Posts tagged "Drone Regulations"

FILE PHOTO: Drones enthusiasts and spectators gather at the 4th Intergalactic Meeting of Phantom’s Pilots (MIPP) in an open secure area in the Bois de Boulogne, western Paris, March 16, 2014. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Europe’s first ever rules on drones, which were tentatively agreed three weeks ago, risk being scuppered as EU governments hesitate over endorsing the deal because of their opposition to a drone registration requirement, among other issues.

European Union lawmakers and member states finally struck a tentative deal on a long-awaited reform of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on Nov. 30, which also includes rules requiring owners of drones to register their devices if “dangerous”.

Such deals then need to be definitively endorsed by member states in the Council of the EU and lawmakers in the European Parliament before becoming law, something which is usually a formality.

Member states were supposed to endorse the EASA reform on Wednesday, but the vote was put off when several countries, including France and Germany, expressed major concerns about elements of the deal, such as the registration requirement for drones with a kinetic energy of more than 80 joules based on their mass and maximum speed.

A spokeswoman for Estonia, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said member states had until Friday to analyze the final text and say whether they could endorse it.

If the EASA reform is not endorsed it risks derailing the project for months to come as negotiations between the parliament and member states will have to start almost from scratch, over two years after the initial proposal was made.

The risk of the deal falling apart has unleashed a wave of lobbying from both the aerospace industry and pilots.

“The emerging market of civil drones, including small as well as larger certified category of drones, has many potentials for the EU aeronautical industry. It is therefore crucial that EASA has received the mandate to put in place the safety regulatory framework for the deployment of this new technology,” the Aerospace and Defence Industries Association of Europe said in a statement ahead of Wednesday’s meeting.

Members include plane manufacturer Airbus, Safran, BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce.

Member states had opposed a registration requirement for drones throughout the negotiations, and the European Parliament had initially pushed for a registration threshold of 250 grams.

Many countries fear the 80 joules threshold is too complicated and are not happy with the compromise.

“I don’t think there is one happy member state around the table,” said one person involved in the discussions.

The German pilots union wrote to the German transport minister on Tuesday urging him to endorse the EASA deal.

“Any delay through further negotiations – as some countries are apparently envisaging – would clearly not be in the interest of aviation safety,” wrote Ilja Schulz, President of the Vereinigung Cockpit union.

(Reporting by Julia Fioretti, editing by David Evans)

Last year at this time, I reflected back on the news and trends of the commercial drone markets of 2016 and wrote about the mixed state of affairs ahead for 2017. Throughout the year, I offered my perspective on how the drone industry was still motivated by hype and how assessing forward momentum required hard data on the performance of the various sectors of the industry. To that end, we did research over the summer that surveyed 2,600 respondents on drone purchases, service providers, business users, and software services. In September, we published the data in 2017 Drone Market Sector Report 2017.

In this post, I’ll use that data to illustrate the major trends of the past year and describe what I think are the major challenges ahead for the drone industry.

Listen to this companion Drone Radio Show podcast here for the complete assessment.

Trend 1—Growth

By all measures, the drone industry in 2017 was marked by significant growth – growth in aircraft sales, software licenses, the number of service businesses entering the market, and the number of industrial businesses setting up commercial operations.

Here are a few statistics:

  • We project U.S. sales in 2017 to be about 3.3M units, which is 36% above 2016 figures. That’s all drones, all sizes. It’s about 1.3M units for the >250gram category.
  • As of October 31st, there were about 837,000 hobbyist users and 107,000 non-hobbyist drones registered with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
  • As of December 1st, there were about 66,000 Part 107 FAA Pilots.

This represents a big change in the commercial market since Part 107 regulations supplanted Section 333 as the means for commercial operations in the U.S. What this and our survey data tells us is the number of service providers currently outpaces demand, and as a result, service prices are coming down significantly.

Trend 2—Consumerization

We said in our report that more consumer drones are being used for commercial work than ever before. For example, our data shows that more than two-thirds (68%) of all drones weighing over 250 grams are purchased for professional purposes—either governmental or business.

Why is this significant? Because the impact of consumer-originated technology on the enterprise is something that can’t be ignored. Enterprises want to take advantage of powerful, yet easy-to-use products (like DJI’s popular consumer models), and put them to work on the job. What this means for operators or businesses is that a shared core technology benefits all users and enables companies to scale the best experiences to everyone. Enterprise customers get the added simplicity and usability of the consumer product that has been built to meet the demands of thousands of customers around the world.  The average individual pilot gets to benefit from the reliability and scalability inherent in the product and demanded by enterprise users.

Trend 3—The DJI effect

Our data shows DJI is the clear market leader in drone aircraft sales and almost every software category. For example, DJI is the dominant brand for drone aircraft purchases, with a 72% global market share across all price points and an even higher share (87%) of the core $1,000–$1,999 price segment. Additionally, in the three categories of software we evaluated, DJI is the market-share leader in two: flight logging and operations, and automated mission planning.

This is significant because by building on top of its existing technology platform, DJI has fast-tracked development and has benefited from economies of scale. By migrating a successful technology stack and feature set upmarket, DJI never has to reinvent the wheel—it just needs to improve upon the original design and save engineering cycles for real innovation.

The upshot is that to stay relevant, all the other major vendors have had to partner with DJI (see Trend 5 Partnerships, below). DJI’s sales success has taken market share from others and has led to layoffs at 3DR, Autel, GoPro, Parrot, and Yuneec. However, fears about data security remain. And this has some speculating about whether DJI can sustain its leadership role in the future.

Trend 4—Investments

According to CB Insights, investments shifted in 2017 from aircraft hardware to software. In 2016, there were 106 deals totaling $542M. Most of these were for hardware. In 2017, VCs focused on software, end-to-end solutions, and counter-drone technology. CB Insights projects the year will end with 110 deals totaling $494M. The most significant investment this past year was 3D Robotics’ $53M Series D round. It saw them pivot from hardware to software services.

Why is this significant?  Because it shows the industry is still maturing. Seed and Series A rounds represented 60% of all deals in 2017; whereas early-stage share peaked in 2015 at 73% of deals. Additionally, some of the most well-funded drone companies are targeting enterprise and industrial inspection.

What this means for operators or businesses is greater affordability. Software advances, computer chip manufacturing techniques, and economies of scale will continue to drive down the cost of drone platforms and sensors and solutions.

Trend 5—Partnerships

This year we saw a change from synergistic merger and acquisitions to the creation of end-to-end solutions via partnerships. For example, look at how DJI’s enterprise partnerships have grown. Consider their AirWorks conference. What drone major vendor wasn’t there? The list included DroneDeploy, Measure, PrecisionHawk, Skycatch, and Sentera, to name a few.

This past year we also saw an uptick in regulators and industry stakeholder partnerships. For example, the Drone Advisory Committee was created to provide the FAA with advice on unmanned aircraft integration from a diverse group of stakeholders. Major commercial participants include Intel, DJI, Amazon, Google X, and Facebook, as well the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

Consider also the FAA’s new UAS Integration Pilot Program. Here, government entities are partnering with private-sector companies, such as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operators and manufacturers, to submit proposals to the FAA to fly more advanced operations in their communities, including flying beyond line of sight and over people. This is significant because it’s clear that regulators want to include industry when creating policies.

However, there is some good news / bad news with this.

The good news is greater flexibility. With vendor partnerships, drones will be able to perform more types of data gathering in a shorter timeframe and with more precision than many other options. So, more aircraft, sensor, and software integration.

The bad news is operators and businesses have regulatory uncertainty. We advise our clients to plan for some uncertainty as technology, the public, and bureaucracy find common ground on operations for beyond visual line of sight and over people.

Challenges ahead

Here’s my list of the major challenges facing the drone industry in 2018:

  1. Regulations: We may see more regulatory red tape—e.g., a patchwork quilt of rules as the FAA’s UAS Integration Pilot Program begins to make policy.
  2. Public sentiment: Basic public concerns still exist about drone safety, security, privacy, and their public nuisance. My question is: How can we overcome this?
  3. Business value: We’ve yet to see credible ROI that hits the executive scorecard. The key question is: What monetary benefit do drones and information gleaned from drones provide shareholder value?
  4. Information accuracy: Up to now, drone vendors have been focused on the accuracy of image capture and the rigor of the drone system. For better business value, they need to focus on the accuracy of the data processing and the rigor of data analysis.
  5. IT data governance: This is especially the case for drone inspections where a single drone could collect 50 to 100 gigabytes of data. Managing these large data sets starts to become one of the things that have to be worked out.
  6. Automation: A lot of software automation will come, including artificial intelligence (AI) or algorithms that minimize the amount of human effort to distill all that information and get to some actionable inference. But large scale industrial use of AI is young and it requires manual intervention to distinguish the difference between near-similar objects.
  7. Endurance: We’re still on the quest for efficiencies like better power sources or mixes.
  8. Widespread business adoption: Business and industry adoption is growing, but it’s mixed because of factors such as business risk aversion, concerns over invasion of privacy, and a reluctance by many companies to share too much information about successes.

That’s it for now.

Listen to the companion podcast here http://bit.ly/2CXe6uK.

Look for a follow-up piece on our specific predictions for 2018, which will include investments, technology improvements, ecosystem partnerships, and software innovations.

If you have questions about what’s in the report I mention or would like to comment, write me at colin@droneanalyst.com.

Image credit: Shutterstock

In addition to posing threats in urban landscapes, drones frequently cause harm in the battlefield. For example, ISIS routinely uses drones for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) operations to help maximize the damage from suicide attacks (Watson, 2017, January 12. “The Drones of ISIS.”). Introducing a system that eliminates a lawless “wild west” and allows for the safe management of drones through safe counter-UAS technology will protect citizens and give the public confidence that areas of critical infrastructure are secure.

To balance privacy and public safety, only legitimate authorities ought to be able to identify drone operators. Consider license plates on cars, which provide a promising analogy. License plates discourage bad behavior by ensuring accountability for malicious actions. While license plates uniquely identify car owners, the law restricts the reasons for which a person can search a database of license plates. Drone use must be accountable enough—without imposing on privacy rights—to deter malicious acts and ensure, for the public’s peace of mind, that bad actors can be identified with due haste.

Burdensome regulations are expected to stifle innovation on the frontend and the backend. By erecting barriers to enjoyable customer experiences, stringent requirements on consumers reduce the demand for products. They thereby, in turn, reduce the incentives for companies to develop and sell products. This is why WhiteFox is recommending policies that are non-cumbersome and maximally consumer-friendly while also meeting the safety and privacy requirements outlined above. The policies detailed in the whitepaper can be found at https://www.whitefoxdefense.com/resources/whitepapers.

These requirements are ideal for all stakeholders: Citizens and governments are assured non-invasive safety and accountability to discourage bad actors; consumers are assured straightforward adoption and deployment of commercial and recreational drones; larger drone fleet operators are assured uniform regulatory frameworks that drastically lower the cost of compliance and of operating between jurisdictions; regulatory bodies are assured consistency with existing national airspace system structure and regulation.

To responsibly implement a comprehensive UTM system, these topics must be addressed. WhiteFox CEO, Luke Fox, shares, “At WhiteFox, we understand that proper requirements for industry, consumers, public safety, and privacy must be met when integrating drones into our airspace. We believe our whitepaper’s recommendations have struck the delicate balance between each stakeholder. We look forward to enjoying a world where drones can move about safely and securely.”

About WhiteFox Defense Technologies:

WhiteFox Defense Technologies, Inc. specializes in drone defense and security. As drone enthusiasts and security experts, they work to keep the skies open to and safe for all responsible pilots and advance the potential for drone technology to benefit society.
For more information, visit www.WhiteFoxDefense.com.

We just released a new research report titled “Five Valuable Business Lessons About Drones in Asset and Infrastructure Inspection” This is the fourth in a series of white papers intended to share lessons learned in specific industries and how to maximize the value drones can deliver in those industries. This year, we are building on the analysis we did for the 2016 “Truth About” papers by incorporating real-world experience gained from businesses and drone pilots operating under the Federal Aviation Administration’s Small Unmanned Aircraft Regulations (aka FAA Part 107).

In the report, which co-authored by Chris Korody, we demonstrate what drone operators servicing a wide variety of industries have learned about what works and what doesn’t. We explore both the benefits and limitations of drone inspection projects and offer practical advice to would-be adopters. We answer questions like: What have companies learned about creating their own internal drone operation groups? And where do we go or what can we expect from here?

Here is an excerpt:

“While both media and investors have primarily focused on opportunities for using drones in the construction and agriculture industries, inspection applications have fostered innovation together with significant returns on investment. The reasons begin with the “four Ds”—a term coined by GE Ventures to describe the unique ability of drones to meet the needs of their field services customers. The four D’s describe any activity that’s tailor-made to be performed by a drone, and are:

  • Dull
  • Dirty
  • Dangerous
  • Distant

In a 2014 interview, Sue Siegel, the CEO of GE Ventures, added a fifth “D”—for data—saying simply, “Imagine that if you’re doing it faster, you might be able to do it more often. And more data typically will give you better data.”

The four Ds+1 combination is one of the most compelling arguments for drone adoption in companies where uptime is money, crews are expensive, and structures and facilities are often expected to last 50 to 100 years.

The other compelling argument is cost reduction. McKinsey Consulting’s recent white paper “Preserving the downturn’s upside highlights how the oil and gas industry reduced costs by 29% in response to falling oil prices. They show that 40% to 50% of the savings came from eliminating the demand for a variety of services, including manned aviation support. The innovators figured out how to put drones to work.”

The report goes on to discuss how drones and the data from drones offer huge advantages in the oil & gas, telecommunications, and utility industries. It also provides insights from Dexter Lewis, PE, senior engineer in the research and development group at Southern Company (NYSE: SO) which brings electricity and gas to 9 million customers.

You can get the free report here.

If you have questions about what’s in the report or would like to comment on it after reading it, write me at colin@droneanalyst.com.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Elaine Chao testifies during her confirmation hearing to be the next U.S. secretary of transportation before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee as her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell looks on. CREDIT: Getty Images

On Wednesday this week, President-elect Trump’s nominee to head the Department of Transportation, Elaine Chao spoke to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee about her plans to tackle America’s infrastructure problem.

Chao, the former Secretary of Labor under President George H.W. Bush, stated during her hearing that the federal government has not kept pace with emerging technologies, including such advances as autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence.

Throughout her speech, Chao affirmed the importance of safety regulations, especially as these types of technologies continue to develop and become more commonplace. “Regulatory decisions should be rooted in analysis derived from sound science and data,” she said.

Although the drone industry saw a major breakthrough in terms of regulations with Part 107, this is more good news, which could spell an even friendlier environment for the development of drone businesses and commercial UAV operators.

Chao worked extensively with the Federal Aviation Administration during her tenure as undersecretary of transportation, which positions her to make well-informed and knowledgable decisions about modernizing the national air traffic control system. We can reasonably expect to see new FAA rules loosen restrictions on commercial drones.

To take it all one step further, the FAA’s funding is set to expire on September 30. Privatization of air traffic control is going to be a topic on the table of the newly convened 115th Congress. If that transpires, the decisions about regulations for commercial drone operations will be made by those in the industry with hands-on knowledge of what drones are capable of, and the best ways to keep our skies safe.

As I type this post today, I wish I had a crystal ball regarding the future of Recreational and Commercial UAV flight in Canada.

Although I have heard a TON of comments regarding stricter laws and uncertainty, here is my two cents…

I am hoping the laws do not change much, but will mirror image the current laws in the U.S. to the extent there is a registration process in place, which Canada needs. There seems to be a better understanding in the U.S.  regarding the laws and processes with the newly rolled out Part 107.

It also seems that there is a greater acceptance of Drones in the U.S. and their society. The commercial markets seem to point to that. I have done hundreds of quotes, and I believe my pricing is very reasonable for the services offered, however there is apprehension when it comes to signing on the dotted line.

I know a few issues that we face as commercial UAV service companies in Canada. These include;

  • A poor economy (In Alberta…anyway…no one is spending money on extras like this)
  • The Box Store Pilots…(The recreational user who goes to the box store, picks up a $500 drone and offers aerial services on Kijiji or Facebook for literally free, without the proper qualifications and requirements…
  • Permission of others. National Parks require permission from the Park Management, however if you look on YouTube, there is tons of footage that obviously has not met National Park Permission requirements and is therefore unlawful.

Another point is there has to be better education for pilots and officials regarding legislation and enforcement in Canada. For example there are a ton of pilots out there who obviously do not know what registered aerodromes are and where they can and cannot fly.

I am hoping that all of Canada educates themselves regarding the current laws rules and regulations regarding UAV and that Joe Public realizes they are not used just for spying, trespassing and flying close to airplanes. (Most of the supposed Drone near misses, in my opinion are false).

My experience with UAV flight is fairly recent… (February 2016). However, in that time I have:

  • Incorporated a partnership, turned single owner company…(Partner lost interest and got frustrated by the struggles of new business).
  • Built a reputable full spectrum UAV service company from the ground up
  • Developed our own website through  a couple of different web building platforms and learned a lot
  • Built a great relationship with the top UAV suppliers in North America
  • Built a well-stocked service and repair facility for unauthorized repairs and service.
  • Built our own HSE manual as well as achieved SFOC certification for all of Western Canada
  • Built a relationship with a few Insurance companies and carry minimum liability coverage as well as rental pool coverage
  • Flew my first “UAV” a $10000.00 Yuneec Tornado H920….(Rather nervous first flight)
  • Been scammed by crooks by way of fraudulent online purchases.
  • Emerged from the struggles of the aforementioned negatives and continue to grow towards a successful service company for the long haul!!

I could go for hours on other accomplishments I and my company have achieved in the UAV industry, but this is where I will conclude.

As an incorporated UAV full service company in for the long term, I wish for a couple of things.

  • Number one is that the Alberta/ Canadian economy picks up and people retain the ability to have liquid cash to make recreational purchases such as UAVs and accessories, and that small business in Alberta/ Canada, look at the advantages of aerial photography to gain that competitive advantage for marketing and advertising.
  • The second wish is that Canadian society in general educates themselves further regarding the use and advantages of UAV in our society.
  • My final wish is that after society educates themselves regarding the advantages of the UAV that people understand that, as with all industry, that to provide a service that is beneficial, and that ensures safety and compliance, it takes hard work, money, resources and time and that “the box store pilots” keep to recreation only or put forth the resources (Time, Money Effort, Sweat equity, and Perseverance), to build up a reputable UAV service company that supplies regulated services and product to the public we serve.

If you are interested in more information regarding the services and products at DR-one, please click on the following link. Thanks for your time and hopefully in the future www.DR-one.ca can help you #CreateYourOwnMemories

Guest Post by Dave Hillier, co-founder of DR-one.ca.

How to steer clear of the wrong hire for your drone business

By Jonathan Rupprecht, Esq. for Drone Analyst®

It seems everyone is running toward the “drone” rush to make a quick buck. The way I see it is many of the consultants and attorneys assisting businesses with drone work are in reality experimenting on their clients. Many are unqualified in aviation but skilled in selling. Others have very questionable pasts that will not be mentioned in the marketing material.

Why is the drone industry attracting unqualified individuals? Some reasons:

  • newness of the industry
  • lack of organizations willing to do gate keeping at conferences
  • lack of reporters willing or knowledgeable enough to expose problems
  • few in the industry knowledgeable enough to understand the errors or seriousness of the situations
  • unwillingness to expose others because they themselves are somehow implicated

In light of these factors, you might need some help figuring out who NOT to hire. I outline six below.

1 – Google them like crazy.

Google their name. Google their company. Google everything you can about them as this will generally bring up things that might not have been mentioned in their marketing material.  You want to break down your research into two phases:

  • research articles or mentions for the period of time they started their business and going forward and
  • research articles or mentions for the period of time before they started their drone business.

Figure out when they started their company by asking them, looking up the filing date for their company name in their state’s department of corporations or looking up the whois website domain registration date. (While on that site, also write down the mailing address and name listed.)  Use that date and plug it into Google and then hit search. Then click search tools. Click anytime. Click Custom range. Now run a phase 1 and then a phase 2 search.

You additionally might want to throw in extra words to the Google search just to see if anything hits. For example, “Bob Smith liar fraud theft steal scam criminal crime arrest scandal expose court charged lawsuit.” I’ve been noticing that in phase two, all sorts of goodies pop up. They come from other industries where they have made a name for themselves and are moving into the drone industry where they don’t have a bad reputation.

2 – Find out if they had to hire someone in aviation

This is a big giveaway that they are new to the area. Following up on point one, some are from other industries and had to hire someone with an aviation background to make up for their lack of skills in the area.

In the phase 2 search, you might have noticed a lot of hits where they indicated they were in another industry. You need to figure out WHY they are no longer in that industry and now in the drone industry.

3 – Figure out their real name

I have noticed that some individuals intentionally change their first name. You might want to try variations of their first name. Another way to figure out their true name is to look up their government documents on their state’s department of corporations website. This is likely their true name. Sometimes they might have put down their true name and address on their whois domain registry. Go back and do phase 1 and 2 research with the new name.

4 – Ask around. Call their competitors and ask if they know anything

This can yield good results, and so can asking your friends what they know. There is a lot of word-of-mouth-only knowledge floating around in this industry. The reason is that some have personal knowledge but don’t want the info to go public because it will hurt them (maybe because they have a business deal with them, they didn’t do proper vetting before recommending their clients to them, etc.).

You can make these calls when you are searching for a consultant or attorney. While talking to Consultant B, you can say that you talked to Consultant A while shopping around.  See if Consultant B says anything. You have to be careful when doing this because the vibes you give off could cause you problems. If someone was asking me what I thought about another attorney, I would be thinking they are either wasting my time because they want to maybe hire the other attorney or they are a problem client and I don’t want them.

5 – Check with the state bar – especially if they claim to be an attorney

Determine how much “legal work” they are doing. Many consultants do everything under the sun, including legal work. Basically, the practice of law is applying the law to the facts at hand. The big problem with this is many consultants are committing the unlicensed practice of law, which is a crime in most states, because they are not attorneys but are applying the law to their client’s facts. They advise you on the law while they themselves break it.

It is always interesting that I have mentioned this and immediately get blowback from the consultants who claim they don’t think it is the unlicensed practice of law. Great! I have a wonderful tie breaker. Call your state bar—or better yet—their state bar, and ask them if what they are doing is the unlicensed practice of law. They aren’t doing anything wrong, right? I’m sure they won’t mind.

Most states have unlicensed practice of law committees and hotlines just for this. (Remember that this is a crime and states take it seriously.) A simple Google search for that phone number will return results. Call it and ask some questions like, “I’m a concerned consumer and I want to know if _____ is committing the unlicensed practice of law by offering a particular service they list on their website.”  This way you can get an unbiased answer on whether they are committing this crime.

Checking the state bar will sometimes show that some attorneys have been disciplined by their state bar. Sometimes it will show worse—that they are not an attorney, or they have been disbarred. I know of one situation that was relayed to me where a person was claiming to be an attorney at a drone conference, but was NOT. Let that sink in. Their attendance at a drone conference is meaningless. Conference organizers are not policemen. Furthermore, just because a website shows their advertisement doesn’t mean anything, either.

Another benefit to licensed attorneys is they have to pass background checks and maintain ethical standards according to their state bar rules; however, consultants do not have any gatekeepers doing background checks or third-party oversight to ensure ethical or legal compliance.

6 – Ask if they have insurance.

Insurance is there to protect you if they make a mistake. Some attorneys have malpractice insurance, but I have no clue how many consultants do. Checking for insurance is great way to weed out the professionals from the posers and dabblers while also making sure you are protected. See if you can get a certificate of insurance from them or call their insurance broker or insurance provider and confirm that they are insured.

Bottom line:

In conclusion, no industry will look out for you, and this applies to drones, too. You need to take care of yourself. And it’s wise to advise your friends to do their due diligence when hiring consultants or attorneys. I suggest that right after you read this, you do research on everyone you are presently in contact with or working with and send this article around to spread awareness.

Image credit – pixabay