The Solution Has Got To Be In Here Somewhere

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(The go-forward plan for the rest of us.)

The FAA has long since left the academic, amateur and small business end-user and the public in the dust as actual participating stakeholders. The only “full-spectrum” of stakeholders invited are the DOD vendors with lobbyists and political friends. (Maybe if I wrote Buck McKeon a six-figure check I’d get two slots on the UAS ARC??) You’d think that shame or sentimental ideas of participatory democracy might come into play with something so important. The only place you see or hear that is in old movies, and or stories from old-timers who remember a way of life where people were good for their word. Unfortunately, it would appear that Mr. Smith left Washington D.C. many years ago.

Those who have followed the sUAS News writings might well understand the old shell game. For the newcomers, three card Monty or the pea and the shells is the U.S. UAS airspace integration game.

Yes, some of the stories may be obscure, but I’ve had to utilize allegory and aphorisms as a courtesy and not come right out and to expose the source. Don’t want to ruin someone’s career, backroom deal, or whatever angle they may have going. No shortage of that over the years and from folks in this effort that all purportedly say, “we all want the same thing.” They will straight up blackball people (some possibly their own kin) without any reservations totally devoid of either scruple or moral compunction. You’ve got Federal employees banning or reassigning other federal employees for not going along with the program. Then there’s the one way ticket to Pariahville (formally Palookaville) for any stakeholder who’s script they (or the DOD folks) don’t dig.

For those of you that think it too fantastic to be true… I wish. Heck, I was almost kicked off of the current FAA BVLOS committee before I even accepted. (It would appear that those not well practiced in the art of bootlicking are not really welcome??) A couple of choice quotes for educational purposes.

The ARC debated your inclusion on this working group for some time. However, the FAA wanted your organization involved, so feel free to delegate to someone else at RCAPA.”

And most of you thought the FAA was the only group sandbagging the process.

We all hope you are constructive and keep the bomb throwing to a minimum. This is not a seat on the ARC, but a working group, and it can be revoked at any time.”

Bomb throwing!” Does this sound like “we all want the same thing?” It lacks a certain inclusive tone, but I don’t want to be accused of nitpicking.

On the other side of the coin, you go quietly along with the program, and there is more than likely a nice golden off ramp in your future. Maybe a DOD vendor or some other cushy spot where you can go play the do nothing game till your interests become vested. Funny (ironic) part is… it takes a few years for a new employer to realize what type of “we all want the same thing” they got.

Well, I’m done with being held to all of the pleasantries of one-sided professional propriety. I guess I’ll just have to risk the six figures a year job (again) at the expenses of reiterating what same thing we all want. The situation has deteriorated to the point that the names have to be named, or we could very well be in for ten more years of these 99 cent store shenanigans. That is not a joke! Some insiders are talking about 2020 or 2025 until we; the voiceless small business end-user has full access to the NAS. Or loosely all get the same thing. Give the latest MITRE report a peruse for some insight into what it is to realize professional grade sandbagging. Better yet, what is in store for you. We probably only paid a couple of million dollars for that gem.

Years of false promises –

Let me check the notes for the sUAS ARC… 12-17-2008 “Model aviation got hosed.” The ATO UAS rep (Ardyth Williams) came right out and said they were writing the rules for model aviation. It only took six years for it to happen, but it’s here.

My advice to the AMA leadership at that point was to mobilize the membership. Have every member write his or her Federal representation and tell the FAA in the politest of fashions to keep its meat hooks off of our safe and holism hobby. They supposedly had a closed-door session with the FAA, and everything was under control as assurances were made. Meanwhile, folks at MITRE were saying that the one-page AMA safety guidelines were not going to cut it. We were all led to believe that AMA had an understanding with the FAA, and the FAA had repeatedly said model aviation wasn’t going to change. Well, something appears amiss here, but I guess we’ll have to wait for another FAA rollback or statement saying they made a mistake or some other nonsensical explanation for what is seen as bureaucratic bungling.

The community has to come to grips with its unenviable fate –

The policy clarification of February 13, 2007

An NPRM that is almost three years late

ASTM F-38 published standards talk about MIL-STD-3001 style Manuals and ISO like certification. (Not common knowledge as you will have to pay $70 to see them.)

Language in the 2012 reauthorization bill that was written by DOD vendors

The FAA has no concise plan for the test centers

COA’s that still take two years to process

DOD vendors populating and in control of the standards groups

(MIL-STD-3001 manuals and ISO like certification)

No small business representation on the current UAS ARC

DOD vendors populating the UAS ARC (Guess who is going to help the FAA with the NPRM comments?)

333 Exemption with most of the trappings of Part 135 (A private COA?)

336 or the Special Rule for Model Aviation

The cancelation of AC 91-57 (sure it is back, but for how long?)

Are you happy with this current UAS non-integration situation, is it getting better? Years of special interest and backroom deals will be the only explanation for that birdcage liner.

Once and for all…

You are getting left out of the public rulemaking conversation. It is special interest and moneyed players who get to have their say and first crack at all of the big money while you fight for the table scraps. Oh sure, they have your (alleged) best interests in mind and the dysfunctional game at least tilted in their favor. Don’t we all want the same thing that is, “We all want the same thing?”

They are still devising plans when it is time to act!

The coalitions, lobbyists, new commercial groups et al. need to get congress to allow small business and the public a real voice in the process. I am not at all encouraged by the go forward plans I am hearing. Most consist of getting Congress to tell the FAA to hurry up. We (RCAPA) tried that in 2007 and had limited success. The FAA asked us to back off as they couldn’t get anything done. In retrospect, that was a huge mistake. We wouldn’t have been able to sustain it in any event as it took an inordinate amount of volunteer hours. Ira Buckley was really the driver on that effort.

The Whitehouse –

While is does sound exciting that they have finally decided to revisit the issue, I am still waiting for action. I spoke with them several years ago and told them exactly what the FAA administrator would say and a proper response. I also offered to assist at any time in the future if necessary, nothing yet??

The animal preserve and the indoor pachyderm –

The DOD vendor animals live in a magical land in what was a magical time where the taxpayer provided lavishly for them. Is that the same thing we all want that they are talking about? The business animals meanwhile have always had to make their way in an arbitrary and capricious wasteland known as the “gray area!”

A common misnomer is that the military grade stuff is far superior to the commercial stuff, and that’s why it cost so much. Hogwash! Why all of the flyaway’s and crashes? How come some are still using radio technology that hasn’t been seen at the RC hobby flying field in years? What do you do if you are outside of the visual line of sight of the frequency board? Rigorous military certification, that is a howler, it’s all pin the liability on the donkey smoke and mirrors.

Hope is on the way??

Hiring consultants in most instances is just throwing your money away. I’ve spoken with many other groups and hotshots all sprung up like daisies in the meadow. We put our faith in persons and groups who we were told represented our interests. Their efforts were not so brilliant, they followed the whims of the moneyed interests and their behind the scenes intrigues, which is what gave us this disorder.

Groups and or person making money (salary), as advocates, as well as front groups or ancillary participants, have had years and millions of dollars to affect change. There has been very little in the way of change, why?

We have suffered at the hands of the inept and self-serving for too long. Rumors of Executive order’s and other tomfoolery with blustery and hollow directives telling the FAA to hurry the hell up sound good, but they will prove to be ineffectual. Is that by design? The DOD guys are working on contracts with the oil companies and other big industries and after ten years in this game all of the benefits of the doubt until all of the facts are in is over. I can no longer in good conscience make assumptions about motives or put anything past anyone no matter how cynical it may sound. All I hear are table scraps hitting the floor.

HERE IT IS… THE U.S. AIRSPACE INTEGRATION SOLUTION

We’ve tried talking, gathering data, giving data, and self-certification, private liability insurance, other certification schemes and it was all just the wrong rock that wound up in the trash.

The only path forward is concise language in the new FAA reauthorization bill. This time the language should be a little broader in scope taking the whole unmanned community into consideration and not just self-serving tripe for those raking in the billions. Boy howdy you’re talking about a Washington D.C. 180.

The new reauthorization language has to hold the FAA accountable for its inaction and dysfunction. Deadlines not met should equate to a loss of funding or replacing the current Administrator with someone who is more adept at leading and producing results at the Federal Administration level.

We need to restart the effort (DOD interests don’t want that, and I wonder why?) and employ the scientific method with third party independent review from a group like NASA. When there is a mishap (and there will be), the FAA can go to Congress and explain how the law of averages got ahead us on this one. However, we will endeavor to mitigate the same type of mishaps in the future. We must accept the reality that certified aircraft crash all of the time.

Will you see any of the advocacy groups say anything like that? Doubtful, it would require another committee and a couple more years to figure out that the same course of action will only lead us to UAS NAS integration in 2020 or 2025.

All the best-

“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.” -Mahatma Gandhi

I hope this is true because the first two have already happened. ;-)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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).