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Amazon’s Prime Air VP outlines proposed UAS airspace system


Questioned about when we can trust technology that enables the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the national airspace, Gur Kimchi asks people to think about whether they’ve ever been on an airliner landing in bad weather with limited visibility.

“We already trust automation every day in the world’s worst conditions,” said Kimchi, vice president of Amazon’s Prime Air UAS package delivery project. “Why don’t we trust it the rest of the time?”

Speaking earlier this month at Xponential 2016 in New Orleans, he said, “We should be inspired by commercial aviation and the amazing level of safety it’s created.”

As a keynote speaker at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) annual conference and exposition, Kimchi provided a look at the approach Amazon has proposed to integrate small UAS into the national airspace below 500 feet. He described the concept as not only beneficial to Amazon, but also one that would enable the UAS industry to quickly implement an automated, integrated airspace.

After listing key UAS applications such as videography, photography, mapping and surveying, Kimchi noted, “What’s important, though, is to have a model that’s heterogeneous—it supports all these applications at once. It supports them from day one.”

Kimchi proposes overlapping traffic areas managed by what he described as “federated controllers,” a network similar to a cellular phone network.

“Your phone connects to your phone network. Your phone network talks to other phone networks connected to other phones.—they federate,” he explained. “Your drones will connect to your controller. My drones will connect to my controller. These controllers will federate. They’ll cooperate and communicate following standard protocols.”

Just as cell phones and laptops can communicate with each other almost anywhere in the world, Kimchi said a UAS traffic management system using standardized protocols could work internationally.

“Regulators will have their own high-level controllers that have visibility and oversight over the airspace that they manage,” Kimchi continued. “You don’t have to manage the airspace as the regulator; you have visibility and oversight over it. You know what’s happening at any given time. You can set controls. You can set policy.”

The UAS traffic management concept Kimchi outlined includes a buffer from 400 feet to 500 feet between manned aircraft and small UAS. An air corridor between 200 and 400 would be reserved for high-speed UAS equipped with sense-and-avoid systems, permanent Internet communications and that met industry-established standards. The airspace from ground level to 200 feet would be used by local traffic including hobbyists and commercial operators.

Kimchi described examples of a high-speed drone descending to deliver a package. Drones operating below 200 feet would be notified and cleared out of the airspace until the delivery is completed. In similar fashion, an air ambulance helicopter would receive priority clearance when landing or taking off from an urban setting.

He emphasized that at some point, the airspace would get crowded, which is why he recommends a system designed from the beginning to scale with increased UAS traffic using proven technology.

“We want to enable safe integration of the low-altitude airspace,” Kimchi said. “The concept of automated, federated traffic controls will build a scalable and robust capability. You really make it future-proof. The Internet doesn’t require a big re-plumbing—it just keeps scaling. Telephone networks keep scaling because of their architecture.”

He recommends testing the automated system in rural areas where its safety can be demonstrated.

“We don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Kimchi said. “The only way this will work is by everybody speaking the same language. We need interoperable protocols, and they have to be global, just like your phone, just like your laptop.”


By Patrick C. Miller | May 25, 2016


2017-06-13T02:14:35-06:00 June 1st, 2016|Aviation News, Blog, drones, Section 333, UAS, UAV|

British drone-freezing ray gets US airports trial







A UK-developed system capable of jamming signals to small drones is to be trialled by the US aviation authority. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is expanding efforts to source technology that can detect small, unmanned aerial vehicles near airports. Three British companies developed the Anti-UAV Defense System (Auds), due to be included in new trials. It works by jamming signals to drones, making them unresponsive. A thermal imaging camera allows the Auds operator to target the unwanted drone before signal jamming, via a high-powered radio signal, is activated. Auds was designed by Enterprise Control Systems, Blighter Surveillance Systems and Chess Dynamics.

“Sometimes people fly drones in an unsafe manner,” said Marke “Hoot” Gibson, an FAA senior adviser. “Government and industry share responsibility for keeping the skies safe, and we’re pleased these three companies have taken on this important challenge.” The technology will be tested at several airports to be selected by the FAA.

Two other firms – Gryphon Sensors LLC and Sensofusion, both US-based – will also take part.

By BBC News

2017-06-13T02:14:35-06:00 June 1st, 2016|Aviation News, Blog, drones, FAA, Section 333, UAS, UAV|

Drones, sUAS and More: A Basic Guide for Unmanned Aircraft Terminology



Terms referring to drones are often used interchangeably among operators, regulators and manufacturers. Many people use the common term “drone,” while commercial operators, public organizations and associations refer to more specific terms, such as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), small UAS (sUAS), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), and remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS).

Below is a description of the different terms to help navigate in the drone (or your preferred term) industry.


The catch-all term for unmanned aircraft that can fly autonomously or be remotely piloted, “drone” is the broadest terminology. It is also the most common.

Unmanned Aircraft (UA) or Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA)

Although used less frequently, UA or RPA is the flying component of a drone. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) defines an unmanned aircraft as “an aircraft which is intended to operate with no pilot on board.

Under the FAA framework, the UA is the “flying portion of the system, flown by a pilot via a ground control system, or autonomously through use of an on-board computer, communication links and any additional equipment that is necessary for the UA to operate safely.”

Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS)

UAS is a term mostly used in the U.S. and in the UK by the FAA, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), and the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems Association (UAVSA).

The FAA defines the UAS as the “UA and all of the associated support equipment, control station, data links, telemetry, communications and navigation equipment, etc., necessary to operate the unmanned aircraft.” Section 333 exemption specifies that a UAS is composed of an “unmanned aircraft and associated elements (including communication links and the components that control the unmanned aircraft) that are required for the pilot in command to operate safely and efficiently in the national airspace system.”

The UK Civil Aviation Authority explains that “the term Unmanned Aircraft (UA) or Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) are used to describe the aircraft itself, whereas the term Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) is generally used to describe the entire operating equipment including the aircraft, the control station from where the aircraft is operated and the wireless data link.”

Small UAS (sUAS)

The FAA uses the term sUAS to categorize UAS weighting less than 55 pounds and conducting non-recreational operations.

Micro UAS

The FAA uses the term micro UAS to designate sUAS under 4.4 pounds and composed of materials that will break or yield on impact. Earlier this year, the FAA created the aviation rulemaking committee (ARC) to focus on drafting regulations for this new category of UAS. The ARC gave its recommendations last month, which could be included in the FAA rulemaking for small UAS (sUAS) expected in June.

Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS)

ICAO was the first to use the term RPAS and defines it as “a remotely piloted aircraft, its associated remote pilot station(s), the required command and control links and any other components as specified in the type design.” EUROCONTROL, the EASA, and the civil aviation authorities in Australia and New Zealand follow ICAO’s use of RPAS.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)

UAV is a term used among professionals to refer to a drone for non-recreational purposes. ICAO first used the term UAV in 2004 and defines it as “a pilotless aircraft, in the sense of Article 8 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation, which is flown without a pilot-in-command on-board and is either remotely and fully controlled from another place (ground, another aircraft, space) or programmed and fully autonomous.”

What about model aircraft?

A model aircraft is a drone or sUAS used for recreational purposes only, subject to applicable requirements. The FAA requires that the drone must weigh no more than 55 pounds, be flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft, and flown for hobby or recreational purposes.

May 31, 2016

2017-06-13T02:14:35-06:00 June 1st, 2016|Blog, drones, Section 333, UAS, UAV|

U.S. government publishes “voluntary best practices” for drone use

U.S. government publishes “voluntary best practices” for drone use

Companies and individuals should refrain from using drones to spy on their employees or their neighbors, but for news organizations it’s well within their remit to do just that.

At least, according to new guidelines published by the U.S. government on how to use drones, or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), as officials now like to call them.

The government’s advice comes by way of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The NTIA has just released a new set of best practice guidelines on drones, with specific advice for companies, individuals and news organizations after a year of consultations with all three groups.

As is suggested by the word “guidelines”, these rules are not legally binding, but a recommendation. Nonetheless, they will serve as the foundation of a much broader effort by the U.S. government on how to regulate drone technology and assess its future impact on citizens and business.

The new NTIA guidelines are in many ways the antithesis of the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA)’s recently published drone rules – whereas the FAA’s rules seem deliberately precise, the NTIA’s recommendations are somewhat vague; while the FAA threatens people with fines, the NTIA instead preaches for users to take caution; where the FAA often seems unrealistic, the NTIA goes out of its way to be as realistic as possible.

As for the specific guidelines for each of the three groups, the NTIA pays a lot of attention to companies wanting to use drones. It’s guidelines for companies state they should give people advance warning of the fact they intend to fly drones over their homes or place of work. It recommends they provide approximate times and should inform people of the information they will be gathering and what they intend to do with that information. The guidelines further stress that companies should only gather information that is necessary, and they should ensure that data is kept secure.

RELATED:  Drones are now being used in South Africa to combat illegal poaching of endangered wildlife

The NTIA also advises against certain uses altogether, for example anything to do with employment eligibility, promotion, or retention; credit eligibility; and healthcare treatment eligibility. In other words, the NTIA doesn’t recommend companies spy on their employees (but of course, this is only a “recommendation”).

As far as individual drone flyers go, the NTIA says it’s better to let people know ahead of time if you’re going to be buzzing around their heads, taking pictures and videos of them. It also warns against flying over private property, gathering personal information, and says drone operators should give people a reasonable level of privacy, and delete any data on people if they ask.

Last but not least, news organizations. Quite why the NTIA thought necessary to separate them from the broader “companies” category isn’t entirely made clear, but the document notes that: “Newsgathering and news reporting are strongly protected by United States law, including the First Amendment to the Constitution. The public relies on an independent press to gather and report the news and ensure an informed public.”

As such, the rules do not apply to news organizations, which are instead advised to “operate under the ethics rules and standards of their organization, and according to existing federal and state laws.”

by  | May 22, 2016

2017-06-13T02:14:36-06:00 May 23rd, 2016|Aviation News, Blog, drones, Government Regulation, Section 333, UAS, UAV|

FAA Expands Online Small Unmanned Aircraft Registration

Thursday, March 31 – Starting today, owners of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) used for commercial, public and other non-model aircraft operations will be able to use the FAA’s new, streamlined, web-based registration process to register their aircraft. The web-based process will significantly speed up registration for a variety of commercial, public use and other users. Registration for those users is $5, the same low fee that model aircraft owners pay.

“Registration is an important tool to help us educate aircraft owners and safely integrate this exciting new technology into the same airspace as other aircraft operations,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.

All owners of small UAS used for purposes other than as model aircraft must currently obtain a 333 exemption, a public certificate of authorization or other FAA authorization to legally operate, in addition to registering their aircraft. Before today, the FAA required all non-hobby unmanned aircraft owners to register their aircraft with the FAA’s legacy aircraft registry in Oklahoma City, OK.

Those owners who already have registered in the legacy system do not have to re-register in the new system. However, the FAA is encouraging new owners who are registering for the first time to use the new, web-based registration system. Owners who register under the new system can easily access the records for all of the aircraft they have registered by logging into their on-line account. Small UAS owners who have registered under the web-based system who intend to use their aircraft for purposes other than as model aircraft will also need to re-register to provide aircraft specific information.

The FAA first opened up the web-based registration for model unmanned aircraft owners on Dec. 21, 2015. The agency is expanding that existing website to accommodate owners of aircraft used for purposes other than model aircraft. This registration process includes additional information on the manufacturer, model and serial number, in addition to the owner’s physical and email addresses. Like the model aircraft registration process, a certificate is good for three years, but each certificate covers only one aircraft.

Register here.

2016-04-04T08:47:05-06:00 April 4th, 2016|Aviation News, Blog, drones, FAA Authorization, Section 333, UAS, UAV|

FAA Creating Committee to Determine Micro UAS Flying Rules Over People


Today, the Federal Aviation Administration announced that it is establishing an aviation rulemaking committee of industry stakeholders that will work on constructing a framework that details how certain UAS could be flown over people not involved with the operation.

The committee will focus on micro UAS but instead of focusing on weight classification, the committee will determine which drones are safe over crowds through a performance-based standard. The committee will weigh human injury thresholds, hazard and risk assessment methodologies and acceptable levels of risk for those not involved in the operation.

“Based on the comments about a ‘micro’ classification submitted as part of the small UAS proposed rule, the FAA will pursue a flexible, performance-based regulatory framework that addresses potential hazards instead of a classification defined primarily by weight and speed,” says FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.

The committee will then outline how manufacturers can meet this safety requirement. The committee will submit a report to the FAA by April 1. Members of the committee will be appointed by Earl Lawrence, the director of the UAS Integration Office housed inside the FAA, and cochaired by Nancy Egan, general counsel for 3D Robotics. The committee will be modeled after the UAS registration task force, which made a similar quick-turnaround decision on what kind of identification UAS should carry — a process that took about one month.

“The department continues to be bullish on new technology,” says U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, head of the department that oversees the FAA. “We recognize the significant industry interest in expanding commercial access to the National Airspace System. The short deadline reinforces our commitment to a flexible regulatory approach that can accommodate innovation while maintaining today’s high levels of safety.”

by AUVSI News

2017-06-13T02:14:38-06:00 March 2nd, 2016|Aviation News, Blog, drones, FAA, FAA Authorization, Section 333, UAS, UAV|

FAA Releases UAS Information App



B4UFLY app

The FAA has completed the beta test phase of its UAS operations app B4UFLY, which aims to educate operators about where they can and cannot fly their unmanned aircraft. The app can now be downloaded from the iTunes store and Google for use on a variety of smartphones and tablets.

While any mode of the app is active, there are four icons along the bottom of the screen that represent different functions. The first icon, “status,” shows the status for UAS operations in the airspace at your current location. You can also get more information, such as why flight may be prohibited at a particular location, by tapping icons on the screen.

In the “map” mode, the app shows airports (which operators have to avoid by a 5 mile radius) and other areas that you must avoid as a UAS user. Areas to avoid are highlighted on the map and you can tap on the icons on the map to get more information about each location. There are also two view options: a regular map view and a satellite view.

The “planner” mode allows the user to check the flight status at a particular location at a specific time and date. Finally, the “more” mode provides additional resources that could be helpful to UAS operators.

So far it appears the FAA could use some improvements for the app. It comes with all kinds of disclaimers (for example, there is no guarantee that it will keep your operations within the scope of FAA regulations. We’re not sure whether that means that operators need to do further research to make sure there isn’t additional airspace to avoid), and its rating (based on ratings of seven responders) at the Apple app store was just 2.5 stars.

By Pia Bergqvist

2017-06-13T02:14:42-06:00 January 7th, 2016|Blog, drones, FAA, Section 333, UAS, UAV|

Surprising Number of UAS Users Sign Up for FAA Registry

Quadcopter Drone


I’m not sure how many people I expected would actually sign up for the FAA’s new UAS registry program that went live just before Christmas. Since the agency is waiving the $5 registration fee for the first month, I figured many would take advantage and fill out the online form.

But I was surprised when the FAA announced yesterday that 181,000 drones have been registered in the database since its launch two weeks ago. That’s a fraction of the 700,000 or so quadcopters and other drones that were expected to be sold during the Christmas season, but still it’s a lot higher than I figured.

“This is just the beginning,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a statement. “Now that we have set up the registration system, our challenge is to make sure everyone is aware of the requirement and registers.”

The FAA unveiled the registry for UAS owners on December 14 and launched the database on December 21. Owners of drones weighing between 0.55 pound (250 grams) and 55 pounds must register and display an FAA identification number on their aircraft by February 19 or face the possibility of civil and criminal penalties. The $5 fee must be paid every three years.

The day after Christmas I watched my neighbor and his son walk to their yard with a new and expensive-looking quadcopter. The dad set the craft on the ground and stepped back several feet with remote control in hand. Moments later the little drone leapt into the air and climbed briskly above the trees to a height of what I estimated to be 200 feet.

Just as abruptly, the quadcopter stopped climbing and fell straight down into trees on an adjacent neighbor’s property. The whole flight lasted 30 seconds. The father and son soon set off to look for the drone. Fifteen minutes later they returned with no quadcopter.

I wonder if they ever bothered to register it? I guess it doesn’t matter now.




By Stephen Pope

2017-06-13T02:14:43-06:00 January 7th, 2016|Aviation News, Blog, drones, FAA, Section 333, UAS, UAV|

MIT Drone Avoids Obstacles Autonomously

a drone's-eye view

a drone’s-eye view

A researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has flight-tested a drone that can detect obstacles and avoid them in fight without any input from an operator, MIT said this week. Andrew Barry, a graduate student in the school’s artificial-intelligence lab, has tested the system in a tree-filled field at speeds of about 30 mph. The drone autonomously dips, dives, and changes direction to fly safely through the trees. Barry’s stereo-vision algorithm enables the drone to detect objects and build a full map of its surroundings in real-time. The software, which is open-source and available online, operates at 120 frames per second.

Barry said the system works because he realized that rather than trying to build a full map of the drone’s flight path, the drone really only needs to know what’s about 10 meters away — that gives it enough time to react and avoid the obstacle. “You don’t have to know about anything that’s closer or further than that,” Barry says. “As you fly, you push that 10-meter horizon forward, and, as long as your first 10 meters are clear, you can build a full map of the world around you.” Barry says that he plans to further improve the algorithms so they can work at more than one depth, and in environments as dense as a thick forest. The test drone, which weighs just over a pound and has a 34-inch wingspan, was made from off-the-shelf components costing about $1,700, including a camera on each wing and two processors “no fancier than the ones you’d find on a cellphone,” according to MIT.

By Mary Grady | November 4, 2015

2017-06-13T02:14:45-06:00 November 4th, 2015|Aviation News, drones, Section 333, UAS, UAV, Uncategorized|

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|