Tag Archiv: FAA

Want to Fly a UAV?

Want to Fly a UAV?
If so start taking pilot lessons. In the next two weeks we should read of the proposed rule for flying a UAV for civil commercial purposes. I anticipate that this proposed rule will require a certificate of pilot qualifications of manned aircraft. The precedent of this will be that the USAF requires its drone pilots to be Air Force pilots and have therefore completed pilot training.

This rule will be two years late. The law is Public Law 112-95 in effect on 14 February 2012. Reference specifically Sections 332-336. It states that proposed rules should be out by the end of 2012 and mandates that the FAA fully integrate UAVs into the national airspace system no later than 31 December 2015. No one anticipates this mandate will be obeyed. As the FAA has only recently started their five year plan to integrate. In the words of Peggy Gilligan, FAA’s associate administrator for aviation safety “we need to speed this up a little bit.”

So here is where we are today. The FAA has identified three different types of UAVs: Civil, public and model aircraft. Civil is the commercial type, public is for government operational missions and model aircraft. Model aircraft is recreational and rules are from Advisory Circular 91-57 published 09 June 1981. Those rules are straight forward. You can fly your model aircraft, read UAV, if it flies under 400 feet above the surface and is totally in you sight. And for recreational purposes only.

Here is what commercial operators want: the ability to fly UAVs weighing less than 55 pounds at an altitude required by the commercial mission out of the sight of the operator during daylight and darkness. And make money. This activity is limitless and profitable.

Here is what the FAA wants: to integrate UAVs into the busiest, most complex airspace system in the world while protecting the safety of the American people in the air and on the ground.

The safety principle is commanding. UAVs must be prevented from colliding with other aircraft, flown only in non-restricted airspace and adhere to the basic separation rules of Federal Aviation Regulations not only for other aircraft but with physical land properties. Additionally, the UAV must land safely if contact is lost. It appears that the FAA has decided you must be a licensed pilot to adhere to the safety mandated.

Commercial Drones Approved

WASHINGTON — Four companies won approval Wednesday to fly commercial drones to conduct aerial surveys, monitor construction sites and inspect oil flare stacks, the Federal Aviation Administration announced.

The approvals for Trimble Navigation Limited (TRMB), VDOS Global, Clayco Inc. and Woolpert Inc. come as the FAA drafts comprehensive regulations for drones to share the skies with passenger planes.

“The FAA’s first priority is the safety of our nation’s aviation system,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said. “Today’s exemptions are a step toward integrating (unmanned aerial systems) operations safely.”
Michael Toscano, CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, called the FAA action a positive step, but that the agency needs to complete its regulations to allow broader use of drones.

Amazon threatens to take more drone research offshore. “We are excited to see the FAA grant these exemptions for commercial use of (drones) and to being to unlock the various benefits of this technology,” Toscano said.

The latest exemptions from a general ban follow seven in September to film and video companies. The first commercial drone permit over land came in June, when BP oil company and drone manufacturer Aero-Vironment were approved to fly aerial surveys over Alaska’s North Slope.

But the developing industry, with high-profile members such as Amazon studying drones for package deliveries, is eager to expand commercial uses. The FAA has received 167 applications for commercial uses.
At a House hearing Wednesday, the Government Accountability projected that FAA regulations governing drones weighing up to 55 pounds might not be finalized until 2017 or later.
“We agree that we need to speed this up a little bit,” Peggy Gilligan, FAA’s associate administrator for aviation safety, told the hearing.

The FAA is expected to release the proposal this month. But the proposal is expected to generate tens of thousands of public comments, which the agency must review for potential changes in its proposal.
In a letter this week to the FAA, Amazon said its indoor testing of drones must now move outdoors to practice in real-world conditions. Paul Misener, the company’s vice president of global public policy, said the company might move its research abroad.

The FAA has been developing rules for drones since Congress set a deadline of September 2015. The agency set up six experimental sites across the country to learn more about how they operate.
The key safety element is to prevent drones from colliding with other aircraft, or with people on the ground. That means ensuring ways for other aircraft to detect and avoid drones, and for drones to land safely if they lose contact with remote pilots.

Up to now, hobbyists could fly drones close to the ground, and researchers or public-safety groups could ask for special permission to fly higher or in riskier situations.
According to their FAA applications:
• Trimble’s UX5 drone weighs 5.5 pounds and performs precision aerial surveys by taking digital photographs.
• VDOS plans to fly Aeryon SkyRanger drones to inspect flare stacks for Shell Oil in the Gulf of Mexico.
• Clayco plans to fly Skycatch multi-rotor drones to survey construction sites.
• Woolpert plans to fly Altavian Nova Block III drones, which weigh 15 pounds and are 5 feet long with a 9-foot wing span, to map rural Ohio and Ship Island, Miss.

Drones “will change the way we conduct some of our existing business in the not-too-distant future, but more importantly, will create completely new and world-changing applications we haven’t even thought of yet,” said Jeff Lovin, a Woolpert senior vice president.

Rise of the drones has police and regulators scrambling to catch up

Technology and mass production have made unmanned aircraft widely available but some say alarm at their use is exaggerated

Ed Pilkington (140×140)

Ed Pilkington in New York

The Guardian, Friday 1 August 2014 13.50 EDT

Wardens at Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopsville, South Carolina, were taken aback a few weeks ago when they conducted a routine sweep of the prison grounds. They discovered quantities of marijuana, cigarettes and cellphones scattered among the bushes in the no man’s land that surrounds the maximum-security institution.

The guards were even more astonished to find in the middle of the stash of contraband a small, lightweight object, with propellers attached. Closer inspection revealed the item to be an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), better known as a drone, whose operators had evidently made an audacious attempt to breach the prison walls that had come unstuck when it crash-landed.

Another day, another drone controversy. The failed smuggling attempt in Bishopsville, disclosed this week, is just one among an ever-intensifying rash of stories relating to the remote-controlled devices as they make their onward march into American civilian life.

The little buzzy planes seem to be everywhere these days. At the glamorous high-end of American public life they have been given a huge publicity boost by Amazon who last month applied for formal federal approval to set up a testing site to develop its futuristic idea of a drone delivery service called “Prime Air”.

You know that an innovation has arrived in the country when even Martha Stewart embraces it. The doyenne of good living this week wrote a paean to UAVs for Time magazine titled “Why I love my drone”.

At the mass market end of the spectrum, drones are also increasingly impinging on the public consciousness, often for unfortunate reasons. Pilots of passenger jets have complained that there have been near misses with drones, such as an incident in Florida in March at Tallahassee regional airport.

Even more sensationally, the New York police department last month claimed that a DJI Phantom drone had flown at 2,000 feet above the George Washington bridge and had forced a police helicopter to veer off course. The two operators of the UAV have been charged.

This plethora of headlines belies the fact that drones – or model aeroplanes as they used to be called – have been popular in the US since at least the 1930s. The fuel behind the current flurry of interest is that technology and mass production have suddenly brought relatively cheap and sophisticated machines within the grasp of the general public.

DJI Phantoms of the sort flown over the George Washington bridge sell on Amazon for under $500, and if you add to it a high-definition video camera it still comes in at just $1,300.

“Interest is exploding because you can put eight hundred dollars on a credit card and walk out of the store with a DJI Phantom, charge a battery and fly. The good news is that more and more people are getting involved. The bad news is that they include some who misuse the equipment or just don’t know any better,” said Steve Cohen, a drone enthusiast who organises the New York city drone user group.

A powerful driver of the new fad for flying drones is the high-definition video camera that can be attached to the UAVs. Many of the new enthusiasts pouring into the hobby are not coming for the thrills and challenges of aviation, but for the photography. The technology has opened up new vistas, such as the dramatic footage captured on 4 July by drones flying through Independence Day firework displays.

The results may be pretty, but it’s presenting the government regulator in charge of US airspace, the Federal Aviation Authority, with an almighty headache. The FAA has set itself the daunting challenge of working out how to merge drone use with commercial flights through some of the world’s most congested routes.

“The FAA is taking a deliberate, measured approach to integrating UAS [unmanned aircraft systems] technology into the country’s airspace. Our challenge is to integrate unmanned aircraft into the same airspace used by commercial aviation, general aviation and other new users, including commercial space vehicles,” an FAA spokesman told the Guardian in a statement.

The problem is that while America waits for the FAA to produce these new regulations – the latest expected date is the end of next year – confusion appears to be setting in. The legal environment is not keeping pace with the mushrooming use of the planes, or as Cohen put it: “We have just seen the equivalent of the model T Ford hit the road, and the horse-and-buggy regulators don’t know how to deal with it.”

As a holding mechanism, the agency has introduced a set of guidelines that restrict civilian hobbyists to flying under 400 feet and with drones that weigh no more than 55lbs, as well as forbidding the commercial use of the devices for profit.

But that in itself has spread confusion. In a series of recent court rulings, judges have rejected the FAA’s attempt to police drone use, saying that its current rules are merely guidelines that do not carry the weight of the law.

In a recent case in Texas, an appeals court this week overturned an FAA ban on the use of drones by a local group, Texas EquuSearch, that uses the planes to search for missing people in the great outdoors. The federal agency had served the non-profit group with a cease and desist order, claiming that its activities were a violation of the prohibition on commercial use, but the court disagreed.

Brendan Schulman, a leading legal expert on drones who represented EquuSearch in that case, said that by failing to come forward with clear legal parameters, the FAA was holding back the research and development of this crucial technology. “For about a decade, the FAA has engaged in a process of trying to come up with rules for these devices and yet its only answer still seems to be ‘No, don’t do it’. As a result, a huge group of responsible, talented people who could otherwise have made a difference have been alienated.”

Schulman added that the dangers of the devices was often exaggerated, for instance in the case of the George Washington bridge where there is evidence that the police helicopter flew towards the UAV rather than vice versa. “Perhaps because of the word ‘drone’ or the perception that this technology is new, there’s an instinct to fear the worst. But UAVs have been used for years, and when you look behind the reports you often find a different truth.”

FAA can not regulate UAVs?

Judge Rules Against FAA in ‘Landmark’ UAV Challenge
by  Bill Carey

NTSB judge dismissed the $10,000 fine the FAA levied against Raphael Pirker for flying the Ritewing Zephyr for hire. (Photo: Ritewing RC)

March 7, 2014, 10:08 AM

An administrative law judge with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) dismissed the $10,000 fine the FAA levied against Raphael Pirker for flying a small unmanned aircraft, casting doubt on the agency’s ability to regulate their commercial use. In a decision dated March 6, NTSB Judge Patrick Geraghty found that the FAA has no regulations that apply to model aircraft or that classify a model aircraft as an unmanned aircraft system.

In response, the FAA said: “We are reviewing the decision.” The NTSB adjudicates appeals of FAA enforcement actions; the FAA can appeal the ruling to the NTSB.

The FAA fined Pirker, a Swiss citizen, for operating a Ritewing Zephyr at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., on Oct. 17, 2011. A marketing company had hired Pirker to supply aerial photographs and video of the UVA campus and medical center. Ritewing RC of Apache Junction, Ariz., produces the aircraft, which is described as an “electric flying wing” that weighs less than five pounds.

In an assessment order, the FAA said that Pirker flew the aircraft “in a careless or reckless manner” in violation of federal aviation regulations (FAR) Section 91.13(a). Further, the agency said he operated the flight for compensation. The FAA currently restricts the commercial use of UAVs.

Pirker sought to have the case dismissed “in the absence of a valid rule for application of FAR regulatory authority over model aircraft flight operations,” according to Geraghty’s finding. The law firm representing Pirker—Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel—has described the challenge as a landmark case, “the first federal case ever involving the operation of commercial drones in the United States.” In December, Kramer Levin said that it had formed a new unmanned aircraft systems practice group “in light of the increasing use of drones for commercial purposes…Kramer Levin’s new practice will provide sophisticated and creative problem-solving approaches in this uncharted legal territory.”

In his ruling dismissing the FAA’s fine, Geraghty said the FAA had no basis for asserting FAR Part 91 authority over Pirker’s operation, and that only advisory guidance applies to model aircraft. The FAA “has not issued an enforceable FAR regulatory rule governing model aircraft operation; (and) has historically exempted model aircraft from the statutory FAR definitions of ‘aircraft’ by relegating model aircraft operations to voluntary compliance with the guidance expressed in AC 91-57,” states a copy of the ruling provided to AIN.

In response to the judge’s ruling, Michael Toscano, president and CEO of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International issued the following written statement: “We are reviewing the decision very carefully and we have been in touch with the FAA to discuss its implications and the agency’s response. Our paramount concern is safety. We must ensure the commercial use of UAS takes place in a safe and responsible manner, whenever commercial use occurs. The decision also underscores the immediate need for a regulatory framework for small UAS.”

[Once an NTSB administrative law judge issues a decision, either the party that appealed the FAA’s enforcement action, the FAA itself, or both parties may appeal the decision to the five-member NTSB board. The appeal must be filed with the NTSB Office of Administrative Law Judges within 10 days of the date of the written decision. The party filing an appeal then has 30 days from date of the decision to file an appeal brief with the NTSB Office of General Counsel. The opposing party has 30 days from the date of the appeal brief to file a reply brief. “Once both parties have filed briefs, the full NTSB board will consider the case and issue an opinion and order. After the full board issues its decision, either party may appeal that decision to a United States Court of Appeals within 60 days of the board’s decision,” the NTSB said, responding to an AIN query. —BC]

FAA risks losing drone war

Thanks to falling prices, spotty enforcement and the fact that it’s almost impossible to spot the devices being used, the FAA is often powerless to halt the growing drone swarm. Retailers freely sell the tiny planes, quadcopters and hexacopters for as little as a few hundred dollars, and entrepreneurs continually come up with creative uses like wedding photography and crop monitoring — along with delivering beer and dropping off dry-cleaning.

The result, observers and drone users warn, could be a Wild, Wild West in the nation’s skies. As small drone operators grow used to flying them without the FAA’s permission, they could become less inclined to obey any rules the agency puts in place. And with the cost of the technology continuing to drop, the drones could eventually become far too ubiquitous for the agency to police.

Meanwhile, the FAA is lagging in meeting a congressional mandate to allow commercial drones to share the skies legally.

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“Most people want to comply with the FAA rules,” said Ted Ellett, a former FAA general counsel who is now a partner specializing in aviation at the law firm Hogan Levells. “But the more the FAA acts like a big daddy, behemoth government agency that is imposing excessive restrictions, the more the feeling of ‘I’m an American, they can’t tell me what to do’ kicks in. And that’s a real danger for the FAA.”

Plenty of drone users are going ahead without waiting for the agency.

“A lot of our members would like to start businesses using this technology,” said Timothy Reuter, the founder of the Drone User Group Network in Washington. “Some of them are waiting for the regulations to open up. Others, honestly, aren’t.”

The FAA says it’s committed to ensuring that its drone regulations protect public safety.

“The rulemaking process is deliberative and comprehensive,” the agency said in a statement Friday that referred to drones by the FAA’s preferred term, “Unmanned Aircraft Systems.”

(Also on POLITICO: Full technology policy coverage)

“Because UAS is an emerging technology, we want to ensure that we get it right and that we do not increase risk in the world’s safest aviation system,” the FAA added. “We expect to publish the small UAS proposed rule for public comment later this year.”

The agency probably will eventually issue two rules: one for drones less than 55 pounds, which are likely to fly under 400 feet, and one for heavier drones, which are likely to share airspace with manned aircraft.

Most of the explosion in drone use has come with the cheaper small drones, which typically remain in sight of the operator the entire time they’re in flight. The larger drones, which can resemble the military’s famous Predators, often require an airfield to take off and aren’t typically owned by individuals.

It’s not clear exactly what regulations the FAA will propose. The agency could require drone operators to register, pay fees or go through safety training. It could also place restrictions on drone use for safety reasons.

(Also on POLITICO: Dianne Feinstein spots drone inches from face)

But in the meantime, the FAA is sticking to the stance it’s held since 2007 — that using drones for commercial purposes is illegal.

The agency said it has sent out 12 warning letters to drone operators but also handles incidents with verbal warnings. In one case, the agency issued a $10,000 fine to a Swiss drone operator who it said was operating “recklessly” when flying at the University of Virginia in 2011. The case is under appeal and is before a National Transportation Safety Board administrative court.

While a 2010 law set a September 2015 date for the FAA to safely allow commercial drone flights, the Transportation Department’s inspector general told a House panel this month that it’s unlikely the agency would meet the deadline. (The FAA has approved one use of commercial drones: ConocoPhillips is using a large drone in the Arctic to monitor icebergs.)

Read more: www.politico.com/story/2014/02/federal-aviation-administration-faa-drones-103800.html#ixzz2u4sucu7z