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NOTAMs, Authorizations, and Waivers (O My!)

Recent experiences around the country indicate that there are pilots in the UAS industry that may not fully understand the unique differences between Authorizations, Waivers, and NOTAMs. The point of this article is to express the differences, and bring clarity to the three notifications.

Imagine a public event where multiple UAS pilots will gather to fly in controlled airspace, demonstrating what UAS bring to the general public and business. The event managers designated an “Air Boss,” responsible for safety considerations and airspace authorization.

During the day prior practice time and safety briefing at this event, the safety manager (Airboss) provides a verbal and written briefing during which it is articulated “We’re grateful the local FSDO office gave us permission to fly here, because it’s D Airspace under the Bravo shelf.”

Would this cause your ears to prick up? Or would you fly, accepting that the local FSDO had granted permissions to fly in the controlled airspace? We were curious.

We had not previously concerned ourselves with who was the “AirBoss” or responsible party, as our organizational PPO requires that we request an authorization for any mission in controlled airspace regardless of who is in charge. After all, much like NOTAMs, UOA’s (official FAA notifications known as an Unmanned aircraft Operating Area) can be shared operational space.  In other words, we’d requested a UOA 10 days prior to the event and authorization had been granted for 300’ AGL for the duration of the requested time and area.

Our ears had been pricked, and immediately following the briefing, we wanted to more clearly understand what had been filed and by whom. What we found surprised and concerned our team.

 

The above image indicates the authorization. Note the specific/defined Lat/lon coordinates, surface to 300’ AGL, and time of operation.  An authorization also includes a trackable reference number to demonstrate who, what, when, and where the Authorization was granted. This IS an AUTHORIZATION.

The above image indicates a NOTAM, a NOTice to AirMen, saying “there will be UAS operating in this area between the times of 1800 on Friday until midnight on Sat.  Note there is no traceable number; other than the NOTAM request itself.  This is NOT an AUTHORIZATION.

Upon approaching the Air Boss (A part 61 pilot), he indicated his understanding the NOTAM is an authorization, and it caused us to wonder how many 107 UAS certificate bearers may be unaware of the differences between waivers, authorizations, and NOTAMs. In this particular instance, at least 20 pilots were under the impression they were authorized to fly in the D airspace per representations of the Air Boss. Unfortunately the Air Boss was unfamiliar with tools such as UASideKick (which we use) or KittyHawk (there are other apps, these happen to be what we use).

Having said this, the Airboss indicated to the FAA representatives that they’d indeed, also filed a UOA, although it wasn’t showing up in any on-line system (and are now expired).

 

 

 

To the best of our knowledge at the time, only one organization was authorized to fly at the event. Additionally, the improperly used NOTAM was nearly 5 miles from the actual area of operations where dozens of UAS pilots were expected to fly under the expected Authorization.

[side note]; the FAA became aware of the concern at the time as they were in attendance. They immediately acted  on the information, took steps to correct any errors and/or misunderstandings, and had conversations with the organization coordinating this elaborate UAS event.  This was a learning opportunity for all involved.

SO WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES?

NOTAMS

NOTAMS, or NOTice to AirMen, is merely a means of identifying an area where manned pilots should be on the look out for a specific activity whether model rocketry, unmanned flight, airshow, student pilots, ballooning activities etc, are taking place. It’s permissory by no means. Anyone, pilot or not, can file for a NOTAM via the Liedos services. The NTSB refers to NOTAMs as a “pile of mess.”

NOTAMs are not required for any operation, yet exist as a safety precaution that some UAS operations undertake to as part of their SMS (Safety Management System).

Details related to filed NOTAM (Who/Where/How Long are included with the NOTAM filing. This information is kept by the FAA for 30 days prior to it being permanently disposed of.

AUTHORIZATIONS

Authorizations are permissions for specific areas for specified time windows. Essentially, they are one-off permissions. The LAANC system is an ideal example of Authorizations; a pilot wishes to fly a mission in a specific area, during a specific time frame such as say…the Space Needle in Seattle, during sunset. Using tools such as UASideKick, KittyHawk, Skyward, or other LAANC-authorized application, pilots can file a request for an authorization in a gridded area, with altitude specified by the grid location. Flights in zero grid areas area also possible, but require some additional steps. The same can be said of non-LAANC airports.  LAANC offers pilots a great deal of opportunity, yet it’s important to note that a LAANC authorization does not extend into combined activities, such as night flight, flight over persons, etc.

WAIVERS

A waiver grants a pilot or an organization the ability to fly in a given area without having to file a request for authorization for each flight. For example, if one needed to repeatedly fly a construction site day to day, week to week, a waiver would usually be the most efficient route for operational consistency.

Waivers may have specific requirements and permissions. Most of our waivers are combined waivers, meaning we have 107.29 permissions included, allowing us to fly in restricted airspace at night with specific requirements. Requirements may vary by area. For example, one of our waivers requires tower notification when we commence and discontinue operations. Most of our waivers require a means of monitoring tower communications/traffic, and being available to the tower on a radio or mobile phone. We generally keep our Icom radios on, with transmit ability disabled (it is a listen-only function). This alerts us in the event of a low flying aircraft, emergency, or other activity in our area.  All of our Bravo waivers require at least one visual observer in addition to the pilot, and night requirements may increase the number of visual observers.  We use one Icom, while every visual observer is on an FMR radio for team communications. Either the RPIC or primary visual observer monitors the tower chatter.  Although authorizations do not require a radio (A mobile phone will suffice), we also use ground/air radios for Authorized missions.

Given the event was held less than a mile from an airport and lay directly beneath departure from that airport, it was critical that the airport traffic be monitored whether by radio, mobile app, or other means, our team found ourselves monitoring traffic and passing that information along to other pilots at the event. The Airboss and crew of the event wore fully enclosed, noise-canceling headsets, so our participation went beyond the event using our Authorization, it also included tapping pilots on the shoulder to let them know that a helicopter had arrived in the area (Note to fledgling sUAS pilots; fully enclosed headsets are not recommended while flying. Someone needs to be able to hear approaching aircraft per 107.37 so that they might avoid).

Looking sharp is great for the public eye, but aviation is like an iceberg; what shows above the surface should be a tight, clean operation. What happens beneath the surface is a dedicated process of decisions, applications, standards, risk mitigation and management, amongst other things.  Wearing noise-canceling headsets and not understanding the differences between NOTAMs, Authorizations, and Waivers would not. One of the greatest components of being a professional is knowing, observing, and executing missions within the regulations, while demonstrating best practices and exceeding safety minimums at all opportunities.

The first priority in all aviation circumstances is to understand mission airspace, requirements within that airspace, our aircraft, and risk mitigation process from top to bottom. With literally dozens of tools at our disposal (both no-cost and paid) to ensure pilots understand airspace and potential traffic within that airspace, the situation above should not ever have occurred.  It’s great to combine a NOTAM with a Waiver and/or an Authorization, but a NOTAM cannot substitute for a Waiver nor Authorization.

It was fortuitous that the FAA representatives were on-site to answer questions, alleviate any issues that arose, and generally support and ensure the event for safety.  The ASI’s we have opportunity to interface are incredible resources to those new and learning within the UAS industry.

Sundance Media Group is here to help with understanding Authorizations, Waivers, combined waivers, complex operations, and risk management strategies. Please don’t hesitate to ask questions; we’re thrilled to do our part to ensure safe and clearly understood ORM/Operational Risk Management processes and procedures.

Tell us what YOU think. How would you and your crew have managed this scenario?

By | July 3rd, 2019|Uncategorized|2 Comments

BOTACH and Sundance Media Group partner for sUAS Training & Consulting Services

Press Release

BOTACH and Sundance Media Group partner for sUAS Training & Consulting Services

Las Vegas, NV, November 08, 2018:

Botach, Inc. (OTC Markets: BOTACH) (“Botach” or the “Company”), Botach (a drone reseller), drone service provider and distributor of tactical products to the U.S. Public Safety channel, and the U.S. Government), announced a reseller/training partnership with Las Vegas-based Sundance Media Group (SMG), a company that specializes in assisting police, fire and private corporations with standing up training programs across the country and filing Certificates of authorization and/or waivers with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). SMG also creates or assists in the implementation of Policy, Procedures, and Operations manuals for ISO-compliant municipalities and organizations.

During the Nevada State Traffic Incident Management training event this past week, Chushim Botach, Botach’s Chief Executive Officer, commented: “Our reseller partnership with Sundance Media Group (SMG) enables us to offer a necessary and critical component of our everything drone strategy to our customers. Through SMG and our own product offerings, we possess the ability to offer our customers a turnkey acquisition, training, and COA/Waiver package. We have observed their abilities over the past two years and have been exceptionally impressed with their dedication to excellence.”

“Training, authorizations and waivers are vital to a viable and successful sUAS program.”

SMG has a 17-year history working in aviation, and has developed training missions for MIRT (Major Incident Response Teams), CSI, traffic homicide, night-time forensic missions, and crowd overwatch with and without tethering components.

We are very happy to be a component of the Botach end-to-end solution for Public Safety and Government sUAS programming,” says Jennifer Pidgen, COO of the company now celebrating 24 years in training. “We look forward to bringing our training standard of excellence and certified instructor/examiner program to Botach’s nation-wide clientele.”

About Botach

Botach Inc. is a family owned business and is one of the leading retailers of tactical and military supplies throughout our great nation. From duty boots to assault rifles, we sell products in every category in the tactical/military industry. Founded in the Los Angeles area, we have recently moved to a new home in Las Vegas. Las Vegas brings into a more shooter friendly environment to which we look forward to exploring and growing within.

Our expertise has kept us in business for over 20 years.  We take pride in caring for our customers.

For additional information about Botach, please visit https://www.botach.com/.

About Sundance Media Group

Founded in 1996, Sundance Media Group/SMG began as a training organization focused on cameras, codecs, and post-production technology. In 2004, the company began training in aviation technology, adding sUAS in 2011. In 2012, SMG produced the world’s first UAS training conference at the National Association of Broadcasters Post Production World Conference, and is an ISO-compliant organization.
With instructors from Public Safety, Construction, Vertical Inspection, Real Estate, and Cinematography, SMG instructors may be found speaking at technical, aviation, and UAS conferences around the globe. For more information on SMG, please visit sundancemediagroup.com

By | November 7th, 2018|Counter UAS, Drone, Drone Safety, Night Flight, Public Safety, Regulations, sUAS, sUAS Regulation, Training, UAV, UAV Maintenance|Comments Off on BOTACH and Sundance Media Group partner for sUAS Training & Consulting Services

AUGMENTED SECURITY WITH sUAS

sUAS or “drones” are a big buzzword in security operations these days, as they should be. sUAS are a force multiplier like no human ever could possibly be.

For starters, sUAS are a dynamic aerial platform for CCTV, allowing security teams to monitor large-scale areas with ease, reducing headcount for manned patrols, able to travel faster and farther than a human can travel on foot, while providing access to detail that the human eye cannot see.

sUAS may be automated for perimeter security, allowing repeatable, automatic flight over any given area. Large areas may be hybridized, with manual and automated flight over defined sectors. Combined with security patrols/tours, sUAS provide a faster response time, greater situational awareness, and opportunity to track an incursion until law enforcement or other forces are dispatched.

Adding infrared/thermal to sUAS aircraft provides ideal vision in the dark, regardless of the environment. Seeing through smoke, fog, or darkness, thermal cameras allow detection of a live body in any area. Depending on the cost/resolution of the thermal camera, Detection, Identification, and even Recognition may be possible from very high in the air.

On large scale construction sites, sUAS are already serving double duty as mapping devices for progress reports, and security devices assisting in detecting shrink whether through shorting of delivered stock, disappearances of heavy equipment, or identification of individuals in unauthorized areas.

 

Equipped with a zoom lens, sUAS are capable of providing license plate information from a distance. Imagine for example, an incursion detection, the intruder runs to a car and drives away. Not only can aircraft track/follow the intruder as they exit the protected area upon detection, but the aircraft can also capture images, even in low-light, of the intruder’s license plate as they escape the area.

 

Tethered sUAS allow for aircraft to remain airborne for days, if necessary, providing instant overwatch at events, high profile gatherings, or in high-risk areas where temporary requirements make it infeasible to install pole-mounted cameras.

Additionally, areas where events may be held may be pre-mapped multiple times, onion-skinned for changes in the environment with differences outlined for security notification, or simply mapped for purposes of understanding crowd flow, ingress, egress, points of vulnerability, and planning response times.

All of this at greatly reduced risk to security personnel, greatly reduced cost, and with video/images to provide evidence in the event of an incursion.

 

 

 

Learn more at the Global Security eXchange Conference in Las Vegas, September 23-27. Several drone manufacturers, service providers, software developers, and consultants will be on hand to answer questions and provide information.

Drop by the Sundance Media Group booth 5413 and have a walk through of the AVOC and see how we have been assisting local agencies and organization with their sUAS implementations.

By | September 13th, 2018|Drone Safety, Public Safety, Regulations, sUAS, sUAS Regulation, sUAS Safety, Technology, UAV|Comments Off on AUGMENTED SECURITY WITH sUAS

CSI and sUAS: Tools for the Crime Scene Analyst

FoxFury, Pix4D, Sundance Media Group (SMG), and the Nevada Drone Center of Excellence came together during the InterDrone Conference, sharing techniques and technology used for capturing forensic scenes during night hours. This event will be repeated during the Commercial UAV Expo in Las Vegas on October 3, at the WestGate hotel. Register now for the Commercial UAV Expo CSI demonstration.

Sundance Media Group and the CSI data may also be viewed at Booth #5413 at the Global Security eXchange Security Conference and Expo, September 23-27 in Las Vegas, NV at the Las Vegas Convention Center.  Register for the GSX show HERE.

Douglas Spotted Eagle addresses a crowd gathered for a crime scene/sUAS demo with local crime scene investigators, FoxFury, Pix4D, and Sundance Media Group

As you’d expect, the ratio of nighttime vs daytime crime is much higher,” said one investigator from a local law enforcement agency. “This sort of training and experience provides greater depth to our toolkit. We are grateful to have partners willing to research and share experiences that may benefit our agency.”

Using FoxFury Nomad Hi CRI, daylight-balanced lighting, to light the scene in an area of East Henderson where no power and no available light existed, the team used Hollywood makeup techniques, a bit of stage blood, and shell casings to re-create a genuine crime scene. The “crime scene” was kept pristine as nearly 100 attendees looked on.

The FoxFury Nomads, properly positioned, provide a no/low-shadow environment with accurate colors.

Most LED lighting systems will generate a color-cast that may create problems in the post-capture investigation. Moreover, the lights do not require cabling that can trip up those on-scene, or create their own form of scene contamination. To place them, we merely pull down three legs, raise the pillar, and power up the lights. At half intensity, the lights provide approximately 12 hours of lighting,” says Douglas Spotted Eagle of Sundance Media Group. The FoxFury Nomads may be charged over a 12v connection in a patrol/support vehicle as well. 

FoxFury Rugo’s are placed on the aircraft for additional lighting as well as for FAA compliance. The Rugo provides a constant flash indicator in addition to options for Flood, Flat, or Pinspot light distribution. The Rugo mounts for the Yuneec and DJI products offer a 360 swivel, allowing for light control in any direction. Users may choose from four intensities in addition to the flash/cycle option.

 

James Spear talked about the aircraft lighting, saying “We use the FoxFury Rugo’s for our scene and night lighting not only due to the many options for lighting focus, but also because of the interchangeable batteries. At full intensity, we enjoy about an hour of flight time, yet the lights will operate for up to three hours at lower intensities.”

Ground Control Points were laid into place on the perimeter of the scene, taking care to ensure no one stepped into the scene. These are used as tie-points during the 2D and 3D assembly of the data, using Pix4Dmapper. The GCP’s for night capture are painted with Day-Glo paint colors for bright visibility and identification in the darkness of night. Similar techniques may be employed during thermal mapping projects (Pix4Dmapper on the desktop may be used for thermal mapping if the thermal camera properly embeds/captures meta-data). Shown here by Brady Reisch of the SMG team, the GCP’s are a highly-valued component to set scale constraints to the scene.

The area was flown with a drone equipped with a camera capturing GPS location, capturing a reduced area for purposes of avoiding flight over persons, and for expediency during the demonstration.

The pilot, wearing a Brother AiRScouter HUD, is able to simultaneously observe the aircraft and telemetry. Attendees of the event had opportunity to wear the HUD and appreciate the value of a constant display that enables pilots to observe the aircraft, telemetry, and video data, all at once.  Jennifer Pidgen of SMG commented, “We have equipped each of our pilots with the AiRScouter system not only for these scenarios, but more importantly for those times where we’re inspecting critical detail and looking away from the aircraft may increase risk. The AirScouter enables our pilots to observe the aircraft flying closely to objects while providing a constant stream of information to the pilot.”

The sUAS captured nearly 100 photos used to create the overall model/map of the scene. Normally, the scene would encompass the entire area in the event that there may be more clues hidden in the brush or sandy areas surrounding the site. Thermal may also be used to search for other bodies, or persons involved in the crew.

The images were then taken into the Sundance Media Group AVOC computers, where we assembled them as a low-resolution 2D file to verify all areas of the scene were adequately captured,” said Sam Pepple, of Pix4D. “Once verification and confirmation are complete, the scene may be released to the rest of the CSI team for standard investigation. Following the low-resolution verification, a high-resolution image was processed and evaluated by the team, as shown in the Pix4D booth at InterDrone.”

The point cloud of the scene is shared online here. Hold CTRL+SHIFT to rotate the scene in 3 dimensions.

Once the scene is captured, the rectified scene may be viewed internally or via secured online site by CSA, or Crime Scene Analysts, allowing measurements to be verified, retaken, or examined from a multitude of angles. 

The Sundance Media Group team will be demonstrating this experience at the Commercial UAV Expo in Las Vegas on October 3. Location TBA, near the WestGate hotel (walking distance).  REGISTER HERE. It is recommended that attendees register early. The last event ran out of space/slots within three days.

Thank you to Pix4D, FoxFury, Brother, NDCOE, WestWind Unmanned, Las Vegas Metro, Henderson PD, and Sundance Media Group for their efforts to bring this to the attendees of the InterDrone event.

Douglas Spotted Eagle addresses a crowd of nearly 100 attendees at the CSI demo.

Sam Pepple of Pix4D addresses the crowd, describing how Pix4D will be used to capture the scene, the importance and value of GCP, and why these models are valuable to crime scene investigators. 

An investigator briefs the crowd on how UAS are changing the face of scene capture, and details how a scene is approached, observed, captured, and processed.

We captured the scene using multiple drones. Brady Reisch captured video of the event; we’ll soon have that available for viewing.

The SMG AVOC was the hub of activity prior to the night flight. Pizza and drinks provided by FoxFury and Pix4D.

The FoxFury Rugo lights are a key component to SMG night flight. They may be mounted  to nearly any sUAS platform including Yuneec H520, Hplus, DJI Phantom, Inspire 1, Inspire 2, Matrice 200 series, AEE Mach 4, and many others.

By | September 10th, 2018|Drone, Public Safety, sUAS, sUAS, sUAS Safety, Technology, Training, UAV|Comments Off on CSI and sUAS: Tools for the Crime Scene Analyst