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How Can It Get Any Worse Than This?

It has been my experience with the airspace integration effort that things can always get worse. Just ask the RC Hobbyist, who went under the bus with so little fanfare—actually not even a whimper, but an endorsement from the drone advocates and visionaries. One hundred eighty days out from the reauthorization people are going to realize how bad taking the fall for the Chinese toy company is going to be. Now, they might even get a few more days to reprieve thanks to the government shutdown, as some government agencies are saying that the thirty-some-odd days will translate into a yearlong slowdown. Maybe we should abolish vacations and family leave?

Oh, this Egan guy is such a bring down; didn’t he read the proposal for a proposed proposal the FAA put out? I’m still waiting for the NAS integration that Congress mandated for September of 2015. Did any of the advocates, experts, or lobbyists remind Congress of that, or did it just slip their collective hive mind? We’ll all be flying over people and BVLOS by next month. Sure, the ID and Tracking doesn’t exist outside of a cellphone app fantasy, and even the adults at the FAA think the UASIO folks are a couple of regulatory “deals” short of a Falzone. We can’t know for sure what is going on over there; the gang is tight-lipped about divulging public information. Try as I may and try as I might, seven-plus years of FOIA and apparently the UASIO progress reports aren’t something the FAA wants to share. Golly, I wonder why.   

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, “Don’t go after the FAA.” That is an Emperor’s New Clothes euphemism for, “Go with the program, or you’re not getting any goodies like the sycophants do.” That falls on deaf ears, since I don’t need any goodies besides the folks at the FAA thinking about the U.S., its citizens, and the commercial aviation economy first.

I’m not selling anything besides small business, jobs, and STE(A)M. Very little in the way of personal gain for Egan, and you’d think these people would have figured that out by now?  This hijinks might be something you might expect in a body politic in the former Eastern Block or possibly Venezuela, but not the good old U.S. of A.

The domestic aviation community (manned and unmanned) have some big problems and just ignoring them isn’t working out so well—i.e., three decades of NextGen and drone NAS integration.

I don’t want to sound alarmist, but why does a Chinese toy company have so much sway over our NAS? And why is everyone tiptoeing around the Chinese toy company monopoly?

Why do sellout-phone app companies and their lobbyists parrot the wishes (excuses for progress) of the FAA? Why do the sellout-phone app companies do the heavy lifting for the FAA? What is in it for them? Why would the FAA put all of their education eggs in the companies with competing products also build the KnowB4UFly app basket? Why/how did it take so long for the FAA to figure out that the all-out education over enforcement drive went pear-shaped?

Instead, they didn’t admit the learning campaign defeat until after the RC hobbyist was disenfranchised (Sec 366 repeal), and they got funding to refit the B4UFly program. The money apparently isn’t going toward app development. It would appear the new DJI darling KittyHawk (and sometimes PrecisionHawk post-Airmap, DJI breakup) is shouldering the remodel task for free. Just one more example of scaling up the free app services for VC funding.

A word of caution to the Poach and Mimic sites: bringing up the lover’s quarrel might get you some unwanted attention; as Burroughs aptly put it, “Never interfere in a boy and girl fight.” You are supposed to act like the kicking to the curb never happened and that Altitude Angel’s data is better than Airmap’s by a country mile. I’m not even going to pick on Precision Hawk because they are busy rolling out the new and improved BVLOS (EVLOS) snow-job. Come on down and spend between $35K and $50K to rent our waiver! I’ve got a long list of folks that have contacted me saying the P-Hawk thing needs some daylight. I know I got the cold call from the sales guy. He didn’t know much about the details beyond what it would cost to get the EVLOS party started.

The drone ecosystem Chingachgook (last of the MohEgans) would like nothing more than to highlight what is going on with P-Hawk, the Test Sites, the toy company, the cellphone sell-out, golden parachutes, LAANC, etc. so that more people could indulge themselves in the preferential treatment the FAA lavishes on those with bulging pockets. If we could all get the same treatment, the US might have a viable and safe commercial drone ecosystem.

The phone at the Americas desk lit up like a Christmas tree; what do you suppose KittyHawk was getting out of the deal? Duh, it is a full-on endorsement by  “the” Civil Aviation Authority just like yesterday’s girl, Airmap, got. The endorsement is worth tens of millions of dollars as the FAA went out and hit the socials and aviation press with the announcement; they even got a mention here in the piece. All they had to do was have their lobbyists tell Congress to get the FAA some money because $26 million a year for UASIO funding isn’t enough to effectively sandbag the 27-year process and go on the road and parrot the following without out any regard for data or reality:


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What is the payoff? Well, the next startup hitting the VC fun-ding circuit will be able to say that they service 85% of the drone ecosystem, just as the Airmap used to be able to say in the funding pitch. Are we really to believe that it was just a falling out between the personalities at DJI and Airmap? Possibly just a change in the regulatory winds, or moving on to the next monopoly of geofence 2.1 or the #LAANC ID and Tracking #UTM NAS trifecta? I see it as a monopoly rolling down the road paved by duped VC funds and the carpetbag show promoters. The keys to the U.S. NAS kingdom, financed and facilitated by the Silicon Valley VC funds and their greed, inspired minions—a tip of the chapeau as it was one hell of a shrewd Sun Tzu maneuver and a bargain for the PRC. The trite old safety of the NAS mantra-chanting FAA got played like a two-dollar Erhu.

Fig. 2

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Where was the champion of the hobbyist? The AMA has lobbied hard to lock out and lock-up the CBO definition. I’ve meant to write the story “What’s Wrong With the

AMA” for a while now, but I have just been busy with other projects, and last year I gave them warning after warning (friendly chiding followed by alarm and complete disbelief emails) about the impending doom. I’m not the only guy doing so by a long shot. It looks like the AMA blew their $530K war chest on a rearguard capitulate with your-pants-down lock-up of the CBO definition. You can go ahead and try some grassroots advocacy for the hobbyist on your own, but you’ll have to get by the $18 million a year gilded boat anchor.  That gilded boat anchor may be encrusted with jewels here soon if the backroom dealio went correctly and the AMA is closer to what equates to a mandated million members. Times that by $75 a year and they’re taking a dive motivation comes into focus.

Yeah, but I don’t need no stinking membership card! Sure you don’t, Johnny, but if you want to fly for recreation and enjoyment, you’ll either be flying on a hobby field with Grandpa Munster (or possibly Hodor, depending upon your geographical location) or possibly having to get a LAANC authorization to fly elsewhere. Well, what’s the big deal, it’s free? Yeah, sure it is, and let me tell you how the CNN Easter bunny got his over-people waiver and snappy flight jacket.  

How many of the minor RC Hobbyist’s can afford to pay the $769 gate fee for the FAA UAS symposium? Does anyone besides me think the high price of admission had/has a dampening effect on educating the unwashed and huddled masses? Nah, it was just the POS (not Point Of Sale) cellphone app. The echo chamber gets together to figure out what is best for an industry they know nothing about. That goes for the drone and ancillary service and cellphone app companies too. If they had it all figured out, they wouldn’t need to keep pivoting and have rebooting parties every year.

Originally published in the SUSB Expo Journal –

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