SkyTek Series: Droning on about safety

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SkyTek Series: Droning on about safety

As drones proliferate across our skies, FTI continues to set its sights on the world of drone-related business and policy. Today, we take a look at some interesting snapshots pertaining to drone safety and security.

FTI’s TMT team routinely analyzes and evaluates conversation and events in the nascent drone space, posting content we hope will prove to be a valuable resource on UAV information that connect the dots between technology, policy and business.


SAFETY | Drones have become semi-regular guests at the ballparks these days. That has put the federal government, local police forces and security think tanks on alert, trying to catch up to the technology and figure out how to prevent the hard-to-stop devices from doing major damage. Drone crashes, two days apart, at the U.S. Open in New York and before a Kentucky football game, made news earlier this month. But over the past two years, more than 50 unmanned aircrafts have flown over Major League Baseball and NFL stadiums, coming and going quietly – usually controlled by a hobbyist who either lost control of the device or wanted a picture of their favorite team in action.


SAFETY | The U.K. is interested in developing and testing a tracking system that would allow officials to monitor all civilian drones flying at low altitudes (under 500 feet). The system may require drone operators to register their flight plans and follow a set of rules similar to those already in place for managing automobile traffic. Once in flight, the drone would be tracked possibly using the existing cell phone infrastructure as it moved along its route. Drone operators concerned about major changes to their hobby can rest easy for now as NASA is not expected to have a working prototype traffic management system in place until 2019.


SAFETY/SECURITY | In India, aerial vehicles will keep a watch on Maoists and criminals during Bihar assembly election. Five unmanned aerial vehicles connected to different base stations will hover 1,500 to 2,000 meters above the booths and sensitive zones. The drones will beam live video feeds to the base stations which will be manned by security experts who will then take necessary steps with the use of forces on the ground.


PUBLIC SAFETY/SECURITY | Halifax firefighters may soon carry an extra piece of apparatus when they respond to an emergency – an aerial drone — but it would have to satisfy the federal government first. The region’s largest fire department has issued a request for proposals to evaluate purchasing remotely-operated aerial drones. The department still has to work out a protocol with Transport Canada, which regulates drone use. It also requires advanced notice for all non-recreational use commercial activity.


PUBLIC SAFETY/SECURITY | A drone flying over a Utah wildfire burning near Deer Creek Reservoir grounded firefighting planes as the blaze spread to 740 acres, forestry officials said Sept. 9. The small unmanned craft grounded all the aircraft fighting the fire from the air for an hour and forced a plane to dump a load of fire retardant, said Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands spokesman Jason Curry.


There have been recent developments with drone technology at the state level:


PUBLIC SAFETY | A revised bill to restrict drone flights in county parks by limiting areas where they can be used was filed late Sept. 8  to overcome flaws that led to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s veto of the original measure late last month. The compromise proposal, forged by administration aides and legislative sponsors Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) and William Spencer (D-Centerport), is broader and imposes steeper fines than the earlier version. It uses public safety, not privacy, as the legal basis for the law to make it more defensible in court.


There have been recent developments with drone technology at the federal level:


SECURITY | Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is moving to require drone manufacturers to include geo-fencing technology that would prohibit devices from flying over restricted areas in newly-built devices. Sen. Schumer is planning to introduce an amendment to a must-pass spending bill for the FAA to mandate technology that would shut off drones if they fly near commercial airports and other restricted airspaces. On Sept. 14, Sen. Schumer said that the technology “takes human error out of the equation” for drone flights, which the FAA is in the process of developing regulations for.


SAFETY/SECURITY | On Sept. 11, The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a document that provides the NTSB’s interpretation of the applicability of the agency’s regulations concerning aircraft accident notification requirements to unmanned aircraft. The regulations define ‘‘unmanned aircraft accident’’ and require notifications of accidents that fulfill the criteria included in the definition. By this notice, the NTSB clarifies it does not consider model aircraft to fall within the regulatory definition of unmanned aircraft accident, for, for purposes of required certification.


Recent developments within FAA regarding use of drones:


SAFETY/SECURITY | The FAA is preparing to have airspace locked down pretty tight in D.C., New York and Philadelphia during Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. this month. And the agency is already sending out warnings that drones and radio-controlled model aircraft are absolutely off limits in those cities from Sept. 22 through Sept. 27. “If you plan to attend any of the Papal visit events, please leave your drone at home,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta has said in written statements, audio bites and agency video clips.


SAFETY/SECURITY | In August, the FAA released a report entitled; “Pilot Reports Of Close Calls With Drones,” that illustrates drone spottings in the air by airline pilots have dramatically increased this year. FAA officials said there were more than 650 such sightings reported by pilots so far this year nationally. For commercial drone operators, stories in the national media about drones pestering human pilots have become frustrating because the commercial operators say they’re getting lumped in with the amateurs. Brent Klavon is President of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International for the Florida Peninsula chapter and said recreational drone users are getting out of hand.

Sylvie Barak
As a former tech and hardware reporter, ex-military spokesperson and digital content specialist, Sylvie drives much of the sector’s most front-line work with reporters and key online audiences. An excellent writer and tactician, she also brings many of our campaigns to life.

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