Part 91, 101, 103, 105, 107, 137: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

All these FARs, what’s a drone pilot to do in order to understand them? Do they matter?

YES!

In virtually every aviation pursuit except for sUAS, an understanding of regulations is requisite and part of most testing mechanisms.  As a result, many sUAS pilots holding 

a Remote Pilot Certificate under Part §107 are woefully uninformed, to the detriment of the industry.

Therefore, sUAS pilots would be well-served to inform themselves of how each section of relevant FARs regulate components of aviation.

Let’s start by digging into the intent of each Part.

  • §Part 91 regulates General Operating and Flight Rules.
  • §Part 101 regulates Moored Balloons, Kites, Amateur Rockets, Unmanned Free Balloons, and some types of Model Aircraft.
  • §Public Law Section 336 regulates hobby drones as an addendum to Part 101.
  • §Part 103 regulates Ultra-Light Vehicles, or manned, unpowered aviation.
  • §Part 105 regulates Skydiving.
  • §Part 107 regulates sUAS
  • §Part 137 regulates agricultural aircraft

RELEVANT PARTS (Chapters):

Part §91

This portion of the FARs is barely recognized, although certain sections of Part 91 may come into play in the event of an action by the FAA against an sUAS pilot. For example, the most concerning portion of Part 91 is  91.13, or “Careless or Reckless Operation.” Nearly every action taken against sUAS pilots have included a charge of 91.13 in the past (prior to 107).

Specific to drone actions, The vast majority of individuals charged have also included the specific of a 91.13 charge.

sUAS pilots whether recreational or commercial pilots may be charged with a §91.13 or the more relevant §107.23 (reckless)

It’s pretty simple; if there are consequences to a pilot’s choices and actions, it’s likely those consequences also included a disregard for safety or planning, ergo; careless/reckless. The FAA has recently initiated actions against Masih Mozayan for flying his aircraft near a helicopter and taking no avoidance action. They’ve also taken action against Vyacheslav Tantashov for his actions that resulted in damage to a military helicopter (without seeing the actual action, it’s a reasonable assumption that the action will be a §91.13 or a §107.23 (hazardous operation).

Other parts of Part 91 are relevant as well. For example;

  • §91.1   Applicability.

(a) Except as provided in paragraphs (b), (c), (e), and (f) of this section and §§91.701 and 91.703, this part prescribes rules governing the operation of aircraft within the United States, including the waters within 3 nautical miles of the U.S. coast.

The above paragraph includes sUAS.  Additionally, Part 107 does not exclude Part 91. Airmen (including sUAS pilots) should be aware of the freedoms and restrictions granted in Part 91.

§91.3   Responsibility and authority of the pilot in command.

(a) The pilot in command of an aircraft is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that aircraft.

(b) In an in-flight emergency requiring immediate action, the pilot in command may deviate from any rule of this part to the extent required to meet that emergency.

(c) Each pilot in command who deviates from a rule under paragraph (b) of this section shall, upon the request of the Administrator, send a written report of that deviation to the Administrator.

§91.7   Civil aircraft airworthiness.

(a) No person may operate a civil aircraft unless it is in an airworthy condition.

(b) The pilot in command of a civil aircraft is responsible for determining whether that aircraft is in condition for safe flight. The pilot in command shall discontinue the flight when unairworthy mechanical, electrical, or structural conditions occur.

§91.15   Dropping objects.

No pilot in command of a civil aircraft may allow any object to be dropped from that aircraft in flight that creates a hazard to persons or property. However, this section does not prohibit the dropping of any object if reasonable precautions are taken to avoid injury or damage to persons or property.

§91.17   Alcohol or drugs.

(a) No person may act or attempt to act as a crewmember of a civil aircraft—

(1) Within 8 hours after the consumption of any alcoholic beverage;

(2) While under the influence of alcohol;

(3) While using any drug that affects the person’s faculties in any way contrary to safety; or

Sound familiar?

SubPart B also carries relevant information/regulation with regard to operation in controlled airspace, operations in areas under TFR ((§91.133), operations in disaster/hazard areas, flights during national events, lighting (§91.209)

PART 101

Part §101 has a few applicable sections.

Subpart (a) under §101.1 restricts model aircraft and tethered aircraft (balloons). Although subpart (a.4. iiv) is applicable to balloon tethers, there is argument that it also applies to sUAS. Subpart (a.5.iii) defines recreational flight for sUAS/model aircraft.

 

Finally, §101.7 re-emphasizes §91.15 with regard to dropping objects (may not be performed without taking precautions to prevent injury or damage to persons or property).  Public Law 112-95 Section 336 (which may be folded into a “107 lite” version), clarifies sections not added to Part 101.

Bear in mind that unless the pilot follows the rules and guidelines of a NCBO such as the AMA, AND the requirements of that NCBO are met, the flight requirements default to Part 107 requirements.

PART §103

Part §103 regulates Ultralight vehicles (Non powered, manned aviation)

Although no component of Part §103 specifically regulates UAV, it’s a good read as Part 103 contains components of regulation found in Part 107.

PART §105

Part §105 regulates Skydiving.

Part §105 carries no specific regulation to sUAS, an understanding of Part 105 provides great insight to components of Part 107. Part 107 has very few “new” components; most of its components are clipped out of other FAR sections.

PART §107

Although many sUAS pilots “have their 107,” very few have actually absorbed the FAR beyond a rapid read-through. Without a thorough understanding of the FAR, it’s difficult to comprehend the foundation of many rules.

PART §137

Part 137 applies specifically to spraying crops via aerial vehicles.

Those looking into crop spraying via sUAS should be familiar with Part 137, particularly with the limitations on who can fly, where they can fly, and how crops may be sprayed.
One area every ag drone pilot should look at is §137.35 §137.55 regarding limitations and business licenses.

The bottom line is that the more informed a pilot is, the better pilot they can be.  While there are many online experts purporting deep knowledge of aviation regulations and how they specifically apply to sUAS, very few are familiar with the regulations in specific, and even less informed as to how those regulations are interpreted and enforced by ASI’s. We’ve even had Part 61 pilots insist that the FSDO is a “who” and not a “what/where.” Even fewer are aware of an ASI and how they relate to the world of sUAS.

FSIM Volume 16

It is reasonably safe to say that most sUAS pilots are entirely unaware of the Flight Standards Information Management System, aka “FSIMS.” I’ve yet to run across a 107 pilot familiar with the FSIMS, and recently was vehemently informed that “there is nothing beyond FAR Part 107 relative to sUAS. Au contraire…

Familiarity with the FSIMS may enlighten sUAS operator/pilots in how the FAA examines, investigates, and enforces relevant FARs.

Chapter 1 Sections 1, 2  and 4 are a brief, but important read, as is Chapter 2, Section 2.

Chapter 3 Section 1 is informational for those looking to apply for their RPC Part 107 Certificate.

Chapter 4 Sections 2, 5, 7, 8 are of particular value for commercial pilots operating under Part 107.

Volume 17, although related only to manned aviation, also has components related to 107, and should be read through (Chapters 3 & 4) by 107 pilots who want to be informed.

Gaining new information is always beneficial, and even better if the new information is implemented in your workflow and program. Become informed, be the best pilot you can be, and encourage others to recognize the value in being a true professional, informed and aware.

 

 

By | September 13th, 2018|Construction, Drone, Drone Safety, Inspection, Night Flight, Public Safety, Real Estate, Regulations, sUAS, sUAS, sUAS Regulation, sUAS Safety, Training, UAV, UAV Maintenance, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Part 91, 101, 103, 105, 107, 137: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

PRESS RELEASE: Aerial Vehicle Operations Center hits the skies of Southern Nevada, Utah

Mobile command post first of its kind in the South West

 

Las Vegas, NV, February 6, 2018:  Sundance Media Group (SMG) announces the Aerial Vehicle Operations Center (AVOC) for unmanned aerial operations. “We’re very excited about the AVOC, as it not only brings our operations to a more broad level, but also allows us to expand our operational ability,” says James Spear, pilot/instructor at SMG.  “The cooled, large interior operating space with multiple computer stations and operational components designed for night flight allow us to support Search and Rescue missions, overwatch, and other support activities in addition to our more common UAV activities in construction site data, real estate image capture, and training operations.”

The mobile operations center is self-contained with shore, generator, or battery power ability. In addition to supporting up to four UAS operators at one time, the AVOC is capable of delivering data in real-time to any organization requiring live video, photo, thermal image or data transfer.

“Combined with our Class B and Class B night operations waivers, SMG is able to satisfy virtually any client requirement, says Jennifer Pidgen, COO of SMG. “Our waivers, the AVOC, our many pilots that are certificated Airman, Instructor/Examiners, Advanced, Ground Instructors added to our 22 years of technology-focused training leave no doubt that we are the premiere training and post-production offering in the Southwest.”

The AVOC is the core of the field-training component of the SMG instructor/examiner program which trains UAS pilots to also be instructors, generating in-house training programs for corporations and organizations intending to field a fleet of UAS.

“Our training organization is quite different from the majority of training programs in the US,” explains Douglas Spotted Eagle, Director of Educational Programming at SMG, “Rather than simply being pilots that decided to teach, we have implemented aviation standards and training requirements that at the core, are about educational excellence first, risk mitigation-training second, and UAS operations third. Anyone can fly a drone. Yet few 107 pilots have aviation backgrounds and culture, in addition to understanding ISO risk mitigation practices. We offer that background, and that’s why we have so many State, Local, and Federal clients pass through our doors.”

For Release August 21, 2018

Sundance Media Group Contact:  Jennifer Pidgen      Ph: 801.231.4911       Email: jennifer@sundancemediagroup.com

 

 

By | August 26th, 2018|Drone Safety, Night Flight, Public Safety, sUAS, sUAS Safety, UAV, UAV Maintenance|Comments Off on PRESS RELEASE: Aerial Vehicle Operations Center hits the skies of Southern Nevada, Utah

PROPERTY OWNER “AIR RIGHTS:” FACT or FICTION?

IF A HOMEOWNER DOESN’T OWN THE AIR ABOVE THEIR HOME, WHO DOES?

Recently, heated discussions surrounding the topic of “Air Rights”have arisen within the UAS community, generating confusion and division within the community. In one forum of UAS professionals, an industry member was so angered by the confusion that negative press releases were threatened, jobs were held ransom, and phone calls to local FSDO’s were made.

The intent of this article is to clear up a few misconceptions. Note the author is not an attorney, but rather a very active, long-time member of the aviation and UAS communities (although this article has been vetted by multiple aviation attorneys).

As recently as July 2018, the FAA has re-emphasized their dominion over the National Air Space (NAS), meaning that the citizens of the United States own the NAS, with the FAA being the governing body. Municipalities, cities, and states may not abrogate nor preempt federal control over this airspace.


In general terms, once an aircraft is a theoretical “inch above the blades of grass,” it is in the NAS and subject to federal control, not state nor local control.

In general terms, an aircraft at rest/on the ground, may be subject to state or local regulation. Municipalities may control where an aircraft may launch or be recovered through regulation of public grounds. Municipalities should  not govern launch/recovery on private property. That said, a few misguided municipalities have created regulation surrounding UAS launch/recovery in much the same way they have mandated that dog houses must meet a certain specification, or that small animals such as chickens may not be raised in certain zones.

We also are observing either blissful ignorance or a coordinated attempt at stifling commercial enterprise in the recent actions of the Uniform Law Commission (ULC), who have proposed national legislation creating “aerial trespass” regulation.  These absurd notions have inspired the FAA to release the aforementioned press release regarding their dominion over the skies of CONUS. The National Press Photographers Association offered up a few words to the ULC as well.  However, the ULC proposal is just that at this point; a proposal of legislation.  It is not law, and unlikely to become such as currently written.

THE REALITY

Taking a specific case in point; a property owner and their real estate agent hire a UAS pilot to capture aerial photos of a home coming onto the market. During the capture of these photos, the pilot’s aircraft is hovering over a neighbor’s home. The camera targets the for-sale home and at no point does the camera capture images of the neighboring home.

Does the neighboring homeowner have a right to demand the aircraft not fly over their home?

No.

So long as the images being captured are of the home the pilot was hired to capture, the neighbor has no claim to control where the UAS flies. Moreover, there is little right to expectation of privacy should the camera capture ancillary areas of the neighbor’s yard (known in legal terms as “curtilage”).

Curtilage “is the area to which extends the intimate activity associated with the ‘sanctity of a man’s home and the privacies of life.’”71 As property owners may “reasonably . . . expect that [this] area immediately adjacent to the home will remain private,”72 the Court has found that curtilage is protected under the Fourth Amendment. Although the Fourth Amendment’s protections extend to curtilage, the Court has held that property owners do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy against naked-eye observation of curtilage from publicly navigable airspace. (Columbia Journal of Law)

Based on existing jurisprudence, warrantless drone surveillance of curtilage may not violate the Fourth Amendment if the drone operates within airspace legally navigable by drones. While this paragraph is predominantly related to law enforcement, it is reasonable to extend the concept into commercial/107 flights.

Homeowners have a right to an expectation of “reasonable privacy.” What is “reasonable” is a matter of debate. Sunbathing in the backyard next door to a home that has a deck higher than a fence, for example, would not be a “reasonable expectation of privacy.”

*it is important to note that the legal term “reasonable expectation of privacy” differs greatly from “right to privacy.”

Unfortunately, there is no Fourth Amendment right to privacy as relates to private citizens or commerce, leaving room for discussion and interpretation. Restrictions which law enforcement must follow in order to observe a property are very different from what a commercial UAS pilot must observe.

It is also a requirement in reading any law regarding privacy that may encompass law enforcement be accompanied by an understanding that law enforcement is held to a higher bar of respecting privacy than a citizen flying a commercial drone. Many states require warrants for any form of aerial surveillance, photography, or videography. Some states require additional certification for public safety officials/first responders, although this issue has recently been seen as a preemption and these requirements may quietly fade away.

IN GENERAL TERMS

The discussion regarding UAS photographing, mapping, or overlying a private home is fairly simple.

Regardless of whether the UAS is flying over a home, yard, easement, or other accessoral structures, a UAS pilot is well within their rights as granted by the FAA (discussion of waivers and airspace aside). So long as there are no MOA, TFR, or similar restrictions in place, the sky is a broadly accessible highway for aerial vehicles.

But…what about the UAS the hovers in a backyard and takes photos of sunbathing children? Doesn’t the FAA regulate this? Doesn’t the homeowner have “air rights?”

No to both questions.

-the FAA doesn’t govern what can/cannot be photographed.

-In theory, the homeowner has no so-called “air rights.” (The concept of “air rights” does exist, but is not related to aviation, rather relating to property views, sunlight blockage, etc, frequently found in large cities such as NYC or LA)

What the homeowner does have, is a potential claim of invasion of privacy. No different than a Peeping Tom putting a ladder on a fence and using the ladder as a photographic elevation, the aircraft’s violation of law is governed by state or local law, not federal law. Privacy laws vary from state to state. For example, in the State of Georgia, taking upskirt photos was legal until late 2017.  

Each state has its own definition of “invasion of privacy” and there are no federal laws, and no FAA position on this topic. State laws tend to lean towards anything being under cover, or behind a fence as “private.” However, many state laws do not consider areas over a fence as being “private.” An example might be a two story home with a deck on the upper floor that over looks the neighbors yard. Several precedents have demonstrated that this is an “open view” and not an area that holds an “expectation of privacy.”

 

In most states, while privacy is a concern, any attempt to regulate “air rights of privacy” would be likely considered preemptive and the FAA has made it clear in recent months they are the controlling agency of aerial operations. The question becomes “at what altitude does the FAA relinquish ownership of the air and the property owner takes possession? Three feet? Ten feet? Eighty three feet? Or is it the theoretical 1” above the blades of grass?

The concept of privacy is not federal; it is local, and no commercial UAS pilot engaged in common, authorized activity such as surveying, mapping, photographing, a client property should hold any concern for this topic at this time. As we evolve from law enforcement situations into privacy situations, it is entirely possible that federal law may change in favor of creating some sort of regulation relevant to aerial invasion of privacy.  The FAA has done an exemplary work in providing states with a basic fact sheet that should advise municipalities on what they may/may not regulate with regard to UAS use. 

WHAT ABOUT AVIGATION? (air easements)

In the recent spate of social media word battle, one or two individuals brought up their expertise in “avigations.” Avigation is an easement generated for purposes of keeping the peace in areas where aircraft may be landing or taking off. Issues ranging from fuel dispersion, noise abatement, dust/debris, fumes, vibration, etc may impact a homeowner’s quality of life. These issues bear no relevance to UAV operations. Avigations frequently fall under categories of “hazard” and “nuisance.” These sorts of issues frequently precede condemnation actions. Only an airport may possess an avigation easement.

“Control” easements also exist, requiring property owners to restrict the height of buildings, trees, power poles, etc yet again, these easements are of no concern to UAS pilots.

BUT, BUT, BUT…WHAT ABOUT UNITED STATES V CAUSBY?

Doesn’t that judgement say that property owners own the air up to 83’ above their home? That’s what a lot of websites say…

Causby’s decision primary does exactly the opposite of what some may feel it controls. Causby demonstrates that airspace is within the public domain, but did NOT determine the quantity of curtilage left to the land owner. Even in the instance that some court somewhere determines that 100% of non-built up property is sacrosanct, Causby provides jurisdiction by the FAA, not state nor local authority. This is likely the most misunderstood of all legal decisions relating to aviation with regards to UAS. 

ADDITIONALLY…

It is of significant note to realize that currently, the vast majority of precedent decisions relate to law enforcement use of manned aircraft for purposes of surveillance. As society becomes more aware of issues surrounding privacy, federal legislation may eventually be enacted which restricts FAA control of the NAS.  To date, there are three relevant cases to non-law enforcement uses of UAS.

Singer v Newton relates to private use of UAS, and is a District Court decision, affecting only areas within the State of Massachusetts, although it will likely be referred to in many courts to come. City of Chicago v Hakim determined that the local police had failed to meet a burden of proof in arresting a holder of an RPC for “flying over people.” Chicago v Hakim also demonstrates why the FAA must remain the sole arbiter and controlling agency over the skies.  Similarly, City of Los Angeles v Chappell determined that Los Angeles municipal laws (MCS 56.31) were a preemption of FAA authority over the skies, although the code is similarly worded to FAA regulations found in Part 107 of the Code of Federal Regulations. In LA v Chappell, Mr. Chappell’s drone had been confiscated and he was charged with violation of municipal ordinances. It’s interesting to note that the last line of the ordinance nullifies the entire ordinance if the aircraft and operator are operating under permissions of the FAA. In other words, a holder of a 107 RPC could not be found in violation unless violating other FAA operational or airspace requirements. The courts found in his favor and his aircraft was returned.

Eventually, complaints will come before the Courts, and we’ll likely see an invocation of some form of legal statement, and perhaps case law, setting a precedent. For now, what we have are listed above. Change, is inevitable.

HOWEVER…

Aside from the legal implications and responsibilities, it is this author’s opinion that UAS pilots have an obligation to the community and each other to raise awareness of activities. Awareness can be raised through common practices such as wearing blaze orange or yellow hazard vests, putting up sandwich boards, marking launch/recovery areas with hazard cones, placing advanced notification handbills on front doors or mailboxes in the area of operations, notifying local authorities of operations, having vehicles marked as a commercial UAS vehicle, having a visual observer in place to communicate with anyone questioning the operation, and more.  I believe it is incumbent on the professionals engaged in this infant industry, to help the general public learn to understand and accept our activities and see that it can be professionally practiced, vs the poorly dressed, angry guy that shows up with a small drone, launches from a sidewalk, and screams at the neighborhood about “his right to fly the drone anywhere he damn well pleases.” Being positive, firm, and informational goes a long way to helping concerned individual understand what a pilot is photographing, and allay fears of invasion of privacy.

Angry bystanders, homeowners, or property owners typically become angry due to fear, uncertainty, or doubt (FUD).  Generally, they are uninformed. Politely and firmly providing educational information in a calm manner will generally allay their concerns. There will always be “that one person” who won’t accept what they’re being told, and situations may be escalated. Try to keep yourself calm. If authorities are summoned, have your relevant documentation available such as any waivers, RPC, etc. A recording of the altercation may be valuable.

Remember that the municipality *may* have determined authority over launch/recovery areas, so ensure public areas are always used for launch/recovery, or that the landowner has provided (preferably written) permission to launch/recover from their property.

At the end of the day, it is the responsibility of the UAS pilot to be familiar with all local and State regulations regarding UAS flight, and aware of what is and is not permissible. After all, being fully informed is but one facet of being a professional, wouldn’t you agree?

 

 

 

 

Relevant reading material:

United States v Causby 1946

California v. Ciraolo (1986)

Dow Chemical Co. v. United States (1986)

Florida v. Riley (1989)

Los Angeles vs Chappell (2016/Chappell prevailed)

City of Chicago v Hakim (2017/Hakim prevailed)

Singer v Newton (2017/Singer prevailed)

 

Plan your UAV Flight for Inspiring Eclipse photos!

Yuneec Typhoon H near Red Rock Canyon
Yuneec Typhoon H near Red Rock Canyon

2017 brings an opportunity of a total solar eclipse, a rare and exciting event. In recent times, the only place to view a full eclipse has been unpractical as being in remote areas or on the ocean have been the only viewpoints of quality. This year is much different!

cation in the USA is in the central corridor, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to see the eclipse in your area.   Learn more about the eclipse, its path, and what to expect from here. Sundance Media Group will be in Hopkinsville, Kentucky where there will be 2 minutes and 40 seconds of totality where the day will become almost as dark as night!

Capturing the sun with the moon overlaid will not be very practical with a drone. Simply put, a very small lens system with a wide angle (as most drones offer) will record only a tiny dot in the sky, and this is why long, telephoto lenses are required for proper direct capture of the eclipse.

However, the shadow of the moon passing over the earth is as dramatic as the eclipse itself, and a drone is ideal for this sort of image capture. Still images, time lapse images, or video can all be very exciting when captured from altitude.

Capturing the movement of the moon shadow over the earth will be very dramatic, and quite easy to capture with most any drone. We recommend the Yuneec Tornado, Typhoon H, or Q500 with the CGO‐series cameras.

To capture the eclipse properly, an ND filter is required. If capturing over water, an ND64 is recommended. If capturing over land, an ND16 will suffice. PolarPro and Freewell both manufacture ND filters for use on the CGO3+ camera.

The Neutral Density (ND) filter will slow down the camera’s shutter, allowing for smooth movement of the shadow, while also reducing the dynamic range, providing for clearer contrast and deeper color.

A wide open area is preferable. Being as high on a hill or other elevation with an unobstructed view is also extremely desireable. Altitude is the best way to capture the dramatic movement of the shadow.

With regulations preventing altitudes of over 400’, larger areas and hilltops are very important for the best recording of the experience. The extremely wide‐angle of the CGO3+ camera system will help capture a broader perspective, giving the shadow a very dramatic flair as it moves across the curvature of the earth.

The key to ensuring you capture the images you want is PLANNING your flight.  Safety is paramount as it is likely there will be many curious eclipse observers. You will want to ensure that where you are flying is legal and safe. Here are a few planning tips:

■   Ensure your UAV, controller and camera current on software/firmware updates

■   Scout the area you plan on flying; Check the airspace you plan to fly.

  • File a NOTAM, or “Notice To Airmen.” Dependent on the desired airspace, hobby users can electronically request ownership of a particular area above them at an altitude of higher than 400’. Requesting a NOTAM costs nothing, and is a good safety measure, particularly in areas where helicopters and fixed wing aircraft may be flying.

■     Pre-Plan the steps of your flight to ensure you capture your footage!

  • Practice the angles!
  • Between today and the eclipse, fly the drone to high elevations/altitudes to find the best camera angle at the best times of day for your eclipse view.

Take note of the sun’s location, proximate objects in the foreground, and identify (and write down) the best camera angle that shows more earth than sky. Keep only the horizon in the upper portion of the frame during this time.

Plan on allowing the drone to hover with no movement. The eclipse shadow will move quickly; approximately 2 minutes of totality in the central areas of the US; being prepared is important.

What you DO NOT want to do is spend an entire eclipse event messing around with your settings, or viewing it entirely through your remote/ground station. PRACTICE these angles so that you are able to naturally observe the phenomenon of the eclipse with your eyes (covered by protective eyewear, of course).

Although the small Yuneec Breeze is not recommended for high altitude flight, if you’re in an area where a hilltop and few obstructions exist, the Breeze may also be used. While there are no filters available for the Breeze, Neutral Density gel is available at any theatrical supply, and may be taped in place over the camera lens during this rare, exciting event.

Take caution to not point the camera lens of any camera system directly at the sun without proper MD filtration. It is very likely the intensity of the sun will burn the imager hardware of the camera, permanently damaging it.  Eclipse sunglasses are recommended as well. Here are are a few more eclipse safety tips to know about.

Above all else, practice standard UAV flight safety techniques. Avoid flying over persons, property, or animals, stay within required altitude limits, and keep a watchful eye on the drone during the 2 minutes of the total eclipse.

As we mentioned, SMG will be in Hopkinsville, KY to experience the “path of totality”. If you are in the area, be sure to register with the area organizers and drop by to say “hi”!

Fly Safe and capture some inspiring images! Be sure to drop by our Facebook page and share with us!

By | August 17th, 2017|Drone, Drone Safety, Regulations, sUAS Regulation, sUAS Safety, Training, UAV|Comments Off on Plan your UAV Flight for Inspiring Eclipse photos!

WITNESS TO HISTORY

1908 was a big year for the world; the automobile found its way to the masses through the invention of the assembly line, created by Henry Ford. Not only did the mass-production line bring affordable prices, it also created the middle class. up

We’re in much the same birthspace; UAV/Drones are just beginning to grow into toddler-hood and millions of individuals (88% male, by some polls) are rapidly acquiring the skills and technology required to foster and grow this new industry.

Some view drones as mere toys, sideshows for businesses and leisure users.

Nothing could be further from accurate.

Drones (Some hate the word, yet it has rapidly become accepted in non-military circles) are being used in many industries already. Oil fields, solar fields, search and rescue, law enforcement, fire control, delivery of life-saving or retail goods, terrain mapping, agriculture, artists, wildlife management, mining, land management, fishing, cable/telecommunications inspection, real estate, and so many other industries are already using aerial technology. There are even underwater drones to inspect hulls of boats, ships, docks, etc.

What many may not immediately realize is the growth industry behind drones. Manufacturers aside, there are parts providers, technicians, sales people, support people, pilots, operators, and vendors of services. Colleges all across the globe are scrambling to develop programs similar to those that Humber College in Toronto, Ontario have had for a while now. Open source software drives commercially-focused drones such as those from 3DRobotics company, and computer-aided design plays a role in developing commercial custom drones.

DSC09976
Angelo builds a custom multirotor for surveillance work

Just as the automobile delivered the middle class to America and other parts of the world, the drone/UAV industry is poised to continue that weave in modern society whether in medicine, delivery, cinematography, transportation, or whatever else may come forward.

Whether it’s designing a custom solution for corporate or commercial work, or small-format cinematography, my team and I are here to assist you in taking full advantage of the shift in world progress.  We are committed to providing the most up-to-date information, advice, technology development, and resources to assuring our clients are presented with the most cost-effective, performance-balanced product possible.

PUBLISHED BY DSE:

I’ve been a successful sales manager, musician, film/video professional, instructional designer, and skydiver. Picked up a few pieces of gold, brass, titanium, and tin along the way. This blog is where I spill my guts about how I’m feeling at any given moment, and maybe a blurb or two about what’s happening in the sales, video, or skydiving worlds.

By | April 6th, 2016|Drone, Drone Safety, Regulations, Technology, Training, UAV Maintenance|Comments Off on WITNESS TO HISTORY

DRONE PRIVACY CONCERNS? What you need to know NOW!

Communities, states, and even the Fed are discussing potential breach of personal privacy from sUAVs in the skies of today and more importantly, skies of tomorrow.

First and foremost, let’s dispel the thought that privacy in the modern world actually exists at all. Somewhere, some how, some system is monitoring, reporting, storing, and targeting each of us as we browse the web, use our mobile devices, or drive from place to place. The amount of personal information collected by Google, Amazon, and Apple is simply overwhelming and astounding. Because of these “snoops,” Apple and Google can accurately predict our buying cycles, clothing preferences, what sort of partner would be best, and how we’ll vote.

We’re monitored by traffic and security cameras 24/7. At a recent security conference, it was revealed that in the average mid-sized city, each person is photographed an average of (at least) 300 times per day. Security cameras live in our offices, on our roads, and even our laptops can be compromised to us the built-in camera to surveil us.

However, this article is about privacy from sUAV, typically in our homes. What about those situations?

DRONE PRIVACY

A friend recently contracted a roofer to do a roof inspection and provide advice on what may or may not be needed to bring his roof up to standard. The roofer had just purchased an sUAV to aid in roof inspections. He’s a new drone operator and technically operating outside of legal bounds (without a 333 commercial exemption).

Roof Inspection-UAV

In the process of this flight, a neighbor became very concerned about his privacy, enough so that he climbed out of his swimming pool to view the drone pilot, initially remaining hidden behind vines in the alley way before becoming confrontational.

Roof Inspection-UAV neighbor

During the drone flight, the pilot hadn’t noticed the neighbor in his swimming pool, without doing a slow-motion look at the footage from the roofing inspection.

Roof Inspection-UAV_neighbor-landing2

Can you spot the neighbor? On a small tablet, the person in the image is all but impossible to see, particularly in the very few seconds he’s in the frame during the “return to home and landing” process.

Roof Inspection-UAV_neighbor-landing

For those concerned with the pilot being able to “zoom in” on the subject (or the person concerned about their privacy) it’s important to note that UAV/drone cameras aren’t able to zoom. Zooming makes the already-moving image even more unstable, and therefore unusable for purposes of inspection. Currently, UAV/drones must be flown very close to the subject to obtain a clear image. However, I’ve taken a still from this video and blown it up more than 4X, which demonstrates the lack of quality when zooming during post-video/photo processes.

Roof Inspection-UAV_neighbor-landing-zoomed_In

Overall, the image is useless for purposes of privacy. The image doesn’t meet any media standard for printing, cannot be used for creating even a half-useful online image. Imagine someone using this quality for virtually any nefarious abuse of individual privacy.

There isn’t much there. EVen with a very high resolution 4K camera, the post-process zoom is effectively useless.

Persons such as the self-proclaimed “DroneSlayer” who shot a drone out of the sky for “taking pictures of his daughter” from an altitude of 200′ above the ground are severely misguided. In the case of the “DroneSlayer,” the shotgun-happy shooter claimed the drone was “10 feet above my fence” when GPS and flight logs demonstrate the drone was not lower than 200′ at any point in time of flight. In other words, it’s apparently difficult for some folks (likely most people) to ascertain altitude. As a skydiver intimately familiar with absolute height over ground, it is indeed, very difficult to ascertain altitude from the ground to the sky without references.

For those that feel some sort of safe harbor from drones “because our community passed laws recently,” know that most of the recently-passed laws are superceded by federal laws. The FAA controls the airspace above your home, not the local mayor or city council.

At this point in time, there is little to be concerned about with regards to privacy. Drones are noisy, the ability of a camera on a drone is very limited, and one will always know when a drone is “that close.”

If a UAV/Drone is flying close to your home, business, or person, look around. The operator/pilot is likely very close by and one can talk to the operator/pilot and learn about what they’re doing with the device.

But know this for certain; drone pilots are not out to surreptitiously take photos of you through your bedroom window, take video of your children playing in their backyard, or spy on your behaviors. The vast majority of UAV/drones out there simply lack the requisite technology to do so with a stealth signature.

PUBLISHED BY DSE:

I’ve been a successful sales manager, musician, film/video professional, instructional designer, and skydiver. Picked up a few pieces of gold, brass, titanium, and tin along the way. This blog is where I spill my guts about how I’m feeling at any given moment, and maybe a blurb or two about what’s happening in the sales, video, or skydiving worlds.

By | March 17th, 2016|Drone, Drone Safety, Regulations, sUAS Regulation, Technology|Comments Off on DRONE PRIVACY CONCERNS? What you need to know NOW!

Drone Rules Suck (and Here’s Why You Want Them…)

Everything in life has rules and most everyone complains about them from time to time. “Traffic is bad today, why can’t I just drive on the sidewalk?” “I just need a quick snack, no one will notice that I swiped a bag of peanuts from the store...”

Drones are no different. Each morning I get up to read my news streams and sure enough, there’s some guy who broke the rules and/or some person complaining about the recommendations or rules for UAV/drones.  One can’t blame some of the complainers; the people that are breaking the rules make it more difficult for those of us that try to follow them. And to be fair, some of the UAV/drone rules and laws are not only unreasonable but downright ineffective. Some of them are a knee-jerk reaction from local politicians who are for the most part, ignorant of the FAA and existing laws.

But, why do we need to have these rules in the first place? Why can’t common sense prevail?

Let’s tackle the last one first.

“Common Sense” isn’t common at all.

The Dunning Kruger effect plays a significant role in the UAV/drone community, and if you don’t know what it is, follow the link. You will likely appreciate the reference. We’ve all been “that person” at least once in our lifetimes.

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.

Many drone owners purchase drones, drive to the park, drop in the battery, and fly. Some may visit webpages, join communities, and at the least gain a basic knowledge of survival skills with their drone. A fraction seek training, read books, or take a course at a local drone instructional.  As a result, a small percentage of drone operators fly their vehicles into Ferris wheels, joggers, infants, windows, over ski race courses, etc.

WHY A MAXIMUM OF 400′ AGL?

With limited exception, general aviation is not permitted to fly below 500′ AGL (above Ground Level) in uncongested areas (FAR 91.119). Helicopters have some specific exclusions. This minimum altitude coupled with the UAV maximum of 400′ provides for a 100′ buffer between general aviation and UAV operations. In theory this should work well towards keeping UAV out of the flight path of any general aviation aircraft.

WHY MORE THAN 5 MILES FROM AN AIRPORT/AERODROME?

When aircraft are landing, they fly a “cone” that may have them at various altitudes. This airspace is understandably, highly controlled. The rule does not mean you absolutely cannot fly within these areas; it means operators must contact the control tower before flight. My experience has been that they’re very willing, polite, and appreciative of the contact. Be prepared to tell them exactly where you’ll be flying (Lat/Long are nice, but I’ve never been asked for those), altitude you’ll be flying (I’ve never asked for more than 400′, but one certainly can ask), time of day you wish to fly, and for how long you’ll be flying. They’ll likely ask for a phone number, and on two occasions, I’ve received a call-back from the tower verifying that my mission is complete.

WHY ARE DRONES VLOS?

This should be fairly self-evident. Visual Line Of Sight means the operator or a spotter can always see the UAV/drone. Currently, FPV without a spotter is not permitted in North America. Using an FPV device does not align with “VLOS.” However, using a spotter is permissible. Someone with control must always have a visual fix on the UAV. This is one of the reasons that UAV flight beyond one mile is generally not a good plan.

NO FLIGHT NEAR PEOPLE OR STADIUMS

Persons not involved/aware of your flight have a right to a reasonable expectation of safety. This includes not being concerned about what might fall on their heads while enjoying a football game. There have already been several instances of UAV/drones falling into stadiums and in at least one case, injuring a spectator. In most cases of stadium flight, the operator was also violating VLOS rules.

WHY IS “MORE THAN 25′ AWAY FROM PERSONS” REQUIRED?

Similar to the above explanation, UAS can harm people. There have been multiple instances of bystanders being injured, including two infants, during the landing operation of UAV/drones. Aside from it being a rule, it’s simply sensible to take off and land far away from people in the event of an unruly drone. Remember, blades can be very sharp.

HERE’S A LONG RULE:  

Do not fly near or over sensitive infrastructure or property such as power stations, water treatment facilities, correctional facilities, heavily traveled roadways, government facilities, etc.

Why? It should be fairly self-explanatory. In one recent drone incident, the pilot flew his DJI Inspire into a power line. The utility company is currently suing him for the $40,000.00 in damages incurred from the UAV cutting lines, manpower to repair/restore electricity, etc. Not flying over prisons seems self explanatory, no? Avoiding government facilities, such as the recent flyover a nuclear submarine base is likely a good idea, given that if one is caught, jail time and heavy fines are to be expected.

40kOoops

RESPECT THE PRIVACY OF OTHERS

If you fly a typical UAV, you already know that the cameras on these devices is fairly wide-angled, and incapable of taking detailed pictures of the general public without the UAV being very, very close to the subject. The general public doesn’t know this, and one shouldn’t expect them to. They don’t know what you know. All they know is that a drone with a camera is pointed their way and like most rational people, they’ll be upset. If you’re going to be shooting photos or video of a landmark or people, be courteous and let them know. Talk to the people around, put up signs, notify authorities; take responsible action to prevent problems for yourself or others that might want to fly in that area in the future.

BE RESPECTFUL OF ANIMALS AND WILDLIFE

This isn’t in the FAA or Transport Canada guidelines; it’s one of my own. Dogs love to chase drones. Dog’s noses are very tender and soft and when a flying Cuisinart blade hits the dog’s nose, blood is likely to ensue. The same goes for filming wildlife. There are many videos of irresponsible (albeit understandable) drone operators wanting to fly near wildlife who have found their drone being attacked by cheetahs, mountain goats, antelope, monkeys, and other wild animals. While it’s understandable to want to get close to them in their habitat, be sure to keep a distance where the animal isn’t going to be able to reach the UAV and possibly be harmed by it. Taking a dog to a vet to get a nose stitched up is one thing; capturing and taking an antelope in to get an eye treated is entirely another thing.

All in all, the “rules” are quite simple, if one applies logic and some minimal form of self-evaluation regarding skill. One does not buy a drone and within 10-12 flights become “proficient.” It takes at least 40 hours of flight time to become reasonably proficient. This equals approximately 120 flights of an average battery time of 20 minutes per flight. Sound familiar? It requires 40 hours of flight to earn a beginner’s private pilot license, too.9.10.15-Drones-for-Hyperactive-Dogs1-590x385

Applied knowledge goes a long way to better practices and as the old saying goes, Perfect Practice makes perfect.

PUBLISHED BY DSE

I’ve been a successful sales manager, musician, film/video professional, instructional designer, and skydiver. Picked up a few pieces of gold, brass, titanium, and tin along the way. This blog is where I spill my guts about how I’m feeling at any given moment, and maybe a blurb or two about what’s happening in the sales, video, or skydiving worlds.

By | February 29th, 2016|Drone, Drone Safety, Regulations, sUAS Regulation, sUAS Safety, Technology, UAV|Comments Off on Drone Rules Suck (and Here’s Why You Want Them…)

IRRESPONSIBLE DRONE-RSHIP

The media are all about small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (sUAV) these days, perhaps better known as “drones.” Drones add significant value to our lives and will become more important as we move forward into the future. However, with all technologies come great responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is how we operate our personal UAV/drones.

Last week in Clarendon, Texas, a newbie drone owner/operator decided to check out an antelope. The “pilot” is a self-admitted newbie, claiming he only has “20 or so flights” on his newly acquired device and perhaps that’s the reason for his short-sighted approach in flying his device close to a wild animal.

Pronghorn1

There certainly is nothing wrong with wanting to capture the antelope in a natural setting. In fact, some would be a little jealous of such terrific subjects to film. Where this endeavor went wrong is when the drone owner decided to try to film the animal at eye-level and up close.

Pronghorn6

The antelope makes an attempt to run away and the drone operator chose to chase the animal at high speed. The antelope turns and wants to check out the drone. Due to the erratic flight of the drone/poor piloting, the antelope perceives a threat and attacked the drone before running off.

Pronghorn7

Pronghorn7a

The drone doesn’t suffer much damage, but what about the antelope?

Veterinarians all over the world have made comment about the dangers propellers bring to dogs-noses. There have been a few cases of eye-loss, at least three of them infants who have been injured by propellers. In this article, several prop injuries can be seen.

DroneSelfie

It’s not as though these flying Cuisinarts are entirely face-friendly. The face shown here was cut with the same model drone as used in the antelope video. With this in mind, I approached the owner of the drone. He felt strongly that an animal’s face is tough enough to handle this sort of incident and that it couldn’t possibly harm the animal in any way.

Pronghorn9

Regardless of the drone operator’s opinion, it stands to reason that even small drones like the popular white DJI Phantom can do damage to eyes and other soft tissues whether human or beast, as evidenced by hundreds of photographs around the web.

The particular drone I was using wouldn’t break the skin on my hand…” Travis Higgins, drone pilot

This little guy has permanently lost his eye to a DJI Phantom propeller, the same model drone seen in this antelope video.

Pronghorn8

I can’t particularly fault the drone owner for being defensive; he truly doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, but hopefully the many posts on his YouTube account have informed him that he made a mistake and it won’t be repeated. YouTube certainly provides some good learning opportunities. There are many websites, pages, and community groups where new drone operators can gain knowledge and awareness of how to best manage their drone use.

But what about other drone owners? Do they “get it?” 

If recent news articles ranging from flying a drone into the side of the Empire State Building, to a drone owner attempting to get close to presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (just before he crashed it into a building as well), it would seem many drone owners aren’t understanding the impact and risk that the excitement of drones bring to the community. In this particular case, the operator continually referred to himself as a “licensed pilot who knows the FAA rules.” There are no FAA rules that apply here; common sense should prevail. Yet he’s convinced that “since he’s an FAA-licensed pilot, what he’s doing is OK.

What might have the drone operator done to not endanger the antelope while still getting great footage?

  • Learn to fly more gracefully/skillfully before putting the drone into the personal space of people or animals. The FAA recommendations are that drones are never closer than 100′ to “non-involved individuals.”

  • Never fly at an altitude or distance that is in close proximity of living beings. In this case, 10′ up would have sufficed; the image could have been post-processed in editing to crop/zoom in on the subject). Again, a topic related to learning more about the device, its camera system, and the technology.

  • Be respectful of the animal. If it runs off it likely is scared and it’s possible the drone could induce the animal to self-injury. Keep your distance. Every year, Yellowstone Park has a percentage of visitors injured or killed because they can’t recognize this rule. They, like the drone pilot in this video, think the animals are like pets and can be gotten close to.

Higgins-Pet

A final comment; the owner of this drone and video claimed his flight was not commercial as he wasn’t being paid to shoot it, but does claim the video is intended for a wildlife conservation video. Money does not need to exchange hands to be considered “commercial” by the FAA. Indeed, if this video is anything more than a couple of buddies having some fun and capturing some hobby footage, it becomes “commercial.” Given that this particular video has received attention from CBS and ABC requesting use for remuneration, and that it’s receiving coins from YouTube for play, it falls into the category of “commercial.” Any commercial video requires a 333 exemption from the FAA, and without it, it is subject to very expensive fines. Be very aware of this, as the FAA and Transport Canada are watching YouTube and social media sites, and several individuals have been charged with using drones for commercial use, although that may not have been the drone operator’s original intent.

Drone owners are very concerned about potential rules, regulations, and controls placed by the government on our technology. Unfortunately, these sorts of videos cause enough uproar that the government truly has little choice but to try to protect us from ourselves.

Be responsible. Fly within the recommendations of the FAA or your local authorities. Understand that not everyone wants to be part of your drone video.  Be considerate, be safe.

[the owner of the video has now disabled comments after receiving many negative comments about the flight]
 DSE

I’ve been a successful sales manager, musician, film/video professional, instructional designer, and skydiver. Picked up a few pieces of gold, brass, titanium, and tin along the way. This blog is where I spill my guts about how I’m feeling at any given moment, and maybe a blurb or two about what’s happening in the sales, video, or skydiving worlds.

By | February 22nd, 2016|Drone, Drone Safety, Regulations, sUAS Regulation, sUAS Safety|Comments Off on IRRESPONSIBLE DRONE-RSHIP

Why *I* Don’t Catch my Drone

Catching a Drone

Recently I was asked “When do you choose to catch your drone vs landing your drone?

Catching a drone in midflight seems to be a badge of honor amongst some drone pilots and the reasoning behind it is baffling. It’s “so easy to do” there are even videos that teach drone operators how to catch their drone.

They have a number of arguments in favor of doing so.

I don’t want to risk my UAV hitting the ground.” “Dirt gets into the props when it’s taking off or landing.” “It looks really cool to people watching, and it shows I’m a pro when I catch my drone.”

On Facebook I once made a comment regarding the safety aspect of drone-catching and was promptly rebuffed with “If you can’t catch your drone, you don’t know how to fly” was the leading theme in the long string of derisive commentary that followed. I *can* catch my drone, just as I *can* play tag with an angry bull in a corral (and have done so).

A previous article entitled “Understanding Turbulence,” discusses how rotors and lee-winds can unpredictably affect UAV/drone flight. A human body is an obstacle to wind and the body is capable of diverting rotor wash or create a sink space. While being able to catch a drone mid-flight is certainly ego-supportive, it simply is unsafe for oneself and bystanders.

Symbol-ErrorWARNING, BLOODY IMAGES TO FOLLOW BELOW!

 

OK, YOU’VE BEEN WARNED

Here are a few injuries from around the web, demonstrating a varying degree of injuries by small UAV propellers. Some propellers are nylon-encased plastic. Others are carbon-fiber (CF). CF props are the most dangerous of all as they have no give, and are very sharp on the edges, providing for faster flight and more precise control.

Small drone injury

This is a relatively small cut from a prop, incurred while catching a drone mid-flight. An arrogant UAV operator commented “He didn’t know how to fly.” Perhaps the injured person knows how to fly; an unpredictable wind caught his vehicle and caused it to tilt?

A drone selfie and catch went wrong when the props fell into the sinkcreated by a body obstructing air.

DroneSelfie

Some people simply don’t learn the first time. There are those that count these scars as “badges of honor.” One might call them scarlet letters of stupidity. This person has experience in cutting himself.

Larger drone injury

With a drone loosely in hand and the motors spinning down,the drone may fall away from or towards the body, catching a bicep or forearm.

Pre-stitch cut

This is a similar injury. The injured man was holding his drone by the landing skids and it “pulled away and then towards him” as the quadcopter attempted to self-balance. Nine stitches later, he regretted catching and holding the vehicle. At least the CF blades made for neat and clean slices.

Drone Stitches

Having a flying Cuisinart at arms-length or less simply isn’t a good idea for a variety of reasons. At arms-length is entirely too close to the face and neck.

A reporter for the Brooklyn Daily was struck by a drone, cutting her nose and chin.

ReporterCut

Ultimately, the crew at Mythbusters (they love UAV/Drones and use them in production of their show) did a segment on the potential lethality of drones. Perhaps a bit extreme, one cannot miss their point.

Latin pop-star Enrique Eglasias likely has lost significant sensitivity in his hand due to attempting to catch a UAV during a concert performance. I have little doubt that some UAV operator is reading this blog thinking “That guy is stupid” while justifying why he/she catches their UAV.

Eglesias

I don’t catch my drone because I lack the skill to do so; like most people proficient with a UAV, I can put it precisely where I want it to land.

I don’t catch my drone because I’m averse to injury of myself and others. Safety always precludes “looking cool” or even saving a small cost of operation.

It may look cool to catch a drone and it may even reduce the risk of ingesting dust or dirt particles into a motor, thereby shortening the motor’s life. Perhaps think of it this way; A new motor may cost as much as $50.00. That’s a mere fraction of the cost of a trip to the emergency room and likely significantly less costly than an insurance deductible.

Happy flying!

 

Douglas Spotted Eagle is an sUAV operator with more than 500 hours of lDSE-droneIconShotogged flight time on various airframe types. He is also a USPA Safety and Training Advisor (at large), and a USPA AFF instructor. Safety is his priority in all aerial endeavors.

By | January 9th, 2016|Drone, Drone Safety, Training|Comments Off on Why *I* Don’t Catch my Drone