AUVI 2013. Officials: Small UAS Rule Will Be Released by Year End

Jim Williams, manager of the FAA’s UAS integration office, spoke at the Unmanned Systems Conference on August 13. (Photo: Bill Carey)

The U.S. government should release a draft regulation governing the operation of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) by the end of the year, federal officials told the Unmanned Systems Conference this week. The Federal Aviation Administration also provided more information on two restricted category type certifications it awarded on July 19, for the first time permitting operators to fly unmanned aircraft commercially.

The FAA draft rulemaking governing operation of small UAS weighing up to 55 pounds,which the agency originally expected to release in December 2011, has been stalled within the federal government over privacy considerations. John Porcari, U.S.Department of Transportation deputy secretary, said his department and the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), are close to completing their vetting of the proposed rule.

“The small UAV rule is one that we’re committed to getting done,” said Porcari, who addressed the Washington, D.C., conference on Wednesday. “Given the topic and given some of the questions that have come up, it has taken more time than we would have liked it to have. We believe very strongly that it’s a rule that makes sense. It’s one that we’ve been working on closely with industry (and) with the regulatory people at OMBand we’re confident that we’ll be out fairly shortly with that (rule).”

On Tuesday at the Unmanned Systems Conference, Jim Williams, manager of the FAA’sUAS integration office, said the small UAS rule should be released for comment “by the end of this calendar year.”

Treating unmanned aircraft as “military surplus” facilitated the restricted category certifications granted to the Insitu ScanEagle and AeroVironment Puma AE in July, Williams said. “In order to do this as a commercial operation we had to find a way forward to certify these aircraft,” he explained. “The way we found was to use the restricted category type certificate process, which allows us to essentially approve military surplus aircraft. The military surplus rules require that it be an aircraft-by-aircraft approval; it’s not an approval that you can use to manufacture aircraft with.”

The certifications authorize operators to fly the ScanEagle and the Puma AE in Arctic airspace, as specified by Congress in the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act. The legislation called for the designation of “permanent  areas in the Arctic where small unmanned aircraft may operate 24 hours per day for research and commercial purposes.” The FAA also must develop a plan for these areas that enables beyond line-of-sight small UAS operations. The legislation defines “Arctic” as the U.S. zone of the Chukchi Sea, the Beaufort Sea and the Bering Sea north of the Aleutian island chain.

In separate interviews with AIN, representatives of Insitu and AeroVironment declined to identify which companies or entities will operate their aircraft. However, Williams said the FAA and ConocoPhillips have entered into a so-called “other transaction” agreement that enables the energy company to operate the catapult-launched ScanEagle from a ship to monitor whale movements and ice flows in the Chukchi Sea. “It’s like a contract, but there’s no money changing hands,” he said. “Essentially, theFAA agreed to facilitate the approvals. In exchange we’re getting a ton of data from ConocoPhillips about their operation.” The agency expects the first ConocoPhillips ScanEagle mission will take place early next month.

The FAA also certified UAS flown for research purposes under NASA’s Marginal Ice Zone Observations and Processes Experiment in the Beaufort Sea, which also involves the University of Colorado, the University of Alaska and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The project began last summer and makes use of theNASA Sierra, the Insitu ScanEagle and a microUAS.

Source: AIN Online


UTC Aerospace Systems to Showcase New and Advanced Technology at AUVSI

CHARLOTTE, N.C.,/ – UTC Aerospace Systems will showcase new and advanced products for unmanned aerial and underwater applications, suitable for defense, law enforcement, fire-fighting and security applications at the AUVSI show, which takes place in Washington, DC on August 12-15.  UTC Aerospace Systems is a unit of United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX).

Prominently featured on booth 3013 will be the Cloud Cap Technology TASE gimbals, which offer the highest performance with the lowest SWaP (size, weight and power) in the industry.  This includes the recently announced TASE 400DXR (Daylight Extended Range), which brings long range ISR to the tactical level.  Cloud Cap Technology Piccolo autopilots, the industry standard in open architecture autopilots, providing feature rich capabilities with superior performance and reliability will also be on display.

New to AUVSI 2013 is the C-B4™ multispectral autonomous detection sensor, compatible for unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and small aircraft.  In addition, fuel cell power and energy systems will be highlighted for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV).  At the core of these systems is a fuel cell, currently in production and qualified for operation on a submarine, which provides a safe and reliable system solution with endurance greater than advanced batteries.

For the small UAS market, UTC Aerospace Systems will showcase their Vireo™ UAS, along with their terrain proximity (TERPROM) navigation software and inertial sensors suitable for small and large UAS to aid guidance, navigation and control.

Sensors Unlimited short-wave infrared (SWIR) cameras will be on display.  These cameras offer the SWIR capability in an extremely compact format, with high resolution.  Their lightweight size and ruggedized format makes them especially suitable for applications in smaller UAVs, while still being able to see through obscurants such as fog, haze and smoke.

Technical teams will be on hand throughout the show for expert demonstrations and to answer questions on all products displayed.

UTC Aerospace Systems designs, manufactures and services integrated systems and components for the aerospace and defense industries. UTC Aerospace Systems supports a global customer base with significant worldwide manufacturing and customer service facilities.

United Technologies Corp., based in Hartford, Connecticut, is a diversified company providing high technology products and services to the building and aerospace industries.

For further information: Julie Mears, 44 7747 757115,; Andrew Martin, 704-423-7048,

SOURCE UTC Aerospace Systems


Virtual ENvironment Operations Module (“VENOM”)

Along with our Canadian partner, Roy Aircraft & Avionic Simulation, Inc (RAAS), we debuted our groundbreaking Virtual ENvironment OperationsModule (“VENOM”) Modeling, Command and Training Suite for commercial UAS systems this week at the 50th Paris-Le Bourget International Air Show.  The demo, powered by the SILKAN  TUTOR infrastructure, showcased the first modular and scalable training environment designed to significantly reduce the price and complexity of training UAS Pilots and Payload operators!  VENOM represents the next generation of open architecture, COTS simulation products for the training industry, as it is based on high-performance, Big Data computing technologies!

If you wish to learn more about  VENOM, in the U.S., please fill out the form on our Contact page – In Canada, contact RAAS at  International inquiries may be addressed to either LTS or RAAS!


North Dakota is a leader in Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) operations, research and development, education and training. North Dakota is among several states competing to host one of six FAA research and test sites for integrating unmanned aircraft with manned aircraft in the national airspace. The FAA is expected to designate six UAS test sites by December 31, 2013.

“North Dakota has the experience, programs and resources to be a top tier FAA UAS test site designee and will help drive the growth of the nation’s developing UAS industry,” Lieutenant Governor Drew Wrigley said. “Receiving a test site designation from the FAA would further solidify North Dakota’s position at the front line of the rapidly growing UAS industry. The six test sites will conduct crucial research that will assist the FAA in developing regulatory standards to foster integration of UAS into the national airspace, which is an important national priority.”

North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple recently signed an executive order establishing the Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Authority, a six-member commission assembled to help advance North Dakota’s UAS opportunities and to provide oversight if the state is selected as a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) test site.

The authority is chaired by Lt. Governor Wrigley and will include representatives from the state’s general aviation industry, University of North Dakota Aerospace, North Dakota Aeronautics Commission, North Dakota Department of Commerce (NDDOC) and the Office of the Adjutant General.

“The University of North Dakota’s leadership in aerospace technology combined with North Dakota State University’s electronics and computing capabilities, and our state’s high-tech partners gives North Dakota the best advantage to develop this emerging field,” Wrigley said. “North Dakota has the expertise and the most accessible and diverse airspace in the United States, which are the key components to advancing the business of unmanned aircraft systems.”

In 2013, the North Dakota Legislature appropriated $5 million to develop a FAA UAS Test Site in North Dakota. This includes $1 million that can be used as the state is pursuing designation as a test site and $4 million that becomes available if the FAA designates the state as a test site.

The North Dakota Department of Commerce works to improve the quality of life for North Dakota citizens by leading efforts to attract, retain and expand wealth. Commerce serves businesses and communities statewide through committed people and partners who offer valuable programs and dynamic services.

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The Bureau of Land Management adopted of UAS technology

The Bureau of Land Management is responsible for sustain the health, diversity and productivity of millions of acres of public land in the U.S. One of its most visible operations is preparing for, monitoring and mitigating wildfires. Working with the U.S. Geological Survey, the BLM has been an early adopter of UAS technology, using it to help improve its wildfire detection and monitoring capabilities. Lance Brady is the UAS Program lead at the BLM National Operations Center in Denver Colorado. He provides leadership in the BLM National Fire Program in geospatial applications and technology development. Lance has 15 years’ experience in Aviation, Photogrammetry and Geographic Information Systems and holds a private pilot FAA certificate.

You recently worked on monitoring wild fires in New Mexico. Can you tell us how unmanned systems can help in these situations?

There is an interagency group within the National Fire Program called the Tactical Fire Remote Sensing Advisory Committee (TFRSAC).This is a multiagency effort between the Forest Service, NASA, Department of Interior and CALFire that is engaged in new research on how to detect and monitor wildfires using remote sensing techniques. Going back to the early 2000s, this NASA research project was investigating the use of unmanned aircraft on wildfires.

There have been several demonstration flights with unmanned aircraft including the NASA Ikhana. During the 2008 wildfire season, the western states’ fire mission was flown with the Ikhana and AMS sensor, which was used for fire detection and mapping.

In the summer of 2011, several incidents in Southern Arizona were imaged with the Department of Homeland Security Predator operations. These fires occurred on National Park Service, US Forest Service and BLM lands adjacent to the Fort Huachuca Military Reservation. The Predator systems conducted tactical infrared mapping and also communication relays. The missions were fairly successful.

I think the technology already exists to do a whole host of things, from initial fire detections to post fire-monitoring with small unmanned aircraft, up to bigger systems that can deliver either cargo or retardant. This technology exists.

However there’s a big bridge to gap from the technology side to the actual implementation. In wildfires, there’s a lot going on, and when we have an active emergency incident that’s happening, we have an entire air force that goes along, from retardant aircraft to helicopters to fixed-wing aircraft. With all the moving parts, we are going to have to wait to see how we can slowly integrate unmanned aircraft into the program. It’s not something that can happen overnight.

You mentioned using UAS for pre-monitoring. Are there any benefits to using unmanned systems in the off-season to prepare for fires?

A lot of the work that we’re doing is more on the vegetation monitoring side, and the health of our range lands and uplands. Some of the vegetation indicators could be drought related, or could be climate change related, but really it’s focusing on the trends in vegetation. To pick out an area to fly a small unmanned aircraft specifically to look at pre-fire conditions would be very difficult to do. However, we have an overall monitoring program where we’re not only integrating small unmanned aircraft, but we’re also integrating traditional manned aerial photography flight and using satellite imagery. In the BLM, we have a program called the AIM, or the Assessment Inventory and Monitoring program, this program uses appropriate platform imagery at multiple scales to monitor vegetation for rangeland health using high resolution imagery to train moderate resolution imagery which in turn trains course resolution satellite imagery. That’s where we are focusing our efforts with the unmanned systems when it comes to vegetation monitoring.

What other projects has the Bureau of Land Management performed using unmanned systems?

We have several missions that we’ve flown, one looking at the spread and infestation of invasive weeds in southern Idaho. This was the first mission flown in the national airspace. Since we were using just the stock video cameras onboard the Raven  aircraft, it was difficult to detect invasive plants with the RQ 11 Raven. 

I think the big success in that project was that we integrated the unmanned aircraft system into a manned aircraft program. This mission was conducted during fire season, and a lot was going on around us. And we stayed in close coordination with the fire dispatch centers. We work closely with our bureau’s aviation program to make sure our missions are successful, are flown safely and don’t impact any other manned agency aircraft missions in the area.

Some other missions that we’ve flown were in support of watershed monitoring projects in southern Arizona. We looked at numerous natural resource issues from erosion to stability of dam structures, vegetation monitoring, vegetation rehab plot and a fence line survey. We want to demonstrate that we could go to a mission site and be able to collect data and use the data for multiple purposes.  Each day we flew a different project within the FAA-approved COA. To this point we’ve done these missions at a very inexpensively for Bureau and have gotten a lot of valuable data. From just the Arizona mission we acquired more than 29,000 still frames of imagery to process and probably another hour or so of high definition video.

What other agencies have you worked with on projects using unmanned systems and do you have any similar coordinated projects planned for the near future?

We work closely with the U.S. Geological Survey, UAS Project Office located here in Denver. We do most of our project coordination with them and have a shared calendar of missions. We’ve supported many USGS missions, and they’ve supported BLM missions as well. We’re trying to do this to reduce costs to the federal government. On each mission we fly, we learn from each other’s experiences and expertise. So far it’s been a win-win. The UAS project office supports many projects from the Office of Surface Mining to the National Park Service to the Bureau of Reclamation and others including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I’ve been involved in many of the flight operations on those projects as well, from West Virginia to Washington State. It’s a good organization and we work together very well.

The data management continues to be a challenge and we have learned from each other the best ways to use the imagery for surface modeling, vegetation mapping, and wildlife monitoring.

How have unmanned systems improved your research or allowed you to complete tasks that might otherwise be difficult or impossible to do?

What we’re really focusing on in the BLM is the small unmanned systems. We’re not trying to do away with our manned aircraft program, we’re trying to supplement it. There are certain missions we operate where we would never put a manned aircraft or pilot at risk, especially low altitude, high-risk environments. In the past we have put different camera systems on light sport aircrafts, or ultralights. We’ve also put them on helicopters and have the pilots fly 50 to 100 feet off the ground in order to obtain the image quality that we need. There came a point at which we realized that there’s a safety issue, so we backed away from utilizing light sport aircraft and helicopters from doing the high-risk, low-altitude, high-resolution imagery missions. And that’s where the UAS has fit so far. We have been able to acquire some very high resolution data on things such as vegetation trends, dinosaur track mapping and small volumetric projects. Our manned aviation program has a specific niche for which it is very well suited. We’re taking unmanned aircraft beyond that to use them in a way that we otherwise wouldn’t use a manned aircraft.

What potential uses do you see for unmanned systems in the future as this technology continues to improve and what are some of the improvements you’ve seen in the technology in the time you’ve been working with them?

You can just look in the paper every day and see what unmanned systems have been doing. I just saw an article today about a rotor craft that the military is using to do cargo flights. It’s a dual-use aircraft so it can be flown by a pilot or it can be flown remotely with an automated system.

Those are the type of things that intrigue me, seeing the capability that the military has right now. Can those same types of systems be used in a fire environment? We do para-cargo, we conduct cargo sling loads, and we use helicopters. The majority of fires have some air asset on them. Can we start using some of those types of assets on wildfires? I think we can. It’s going to take a long time to get past the misconceptions about the systems.

And there’s going to have to be some strong safety cases either way—whether we use manned or unmanned and how we integrate them. It’s going to take some time to do, but you can just look at the news every day and see how technology is improving and changing.

It’s pretty neat where we are going. We’re just at the beginning of this. We’re at the test and evaluation phase of integrating UAS into the bureau’s business practices. We’ve acquired military Ravens and military T-Hawks for the majority of our work. They were designed for an entirely different mission than we’re using them. We’re trying to use them for natural resource application and to look at vegetation and wildlife issues.  It has been difficult in that these aircraft were built for a specific mission in the armed forces and the imagery sensors were designed for that mission. We have been able to make simple modifications, and we’ve seen a huge leap forward in this past year with what the technology can do. So things are moving fast. We’re trying to keep up.

We have a lot of requests in the BLM for the use of unmanned systems and we only have so much capacity at this time. We’re hoping in the next several years we can look more at our business needs and business requirements and procure aircraft that meet those needs and are modular in design. We’re interested in having modular payloads that can do multiple things for multiple programs with COTS equipment.

When you’re monitoring vegetation and wildlife, what can unmanned systems tell you? And what’s important to pay attention to?

We can put the same imaging packages on a manned aircraft as well. There’s just an increased risk in safety and there’s also an increased cost depending on the project site. On some of our small project sites, such as calculating volumes of material in a gravel pit, it can be very expensive to dispatch a manned aircraft with a camera on board to acquire that imagery.

Instead, for a couple hundred dollars in time, we can go out to a project site, launch an unmanned system and acquire that mapping grade photogrammetric data. In certain instances, we can acquire survey-quality photogrammetric data and come back to the office and process the data to calculate volumes of material at the project. And we can do it very inexpensively. And there are some safety issues that we’ve mitigated by using unmanned systems.

We’re really focused on the high precision photogrammetric mapping capability. The entire wildlife division has its specific needs for infrared heat detection to determine where animals are present and absent. And we can also use the capability to map vegetation.

Is there anything else that the Bureau of Land Management is doing with unmanned systems that’s interesting that others may not have heard about?

The biggest message is about the data, what we do with the data and how we process it. The aircraft that we use is sort of independent of that, however the use of unmanned aircraft allows us to collect very high resolution imagery we were unable to acquire safely before. We are now able to fly 50 to 200 feet above ground level to acquire the imagery.

Recently, we joined the U.S. Geological Survey, along with the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department in Grand Junction, Colorado to fly over a landslide site. They wanted to quantify volumes of materials that had slid and over time be able to monitor to see if there’s any movement or shifting in the land surface at the landslide. We’re working cooperatively with multiple agencies on this effort and are pretty excited about that aspect of it.

The actual landslide itself may be uncommon, but the techniques that we’re using are very common. We can use the same techniques for volumes of material at a gravel pit to volumes of materials on an engineering design project. Down the road we can use the same techniques that we’re deploying here for archeological work. One of our projects that we are excited to implement this year or next year is the high resolution photogrammetric mapping of dinosaur tracks. The BLM has a photogrammetric mapping division that has been an industry leader in close range photogrammetry and those techniques are what we’re employing in the unmanned aircraft program.

Another big part of the BLM program is our paleontological and cultural program, and we’re planning to have a lot of support missions in that program as well. It’s a really neat application and tool. If something were to happen with some of the cultural sites, like a rock art site or a cliff dwelling, at least we can go back to the 3D models that we have generated to preserve them as they were at that point in time. The BLM photogrammetric staff has completed project sites all over the world.

Worlds Smallest Commercial Unmanned Aerial. Phoenix Aerial UAV LiDAR-V2

Source: Phoenix Aerial

Phoenix Aerial Systems Announces Worlds Smallest Commercial Unmanned Aerial LiDAR Platform.

Phoenix Aerial Systems announced that they have successfully developed and demonstrated the world’s smallest and lightest UAV LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) platform available. Weighing less than 10kg, the new LiDAR platform called the “Phoenix AL-2” combines the latest UAV, LiDAR and GNSS technology into a cost effective, accurate and safe micro-mapping solution.

At the core of the Phoenix AL-2 is the Velodyne HDL-32E sensor, which features up to 32 lasers aligned over a 40º Vertical Field of View, and generates 700,000 distance points per second. The HDL-32E rotates 360º up to 20 times per second and provides measurement and intensity information over a range of 1meter to 100 meters, with a typical accuracy of better than +/- 2 cm. The Phoenix AL-2 delivers a real-time, high definition 3D point cloud for speedy mapping of difficult to reach areas without the expense of hiring a commercial plane. The Phoenix AL-2 is expected to be commercially available by Q4 2013.

Source: UASVision