Everyone Freaked Out About the Gyrocopter
The pilot was a mailman on a flying bicycle, not a terrorist
On April 15, Florida man Doug Hughes landed on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building in an ultralight gyrocopter. Hughes — a U.S. Postal Service worker — was delivering letters to every member of Congress in a theatrical act of protest against the influence of big money in politics.
He flew through restricted air space — a federal crime. Heavily armed police quickly responded. They detained the 61-year-old Navy veteran and shouted at onlookers to run away. Authorities dispatched a bomb squad, which subsequently found nothing.
Hughes spent more than two years planning his act of civil disobedience, during which he claimed the U.S. Secret Service twice visited him. That obviously didn’t deter him. His flight began in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania — flying across two states over two hours — and straight into the heart of American political power.
“I don’t believe that the authorities are going to shoot down a 61-year-old mailman in a flying bicycle,” he told the Tampa Bay Times before his flight. “I don’t have any defense, okay, but I don’t believe that anybody wants to personally take responsibility for the fallout.”
Now cue a short-term national freakout. Hughes’ daring aerial maneuver stunned congressional members. Several lawmakers expressed shock that nobody was able to stop him.
Some said that Hughes exposed a vulnerability that terrorists might not have considered. “All this sends the wrong signal to our enemies,” Arizona Rep. Martha McSally told CNN.
Though this incident should cause us to think creatively about what threats we could face, we need to put it into context.
Ultimately, nothing truly bad happened — and a guy with a gyrocopter just wanted us to talk about campaign finance reform.
Above — a drug-smuggling ultralight in 2008. Chuck Holton/Flickr photo. At top — a bomb squad technician at the Washington D.C. gyrocopter on April 15, 2015. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP photo
The stunt worked because gyrocopters and other ultralights are extremely difficult to pick up on most radar systems. They’re small, fly at low altitude and at low speeds.
They’re also relatively cheap and often much quieter than other aircraft. It’s their very simplicity that makes it hard for high-tech detection systems to track them.
In recent years, that’s made ultralight aircraft a favorite of Mexican cartels for smuggling illicit drug shipments across the southwestern border. The aircraft, some of them homemade contraptions — such as the one depicted above — have vexed both federal and local authorities in the border states.
Government agencies have spent millions of dollars putting systems in place to track smugglers using these aircraft. But there hasn’t been a lot of thought about their use for potential attacks.
So how worried should we be?
On Feb. 18, 2010, software consultant Andrew Joseph Stack flew a single-engine Piper Dakota into an Internal Revenue Service office in Austin, Texas. Two people died — Stack and 68-year-old IRS employee Vernon Hunter. Though tragic, the attack was far from catastrophic.
If an ultralight such as a gyrocopter — a much smaller and lighter aircraft — were to hit the Capitol building or the White House, it would likely bounce off. Such an attempt might wind up killing or injuring the pilot — and maybe cause a slight repair bill on the targeted property.
But some commentators have suggested that Hughes could have been carrying weapons or bombs.
The idea of a terrorist strapped in a suicide vest, suddenly dropping out of the sky is indeed frightening. In a lot of ways these aircraft could spread chaos and panic.
But dropping from the sky also draws a lot of attention. Even though police didn’t shoot Hughes, they easily could have. “Had it gotten any closer to the speaker’s balcony they have long guns to take it down,” Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said.
There’s a reason bombers more often than not use cars and trucks — because they’re a lot more subtle, practical and dangerous.
On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh blew up a rental truck packed with ammonium nitrate in Oklahoma City. He killed 168 people and injured more than 680 in the second-deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history.
It’s true that we need to think creatively about threats. If 9/11 taught us anything, it’s that terrorists can be very creative. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to rule out the ridiculous or the insane.
Buy ‘Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces.’
Since then, Congress has spent countless dollars on homeland defense. We’ve outfitted law enforcement with a staggering amount of military hardware. The federal government created a massive domestic surveillance network.
But there are still things we don’t understand and things we can’t predict … and there always will be. You can’t be 100 percent on guard all of the time.
We can’t let fear of the highly unlikely dictate national policy and the way we live our lives. Unless you want to shoot a mailman in a flying bicycle.
by KEVIN KNODELL
Proposed bridge plan
By Victoria Cavaliere
SEATTLE, April 10 (Reuters) – A Washington state lawmaker looking to ease traffic congestion for several Puget Sound-area communities near Seattle has proposed building an eye-catching new toll bridge made from retired Navy aircraft carriers.
Republican Representative Jesse Young has been gathering support among colleagues and the public for the planned span, which would link Bremerton and Port Orchard on the Kitsap Peninsula, spokesman Kevin Shutty said on Friday.
“It’s a bottleneck area and for a number of years people have been looking for some solutions,” Shutty said.
“This would definitely be a unique way to tackle some of those problems, but at the same time it would serve as a floating memorial to veterans and the sacrifice they have given to our country.”
The area near where the proposed bridge would be built includes a U.S. Navy base and naval hospital, and it is home to many retired veterans from all arms of the military.
Young’s plan, in its early phases, proposes laying end-to-end at least two retired aircraft carriers moored at the naval shipyard in Bremerton, Shutty said.
Chris Johnson, a spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington D.C., said the plan was a longshot because neither of those ships were available, and all such ships decommissioned in the future are scheduled to be scrapped.
Shutty acknowledged there were hurdles, but said the feasibility study would determine whether the project was a real possibility.
“It’s a novel concept,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of public support at least for exploring the idea.”
The state Senate is expected to vote on funding the feasibility study in the next two weeks, he said. (Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Daniel Wallis and David Gregorio)
© 2015 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.
Drones are coming
The Drones are Coming
2015-03-01, Feature, by Richard J. Dolesh
Christopher Vo, left, and Ted Markson fly quadcopters on the intramural fields at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.
Virtually anyone who has flown a quadcopter or other modern drone will say that they are a blast to fly. Drones combine the cool factor of impressive technology, the excitement of unmanned flight and the thrill of exploration, all in one amazingly simple and easy-to-operate package. Whether you fly alone, with friends or with your kids, flying drones is just plain fun.<p>
But drones aren’t only about fun. They will have an impact on virtually every aspect of our lives from agriculture to energy, scientific research, conservation, public safety and more. Drones have been labeled “disruptive technology,” and held up as avatars of the mythical “billion-fold improvements” that have taken place in computing, imaging, aeronautics, medicine and other fields. Drones will come to shape our lives every bit as much as cellphones, tablet computers and other game-changing technology.
Futurists are abuzz with speculation that you will soon have your Amazon packages or Papa John’s pizzas delivered to your door by drones. Mainstream media outlets breathlessly report breaking-news stories about unauthorized or potentially dangerous drones, such as the recent story of an errant drone piloted by a possibly inebriated operator in Washington, D.C., who, while reportedly trying to impress a female friend at 3 a.m., flew his friend’s quadcopter from an apartment balcony a few blocks from the White House and crashed it on the White House grounds, causing major heartburn for the Secret Service.
Industry and media statistics on how many drones have been sold to the public differ slightly, but the sales totals almost defy belief. Hobby and commercial drones are reported to be selling at the rate of 15,000 or 16,000 per month, or almost 200,000 per year. That’s a lot of people who will be looking to get outdoors and fly their new drones. And where will these people want to fly their drones? Why, in the wide open spaces designed for outdoor recreation, of course — parks!
There is no doubt drones are coming, and they are likely to have a profound effect on parks and recreation. The public and commercial use of drones will present substantial challenges to park managers very soon and agencies will do well to be prepared for the coming wave.
The Allure of Drones
It is not difficult to understand why drones are becoming so popular. Flying a drone is a cool thing to do. The technology is amazing, the flying is exciting, and if there was ever a gadget that appealed to people’s imagination, drones would have to be near the top of the list.
Drones and quadcopters are also relatively inexpensive and easy to operate. But just as they are fun to fly, they are more than just cool toys. They represent a quantum leap in how technology can be used not just for personal enjoyment and enrichment, but also to expand human knowledge, aid research, fight environmental threats, save lives and much more. We haven’t even plumbed the depths of what drones might be able to do, but we are starting to see those scenarios take shape.
There may be challenges ahead related to public flying of drones in parks, but there are also tantalizing opportunities for park agencies to utilize drone technology to fulfill important conservation, natural resource management and public-safety responsibilities. These include search-and-rescue operations, wildfire control, managing threatened natural areas, mapping the spread of invasive species, monitoring remote park locations and others. Drones may be able to provide agencies substantial time and cost savings for a wide variety of tasks. There is no doubt that drones are already stimulating interest among park planners, GIS specialists, park managers, rangers and even recreation program staff. Some agencies are already making plans for how they might use drones.
From a recreational perspective, one of the most popular uses of hobby drones is for photography. New drones can carry high-resolution cameras with onboard image stabilization and other advances. “It’s all new,” says Eric Cheng, director of aerial imagery for DJI, one of the largest manufacturers of hobby and commercial drones in the world. In a recent interview, he said the ability of drones to facilitate extraordinary new ways to photograph objects and landscapes has provoked intense curiosity and public interest. “The view from right overhead is unique. Nobody has ever seen such photographs before, and you are taking them. It’s exhilarating.”
So what’s not to like about drones? Well, crashes, lost drones, operator errors, mechanical failures, privacy invasions and other undesirable consequences of inept or irresponsible drone flying, just to name a few reasons. Such outcomes are becoming an increasing concern of those responsible for public safety, not to mention the ever-present threat of a drone being used in a terrorist plot. There is already a compendium of hair-raising stories of near-misses or collisions with drones including reports of drones flying too close to aircraft or in other highly inappropriate locations. Reports of drones flying within 50 feet of commercial aircraft at New York City airports make some believe that a collision with an airliner is not a matter of if, but when.
Parks have not been exempt from problems created by irresponsibly piloted drones, including a number of high-profile incidents at iconic national parks such as Zion and Grand Canyon. A widely reported incident occurred at Mount Rushmore National Park when a hobby drone was launched from a parking lot, hovered over a crowd of 1,500 people gathered for an evening program at the monument, and then flew over and around the four sculpted heads before being flown back to the parking lot. Other public complaints about inappropriate or unauthorized use of drones have been received by the National Park Service (NPS), including harassment of wildlife, noise at iconic scenic viewing points and drone crashes in parks.
Jeffrey Olson, public affairs officer for NPS, says that the prohibition on unmanned aircraft in national parks issued by Director Jon Jarvis in a policy memo last June was “basically a timeout.” The ban on new drone flying was prompted by public complaints concerning incidents similar to what happened at Mount Rushmore. NPS management policies call for careful consideration of any “new form of recreation,” which drone flying clearly is, and the impact of this activity has not been evaluated. The administrative action will trigger a review of existing and proposed policies and will lead to a Notice of Proposed Regulation, a process that is likely to take about 18 months, according to Olson.
Incidents from rogue operators or inexperienced pilots are not the only concern. Privacy advocates, industrial and national security experts, and law enforcement officials are very concerned about the potential use of drones in terrorist plots or other criminal activity. Drones are starting to be a concern at virtually every large-scale public event that someone might want to observe or photograph, such as a drone that buzzed Chicago Park District’s Lollapalooza Festival last year. The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) even went so far as to declare the 2015 Super Bowl a “No Drone Zone,” and issued an advisory to enjoy the game, but “leave your drone at home.”
Concerns about drones range from the relatively minor annoyance of crashes in open areas to the very deep concern regarding bad behavior by pilots whose ignorance or dangerous operation of drones can literally endanger people’s lives. Many drone enthusiasts are concerned about rogue operators giving all operators a black eye. “The rogues are outliers,” according to Jon Resnick, policy and marketing representative for DJI. Christopher Vo, president of the DC Area Drone User Group, says, “There are a lot of people who are interested in flying safely and who just want to find places to fly.”
Nonetheless, there are still many concerns about drones from a variety of quarters, especially park agencies that many expect to be on the front lines of managing public flying of hobby drones. Vo agrees that crashes and uncontrolled descents are an issue. “Everyone who gets their first drone and takes it out to fly will crash — that’s almost a guarantee,” he says. “But it is not necessarily a problem, just a reality. The solution is user education about where it is safe to fly and to not fly near buildings or over private property.” Technology improvements, says Vo, such as inexpensive onboard infrared sensors and downward-facing cameras will help measure changes in speed and assist automatic hold, takeoff and landing. “It is also why the industry is trying to make drones lighter, stronger and safer,” he says.
Vo points out that how a drone is flown is a factor in how safe it is. There are two principal methods of piloting drones, First-Person-View (FPV) and Line-of-Sight flying. In FPV flight, the operator flies the aircraft through the lens of an onboard camera. Some think this is a largely unsafe way to fly, and that hobby drones should be only be flown by line-of-sight with a spotter present at all times the drone is in operation.
Rules Not Well Understood; Guidance Lacking
With the large numbers of hobby drones being purchased daily and intense interest in commercial use growing, it is perplexing that there is so little understanding of exactly what the federal rules are for operating drones. The FAA regulates all U.S. airspace and there are strict rules for any type of aircraft flying above 500 feet. The rules governing unmanned aircraft systems, however, have been criticized for being seriously out of date.
Commercially flown drones present a different set of issues than hobby drones. Guidance for the operation of both commercial and hobby drones has been long-awaited and significantly overdue. At present, virtually all commercial use of drones is currently prohibited without a very difficult-to-obtain Certificate of Authorization (COA), but few rules govern hobby drones. Since sophisticated and versatile hobby drones can be purchased easily and without licensing requirements to operate them, not many people know what is actually allowed and what is prohibited by law.
Just before publication of this edition of Parks & Recreation magazine, the details of a Notice of Proposed Regulation by the FAA for commercial drone use were inadvertently posted online, and the FAA was essentially forced to release the entire proposal over a holiday weekend. To the commercial drone user’s relief, the proposed regulations are being viewed as reasonable. They would not require operators to have a pilot’s license as some had feared, and the training and costs to obtain a required FAA operator’s certificate would not be prohibitive. Other proposed restrictions include a 500-foot ceiling, operation by line-of-sight only, and no flying above any people except those involved with the drone flight, such as a spotter. So, damp your expectations — no drone pizza deliveries to your door for now. The 60-day public comment period has now closed. The review and rule-making is expected to take up to two years. Cheng believes the FAA will need to issue some interim guidance for commercial users before the proposed rule becomes final, however, because there is such interest from potential commercial users for innovation and applications.
The recent FAA announcement indicated that guidance on hobby drones will be issued in the near future. The Academy of Model Aeronautics has advocated for more education and user training of drone operators and has supported the idea that hobby drone operators be required to obtain an operator’s certificate or become a part of an organized model aircraft club.
If FAA-proposed rules do require hobby drone operators to be part of an organized club as some expect, there is likely to be an uptick in the membership of local model airplane clubs and drone user groups accompanied by an increasing demand for more public spaces in which to fly drones. But solutions may not be simple. It is true that many park and recreation agencies have a long history of providing model aircraft clubs space to fly radio-controlled planes, but virtually none are prepared for drone users. In addition, some park managers who currently provide parkland for radio-control clubs believe that flying fixed-wing RC planes and quadcopters on the same fields is not workable or desirable. This may mean that there will be new demands for drone-flying areas and that park agencies will need to expand the search for suitable spaces for this purpose.
Policies for Public Flying in Parks Unformulated
While the popularity of drones is growing exponentially, the awareness of park and recreation agency personnel who will need to manage them is not. In response to a query on NRPA Connect, a number of park administrators said their agencies either had no policies on drones or that they were unaware of any if they did.
One conclusion was clear from conversations with park agencies across the country: Those park agency personnel who have not anticipated the boom in public drone flying will be caught unprepared both on a policy level and a management level. An important lesson is emerging — if your agency hasn’t started thinking about how to manage drones, it’s time to start thinking about it now.
Those agencies that react with blanket prohibitions on drone flying will find them difficult to enforce and they will do a disservice to people who are just looking for a place to safely recreate. Decades of successful experience providing space for model airplane fliers have shown that park agencies can and do accommodate this kind of outdoor recreation compatibly with other activities.
Vo says, “Most of our users are law-abiding and only want to fly. But a lot of us who want to fly safely and responsibly simply don’t have any places to fly. A lot of park agencies turn us down because they just don’t want to deal with us.” The good news for drone users like Vo is that some agencies are expressing willingness to consider how they could accommodate the drone-flying public.
Many Agencies Anticipate Using Drones Themselves
Even if some agencies are unprepared for public drone use, quite a few are thinking about how they might use drones for a variety of management, monitoring, mapping and public safety applications.
The requirements for obtaining a COA from the FAA to use unmanned aircraft systems for governmental or research purposes are quite rigorous, but Cleveland Metroparks (CMP) was willing go the distance, said Brian Zimmerman, executive director of CMP. “When we saw the potential, we never wavered,” he said. They have obtained a COA for a research project to monitor the Rising Valley wetlands complex, the largest freshwater wetlands in their park system.
Stephen Mather, geographic information systems supervisor, says that to map and study the wetlands is extremely time-consuming and difficult to accomplish. By employing a small fixed-wing drone, they will be able to do 3D mapping of surface topography and plant communities as well as track the spread of invasive species, monitor stormwater events, and create other datasets in real time to better manage and protect this valuable wetland. “We will also use the drone on a forest restoration project, and we hope to use it to do an ongoing assessment of shoreline infrastructure along Lake Erie,” Mather says. “With resolution accurate to within an inch, we can create 3D maps of new construction and monitor its condition over time.”
The Future of Drones in Parks
Cheng of DJI says, “We are in the earliest stages of drone technology and it is literally improving daily.” According to Cheng, there will be reliable, redundant return-home programming; mandatory no-fly software to prevent flying in federally designated no-fly zones; more autonomy and self-aware behavior; “follow-me” technology; and much more safety-related decision-making capability. “There is no reason that a drone should ever fly into a tree or building, and every drone will have sufficient power to return home.”
What’s on the horizon for drones in parks? Well, consider that drone fliers are already envisioning drone racing just like the old air races of the 1950s. Fly-ins, drone-building workshops and educational programs for drone users are already in the minds of forward-looking parks personnel. And the potential applications of commercial, hobby and agency-operated drones are mind-expanding. Hummingbird and nano-drones could aid in citizen science projects and enhance STEM learning opportunities for teens and adults. And what kid (under adult supervision of course) wouldn’t want to get connected to nature and the outdoors using a drone to observe and discover our natural world?
When asked if he could ever envision a future in which drone use in national parks could be common, Olson says, “Yes, probably, but the question will be where such use would be approved.”
So, what would the ideal future look like for users? Vo says, “Ideally, there would be park sites set aside for model aviation and open to users to fly their aircraft. There would be a way for users to communicate with park managers about what they were permitted to do and what they wanted to do. There would be a way for them to query the park managers about conditions and to be able to schedule times to fly. And there would be times and places where we could be able to educate others.” Possible? We’ll see.
Richard J. Dolesh is NRPA’s Vice President of Conservation and Parks.
I was unaware of any such thing as a compressed air powered airplane model but how about one made in 1914? I found this story on PR Web:
The National Model Aviation Museum, located at the International Aeromodeling Center in Muncie, IN, is thrilled to announce that the Intermuseum Conservation Association (ICA) has completed the restoration of the Bing Autoplan. This exceptional aircraft is now on display at the museum, and is now the oldest original model airplane in its collection.
The National Model Aviation Museum, located at the International Aeromodeling Center in Muncie, IN, is thrilled to announce that the Intermuseum Conservation Association (ICA) has completed the restoration of the Bing Autoplan. This exceptional aircraft is now on display at the museum, and is now the oldest original model airplane in its collection.
During the early years of aeromodeling, most airplanes were powered with rubber-powered motors, but some builders used compressed-air models when they wanted to have a “real” reciprocating engine to power the airplane. Although the compressed-air models attracted attention throughout the model airplane community, they were expensive, fragile, and did not perform well.
The National Model Aviation Museum has always wanted to acquire and display a compressed-air model, but because the aircraft are delicate, they seldom survive intact. Thanks to the generous donation by Dick Moyer, however, the museum can now display an original model. Additional information about the restoration is available on the National Model Aviation Museum blog.
The Bing Autoplan on display was manufactured in Germany circa 1914 by the Bing Toy Company—the largest toy business in the world in the early 20th century. Although the company was primarily known for producing toy trains and ships, it began manufacturing a variety of model airplanes including rubber-powered, pull-string, and compressed-air models. The Great Depression caused a decline in sales and the company was forced to close for good in 1933.
The ICA put in many hours of hard work to restore the compressed-air model airplane. The restoration included cleaning the metal framework, the compressed-air tank, and the wheels. To match the original airplane, linen was stitched to the wings and tail. To keep the aircraft as authentic as possible, the tank was not repainted and the existing dents and scratches were not removed. Unfortunately, the original guy wires were too damaged to use so new wires had to be made.
A museum volunteer is working on full-scale drawings of the model airplane that will soon be available through AMA Plans Service.,p.
The Academy of Model Aeronautics, founded in 1936, continues to be devoted to national airspace safety. It serves as the nation’s collective voice for approximately 175,000 modelers in 2,400 clubs in the United States and Puerto Rico. Headquartered in Muncie, Indiana, AMA is a membership organization representing those who fly model aircraft for recreation and educational purposes.
autoplan aircraft model powered by compressed air
After much back and forth about proposed rules for drone’s this latest story breaks drone’s into three categories by weight which makes the most sense to come out so far. Please read on and use the links below to add your opinion.
The FAA proposal offers safety rules for small UAS (under 55 pounds) conducting non-recreational operations. The rule would limit flights to daylight and visual-line-of-sight operations. It also addresses height restrictions, operator certification, optional use of a visual observer, aircraft registration and marking, and operational limits.
The proposed rule also includes extensive discussion of the possibility of an additional, more flexible framework for micro UAS under 4.4 pounds. The FAA is asking the public to comment on this possible classification to determine whether it should include this option as part of a final rule. The FAA is also asking for comment about how the agency can further leverage the UAS test site program and an upcoming UAS Center of Excellence to further spur innovation at innovation zones.
The public will be able to comment on the proposed regulation for 60 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register, which can be found at www.regulations.gov. Separate from this proposal, the FAA intends to hold public meetings to discuss innovation and opportunities at the test sites and Center of Excellence. These meetings will be announced in a future Federal Register notice.
Technology is advancing at an unprecedented pace and this milestone allows federal regulations and the use of our national airspace to evolve to safely accommodate innovation, said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
The proposed rule would require an operator to maintain visual line of sight of a small UAS. The rule would allow, but not require, an operator to work with a visual observer who would maintain constant visual contact with the aircraft. The operator would still need to be able to see the UAS with unaided vision (except for glasses). The FAA is asking for comments on whether the rules should permit operations beyond line of sight, and if so, what the appropriate limits should be.
We have tried to be flexible in writing these rules, said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. We want to maintain todays outstanding level of aviation safety without placing an undue regulatory burden on an emerging industry.
Under the proposed rule, the person actually flying a small UAS would be an operator. An operator would have to be at least 17 years old, pass an aeronautical knowledge test and obtain an FAA UAS operator certificate. To maintain certification, the operator would have to pass the FAA knowledge tests every 24 months. A small UAS operator would not need any further private pilot certifications (i.e., a private pilot license or medical rating).
The new rule also proposes operating limitations designed to minimize risks to other aircraft and people and property on the ground:
• A small UAS operator must always see and avoid manned aircraft. If there is a risk of collision, the UAS operator must be the first to maneuver away.
• The operator must discontinue the flight when continuing would pose a hazard to other aircraft, people or property.
• A small UAS operator must assess weather conditions, airspace restrictions and the location of people to lessen risks if he or she loses control of the UAS.
• A small UAS may not fly over people, except those directly involved with the flight.
• Flights should be limited to 500 feet altitude and no faster than 100 mph.
• Operators must stay out of airport flight paths and restricted airspace areas, and obey any FAA Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs).
The proposed rule maintains the existing prohibition against operating in a careless or reckless manner. It also would bar an operator from allowing any object to be dropped from the UAS.
Operators would be responsible for ensuring an aircraft is safe before flying, but the FAA is not proposing that small UAS comply with current agency airworthiness standards or aircraft certification. For example, an operator would have to perform a preflight inspection that includes checking the communications link between the control station and the UAS. Small UAS with FAA-certificated components also could be subject to agency airworthiness directives.
The new rules would not apply to model aircraft. However, model aircraft operators must continue to satisfy all of the criteria specified in Sec. 336 of Public Law 112-95, including the stipulation that they be operated only for hobby or recreational purposes. Generally speaking, the new rules would not apply to government aircraft operations, because we expect that these government operations will typically continue to actively operate under the Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) process unless the operator opts to comply with and fly under the new small UAS regulations.
In addition to this proposal, earlier today, the White House issued a Presidential Memorandum concerning transparency, accountability, and privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties protections for the Federal Governments use of UAS in the national airspace system which directs the initiation of a multi-stakeholder engagement process to develop a framework for privacy, accountability, and transparency issues concerning commercial and private UAS use.
The current unmanned aircraft rules remain in place until the FAA implements a final new rule. The FAA encourages new operators to visit: http://www.knowbeforeyoufly.org
You can view the FAAs Small UAS Notice of Proposed Rulemaking later today at:
An overview of the Small UAS rule can be viewed at:
For more information on the FAA and UAS, visit:
6 Rotor Drone aircraft model
(UAS) in todays aviation system, while maintaining flexibility to accommodate future technological innovations.
Now that the first case has made it to court, the results for model Aircraft pilots is not good. Read the story below to get an idea of where this is headed.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration reached a settlement with the videographer to whom it issued its first fine for reckless drone use, ending a court case that challenged the government’s authority to regulate unmanned aircraft.
Raphael Pirker agreed on Thursday to pay the FAA $1,100 to settle the agency’s $10,000 fine for allegedly flying a drone recklessly to film the University of Virginia in 2011. Under the settlement terms, Mr. Pirker doesn’t admit to guilt and the FAA agreed to drop some of its accusations against Mr. Pirker.
The FAA declined to elaborate beyond the details of the settlement.
Mr. Pirker’s attorney Brendan Schulman said his client decided to settle because the length of time needed to finish the case and recent comments by the FAA “have diminished the utility of the case to assist the commercial drone industry in its regulatory struggle.” The FAA has said its authority to regulate drones stems from a 2012 statute that post-dates Mr. Pirker’s flight.
The FAA fined Mr. Pirker, a dual national of Austria and Switzerland, in 2012. The case gained attention after a federal administrative law judge ruled this past March that Mr. Pirker’s plastic-foam drone was a model aircraft and thus not subject to FAA rules for manned aircraft. The decision cast doubt on the FAA’s authority to regulate drones.
In November, the National Transportation Safety Board overturned that decision and ruled that drones are aircraft and subject to aviation laws, affirming the FAA’s regulatory power over the devices.
The FAA has effectively banned the commercial use of drones until it completes rules for the devices in the next several years. However, the agency has issued fines only against people who allegedly operate the devices carelessly or recklessly.
Since its initial fine against Mr. Pirker, the FAA has proposed civil penalties against four other people for operating drones recklessly.
Write to Jack Nicas at email@example.com
This Chart Shows The Staggering Hourly Cost Of Operating US Military Aircraft
The following graphic, courtesy of The Atlantic, highlights the disparity in flight hour costs for various aircraft currently in the US fleet.
High Airfare? Click Image to Enlarge
The US military is set replace many of its aircraft with planes that cost substantially more to operate by the hour.
James Fallows, a national correspondent for The Atlantic, noted in a recent cover story for the magazine that costly military projects of questionable worth are becoming increasingly spread throughout congressional districts across the country. This means that projects such as the astronomically expensive F-35 become too politically sensitive to ever cancel, even if the planes themselves aren’t cost-effective once they make it to the air.
Aside from the Predator drone’s Reaper model, the A-10 Thunderbolt II is the cheapest aircraft to operate in terms of both flight hours and individual procurement costs. The A-10′s low costs are due to the plane’s rugged but functional structural designs.
Built like a flying tank for maximum survivability, the A-10 can be serviced even at remote or less-equipped bases and facilities, since a majority of the aircraft’s parts are interchangeable — including the engines.
The A-10′s low price tag and operating costs is antithetical to its proposed replacement, the F-35. Envisioned as a Jack-of-all-trades-type plane capable of a vast range of combat functions, the F-35 embodies the military’s drive towards having a single aircraft that can complete the full variety of possible missions.
Ideally, this focus on multi-role aircraft was meant to drive down overall operating costs. The F-35 would eliminate the need for more specialised and harder-to-maintain aircraft. Meanwhile, ta large F-35 fleet size would mean the military would have the expertise and the materials needed to efficiently maintain the aircraft.
Things haven’t gone so smoothly. The F-35′s per hour flight costs are almost triple those of the A-10. This is partially due to the lack of an efficient supply-chain for the aircraft, something that should be sorted out over the coming years. However, the costs also reflect the generally more expensive maintenance that the F-35 requires due to the aircraft’s perhaps overly complicated technology and lacking of interchangeable parts.
The Air Force has tried repeatedly to eliminate the A-10 for budgetary reasons. However, Congress has consistently moved to intervene on the Warthog’s behalf, saving it from the rust heap, at least for now.
Courtesy of Business Insider Australia
As more Drones get into the hands of non pilot’s pilots and the public are slightly worried about the possible accidents that could occur. I own a small drone with a camera and I can say it is really fun. But I can also say that it can get away from you and there is not much you can do about it. It could be because I am a rookie pilot but I can imagine what a more powerful model could do.
Alarmed by increasing encounters between small drones and manned aircraft, drone industry officials said Monday they are teaming up with the government and model aircraft hobbyists to launch a safety campaign.
Drone carrying a cooler
The campaign includes a website — www.knowbeforeyoufly.com — which advises both recreational and commercial drone operators of FAA regulations and how to fly their unmanned aircraft safely. The campaign was announced by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International and the Small UAV Coalition, both industry trade groups, and the Academy of Model Aeronautics, which represents model aircraft hobbyists, in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration.
The two industry trade groups also said they plan to distribute safety pamphlets at industry events, and are working with drone manufacturers to see that safety information is enclosed inside the package of new drones.
Retailers say small drones, which are indistinguishable from today’s more sophisticated model aircraft, are flying off the shelves this Christmas.
“In just a few days, kids old and young will unwrap presents, and many of them — maybe tens of thousands — will have unmanned aircraft,” Michael Toscano, president of the unmanned vehicle association, said in a conference call with reporters. “This technology is very accessible and in very high demand, but information on how to fly safety isn’t readily available. That’s why we’ve created this safety campaign.”
The FAA is concerned that amateurs are using the drones in a reckless manner, increasing the likelihood of a collision that could bring down a plane or rain debris down on people. The agency has been receiving about 25 reports per month this year of drones sighted flying near manned aircraft or airports, up from just a handful of reports two years ago.
“This is an issue of growing concern,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “The price of unmanned aircraft has come down and this newer and more powerful technology is more affordable to more people, yet many are not familiar with the rules of flying.”
Small drones are available today for as little as a few hundred dollars. As of the end of 2013, about 1 million small drones had been sold worldwide for recreational and commercial use, according to industry estimates. Sales this year are expected to significantly outdistance previous tallies. Catalogs like Hammacher Schlemmer and Brookstone have prominently featured small drones this Christmas, while online retailer Amazon is offering more than a dozen different models priced from as little as $30 to nearly $3,000.
“Many of these operators have no aviation history, background or knowledge,” Margaret Gilligan, FAA’s associate administrator for safety, told a recent forum hosted by the Air Line Pilots Association. “They think they just bought something fun that they just want to fly around. They don’t for a moment think, ‘I’m entering the national airspace system.’ “
Such operators don’t intend to interfere with manned aircraft, but “they just don’t know what they don’t know,” she said.
In response to safety concerns, Amazon created a special webpage on it’s website with safety information for drone customers. Many small drones can only fly as high as a few hundred feet, which keeps them below most manned aircraft. But some drones on the market are capable of reaching altitudes as high as 18,000 feet — the start of “class A” airspace where most passenger and cargo airlines cruise.
Ben Berman, an airline captain who flies Boeing 737s, told the same forum that “the current situation is out of control.”
In September, a New York Police Department helicopter had a near-miss with a drone. The pilots of a regional airliner recently reported spotting a drone 500 feet to 1,000 feet off the plane’s right side during a landing approach to runway 4 of the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport in South Carolina. The drone was described as the size of a large bird. The pilots of another regional airliner flying at about 10,000 feet reported seeing at least one drone pass less than 500 feet above the plane, moving slowly to the south toward Allegheny County Airport near Pittsburgh.
“An education campaign on Amazon.com is not adequate,” Berman said. “Yes, if my aircraft goes down and we are mourning something strong will happen, but we can’t allow that to happen to me or anybody else.”
The near-misses and other close encounters may not be entirely the fault of drone operators. Nicholas Roy, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who has advised Google on drone technology, told a recent House hearing that “the vast majority of small (drones) are basically toy aircraft … with the same reliability of a toy.”
Could a prop plane out do an A-10 Warthog? Our government thought that it could save alot of money by giving it a try. They actually had the theory tested.
The U.S. Air Force has a complicated relationship with its low- and slow-flying A-10 Warthog attack jet. And that’s putting it mildly. The flying branch has tried more than once to retire the ungainly A-10 in favor of speedier planes, only for lawmakers to block the move.
But on at least one occasion, the Air Force actually defended the heavily-armored, gun-armed Warthog from an unlikely challenger—a modern version of the World War II P-51 Mustang that Congress for some reason really loved.
In 1979, Congress demanded the Air Force test out the tiny Piper PA-48 Enforcer light attack plane—a derivative of the then-39-year-old P-51—as cheaper alternative to the A-10, which was brand new at the time. Five years later, the air service put two Enforcers through their paces.
The test revealed that the Enforcer was clearly incapable of competing with the Warthog.
When they ordered the evaluation, American legislators did point out some real problems over at the Pentagon. “Congress expressed concern with the rising costs, increasing technological sophistication and decreasing readiness of tactical aircraft,” according to the official Enforcer test report, which we obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
The propeller-driven Enforcer promised to solve one of those problems. Piper claimed the plane would cost just a million dollars and be cheap to maintain.
Above and at top—one of the surviving Piper PA-48 Enforcers. Air Force photos
The PA-48 was cheap because it was simple. Like, World War II simple. The Enforcer actually began as the Turbo Mustang, which Cavalier Aircraft Corporation developed in the late 1960s with the P-51 as a starting point. More than a decade later, Cavalier sold the rights to Piper, which renamed the plane as the Enforcer.
The practically all-new aircraft married the Mustang’s basic shape to a powerful turboprop engine. The plane had a variety of other improvements and could carry a range of weapons on 10 underwing pylons.
The various enhancements and the plane’s low cost gave the Enforcer some surface appeal. But in reality, politics propelled the modernized Mustang. By the time the evaluation kicked off in 1984, the Air Force had already been dodging the Enforcer—and its designer David Lindsay—for a decade.
After selling the rights to the PA-48, Lindsay had shut down Cavalier to free up time for promoting the plane. In addition to his aviation interests, Lindsay was a newspaper owner and publisher.
“In the mid-1970s, Lindsay achieved considerable traction … through briefings given to the House and Senate Armed Services and Appropriations Committees,” says Air Force historian Brian Laslie.
“The Enforcer has impressive credentials,” a group of U.S. senators—including powerful South Carolina Republican Strom Thurmond—wrote in a letter to Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger in 1974.
In the 1960s, the Pentagon had bought Cavalier Mustangs for Bolivia. The U.S. Army also purchased a few examples for experiments. Cavalier also sold upgraded P-51s to El Salvador and Indonesia. In the waning years of the Vietnam War, the Air Force had even briefly considered sending Lindsay’s planes to America’s Southeast Asia allies.
On the basis of those sales and near-sales, the senators insisted that the Enforcer “should not be cast aside by service biases.”
“How can we afford not to take the final step and flight test this aircraft?” the lawmakers asked.
But the Air Force had just committed to buying the A-10. And political in-fighting had already forced a fly-off between the Warthog and the A-7 fighter-bomber. The flying branch was is no mood to hold yet another competition.
In spite of this hostility from his prospective customer, Lindsay continued to appeal to the Pentagon and Congress. Piper pitched the Enforcer to the Navy and Marine Corps, too.
“Some members of Congress considered offering the Enforcer to the Army if the Air Force refused,” Douglas Campbell writes in his book The Warthog and the Close Air Support Debate. But the Army was wary of that idea after spending years arguing with the Air Force over what kinds of aircraft the ground combat branch should be allowed to operate.
Fearing another caustic battle, Army officials declined to get involved with the PA-48 campaign.
When their Congressional advocates finally prevailed, Lindsay and Piper seemed caught off guard by the victory. Having crashed one of the two original Enforcer prototypes, the company decided to build two entirely new aircraft for the tests.
Piper spent three years getting the planes ready for their big day. Even so, the newly manufactured Mustangs—just five percent of the parts came from surplus P-51s—had serious problems.
For one, the Enforcers lacked propeller and pilot safety features that both the Pentagon and the Federal Aviation Administration required. But perhaps more importantly, the PA-48s could not safely carry the GPU-5 gun pod.
The pod contained a smaller version of the A-10’s fearsome 30-millimeter Gatling gun. The Air Force had originally built the pods in an abortive attempt to give fast-moving fighter jets the same destructive power as the Warthog.
Without the GPU-5s, the Enforcers had no guns at all.
Piper representatives promised they would fix these problems, but the Air Force insisted on evaluating the existing prototypes. The tests did not inspire any greater confidence in the design.
The flying branch did conclude the PA-48s were easy to operator and repair. But the aircraft were also under-powered and handled poorly with a full load of bombs and rockets.
Pilots also had trouble seeing targets because of the Piper’s long nose. The flyers couldn’t reliably hit anything if they were “unfamiliar with a target area,” the evaluators note in their report.
And while the aircraft were hard for heat-seekers and radars to track, the Enforcers had neither the speed nor the maneuverability to dodge surface-to-air missiles or enemy fighter planes, the official report points out.
Lastly, the single-engined attackers were almost dangerously fragile compared to the A-10. While a Warthog driver sat comfortably inside a tub of titanium armor, the Piper’s pilot had no more protection than his World War II counterparts.
True, the Enforcer was cheap. But so was the A-10—at least, when compared to other aircraft the Air Force was buying at the time.
The Warthog “was nowhere near as expensive … as the B-1 or F-15, whose respective per-unit costs were something over $60 million and $15 million,” Campbell writes.
“The A-10 … is not a sophisticated aircraft by any means,” according to Laslie
The Air Force concluded that the Piper plane possessed no meaningful advantages over the Warthog. “The Enforcer was antiquated even when compared to the A-10,” Laslie notes.
Lindsay never found a buyer for the PA-48. And having survived that challenge and others, today the A-10 continues to serve on the front lines of America’s wars. Maybe it was a waste of time but I can understand wanting to save money on aircraft. These A-10 aircraft are super expensive, however our guy’s deserve the best to keep us all safe from threats abroad.
A-10’s ready to go to work
Piper PA-48 Enforcers
I bought a small Drone for $100.00 a month or so ago. I love it, the video is pretty amazing, great still shots, fun to fly. I have lost touch with using a remote control but it does come back with practice. Drones are getting very popular and let’s face it, everybody wants one. Amazon, to deliver packages, Hollywood to shoot movie scenes, agriculture interests to monitor crops.
And everyone is waiting for the FAA to issue regulations as to how commercial drones might be allowed to operate in the U.S. Those regulations are supposed to come out by the end of the month.
The FAA has been struggling to write the rules for unmanned aircraft for several years. In 2012, Congress told the agency to get on with it and set a deadline for final regulations by September 2015.
According to sources, the FAA is considering requiring operators of commercial drones to get a license; the drones could be flown only as far as the operator could see them, and only in daytime.
That’s a lot more restrictive than commercial groups want. But John Villasenor, a senior fellow at Brookings Institution who teaches at UCLA, says the FAA is in a tough spot. “If they come out with rules that are not protective enough and then there’s some sort of an accident then they will be criticized for not having been more careful with this technology,” he says.
“On the other hand, if they come out with rules that are viewed as overly restrictive in the name of safety then they are going to be criticized as impeding the growth of the industry, so it’s a very difficult balancing act that they have to navigate.
In fact, the industry does think that, based on the initial reports, the FAA rules are unrealistic. Take for instance the line of sight requirement. Michael Drobac is executive director of the Small UAV Coalition, which includes companies like Google and Amazon. Drobac says technology will allow drones to be operated far from where their operator is based, making use of tablets or mobile phones to control them. “The reality is that the technology is there but the FAA doesn’t necessarily know it or spend enough time with it.”
Right now, commercial drones are being tested at six FAA-designated locations across the U.S. Drobac says companies don’t much like that restriction either, because companies are in the process of designing their drones, “and they certainly do not want to share their proprietary data with others.” He says the testing at the remote locations is also expensive for companies. “It’s illegal for companies to test outdoors near their headquarters”, Drobac says “and so they can’t bring their entire teams.”
Meanwhile the FAA is dealing with another drone issue. The agency says it’s receiving about 25 reports per month from pilots who have seen unmanned or model aircraft operating near their planes. The consequences of even a small drone colliding with an airplane or getting sucked into its engine could be catastrophic. Everyone from an Alitalia flight landing at New York’s JFK airport to NYPD police helicopter pilots have reported seeing small drones near their aircraft.
The New York incident led to the arrest of two men on reckless endangerment charges.
When they do come out, the FAAs proposed regulations will start a lengthy comment and debate period, with industry, privacy and other interests likely to weigh in. It may eventually fall to Congress and the White House to sort it all out and decide how restrictive a drone policy should be.
I understand the concern as far as interference with commercial aircraft and personal injury. The drone’s to me are safer as long as they have rotor guards installed but range is an issue. The new technology out there now allows you to fly using a simulator and GPS for locating your Drone model when it fly’s out of site. When I was flying my craft that has a range of about 200 feet, a wind gust caught it and carried it almost a half a mile away and over 200 foot up in the air above some huge tree’s I thought I could never fly over. Boy was I surprised!
If you buy one just be careful to avoid busy areas as you learn how to operate it. If you stay tuned with us we will keep you abreast of all the laws and the processes as the US works towards a solution. I can say that the implications for these craft as we move forward is great for the hobbyist but has some bad potential for bad guys too!
Drone carrying a cooler