Asleep At The Bait And Switch

What’s that you say? The industry can’t take off until we can file and fly BVLOS? Most of the time it is really only EVLOS with VOs, unless you have some serious money and a kennel full of DC lobbyists. After this story, you might be justified in asking for a $769 refund on the bill of goods sold at the seminar. The ID & Tracking rule, depending on what version (DAC or UAS Symposium) of reality you ascribe to, is either 2 to 3 years, or 3 to 5 years out (probably more like 7 due to a lack of leadership and or accountability), and remember you can’t have UTM without RID. Then you’ll need Detect and Avoid (DAA), and if we get really lucky the privacy issue will make a comeback in 5 to 7 years.

Collectively we have had to suffer through years of standards groups, committees (some with announcement dates that have come and gone), panels, platitudes, and carpetbag shows where attendees endure the indignity of having to pay good money to hear hucksters, pontificators, regulators and drone experts tell the bag-holders how it is/was going to be. Not only told us but also sold us on the idea that the road is paved with their BVLOS (waiver) bonanza gold. However, it appears the only thing scaling in drones are the excuses and shenanigans. Why or what is the cause of the layoffs and personnel changes at these highflying Drones as a Servicio companies?  

The BVLOS waivers (EVLOS with a VO too) are like veritable hens’ teeth. Each one is meticulously scrutinized over many months for deficiencies and/or possible safety risks to the NAS as well as public sector job security. All of the mitigations, whether organic or lobbied for, are stacked and sorted, checked and rechecked. In most cases, this work takes months to complete, as the FAA undoubtedly wants to make sure every detail is in order. This due diligence can cost the petitioner over $50k in lobbying/consulting fees. I decided I’d make an inquiry to the FAA Chief Council and I found the following answers interesting. My questions are black typeface and the FAA’s red typeface.   

On May 6, 2019, at 9:37 AM, tammy@faa (edited email addy) wrote:

Question 1. If the responsible person listed on a Part 107 waiver has been terminated by the company which has been issued the waiver, will it be considered a regulatory violation of the regulations waived for the company to continue to fly under that waiver since the employee is no longer working at the company as the responsible person?  Waivers are not transferable to a new responsible person without FAA approval. As a result, if the responsible person listed on a Certificate of Waiver is no longer the person who oversees the operations that would occur under the waiver, then the waiver is ineffective. 

Question 2. Should the company in question 1 cease operations under the waiver until they obtain a waiver amendment to add a new responsible person?  As noted above, a waiver that does not accurately list a responsible person is ineffective. Operations in the absence of a waiver should occur in accordance with all provisions of 14 CFR part 107.

What does this have to do with the price of tea in China? Well, I went to the low hanging fruit and looked at the company that is led by a “drone visionary” and from the PrecisionHawk website-


The first drone company to earn a waiver from the FAA for BVLOS flight, we offer cutting-edge capabilities enabled by research and policy leadership.

Hmm, you’d think if they were involved in policy leadership they would know that when Thomas Haun left the company back in September of 2018 that their waiver would be ineffective?

Waivers are not transferable to a new responsible person without FAA approval. As a result, if the responsible person listed on a Certificate of Waiver is no longer the person who oversees the operations that would occur under the waiver, then the waiver is ineffective. 

Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho it’s off to greener pastures we go, from Linkedin, Twitter, etc.  –

Okay, you have to give old P-Hawk the benefit of the doubt, as they have been too busy making acquisitions, laying folks off, losing contracts to cross all of the “T’s” and dot the “I’s.”  Lucky for us we have a system of checks and balances, and in this case, the FAA is the ever-vigilant backstop. There were at the time some 90-plus or minus folks working in the UASIO with a budget in the tens of millions of dollars, and you’d have to assume that some bright-eyed expert would have caught and rescinded something as important as this. Golly, we haven’t seen Big T at any of the P-Hawk sponsored drone show after cocktail parties; who in the heck is the responsible party for the safety net now? When are you going to file for a new waiver, or will the FAA just make the bro-deal switcheroo for you? The safety of the NAS hangs like a loose tooth until this boo-boo LOS (obviously no VO’s) waiver is reapplied for.  

Now, before you go nuts on the Twitter and tell me that I am cherry picking the inanity, let me qualify the questions and answers. I sent my questions as a request for interpretation from the FAA’s Office of Chief Counsel. What I got back (italics) was from the Office of Communications. I asked again for an interpretation from the Office of Chief Counsel and got this from the Headquarters, Public Affairs Manager


The answers Tammy —– provided you earlier this week represents the FAA’s response to your query.


I also asked AFS-800, but only got the boilerplate email reply to go ask Buzzy the Drone or some other bunkum.  

The commercial drone community is paying a princely sum for all of this ham-fisted feigned public (who’d bother with memorializing a task group whose leader is a lobbyist for a Chinese toy company?) rulemaking. Not like the hobbyist didn’t get away unscathed; the rubes are soon to suffer some catastrophic collateral damage. Some folks live by the backroom deal only later to die by the LAANC even after spending millions on lobbyists when grassroots would have done the trick.   

The UASIO has a HUGE budget and a boatload of folks supposedly watching the “all about safety” switch. Okay, you can’t totally blame the UASIO since they may have been busy educating folks as it is a partnership after all. And the FAA is underfunded and understaffed, so where are the company policy experts and lobbyists? How did they miss this when selling cut and paste consulting services and training to others?

As a fair-minded observer, I would say it is time for the FAA to go back and audit all of the approved waivers to make sure everyone is still in compliance for the “safety” the NAS as well as collect some much-needed data.

@thedronedealer on Twitter for live questions and commentary about a level playing field for small business, jobs, and STE(A)M education daily. I am not looking for anything special; just the same treatment afforded the folks with the $10K a month plus lobbyists and/or the Chinese toy company.

p.s. While you were distracted with all of the oversight, it would appear that some of the Pathfinder personnel have split the scene too? More FOIA’s have been sent so be sure and keep your eyes peeled for updates to the story.

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