Drone Groupthink and the Short Bus Stakeholder

Drone Groupthink and the Short Bus Stakeholder

Are you people crazy? One thing that has become commonplace in what I will call “the integration routine.” The routine gets played every time the FAA needs to stall for a few years. It’s a bait and switch where the FAA pulls the prom date routine on the droners. They tell the collective mark how great it will be for people that we’ll be able to do whatever we want as soon as we are done eating the 7 ton (6300 kilos for those readers living in countries who haven’t put a man on the moon) elephant burger.

We just need to do this—in the name of “safety”—even though we have never quantified either the risk drones pose or looked at any real science or data about what is really going on in the NAS. No one knows, but after we can do that, then you guys will be able to do whatever you want. That sounds like a pretty week argument when you factor in the “no one knows what transpires in the NAS” part.

Am I the only one that thinks that sounds absurd? Maybe if this is your first prom you’d buy that “I’ll call you in the morning” stuff, but this is my 15th prom, and I’ve finally figured out how the ruse works. The appclowns are a different story, as they have a vested interest in the hobbyist clamp down and it’s profit. Whose VC investor wouldn’t love a mandated customer base? But the mandated customer base comes at a price. You have to prostrate yourself to the FAA and shoulder some of the dirty work. If folks complain about transparency, they say we’re all about being transparent. If the community complains about the process being slow, you may be asked to tell people it is about safety. Eventually, your credibility is in tatters, and you don’t have to take my word for it since you could ask Mike “Lap Dog” Toscano how that water boy stuff worked out for him.

Here’s a question that deserves to be asked: Did we collectively forget who created the NAS Integration problem in the first place? Who wanted to be in control of all navigable airspace even between the blades of grass, expanded the buffer around airports to 5 miles, and wanted to have dominion over everything flying over 249 grams?

Some have said the FAA never had any plans to enforce their policy in the first place. Then I ask, what the heck is the point of the last 26 years? Why do we even give them the time of day with the new ideas when the old square peg, round hole ideas didn’t work? Lest we forget the last point, the “emergency” registration Task Force was supposed to be the elixir-

“Registering unmanned aircraft will help build a culture of accountability and responsibility, especially with new users who have no experience operating in the U.S. aviation system,” Foxx said.  “It will help protect public safety in the air and on the ground.”

Every day, the FAA receives reports of potentially unsafe UAS operations.  Pilot sightings of UAS doubled between 2014 and 2015. The reports ranged from incidents at major sporting events and flights near manned aircraft, to interference with wildfire operations.

“These reports signal a troubling trend,” Huerta said.  “Registration will help make sure that operators know the rules and remain accountable to the public for flying their unmanned aircraft responsibly.  When they don’t fly safely, they’ll know there will be consequences.”

Have we run up the white flag on that airtight solution already? What happened to the “privacy” showstopper that faded away?

Remember when your favorite registered agent for the Chinese #1 Global Brand Happy Good Luck Quadcopter company says he’s passionate about the RC Hobby that he gave consensus on 250 grams and didn’t support the AMA’s dissenting opinion being entered into the record? So, I am calling bullshit on “I am passionate about the hobby” stuff, as these actions make it sound disingenuous or like a backroom deal was cut. In either case, it is nothing but bad news for the hobbyist while they sell more drones.

Here is a list of a few good ideas to implement first, just so we can say we gave it the old college try.

  1.    FAA enforcement of existing rules and policy
  2.    Follow existing near miss SOP’s
  3.    Point of sale (POS) registration. (Sorry Best Buy)
  4.    Re-classify all toys with more than two propellers over 250 grams coming in from overseas as aircraft; tax and register accordingly.
  5.    Ban the OEM that is responsible for 74% to 85% of the problem.

I think it is more than fair to ask the DoT why the FAA is giving a Chinese toy company the lead on making the rules for the U.S. NAS. Do the loyalties lay in selling goods produced in China or the viability of the US aviation economy? Just throwing it out there as food for thought.

Furthermore, is anyone really buying into the notion that repealing sec. 336 will make the “science fiction world of The Jetsons a distinct reality?” I think the reality thing is starting to blend with the VR fantasy. This quote from LoBiondo is even more farcical.

“One thing that remains unchanged in the face of these developments is that our number one priority remains—safety,” said LoBiondo, who added that the FAA and U.S. developers must work hard to maintain their competitive edge over tech developers springing up in China and Japan.”

Springing up?! The Chinese are kicking our can all over the place. This should serve as an example of what is wrong with the folks in DC. When it comes to technology, most of them still believe we are about 20 years ahead of the Chinese. I’ve got bad news for you Buster Brown: I’ve been to Shenzhen, and the party is pretty much over.

Yak and Merkle were grasping at straws, LAANC is digitized facilities maps that other people are doing the lifting on, and the FAA is pointing to this as progress. Notice that the nomenclature is changing, and it is becoming whitewarshed UTM.  From what I have heard, that joint down there in NJ isn’t so big on the science thing. Yak should know better; no one talks about NextGen anymore—that running joke is played out. Let’s send out another search party for the Yeti. ;-)

Back in the olden days a quality advocacy group like AOPA (when they had worthy advocates) would have said, “That sounds good, but not for our members. Have a nice day.” I don’t think it would be out of line to also ask how the ID and Tracking scheme will stop people from stealing or commandeering regional jets and other aircraft to commit suicide. What would you rather have making an unscheduled landing on your roof, neighbor? You have to realize that the AUVSI and AMA have a combined budget of +/-$30 million a year and haven’t been able to muster a cogent plan for their constituents. Golly, why is that? Well, there are few reasons, and those will be discussed in the upcoming series, What’s Up With The (insert your favorite entity here) Stories.

If I were running an advocacy group whose constituents were taking a rumble seat to the Chinese, I’d probably make a request that the FAA come up with an ID and Tracking system that is workable and secure first, and then we could talk about repealing the rules they don’t enforce. The same goes for the UTM. I love the idea of flying BVOLS over people and around the reactor at the Nuclear power plant. But the “all about ‘safety’” platitude sounds mighty obtuse without aircraft certification and a practical test as part of the 107. It’s free advice; take it for what it is worth.  

Now I’d be more than happy to share some of these ideas with the FAA; however, they don’t return calls, emails, or any other correspondence without intervention from my House member’s office.  You have to understand: I’m not looking for any special stakeholder treatment, just the same treatment the Federal Aviation Administration officials afford the Chinese toy company representatives. That’s all; I don’t even need or want a backroom deal to move product.

Many of these topics are daily fodder on the tweeter @thedronedealer


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).