From The Americas Desk, A Fond Farewell To 2011

Patrick Egan

Recapping this year’s events offers much in the way of food for thought, but does little to uplift a depressed business plan, having been under the clown shoe of oppression for many moons. Let us take a moment to hearken back to the faint whispers of the spirit of integration effort past, circa November 2006… “60 to 90 days tops, and we’ll have something out.” Good, I said, because small business won’t be able to hold out for much longer than that” and…. Happy 2012!

Nothing like a budget shortfall to impede progress. For reference, look at the calamity caused by a couple of weeks of funding issues for the FAA, then consider the effect that four years of not having a legal income stream must have had on small business.

For those not counting or new to the fray, this is at least the forth-annual gripe fest some of the old guard has had to endure, and still without tangible relief in sight. Again, we find ourselves one year closer to the Air Force’s timeline of 2045 (and they never sleep!). If 2045 doesn’t mesh with YOUR business plan, you could just opt out and follow your passions overseas. American expats looking for investment capital in China are all the rage. Good food and a billion or so new friends, what’s not to love?

Let’s take a moment to recollect and ponder all of the wishful announcements about breakthroughs and milestones for this waning year.
By far the most anticipated being the Notice of Public Rulemaking (NPRM) posting being pushed back several times in one year. That was a lot of pushing back for one year, again just recently, waylaid for several more months with another hollow promise of springtime 2012 for UAS (April/May). So many deferments and repeated delays that Gary (used to the efficient styling’s of the South African government), quietly gave up at the countdown clock. The sad part is, folks are really counting on this SFAR (Slow For A Reason). More time buying in this case will only bear fruit in retirements and a general process malaise, resulting in participant dropout. Man alive, as if this thing weren’t tedious enough already.

False promises are fine and dandy when you’re courting, but not so nice when you’ve already bet the farm…

Almost as wishful as the NPRM/SFAR was the DOJ’s announcement of a possible MOU with the FAA and the notion that first responders would all be merrily flying around by Christmas 2011. In many peoples estimation that notion was as far fetched as Santa himself having that MOU in his sack and sliding down the chimney over at the DOJ. (Maybe someone forgot to leave out the milk and cookies?)

The dumbfounder of the year had to be ARC 2.0. Boy howdy, was that one kept on the down low or what?! So quiet that the folks who where on it didn’t even

Mr Clown Shoe

know what they would be doing for sure. The scuttlebutt was that it would only be centered on the big stuff. Curious, as we haven’t gotten through the small stuff (150 kilo mindset for me), but things are so convoluted that it is entirely plausible that the darn cart got out in front of the horse again.

After reading the membership roster and charter (FOIA’ed and posted at sUAS News) everyone should be completely at ease knowing the defense contractor cadre will act with your best interest in mind. Yeah, the same subtle confidence felt by a wild dog waiting for a hyena packs tasty zebra carcass leftovers!

Still waiting on some of the other FOIA request made back in 2008. Maybe this year we’ll send in an anniversary card or get a cake or something to commemorate those several years of blissful waiting.

We have to come together as a stakeholder community… (I hear someone singing Kumbaya)

Folks think I just beat the same old drum, laying all of the dysfunction at the feet of the FAA. But that’s just not true; there are truckloads of the stuff from other culpable parties. Is it the defense contractors trying to dominate the markets? No, not them alone, and you can’t fault them as it is just in their nature and what they do. Trying to change that nature is like trying to make vegetarians out of said hyenas.

The UAS community has its share of culpability and should look inwards to reflect on what we have done to further our own future. Have we come together selflessly with a cogent and solidified plan? Have we demanded accountability from those in control of this process? The easy answer is, no, and NO! Well, why not? Simple, you have to realize most folks are busy just trying to get through today, let alone worry about the future.

Many years’ on and still drawing the ire for the RCAPA doctrine neatly packaged as the Proposed Guidelines. Still fielding comments about how they don’t match everyone’s business objectives. Fair enough, but tell me what other advocacy/user group has laid out a proposal that you can even comment on or contest? Sure, the guidelines aren’t going to be everything for everyone, but they are far less limiting then what we, as a community will see in the SFAR.

These RCAPA Proposed Guidelines represent our community based “consensus” standards. The guidelines are what the board et al had gleaned from experience and recognizes as a minimum level of viability for small business. They also represent something that has already transpired in the NAS, and are immediately implementable. So, please try to understand that the RCAPA does not relish intrusion or undue burdens on the development and advancements of this technology. However, we have to lay out a cogent argument with provisions and practices that are also palatable to the other NAS stakeholders. Making and supporting a proposal that is perceived as born out of some psychiatrically disordered state does nothing to further the goals of the UAS small business community.

Welcome to the goodie room…

I guess at this time of the year we should count our blessings and just be thankful that the FAA treats the airspace integration issue as a sideshow. Imagine if they gave the airspace integration effort the attention paid some of their other high profile issues??

As far as the SFAR is concerned, I have ferreted out tidbits of what is coming down the pike and brother it ain’t going to be pretty. I know everyone wants me to spill the beans, but there’s not much to spill as only about 10 people or so are purported to have seen it. All first impressions affirm that there’s not too much to like.

Basically what is going to be published in the Register is so limiting that we are (in my estimation), staring down the barrel of a 5 or 10 percent solution. Then, as stated in the charter for ARC 2.0 Sec 5b, are tasked with “coordinate the resolution of any comments on related proposed rulemaking”. And 5c, “Develop and recommend to the FAA draft advisory circular language and a strategy, process and schedule for the integration of UAS into the NAS.”
What, an advisory circular, for UAS over 55lbs??

How the hog ate the cabbage…

Many understand that rulemaking is a mucky business, but nonetheless the history and what continues to unfold makes for interesting reading, even more so for those with hard earned money in the game.

Expect to see more from the RCAPA as the year unfolds. The FAA is going to need to pull the long pants on as hard questions for and accountability from, is going to be the theme. The RCAPA and the advocacy effort need your help, as we all must remain ever vigilant when it comes to process accountability. Many hold out hope that 2012 is going to be the year the FAA finally gets something substantive done.

The sUAS News will continue to be the outlet for information about the Global Airspace Integration effort, as well as a place to keep up on the latest in unmanned technology and its applications. Remember to support our growing complement of advertisers as they help make the magic happen.

Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

Discuss @ LinkedIn http://lnkd.in/whS4BQ

Previous articleOut of the Blue and Into the Black
Next articleEpisode Two, Safeguarding the Oceans, the Sea Shepherd Drone
Patrick Egan
Editor in Field, sUAS News Americas Desk | Patrick Egan is the editor of the Americas Desk at sUAS News and host and Executive Producer of the sUAS News Podcast Series, Drone TV and the Small Unmanned Systems Business Exposition. Experience in the field includes assignments with the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Battle Lab investigating solutions on future warfare research projects. Instructor for LTA (Lighter Than Air) ISR systems deployment teams for an OSD, U.S. Special Operations Command, Special Surveillance Project. Built and operated commercial RPA prior to 2007 FAA policy clarification. On the airspace integration side, he serves as director of special programs for the RCAPA (Remote Control Aerial Photography Association).