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Drone Parachute Systems Provide a Path to Flights Over People

The pros and cons of sUAS parachute systems are debated heavily in the drone community. Drone pilots are particularly concerned with the possibility of a false deployment of a parachute system. However, with the recent publication of ASTM International standards for sUAS parachutes, they may become a more attractive option for drone operators who wish to fly over people.


Source: ParaZero

New ASTM Standard for sUAS Parachutes

The ASTM standard defines the requirements for the design, manufacturing, and testing of sUAS parachute systems. Among other things, the standard requires an autonomous triggering system to detect failures and deploy the parachute without relying on the RPIC (remote-pilot-in-command) as well as a flight termination system to stop the motors from spinning. Stopping the motors will prevent entanglement with the parachute and reduce the risk of injury/damage.

To meet the standard, parachute systems will need to pass a series of aerial deployments (45 deployments for multi-rotors) to prove the effectiveness of the system in the sUAS’s full flight envelope and in various failure scenarios. Learn more about the standard, F3322, here.

The standard is designed to allow Civil Aviation Authorities (CAA) to determine with confidence whether a parachute system is safe enough to allow for flight over people. A leading group of experts from around the world spent many months defining and perfecting the standard. We encourage the FAA and CAAs in other countries to adopt this standard.

—Avi Lozowick, Director of Policy and Strategy, ParaZero

ASTM International cannot require or enforce compliance with its standards. However, the standards may become mandatory when referenced by an external contract, corporation, or government. Neither the U.S. Government or the FAA have created a policy to require adherence to the ASTM sUAS parachute standards at this time. Manufacturers who chose to voluntarily follow these standards, however, will ensure a higher quality of their product and be more competitive on the market.

sUAS Parachutes and Flights Over People

The FAA restricts all UAS flight over unprotected people under the Part 107 rule. This limitation is necessary for the safety of the public underneath, but it has inhibited the growth of the industry as it prevents drones from flying in urban or populated areas where drones could be of valuable use. The only way to gain permission for flights over people is to obtain a waiver from the FAA. This type of waiver is rarely approved, with less than 15 waivers approved by the FAA for flights over people since the waiver process was implemented in 2016.

To some, it seems that parachute systems might provide a solution to flights over people. In fact, the first ever FAA waiver for sustained operations over people with a parachute system was recently granted to North Dakota operator, Botlink, on September 29, 2018.

Botlink is utilizing the waiver to perform missions for local law enforcement as well as for generating media content as part of the UAS Integration Pilot Program (UASIPP) lead by the North Dakota Department of Transportation. The first flights using the waiver were conducted during the tailgating event prior to the North Dakota State University vs South Dakota State football game at the FargoDome in North Dakota. In addition, Botlink and CNN demonstrated the first simultaneous use of UAS airspace as they work together to broadcast and live-stream the NDSU/SDSU football pregame tailgating event. Here’s a look at some of the footage they captured:

YouTube Video

To complete the flight, Botlink used ParaZero’s SafeAir System on a DJI Phantom 4. The ParaZero system includes a fully autonomous triggering system that deploys quickly and reliably without being dependent on the operator’s response time. Once the parachute deploys, the system stops the spinning rotors to avoid entanglement with the parachute cords and reduces the risk of laceration injuries to people on the ground.

ParaZero tested the parachute system over many months and shared the data collected from their tests with the FAA. With the test data, ParaZero was able to prove that in the case of a drone failure, the descent rate would be slow enough and the parachute system will work properly in all types of failure scenarios. This data was a critical component of Botlink’s waiver application.

Until today, the handful of existing waivers for flight over people have either been for closed-set operations or for very lightweight and sometimes frangible UAS. This waiver opens the gates for safe flight over people with larger, more advanced UAS that can carry more sophisticated payloads and cameras.

—Eden Attias, CEO of ParaZero

The Best sUAS Parachute Systems

If you’re interested in acquiring a parachute system for your drone, consider these top three sUAS parachute system sellers:

DJI Phantom Mars Drone Parachute System

Source: MARS Parachutes

1. MARS Parachutes

MARS Parachutes has developed a full line of parachute systems that fit several popular multirotor aircraft, such as the full line of DJI aircraft. These systems can be adapted to nearly any multirotor aircraft flying today, and come in a variety of sizes that range from a 36″ canopy to a massive 120″ canopy for large-scale aircraft.

2. ParaZero

ParaZero worked with ATSM to create the latest ASTM sUAS parachute standards. Their unique system is equipped with a SafeAir safety box, which independently monitors the flight operation. In the case of drone failure, SafeAir triggers a patented ballistic parachute to provide a controlled descent rate.

3. Fruity Chutes

Fruity Chutes provides recovery systems to many of the leading aerospace manufacturers including NASA, Space X, AAI Textron, Quest UAV, Aeromao, and many more. Recently, they’ve begun to integrate their parachute systems into UAS products. Their chutes are found in other Drone recovery systems from manufacturers such as Rebel Space, Skycat and more. For consumers, Fruit Chutes offers a variety of drone and UAV recovery bundles.

Have you used any of the parachutes listed above, or do you prefer one that we haven’t listed here? Share your experience with sUAS parachute systems in this thread on our community forum.


The post Drone Parachute Systems Provide a Path to Flights Over People appeared first on UAV Coach.

How the FAA Chose Nine New LAANC Service Suppliers including DJI

On October 1, 2018, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced nine new partners to its Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) initiative. LAANC provides near real-time processing of airspace authorizations for Part 107 drone operators nationwide.

LAANC Service Suppliers

The New LAANC Suppliers

The nine new LAANC suppliers are Aeronyde, Airbus, AiRXOS, Altitude Angel, Converge, DJI, KittyHawk, UASidekick and Unifly.

These new additions fit our prediction back in April 2018 that mostly “high-end” drone service companies would join LAANC. Kittyhawk was another drone ops management tool we predicted would join the FAA data exchange program. The nine new suppliers join five companies—AirMap, Harris Corp., Project Wing, Skyward and Thales Group—that have already met the technical and legal requirements to provide LAANC services.

The new supplier we expect drone pilots to be most excited about is DJI. As the world’s leader in civilian drones and aerial imaging technology, DJI users will be especially excited to apply for LAANC approvals seamlessly through their DJI account.

DJI has always led the industry in helping open America’s skies for productive small drone flights while keeping safety as the top priority, and offering LAANC capability to our customers is another example of our dedication to meeting their needs.

—Brendan Schulman, DJI Vice President of Policy & Legal Affairs.

With 14 total LAANC service suppliers, more airspace will open up for professional pilots. Part 107 drone pilots can receive fast airspace authorization to fly in controlled airspace under 400 feet from their LAANC supplier of choice.

How to Become a LAANC Supplier

In April 2018, the FAA announced that they were going to open LAANC to new suppliers. Following the FAA’s successful prototype, the initiative was simultaneously opened to additional air traffic control facilities and to new industry partners. The application period ran from April 16 to May 16, 2018. The next opportunity for drone service companies to apply to will take place in 2019 from January 7 to February 8 and from July 8 to August 9. Interested parties can find information on the application process here.

The application process is not run in the same format as a standard government acquisition, which typically requires a Screening Information Request (SIR) or Request for Proposal (RFP). Instead, LAANC applications go through a five-month onboarding process. This includes a one-month application period, one-month review period, one month of technical interviews, and two months of formal onboarding for entities that make it through each prior step.

LAANC Onboarding Process

The LAANC capability offers industry the opportunity to work with the FAA as they develop a UAS traffic management system. Companies approved to provide LAANC Services are known as Approved UAS Service Suppliers (USS). Let’s take a look at each step of the onboarding process:

Step 1: Application Period

USS onboarding application submission must include:

  • Completed USS Application package
  • Signed Memorandum of Agreement (MOA)

Step 2: FAA Submission Review

The FAA has 30 days to respond whether the applicant meets requirements to continue in the process. During the review, the FAA may ask applicants for additional information based on submitted materials.

Step 3: Technical Interviews

The FAA invites applicants that pass step 2 to demo & discuss their product. If their product meets the USS operating rules they proceed to step 4.

Step 4: Formal Onboarding

Applicants proceed to system integration with the LAANC Automation Platform in a staging environment. The applicants are given two attempts to demonstrate successful execution of validation scenarios to show compliance with the LAANC USS Operating rules. Upon successful completion of all onboarding activities, the FAA will countersign the MOA to complete the onboarding process.

Preparing for a National Airspace UAS Traffic Management System

LAANC is a foundation for developing a national Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management System (UTM). The final wave of LAANC was rolled out in September 2018, and it is now available at nearly 300 FAA air traffic facilities across the country, covering approximately 500 airports. LAANC has provided Part 107 pilots with a streamlined solution to enable real-time automated notification and authorization to fly in controlled airspace—the first step of a UTM system.

With a UTM system in place, beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) operations will become more attainable for certified UAS pilots. The FAA, NASA, and other drone industry players are partnering to develop UTM to support the real-time or near-real-time organization, coordination, and management of primarily low altitude (< 400 ft AGL) UAS operations. These organizations will cooperate to determine and communicate real-time airspace status. Full integration of UAS into the national airspace will be a joint effort between all members of the drone industry and UAS pilots.

The FAA expects that UTM capabilities will be implemented incrementally over the next several years. In the meantime, who is your preferred LAANC service provider? Let us know, and join the conversation about the new LAANC suppliers in this thread on our community forum.

The post How the FAA Chose Nine New LAANC Service Suppliers including DJI appeared first on UAV Coach.

The NFL Makes a Case for Counter Drone (CUAS) Programs

In the last few weeks the NFL has been taking the lead in calling for more restrictions on drones to help keep fans safe at sporting events.

Image source

Cathy Lanier, the NFL’s Vice President for Security, stated in a testimony given recently before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, that so far in 2018 the NFL has recorded “about a dozen intrusions by drones at stadiums during games.”

In the two years that I have been at the NFL, we have observed a dramatic increase in the number of threats, incidents, and incursions by drones.

– Cathy Lanier, Vice President for Security for the NFL

She went on to observe that the NFL is not alone in these concerns, citing other incidents of rogue drones at sports stadiums and arenas.

The safety concerns related to rogue drones flying over fans at sporting events are twofold. One, that the drone could accidentally fail and fall on fans—as happened over the summer to a woman in Las Vegas celebrating July 4th. And two, that a drone could intentionally be used to transport a bomb, chemical, or some other hazardous substance into an area where a large group of people are gathered.

Roadblocks to Effective Counter UAS (CUAS) at Sporting Events

So why can’t the NFL and other sports leagues just use the CUAS resources that are readily available—things like anti-drone guns, drones with nets, even trained eagles—to keep fans safe?

Because current federal laws don’t allow local law enforcement officials or private citizens to take action against drones, even when they’re being flown illegally.

The current state of the law, however, leaves security officials with an unenviable choice: Procure equipment whose use would be illegal, or remain unequipped to respond to a security threat that could endanger tens of thousands of people.

– Cathy Lanier, Vice President for Security for the NFL

On its surface, the FAA’s reasoning here makes sense. The FAA wants to keep drone laws simple and straightforward, and wants to retain their pre-emptive authority when it comes to who can do what in the skies, which are regulated by federal, not local, laws.

But the truth is that the number of drones in the hands of amateur pilots has grown quickly over the last few years, with safety concerns growing right alongside them. To choose another example, in addition to the number of rogue drones in stadiums cited by the NFL, the number of rogue drones that have impeded firefighting efforts has also steadily risen over the last few years.

So What’s the Solution?

The problem here is not an easy one. Simply opening up drone regulations and CUAS options to localities and private entities could create a free-for-all situation, and entitle those who simply don’t like drones to bring them down whenever and however they like.

Image source

Indeed, many states and cities have already passed their own drone laws in defiance of (or perhaps ignorance of) federal law. Even though many of these local drone laws go against FAA regulations, in each instance the law will most likely have to be challenged in court before any real change will take place—this is what happened almost exactly a year ago, when a court in the Newton Case struck down several drone ordinances for being in direct conflict with existing FAA regulations.

The UAS Integration Pilot Program, whose 10 winners were announced back in May, was created in part to help alleviate these tensions between federal and local authorities when it comes to how drones are regulated. And research into UTMs, which has been moving along relatively quickly, considering the complexities involved, could also help by providing systems for identifying rogue drones and possibly even for removing them from the sky.

But for now, these programs and measures are still not actual resources that the NFL and others can use.

In her recent testimony, Ms. Lanier made the following proposals to help with the issue of rogue or “malicious” drones:

  • Permit the Attorney General or the Secretary of Homeland Security to delegate drone countermeasure authorities to state and local law enforcement protecting a large sporting event covered by a temporary flight restriction.
  • Require the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security to consult with state and local law enforcement, and incorporate state and local law enforcement personnel into the implementation of drone countermeasure programs.
  • Establish a pilot program to include state and local law enforcement personnel in the programs developed pursuant to the legislation.

We find these steps reasonable, and appreciate the call both for immediate action via TFRs but also for collecting more information via a pilot program. As veteran law enforcement officer Travis Moran recently put it in Dronin’ On, praising the level-headed next steps proposed by Ms. Lanier and the NFL: “The knee jerk rarely ends well.”

It will certainly be interesting to see if the NFL’s proposals are put into action, and what will happen next to address the concerns raised by the NFL and others regarding how to deal with the threat posed by rogue drones.

What do you think about the NFL’s CUAS proposals? Join a discussion on this topic in this thread on the UAV Coach Community Forum.

The post The NFL Makes a Case for Counter Drone (CUAS) Programs appeared first on UAV Coach.

House Approves FAA Reauthorization Act and Moves Forward on UAS Traffic Management and Remote ID

On Wednesday, September 26, 2018, the House passed the FAA Reauthorization Act—a bill to authorize Federal Aviation Administration programs for five years. The House approved the measure by a 398-23 vote. To be turned into law it must be approved by the Senate and signed by the President.

FAA Reauthorization Act

The FAA’s current authority expires Sunday, but Congress could pass a brief extension to give the Senate more time to consider the House-passed bill. The House is expected to pass a short-term extension of existing authorities through October 7 in case the Senate is not able to follow suit before the September 30 deadline.

In our August FAA Reauthorization Bill update, there was a dim outlook on whether or not Congress would act on the bill before the fast approaching deadline. The House had proposed amendments to the bill, covering a range of issues, including air traffic management of unmanned aircraft, the role of state and local government in UAS regulation, and increased transparency of information on approved sUAS waivers and airspace authorizations.

Senate Approaches an Agreement on FAA Reauthorization

The outlook on Senate approval is positive, with expectations that the Senate will pass the long-term bill with strong, bipartisan support before the deadline. The Small UAV Coalition commended the bipartisan leadership of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committees for reaching an agreement over the weekend on legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for five years.

In particular, the Coalition was pleased that the legislation will:

  • Expedite the development and implementation of an unmanned traffic management (UTM) system.
  • Give the FAA the flexibility needed to appropriately regulate all UAS, including to impose remote identification and tracking requirements.
  • Enable federal law enforcement to conduct tailored countermeasures operations with due consideration to the ongoing safety of the national airspace and privacy and civil liberties.
  • Establish a process to develop consensus industry standards in lieu of protracted type and airworthiness certification.
  • Improve the pathway to safely enable ubiquitous UAS delivery operations through a rigorous, risk-based certification process.
  • Increase transparency in the Part 107 waiver approval process.

Once enacted into law, the federal government will have the necessary tools to lift the hold on UAS rulemakings. Congress has authorized the government to establish appropriate remote identification and tracking and countermeasure programs. This will also make it easier for the FAA to develop new regulations that enable routine expanded commercial operations, including flights over people, beyond the visual line of sight, and carrying property.

FAA Reauthorization Means Progress for UAS

Some of the most pressing issues packed within the FAA Reauthorization Act are regulations for deliveries, hobbyists, counter-UAS systems, unmanned traffic systems, and remote ID. We summarize some of the most crucial sections of the FAA Reauthorization Act pertinent to these issues below.

Drone Deliveries

In SEC. 348 of the bill, the FAA is given one year to update existing regulations to authorize the carriage of property by operators of small UAS for compensation or hire. They will have to create a certification process for UAS operators who want to carry/deliver property for compensation or hire.

Section 336 Hobbyists

Under SEC. 349 of the bill, hobbyists who previously flew under Special Rule for Model Aircraft (Section 336), will need to pass an online aeronautical knowledge and safety test. The test can be administered electronically by the FAA, a community-based organization, or a person designated by the FAA.

Counter-UAS Systems

In SEC. 364 of the bill, the FAA is asked to review agencies currently authorized to operate Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Systems (C-UAS). The review should include the process of interagency coordination of C-UAS activity and standards for operation of C-UAS. Congress has asked to examine progress on this review within four months of the passage of the bill.

Unmanned Traffic Management and Remote ID

SEC. 376 of the bill requests the FAA to compose a plan for full operational capability of UAS traffic management with NASA and UAS industry stakeholders. They shall develop a plan to allow the implementation of UTM services that expand operations beyond visual line of sight while maintaining the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016. This section also outlines requirements for the completion of the UTM System Pilot Program.

For more details on the FAA Reauthorization Act, read the full bill here. You can also share your thoughts on the how this bill will impact the UAS industry in this thread on our community forum.

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Newly Opened Drone Center of Excellence in Las Vegas, NV Offers Public Workshops on Drone Safety

The Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) recently launched the Nevada Drone Center of Excellence for Public Safety (NDCOE) as a facility for drone research and education. The NDCOE staff will focus on mitigating the risk caused by drone incursions into the commercial air traffic space.

NIAS launces Nevada Drone Center of ExcellenceSource: NAIS

Nevada is Ranked #2 in UAS

The recent Business Facilities’ 14th Annual Rankings: State Rankings Report survey ranked Nevada second (behind first place New York) among all US states and territories for Drone Leaders.

The state rankings report considered research and other development activities. Nevada’s position is viewed as well-deserved based on the advanced contributions from the Nevada state government and NIAS, including the recent launch of the Drone Center of Excellence. Additionally, Nevada is the only statewide test site for the FAA national effort to improve drone safety and establish an operational framework for commercial drone services.

Nevada, through the NIAS, played a significant role in the pioneering use of drones and is well positioned, thanks to several international cooperative agreements, to continue the integration of this technology into our airspace, economy, and daily lives.

—Brian Sandoval, Governor of Nevada

Drone Incursions on the Rise in Nevada

Over the last decade, UAS, more commonly referred to as drones, have experienced an unprecedented boom within aviation. Coinciding with the increase in popularity, incidents involving drones in tourist areas, as well as risks to larger manned aircraft are on the rise and present high-liability risks to property owners.

In February 2018, a YouTube video went viral showing a drone illegally flying above a landing passenger jet at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada. The FAA stated that they were aware of the incident and investigating.

Data from the FAA also raises concern about drones in unauthorized airspace. From January to June 2018, there were 31 reports of unauthorized UAS sightings from pilots, citizens, and law enforcement in Nevada alone. Operating drones around airplanes, helicopters, and airports is dangerous and illegal.

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) and NIAS conducted a statewide survey, in which almost 80% of respondents were concerned about a recreational drone hitting an airline and causing an airline disaster and almost 90% were concerned about aerial drones illegally penetrating FAA airspace without authorization at outdoor events such as sport stadiums, concerts, or at large public gathering events. The results of this survey and the increase in unauthorized drone sightings solidified the public’s support for NIAS to launch the NDCOE, the first center of its kind in the U.S. The NDCOE hopes to educate the public on responsible drone use.

NDCOE Aims to Decrease Drone Incursions with Public Education

The NDCOE’s mission is to save lives and reduce air hazards from drone incursions by empowering a shared safety vision. They’ve partnered with federal agencies like the FAA and private-sector businesses like Switch to accomplish this mission, but most importantly they are involving the public as well.

NDCOE will provide safety incursion research data, drone technology best practices, and educational materials to promote and protect the public’s safety and privacy. This information sharing and education will occur primarily through public workshops. NDCOE hopes to conduct these workshops in an open and ethical manner that will inspire the public to join the NIAS public safety movement.

We are taking an aggressive approach toward solving the complex UAS Industry challenge of mitigating drone incursions into the National Airspace System (NAS)—one of the toughest FAA challenges today. What we are doing in Nevada will be of immense value to the DOT, FAA, DHS, DOJ, commercial airlines, visitor venues, and the UAS Industry.

—Dr. Chris Walach, Senior Director, NIAS and the FAA-designated Nevada UAS Test Site

Safe and successful UAS operations rely on quality training, end user education, and maximizing public safety processes. To protect and educate residents and visitors, this center seeks to protect against drone users who pose a public safety hazard due to inexperience and/or malicious drone operations—for example, drones hitting people or that have the potential to cause an airline disaster, and who violate your safety and/or privacy. The NDCOE also strives to inform the public of Nevada drone laws near high traffic public places, at airports, near military bases, and critical infrastructure.

In this video Dr. Chris Walach, Senior Director, NIAS discusses the purpose and goals of NDCOE.

NDCOE will also advance Drone Surveillance, Detect, and Avoid (remote sensing), wildland firefighting, gas-leak detection, and time-sensitive medical delivery technologies for life-saving medical equipment and organs. To learn more about the NDCOE, visit the NIAS website. You can also join our community discussion about the center on our forum for drone pilots.

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