IS THE UAS INDUSTRY PREPARED FOR 8K? DO WE WANT 8K?

In 2004, Sony released the world’s first low-cost HD camera, known as the HVR-Z1U. The camera featured a standard 1/3” imager, squeezing 1440×1080 pixels (anamorphic/non-square) pixels on to the sensor. This was also the world’s first pro-sumer camera using the MPEG2 compression scheme, with a color sample of 4:2:0, and using a GOP method of frame progression, this new technology set the stage for much higher resolutions and eventually, greater frame rates.

It’s “father,” was the CineAlta HDWF900, which offered three 2/3” CCDs, which was the industry standard for filmmaking for several years, capturing big hits such as the “Star Wars Prequel Trilogy”, “Once Upon a Time in Mexico”, “Real Steel”, “Tomorrowland”, “Avatar”, “Spykids” (1 & 2), and so many others.  The newer HDV format spawned from similar technology found in the HDWF900, and set the stage for extremely high end camera tech to trickle down into the pro-sumer space.

Overtime, camera engineers identified methods of co-siting more pixels on small imagers, binning pixels, or using other techniques to increase the capture resolution on small surfaces. Compression engineers have developed new compression schemes which brought forward AVC (h.263), MP4(h.264), and now HEVC/High Efficiency Video Codec(h.265), and still others soon to be revealed. 

Which brings us to the present.

We have to roughly quadruple megapixels to double resolution, so the jump from SD to HD makes sense, while the jump from HD to UHD/4K makes even more sense. Following that theme, jumping to 6K makes sense, while jumping to 8K is perfect theory, and nears the maximum of the human eye’s ability to resolve information.

At NAB 2018, Sony and Blackmagic Design both revealed 8K cameras and in that time frame others have followed suit.

During CommUAV and InterDrone, several folks asked for my opinion on 6 and 8K resolutions. Nearly all were shocked as I expressed enthusiasm for the format.

    “It’s impossible to edit.”

    “The files are huge.”

    “No computer can manage it.”

    “There is no where to show 8K footage.”

    “Human eyes can’t resolve that resolution unless sitting very far away from the screen.”

    “Data cards aren’t fast enough.”

And….so on.

These are all the same comments heard as we predicted the tempo of the camera industry transitioning from SD to HD, and from HD to 4K.  In other words, we’ve been here before.

Video cameras are acquisition devices. For the same reasons major motion pictures are acquired at the highest possible resolutions, and for the same reasons photographers get very excited as resolutions on-camera increase, so should UAS photographers. Greater resolution doesn’t always mean higher grade images. Nor does larger sensor sizes increase quality of images. On the whole, higher resolution systems usually does translate into higher quality images.

Sensor sizes are somewhat important to this discussion, yet not entirely critical. The camera industry has been packing more and more pixels into the same physical space for nearly two decades, without the feared increase in noise. Additionally, better noise-sampling/reduction algorithms, particularly from OEM’s like Sony and Ambarella, have allowed far greater reduction in noise compared to the past. Cameras such as the Sony A7RIV and earlier offer nearly noise-free ISO of 32,000!

Sensor sizes vary of course, but we’ll find most UAS utilize the 1/2.3, or the 1” sensor. (Light Blue and Turquoise sizes respectively, as seen below). 


“Imagine an UAS equipped with an 8K camera inspecting a communications tower. Resolution is high, so small specs of rust, pitting, spalling, or other damage which might be missed with lower resolutions or the human eye become apparent with a greater resolution.”


Why Does Higher Resolution Translate to a Superior Finished Product?

Generally, we’re downsampling video or photos to smaller delivery vehicles, for but one reason. In broadcast, 4:2:2 uncompressed color schemes were the grail (no longer). Yet, most UAS cameras capture a 4:2:0 color sample.  However, a 4K capture, downsampled to 1080 at delivery, offers videographers the same “grail” color schema of 4:2:2!

As we move into 6 or 8K, similar results occur. We gain the ability to crop for post editing/delivery to recompose images without fear of losing resolution. This means that although the aircraft may shoot a wide shot, the image may be recomposed to a tighter image in post, so long as the delivery is smaller than the source/acquisition capture. For example, shooting 4K for 1080 delivery means that up to 75% of the image may be cropped without resolution loss.

 

As the image above demonstrates, it’s quite possible to edit 8K HEVC streams on a newer laptop. Performance is not optimal without a great deal of RAM and a good video card, as HEVC requires a fair amount of horsepower to decode. The greater point, is that we can edit images with deep recomposition. Moreover, we have more pixels to work with, providing greater color correction, color timing, and depth/saturation.

For public safety, this is priceless. An 8K capture provides great ability to zoom/crop deeply into a scene and deliver much greater detail in HD or 4K delivery.

The same can be said for inspections, construction progress reports, etc. Users can capture at a high resolution and deliver in a lower resolution.

Another benefit of 6 and 8K resolutions is the increase in dynamic range. While small sensors only provide a small increase in dynamic range, a small increase is preferable to no increase. 

To address other statements about 6K and 8K resolutions; They human eye has the ability to see around 40megapixels, age-dependent. 8K is approximately 33megapixels. However, the human eye doesn’t see equal resolutions across the surface. The center of our eye sees approximately 8megapixels, where the outer edges are not as deep. High resolution does provide greater smoothing across the spectrum, therefore our eyes see smoother moving pictures.

BEYOND THE HUMAN EYE

Going well-beyond the human eye, higher resolutions are applicable to “computer vision,” benefiting mapping, 3D modeling, and other similar applications. Generally speaking, more pixels equals greater smoothness and geometry. As technology moves deeper into Artificial Intelligence, higher resolutions with more efficient codecs become yet even more important. Imagine an UAS equipped with an 8K camera inspecting a communications tower. Resolution is high, so small specs of rust or other damage which might be missed with lower resolutions or the human eye become more visible with a greater resolution. Now imagine that greater resolution providing input to an AI-aided inspection report that might notify the operator or manager of any problem. Our technology is moving beyond the resolution of the human eye for good reason.

DATA STORAGE

Files from a 6 or 8K camera are relatively small, particularly when compared to uncompressed 8K content (9.62TB per hour). Compression formats, known as “Codecs” have been improving for years, steadily moving forward. For example, when compressions first debuted in physical form, we saw Hollywood movies delivered on DVD. Then we saw HD delivered on Blu-ray. Disc formats are dead, but now we’ve moved through MPG2, AVC, AVCHD, H.264, and now H.265/HEVC. In the near future we’ll see yet even more compression schemes benefitting our workflows. VVC or “Versatile Video Codec” will be the next big thing in codecs for 8K, scheduled to launch early 2022.

Unconventional h.264 and H.265/HEVC are currently being used as delivery codecs for compressed 6 and 8K streams. 8K has been successfully broadcast (in testing environments) at rates as low as 35Mbps for VOD, while NHK has set the standard at 100Mbps for conventional delivery.

Using these codecs, downconverting streams to view OTA/Over The Air to tablets, smartphones, or ground station controllers is already possible.  It’s unlikely we’ll see 8K streaming from the UAS to the GSC. 

U3 Datacards are certainly prepared for 6 and 8K resolutions/datastreams; compression is what makes this possible.  The KenDao 8K and Insta 8K 360 cameras both are recording to U3 cards available in the market today.

It will be some time before the average consumer will be seeing 8K on screens in their homes. However, 8K delivered for advertising, trying to match large format footage being shot on Weapon, Monstro, Helium or other camera formats may be less time-consuming when using 8K, even from a smaller camera format carried on an UAS (these cameras may easily be carried on heavy-lift UAS).

Professional UAS pilots will benefit greatly from 5, 6, or 8K cameras, and should not be shy about testing the format. Yes, it’s yet another paradigm shift in an always-fluid era of aerial and visual technology.  There can be no doubt that these higher resolutions provide higher quality in any final product. Be prepared; 2020 is the year of 5, 6, and 8K cameras on the flying tripods we’re using for our professional and personal endeavors, and I for one, am looking forward to it with great enthusiasm.

 

*Want to know more about codecs, compression/decompression, optimizing capture and data for streaming, or a greater understanding of how to create the best visual images without all the hype and mystery? Ask about training and classes in “Cracking the Camera Code” seminars found online, in our training facility, or in your offices.

 

By | November 25th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

THE SNAKE OIL OF THE CUAS INDUSTRY

First and foremost, there are exceptionally capable counter-UAS solutions available from developers and manufacturers with great integrity. This article is not about them. Image result for snake oil

This is about the “jump on the bandwagon to capture bucks by generating uninformed fear” businesses that are cropping up like weeds in a concrete parking lot. Otherwise known in the security industry as “FUD” (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt).

We recently attended a C-UAS conference, where five manufacturers were invited to a panel, discussing UAS, Counter-UAS, and how they themselves are allegedly already countering UAS within the United States.

Not one of the panel members was aware of the ramifications of Part 107 flight, none were Part 61 nor Part 107 certificated pilots, and none have had any experience in flying UAS. Granted, flying UAS is not a requisite to counter UAS, any more than holding a drivers license should be a prequalification to manufacturing safety equipment for an automobile. But it’s probably a good idea to have at least minimal awareness?

Rather than pontificate the essence of the panel, it is likely more valuable to comment on statements made by the panel members and bring to light some misunderstandings within the C-UAS community.

“We are already countering UAS all over the country, dropping drones like flies when they’re in unauthorized areas.”

This is false. Mitigation of an aircraft that would “drop a drone like a fly” is an authority relegated to federal agencies, such as DHS, FBI, etc. It is a violation of FCC law to interrupt an aircraft via RF, and illegal per the FAA to interdict an aircraft mid-flight (UAS or otherwise). In some situations, public safety officers have limited scope on stopping nefarious aircraft. Were UAS “dropping like flies,” the industry would certainly be aware and informed.

“Hospitals are begging the FAA for laws pertaining to UAS peeking into hospital room windows, especially with thermal cameras,  because this causes a violation of HIPPA laws/regulation.”

Thermal cameras are incapable of viewing through a window. Further, it is highly unlikely an RGB camera would offer any grade of detail assuming it could peer through a window. There is near-zero chance of being able to read a patient record through a window due to diffraction, resolution, etc.

“We’ve already experienced a Raspberry Pi-equipped drone landing on a major corporation’s roof and being used as an access point to hack into their network, unseen. This has happened many times.”

(I asked when, and a general idea of where and what industry this had occurred, and was told I can’t tell you that, it’s secret information.” )

“The FAA is coming out with incredibly strict laws about where drones can fly, how high they can fly, what time of day they can fly, and who can fly them. These laws are scheduled to be show to the public in November of 2019.”

Not quite. The NPRM has already been released, and while new regulations are inevitable, there always has been, and always will be, a period for public commentary. There are no new regulations being ‘revealed’ to the public in November of 2019.

“It is currently perfectly legal to shoot down a drone using a net system in the United States.”

Until 18 U.S.C. § 32 is further amended, it is currently not legal to shoot down an sUAS in the United States of America. There are indeed federal agencies with the authority to do so. The context in which this statement was presented was relevant to a lay-person protecting their private property from sUAS overflight.

“The property above your home or business belongs to you for up to 100’ above the highest object on your property. In other words, if you have a 50’ roof line, the lowest a drone could fly over your home is at 150’.”

Not quite. The sUAS aircraft may transit any property at any necessary altitude. Were the aircraft to stop and loiter over private property, state law likely comes into effect, no different than if an individual were to put a ladder against a fence, and take photos of someone’s back yard. There is no federal mandate of altitude, and states for reasons of preemption, may not create/enforce laws relevant to altitude.  Read more about that in one of our earlier blog posts here.

 

There were many other statements of absolute authority made by members of the panel, but the above are illustrative of the ignorance of some C-UAS developers. After listening to their commentary and panel discussion with the very able moderator, I had a few questions of my own.

“How is your business planning to respond to Carpenter vs United States?”

“We do not have to worry about Carpenter vs United States, as that is very old case law.”

Actually, this opinion was rendered 5-4 in June of 2018, with Justice Roberts penning the opinion. In other words, yes, the C-UAS developers and those that would use C-UAS technology are going to need a cogent answer to this question.  As a brief summary, Carpenter reiterates the rights of a citizen to expect privacy in their home, electronic devices, etc. To interrogate a s-UAS mid-flight is arguably a violation of that right to privacy and a warrant is required. Warrants aren’t rapid to access in the majority of situations, potentially leaving law enforcement and C-UAS developers in a challenging situation.

“You say you are able to track a rogue drone anywhere in flight. How do you determine that the operation is a rogue operation?”

“Any drone operating within 5 miles of an airport or over city property is rogue and therefore we will be authorized to interdict and bring the drone to the ground within any means available.”

Interesting thought process, but entirely false. For example, one night my company was operating multiple aircraft on a security mission, in Class Bravo, with a night waiver. The local “drone experts with the State of Nevada” were quick to rush to the television station to denounce the flights as ‘illegal and unsafe,’ although we had ATO authority. Had the local state drone expert had a C-UAS solution available, he likely would have interdicted, putting people’s safety at risk and violating federal regulations. In other words, coordination is required for C-UAS and authorized operations, via the Unmanned Traffic Management system that the US shall soon see in place.  Along that theme, imagine if the aforementioned “drone expert” from the State of Nevada had access to a mitigation system, used RF or physical interdiction to bring down an authorized aircraft, and the authorized aircraft drops onto the head of a civilian. Exponentially increasing the severity of the situation would be a typical LiPO fire that may occur during the impact with the ground, causing property and physical (to human) damage. Last but not least, the C-UAS operator would likely have found himself to be liable in a lawsuit for denying access to public airspace. 
LAANC Connected

“How does your solution tie into the LAANC system for authorized flights of sUAS in controlled airspace?”

(Unilaterally) “We’ve never heard of LAANC.”

Read more about the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability program on the FAA website here.

At the end of the day, it’s important to understand that while we need Counter Unmanned Aircraft System, it has to be intelligent. It is inappropriate that some of these tools are being developed in a bubble without regard to current regulations, operational standards, and programs currently available to sUAS pilots today.

Counter-UAS developers would do well to take the time to learn what pilots are able to access, what laws regulate sUAS, and how the FAA itself is working to ensure authorizations are available to certificated pilots in controlled airspace. If nothing else, C-UAS developers and manufacturers should be aware that there is great potential to rob authorized pilots of access, and their C-UAS program may well backfire, creating greater liability vs offering relief.

Purchasers of C-UAS technologies are encouraged to do the same, in order to avoid liabilities and challenges to any C-UAS strategy thay may run afoul of FAA or FCC regulation. When it comes to airspace, private property ceases to be private and there certainly is more to the conversation than taking action against an airborne sUAS.

It is our position that Counter-sUAS technology is a critical component in securing our country, events, properties, and public areas. It is equally our position that these protection tools be responsibly described within the industry to users, security directors, industry

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

AC 107-2 Maintenance, Batteries, and Logging

Maintenance of any aircraft system is a basic requirement, and UAS are no different. All too frequently, UAS operators/pilots arrive on scene, take a drone out of its case (assuming the aircraft lives in a case), and puts it into the air. While this may seem too simplified, a recent survey polling 107 certificate holders indicate they maintain their aircraft “within the last 30 days.”  This was somewhat surprising, given that at the least, a basic equipment check is required prior to each and every flight.

This includes checking for cracks in the frame, arms, props, chipped props, solid prop locks/fasteners, landing gear, attached items such as cameras, lighting, antenna, battery, etc.  All maintenance should be logged, whether scheduled or at-will based on hard landings or aircraft performance.

If a manufacturer offers a scheduled maintenance guide,  scheduled maintenance must be performed per Part 107 and AC107-2. Scheduled maintenance should be part of every pilot’s standard operation.

This is NOT a battery management system. This is a fire waiting to happen.

Unfortunately, most agencies and users rarely consider battery maintenance/cycling/cell checks as part of routine maintenance and checks. This is a mistake.

Whether Smart Battery or “Dumb” battery, battery maintenance only becomes time-consuming when allowed to lapse. Tools like Vertical Partners West BCMS system allow users to track battery health, cycles, and even remotely control, cycle, read batteries in the system (with the added benefit of being fire-proof), all while notifying users of battery faults and failures in advance. Get a glimpse of how this software works in their YouTube series.

FAA Document AC107-2  7.3.5 “highly recommends” which suggests the FAA requires UAS operators/pilots log battery charges. With smart batteries, this isn’t terribly difficult, yet most batteries used in the UAS world are not smart batteries. Regardless of required or highly recommended, it is smart to log battery charges to track battery usage, remaining life, and awareness of issues due to charge cycles.

In the event of a ramp check the FAA ASI is going to ask for any maintenance records, and these records should of course, include battery charges. Whether this is a digital document (stored online) or a printed document doesn’t matter. The method of managing batteries isn’t nearly as important as demonstrating a battery management strategy.

While individual users may not find themselves being ramped, or even being concerned about battery health/lifespan with a single UAS, corporate and enterprise users should be extremely concerned with managing batteries. One mining corporation we work with has over 50 batteries for four aircraft. They use a battery management system that immediately notifies the Drone Program Manager (DPM) of battery issues as they arise, allowing batteries to be taken offline and destroyed or replaced.

We recommend all UAS pilots, whether individual, government, or enterprise, develop a battery management strategy that is seamless and consistent with operations. This reduces downtime, in-field stress, and a consistent, safe, and compliant operation. We are available for consultation.

By | March 20th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on AC 107-2 Maintenance, Batteries, and Logging

Downloading Telemetry Logs from Yuneec H520 Aircraft

Retrieving Telemetry Logs from Yuneec ST16S
and H520

ST16S

1. Power on ST16S
2. Insert micro USB cable into ST16S USB FRONT port
3. Insert USB cable into computer port
4. Open File Explorer
5. Navigate to ST16S (anzhen4_mrd7_w) Users can also rename their ST16S at this point; it’s a good practice if the agency/organization uses multiple ST16S.
6. Click Internal Storage
7. Click DataPilot
8. Click Telemetry
9. Click the TLogs you would like to download (hold CRTL to select multiple TLogs)
10. Right Click and tap copy
11. Copy TLogs to a local storage directory on your computer

These logs can be used for your own viewing/interpretation, or sent to a service center for evaluation.

H520

1. Power on H520 (without Props)
2. Insert micro USB into port on right side of aircraft behind landing gear
3. insert in USB cable to computer port
4. Open DataPilot Desktop
5. Click the Y icon on the top left
6. Click on Log Download
7. Click refresh
8. Scroll down to the Logs you want to download (hold Ctrl to select multiple logs)
9. Click Download
10. On top of screen the save location will be displayed

These logs can be used for your own viewing/interpretation, or sent to a service center for evaluation.

By | January 8th, 2019|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Downloading Telemetry Logs from Yuneec H520 Aircraft

Update? Calibrate!

Software and firmware run the world of UAS, and some developer/manufacturers offer/require frequent updates. Updates are a component of the maintenance process for any UAS and should be manually checked at minimum, every 30 days. We recommend that any old software/firmware versions be archived if possible, in the event of problems encountered with a new update. Rolling back software is a good option (when possible).  In addition to archiving old software/firmware versions (when possible), it is required by the FAA that any maintenance be logged. This includes logging any software/firmware updates to the aircraft system.

For many UAS pilots/operators, the process ends at the update. In fact, many updates occur in-field with automated software updates being required by some manufacturer/developers, so the pilot uses WiFi or cellular connection to update the aircraft, controller, software, or battery, just before flying the next mission. There have been many instances where the next action with the aircraft is to begin the planned mission.

This is a mistake.

Any time software or firmware on the aircraft, tablet, battery, IMU, or other component of the aircraft is implemented, it is recommended that the aircraft be re-calibrated. This step is frequently put aside in interests of time, and can result in disaster.

The issue this pilot had could have been avoided had the aircraft and system been recalibrated prior to flight. The aircraft is a total loss due to compass error.

Software/Firmware updates are not always reliable and in some cases, result in safety issues. Recalibration is an important step in mitigating risk due to unknown factors generated via the software/firmware update process.  Compass, accelerometer, etc all must be recalibrated. It is also a good idea to let the aircraft sit for a few minutes after powering up, to acquire all satellites prior to flight after a recalibration.

Take 5 to avoid issues. Calibrate after every software/firmware update, and log the calibration along with the notice of update/firmware changelog.  Your flights will be more safe and confident.

 

By | November 27th, 2018|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Update? Calibrate!

FoxFury High CRI Rugo Lighting Instruments

Last week I acquired a set of the new high CRI FoxFury Rugo 2’s. Although I was first introduced to the Rugo as a tool for UAS flight and photography, these new hi CRI Rugo 2 units captured my  interest and excitement. I’ve purchased several sets of the older Rugos (5700k) units, and they’re terrific for drones or basic, backfill, accent, or action cam lighting. They’re a bit too cool for scene lighting without corrective gel or filters. The CRI rating of the Rugo 2 is 92, which displays color more accurately and naturally than other LED lights.

Having access to these new Rugo 2 lights with the high CRI was exciting, as they represented yet another “shrink” in my portable imaging kit.  The size is the perfect tool for keeping on the camera full-time, whether shooting video or photos. Flashes aren’t always optimal for size, space, nor balance and the Rugo 2 allows everything to come together for the ideal compact system.

My first experience with the high CRI Rugo 2 instruments was in setting up a product shot and I was immediately knocked out at how quickly the shot came together. Before I laid out my plans for a product shot, I tested the Rugo 2’s on a toy that has a broad dynamic range (seen below in the unedited Pixel 3-captured images). One aspect that greatly impressed me was that regardless of battery status, the color did not shift (as common with most low-cost LED systems). The lights also run very cool to the touch, even after being powered up for three hours.

Liking what I saw in the final test images I decided to try them on a video interview, and again, impressed with the final result of the evaluation.

The lights pictured below are supported by very inexpensive, extremely lightweight flash stands typically found in a photographer’s kit, vs a videographer’s kit. They are essentially disposable at a cost of around $15.00 each, but are easy to pack on a plane. The Rugo is sitting on a ball swivel, the same type one might put a flash head.  This allows the Rugo 2 to tilt and angle.

 

 

LENSES

One of the features that makes the Rugo 2 so flexible is that the Rugo 2 has three lenses, aka “Tri-Lens®” technology. These three lens positions allow for a tightly-focused spot light, diffused, and flood light from one instrument. The lens may also be removed for situations where control isn’t critical. Removing the lens also offers a slightly more powerful light beam.

BATTERIES

When the battery is expired, the Rugo 2 has a clip/lever that allows the battery pack to be removed, and a fresh battery connected. This ensures wait-free production. For me, this was a huge step up, given the other battery powered instruments I’d worked with all have internal batteries, which required re-charging before use.  Batteries are inexpensive, and I recommend having a few spares on hand if the shoot is expected to go beyond three hours. Additionally, the Rugo’s flash for purposes of anti-collision lighting on a drone/UAS system.  Battery life is dependent on intensity, but generally runs in the 3, 2, 1 hour lifespan. On the lowest setting, the batteries may last as long as 6 hours. Recharges take approximately 2.5 hours, but charge faster when using upgraded USB charging systems and cables.

MOUNTS

The Rugo 2comes with a standard quarter/20 mount, as well as a Go-Pro style mount. Additional mounts are available for various kinds of drones, bikes, etc.

FLEXIBLE

The high CRI Rugo 2 also has a new power button; (look for the orange switch) this means that the instrument not only provides strobing, but also can be put in 60 feet of water, making it ideal for the underwater photography or underwater accent lighting kit. They are so small, I carry a couple in my day-to-day backpack for accent lighting, primary lighting when shooting with my mobile phone, and for when I need a flashlight.

For years, we drove around a production van similar to this one from my friends at New York Rentals. Essentially a five-light kit, three cameras/tripods, and sound kit, this required a van filled to the roof with gear. We also had a 6K lighting system that carried in a 14′ box truck with distribution and lunchboxes. With the Rugo2, those days are long gone.

Image result for production, grip equipment, van

These new Rugo 2’s from FoxFury enable me to carry essentially the same amount of lighting power and flexibility in a small case that can be carried on to any airplane, or carried on my back as a backpack, with a similar five lights, four-channel audio kit, three cameras/tripods, and a few assorted gels, C47’s, and small accessories in one kit/case.

While I was in New York teaching a class on drone imagery, it was fun to meet one of the Fire Department New York staff photographers, and I noticed on her belt, a Rugo 2 light as well.

Comparing notes, we both found how much we appreciated the small size, long battery life, and multi-lens, multi-intensity options of this new lighting instrument. She commented on the durability noting “I dropped this thing down a 75′ elevator shaft, and it didn’t miss a beat, and even provided some interesting back lighting while I was shooting.” It’s true the Rugo 2 light, like all FoxFury products, are made for durability.

SUMMARY

  • Warm color 
  •  Interchangeable Battery
  • Up to 6 hours battery life
  • Lightweight/small/cool running
  • Three lens options
  • Stand-ready
  • Virtually indestructible/Waterproof (60′)
  • No color shift (CRI 92)
  • Affordable

For the corporate producer, these lights are ideal for small in-office interviews, headshots, product shots, underwater glamour, and many other creative spaces. I simply cannot imagine going back to large-package light kits weighing over 80lbs when I can carry five FoxFury Rugo 2 instruments, and five stands in a backpack weighing less than 10lbs while achieving not only the same amount of illumination, but more valuable are the greater options with the lenses, intensities, and swappable battery packs.

FoxFury High CRI Rugo 2 LED light compared to older PhotoFlex halogen

Watch for a video coming soon on the video viability of the FoxFury high CRI Rugo lights!

Here are some photos from a recent Photowalk I did with the WPPI folks, with all lighting from the Rugo 2’s.

Mobile Phone grabs from a by-stander (apologies for out of focus areas, I didn’t shoot these, they are courtesy of someone on the photowalk

 

 

By | November 7th, 2018|Production, Technology, Training, Uncategorized, Video|Comments Off on FoxFury High CRI Rugo Lighting Instruments

sUAS and the 1 October Tragedy

1 October, Harvest Festival, Route 91” are all synonymous to Nevadans and first responders, marking the America’s worst-yet mass shooting event when a lone gunman in a high-rise hotel opened fire on concert goers (the official investigatory title for this event is “1 October”).

  • 58 victims died of gunshot wounds.   
  • 422 individuals were injured by gunfire.  
  • Approximately 800 concert attendees were injured from gunfire, trampling, or other injury escaping the chaos.

Over the course of several hours following the shooting;  law enforcement, fire, EMS services, and civilians acted as one to manage the scene, transporting victims to local hospitals, secure the area, and begin collection of evidence.

sUAS ON SCENE

sUAS were a component of the evidence-gathering process under the direction of the FBI and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD).


LVMPD partnered with Nevada Highway Patrol’s Multidisciplinary Investigation and Reconstruction Team and their sUAS as part of the scene given the size of the site, and the amount of data that needed to be collected in a short period of time. An outside technical advisor was also brought in to advise and as a subject matter expert to ensure automated mission compliance and best-practices were observed in each of the missions.

THE AREA

The area to be captured via sUAS was just over 19 acres in overall size.

Two primary considerations for data integrity:

  • Corruption of image from shadow/moving sun in a static environment
  • Corruption of area from propwash

To combat the second issue, altitudes for flight were selected based on height and downdraft from the aircraft.

Two types of aircraft were evaluated, a quadcopter and a hexacopter. The hexacopter offered significantly less ground disturbance and was selected for the mission. It was also much quieter and was expected to not attract undue attention at any altitude, as there were many tourists along Las Vegas Boulevard.

In order to counter the primary issue it was determined that the area would be captured with three simultaneous flights, spatially and temporally separated.

The mission requirements shed light on several challenges.

  • The site is located in Class B airspace, less than 500’ from active aprons, taxiways, and runways.
  • An active investigation underway created concern for flight in areas over investigators inside the secured perimeter.
  • Time was at a premium, as this is an outdoor venue and weather/sun were actively degrading evidence.
  • Helicopters from tour companies were not observant of the in-place TFR, and were constantly in the airspace, trying to show the crime scene to tourists.
  • Completing the missions within a narrow window of time was a crucial element so as to obtain the best possible images at all four primary areas of flight without shadow distortion.
  • A delicate balance of altitude and resolution needed to be struck to not affect evidence while obtaining the highest resolution possible.


Plans for automated flight were discussed on-site with time of flight determined by angle of sun. Once plans were determined and drawn, FBI and LVMPD personnel approved the automated flight areas, altitudes, and speed of flight. The automated, map-mission flight paths were programmed into each of the three ground stations, and verified by all authorized parties.

Flight plans included 85% overlap, 70% sidelap, with 25% additional area beyond the festival grounds captured for clean edges at the optical extremes.

Altitudes of flight were 60’, 90’, 150’, and 200’ with 5’ altitude offsets from center

North and South areas began flight in an easterly/westerly direction, while the center area began northerly/southerly directions, 5’ lower than north/south units. Temporal, horizontal,  and vertical separation ensured no possibility of mid-air collision existed.

Road closures surrounding the crime scene provided a secure area for launch/recovery of aircraft with no traffic in the area, providing for VLOS over the 19 acre property.

Once safety checks and the normal pre-flight checks were completed, the aircraft were placed in the launch/recovery area and three aircraft were launched eight minutes apart.

During flight, the ground station controller provided real-time feedback indicating where images have been captured.  


Donning sterile suits required to enter the perimeter of the crime scene allowed for manual flight in specific areas where closer inspection of complicated surfaces were required. Manual flights inside the area perimeter provided insights not visible from the ground level. Examples of projectile impact were found on a power pole at the intersection of two streets, and two impact points were discovered in the relay tower speakers that had not previously been found.

Original image courtesy of Las Vegas Review/Journal/modified by author

These areas were complicated for UAS flight, crossed with guy wires for tower stability, speaker cables strung across steel rigging, lighting instruments, hot, black metal in turbulent winds in areas where three observers were placed to assist the pilot in flying in these tight, physically and optically challenging spaces around the stage, speaker towers, food court/tents, billboard signage, and fence perimeters.

Original image courtesy of Las Vegas Review/Journal/modified by author

Following the nine flights (3×3) over the main grounds, a separate mission was executed over the abandoned hotel that extends into the entertainment property. These missions were a combination of manual inspection when potential evidence was observed, and automated mapping flights to capture the at-present data. In this particular instance, the benefits of the hexacopter were appreciated; turbulent ground winds, rotors, powerlines, palm trees, a confined area, and limited physical access each contributed to the challenges of this series of missions. VLOS was maintained with the observer standing on the rear of a patrol vehicle due to a high, covered fence and a limited launch area.


Three automated group flights at three altitudes, separate stage and hotel flights, manual flight inside the perimeter captured over 6,000 images. These images were input to two dimensional and three dimensional software applications for orthagonal mapping and 3D modelling. Survey markings were taken from previously operated TotalStation sites and physical objects used as GCP.

The author has not seen the final results from the orthogrammatic image render. The planned workflow is to render each of the separate areas for consistent GSD, added into a master render for each altitude. Once the flights were complete, memory cards were handed over to the federal agency.

This was very much a team effort. ATC, McCarran Airport, FAA, City of Las Vegas, Department of Public Safety, FBI, local subject matter expert, and other investigative agencies worked within a highly communicative environment to ensure no evidence was compromised, that all personnel were aware of each others activities, data/areas logged for clarity, and flights indicated in written, pictorial, and telemetry formats were shared between teams.

 

LOOKING BACK

Until October 1, the World Trade Center had been the largest physical crime scene in America with a total area of approximately seven and a half acres. 1 October is nearly three times in size.  Due to persons involved with both scenes, availability of data and cost from the two events may be compared and examined to gain an understanding of technical and operational improvements over the past 17 years.

 

In the last week of September, 2001, a Super Twin Otter with several sensor systems was called up to capture data from the World Trade Center scene.

Flying orbital and grid patterns over the course of five days, significant amounts of data were collected for analysis by multiple agencies.

Costs were reported over 1.5M, including fuel, personnel, equipment, and time.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Although the images captured are still classified, data from surrounding, unrelated areas demonstrate the poor quality of image capture. By comparison with modern technology, the images are of limited value, offering little useful data (by comparison).

The time, cost, labor, headcount, and quality of data are all areas where UAV have proven their value to law enforcement, and in this case, costing $1.5M vs $15,000 (cost of three aircraft, batteries, and accessories), while providing incalculably greater value through images that may be digitally shared in 2D, 3D form, annotated, analysed simultaneously by multiple agencies and investigators.

SUMMARY

The value of sUAS proved itself through rapid access to available airspace, speed of operation, quality of data, cost of operation, ability of continuous flight, noise and traffic impact on the surrounding area and area of investigation, speed to solution, instant verification of data capture and image quality, ability to simultaneously capture multiple areas, and most importantly, safety to all persons involved in the acquisition of data,  processing and investigation of the 1 October scene.

 

 

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: Nevada Highway Patrol A.V.O.C Tour

Our partners within the Nevada Department of Public Safety and the Nevada Highway Patrol have issued a Press Release for the guided tour of the Sundance Media Group A.V.O.C. (Aerial Vehicle Operations Center) this coming Thursday – August 30th.  JOIN US for a guided walk-through at 1:30pm.

Read their full Press Release here:  AVOC guided tour at NHP Socom

By | August 28th, 2018|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Press Release: Nevada Highway Patrol A.V.O.C Tour