51 Beyond Visual Line Of Sight Waivers (BVLOS and mostly EVLOS Part 107.31, 107.33) and 126 entries for over people waivers (Part 107.39) hardly constitute an industry ready to scale. I know, I’ve been listening to folks espouse the notion that they were all bringing down the big drone bucks before the COVID19 bring down.
Sure, some people are making money right under our collective noses, and we didn’t even know it. Most of those making money don’t even want to talk about it, as they are apprehensive about being seen as part of the carnival.
There’s a carnival?
Heck yeah, with professional barkers and everything. Let us take a look at all of the numbers in the FAA forecast. 385,751 “active non-model registrations,” and as of December 2019, 162,185 RP certificates have been issued. You must understand that all of these numbers are “cumulative” as well as caveats, and does not represent actual numbers of folks in compliance with federal regulation. Those numbers are considerably lower and difficult to determine as different branches, and offices use different nomenclature and definitions for the same things.
However, the “cumulative” numbers are the ones that the FAA uses to justify huge budgets and ham-fisted and industry stiffing rules.
I’m not even going down the hobbyist registration road as its people registered and not planes. Further muddying the waters, there are no 2017 numbers because of the Taylor case. Beyond that, they are going to fix the people registration at some point just for fun. Who knows when that will happen, possibly after they get done with the RC hobbyist test?
The hobbyist will have to take a test, but Part 103 guys can enjoy most of what the hobbyist used to enjoy without a license and without the RID fantasy cellphone app. All I will say is the AMA knew this was going to happen, spent millions on a lobbyist and didn’t even get a cut of the action.
Do No Harm!
AOPA and ALPA demanded that the FAA make droners meet an equivalent of safety in 2005. That is how we got the arbitrary FAA “policy clarification” of 2007. During the arduous course of sUAS ARC, the tired old “equivalent level of safety” became a mantra. I’d always reply with the cheerful be careful what you wish for. The good news is that now, we have a few years of legal numbers to go on. I know, earlier, I said the figures were dubious. However dubious the numbers are, if they are suitable for the goose, then they should suffice for the gander. 2018, GA had 393 fatalities, and the droners 0. The trend is going up, and someone at the FAA might want to look into a “policy clarification” for GA so the NAS can get back to being safe.
Only fatality missing in this pie chart is the domestic drone hardware industry.
Fair enough –
Golly, the FAA UASIO has been globe trotting and patting themselves on the back for all of the progress. They have been killing it with 107 waivers, and by killing it, I mean the drone industry! Whatever happened to the full NAS integration in 2015 mandated by the congress?
The bright spot is night operations, and yes, we have to pause and give them credit for that. YAY!
Why haven’t drones scaled?
Let’s move on to the arbitrary and capricious hen’s teeth waivers, shall we? Wait a minute hens don’t have teeth, well they don’t need teeth if you have the right lobbyist, advocate or board member. The next stop is the bank to drop off your part of the AUVSI forecasted mega-billion dollar industry. #FARMDRONES
Do you want to operate over people? No problem, just order up one of the parachutes from the company with the ex-FAA administrator and the ASTM Professional Kit, and shazam like magic, brother your hen has got a gold tooth. Want one of those golden ticket BVLOS waivers? No problem, you get yourself a lobbyist drop $35K to $50K and boy howdy, you’re pooping in tall cotton. You may have to pay in advance as some of the flim-flamers didn’t pay their bill.
Don’t have time to wait for the good ship lollipop to come in, just rent PrecisionHawk’s waiver and go nuts for whatever utility that has the stones to pay for operations purportedly outside of federal regulation. I say allegedly because FAA legal (and public information and Acting Administrator Dan Elwell) knew PrecisionHawk’s Part 107.31 and Part 107.33 waivers were invalid, yet the UASIO didn’t care. There were several investigations opened around the country at local FSDO’s, but HQ decided that operating BVLOS on invalid waivers from September 2018 to December 2019 was, well, no problemo.
The sad part of this Mulligan experiment is that pathfinding PHawk still couldn’t get the proof of concept drones as a servicio business model to pencil even while operating outside of the Part 107 regulations for over a year. (Shucks, maybe we should investigate?) Hard to assure (one more gilded consulting boondoggle) the requirements when the responsible party listed on the waiver doesn’t work there anymore. I can see the meeting now down at the FAA UASIO. I know boss, let’s make the CEO of the PHawk chair of the DAC. Phawk was the first company to get a BVLOS waiver, and we have been collecting all of that “data” every month that we told people we needed to integrate drones safely into the NAS! That will show folks that we are fair and aboveboard with, and our checks and balances are in place, and this office runs like a Swiss watch! Was due diligence exercised with a phone call, or maybe the UASIO isn’t getting the data they need?
I finally got a copy of the waiver investigation report, which I will be writing a story about soon. Anyone working on securing a waiver (besides the feel-good night operations), or involved in FAA enforcement action will not want to miss that one.
LAANC has really opened up the sky for everyone. The FAA creates problems for themselves to spend millions of dollars on and years stalling. In this instance, expanding the buffer around airports from 3 miles to 5 miles and implementing a program that the DoT IG is a security poop-show. No security worries about RID, and as a kicker, the appclowns say it will be free. ;-)
COVID19 and drones
Did anyone else get included on the UASIO email chain for LE appeal for expedited waivers for the use of drones during the pandemic? I heard about this story second hand. The way it was conveyed to me was that Junket Boy was talking down to LE. It might make one even think he believes that first responders are cake-eaters (or bag-holders) worthy of being unceremoniously lumped in with the selfie-droners and Best Buy flyers. The good news is that things got turned around after some inspirational calls to the manager’s office. The boys around the country got their free Chinese drones and lavished that commie totalitarian stuff on the American people until they said no mas!
By now, you have probably read to the erroneous headlines at the selfie-droner sites and huckster news outlets bemoaning how the pandemic has wrecked a vibrant drone industry. I’m not saying it hasn’t been detrimental, but folks who were golfing buddies with Obama were selling controlling interest in their companies for cashflow money before the pandemic. Still, this industry was on the ropes, and that was directly attributable to years of hard work and progress made by your favorite civil aviation authority, a Chinese toy company involved in rulemaking, and appclown hipsters. The solutions are simple; do yourself a favor and quit being a rube! ;-)
On the Tweeter at the @TheDroneDealer but it is a snowflake free zone.