Drones over Spring Break – Did you check your airspace?

Luckily, I was able to take some time with my family this past weekend to enjoy some time at the beach. Spring Break is a popular time to hit the beaches and the proliferation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (aka drones) adds a new dimension to the experience. For some, there is a strong temptation to bring their drones with them on Spring Break, as it may be their first real opportunity to get it out in the open after the winter – perhaps receiving it as a gift for Christmas only a few months ago.

The utility of drones and their video capability could be both useful and entertaining during Spring Break. I remember seeing a video of someone launching a UAS off the beach at Fort Lauderdale, flying the drone out to a cruise ship, circling the cruise ship, and returning to the beach. At the time, I thought the concept was amazing and the video seemed professional – something you only used to be able to shoot from helicopters. As I researched the cruise ship I was about to board in a few months, the video helped me to visualize the experience ahead of time. I can imagine other uses of drones for entertainment purposes on Spring Break, like recording video of sunrises or sunsets, dolphin watching, and other shots from an elevated perspective.

If you are planning on flying a drone at Spring Break (or already did), did you check your airspace? Yes, the Federal Aviation Administration considers all drones to be aircraft.  As a result, you are required to register your drone with the FAA and fly responsibly. This means that you have to be aware of your proximity to an airport before flying for fun (and whether you are in controlled airspace if flying drones for business). If flying for fun, FAA’s B4UFly app will let you know if you are within 5 miles of an airport, where you are required to notify the air traffic control tower of your planned flight. If you are further than 5 miles from an airport, you are generally allowed to fly under 400 feet without notifying air traffic control. There also may be local laws in your State or Municipality regarding the use of drones on public property.

Are you making money flying your drone? If so, you are flying for business and your operation is covered under Part 107 of the FAA Reauthorization Act (14 CFR Part 107), which requires you to attain authorization prior to flight in controlled airspace. So, you must also be aware of whether you are in controlled airspace and the specific rules for drone flight in that classification of airspace (things not provided by the B4UFly app).

And even when you do register your drone with the FAA and appropriately notify air traffic control or gain authorization to fly, there are still other restrictions that you will need to obey. For instance, you are not permitted to fly over people, at night, in a “swarm,” or beyond visual line of sight. If you’d like to attain a waiver for any of these restrictions, you will have to request it through the FAA, which may take a fair amount of paperwork and numerous weeks, or even months.

Remember, if you are flying your drone, you are required to give way to manned aircraft. But, there may also be other unmanned aircraft that you need to look out for. Be safe and diligent in your piloting and check your airspace!

Law Enforcement – Unmanned Systems for Spring Break beach safety

When reaching out to industry to apply our Human-Centered CAARMA™ Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Solutions Suite, we noticed two large early-adopters of UAS technology:  Inspection Services and Law Enforcement – the latter being a bit more dynamic in its approach.

As we enter the month of April and Spring Break season, we are seeing numerous law enforcement organizations looking to deploy UAS to monitor beaches and respond to rescue calls.  Many have either considered buying a drone or purchased a drone (many of which have sat unused due to regulatory limitations).  For instance, Miami Beach Police bought two drones to monitor “life-threatening” situations in the Beach’s high-rises. South Padre Island also bought drones last year to monitor the beaches for Spring Break (although didn’t).  Myrtle Beach Police Department, Virginia Beach, Horry County South Carolina, Palm Beach, Newport Beach, and countless others have also had plans to use drones over the past few years.

The use of Unmanned Systems for law enforcement at the beach is fascinating.  With beaches spanning long distances and the typical battery life on a UAS being measured in minutes, one could imagine a concept where numerous UAS formats would have to be leveraged to provide wide-reaching and sustained coverage.  Of course, the law enforcement organization would have to work its way through numerous regulations based on the various UAS applications.

Envisioning this scenario, one could imagine moored balloons deployed in intervals down the beach, with the ability to monitor a vast distance from fixed locations.  Then, fixed-wing unmanned systems deployed in a flight path to fill gaps between balloons.  And for immediate response, quad copters could be deployed to gain a closer situational awareness.  To stay legal, all these applications would require positioning to avoid operations over people (perhaps over the ocean) and other considerations regarding prohibited activities (unless a waiver is granted).

In beach towns where the normal population might be in the thousands, but jumps to the hundreds of thousands during spring break, this kind of systematic approach might provide the ability for police departments (that are often under-resourced) to better anticipate and respond to incidents.

While there are many benefits of this kind of approach, there are also many aspects to consider when assembling the concept of operations.  The law enforcement organization must consider not only FAA regulations, such as operations over people, distance to airports, manned aircraft operations, and special event Temporary Flight Restrictions; but also, the state and local laws regarding the flight of UAS, privacy, and surveillance.  There are many components in the concept of operations and Evans incorporated can help to plan those while staying within the law.

-Greg Caramanica, Business Development Manager, Unmanned Systems

Evans @ 2017 FAA UAS Symposium

Evans Incorporated attended the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Symposium (https://www.faa.gov/uas/2017_symposium/ ) outside of Washington D.C. on March 27th through 29th, 2017.  The Symposium gave stakeholders the opportunity to talk face-to-face with a cross-section of government and industry representatives about regulations, research, and other initiatives to integrate UAS into the National Airspace System (NAS).  The focus was on initiatives to overcome technical challenges to safe UAS operations, as well as industry partnerships advancing integration.

The FAA spent some time recapping the progress made to-date, saying that “the easy work is behind us.”  There have been over 200,000 downloads of their B4UFly app, over 770,000 UAS registrations, and over 35,000 remote pilot certifications. As far as the term “UAS Integration,” the FAA says it just as much of an “inclusion” as it is an “integration.” Then they discussed what’s next for the FAA, which included discussion about the aviation community, UAS at airports, automation, collaboration with industry, and rulemaking.  Most notably, there was discussion about the historical role of FAA with airspace regulation and how this new technology is testing what used to be practical limitations.  The FAA is managing its resources strategically to mitigate risks to the NAS and flying public.

We were happy to hear discussion about the role of Safety Risk Management (SRM) and the overall culture of safety in the UAS industry, consistent with industry concerns conveyed during this year’s Helicopter Association International (HAI) Heli-Expo.  Establishing a safety culture is one of the aspects of the Evans UAS CAARMA suite of services, where we help organizations to integrate human-centered safety aspects into their operations and we believe this is one of the main components of successful implementation of UAS programs.

There was also discussion about future airport concepts and permanent or portable “drone ports” that could greatly impact the utility of unmanned systems, especially in the area of transportation.  While these concepts are being envisioned, FAA is taking it a step at a time with the evaluation of and rulemaking for operations over people and beyond visual line of sight – two key components that are necessary for the technology to advance.

Discussing the current authorization and waiver process, an interesting question was posed about the “options available to an operator,” which summarized the effort required to attain a waiver. The conundrum was that the proponent may need safety data to get a waiver, but needs the waiver (authorization) to attain safety data which can only be fully achieved through a real operational exercise – a circular dependency that makes it difficult to navigate the authorization and waiver process, and suggests unique partnerships with research and development firms may afford stronger industry collaboration around safety cases.

Evans was proud to be part of the conversation at the Symposium and is proud to be involved with the implementation of UAS regulations at the FAA.  We look forward to helping industry address some of the issues discussed while applying our UAS CAARMA™ services suite.

Is the Helicopter Industry thinking too small when it comes to UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems)?

While we were at the Helicopter Association International (HAI) Heli-Expo this past week, we saw many different applications of unmanned systems within the helicopter industry.  Most companies that have UAS programs are using them for inspection services, but we also saw many law enforcement and search and rescue applications.  In general, the operation of unmanned systems seems to fit well in the helicopter industry because of the pre-existence of an aviation safety culture, experience with rotorcraft, and the prevalence of pilot-related knowledge, skills, and abilities.

We met a lot of great people at HAI. It seems like the industry is excited to see where UAS will lead, but some were concerned about the cannibalization of traditional helicopter uses and the displacement of manned-system pilots.  However, we wonder if the helicopter industry is thinking too small.

Generally, we saw that the use of Unmanned Systems by helicopter companies hasn’t moved beyond the use of small-scale UAS (e.g. quad copters), presumably because the FAA’s Part 107 regulation caters to small UAS.  However, with the existing Section 333 and new regulations on the horizon, it seems that they are missing a strategic opportunity to think through the large-scale use of UAS in their industry – and begin to position themselves to take advantage of this budding market.  How they position themselves may mean the difference between the helicopter industry facing a great deal of external competition and suffering a downturn, or embracing this technological shift and boosting profits.

Large-scale UAS were not a topic that we heard at the HAI Heli-Expo this year.  We would have liked to see more about unmanned helicopters, unmanned aerial farming machines, and other large-format unmanned systems.  Helicopter operators should be thinking past the use of small quad copters and considering larger-scale unmanned operations.  Likewise, helicopter leasing companies should be thinking about financing models associated with large-scale unmanned systems.  These are major shifts in the marketplace that other (non-helicopter) companies will happily fill the void, but, with a little bit of strategic planning, a helicopter company should be poised and ready to fill.

Airbus unveiled a new video showing a concept for a flying car called Pop.Up at the Geneva International Motor Show that same week, but news of the new concept was not present on the HAI Heli-Expo floor.  Generally, we were surprised that helicopter manufacturers were not pushing large-scale UAS concepts.  We did see a few new helicopters, such as the Bell FCX-001, but no unmanned systems.  This is currently a large gap in the marketplace and potentially large oversight.  Large-scale UAS concepts and innovations could serve a vital role in helping to envision potential formats and applications of unmanned systems and could help to shape the future of the industry.  I would assume that helicopter manufacturers would be leading this charge, but there was no such presence at the Expo.

Evans Incorporated is excited for next year’s HAI Expo, where we hope to see more large-format UAS concepts.  As an established company with years of experience as broad-based business consultants, we look for opportunities to help companies evaluate the UAS legislative landscape and build an organizational strategy to capitalize on the budding UAS industry.  Not only does the Evans aviation team address the core programmatic and operational challenges of UAS, but also ensures success through human-centered stakeholder management, project and program management, risk management, communications, facilitation, and training – an integrated blend of capabilities the Evans has integrated into its CAARMA™ Solutions.  We look forward to providing these services to helicopter companies so that they can stay ahead of the UAS trend.

-Greg Caramanica

Evans to attend the Helicopter Association International (HAI) Heli-Expo 2017

Evans Incorporated is excited to attend HAI’s Heli-Expo on March 6th through 9th in Dallas, Texas.  This is the largest rotocraft conference in the United States and we are eager to see what the rotocraft industry is doing with Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

As an emerging market, UAS use is blossoming in areas where companies can simplify routine inspections that typically are done by humans.  Using drones, these companies are able to take pictures and video of structures such as radio towers, power lines, oil and gas rigs, solar arrays, and other objects that can often be hard to reach.  There are numerous applications where using UAS decreases the risk to humans by eliminating the need for inspectors to scale these structures and put themselves in harm’s way.  Additionally, inspectors can often reduce the amount of time it takes to do an inspection because they can fly a drone quickly to the area needed to be examined.  Drones are being used not only for outdoor inspections, but also can navigate interior structures where space is tight.

At the Heli-Expo, Evans will be talking to Helicopter companies that have employed (or have wanted to employ) the use of drones for tasks that historically have been done by manned helicopters.  There are many overlaps between the helicopter and drone industries – after all, many drones (e.g. quad copters) are also rotocraft.

During this conference, we will be looking for companies that want help envisioning how drones can be used in their business model – and companies that need help figuring out if getting into the ‘drone’ business is something that has the right cost-benefit proposition for their organization.  Evans Incorporated is an award-winning company that provides human-centered solutions.  We also have a staff of aviation and drone experts that currently support the FAA’s implementation of UAS regulations.  So, not only can we provide support on organizational design and how to manage change in your organization as you adopt a drone program, but we can also design your drone program, train your pilots, assist with FAA’s required applications, and get you flying.

The Right Tool for the Job

With David Lee Roth playing on the radio, I am reminded that one should use “the Right Tool for the Job.”  This mantra can be used throughout life when it comes to finding the best instrument to complete a task.

As the UAS market grows, more and more companies will begin making specific platforms to satisfy user needs.  For instance, currently there are UAS platforms that support commercial operations, providing “the Right Tool for the Job” by providing a highly specialized, custom built, and potentially very expensive solutions.  But, businesses often struggle to integrate these tools into their company’s operations.

When looking to implement a UAS program that will fulfill a business need, supplement their workforce, or generate revenue, businesses are often left with few choices that may not fit their operational need.  They can invest a large amount of capital for a specialized and custom-built platform, purchase a consumer “Pro” model that may not be the right solution, or forgo the endeavor all together.  Essentially, there has been a gap in the market for UAS platforms that specifically focus on business operations in a way that simplifies integration at an affordable price.

As a leading UAS manufacturer, DJI has announced its line of enterprise models that appear to cater to the market for affordable, mass-produced, business related UAS platforms.  This is not a customized, one-off, six figure UAS platform; this is a production model much like their Inspire and Phantom lines that have become popular all over the world.  By designing this platform with specific focus on business use, they have opened the door for business, municipalities, law enforcement, fire and rescue, and many other small and large organizations to benefit from their use.

With this burgeoning market of affordable business class UAS platforms, businesses no longer have to emphasize cost and fit, but can focus on the use and benefits, such as usefulness, impact to efficiency, competitive advantage, and other investment related factors.  This is exactly what “the Right Tool for the Job” should do – make your job easier.

Chad Tyson, Senior Aviation Analyst at Evans

DJI Press Release


Link from Mashable


What really stole the show during the Super Bowl – the drones.

Did you know that there were a number of firsts during this year’s Super Bowl? One football team made an epic comeback and Tom Brady… well, you know the story… But, the biggest first that occurred during halftime was the use of Drones!!! Perhaps Lady Gaga’s performance was also something to be appreciated, but I was particularly interested in the Intel “Shooting Star,” which was the first time that drones were televised as part of an entertainment event. And it was definitely entertaining, even if it was recorded the day before (consistent with federal regulations, specifically for UAS operations over people).

The Shooting Star isn’t your typical store-bought drone. 300 (or more) can be flown at once by a single pilot and the collective swarm can make over 4 billion color combinations to bring light to life in the sky for up to 20 minutes. What is even more fascinating is what this could mean for the future of the unmanned aircraft industry. We just saw Intel, one of the industry’s leading pioneers, put on a display that was only a fraction of what this industry is capable of. Recently, at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, I saw amazing technological solutions that could perform a multitude of activities from delivering packages in less than 10 minutes to flying coast-to-coast without any human interaction – and that’s what is technically possible today (though not yet enabled by a still-evolving regulatory landscape). Beyond the current trend of using UAS primarily for pictures and video, the Super Bowl showed us that there are other possibilities that we might have not considered and, perhaps, problems that can be solved with UAS solutions if we opened our minds to them. And why not?  Like the cellphones we carry in our pockets, which now allow us to call anyone, order anything, replicate capabilities otherwise traditionally limited to personal computers, and/or perform a multitude of tasks with the swipe of our fingers, the future of UAS could become just as integrated into our existence as a smart phone.

I hope that colorful, elegant display of advanced technology inspires the next generation of Unmanned Systems thinkers and innovators. Who knows, maybe one day a drone will be your next taxi cab.

  • Andy Osantowske, Senior Unmanned Aircraft Systems Analyst at Evans Incorporated