Influential Drones & SMG share UAS RISK Mitigation FAASTeam Webinar

FAASTeam Webinar with Influential Drones and Sundance Media Group

Join Douglas Spotted Eagle, Joanne Leming and Dave Krause of Influential Drones for our UAS Risk Mitigation FAASTeam Webinar.

Registration is required for this FREE 45 min session.

UAS RISK Mitigation FAASTeam Webinar Brief Description:

Risk mitigation is the part of the decision-making process which relies on situational awareness, problem recognition and good judgment to reduce risks associated with each flight. Join Sundance Media Group and Influential Drones in presenting this FAA Safety Team presentation.

Credit Applicability:  1 Credit for Basic Knowledge Topic 3
FAASTeam Project Information:  National Project: Airspace Outreach UAS

FAASTeam Webinar REGISTRATION

Additional Event Documents: EA17103351F

For more about FAASTeam drop by the FAA website to read more about their initiative for “Safer Skies Through Education”:  https://www.faasafety.gov/

FAASTeam Industry Members are industries, organizations, businesses and associations that support the FAASTeam at a national level and who have a vested interest in aviation safety.  Our partner, Influential Drones has been named an Industry Member.

 

Thank you to Influential Drones for working with the Sundance Media Group team!

CES DAY TWO – UASideKick & Autel Robotics Partnership

UASIDEKICK  & AUTEL ROBOTICS ANNOUNCE LAANC AND PROGRAM MANAGEMENT  PARTNERSHIP

Media Contact:

press@autelrobotics.com

media@uasidekick.com

801-201-9212

 

AUTEL ROBOTICS and UASidekick today announce a partnership to provide direct access to LAANC services from within the Autel Robotics Enterprise Explorer application.

Autel Explorer is the mission planning and control application for Autel Robotics EVO series unmanned aircraft. Users of Autel Robotics EVO II Explorer will be able to use LAANC from within the Autel Explorer application, saving users time, cost, and providing precision for planned missions and manual flight services.

“Autel Robotics is very excited to be able to provide LAANC services from directly inside the Explorer application, as this not only enables pilots to fly more safely with FAA compliance, but also saves pilots a significant amount of time in not having to shuffle between multiple applications,” said Gary DeLuca, CEO of Autel Robotics, “additionally, the UASidekick window in the Autel Explorer will store LAANC authorizations, waivers, COA’s, pilot management, aircraft maintenance, and other benefits needed by public safety and commercial UA flight verticals.”

Autel Explorer Mission Planner will allow users to create a mission, using the geolocation data to submit precision location data to the LAANC system via the UASidekick portal, without having to open a secondary application, while storing the LAANC authorization data on the device used for mission planning. Manual flight will allow users to instantly access the FAA airspace authorization system for flights in areas served by the FAA Facility Maps.

Additionally, UASidekick offers pilot maintenance, flight logs, certificates, waivers, COA’s and other relevant documents necessary for Part 107 compliance, along with AC107-2 compliance for all maintenance records required by the FAA. The application also serves pre-filled forms required by LAANC such as aircraft serial number, registration number, pilot data, and geolocation data.

“Our agency already uses UASidekick and Autel aircraft, and this joint effort is exciting to our UA teams as it allows us to be mission-ready more rapidly, confidently, and with compliance,” says Sgt Randle Ballenger of Greer City Police Department. “We chose UASidekick for its features and speed, and chose Autel EVO II’s for their rapid deployment, lack of flight restriction/denial of flight services, and data security.”

“This partnership is not only a first in the UAS industry, enabling users to quickly and easily access LAANC airspace authorizations directly from within the controlling application, but also provides a one-stop-shop for pilots to manage flight logs, pilot records, maintenance, and more.  This coupled with interactive airspace information and true micro-weather provides a comprehensive picture of the flight environment that improves safety and maximizes productivity.  Nobody likes to flip-flop between multiple apps while they are flying – this partnership solves that problem,” says Nathan Ruff, CEO of UASidekick. “Autel Robotics is a trailblazer in the UAS industry, and we’re pleased to be part of a solution that is making it easier for pilots to just go fly.”

Autel Robotics offers Made in USA (with foreign and domestic components and labor) and UASidekick expands the Made in USA direction, as UASidekick is entirely owned, operated, programmed, and developed in the United States.

“Autel Robotics is diligently working to expand, enhance, and support the Autel Made In USA initiative,” said Gary DeLuca, “Partnering with UASidekick allows us to continue to provide greater depth to our Made in USA goals. This revolutionary announcement of LAANC and pilot management from within a control application marks a historic moment for the Unmanned Aircraft industry.”

Autel Robotics and UASidekick customers will see the first of multiple phases to the partnership roll out early first-quarter of 2021.

About Autel
Opening its doors in 2004, Autel Tech expanded into unmanned aircraft in 2015. With their patented folding design, Autel Robotics revolutionized the packable drone industry. The company has offices, engineering and manufacturing teams in Germany, Shenzhen, USA (Washington and NY), and produces the EVO II Dual aircraft at the Bothell, WA location.  Learn more about AutelRobotics at AutelRobotics.com, and our social media @autelenterprise.

About UASidekick

UASidekick is a software as a service company to the aviation industry. UASidekick’s File and FlyTM platform provides intuitive & interactive airspace awareness, FAA LAANC flight authorizations, and safety tools for unmanned aircraft pilots.  In addition to these core service offerings, UASidekick functionality includes micro-weather, real-time & mobile NOTAM filing, fleet & pilot management, compliance tracking, and logbook capabilities. UASidekick is headquartered in Greenville, SC with all software development work performed exclusively within the USA (www.uasidekick.com).

 

DSAW – Applied UAV/Drone Use for Public Safety

Join Douglas Spotted Eagle of Sundance Media Group during National Drone Safety Awareness Week (#DSAW2020).  Douglas will focus on drones used in Public Safety agencies.

Registration is required for this FREE WEBINAR!

REGISTER HERE.

This workshop will help agencies to understand the bigger picture process of incorporating drones into their daily workflows.

What steps do you need to consider when setting up a new public safety drone program?

We will cover how to effectively accomplish this goal, including:
– Why understanding FAA regulations for Commercial remote pilots is necessary for agencies implementing a drone program.
– Best Practices for defining your program
– PPO & SOP considerations
– Additional Equipment Considerations
– How to ensure UA crew continue training
– Other Best Practices

 

 

 

 

 

FREE!  REGISTER HERE.

 

By | November 19th, 2020|0 Comments

DSAW – Using Drones in a Construction Workflow

Join Brady Reisch of Sundance Media Group during National Drone Safety Awareness Week (#DSAW2020)

Registration is required for this FREE WEBINAR!

REGISTER HERE.

This session will sUAS (drone) operations for construction workflows. We will discuss everything from personal protective equipment, software, data acquisition, and tools your client may utilize to make decisions based the data delivery.

We will explore Unmanned Aircraft (UA or drones) are an innovative and cost-efficient augmentation to any construction project. From site planning to quality management throughout the project milestones. The benefits to firms and companies such as architects, general contractors, subcontractors, investors, and key stakeholders are many.

In this 90 min session, we will discuss how the UA workflow can an important analytical tool for construction projects. Join Brady for a deep dive into what it takes to get the job done right.

 

 

 

FREE!  REGISTER HERE.

 

By | November 18th, 2020|0 Comments

Sundance Media Group Announces Drone Training Reseller Agreement with SYNNEX Corporation

Sundance Media Group Announces Drone Training Reseller Agreement with SYNNEX Corporation

Agreement Provides Certified Drone Training to Government Agencies and Organizations Across the U.S.

Las Vegas June 3, 2020 Sundance Media Group (SMG) today announced an agreement with  SYNNEX Corporation (NYSE: SNX), a leadingbusiness process services company, to provide certified drone training to government agencies and organizations across the U.S.

SMG specializes in assisting police, fire and private corporations seeking to stand up new small Unmanned Aircraft System drone programs or add sUAS workflows into their existing drone programs. SMG offers drone training programs across the U.S. as well as the filing of Certificates of Authorization and/or waivers with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. SMG also creates and assists in the implementation of Policy, Procedures and Operations manuals for ISO-compliant municipalities and organizations.

“Training is a vital component to a viable, safe and effective drone program. This agreement with Sundance Media Group enables us to offer a B2B turnkey solution within the unmanned aircraft industry,” said Ed Somers, Vice President, Public Sector and Vertical Markets, SYNNEX. “The addition of SMG safety-first training methodology services to our own product offerings elevates our complete technology solutions.”

SMG has a 19-year history working in aviation and crime scene investigation and has developed training missions for Major Incident Response Teams, CSI, traffic homicide, night-time forensic missions, and crowd overwatch with and without tethering components.  Drones offer an aerial vantage point and are a significant force multiplier. Operations may be initiated faster with fewer persons involved. As a force multiplier, nothing compares to sUAS with regard to cost, safety, speed and capturing/recording /archiving information that may be passed up or down the chain of command.

SMG’s training, now available through SYNNEX, include 107 offerings from prep, introduction to practical flight and advanced applied to vertical-focused flight training and post-processing training.

“We look forward to bringing our standard of excellence for various segments within the UA industry to SYNNEX and its customers,” said Jennifer Pidgen, Chief Operating Officer of Sundance Media Group, now celebrating 26 years in training. “SYNNEX focuses on helping their business partners grow and the SMG culture is to ensure that every client gets white-glove services. We identify the clients’ specific sUAS needsand we build out our training programs to meet those needs to ensure they are successful in their adaptation of this new technology.”

 

 

 

About Sundance Media Group

Founded in 1994, Sundance Media Group (SMG) began as a training organization focused on cameras, codecs, and post-production technology. In 2004, the company began training in aviation technology, adding sUAS in 2011. In 2012, SMG produced the world’s first UAS training conference at the NAB/P|PW Conference and is vendor neutral, where we collaborate with manufacturers, service providers, and software developer to find the best solution for our clients’ needs.

With instructors from Public Safety, Construction, Vertical Inspection, Real Estate, and Cinematography, SMG instructors may be found speaking at technical, aviation, and UAS conferences around the globe. For more information on SMG, please visit www.sundancemediagroup.com or via email at requests@sundancemediagroup.com

About SYNNEX Corporation

SYNNEX Corporation (NYSE: SNX) is a Fortune 200 corporation and a leading business process services company, providing a comprehensive range of distribution, logistics and integration services for the technology industry and providing outsourced services focused on customer engagement to a broad range of enterprises.  SYNNEX distributes a broad range of information technology systems and products, and also provides systems design and integration solutions. Founded in 1980, SYNNEX Corporation operates in numerous countries throughout North and South America, Asia-Pacific and Europe. Additional information about SYNNEX may be found online at synnex.com.

SYNNEX, the SYNNEX Logo, and all other SYNNEX company, product and services names and slogans are trademarks or registered trademarks of SYNNEX Corporation. SYNNEX, the SYNNEX Logo, Reg. U.S. Pat. & Tm. Off. Other names and marks are the property of their respective owners.

By | June 3rd, 2020|Drone, Drone Safety, Inspection, Law Enforcement, Mapping, Night Flight, Public Safety, sUAS, sUAS, sUAS Safety, Technology, Training, UAV, UAV Maintenance|Comments Off on Sundance Media Group Announces Drone Training Reseller Agreement with SYNNEX Corporation

PVCC – 4th Annual Public Safety UAS Conference – Crozet, VA

We look forward to being a part of this conference where the SMG crew will demonstrate tools, techniques, and equipment for public safety and EMS use.

More information can be found at:

4th Annual Public Safety UAS Conference

Be sure to check out their very active Facebook page as well!

 

 

By | March 2nd, 2020|0 Comments

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!

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.

 

 

CSI and sUAS: Tools for the Crime Scene Analyst

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PROPERTY OWNER “AIR RIGHTS:” FACT or FICTION?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

THE REALITY

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

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

No.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IN GENERAL TERMS

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

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

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

No to both questions.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

WHAT ABOUT AVIGATION? (air easements)

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

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

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

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

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

ADDITIONALLY…

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

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

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

HOWEVER…

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Relevant reading material:

United States v Causby 1946

California v. Ciraolo (1986)

Dow Chemical Co. v. United States (1986)

Florida v. Riley (1989)

Los Angeles vs Chappell (2016/Chappell prevailed)

City of Chicago v Hakim (2017/Hakim prevailed)

Singer v Newton (2017/Singer prevailed)