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At Long Last, FAA Releases First Round of Airspace Authorization Maps

The FAA recently released its very first round of UAS Facility Maps.

For those of us who have been waiting for a smoother way to request airspace authorization, this is a huge deal.

The maps cover 268 airports nationwide, which includes about 40,000 square miles of airspace. 85% of the areas covered in the maps show specific areas and altitudes where drones may be authorized to fly safely.

The maps are the first step in rolling out the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC), a system for drone traffic control that the FAA hopes to have fully online by the end of 2017.

FAA-UAS-maps

Above is a screenshot we took of the map of the airspace near Nashville. You can see right away that the airspace is class E, which is restricted and requires airspace authorization. More importantly, you can see that the ceiling for flying is 0, which means that you probably won’t have any luck with that authorization request if that’s where you want to fly.

Here’s another example, taken from the FAA website, where you can see the ceiling heights grow as the area grids fan out from the airport:

FAA-airspace-maps

This first rollout is significant, and represents a noteworthy step toward greater transparency about the information that goes into approving and rejecting airspace authorization requests.

Want to see the maps? See the FAA’s UAS map of the U.S. hereTo dive into a specific region, just double click on any of the little dots that appear on the map to zoom in.

Why Is This Rollout Such a Big Deal?

The reason these maps are so important for commercial drone pilots is because they’re the first real tool pilots have to help them understand—and expedite—the airspace authorization process.

Up to this point, pilots have simply had to submit the authorization paperwork using the FAA’s Online Waiver Portal (which is confusingly named, since it receives both waiver requests and airspace authorization requests).

After pilots submit, they sit around and wait…sometimes for months. That is a really hard situation to be in if you’re running a small business.

But now, with the use of these maps, a pilot can immediately get insight into the likelihood of getting approval. As noted above, if you see that the ceiling for the area you want to fly in is 0, well, you probably shouldn’t waste your time submitting the authorization paperwork, or waste your client’s time waiting around to see if it gets approved.

And if you know if you need to fly above 100 feet for a certain project, again, you now know not to bother asking for the authorization if the area in question has a ceiling of 100.

It’s important to note that these maps do not represent a way to bypass the airspace authorization process. That is, you can’t simply look at the FAA UAS map, assess the airspace, and go fly.

“UAS Facility Maps show the maximum altitudes around airports where the FAA may authorize part 107 UAS operations without additional safety analysis.”

FAA website

That being said, UAV pilots can certainly use the information provided in the maps with an expectation that a request informed by the information on the maps has a high likelihood of being approved, and also of being approved more quickly.

How Was the LAANC Program Created?

The FAA has rejected a massive 71 waiver requests and 854 airspace applications.

The Drone Girl

And they’ve surely rejected a lot more since the article quoted above was first published back in October of 2016.

These rejections, and the delays pilots have experienced in the waiver and airspace authorization process, are a big deal for the FAA.

To address the problem, the FAA selected 12 companies to participate in a working group to try and find a solution. The end result was the creation by the FAA of the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) program.

In its final form, LAANC will allow an operator to plan a flight, submit that flight plan to the FAA, and receive automatic approval if the flight plan remains within the preselected airspace volumes. The FAA expects this automatic approval system to be live by the end of the year, but it’s possible operators won’t have to wait until then to take advantage of the new system.

– Matt Fanelli, Senior Manager for Strategy at Skyward (one of the 12 companies that helped create the LAANC)

What’s Next?

More maps are expected to be released by the FAA over the next six months. Also, the FAA will soon support automated digital notifications and authorization based on the information in the maps—although how soon is not yet clear.

The grids that appear in the map will be updated in the same 56-day cycle that currently applies to other FAA airspace charts. Purportedly all facility maps will be published by October 31, 2017.

 

 

The post At Long Last, FAA Releases First Round of Airspace Authorization Maps appeared first on UAV Coach.

At Long Last, FAA Releases First Round of Airspace Authorization Maps

The FAA recently released its very first round of UAS Facility Maps.

For those of us who have been waiting for a smoother way to request airspace authorization, this is a huge deal.

The maps cover 268 airports nationwide, which includes about 40,000 square miles of airspace. 85% of the areas covered in the maps show specific areas and altitudes where drones may be authorized to fly safely.

The maps are the first step in rolling out the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC), a system for drone traffic control that the FAA hopes to have fully online by the end of 2017.

FAA-UAS-maps

Above is a screenshot we took of the map of the airspace near Nashville. You can see right away that the airspace is class E, which is restricted and requires airspace authorization. More importantly, you can see that the ceiling for flying is 0, which means that you probably won’t have any luck with that authorization request if that’s where you want to fly.

Here’s another example, taken from the FAA website, where you can see the ceiling heights grow as the area grids fan out from the airport:

FAA-airspace-maps

This first rollout is significant, and represents a noteworthy step toward greater transparency about the information that goes into approving and rejecting airspace authorization requests.

Want to see the maps? See the FAA’s UAS map of the U.S. hereTo dive into a specific region, just double click on any of the little dots that appear on the map to zoom in.

Why Is This Rollout Such a Big Deal?

The reason these maps are so important for commercial drone pilots is because they’re the first real tool pilots have to help them understand—and expedite—the airspace authorization process.

Up to this point, pilots have simply had to submit the authorization paperwork using the FAA’s Online Waiver Portal (which is confusingly named, since it receives both waiver requests and airspace authorization requests).

After pilots submit, they sit around and wait…sometimes for months. That is a really hard situation to be in if you’re running a small business.

But now, with the use of these maps, a pilot can immediately get insight into the likelihood of getting approval. As noted above, if you see that the ceiling for the area you want to fly in is 0, well, you probably shouldn’t waste your time submitting the authorization paperwork, or waste your client’s time waiting around to see if it gets approved.

And if you know if you need to fly above 100 feet for a certain project, again, you now know not to bother asking for the authorization if the area in question has a ceiling of 100.

It’s important to note that these maps do not represent a way to bypass the airspace authorization process. That is, you can’t simply look at the FAA UAS map, assess the airspace, and go fly.

“UAS Facility Maps show the maximum altitudes around airports where the FAA may authorize part 107 UAS operations without additional safety analysis.”

FAA website

That being said, UAV pilots can certainly use the information provided in the maps with an expectation that a request informed by the information on the maps has a high likelihood of being approved, and also of being approved more quickly.

How Was the LAANC Program Created?

The FAA has rejected a massive 71 waiver requests and 854 airspace applications.

The Drone Girl

And they’ve surely rejected a lot more since the article quoted above was first published back in October of 2016.

These rejections, and the delays pilots have experienced in the waiver and airspace authorization process, are a big deal for the FAA.

To address the problem, the FAA selected 12 companies to participate in a working group to try and find a solution. The end result was the creation by the FAA of the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) program.

In its final form, LAANC will allow an operator to plan a flight, submit that flight plan to the FAA, and receive automatic approval if the flight plan remains within the preselected airspace volumes. The FAA expects this automatic approval system to be live by the end of the year, but it’s possible operators won’t have to wait until then to take advantage of the new system.

– Matt Fanelli, Senior Manager for Strategy at Skyward (one of the 12 companies that helped create the LAANC)

What’s Next?

More maps are expected to be released by the FAA over the next six months. Also, the FAA will soon support automated digital notifications and authorization based on the information in the maps—although how soon is not yet clear.

The grids that appear in the map will be updated in the same 56-day cycle that currently applies to other FAA airspace charts. Purportedly all facility maps will be published by October 31, 2017.

 

 

The post At Long Last, FAA Releases First Round of Airspace Authorization Maps appeared first on uav-coach-redesign.

3DR Back on Top: $53 Million Raised in Series D Funding Round

To say 3D Robotics has bounced back would be an understatement.

The company recently announced that they raised $53 million in a series D funding round. That is a LOT of money, and especially for a company that not too long ago looked like it might be on its last legs.

According to a statement released by 3DR, the funding round included “both new equity and conversion of debt equity,” was led by Atlantic Bridge, and included investments from the Autodesk Forge Fund, True Ventures, Foundry Group, Mayfield, and a number of other investors.

“We are excited to lead this round in 3DR and see tremendous opportunity for the deployment of Site Scan across a wide range of industry use cases. The end-to-end reality capture provided by Site Scan, combined with Autodesk software, provides the most comprehensive platform for the measurement and monitoring of progress on construction sites, resulting in potentially huge efficiency gains for the industry.”

– Brian Long, Managing Partner at Atlantic Bridge

This news comes at a time of high turmoil in the drone industry. Recently we’ve seen Lily Robotics fold, and a whole slew of companies like Parrot, Autel, GoPro, and Yuneec go through significant layoffs.

Site Scan, 3DR’s New Focus

3dr-site-scan

3DR has pivoted a few times. First they were a DIY drone company, then they were a commercial drone company, with the 3DR Solo drone as their flagship product.

Their final pivot was to to Site Scan, “a drone data platform for the construction and engineering industries.”

Site Scan helps construction teams monitor and report on progress in real time, identify issues in big projects, and collect actionable data that integrates with Autodesk and GIS tools, so that the flow of information between those doing the building and those doing the planning is quicker, more efficient, and much more accurate.

And honestly, when we first heard about this last pivot, we thought that it wasn’t going to work.

We’re thrilled to say that we were wrong. Because who doesn’t want to see these guys succeed? 3DR has been around forever, they have one of the coolest creation stories out there, and at this point they’re a kind of underdog in the industry. We’re happy to admit we did more than a few fist pumps when we first read the news about their latest round of funding.

What This Augurs for the Industry

As 3DR notes in their recent press release about the series D funding round, construction is an $8 trillion global industry.

Some other noteworthy facts are that a typical commercial construction project runs 80% over budget and 20 months behind schedule. Most of these delays and budgetary misalignments have to do with disconnects between the design and the actual building—disconnects where UAV data collection could have a huge impact.

3DR proposes to help close the gap between planning and execution using drones, as described in the section above on Site Scan.

They’re certainly not the only ones proposing such a solution (Kespry, for instance, already has a huge foothold in the same sector). But a key point here is that the construction industry is probably plenty big enough for several drone companies to succeed in it.

The layoffs we’ve seen of late could just be a part of the industry’s growing pains, as companies start focusing not on where we all thought drones would be the most used and the most purchased when they first started gaining popularity—aerial cinematography and related applications—but on where the money actually is.

Of course, the fact that commercial construction represents a massive business opportunity is no surprise to companies like Yuneec, who recently unveiled their Typhoon H, or DJI, whose whole Matrice series, including the Matrice 200, is aimed at tough commercial applications.

We do find it a sign of things to come that 3DR has made such a success out of this final pivot. It seems the winds of change are blowing—the next big rollouts in the industry may be less in the B2C (business-to-consumer) realm of camera drones sold directly to end users, and more in highly targeted applications for construction.

 

The post 3DR Back on Top: $53 Million Raised in Series D Funding Round appeared first on UAV Coach.

3DR Back on Top: $53 Million Raised in Series D Funding Round

To say 3D Robotics has bounced back would be an understatement.

The company recently announced that they raised $53 million in a series D funding round. That is a LOT of money, and especially for a company that not too long ago looked like it might be on its last legs.

According to a statement released by 3DR, the funding round included “both new equity and conversion of debt equity,” was led by Atlantic Bridge, and included investments from the Autodesk Forge Fund, True Ventures, Foundry Group, Mayfield, and a number of other investors.

“We are excited to lead this round in 3DR and see tremendous opportunity for the deployment of Site Scan across a wide range of industry use cases. The end-to-end reality capture provided by Site Scan, combined with Autodesk software, provides the most comprehensive platform for the measurement and monitoring of progress on construction sites, resulting in potentially huge efficiency gains for the industry.”

– Brian Long, Managing Partner at Atlantic Bridge

This news comes at a time of high turmoil in the drone industry. Recently we’ve seen Lily Robotics fold, and a whole slew of companies like Parrot, Autel, GoPro, and Yuneec go through significant layoffs.

Site Scan, 3DR’s New Focus

3dr-site-scan

3DR has pivoted a few times. First they were a DIY drone company, then they were a commercial drone company, with the 3DR Solo drone as their flagship product.

Their final pivot was to to Site Scan, “a drone data platform for the construction and engineering industries.”

Site Scan helps construction teams monitor and report on progress in real time, identify issues in big projects, and collect actionable data that integrates with Autodesk and GIS tools, so that the flow of information between those doing the building and those doing the planning is quicker, more efficient, and much more accurate.

And honestly, when we first heard about this last pivot, we thought that it wasn’t going to work.

We’re thrilled to say that we were wrong. Because who doesn’t want to see these guys succeed? 3DR has been around forever, they have one of the coolest creation stories out there, and at this point they’re a kind of underdog in the industry. We’re happy to admit we did more than a few fist pumps when we first read the news about their latest round of funding.

What This Augurs for the Industry

As 3DR notes in their recent press release about the series D funding round, construction is an $8 trillion global industry.

Some other noteworthy facts are that a typical commercial construction project runs 80% over budget and 20 months behind schedule. Most of these delays and budgetary misalignments have to do with disconnects between the design and the actual building—disconnects where UAV data collection could have a huge impact.

3DR proposes to help close the gap between planning and execution using drones, as described in the section above on Site Scan.

They’re certainly not the only ones proposing such a solution (Kespry, for instance, already has a huge foothold in the same sector). But a key point here is that the construction industry is probably plenty big enough for several drone companies to succeed in it.

The layoffs we’ve seen of late could just be a part of the industry’s growing pains, as companies start focusing not on where we all thought drones would be the most used and the most purchased when they first started gaining popularity—aerial cinematography and related applications—but on where the money actually is.

Of course, the fact that commercial construction represents a massive business opportunity is no surprise to companies like Yuneec, who recently unveiled their Typhoon H, or DJI, whose whole Matrice series, including the Matrice 200, is aimed at tough commercial applications.

We do find it a sign of things to come that 3DR has made such a success out of this final pivot. It seems the winds of change are blowing—the next big rollouts in the industry may be less in the B2C (business-to-consumer) realm of camera drones sold directly to end users, and more in highly targeted applications for construction.

 

The post 3DR Back on Top: $53 Million Raised in Series D Funding Round appeared first on uav-coach-redesign.

$145,000 Bounty Offered by DJI to Identify Flight-Disrupting Drone Pilots

Drone juggernaut DJI recently announced on their website that they’ll be offering a bounty of up to 1 million yuan, or $145,000, for information related to several drone incidents at an airport in southwestern China’s Sichuan province.

On April 14, 17, 18, and 21, drones flying near Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport interrupted more than 100 flights, causing them to make unscheduled landings or returns, and affecting over 10,000 passengers.

That’s a lot of angry people.

These incidents indicate a growing trend in China. Since the start of the year there have been more than 15 cases of drones flying near airports or aircraft, and last year there were 23 such incidents recorded throughout China. There were only four in 2015.

The huge amount of the reward represents a show of good faith on the part of DJI, in an effort to demonstrate that it doesn’t condone, and in fact is strongly against, the kind of reckless flying that led to these delays. A DJI spokesperson (quoted below) has acknowledged that the drones used at the airport were DJI products.

“We hope to help the police solve these cases as soon as possible, to clear up the unnecessary misunderstanding about the [drone] industry.”

– Wang Fan, Director of Public Relations, DJI

What happened at the Chengdu Shuangliu airpot highlights the real need for airports everywhere to develop Unmanned Traffic Systems (UTMs), or some other method of controlling rogue drones. The FAA’s Pathfinder Program has a UAS Detection Initiative underway to develop comprehensive systems for preventing rogue drones from flying near airports, using UTMs and other approaches—it seems like the time is now to start implementing things like this.

For our part, we’re grateful no planes were actually taken down by the rogue drones, and that the worst outcome of this was grounded planes, not crashed planes.

No-Drone Zones

DJI drones are supposed to come equipped with settings that prevent them from being flown in no-drone zones—forbidden areas near airports and other restricted airspace. DJI drones are also supposed to have restrictions built in that prevent them from flying too high near airports.

But clearly these settings didn’t prevent DJI drones from flying near the Chengdu Shuangliu airport.

Because of this fact, DJI initially stated that the drones involved couldn’t have been theirs.

However, after checking the drones’ altitude and location, and consulting with a partner company’s live monitoring data from the days in question, DJI acknowledged that it did seem to be their drones that had made the hazardous flights, but claimed that a third party app must have been used to override the no-fly zone settings.

It probably helped that photos taken at the airport, which were later released by the police, were used by industry experts to identify the drones as DJI products.

What’s Next?

Police have detained two men for five days each in connection with the hazardous flights, but no further news has been released about whether they were in fact the men being sought.

The reward will be offered from now until December 31st. With the promise of possibly getting $145,000, a whole lot of information is sure to flow in.

We’ll be curious to see if anyone actually gets busted.

The post $145,000 Bounty Offered by DJI to Identify Flight-Disrupting Drone Pilots appeared first on UAV Coach.

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