US Airspace Welcomes the Drones

On 30/08/2016, in UAS, by steve

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Michael Huerta announced the implementation of the first operational rules for routine non-hobbyist use of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS or “drones”). The regulations of June 21, 2016 are now officially in effect.

“People are captivated by the limitless possibilities unmanned aircraft offer, and they are already creating business opportunities in this exciting new field,” said Secretary Foxx. “These new rules are our latest step toward transforming aviation and society with this technology in very profound ways.”

“The FAA’s role is to set a flexible framework of safety without impeding innovation,” said Administrator Huerta. “With these rules, we have created an environment in which emerging technology can be rapidly introduced while protecting the safety of the world’s busiest, most complex airspace.”

The provisions of the new rule – formally known as Part 107 –are designed to minimize risks to other aircraft and people and property on the ground. A summary is available here.

The FAA has several processes in place to help users take advantage of the rule:

  • Waivers. The agency is offering a process to waive some of the rule’s restrictions if an operator demonstrates the proposed flight will be conducted safely under a waiver. Users must apply for these waivers at the online portal located here.

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FAA: Fly Safe With Your Drone

On 28/11/2015, in UAS, by steve

Photo Dewaele

Photo Dewaele

You’re heading to the stores to buy that shiny new camera-equipped drone you’ve yearning for. You can’t wait to get into the sky and let loose your inner high-flying aerial photographer, right?

Did you know you’re also going to become a pilot?

When you fly your drone anywhere in the nation’s airspace, you automatically become part of the U.S. aviation system. Under the law, your drone is an aircraft. So while the rules for drones may be different, you have the responsibility to operate safely, just as a Cessna or 747 pilot does.

The FAA has developed this saf ety checklist that you, as a pilot, should use whenever you send drone into the Wild Blue Yonder. We want you to fly safe, fly smart – and have fun.



FAA releases B4UFLY App Beta Test For UAS Users

On 28/08/2015, in UAS, by steve

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today released the beta version of a new smartphone application called “B4UFLY” for testing by up to 1,000 unmanned aircraft users.

sampleThe B4UFLY app, aimed primarily at model aircraft enthusiasts, is designed to give users information about restrictions or requirements in effect at their current or planned flight location. The FAA expects the beta test will yield valuable data on how well B4UFLY functions, as well as uncovering any software bugs.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta first announced the initiative in May, asking for volunteers to test the app. The FAA has notified those who previously signed up and will be pushing the app to them directly in the coming days.

Many unmanned aircraft users today have little or no aviation experience, and some of them are flying where they could endanger manned aircraft. B4UFLY will give these flyers the tools and knowledge they need to operate safely.

Key features of the B4UFLY app include:
• A clear “status” indicator that immediately informs operators about their current or planned location.
• Information on the parameters that drive the status indicator.
• A “Planner Mode” for future flights in different locations.
• Informative, interactive maps with filtering options.
• Links to other FAA UAS resources and regulatory information.
Screenshots of the app are available here.

B4UFLY complements the Know Before You Fly educational campaign, which provides prospective UAS operators with information and guidance they need to fly safely and responsibly. The FAA is a partner in the effort with the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), and the Small UAV Coalition.

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FAA Passes 1,000 UAS Section 333 exemption approvals

On 04/08/2015, in UAS, by steve

In its continuing effort to safely expand and support commercial unmanned aircraft operations in U.S. airspace, the Federal Aviation Administration has now granted more than 1,000 Section 333 exemption approvals. As of today, the agency has issued 1,008 such exemptions.


Companies and individuals from a broad spectrum of industries are taking advantage of the Section 333 exemption process. Many of the grants the FAA has issued allow aerial filming for uses such as motion picture production, precision agriculture and real estate photography. The agency also has issued grants for new and novel approaches to inspecting power distribution towers and wiring, railroad infrastructure and bridges

Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 gives the Secretary of Transportation authority to determine if an airworthiness certificate is required for a UAS to operate safely in the national airspace system.

To address the demand for Section 333 authorizations, the FAA recently streamlined the process to make it easier for operators to access the nation’s airspace.

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Wildfires and Drones Don’t Mix

On 29/07/2015, in UAS, by steve

Responding to recent incidents in which unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), also known as “drones,” interfered with manned aircraft involved in wildland firefighting operations, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is supporting the U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Forest Service in their simple message to drone operators: If you fly; we can’t.


“Flying a drone near aerial firefighting aircraft doesn’t just pose a hazard to the pilots,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “When aircraft are grounded because an unmanned aircraft is in the vicinity, lives are put at greater risk.”

Often a temporary flight restriction (TFR) is put in place around wildfires to protect firefighting aircraft. No one other than the agencies involved in the firefighting effort can fly any manned or unmanned aircraft in such a TFR. Anyone who violates a TFR and endangers the safety of manned aircraft could be subject to civil and/or criminal penalties. Even if there is no TFR, operating a UAS could still pose a hazard to firefighting aircraft and would violate Federal Aviation Regulations.

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FAA-Industry Initiative Will Expand Small UAS Horizons

On 06/05/2015, in UAS, by steve

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced a partnership with industry to explore the next steps in unmanned aircraft operations beyond the type of operations the agency proposed in the draft small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) rule it published in February.

“Government has some the best and brightest minds in aviation, but we can’t operate in a vacuum,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This is a big job, and we’ll get to our goal of safe, widespread UAS integration more quickly by leveraging the resources and expertise of the industry.”

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta announced the initiative today at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Unmanned Systems 2015 conference in Atlanta, Ga.

The FAA is working with industry partners on three focus areas, including:
• Visual line-of-sight operations in urban areas
CNN will look at how UAS might be safely used for newsgathering in populated areas.
• Extended visual line-of-sight operations in rural areas
This concept involves UAS flights outside the pilot’s direct vision. UAS manufacturer PrecisionHawk will explore how this might allow greater UAS use for crop monitoring in precision agriculture operations.
• Beyond visual line-of-sight in rural/isolated areas
BNSF Railroad will explore command-and-control challenges of using UAS to inspect rail system infrastructure.

“Even as we pursue our current rulemaking effort for small unmanned aircraft, we must continue to actively look for future ways to expand non-recreational UAS uses,” Huerta said. “This new initiative involving three leading U.S. companies will help us anticipate and address the needs of the evolving UAS industry.”

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How do you regulate drones in the sky?

On 01/05/2015, in UAS, by steve

droneOne thing is certain. The seemingly amazing but actually quite simple technology that made drones, these small and not so small aircraft, accessible to almost anyone caught the regulators responsible for keeping our skies safe unawares. Once it was no longer possible to ignore the presence of the new kind of flying machine or threat to other machines, as you like, the response of the regulators was swift and predictably variable. In some countries they were banned outright, in others almost impossible-to-meet conditions were imposed and yet others tried to make them unattractive both to make and to operate. There are of course countries where they can operate freely while in others only a minimum of requirements need to be met.

The above less than logical or in fact less than effective measures reflected not the actual risk drones represented but the perception of the regulators concerned of the kind of risk a drone could possibly pose as well as the perceived discipline of would-be operators to keep their machines on a short leash.

The response in the US was at first leaning towards severe restrictions but this was later changed, under pressure from the industry concerned, to a more rational but still restrictive approach.

It now seems that Europe, and specifically the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is for once taking the lead to a sensible solution to this thorny problem. Their risk-based approach would ensure safety while also minimizing restrictive regulations on this fast growing industry.

Before dwelling into the details, let’s get a few things clarified. When one says “drone” people, even professionals, tend to imagine all kinds of things, from the tiny machines you by in supermarkets to the monsters used to smoke the bad guys. Actually, the very term drone is something that does not bear much of a relationship to the large variety of machines we are talking about. The current official terms are UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System and RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) used in the US and Europe respectively. One may argue that UAS is the better term, since it indicates the main characteristic of a drone, namely that there is no flight crew present on board when it is flying; RPAS puts the emphasis on the machine being piloted remotely but this would leave out drones that actually perform operations without being piloted from the ground. Funnily, in the original edition of the EASA Concept of Operations for Drones, the term drone is used not only in the title but throughout the text. In view of the less than crystal clear meaning of the abbreviations UAS and RPAS, drone is probably a good compromise.

So what risks do we need to consider?

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Regulations will facilitate integration of small UAS into U.S. aviation system

On 15/02/2015, in UAS, by steve

The Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration today proposed a framework of regulations that would allow routine use of certain small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in today’s aviation system, while maintaining flexibility to accommodate future technological innovations.


The FAA proposal offers safety rules for small UAS (under 55 pounds) conducting non-recreational operations. The rule would limit flights to daylight and visual-line-of-sight operations. It also addresses height restrictions, operator certification, optional use of a visual observer, aircraft registration and marking, and operational limits.

The proposed rule also includes extensive discussion of the possibility of an additional, more flexible framework for “micro” UAS under 4.4 pounds. The FAA is asking the public to comment on this possible classification to determine whether it should include this option as part of a final rule. The FAA is also asking for comment about how the agency can further leverage the UAS test site program and an upcoming UAS Center of Excellence to further spur innovation at “innovation zones.”

The public will be able to comment on the proposed regulation for 60 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register, which can be found here. Separate from this proposal, the FAA intends to hold public meetings to discuss innovation and opportunities at the test sites and Center of Excellence.  These meetings will be announced in a future Federal Register notice.

“Technology is advancing at an unprecedented pace and this milestone allows federal regulations and the use of our national airspace to evolve to safely accommodate innovation,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

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FAA Announces New York UAS Test Site Now Operational

On 07/08/2014, in UAS, by steve

Drone systems

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration today announced that the Griffiss International Airport unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) test site in Rome, N.Y., is ready to conduct research vital to integrating UAS into the national airspace system (NAS). The site is the fifth of six test sites to become operational.

In addition to providing invaluable information for the integration of UAS into the NAS, the research at the Griffiss test site will evaluate methods for scouting agricultural fields using different types of sensors, including visual, thermal and multispectral equipment, which will benefit farmers regionally and nationally. The research will enhance current methods of monitoring crops and provide additional information for continuing field research efforts.

“We are accomplishing two important missions with the launch of this test site,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The safe integration of unmanned aircraft into the NAS is our number one priority, but the agricultural research performed in Rome also may have far-reaching benefits to farmers in New York and across the nation.”

The FAA granted the Griffiss International Airport team a two-year Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) to use a PrecisionHawk Lancaster Platform UAS. The Lancaster Platform weighs approximately three pounds and has a wingspan of four feet.

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Now you can join BluSky in the sky!

On 09/03/2014, in UAS, by steve

Our multimedia operations has justifiably earned itself a reputation for innovative products and new interpretations of old practices. They are now taking things a huge step further by offering views from the sky to add special flavors to company video, training material or just your wedding in the garden.


The drone (which is still to be given a name in the BluSky family) is a quadricopter with an incredible amount of intelligence built in.
When switched on, she takes a GPS measurement of the exact position she is at before signaling being ready for work. This is a vital piece of information. Should she fly out of the ground remote control’s range, she simply turns back and lands safely at the exact spot she took off from. Same procedure if she notes that her battery is running down. She refuses to fly beyond the point-of-no return and comes back to land before the batteries run out. Pretty cute.

But that is not all. When she goes into this “coming home” mode, she looks around to make sure there are no trees, buildings or other obstacles higher than her present height and if she finds anything, she will climb until a clear path to home is found.

The machine itself is fully gyro stabilized and can hoover or fly without any dipping and heaving. She also knows how to hoover over a designated point and will stay there even if the wind tries to move her away from the target.

Then the camera…

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