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How’s the FAA Doing? You Tell Us: Results from a Short Survey We Did in Partnership with the FAA

Recently we put together a short, informal survey in partnership with a contact we have at the FAA to help evaluate how well drone pilots think the FAA is doing when it comes to educating them and the public about sUAS policies.

In the end we had 493 people fill out the five minute survey.

By the way, if you participated, THANK YOU. We really appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts with us.

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Who Were the Respondents?

About 2/3 of respondents identified as commercial pilots, and 1/3 identified as hobbyists (with a handful of Other / Non-pilot respondents as well):


So according to the folks who chimed in, how well is the FAA doing when it comes to educating people about drones? Let’s take a look.

How Do Drone Pilots Interact with the FAA and FAA Resources?

The first section of survey questions relates to how people interact with FAA resources.


It’s pretty neat that 89% of respondents have been exposed to the FAA’s webpages and FAQ materials. Given that about 7% of respondents probably don’t fly, this means almost everyone who flies and responded to the survey interacts with the FAA website in some way.

Which is good news.

The first step in making sure the skies are safe, and drones are being flown responsibly by commercial and hobbyist pilots alike, is simply knowing what the FAA recommends.

The next question is similar to the first:


These numbers aren’t too surprising, given that the B4UFLY app isn’t necessarily for everyone, and that there are other apps that can serve similar functions. 56% is still pretty darn high, when you think about it.
And of those 56% who say they use it, the B4UFLY app seems to have a pretty high approval rating:


One last data point about how people interact with the FAA is this question about whether respondents had ever contacted someone at the FAA. We were actually surprised to see how many people had done so—check it out:


73% seems really high, especially when you think that this means some of those folks were hobbyists (since only 61% of respondents were commercial pilots).

To us, this indicates that people 1) Know that the FAA is the place to go with questions about airspace (pretty basic, but hey, still a good thing!); and 2) Feel comfortable reaching out to them. The second point is not a small one—can you imagine contacting the Department of Transportation with a question about roads in the U.S.? OK, that example is a little far fetched, but the point stands: most of us don’t think about reaching out to an organ of the federal government to have our questions answered.

So from this, we’d say we can at least glean that the FAA has done a pretty good job letting people know that they’re around, and happy to talk.

So How Well Is the FAA Doing?

So-so, according to you:


It seems like the key word in this question is “public.”

The answers above seem to indicate that respondents—i.e., drone pilots—engage with the FAA regularly, and know that the FAA is a go-to location for information about how and where to fly.

But do the same pilots think the FAA is doing a good job informing the general public about those issues that most concern drone pilots? Not so much, is what we take away from this answer.

One respondent wrote:

There should be a notice inside every drone sold that directs people to the FAA website. Some of the info is there, but it is not as obvious as one would expect or hope.

Love that idea!

The same so-so feeling also seemed to apply to this question on how well the FAA is doing with efforts to integrate drones into the national airspace:


This isn’t too surprising. And, to be fair to the FAA, this isn’t entirely up to them, but also involves congress and other stakeholders.

When you consider the White House’s new pilot programs that will explore sharing airspace authority between the FAA and local entities, and other initiatives in the works like LAANC, the FAA is for better or worse not always in a position to lead the charge when it comes to integration.

But they’re certainly going to take the brunt of frustration when people are asked how integration is going. Even still, given how Sisyphean (meaning, two steps forward, one back) the integration effort appears at times, 6 out of 10 is actually not so bad.

Regarding progress that’s been made, like the instant airspace authorizations provided by LAANC, one respondent commented:

LAANC is a great start but the roll-out is excruciatingly long. Simple airspace waivers take forever to process. There is low confidence that a system like LAANC will ever come to an area such as ours (greater NYC area).

But then we had people who felt like this:

It is a huge undertaking and I believe they are doing a good job.

Hear hear.

I think most of us would agree on this—not only is the project of integrating drones into national airspace a huge undertaking, but it’s something that we’d be intimidated to take on ourselves.

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And that’s all folks. As you can see, it was a short survey, but pretty revealing.

Here are our main takeaways from this survey:

  • Drone pilots—commercial and hobbyists alike—are engaging with the FAA in a big way. They’re visiting the FAA’s website, reading FAA materials, and contacting the FAA.
  • Drone pilots think more could be done to educate the public about national airspace, and to get drones integrated into it. These two things are intertwined, in that the integration effort is a legislative one, and legislation is, by definition, tied to public opinion and perception.

We have a long way to go, but we’re in this journey together. Here’s to pushing the drone industry forward in partnership with the FAA, one step at a time.

The post How’s the FAA Doing? You Tell Us: Results from a Short Survey We Did in Partnership with the FAA appeared first on UAV Coach.

Intel Flies Over 1,200 Drones at the Winter Olympics to Beat Their Own Guinness Record—Again

Intel just beat their own Guinness World Record at the Winter Olympics.

On opening day, Intel played a recording of 1,218 of their Shooting Star light show drones in the air at the same time, beating their previous Guinness World Record for “most unmanned aerial vehicles airborne simultaneously.”


Intel’s Shooting Star drone—also generally referred to as their “light show drone”—was designed and created just for light shows. They come with bright LED lights that can produce more than 4 billion color combinations, and they were designed so you can program them to create different animations, symbols, and images.

The Olympics are a time when the sports and entertainment industries are buzzing with record-setting performances, so it was the perfect stage for Intel Shooting Star drones and our team to set their own kind of record.

– Natalie Cheung, General Manager of Intel’s Drone Light Show Team

While the light show itself is impressive, what stands out to us is how much news there has been during the Winter Olympics kickoff related to drones—we wrote last week on the widely reported Counter-UAS measures put in place by the South Korean government, and now drones are making headlines again for Intel’s lightshow record.

And it looks like this trend will only grow.

According to Intel’s press release on their new world record, “Advanced Intel drone technology will enhance the Olympic Games through 2024.” Sounds like we can expect to see a lot more light shows with drones, and we can only guess that they’ll continue to get bigger and more virtuosic.

Past Contention Regarding Intel’s World Record

Intel has been working on simultaneous drone flights for a while now.

They first won the Guinness Record for “most unmanned aerial vehicles airborne simultaneously” for a flight of 100 drones that took place back in 2015. A year later, they beat their own record with a flight of 500 drones that took place in Germany.


But then in 2017 Ehang claimed to have beaten Intel’s world record by flying 1,000 of their Ghost Drones at the same time in Guangzhou, China.

The flight took place a week after Lady Gaga performed with Intel’s light show drones at the Superbowl, and at the time we speculated that Ehang might be trying to leverage Intel’s publicity to get some attention for themselves, possibly to increase the buzz around their plans to launch taxi drones in Dubai.


However, when we reached out to Guinness to confirm Ehang’s record at the time, they said that no Guinness official had been present for Ehang’s flight, and Intel still retained the world record for their 2016 flight of 500 drones.

Where Are We Headed Next with Light Show Drones?

A point that Anil Nanduri, General Manager of the Drone Group at Intel, made when we interviewed him back in September is that the light show drones are artistic by nature, and that therefore their potential is, in many ways, defined mainly by the creativity of those using them.

Not unlike the athletes competing in the events [at the Olympic Games], we continue to push to innovate and develop the drone technologies that inspire people all over the world.

– Anil Nanduri, VP and General Manager, Intel Drone Group

From this perspective, there are two key aspects to the light shows put on by these drones.

On the logistical side, you have people thinking about how to actually get all these drones flying in formation and working as a single unit. This is about GPS and the language of positioning and speed, and everything that’s required so that the drones are always in sync with one another.

But on the creative side, you have people using animation tools and thinking about what the show should look like to make it spectacular and beautiful.


Intel is no slouch when it comes to pushing technology forward, and we’re sure to see more technological innovation for the Shoot Star. But what we’re excited to see is where people take things on the creative side.

As Anil told us: You’re going to see the evolution of storytelling with these light shows, with people looking at how they mix art and lighting. You’re going to see many, many different variations.

As the lightshow drones get adopted by more organizations, and their use gets mainstreamed so that more and more artists get to work with them, we’re sure to see some new, spectacular ways to use them. Which is all to say that the future of this part of the drone industry will be limited as much by our imagination as by current technology, and that is pretty darn exciting.

The post Intel Flies Over 1,200 Drones at the Winter Olympics to Beat Their Own Guinness Record—Again appeared first on UAV Coach.

Drones in Fire Departments: The Step-by-Step Process the L.A. Fire Department Followed to Create Their Drone Program

When the Los Angeles Fire Department launched their drone program back in December to help combat the rampant wildfires that were affecting the city, it was a big deal.


Major news organizations around the country picked the story up, and reported on the innovative approach the LAFD was taking to do everything they could to stop the fires.

The story was so widely covered, and the LAFD is held in such high esteem, that at the time we speculated that the launch of their drone program could represent a tipping point that would lead to widespread adoption by other public agencies throughout the U.S., and possibly the world.

We already have a group of firefighters FAA-certified to fly drones, and soon drones will be helping with structure and brush fires, and with accidents, water rescues, and a lot more. The L.A. drone program is going to be one of the biggest in the world.

– Derrick Ward, Los Angeles City Fire Department

But what specific steps did they have to take to launch their drone program?

Given the size of the city of L.A., the potential bureaucratic hurdles required to actually launch something so new were significant. In this article, we’ll share the step-by-step process that was followed for the LAFD’s drone program approval to be expedited, so that the department could have UAVs at their disposal to help with the devastating outbreak of wildfires.

By sharing this in-depth information, we hope that other fire departments can follow a similar approach to help develop and launch UAS programs in their cities. Not all cities will need to take as many steps and include as many stakeholders as are listed out below, but by seeing how this process unfolded in a city the size of Los Angeles, we hope other cities can learn how they might be able to plan and expedite the incorporation of drones into their operations as well.

A quick note: We owe a big thank you to our friend and Drone Pilot Ground School alum Derrick Ward for the information presented in this article. Derrick led the creation of the drone program in L.A., and he’s generously shared his time with us to inform our reporting on the LAFD’s drone program launch and related stories.

Derrick doing a demo for the media outside Los Angeles

Here Are the Steps the LAFD Followed to Launch Their Drone Program

1. Proposal of the Drone Program to the Board of Fire Commissioners

In June of 2017, the LAFD submitted a formal proposal to the Board of Fire Commissioners outlining its proposed policy governing the use of UAS in their operations. As part of their submission, they included an in-depth draft of an operations manual that was 30 pages long.

2. Strategic Plan on Innovation Meeting

Following the submission of their proposal, key representatives from the LAFD took part in a “strategic plan on innovation” with city and fire representatives.

3. Presentation to the Board of Fire Commissioners on Draft Operations Manual and Policy of Use

As a follow up to their formal proposal to the Board of Fire Commissioners, LAFD representatives made an in-person presentation to the Board of Fire Commissioners, in which they covered their draft Operations Manual and their Policy of Use.

Here is an excerpt from the proposed Use Guidelines:
We envision this technology being applied in two phases. Phase I will focus on use scenarios limited to:
• Hazard Assessment (with example) related to BUT not during the initial action phase of an incident.
• Hiker (Hi/low angle rescue) Incidents
• Swift Water Incidents
• Extended/Expanded Incidents (FIMT Activation)
• Planned Training Events

Phase II will be identified as the period of time after which the Department has completed the FAA’s process and obtains a Certificate of Authority. These use scenarios may include:

• Wildfire Mitigation
• Flood Response
• High Rise and Commercial Fires
• Hazardous Material Mitigation
• Search and Rescue
• Structure Collapse and Confined Space Rescue
• Pre-Incident Fire Planning
• Post-Incident Fire Review
• Creating Communication Networks during disaster response

4. Public Comment and Feedback/Review from ACLU

Following the presentation and review by the Board of Fire Commissioners, the LAFD opened up the drone program for public comment and review by the City Attorney and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

This step was crucial for getting buy-in, and demonstrating that the proper review steps had been taken to involve key stakeholders—not just those more internally concerned with operational matters, but also those concerned with how a drone program might be perceived by the public.
This review helped make the LAFD’s follow up letter to the Board of Fire Commissioners from Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas that much stronger.


The remaining steps are pretty self-explanatory, and were primarily focused on including key stakeholders, and providing maximum transparency and opportunities for interested parties to both see the value of the proposed drone program, and have a voice in how it was shaped:

5. Follow Presentation for Board of Fire Commissioners with Updated Draft Operations Manual and Policy of Use


6. Presentation to City Safety Committee, with Public Comment


7. Presentation to City Council for vote


8. After City Approval, Request to City Attorney for Declaration Letter


9. Declaration Letter Sent to FAA to Apply for a COA

Want to learn more about applying for a COA? Check out this article on the process.

10. COA Received in December

By luck, the LAFD received their COA in December, right around when the wildfires hit.

Because they had already put in all this work they were able to launch their drone program quicker than anticipated, and get it up and running to help with the wildfires.


As you can see, even though the launch of the drone program was expedited in December, the LAFD had already done the lion’s share of the work to both create the necessary documentation for launching—they had a 30 page Operational Manual in place, as well as a Policy of Use—and to loop in the appropriate stakeholders for approval.

Do you want to build a drone program in your public agency, but don’t know where to start? We hope this article will help you get started with thinking through all of the steps you’ll need to take for a successful launch.

The post Drones in Fire Departments: The Step-by-Step Process the L.A. Fire Department Followed to Create Their Drone Program appeared first on UAV Coach.

CUAS at the Winter Olympics: DJI’s No Fly Zone and Drones Made to Catch Drones

The 2018 Winter Olympics are underway in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and anti-drone security is a major concern.

With about one million spectators, athletes, and guests expected, as well as 26 heads of state from 21 countries, safety is top of mind for South Korean authorities. And drones are one of the newest possible threats, when it comes to reviewing potential safety concerns.

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But worries about a drone carrying a bomb or some other hazardous payload isn’t the only reason drones are a focus in South Korea.

Given how many drones there are in the hands of consumers these days, preventing collisions or crashes that could lead to drones falling on people is another motivator in keeping the skies clear of rogue drones.

DJI, which owns about 70% of the global market for consumer drones, has implemented a no-fly zone around the sports arenas where Winter Olympic games are taking place, including around locations in Pyeongchang, Gangneung, and Jeongseon.

 Safety is DJI’s top priority and we’ve always taken proactive steps to educate our customers to operate within the law and where appropriate, implement temporary no-fly zones during major events.


This isn’t without precedent. DJI has previously implemented temporary restrictions around the Euro 2016 soccer tournament in France, both major party conventions ahead of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and the G7 Summit in Japan.

Drones Catching Drones

While DJI has taken steps to help prevent rogue drones at the Olympics on its own initiative, the South Korean government, in partnership with authorities from the Winter Olympics, has also taken measures to prevent unauthorized drones from flying over the games. In fact, a whopping 60,000 people a day will be working to combat terrorism and ensure safety during the games.

Although some rogue drones could be attributed to those who simply want to fly over a big event to capture their own aerial footage, the possibility for safety concerns is also quite real, and this is where drones made for catching drones—or Counter UAS (CUAS)—comes in.

The drones being used for security right now in Pyeongchang are outfitted so that they can drop a net over a rogue drone to capture it, and and force it to the ground.


Photo provided by the Pyeongchang Olympics Anti-Terrorism and Safety Headquarters

If a drone approaches a restricted area, drone detection radar developed by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST) will be deployed.

If a suspicious drone is picked up by radar, drone radio signal-jamming guns like those created by Dedrone will be used to bring it down.

But that’s not all. If the rogue drone can’t be stopped with an anti-drone gun or another drone equipped with a net, South Korean special forces have been trained specifically to shoot drones out of the sky, and will be deployed via helicopter to shoot the drone down.

In addition to these tactics, another futuristic tool South Korea will be using is a tactical airplane equipped with facial recognition capabilities, which will scan the crowd and detect individuals who might pose a potential terrorist threat.


Check out this demonstration of a drone catching another drone made by Tokyo police in 2015

The Future of CUAS

Given the incredibly high stakes, we can assume the technology and approaches being used at the Winter Olympics to protect people from rogue drones is top of the line.

We’ve written before about the different options on the market for bringing down a rogue drone—from shotgun shells that deploy nets, to trained eagles, to net guns—but it looks like many of these options have been passed up in South Korea for more sure things (i.e., drones outfitted with nets, radar, and, when all else fails, shooting the problematic UAS out of the sky).

The South Koreans have done some impressive preparation to protect those attending the games. But we have to say, they may have been able to save a lot of money by simply training their officers to throw a spear . . . check out what we mean in the video below:


Of course, we’re kidding.

As drones continue to populate our sky in ever increasing numbers, measures like the ones currently being taken at the Winter Olympics are sure to be more and more common place for any large event. Dedrone was in the news recently for helping with anti-drone security at the World Economic Forum in Davos, and of course there are many more examples of CUAS being used at big events in recent news.

We’re sure to see more development on the CUAS front in the next few years—it could even be the case that the go-to anti-drone technology being used five years from now has yet to be invented. But for now, using a drone to drop a net on another drone will work just fine.

The post CUAS at the Winter Olympics: DJI’s No Fly Zone and Drones Made to Catch Drones appeared first on UAV Coach.

Drones for Good: AUVSI Partners with DJI to Launch the XCELLENCE Humanitarian Awards

AUVSI recently announced the launch of the XCELLENCE Humanitarian Awards, which will recognize five organizations or individuals using unmanned systems to improve the human condition.

The Humanitarian Awards are designed to bring much-deserved recognition to those using unmanned systems technology to save lives, improve health, and relieve hardship and suffering.


We, for one, love the drones for good aspect to these new awards. Although it’s common knowledge in the drone industry that drones are helping people all over the world, many people still think only of privacy concerns or the military when they hear the word drone.

We can only hope that these awards will help spread the word among the public at large that drones and the people making them are doing good things, and working to help people.

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DJI is sponsoring the new humanitarian awards, and will be providing a total prize amount of $25,000 to be split among all of the recipients.

Winners will be announced at the AUVSI XPONENTIAL annual conference taking place in Denver, Colorado from Monday, April 30—Thursday, May 3.

Drones are being used around the world today in incredible and meaningful ways, and we want to take this opportunity to honor and reward the organizations and individuals that have used this technology for humanitarian good—from supporting search-and-rescue efforts that save lives to enabling research endeavors that strengthen global sustainability and development goals.

– Michael Perry, Managing Director, North America at DJI

Know of an individual or organization you’d like to nominate?

Submission details and donation information can be found on the AUVSI XCELLENCE Award page. Winners will be announced in the Day 3 keynote at the XPONENTIAL conference, on Thursday, May 3rd.

The deadline to submit nominations is Wednesday, February 21st.

Other XCELLENCE Awards Categories

In additions to the humanitarian awards, AUVSI will be recognizing leaders in unmanned systems in three other categories:

Technology & Innovation

Recognizing organizations who strive for innovation as they boldly guide our industry into the next phase of technology advancement.

  • Counter UAS & Security
  • Cybersecurity
  • Detect & Avoid
  • Geofencing
  • Hazardous Environment Detection
  • Remote Identification

Training & Education

Recognizing leadership in training and developing a safety-focused UAS culture.

  • Training and Education Provider (Organization)
  • Airmanship and Contribution to the UAS Safety Culture (Organization)
  • Airmanship and Contribution to the UAS Safety Culture (Individual)

Operations & Safety

Highlighting the drone industry’s commitment to safety and responsibility.

  • User Applications and Operations Software Platforms (Organization)
  • Operational Safety and Risk Management (Organization)
  • Airmanship and Contribution to the UAS Safety Culture (Organization)
  • Airmanship and Contribution to the UAS Safety Culture (Individual)

Visit the AUVSI XCELLENCE Award page to submit a nomination.

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AUVSI XPONENTIAL is the largest trade show for the unmanned systems and robotics industry. This year their exhibit hall will include more than 725 companies from around the world. The conference will have more than 200 educational sessions, which will provide information about the future of unmanned systems policy, technology, business solutions, and trending topics.


The conference is huge—annually AUVSI XPONENTIAL brings about 8,500 unmanned technology industry leaders and forward-thinking users from the defense and commercial sectors together to learn the latest on policy, business solutions and technology applications.

This year the conference is taking place in Denver, Colorado, and will span almost a full work week, starting on Monday, April 30 and wrapping up on Thursday, May 3.

AUVSI is emphasizing safety and good works this year, not only by launching their new humanitarian awards but also with a two day public safety UAS forum, and a public safety-focused keynote on Day 3 (when the XCELLENCE award winners will be announced).

UAV Coach was a media partner for AUVSI XPONENTIAL last year, and we’re excited to be partnering with AUVSI again this year. We’ll also be attending, so let us know if you plan to be there—we’d love to meet you!

Learn more about AUVSI XPONENTIAL and how you can attend.

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