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ISO Releases Draft of First International Drone Standards for Public Comment

The International Standard Organization (ISO) recently shared their proposed International Standards for Drone Operations with the public.

The standards will be open for comment until January 21, 2019. After that period the ISO will review comments, make adjustments as needed, and release a final version of the Standards later in the year. It is anticipated that these standards will be adopted by the U.S., U.K., and elsewhere throughout the world.


Why Do We Need International Standards?

When you look at drone laws throughout the world there is still a lot of variation between countries.

Some countries, like the U.S., Canada, and several others, have fairly robust drone laws, while others have only a few. About a third of the countries in the world don’t have any drone laws at all, and there are some countries that ban drones altogether, in some cases because they simply don’t know how to deal with them. Even within the U.S., drone laws can vary widely from one state to the next, sometimes in direct contradiction with federal law.

To address all of this variation, the ISO’s international standards aim to establish rules that everyone can agree on, which will help normalize drone operations throughout the world.

These international standards will help create a global structure for what constitutes responsible drone use. In much the same way that the FAA’s Part 107 rules have helped foster the spread of commercial drone operations in the U.S., these international standards can potentially help drone adoption spread more quickly and responsibly throughout the world.

The Proposed Standards

The standards released by the ISO focus primarily on data security, air safety, privacy, and creating pathways to facilitate UAV implementation in a variety of commercial scenarios.

In creating the standards the ISO has drawn on existing flight rules and protocols. Three more documents will be added to the drafted standards in the future, which will cover general specifications for UAVs, manufacturing quality, and UTMs (Unmanned Traffic Management systems).

Air Safety

Air safety is one of the major areas of drone operations covered in the drafted international standards.

Included in the draft are proposed standards for flight log protocols, drone maintenance, no-fly zones, local regulations, and training and flight planning documentation.

The standards also emphasize the importance of social responsibility in drone operations, which we applaud. Although Counter UAS (CUAS) technology is developing rapidly, one of the most important things we can do to keep people safe from rogue drones is to continue fostering a culture of safety and responsibility throughout the drone industry, so that all drone pilots know when and how they should operate.

Privacy and Data Protection

As drone adoption has grown, concerns about personal privacy and the privacy of data have been pervasive.

The ISO’s drafted standards address these concerns head on, and include proposals for requiring drone pilots to operate systems that will protect their data, as well as requirements about keeping the hardware and software pilots use up to date.

Also included in the standards is the requirement that human intervention be maintained as the fail-safe for all drone operations, including autonomous operations, so that a person will always be present and accountable for drone flights, even as technology advances.


Next Steps

The creation of these standards represents a historic moment for the drone industry. Through the establishment of these standards and rules, we can hope to see drone adoption continue to spread around the globe, with safe and responsible practices spreading alongside that adoption.

The ISO’s international standards are currently open for comment, and they are encouraging drone professionals, businesses, academics, and the general public to chime in. To learn more about how to submit comments visit this page on the ISO’s website.

The post ISO Releases Draft of First International Drone Standards for Public Comment appeared first on UAV Coach.

Rutherford County, TN First County Government to Receive Waiver to Fly Over People

Rutherford County, TN has become the first county government to receive a waiver to fly sUAS over people (also known as a 107.39 waiver).

The county received permission from the FAA to use the Snap drone, created by Vantage Robotics, for their flights over people. They plan to use the waiver in both emergency and non-emergency scenarios.

Rutherford County has been working to improve their drone program for some time now. Back in September, UAV Coach CEO Alan Perlman led a drone flight training class for Rutherford County employees to help them improve their skills as drone pilots in the work they do for the county.

Group Flight Training Rutherford County
Alan leading a flight training class for Rutherford County

About Rutherford County’s 107.39 Waiver

We asked Mike Curtis, GIS Manager for Rutherford County, to fill us in on why they decided to pursue the 107.39 waiver, and what they plan to do with it.

Curtis told us that the waiver was first pursued following a white nationalist rally held in Rutherford County in October of 2017. County employees monitored the rally with sUAS, but were restricted in their surveillance to only flying over buildings and observing events from a distance.

We have found . . . a need to be able to capture data and imagery of events like a controversial rally and counter-protest in downtown Murfreesboro October of 2017. While we had some sUAS in the air, the restrictions of keeping the sUAS over structures limited our capability to monitor the event as it evolved.

– Mike Curtis, GIS Manager for Rutherford County

While the rally was the catalyst for pursuing the waiver, county officials plan to use it for a range of scenarios.

Some of these include filming county events, such as an upcoming Christmas parade in Murfreesboro and the county’s Main Street Jazz Fest in May, as well as gathering information about fires in progress and other emergencies. Some of the footage gathered will air on Rutherford County’s local access T.V. station RCTV so that viewers can see these new perspectives of local events.

To obtain the 107.39 waiver, Rutherford County worked with drone lawyer James Mackler. Mackler served as the county’s intermediary with the FAA and with Vantage Robotics, gathering and submitting the necessary paperwork and working closely with all parties to shepherd the application through.

Vantage Robotics’ Snap UAS

Vantage Robotics is not new to working with the FAA to secure waivers to fly over people.

Last year Vantage Robotics’ Snap drone was used in CNN’s second successful application for a waiver to fly over people, which was the second CNN had received. In fact, CNN was the first company ever to get one of these waivers, in part due to their collaboration with the FAA on the Pathfinder Program.

We’re excited at Vantage, both to be continuing to pave new ground for safe and legal UAV use near people as well to see Snap contributing to public safety.

– Vantage Robotics

According to Brendan Stewart of Aerovista Innovations, when the FAA is considering a 107.39 waiver request, the specs of the drone that will be used in the proposed operations over people is of very high concern. Which makes sense—in order for a UAS to be flown safely over people, it has to be demonstrable that, if the drone suddenly falls from the sky, it will not pose a serious risk to the people on the ground.

The Snap presents a low-risk option for flights over people because its rotors are enmeshed in a flexible cage, it’s lightweight, and it can absorb a high degree of energy on impact in case it does fall to the ground.

Photo credit: Vantage Robotics

The Evolution of 107.39 Waivers

The FAA has historically been slow to grant waivers to fly over people, and with good reason. Of all the types of flying prohibited by the FAA’s Part 107 rules, flying over people is one of the primary ways that a drone operation could lead to serious injury.

Just a little over a year ago, in October of 2017, the FAA had only issued five 107.39 waivers to just three companies (CNN, FLIR, and Project Wing).

Fast forward 13 months, and the FAA has now issued twenty 107.39 waivers to 14 different entities (the list includes 12 companies, 1 person, and 1 county government—Rutherford County).

[To view all of the 107.39 waivers the FAA has granted, visit this page on the FAA’s website and search “107.39”.]

And it looks like this trend might speed up even more, in part with the help of Vantage Robotics. Given that the specs of the proposed UAV for flights over people are so crucial, Vantage Robotics now essentially has a playbook for helping to secure waivers to fly over people.

We’re pleased to see that the FAA has demonstrated a repeatable waiver process for Vantage to expand our support of additional customers for commercial operations over people.

– Vantage Robotics

Since the news of their 107.39 waiver first broke, Rutherford County has already had several agencies contact them to learn how they can pursue one for themselves. It will be interesting to see how many 107.39 waivers will have been issued by this time next year. Fifteen have been issued since October of last year, and we can only imagine that many more will be issued by this time next year.

Are you excited about the progress being made on the 107.39 waiver front? Let us know what you think by sharing your thoughts in this thread on the UAV Coach community forum.

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Drone Delivery Systems and FlytBase Partner To Develop Smart Mailbox and Precision Landing Kit for Drone Deliveries

Today, drones are readily being used to make deliveries in the medical sector, consumer sector, and more, but security remains an issue for senders and recipients.

Delivery drones are required to make precision landings based on GPS, IR, or RTK-GPS, which can be unreliable in certain locations. There are other obstacles to drone deliveries too. Restrictions on flying over people or beyond the visual line of sight hinder companies from delivering across far distances or to locations that require passing over people. Then, if a drone does successfully make a delivery, there’s concern that items delivered by drone will be targeted for theft. Together, these issues are known as the “last mile problem.”

Drone Delivery Systems and FlytBase are working together to offer a solution to the “last mile” and security issue of drone deliveries. The companies have just announced a partnership for the development of a precision landing kit, compatible with any delivery drone, to allow for secure and precise drone delivery to AirBox Home—the world’s first smart drone delivery mailbox. With secure and precise landing, operations can be scaled with diminished thefts or damages.

AirBox Home Drone Delivery Mailbox

FlytBase Precision Landing Kit and AirBox Home Enable Precise Drone Deliveries

Here’s how it works. FlytBase’s precision landing kit, called FlytDock, makes use of a down-facing miniature camera and software to align and land the drone on a visual marker (ArUco Tag) with centimeter accuracy. The system can be remotely managed and controlled over the internet via 4G/LTE.

With the combined FlytBase precision landing technology, and our new AirBox Kits, any drone can now deliver to AirBox Home. This new innovation will create a drone agnostic platform for last-mile secure package deliveries to AirBox Home.

—Brandon Pargoe, creator of AirBox Technology

FlytDoc Precision Drone Delivery System

FlytBase’s precision landing kit is being designed as a plug-and-play solution to incorporate into any drone platform. With AirBox Home, users will get secure deliveries, eliminating package theft. Senders and receivers will receive alerts that packages have arrived in their AirBox smart mailbox, further protecting packages from damage and weather conditions.

According to Nitin Gupta, CEO at FlytBase, “Precision-landing is an essential component for the success of several such autonomous deployments. With FlytDock, we have been able to assist our partners and customers looking for a robust and reliable solution for precision landing on docking/charging stations, for security, delivery, and inspection applications.”

Watch a drone powered by FlytBase software utilize computer vision techniques and dedicated landing algorithms to precisely align, approach and land the multirotor on the ArUco Tag on the ground in the video below:

YouTube Video

Real Applications for FlytBase and AirBox Drone Delivery System

Drone deliveries have continued to advance since we last reviewed the progress of drone deliveries in 2017. A year ago, drone deliveries were taking place across the world in countries such as Iceland, Switzerland, Australia, and Tanzania. Companies such as Google and Amazon were also testing out prototype drone delivery systems. However, drone deliveries have yet to become a fully executed reality in the U.S.

A drone could provide much-needed solutions for last-mile delivery in the U.S., but there are still some legalities companies interested in drone deliveries need to work through. For example, a waiver from the FAA is required to fly a drone beyond visual line of sight or over crowds of people. Local governments have also raised concerns about privacy violations and noise disturbance that delivery drones could potentially cause when delivering items to residential areas.

Drone Delivery Systems has suggested that implementation of the FlytBase and AirBox systems could secure solutions for the healthcare sector, satisfying HIPAA security and eliminating prescription tampering. The first drone delivery program enabled by a nationwide integrated airspace system was established earlier this year to deliver medical supplies in Switzerland. It’s enabled by a nationwide integrated airspace system, or UTM (Unmanned Traffic Management system), called the Swiss U-space. The United States has yet to develop a UTM that would regulate delivery drones.

However, drone deliveries may finally become a reality in the U.S. thanks to the passing of the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Bill. The bill mandated that the FAA establish a plan to create a fully operational UTM system in the U.S. A plan for this system should be submitted within one year after conclusion of the UAS Integration Pilot Program, a program designed to assess the risks of integrating drones into the national airspace and help in the effort to develop UTM. Once a UTM is implemented in the U.S., AirBox Home systems, other smart mailboxes, and drone delivery technology could be a common sight in your own neighborhood.

Share your thoughts on the future of drone deliveries in the U.S. in this thread on our community forum.

The post Drone Delivery Systems and FlytBase Partner To Develop Smart Mailbox and Precision Landing Kit for Drone Deliveries appeared first on UAV Coach.

Zipline Plans to Build Drone Assembly Plant in Rwanda with Hopes of Extending Medical Drone Deliveries to More Hospitals

At a recent Cabinet meeting, the Rwanda government agreed to extend its contract with Zipline for another three years for the delivery of medical products via drones. Zipline, a California-based company, has been delivering medical supplies by drone in Rwanda since 2016. As part of the contract renewal, Zipline plans to open a drone assembly plant in Rwanda.

The ability to manufacture their drones on site will enable Zipline to ramp up their delivery service to more hospitals and to provide equipment to the distribution centers more efficiently within the country of Rwanda. Drones will also be able to undergo repairs and maintenance as necessary at the plant.

Zipline was approved to continue drone deliveries at a Cabinet Meeting chaired by His Excellency the President of the Republic, Paul Kagame on Wednesday 24th October 2018. (Source)


Zipline Reports Success with Drone Deliveries in Rwanda

Zipline launched operations in Muhanga district, Southern Rwanda, about two years ago as the world’s first commercial regular drone delivery service. The company reported earlier this year that deliveries were going well, with significant benefits to the local health system including an increase in the use of some blood products by 175% and reducing waste and spoilage by over 95%.

Key to their success has been the deployment of autonomous, beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) flights with the fastest commercial delivery drone on Earth. Zipline’s delivery drone is an autonomous fixed-wing style airplane. The plane is capable of flying at a top speed of approximately 80 mi/h, and a cruising speed of 62 mi/h with a round trip range of 100 miles carrying up to 3.85 pounds of cargo.

zipline new drone 2018

Zipline Plans to Build Drone Assembly Plant in Rwanda

During the post-Cabinet meeting news conference, the Health Minister, Dr Diane Gashumba, confirmed that Zipline was due to establish a drone assembling and maintenance plant in the country.

This was confirmed to The New Times by Israel Bimpe, Zipline’s Head of National Implementation.

“Yes that’s true (Zipline is set to build an assembling plant in Rwanda),” Bimpe told The New Times. He added, “Zipline actually has been assembling certain components here in Rwanda, batteries, especially.” The New Times

The new drone manufacturing plant will add to Zipline’s two distribution centers, one in Muhanga and the other in Kayonza, which will help bring the entire country within range of its life-saving service.

Currently, Zipline’s service is used to deliver blood, plasma, and platelets to 21 hospitals across Rwanda. In an interview with CNBC Africa, Bimpe stated that the company hopes to increase deliveries to more hospitals and to add basic pharmaceuticals on the list of urgent medicines that can be delivered by drones. Watch the interview below.

As of April, 2018, Zipline has delivered 7,000 units of blood over 4,000 flights, approximately a third of which have been in emergency life-saving situations. With the upcoming addition of a manufacturing plant in Rwanda, we expect to see Zipline save more lives with drone deliveries of essential medical supplies.

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Drones in Filmmaking: Drones Take on a New Application with Storm Chaser Jim Edds

When you think of drones and filmmaking, many minds go straight to Hollywood where drones are used to capture aerial perspectives and create dramatic scenes for movies and television. However, we recently came across an unexpected use of drones in the realm of filmmaking: extreme storm chasing.

Storm chaser and extreme weather documenter Jim Edds shares with us how he uses drones to document some of the most dangerous weather across the world, from hurricanes to typhoons to active volcanoes.

Jim Edds Storm Chaser

Jim Edds gets pounded by a wave along the Galveston seawall during Hurricane Ike (2008) .

There are many obstacles to using drones to document storms and natural events. High-speed winds, wet weather conditions, and flight restrictions at natural disaster sites all pose limitations on the use of drones by storm chasers. There’s also the real factor of danger to one’s life to consider. Despite what seem like dangerous odds, Jim has documented over 55 extreme storms in over 11 countries. His footage has been featured by National Geographic, The Weather Channel, The Travel Channel, and dozens of other news and media outlets. He’s also the author of Hurricane Journey – Life in the Danger Zone.

Read on to see how Jim’s journey in storm chasing first began and how drones have changed the way he documents storms.

Begin Interview—

How did you get started documenting storms?

I worked for eight years as a chemist. Right before my senior year of college, I was run over by a boat while out spearfishing in Alabama. So, that set me back a year at school, but I still graduated. After that I had to work to pay off all the resulting medical bills. Then, after eight years, I got tired of working as a chemist. I wanted to pursue a different lifestyle.

I had gone down to the Florida Keys and I said, “Man, it’d be great if you could find a job to do, work down here, and live this good life.” So, I figured out a way to get down to the Florida Keys by working for the Department of Environmental Regulation. And then, of course, the day job was no fun, but at least I was living in the Keys. Oh, the diving was good in the Keys. I soon began photographing the underwater marine environment. I also enrolled in a home study photography course with the New York Institute of Photography. That course was key to my future success as a working Pro.

Then you found your niche in extreme storm chasing. How did that come along?

I had a friend who was into storm chasing, and at the time I didn’t really know how big he was. He’s passed away now, but his name was Jim Leonard, and any storm chaser knows who Jim Leonard was. The most gifted guy I ever saw. He could look at a cloud and say if a waterspout was going to drop out of it.

He showed me how to film hurricanes, how to stay safe, what to look out for, what’s going to happen when the winds pick up, what’s going to happen when the surge comes ashore, and so on. And then, I learned some things by getting a lot of storms under my belt.

In 1998, I chased my first Hurricane—Category II “Georges” in Key West, Florida. I had kept up with Jim over the years trying to break out of the day job that was now old and mundane. He took me down to Key West early that morning as power transformers exploded along the route and showed me the storm chaser “ropes” – stuff like where to park your car, how to figure out where the eye is by watching the wind shift, what is going to fly in the air, and not to leave your food at home! After watching 110 mph winds blow through Key West I was hooked.

What type of technology did you use when you first started chasing storms in the 1990s?

In 1995, Sony came out with a digital camcorder. I think they called it the VX1000. That changed everything because no longer did you have to make a dupe. You had an electronic, a digital copy that was just as good as the original. I bought my first digital camcorder – a Sony TRV-900 in 1999. That’s how I took my video.

Has the progression of technology changed the way you work?

Absolutely. When drones came out I said, “I have to add that.” So, I got the Part 107 remote pilot certificate to fly a drone commercially.

I recently got the new Mavic 2 Pro. It’s easier to travel with than the Phantom 4. When you go overseas, it’s tough lugging a lot of stuff with you. With the Phantom 4, I have to pack it in a separate case and it gets beat up in customs, but the Mavic 2 Pro I can just carry in my backpack.

You try to stay light. And it’s more fun, too, because there’s nothing like, “Hold on, I got one more suitcase.” These kids with backpacks, they got the right idea. That’s how you do it.

How do you implement drones in your work?

There’s a small window after the hurricane when you can film with a drone. You have two things working against you: how much daylight is left and the temporary flight restriction (TFR). You know the TFR is coming, but thank God that the government is slow with the TFR. Usually, you get a day before the TFR shows up. But when the other manned aircraft start flying, then that shuts you down, too. So, there’s just a small window.

With Hurricane Michael over Mexico Beach (2018), there was a small window in that low light when the sun peeked out. Then there was a spectacular sunset, the calm after the storm. A lot of folks flew up then on Part 107, maybe even some that weren’t. But they flew over Mexico Beach and that footage immediately got on the news. Everybody wanted a piece of that. I think it’s kind of a rush to see who can get their drone footage out first.

Hurricane Michael storm surge on Panama City Beach, FL (2018) captured by Jim Edds. 

YouTube Video

Outside of that window, you have to go the way of getting a waiver. I have requested one once before at a Hawaii volcano, but park service didn’t like anybody flying drones over there unless they were with the university there or the park service drones. So, they wouldn’t even let CNN fly, and that’s why the media left because they wouldn’t let anybody fly or they wouldn’t let you in the access areas.

In your field and in working with storms, what type of drone technology would you like to see?

I’d like to see a consumer drone that is waterproof, and I’d like to see something that could stand up in 40 – 50 mile an hour winds. I think that’d be great.

How do you predict drones will impact the weather and meteorology field in the future?

So in the weather business, it’s all about collecting data. With enough data, you could predict when these storms are going to intensify, how much they will, at what rate, and get a better idea of where they’re going to go. But you have to sample the whole environment. Well, NASA has developmental drone called the Northrop Grumman Global Hawk for this type of data collection. The Global Hawk will fly up to an altitude of 60,000 feet, and it will spit these things out, little mini weather stations called drop signs, that sample the air all the way down to the surface.

With that data we have a better idea of where the storms are going to go. It’s about collecting the thousands and thousands of bits of information that are changing. And the only way you’re going to get the data is to sample the environment. Drones can do that.

Check out more of Jim Edds’ videos on his YouTube channel. You can also connect with other drone pilots in the filmmaking industry by heading over to the Filmmaking/Cinematography thread of our community forum.

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