general aviation pilots over the past two years. Last November, in response to media requests, the FAA released a summary of incident reports that for the first time indicated a surge in drone sightings, including fly-bys at major airports. The agency provided AIN with a spreadsheet listing 194 “non-COAUAS” events, or flights involving unmanned aircraft systems that did not have certificates of authorization from theFAA, between February and November 2014.

The FAA released further records on two occasions in August, both times apparently prompted by front-page articles in The Washington Post warning of a growing threat to aviation from rogue drones. On August 12, the agency announced that pilot reports of seeing unmanned aircraft had nearly tripled, from 238 in all of 2014, to 650 in the first seven months of the year. On August 21, it released summaries of 765 sightings between Nov. 13, 2014, and August 20. Among the more recent incidents, the pilots of a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 on final approach to Orlando International Airport spotted a drone at between 1,000 and 1,500 feet above the ground; the pilots of a JetBlue Embraer E190 on approach to New York’s John F. Kennedy International at 700 feet; and the pilots of an American Airlines MD80 on approach to Dallas-Fort Worth International at 500 feet.

The recreational use of model aircraft-and now drones-has been subject to voluntary guidance since 1981. A provision of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 states that the FAA “may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft” that is flown “strictly for hobby or recreational use.” But the provision requires that such aircraft be “operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft.” Operators must first inform airport or ATC authorities when planning to fly within five miles of an airport.

ALPA supports legislation U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced on June 18, called the Consumer Drone Safety Act, that would provide more front-end regulation of small drones. The proposed law would set a maximum altitude that consumer drones could fly to, and establish areas where flights are restricted because of the possibility of “unsafe interactions with manned aircraft,” or the risk of damage to persons or property on the ground. It would require the manufacturers of consumer drones, “whether through software or other technological means,” to cap their altitude and prevent them from flying near airports or within protected airspace. Through “sensors and software or other similar means,” drones would come equipped with a collision-avoidance capability and the means to safely and autonomously land in the event of a lost communications link with the operator. They would have registration numbers that pilots and controllers could identify, and transponders to signal their position in space.

We’re pleased that that bill takes steps toward regulating that element

[of recreational drones],” Canoll said. “We’re not about restraining people from doing things, but we are about maintaining the safest air transportation system in the world.”

Under another provision of the 2012 legislation known as Section 333, the FAA has granted more than 1,200 exemptions to operators to fly small unmanned aircraft for commercial purposes. Whereas early Section 333 operators needed at least a private pilot’s license to fly their machines, the FAA now allows operations by people holding a recreational or a sport pilot certificate. In comments early in the permit-granting process, ALPA had called for operators to have commercial pilot’s licenses.

We’re not directly opposed to the exemptions the FAA has been putting in place,” Canoll said. “But we do believe that if the vehicle is intended to, or has the capability to operate in our national airspace—airspace shared with the aircraft that my members fly with passengers on their airplane, they must be operated by pilots who are familiar [with airspace rules]. These are very capable machines, and while the intent might not be specifically to operate it in the national airspace, they do have the ability to blunder into the airspace or lose link and end up in our airspace. I need an operator that is aware of the hazards related to that possibility.”

By Bill Carey, as reported on ainonline.com

Wright State Spin-Off to Market GoFlyZone

Wright State Research Institute is spinning off a new company around a technology that hopes to create an air traffic control system for drones.

The institute, part of Wright State University, is developing a new system designed to be a traffic management tool for drone users of all kinds — allowing them to plot courses for their craft that stop them from flying in restricted areas, avoid bad weather and risky collisions with other aircraft.

The new startup, FlyTransparent LLC, will have Bruce Preiss, WSRI’s lead research engineer, as its CEO. It will bring to market the GoFlyZone, a Web site and mobile application for drone users to voluntarily upload flight plans and allow them to see other users’ flights before they get off the ground.

“There are just too many users out there right now to send their information to an air traffic control,” Preiss said. “Self regulation is a step in the right direction.”

Preiss developed the Web site along with researchers David Malek and Matt Duquette. This, he said, as there are an estimated 500,000 unmanned aerial systems, or drones, up and flying, with another 12,000 landing in the hands of consumers each month.

Commercial users are often aware of the laws around the emerging industry — but cheaper drone models are landing in the hands of hobbyists with increasing regularity, leading to high profile incidents of drones buzzing too close to aircraft and helicopters, or as was recently the case in Cincinnati, crashing into buildings.

“We view this as the only good near-term approach,” Preiss said, adding that even current proposals to attach some form of transponder to each UAV would take considerable time and cost.

Users of the app will be able to plot a course for their drone and it will be fed through a central flight planning data server, which will allow them to see where other drones are operating and where restricted areas are. It will also show them potential weather hazards and other manned aircraft to avoid.

Hugh Bolton, senior cyber and intelligence fellow for WSRI, said the tech could come with some form of subscription or licensing fees. It’s still to be determined how it could be a benefit to the legal and insurance liabilities for unmanned systems.

The company isn’t ready to take it to market. Preiss said it will work to build a business model to commercialize the tech and then seek angel investors and venture capital to support the startup. He wasn’t sure when a commercial version could come to market, but it will be demonstrated at the Ohio UAS Conference next week.

as reported on uasvision.com


2015-08-31T10:00:45-06:00 August 31st, 2015|ATC, aviation innovation, Aviation Leaders, Aviation News, Aviation Safety, Blog, Design, drones, UAS, UAV|

Inspector General Audit Report Raps ATC Tower Efficiency

The tower at Washington Dulles International Airport was among those ranked ‘frequently least efficient.’ (Photo: Bill Carey)

Inefficient operation of some ATC towers the Federal Aviation Administration manages cost the U.S. government $853 million in additional controller hours and equipment over a five-year period, according to the Department of Transportation inspector general. The FAA agreed with its parent organization that tower efficiency can be improved, but said the IG’s methodology in assessing efficiency is flawed.

In an audit report it released to the public on August 24, the IG found that inefficient towers on average required $142 million in additional costs each year relative to efficient towers from fiscal years 2008 through 2013—or $853 million in total. The office found a wide disparity it the towers it assessed as either efficient or non-efficient. “While we found a large share of towers to be relatively efficient in each year that we examined, the gap between their performance and that of the least efficient towers was substantial,” the report states.

The report landed at a sensitive time for the FAA. In pending legislation to reauthorize the agency’s spending programs, the U.S. Congress is considering a fundamental restructuring that would separate its ATC and regulatory functions. One possible model would see the Air Traffic Organization spun off as a not-for-profit entity, comparable to some air navigation service providers.

The IG determined tower efficiency by assigning weighted values to “inputs,” including labor hours and equipment, and “outputs,” including the number of air traffic operations handled. It then calculated the ratio of the weighted sum of outputs to the weighted sum of inputs. The analysis was separated into two parts; it compared busier airport hub towers to each other and non-hub towers to non-hub towers. Nevertheless, the “environmental difficulty” a tower faces, taking into account factors such as the percentage of local traffic, runway configuration and the number of runways “is not the primary determinant of whether a tower is relatively efficient or inefficient,” the office found.

Large hub airport towers the IG ranked as “consistently relatively efficient” are: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta, Denver, Dallas-Fort Worth, Newark Liberty, Houston George Bush Intercontinental, Las Vegas McCarran, La Guardia, Chicago O’Hare and San Diego airports. Those identified as “frequently least efficient” are: Boston Logan, Ronald Reagan Washington National, Washington Dulles International, Orlando, Chicago Midway, Seattle-Tacoma and Salt Lake City airports.

The difference between relatively efficient and inefficient hub airport towers “is not necessarily a consequence of the inefficient towers using less productive combinations of labor hours and equipment to do their work,” the IG stated. “Instead, the difference results at least in part from the fact that the inefficient towers are actually using more of each input to handle their operations and prepare trainees.”

In a response to the findings attached to the audit report, the FAA agreed that tower efficiency can be improved. But the IG’s comparative analysis and ranking methodology for tower efficiency “is flawed for several reasons,” the agency said. Among them, the office did not consider that the FAA closes some ATC towers at night for more cost-effective handling of traffic; did not consider the relative use of contractor resources by towers; and used the “book value” of equipment as an input, making towers with newer equipment look relatively more expensive. “The agency’s position is that any meaningful facility-to-facility comparison should reflect the variables noted above, as well as other relevant facility-specific variables,” the FAA said.

Asked for its reaction to the IG report, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association cited the agency’s rebuttal, adding that it would leave any response to the FAA.

By Bill Carey, as reported on ainonline.com

2017-06-13T02:14:56-06:00 August 26th, 2015|ATC, Aviation News, Aviation Safety, FAA, Privatization|

FAA Details Bizjet Drone Encounters

Pilots from NetJets, XOJet, JetSuite and numerous other business aircraft operators are among those who have reported drone sightings over the last 10 months, according to a new list of reports of potential unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) encounters released by the FAA on Friday. Release of the report, which details sightings from November 13 last year to August 20, followed an August 20 Washington Post article citing a lack of available data on the encounters. Earlier this month the FAA reported drone sightings had skyrocketed from a total 238 in all of 2014 to 650 through early August this year.

In releasing the latest report, the FAA reiterated it “wants to send a clear message that operating drones around airplanes and helicopters is dangerous and illegal.” The list contained 765 entries, including reports from pilots of small general aviation aircraft, helicopters, business aircraft and large airliners.

In May, an operator of a Gulfstream (identified as a GLF5) reported seeing a UAS pass 100 feet below their aircraft in Santa Ana, Calif. In a July incident, a Novajet Learjet 45 and NetJets Hawker 800 pilot each “encountered” a UAS at 2,000 feet outside Teterboro Airport. In late June an XOJet Challenger 300 pilot reported a “near midair” with a UAS at 2,100 feet on final to Runway 28 at Traverse City, Mich. Also, a JetSuite Phenom 100 pilot spotted a UAS at 1,000 feet about two miles from San Jose Airport in California.

By Kerry Lynch, as reported on ainonline.com

U.S. government, police working on counter-drone system

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – As concerns rise about a security menace posed by rogue drone flights, U.S. government agencies are working with state and local police forces to develop high-tech systems to protect vulnerable sites, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Although the research aimed at tracking and disabling drones is at an early stage, there has been at least one field test.

Last New Year’s Eve, New York police used a microwave-based system to try to track a commercially available drone at a packed Times Square and send it back to its operator, according to one source involved in the test.

The previously unreported test, which ran into difficulty because of interference from nearby media broadcasts, was part of the nationwide development effort that includes the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Defense Department, the source said.

The sources were not authorized to speak about the effort and declined to be identified.

Asked about the development of counter-drone-technology, the Department of Homeland Security said it “works side-by-side with our interagency partners” to develop solutions to address the unlawful use of drones. Officials with the Defense Department, FAA and New York Police Department declined to comment.

But the sources acknowledged that efforts to combat rogue drones have gained new urgency due to the sharp rise in drone use and a series of alarming incidents.

The number of unauthorized drone flights has surged over the past year, raising concerns that one could hit a commercial aircraft during landing or take-off, or be used as a weapon in a deliberate attack, the sources said.

Drones have flown perilously close to airliners, interfered with firefighting operations, been used to transport illegal drugs into the United States from Mexico, and sparked a security scare at the White House, among other incidents.


But U.S. authorities have limited tools for identifying drone operators, many of them hobbyists, who violate federal rules that drones fly no higher than 400 feet (120 meters) and no closer than 5 miles (8 km) to airports. One reason for the enforcement gap is that Congress in 2012 barred the FAA from regulating recreational drones.

A system capable of disabling a drone and identifying its operator would give law enforcement officials practical powers to block the flights.

At crowded venues such as Times Square or the Super Bowl, police want to be able to take control of a drone, steer it safely away from the public and guide it back to the operators, who can then be identified, the sources said.

A Reuters analysis of FAA data shows that authorities identified operators in only one in 10 unauthorized drone sightings reported in 2014, while only 2 percent of the cases led to enforcement actions.

“We can’t shoot it out of the sky. We have to come up with something that’s kind of basic technology so that if something happens, the drone or device will just go right back to the operators. It won’t crash,” one of the sources said.

To do that, experts say that a drone needs to be tracked and identified with a receiver and then targeted with an electromagnetic signal strong enough to overwhelm its radio controls.

“You need enough power to override the transmitter. If I just jam it so it can’t receive signals, it’s probably going to crash. But if I know the transmission codes the drone is using, I can control that object,” said retired U.S. Marine Lieutenant Colonel Muddy Watters, an electronic warfare expert.

Laws governing the use of drones have lagged their dramatic rise in areas spanning agriculture, filming and recreational use. Recreational drone operators are not required to register their machines, obtain training or put identifying features on the aircraft, making it extremely difficult for police to track down rogue operators.


U.S. pilots have reported more than 650 drone sightings this year, as of Aug. 9, well over double the 238 total for all of 2014, the FAA said last week.

More than 1 million drones of all kinds are expected to be sold in the United States this year, compared to 430,000 in 2014 and 120,000 in 2013, according to the Consumer Electronics Association.

 In California, errant drones forced firefighters to suspend air drops of water and fire retardant on wild fires this summer.

In January, a “quadcopter” drone landed on the White House lawn after its operator lost control of the device in downtown Washington. Federal officials decided not to bring criminal charges.

Police say their greatest fear is weaponization, as the advance of drone technology enables the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to travel farther and faster and carry larger payloads.

Guns can be fixed to drones and fired with relative ease, as demonstrated in a popular video posted to YouTube by a Connecticut teenager in July. The 15-second video, entitled “Flying Gun”, shows a quadcopter hovering just above the ground in a wooded area and jerking backward with each of four shots.

The case is under investigation by the FAA to determine whether the drone violated aviation safety rules.

Safety and security concerns have prompted bipartisan discussions in Congress about options that include federal support for jamming drone systems and other potential technology solutions.

Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, proposed this week that drone manufacturers be required to install technology capable of preventing the unmanned aircraft from straying near “no fly” areas such as airports.

Drone industry executives say that one possible solution is an industry-wide agreement to include so-called “geo-fencing” software in drones to prevent them from straying above the legal altitude or too close to sensitive sites.

Chinese drone maker SZ DJI Technology Co Ltd, whose drone was involved in the January crash on the White House grounds, has since released a software fix that will restrict flights around sensitive areas.

Federal authorities say they are also prepared to bring federal criminal charges against rogue drone operators who violate FAA restrictions.

By David Morgan, as reported on yahoo.com

(Additional reporting by David Alexander, Andrea Shalal and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Stuart Grudgings)