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By | July 8th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Women and Drones – 2020 Women to Watch Awards

NOMINATIONS are still open for this year’s annual Women and Drones awards for the Women to Watch.  YOU STILL HAVE TIME!

DEADLINE:  June 25, 2020

 

Need some direction on who to nominate?  Check out last year’s video showcasing the 2019 Women To Watch In UAS Honorees.  What an amazing selection of women within the industry!

These awards honoring outstanding achievements, by women, in the drone industry.  If you know of a woman run business, or cutting edge trail-blazer within the UAS industry, be sure to submit your nomination for the 2020 Women And Drones Global Awards.  This year there are INDIVIDUAL categories as well as TEAM categories.

The individual award is designed to acknowledge and inspire women who are driving change and shaping the drone industry.  Categories include:

  • Education
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Leadership
  • Public Safety

In creating this recognition, we aim to raise the profile of women doing amazing work in UAS, UAM and UTM technology arenas.

The two team awards acknowledge organizations that in their pursuit of excellence embrace diversity and have a culture of inclusiveness where women are engaged in key or leadership roles within their team.

Sundance Media Group is a proud Strategic Partner of Women and Drones and a Women Owned Small Business.

About Women And Drones

Women and Drones is the leading membership organization dedicated to driving excellence in the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and Urban Air Mobility (UAM) industry by achieving equity and participation of women in all disciplines and across all employment sectors.

Core mission: To increase female participation in the economic opportunities of the industry.

Membership with Women and Drones offers many perks:

  • Group insurance for Drones and for your Pets
  • Building your brand
  • Training and Education
  • Discounts on Products

Membership also includes resources to improve your career and business:

  • Networking Opportunities
  • Jobs Board / Resume Review
  • Small Business Support
  • Members Only Facebook Page to share ideas, pictures, self-promotions, and ask questions

 

By | May 31st, 2020|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Women and Drones – 2020 Women to Watch Awards

Sundance Media Group Podcasts, Webinars, and more!

It has been a few weeks of lock-down now and we hope that all our readers are doing well during these uncertain times.  If you haven’t seen our post with links to assist small businesses, resources for laid-off workers and key ways we all can save and use our downtime, check it out here.

Our team has been busy re-focusing our training time on creating content for our clients and keeping conversations going on the importance of training as we prepare for the shutdown(s) to open up.

Next week (May 21), we’re offering a WEBINAR on Urban Turbulence and Micro-Climates – there’s still time to register!

 

NEW Products

AEE

The new Mach 4 (TM) from AEE is now shipping.  This heavy-hauler sUAS is positioned for commercial use.  Its durable construction and ease of use is geared for the Professional Drone Pilot looking to do inspections and use within public safety applications.  Check out AEE’s two newly released videos showcasing inspections and within public safety uses.

AUTEL
We’ve had an opportunity to share our first thoughts on the Autel EVO II overall and our Youtube video showcasing the unboxing of the EVO II PRO.   We have even shared first impressions on the new Autel EVO II Mission Planner software.

AND….stay tuned (sign up for our eNewsletter and/or subscribe to our Youtube channel!) to hear more about our recently received our EVO II 8K and EVO II Thermal.

In the mean time, be sure to check out the video from Autel showcasing the commercial use cases for this new unmanned system.  Soon there will be oodles more information on commercial applications with this Unmanned Aircraft, designed with Commercial and Enterprise users in mind.

   Autel Evo™ II Dual is ideal for:

  • Public Safety – Law Enforcement, Search and Rescue, Fire
  • Inspection – Solar, tower, bridge, insurance
  • General purpose uses in dark environments (thermal) or 8K cinematography, disaster relief/recovery
 

   Autel Evo™ II Pro is ideal for:

  • Public Safety – Crash scene reconstruction, forensics, image capture of events/scenes, overwatch, night flight
  • Mapping – Construction, surveying, inspection
  • General uses – Real estate, volumetrics, city planning, drainage studies, utilties, disaster relief/ recovery, roofing inspections, and many more applications
 

   Autel Evo™ II is ideal for:

  • Cinematography, Real Estate, sporting events, documentation, personal use, and any other application
    benefitting from an aerial camera system.

Recent Blogs of Interest

Drones for Construction

In case you missed it, Douglas & Brady created an article for Commercial UAV News showcasing three different drones, their functionality, and output on a construction site.  Check it out!

 

 

8K or not 8K

There has also been some debate in the UA forums about the relevance of 8K video capture from drones.  Check out Douglas’ article discussing the benefits of 8K video and “Going Beyond the Human Eye”.

These 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.

 

From our Partners:

NOMINATIONS are open for this year’s annual Women and Drones awards for the Women to Watch.

 

These awards honoring outstanding achievements, by women, in the drone industry.  If you know of a woman run business, or cutting edge trail-blazer within the UAS industry, be sure to submit your nomination for the 2020 Women And Drones Global Awards.  This year there are INDIVIDUAL categories as well as TEAM categories.

The individual award is designed to acknowledge and inspire women who are driving change and shaping the drone industry.  Categories include:

  • Education
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Leadership
  • Public Safety

In creating this recognition, we aim to raise the profile of women doing amazing work in UAS, UAM and UTM technology arenas.

The two team awards acknowledge organizations that in their pursuit of excellence embrace diversity and have a culture of inclusiveness where women are engaged in key or leadership roles within their team.

 

If you missed the announcement from our friends at InterDrone, InterDrone 2020 will  now be held in Dallas, Texas December 15 – 17, 2020.  Our team will be there offering our Night UAV Flight Workshop – be sure to register early and save!

 

Thanks for reading – be sure to sign up for our eNewsletter and/or subscribe to our Youtube channel to keep  in touch with all the Sundance Media Group activities.  You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as well!

By | May 12th, 2020|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Sundance Media Group Podcasts, Webinars, and more!

We Are In This Together And We Are Here For You.

During this time of surreal and trying circumstances, Sundance Media Group stands ready to support our clients, friends, and agencies who have utilized our services, or are considering our services.

We have suspended all in-person training until April 17, and will re-evaluate our stance at as that date approaches.

Per Federal recommendations, we urge anyone not directly involved in First Responder services to stand down and maintain the recommended social distancing, isolation, and hygienic practices as put forth by the CDC and National Institute of Health.

We have collected various sites that may be of benefit to owners of small businesses.  Below you will find updated information, tips and advice to help walk through this current and unprecedented global COVID19 pandemic.

The record of unemployment is the highest it’s been since World War II.  Our friends from MoneyGeek have summarized a few tools to help those in need as we walk through the “new-norm”.

Resources for Laid-Off Workers
Coronavirus Unemployment in Each US State and Local Community Resources
How to Refinance your Mortgage
How to Find the Best Car Insurance to Lower Your Monthly Bills
How to Pay for Coronavirus Healthcare

Read more about their forecasts on their website here.

This doesn’t mean that UAS pilots, program managers, and organizations need to be entirely grounded.

These coming days are an opportunity to catch up on what’s happening in the regulatory side of our industry, and we have a few specific recommendations that will benefit aircraft and programs around the globe.

We also urge our friends to read the CompTIA standards guide.

This is a good time to open up the UA cases and sort through cables, accessories, and supporting products. It’s a great time to review pre-flight checklists and Policy/Procedures/Operations manuals to determine if your practices are relevant, safe and efficient, and current.

We also recommend any or all of these actions:

  • Clean the hull/fuselage of any dirt, mud, sand, grass stains by wiping down with a microfiber cloth dampened with water or plastic-safe cleaning solution
  • Checking screws, connectors, or fittings on any landing gear for tightness, cracks, or other landing damage
  • Checking gimbal for smooth motion while powered down, cleaned of dust or foreign matter such as grass, weeds, or other FOD
  • Inspecting props for nicks, heat damage, storage damage (particularly check spare propellers that haven’t been used yet/in a long while
  • Draw/discharge batteries down to storage level per manufacturer recommendations
  • Vacuum out the storage container to clear dust, foam grains, and other debris that may find its way into your motors or gimbal
  • Ensure all hull/fuselage areas are free of cracks, screws tight, sealed
  • Ensure motors are free of debris, dust, or other foreign matter
  • Some UA require lubrication for the motors, most do not. Use internet resources to determine if your UA requires lubrication for motors, and apply as recommended by manufacturer.
  • Update software for UA, gimbal, batteries, and ground station controller to latest firmwares/softwares. This is an FAA mandate per AC107-2
  • Clean camera sensors (if you have removable lenses)
  • Clean camera lenses, filters, etc. Determine if you’ve been carrying/storing filters in the best manner to avoid scratches and dirt
  • Check remote sticks for calibration/properly zeroed out
  • Clean switches, joysticks, etc with plastic-safe cleaning solution
  • Wipe down any screens on ground station control
  • Clean any connections on ground station control
  • Check ground station control for dirt, mud, grass stains or debris
  • Sanitize ground station control with plastic-safe sanitizer
  • Log any maintenance in your UA maintenance logbook (per AC107-2.7.3.5)
  • Update any personal logbooks
  • Read a training guide and apply for a 107.29 waiver
  • Read our book on UA for Real Estate
  • View online training to keep up on what others are doing, and learn from the best practices of others.
  • Learn a new software application such as Pix4DMapper or Pix4Dreact
  • Email SMG about our online training or SOP review services.

Thank you to all our supporting partners!

 

By | March 20th, 2020|Uncategorized|Comments Off on We Are In This Together And We Are Here For You.

EVO II from Autel-First Impressions

We received an Autel Evo II for evaluation and presentation to some of the public safety agencies with whom we work.  We are thrilled that Autel provided us with an Evo II to evaluate for an upcoming law enforcement conference.

The Evo II is a significant departure from the original Evo, and should not be viewed as merely an “upgrade” to the original Evo product. We have recommended, and will continue to recommend, the original Evo as a cost-effective, application-specific aircraft for small-area mapping, traffic reconstruction, overwatch, tactical insertions, construction sites, cinema, and many other uses.

The Evo II is a slightly larger aircraft body with longer flight capability (40mins+), and four different camera options.

  • 8K camera
  • 6K camera (1” sensor)
  • 8K/Thermal camera (320 x 256)
  • 8K/Thermal (640 x 512)

Since receiving the Evo II, we’ve put it through several paces both in actual and simulated use. During the DNC caucus’, and during the Town Halls, it was used for newsgathering, and used in a “let’s see what she’ll do” in monitoring dark alleyways near one of the hotels, for persons exiting/entering the side doors. It excelled in both environments. We’ve put it through some paces with the Greer, SC police department, where they own several other small-format UA with thermal capability.

The biggest question they asked is “How does it compare to our existing Mavic Pro Enterprise Edition?

Simply put, it’s not a remotely fair comparison. It’s inappropriate to compare the cameras due to significant differences in resolution.

The thermal camera options for the Enterprise Edition cannot/do not match the thermal camera on the Evo II, so there is no point of parity at which they can be compared. Having pointed that out;

  • The Evo II offers longer perch time/flight time(40mins plus)
  • The Evo II provides internal storage in the event of no available MSD card
  • The Evo II is less noisy
  • The Evo II offers significantly greater stability in wind.
  • The Evo II offers mapping in the application without need for third party support.
  • The Evo II has no geofencing, and can be deployed from case to cruise in less than 60 seconds.
  • The Evo II offers multiple, interchangeable cameras.

We posted a few photos to social media, with information regarding thermal and use beyond 50’. One SAR guru commented that “thermal cameras are useless beyond 50’, and drones often require flight above 100’ for purposes of clearing trees.” This was a surprising statement, inspiring us to run out in the late night and capture a few quick images.

By no means a scientific experiment, we raised the Evo II to an altitude of 210’, and put a 6” saucepan of hot water in the graveled shoulder of a residential street. We had left the saucepan on the driveway while setting up the aircraft. The below photos show not only the saucepan, but also the heated area remaining. The heated area was visible for over 30 mins beyond flight. These images are NOT part of our greater/deeper evaluation, but rather something we are able to quickly share. These images are directly from the camera, no edits. Images are captured straight overhead (the most inefficient angle for thermal viewing). I have also included one oblique angle for comparison. Not every palette was chosen for purposes of display, simply as a means of being efficient. These images were captured shortly prior to 2300, although the timestamps indicate nearly 2000 (we didn’t set the clock per timezone).

Mavic 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Evo II provides significantly greater data/resolution, but at a higher cost.

 

Oblique angle from 200′ away from subject. Note the heated concrete is still visible, separate from the saucepan of water.
 

 

Informally, we checked out the digital zoom with resampling feature on the Evo 2 thermal. Overall, we are impressed with the resampling quality of the zoomed image seen here.

Indoor comparison with EvoII

Indoor comparison with M2ED (MSX Enabled)
*Courtesy HTS Ag


These images were captured at 400′ altitude, and 2500′ from targets.

 

We will begin more formalized, focused evaluation in the coming days. Please reach out if you’d like to see any particular scenarios replicated/evaluated using the Evo 2 Thermal with the 30Hz 640 x 512 Boson core.
SMG is a consulting and training organization; we are an objective party receiving no revenue, compensation, spiff, commission, or other form of remuneration for digging into the aircraft we review for our clients.

 

By | February 24th, 2020|Drone, Inspection, Law Enforcement, Public Safety, Security, Software, sUAS, sUAS, Uncategorized|Comments Off on EVO II from Autel-First Impressions

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|Comments Off on IS THE UAS INDUSTRY PREPARED FOR 8K? DO WE WANT 8K?

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