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Q3 2015

Newsroom Pathfinders CNN’s Unprecedented Mission For The FAA Page 12


Beyond Line Of Sight Strategies Page 18


Platform Protection, Better Payloads Page 6

Printed in USA




Seeing Beyond The Long-Range Potential of UAS

Operating beyond visual line of sight is the goal and desired outcome for many of today’s most promising UAS service providers and operators. They explain how they will achieve beyond visual line of sight flight. By Patrick C. Miller


CNN’s UAS Pathfinder Mission

Determined to use unmanned aircraft vehicles for news gathering, this team from CNN is navigating the rules, regulations and changing world of UAVs. The end-result could give the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration invaluable data and the industry an unprecedented moment to remember. By Luke Geiver


The Worth of a UAS-Captured Image By Luke Geiver


New Tech, Better Payloads, More Power By UAS Magazine staff


Precision Ag Highlights From The US: Propwash, Large UAVs By UAS Magazine staff


Aero Tec Laboratories


Applanix Corporation


Broadcast Microwave Services, Inc.


Go Professional


International Drone Expo


Northrop Grumman Aerospace


Red Consultants


UAS Summit & Expo


University of Southern California Aviation Safety & Security Program


The Year Of FAA By UAS Magazine staff

ON THE COVER: CNN's UAS implementation team has already agreed to provide the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration with valuableinsight. The team also hopes to show newsroom teams everywhere how to integrate drone footage into news feeds. For the cover, the team gathered in its Atlanta newsroom. PHOTO: ROBIN NELSON


EDITOR'S NOTE The Worth of a UAS-Captured Image Data, we often hear in conversations about unmanned aircraft systems in the civilian commercial markets, is cited as the best and most promising reason to send unmanned aircraft vehicles into the air. Multispectral cameras or air

sensors can yield incredible information valued by field representatives and boardroom executives alike. But, our Q3 issue reminds us that sometimes the simple services available today through UAVs are reason enough to fly and push through the daunting and tiresome list of rules and regulations. After interviewing a trio of CNN representatives Luke Geiver spearheading an unprecedented effort to bring drones Editor, UAS Magazine into the world of news gathering, an effort that is also illuminating for the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration the challenges and protocols of operating above people, it became clear that maybe the simple shots captured through aerial photography are just as powerful as a near infrared image overlayed with GPS coordinates, air properties and topography marks. Greg Agvent, senior director of news operations for CNN, hinted at such a possibility. After explaining his team’s early days using drones for production pieces and disaster-related image capture—specifically the aftermath of a Nepal earthquake—Agvent was quick and decisive in his description of the drone photos and videos. “The footage we shot in the aftermath of Nepal was transfixing,” he said. “It didn’t leave you.” Roughly nine months after that footage was recorded, Agvent is now part of a CNN trio that is not only speeding up the FAA’s research efforts and understanding of the protocols necessary for above-people UAV flights, but also showing us one image or video at a time, what the power of UAV-captured footage looks like. In the future, when we see field reporters sporting tethered drones or breaking news events covered by a fixed-wing, we will have the CNN team to thank. As David Vigilante told us for our “CNN’s Pathfinder UAS Mission” story, “If CNN wins, everybody wins.” In Patrick Miller’s feature, “Seeing Beyond Long-Range UAS Potential,” we get a glimpse into aother element of UAV use that everyone we speak with believes is an undeniable benefit: beyond visual line of sight operations (BVLOS). Miller’s piece combines technical information with basic perspective from researchers, BVLOS users and a major manufacturer that has already mastered the practice in military-based missions outside the U.S. Although the topic was an easy one to pursue, the complexities of the issue are very real. Most in the story believe BVLOS operations will require robust equipment and protocols that have been well tested and vetted. Thankfully, every source in the piece seemed to arrive at a similar sentiment as David Phillips did in his closing quote. “I think we’ll be ready when they [FAA] sort all that out.” Thank you for reading another issue of a magazine we are told is just plain cool. If cool means a pub working hard to present the telling and compelling stories that reveal the state of our UAS industry, then we’ll take it. For daily news and an overdose of original content, check us out on the web. And, for future feature pieces like the ones here on CNN’s efforts or BVLOS perspectives, find us again in Q4. VOLUME 2 ISSUE 3

EDITORIAL Editor Luke Geiver Staff Writer Patrick C. Miller Copy Editor Jan Tellmann

PUBLISHING & SALES Chairman Mike Bryan CEO Joe Bryan President Tom Bryan Vice President of Operations Matthew Spoor Vice President of Content Tim Portz Business Development Manager Bob Brown Account Manager Austin Maatz Sales & Marketing Director John Nelson Circulation Manager Jessica Beaudry Traffic & Marketing Coordinator Marla DeFoe

ART Art Director Jaci Satterlund Graphic Designer Lindsey Noble

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New gas- and signal-sniffing sensors are now flying on UAS. Security firm Praetorian teamed with UAS startup company DroneSense—both located in Austin, Texas—in a project using Praetorian’s custom “ZigBee sniffing” sensor onboard a DroneSense UAV. The goal was to map Internet-connected devices— known as the Internet of Things (IoT)—in sections of Austin. The Praetorian sensor is equipped with several special radios that listen for the Zigbee wireless beacons used by smart devices to communicate with each other over the Internet. The combination of Praetorian’s sensor technology and the DroneSense UAV platform will eventually provide greater knowledge on how to secure IoT networks from FLYING WITH A PURPOSE: After successfully launching its fixed-wing platform, Trimble has created a commercial-strength those who seek to exploit them multirotor offering. PHOTO: TRIMBLE for nefarious reasons. Swiss-based Pergam Technical Services Inc. released the first UAS sensor designed to detect and measure methane gas. Based on a commonly used handheld detector, the system has been altered with an eye-safe laser and a filter in the bandwidth where methane has high absorptions As commercial applications partners ZMP and AeroSense Inc. (RPA), the twin-engine Flyox I along with an algorithm that meafor unmanned aerial systems unveiled an experimental vertical- is capable of landing and taking sures the gas emissions in parts (UAS) grow, new technologies are takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) UAV off on unpaved runways or on per million. An onboard data introduced, ranging from UAS called the AS-DT01-E. After tran- water, ice and snow. The aircraft grabber records the flight path platforms with contrasting capasitioning to fixed-wing flight, it has is designed for five applications: and the gas concentrations levels. bilities to sensors for specific tasks a top speed of 66 miles per hour hauling cargo, firefighting, search Data from the flight is available to significant improvements in and can carry a 22-pound payload, and rescue, agriculture and surveil- immediately upon landing. data handling and power manage- including Sony’s high-resolution lance. The Flyox I has a wingspan The system can be used ment. digital cameras. of roughly 45 feet an endurance for line, tank and asset inspecTwo very different UAS Singular Aircraft’s Flyox I time of six hours and 45 minutes, tions along with landfill emission platforms were announced by completed its maiden flight this a maximum operation altitude monitoring and surveys in difficult overseas companies. Sony Mobile summer in Hofn, Iceland. An am- of 24,000 feet and a maximum -to-access areas that typically and its Japanese joint venture phibious remotely piloted aircraft weight of roughly 8,400 pounds. require scaffolding. Pergam says

UAS tech: platforms, sensors, better data streaming and power management




the booming LNG and the shale gas industries represent markets with huge opportunities for leak detection services with the sensor. For UAS operators concerned about their drones crashing into walls, buildings and other obstacles, Panoptes Systems Corp. in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has developed the eBumper4, a sensor system that keeps UAVs a safe distance away from objects. The company is also developing next-generation collision avoidance technology more useful for UAS commercial operations. The eBumper4 system is currently available for the 3D Robotics Iris+ and the DJI Phantom 2 line of UAVs. Just as a bat sends out sound waves that bounce back and tell it how close it is to an object, the eBumper4 works on the same principle to keep a UAV a safe distance from obstacles. It can detect an object as far out as 15 feet at speeds near six miles per hour.

ANOTHER BIG NAME: Sony Corp. has joined the likes of Google and Amazon as a large corporation that will add its own brand to an unmanned aircraft vehicle. PHOTO: SONY MOBILE

“It’s best used for the loitering applications where you’re intentionally flying slowly and the pilot is in the loop,” says Fabrice Kunzi, Panoptes chief technology officer. “The eBumper4 gives a base level of protection for the aircraft and the operator.” Verizon Wireless and Florida-based Tayzu Robotics, a UAS manufacturer, are developing a site in the Cayman Islands to autonomously test the Skywire miniaturized Ethernet cellular router. Developed by NimbleLink, a Minnesota company, Skywire delivers instant cellular connectivity over the Verizon network to any Ethernet-enabled device and

costs less to operate than cable or dsl connections. Tayzu believes that Skywire will enable it to collect and monetize large amounts of data captured during autonomous flights. The UAVs designed by Tayzu will soon come with a charging station and users can operate strategically placed sUAVs through the push of a button. Germany-based Skysense is working to develop a new product line for its drone charging stations. The company was one of 10 selected to participate in the Robotics Accelerator through the Qualcomm Inc. TechStars program. At a Qualcomm facility in San Diego, Skysense is developing an enclosed UAS charging

station called the Droneport. It’s a protective, remotely managed structure that holds a Skysense Charging Pad and a UAV. It provides synching of sensor data to the cloud and connectivity within the Skysense Droneport network. Droneport is weatherproof with IP44 protection level, providing a flat surface for landings and takeoffs. The system can manage and monitor drone fleets online. Additional services include predictive maintenance, bridging of drone telemetry, telemetry black box and data stream downloading in the cloud. Following the success of its fixed-wing UAV, Trimble has released its first multi-rotor platform. After receiving input from customers around the globe, Todd Steiner, product marketing director for Trimble’s geospatial division, said the company needs to offer a vertical take-off and landing option. The new ZX5 platform, based on a German design, features components designed for heavy commercial use and multiple safety redundancies.

FLY LIKE A BAT: The eBumper4 system is a sense-and-avoid technology that protects a platform through the same principles used by bats to avoid running into objects. PHOTO: PANOPTES SYSTEMS CORP.




CORN=$12/ACRE SOYBEANS=$2.60/ACRE WHEAT=$2.30/ACRE State University performed a demonstration flight earlier this year for 15 orchard owners using the RMAX. The purpose was to test the RMAX’s ability to provide adequate downrush on the cherry trees in place of the more expensive, more dangerous helicopters. Results to date have been promising, according to Lav Khot, assistant professor for CPAAS. To test the effectiveness of any drone deployed for farming purposes, a likely entity, a drone startup and an information provider have partnered to provide a precision ag return on investment calculator. Farm Bureau Federation, Informa FOCUSED ON THE PROP WASH: Cherry tree growers in Washington can use the prop wash from the unmanned Yamaha RMAX to dry off the leaves of the tree. Economics and Measure have PHOTO: WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY created a calculator that quantifies three drone applications: field crop scouting, 3D terrain mapping and crop insurance. When Elbit Systems of allow Elbit’s team to work with ton State University’s Center The calculator is specifically America LLC’s large unmanned North Dakota State University’s for Precision and Automated designed for corn, soybeans aircraft vehicle flies over the ag agricultural and biosystems Agricultural Systems, along and wheat, but more crops and fields of rural North Dakota, engineering team to analyze the with a private UAV firm, Digital applications will be added over the Israel-based, global UAV data at the Center for CompuHarvest, have worked in coltime, according to Measure, the player’s unmanned platform tationally Assisted Science and laboration to bring the RMAX drones and a service company will be the largest ever to oper- Technology. to orchards in need of help that will house the calculator on ate specifically for precision In Washington, another from moisture accumulations. its website. “While lots of drone ag purposes. The company global UAV entity is finding During the last two weeks prior hardware has been sold to farmhas matched a North Dakota a foothold in the U.S. After to harvest, the skin of the cherry ers, until today, no tool existed Department of Commerce Re- providing precision spraying is sensitive to moisture and can to help growers actually quantify search ND grant to collect crop services in Japan’s rice fields for crack or split if moisture is left whether the benefits exceed data using infrared, thermal, more than a decade, Yamaha untreated. Orchard owners typi- their costs, especially farmers color and multi-spectral imagand its RMAX unmanned hecally rent a helicopter and rely that want to outsource these ery. The grant and matching licopter will be working with on prop wash to dry the chertypes of services,” said Justin fund—totaling $715,092—will cherry tree farmers. Washingries. Researchers at Washington Oberman, Measure’s president.

U.S.-based precision ag UAV progress




States continue to pass laws in conflict with FAA’s authority At least 30 states have now passed laws dealing with the regulation of unmanned aerial systems (UAS). That’s not necessarily a positive development, said Sarah Nilsson, a pilot and an assistant professor of aviation law and regulations at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University College of Aviation in Prescott, Arizona. Nilsson publishes a white paper about UAS law, policy and regulation on her website that she frequently updates as states pass UAS-related legislation or as new legal and regulatory developments occur. She said that states—impatient for the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to implement UAS regulations— are taking matters into their own hands, sometimes passing laws in direct conflict with the agency. “Essentially, the states may run into an issue where they’re passing laws in airspace over which they have no jurisdiction,” Nilsson explained. “That’s the primary issue that I see right now. Until the FAA comes out with its small UAS rule, there’s a void that states have taken it upon themselves to fill by implementing their own laws.” While many states have passed legislation supporting UAS development, California’s Senate bill 142 has been criticized for doing the opposite, drawing fire from Brian Wynne, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Systems International and Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association. The organizations agree that the privacy issue should be addressed, but they said the bill took the wrong approach and labeled it an “unnecessary, innovationstifling and job-killing proposal.” The two organizations also noted that the “Supreme Court long ago ruled that property rights do not extend infinitely into the sky. In other words, only the Fed-

eral Aviation Administration (FAA) can regulate airspace; states and municipalities cannot.” This highlights the problem Nilsson emphasized in her paper of state’s infringing upon the FAA’s jurisdiction. Texas, for example, passed legislation making it illegal for anyone to operate a UAS over critical infrastructure below 400 feet. But FAA regulations say UAS can’t operate above 400 feet. “We need to remember that based on the 1958 Federal Aviation Act, the FAA has sole jurisdiction over the national airspace,” Nilsson said. “When state and federal law conflict, federal law preempts state law.” Another problem she’s identified with state laws is a tendency to lump all UAS under one blanket category. “They don’t break it down like the FAA does where certain rules apply to civilian use, certain rules apply to model use and certain rules apply to public use,” Nilsson said. “These definitions themselves have lots of holes in them.” Nilsson said there are areas such as hunting and privacy—which isn’t in the FAA’s jurisdiction to regulate—where it makes sense for states to enact their own UAS laws. In addition, she noted that state and local governments have the authority to limit the aeronautical activities of their own departments and institutions. However, Nilsson said it’s inevitable that many state laws will be appealed to higher courts where legal precedents will be established. She writes in her paper that more than 50 companies, universities and government organizations are developing and producing around 155 unmanned aircraft designs, meaning that the FAA has “a critical, if not daunting, task” ahead of it to formulate laws governing UAS.

LEGAL LIST: STATE LAWS VS FAA REGULATIONS Legal experts like Nisson that are tracking the rules, regulations and laws related to UAS at the state-level, often point to the same reminders about the issue of UAS state-based laws versus federal regulations issued by the FAA. -UAS laws already exist in 30 states, and the number is expected to rise. -Privacy concerns in California have given way to a controversial bill. -Conflicting regulations between states and FAA are highlighting the power of states and the Federal government. -Federal law preempts state law, but that hasn’t stopped states like Texas issuing laws that counteract the FAA’s established rules. -State laws lack clarity on which type of unmanned aircraft vehicles (hobbyist or commercial) are under regulation. -More than 50 companies are building, selling or planning more than 155 UAS platforms. It will be daunting for the FAA to keep track of this number of UAVs in the sky.




333 Blanket Approval:

After implementing a blanket approval process for section 333 applicants, the FAA sped up the process for UAV entities to begin flying commercially. To date, more than 1,000 applications have been approved.


In an effort to educate hobbyist drone users on the rules and regulations of flying in the national airspace, the FAA created an app explaining the rules of UAV flight.


Unmanned Traffic Management: Working in conjunction with NASA, the FAA is now working to create a framework for unmanned aircraft traffic management protocols.


The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for small UAVs was issued this year. Once finalized, the NPRM will allow for greater UAS activity and commercial flight.

Pathfinder Project: Moving beyond visual-lineof-sight is the main goal for the groups selected by the FAA.

UAS Center of Excellence:

To tackle some of most important technical and operational issues, the FAA formed the COE to unite the best minds from aerospace academia with private industry.

Amid safety concerns, FAA makes progress toward UAS airspace integration The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is slowly making progress toward integrating unmanned aerial systems (UAS) into the national airspace, says the Government Accountability Office. But along with more unmanned aircraft in the sky have come increased reports of encounters with manned aircraft. A GAO study noted that the FAA has increased the number of approvals on a case-by-case basis, and the 10


agency itself announced that it has surpassed 1,000 Section 333 commercial exemptions. However, safety concerns heightened in early August when the agency released information on more than 750 incidents involving UAS, including encounters reported by pilots. The FAA warned that operating UAS near helicopters and airplanes is dangerous and illegal, and could lead to fines, criminal charges and

possible jail time. In addition, the agency released the beta version of a new smartphone application called “B4UFLY,” primarily aimed at model aircraft enthusiasts. It’s designed to give users information about restrictions or requirements in effect at their flight locations. According to the GAO, since 2010, the total number of approvals for UAS operations has increased annually. The increase in commercial UAS activity comes on the

heels of the FAA issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for regulations for small UAS under 55 pounds. While the GAO said integration of UAS flights into national air space remains a work in progress, “clearly we were able to say that all the signs are pointing in a positive direction, that FAA is definitely moving forward with this integration” said Gerald Dillingham, GAO physical infrastructure director. “Although, it probably


took longer than most people wanted it to take, right now, it looks like we’re on a good path.” Another significant development came in May when the FAA announced the selection of Mississippi State University to lead the UAS Center of Excellence (COE), a team of universities engaged in research with their industry partners. The agency said the COE will focus on research, education and training in areas critical to safe and successful integration of UAS into the nation’s airspace. Maj. Gen. James Poss (retired) of Mississippi State University, leads the COE team. Poss said the COE will serve as a hub for the six FAA-designated UAS test

sites, UAS research universities and other government research agencies, such as NASA. The other universities selected as team members include: Drexel University; Embry Riddle Aeronautical University; Kansas State University; Kansas University; Montana State University; New Mexico State University; North Carolina State University; Oregon State University; University of Alabama, Huntsville; University of Alaska, Fairbanks; University of North Dakota; and Wichita State University. Another notable event occurred in August when the FAA gave the Northern Plains UAS Test Site in North Dakota approval to expand

operations and night flight testing capabilities throughout the state. The site also received a COA that makes the entire state of North Dakota available for UAS testing at altitudes higher than the 200-foot, the only site in the nation with this ability. The FAA also launched Project Pathfinder, a research project with the private sector. CNN is studying the use of UAS to gather news within visual line-of-sight (LOS) operations in populated areas. PrecisionHawk will examine extended visual LOS operations in rural areas for crop monitoring in precision agriculture operations. BNSF Railway will conduct beyond visual LOS in remote rural areas to inspect rail-

road infrastructure and study command-and-control issues. During the summer, the FAA’s project on UAS Integration in the National Airspace System (NAS) conducted flight testing of sense-and-avoid technology at the NASA Armstrong Fight Research Center in California. The flights included the first full test of an automatic collision avoidance capability on autonomous aircraft. Also participating in the tests were General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. and Honeywell International Inc.




PATHFINDER MISSION Media giant CNN’s unprecedented efforts will bring news gathering UAVs into the national airspace and what it means for the rest of us. By Luke Geiver

CNN’s efforts to become the first major news gatherer to fully implement drones into day-to-day operations is best understood by watching a two-minute video shot via drone in the aftermath of a major Nepal earthquake. The video does not include a reporter on the

scene talking of the wreckage. There is no voiceover, only a soft engulfing melody and the raw two minutes and 18 seconds worth of drone video taken overhead: a duo of aid workers dressed in blue, scraping away debris from a building in an obvious search for something important; a human assembly line passing boulders from one pair of tired hands to another, a landslide of grey rubble, steel roof panels and unearthed dirt piled on top of everything. The only color in the aerial shot is the blue overalls, orange shirt and dusty pants of the people standing on the rubble as if something in the scene is entirely wrong.

FLYING FOR THE NEWSROOM: CNN's team of Greg Agvent, David Vigilante and Paul Ferguson, are working with industry and the FAA to show how unmanned aircraft systems can be implemented effectively and safely from the national airspace to the news editor's desk. PHOTO: ROBIN NELSON






IMAGES IN PERFECT LIGHT: Because CNN cannot yet fly above a crowd, many of its first drone photo shoots have been performed at first light to minimize people on the scene. PHOTO: MIKE SHORE PHOTOGRAPHY

“The footage we shot in the aftermath of Nepal was transfixing,” says Greg Agvent, senior director, news operations for CNN. “It didn’t leave you.” For Agvent, the power of that Nepal footage, along with other CNN unmanned aircraft vehicle work in places like Selma, Alabama, and Oklahoma City, has lasting appeal. Drone footage from each location provided unique context to a story or made the imagery more compelling, Agvent says. The 14


use of UAV-based footage has clearly made a positive dent in the content creation strategies of Agvent and others at CNN. Over the past two years, a team from CNN, including Agvent, has been in the midst of a historic effort to usher in a new era of news gathering enhanced by UAV captured footage like that from Nepal and Selma. To turn drone imagery from a unique storytelling option utilized sparingly into an everyday tool linked to day-today breaking news, the CNN

team has had to become wellversed in the legal lingo of the national airspace. The team has had to learn the science of payloads. Most importantly it's had to learn about the complexities of flying above a crowd. The team has immersed itself in the UAS industry by reaching out and working with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, the Association for Unmanned Vehicles System International, Georgia Tech University and several others ranging from drone manufacturers to service

companies. Although CNN’s efforts are both unprecedented and unfinished, the team’s current perspectives on UAS and work with the FAA could one day be recognized as a crucial part of how the FAA brought UAVs safely into the national airspace and positively altered our news viewing experience.

Becoming A Pathfinder

During the UAS industry’s largest yearly gathering in May, David Vigilante, senior vice president, legal for CNN, took


part in an FAA-led press conference. The press event was standing-room only. For an industry’s main trade event, the press conference buzz made the room appear to be the center of the country’s collective attention. Vigilante and representatives from two other entities were being formally recognized for their commitment to the FAA as UAS Pathfinders, a term created by the FAA to denote the three chosen entities’ roles in providing crucial, necessary data on various elements of UAS to the FAA. In that one announcement, the FAA ushered in a new era of UAS integration research for its team and a historically unique collaboration with a news giant that could have chosen to go at its UAV integration efforts alone. “This started with a desire to explore this [UAS] space and see what is possible,” Vigilante says. Before CNN was announced as a UAS Pathfinder, Vigilante and his Washington D.C. bureau chief asked for a meeting with the FAA to understand what may be possible for news gatherers such as CNN and the potential use of drones. CNN wanted to know how it could be helpful, Vigilante says, and the FAA wanted more data, specifically in visual line of sight operations above people, something the CNN team was focused on. Paul Ferguson, supervising editor of international newsgathering at CNN, says he has helped his team arrange and fly UAV missions in more than 20 countries. But, experience gleaned outside the U.S. has not entirely translated to UAS operations in the U.S. “In

many ways, even though we have flown so many missions outside of the U.S., a lot of the big questions have yet to be answered,” he says. To help its team and the FAA understand how dronebased news gathering can work in the national airspace, the CNN team has begun collaborating with the Georgia Tech Research Institute and other industry players to find what Vigilante and Agvent have both called the Holy Grail: flying above people safely. To date, CNN has flown missions in the U.S., but only

FIELD PRODUCER TURNED UAS GURU: Although Greg Agvent, a field producer for twenty-plus years was new to unmanned aircraft systems two years ago, today Agvent can talk intelligently on everything from payloads to line of sight strategies. PHOTO: ROBIN NELSON

THE BIG SHOT: Nearly 10 years after working to describe conditions during Hurricane Katrina, Anderson Cooper has returned to New Orleans with a drone videographer team to better capture the images of the updated story. PHOTO: NEIL HALLSWORTH



THE NEW PRODUCTION TOOL: To provide a unique look at the Oklahoma City bombing memorial, the CNN team used drone-captured footage to get shots otherwise impossible. PHOTO: MIKE SHORE PHOTOGRAPHY

for produced pieces that allow for planning and setup. None of its flights have been above crowds. After starting with a knowledge base of UAVs that Ferguson admits was “zero,” the team has become well-versed in platform options, total systems and aerospace regulations. “Early on, when we started, I think the initial thought was that we could get a consumer drone and we could create imagery that was first rate,” Agvent says. “As we became more educated and more fluent in UAS, we came to the determination that to meet our goals and to mitigate flights over people then we couldn’t rely on small consumer drones.” The team now embraces a mantra offered by Agvent. “I have a favorite saying,” he says, “different horses for different courses. There are different craft that will work for certain situations.” For flying above crowds, the team is looking at octocopter options that have 16


safety redundancy built into the rotors. During live news events that can be covered from a stationary position, Agvent is enthusiastic about tethered drones that feature a longer endurance offering. “That has real potential for us. You put that in the hands of a producer or reporter and that can change the way we shoot,” he says. In the next year, the CNN team will be working more with GTRI and the FAA on its pathfinder goals, Vigilante says. That work will also include research activities with some Georgia-based fire departments and the New York City Fire Department, along with a look at commercial platform offerings. Vigilante, a lawyer by trade, says the FAA’s challenge with integrating UAS into the NAS will not be solved by lawyers. “It will be solved by engineers and operators,” he says. Ferguson is focused on figuring out how emergency responders and government agencies can successfully fly UAVs in

the same airspace as news outlets simultaneously. To illustrate his reason for focus, Ferguson refers to the situation typical for a homicide. Yellow-tape is set around a perimeter of a scene and the only way to move past the tape is to be an emergency or law enforcement employee, or show a press pass. “They will let me in with a press pass because there is a confidence and trust between us. It’s a privilege and they will take it away if we misuse it,” he says. “Ultimately, we are looking for a press pass in the sky.”

Using the Sky Press Pass

Both Agvent and Ferguson can recite specific stories that utilize drone-captured imagery as if those stories were childhood moments of importance. And, very few CNN producers or field reporters have shown hesitancy in embracing the use of UAVs for newsgathering. “Like anything new,” Ferguson says, “there are challenges and what is obvious to one person may not be obvious to others.”


Ferguson has already shown his beliefs in UAV use. Earlier this year he brought on the first full-time UAV pilot at CNN to capture imagery. Video editors are still learning how to incorporate certain footage, however. “The language of television is wide-shot, medium-shot, close-up shot. That is how it works with television and movies,” he says. “Now we have a superwide shot that is moving.” Agvent points to a New Orleans documentary 10 years after Hurricane Katrina, hosted by Anderson Cooper, as a prime example of how CNN has already learned how to utilize drones for production oriented pieces. Using the services of Helivideo, Cooper’s team shot close-ups using drones on the New Orleans levies that broke during Katrina. In Oklahoma City, the team also used UAVs to shoot a special on the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing event. And, in Selma, CNN used a drone to capture the bridge at the center of a famous civil rights event. “The footage we shot on an early morning in March was extremely compelling,” Agvent says of the Selma shoot. “It was visually stunning, very unique and it helped us to tell the story of the bridge.” While Vigilante is happy with the support from the UAS and newsgathering industry to date, he is quick to point out that the CNN story isn’t just about the Atlanta team. “At the end of the day, this is about bringing a whole new business into existence that is a lot bigger than CNN,” he says. Ferguson agrees. “This is not about CNN and ego and being first. What we are trying to do is build and ecosystem for the whole media industry,” Ferguson says. Since the FAA started its Pathfinder program, no other major media entity has been granted the same status of CNN. When the company performs test flights above people, it will be the first media entity to do so. “Ultimately the flights are the easy part,” Agvent says. It is the integration of UAVs into the NAS and into day-to-day operations that is the hard part, he adds. Agvent is proud of the early efforts of

Vigilante to meet with the FAA and of Ferguson’s focus on working with emergency responders to effectively share the airspace. None of the UAS CNN pathfinder team, however, voiced their hopes that their efforts would be just about CNN or their individual bios. “What is important to us is that we have done it the right way,” Agvent says. After spending nearly 20 years as a field producer chasing and creating important and compelling stories, it is clear that

Agvents-and CNN's-efforts to show the way of the drone to the FAA and other media outlet competitors has flipped the camera around and the storytellers have become the story. For the UAS industry, that is good news. Author: Luke Geiver Editor, UAS Magazine 701-738-4944



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Seeing Beyond the Long-Range Potential of UAS Many UAS-related businesses with commercial exemptions are anxious to take advantage of the technologyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s capabilities, but are being held back by FAA restrictions. Does one companyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s experience show a path forward? By Patrick C. Miller

Exemptions for the commercial operation of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) issued by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have come with an important caveat: the aircraft cannot operate beyond visual line of sight (LOS), greatly restricting their use for many applications.

Mike Tully, CEO of Aerial Service Inc. in Cedar Falls, Iowa, knows the frustration. His company has been in the remote sensing business for 50 years, using manned aircraft to provide customers with geographic information for mapping, surveying and other purposes. After hiring an attorney to file an exemption request with the FAA and waiting 60 days, the agency was approved for an ASI Section 333 exemption last May. It was something of a hollow victory, however, for a company that wants to use UAS in place of manned aircraft where it makes sense to do so.

COMMON SIGHT: Conducting beyond visual line of sight research missions using a chase aircraft is a specialty of American Aerospace Technologies. Here, an RS-16 flies a science mission for Texas A&M Corpus Christi at Port Mansfield, Texas. PHOTO: TEXAS A&M CORPUS CHRISTI



CONNECTED BY RADIO: The Northrop Grumman SandShark is being used by the University of North Dakota School of Aerospace Sciences and Rockwell Collins to develop radio systems that allow beyond-line-of-sight operations. UND aviation student Schuyller Andrew piloted the SandShark. PHOTO: UNIVERSITY OF NORTH DAKOTA

“Overall, my feelings are that the main limitation of this exemption is that it’s restricted to visual line of sight only; we can only fly it where we can see it with the naked eye,” Tully says. “That’s way too restrictive, and I think it’s unnecessary given the technology we have today. It relegates our use of the unmanned vehicle to a far more limited scope of operations and markets.” David Phillips, Textron Systems Unmanned Systems vice president of small and medium-endurance UAS, points out that his company has more than 110,000 hours of civil and military experience in beyond LOS operations with its Aerosonde unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). “I would say 99 percent 22


of that is beyond line-of sightmissions,” he notes. “We’ve got experience in the Arctic and the Antarctic. We’ve flown across the Atlantic. We fly into hurricanes and into typhoons. We’ve flown in the remote Australian outback.” Much of Textron’s flying is done for the military overseas in such places as Afghanistan, but it also flies beyond LOS civil missions overseas where it has done work for the oil and gas industry. No matter what the circumstances, Phillips says they coordinate their UAS flights with local air traffic control or a governmental authority to operate safely. “In the U.S., we fly beyond line of sight at FAA-approved test sites in the commercial airspace in coordination with the

site and we do beyond line of sight at all of our military test ranges,” Phillips says. “All of those are beyond line-of-sight operations in which we bring the critical enabling technologies and maturity that enable us to convince the authorities in those areas that we can operate safely.” Unlike most civilian companies, Textron has a U.S. Navy-authorized flight clearance for beyond LOS operations, which means its UAS systems and subsystems must pass a thorough review process for reliability and configuration control. Phillips ticks off a list of factors that enable Textron to fly its Aerosonde UAS in both the civilian and military worlds. They include the reliability of a

purpose-built Lycoming UAS engine and redundant flight and data link systems. “It’s completely unacceptable in beyond line-of-sight operations that if you lose link, your aircraft just falls out of the sky,” Phillips notes. If a communications link is lost, there’s a redundant link to kick in. If that’s lost, flight control software takes the UAS back to the last GPS coordinate where it had a data link. The aircraft will always return to a point when it can reestablish a link, Phillips says. Health unit monitoring through real-time sensors on Textron’s UAS provide information on the aircraft’s systems to the ground control station. If a potential problem can’t be solved in the air, the aircraft returns to base. “We have separate and distinct data links for communications that are actively redundant, and then a third data link and separate radar that controls our payloads,” Phillips notes. “We don’t bring our payload or streaming video down in the same data link that we’re using to communicate with the aircraft. We want to keep those bandwidths separate.” The company’s UAS operators are rated pilots who go through 14 weeks of certification training, as well as annual training. In addition, Textron has a certified maintenance program in which preemptive maintenance is performed and UAS are taken out of service and overhauled after a certain amount of time. Whether flying in civil or military airspace, Phillips says Textron’s UAS pilots commu-


nicate directly with air traffic control. Their UAVs have transponders enabling them to be positively identified on radar systems. The problem isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t that the technology for UAS beyond LOS operations doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t exist. Instead, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a matter of the FAA having confidence in its ability to reliably track and safely manage thousands of UAS sharing the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most complex airspace with manned aircraft from the ground up . â&#x20AC;&#x153;To go beyond visual line of sight in any significant manner requires advancement in two areas of technology,â&#x20AC;? says Douglas Olsen, a UAS research assistant with the University of North Dakotaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s School of Aerospace Sciences. â&#x20AC;&#x153;One is airborne detect-and-avoid or sense-and-avoid capabilities for seeing other aircraft. The other one is maintaining control of aircraft at extended distances.â&#x20AC;? Special Committee 228 (SC228) of the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronau-

PROVEN PLATFORM SYSTEM: The Aerosonde UAS built by Textron Systems Unmanned Systems has amassed approximately 110,000 hours of beyond-line-of-sight flying for its civilian and military customers. PHOTO: TEXTRON SYSTEMS

tics (RTCA) has been tasked by the FAA to develop minimum operational performance standards (MOPS) for UAS. The committee is working on standards for detect-and-avoid (DAA) systems to maintain safe separation between aircraft and data link standards for UAS

command and control (C2) functions. The final version of the MOPS is expected by July 2016. Olsen, a member of the SC228 C2 committee, manages a research project jointly funded by avionics manufacturer Rockwell Collins of Cedar Rapids,

U LT R A - L I G H T W E I G H T


Iowa, and the North Dakota Department of Commerce. Radio technology being developed by Rockwell Collins for beyond LOS missions is being flown on the Northrup Grumman SandShark UAV. Olsen says the concept for UAS beyond LOS operations

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COMMERCIAL GRADE: Textron System's Aerosonde UAS has established a reputation for reliability with its purpose-built Lycoming engine and reduncant links and physical systems. PHOTO: TEXTRON SYSTEMS

being pursued involves designating a secure, robust aviationprotected radio communications link and establishing a network of towers across the U.S. As a UAS is being flown cross-country by a ground control station, it would be handed off from tower to tower. “That’s the direction that the regulations are leaning,” Olsen notes. Looking toward the FAA’s regulatory approach, NASA has funded Rockwell Collins to develop a prototype CNPC (command, non-payload, communication) radio and wave form to demonstrate its capabilities in the L and C band frequencies of the aviation-protected spectrum. “These are areas of the spectrum that others won’t be able to use,” Olsen explains. “They are secure and won’t be 24


stepped on by other users.” Working with the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, Olsen says UND and Rockwell Collins are installing the radios and antennas on small, compositematerial UAS and flying them from a public airport in challenging communications areas, such as at low altitudes where multi-pass effects can occur. They’re studying the performance of different antenna types and conducting a host of radio frequency experiments. Tom Vogl, Rockwell Collins project engineer, says that the company has worked with NASA to validate the CNPC radios for beyond LOS operations at a range of more than 100 miles and has flown tests of applications that perform handoffs between towers. Among the technical issues yet to be addressed are how the radio spec-

trum is allocated and the development of an infrastructure to support it, he notes. Vogl says the RTCA SC228 is also studying satellite communications for UAS beyond LOS operations, which would provide a more comprehensive communications solution in addition to air and ground systems. According to Vogl, longer range goals for Rockwell Collins are to validate concepts, make them available at the FAA’s UAS test sites, develop infrastructure others can use to validate their concepts and make certain that the form factor of the prototype CNPC radio is appropriate for a wide range of users in the UAS community. The use of UAS to inspect critical linear infrastructure such as oil and gas pipelines and electrical transmission lines is one area in which beyond LOS operations are likely to first occur, says David Yoel, CEO of American Aerospace Technologies Inc. The Pennsylvaniabased company has already conducted two research flights this year during which its UAVs flew beyond the pilot’s line of sight while being followed by a chase helicopter. Overall, Yoel says AAT has flown as far as 20 miles downrange from the UAS launch

point and has done about 100 flights beyond the sight line of the pilot in command. The first flight in March was flown with AAT’s RS-16— built by Arcturus UAV—for 12 miles over a Colonial Pipeline Co. pipeline to establish the aviation operation. The second flight in June covered 40 miles of pipeline, this time using the company’s larger RS-20 UAV, which carried a sensor package that successfully identify threats to the pipeline’s integrity. A third flight is planned for later this year. The missions were overseen by Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP) and Virginia Tech University with the support of the Pipeline Research Council International. The test area within the COA covers 185 square miles, has a 3,000-foot flight ceiling and is located about 15 miles west of Richmond, Virginia. “We can eliminate risk to the pilots and identify machinery threats, the biggest risk to the industry,” Yoel says. “We’ve now done that with the use of UAS beyond visual line of sight.” He says the goal is to eventually fly UAS missions hundreds of miles long without using chase aircraft and while employing sensors that quickly and automatically iden-

‘We’ve got experience in the Arctic and the Antarctic. We’ve flown across the Atlantic. We fly into hurricanes and into typhoons. We’ve flown in the remote Australian outback.’ -David Phillips, Textron Systems Unmanned Systems


DOWN THE FUTURE PATH: An American Aerospace Technologies RS-16 takes off on a research mission flown earlier this year to inspect a natural gas pipeline in Virginia. PHOTO: AMERICAN AEROSPACE TECHNOLOGIES

tify threats to pipeline integrity. However, before that can happen, Yoel says, “We need to integrate various detect-andavoid technologies to determine which would be appropriate in a linear infrastructure environment and provide it in a safe way that the FAA can consider adopting.” “It’s the non-cooperative users of the airspace that we have to be concerned about,” Yoel explains. “They’re not required to file a flight plan or to carry a radio. We have to be able to detect and avoid them without their cooperation. If we can’t do that, there will be no beyond-line-of-sight civil unmanned aviation industry.

Period. That is a fundamental bottleneck.” Phillips says that fitting DAA devices on a UAV the size of the Aerosonde is a challenge, but Textron is making investments to come up with a solutions, possibly using a combination of visual and audible technologies. “When the FAA opens up the airspace, they’re going to want you to safely detect, sense and avoid something that’s on a collision course with your aircraft and take autonomous measures to change your course,” he says. “They’re going to want you to do that 24/7, day or night in any weather condition.”

Because technology that depends on sight can be hindered by weather, Textron is also considering an audible system that cancels out the UAV’s engine noise and looks for other sounds within the spectrum similar to aircraft engines, Phillips says. NASA is continuing its research on developing senseand-avoid technology. During June and July, the agency collaborated with the FAA, General Atomics and Honeywell for flight testing at the agency’s Armstrong Fight Research Center in California. It was the first full testing of an automatic collision avoidance capability on autonomous aircraft.

The tests were the third in a series that built on similar experiments to demonstrate a proof-of-concept DAA system. The tests engaged the core air traffic infrastructure and supporting software components through a live and virtual environment to demonstrate how an autonomous aircraft interacts with air traffic controllers and other air traffic. “I think the maturity of the technology on the communications side is further along than it is on the detect-and-avoid side,” says Yoel. “The detection and avoidance combined is a difficult task. It’s a fundamental technology needed for the entire industry.” Obviously, not every business engaged in the UAS industry has the resources and connections of a Textron Systems. But the company’s experience and thousands of hours of UAS operations provide a useful roadmap leading toward safe, effective beyond LOS operations. “We’ve got certificates of authorization to fly at two of the FAA approved test sites in Warm Springs, Oregon, and at the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership down at Fort Pickett, Virginia,” Phillips says. “We’ll utilize that commercial airspace and those relationships with the test sites to integrate technologies and go try them out in the commercial airspace. I think we’ll be ready when they sort all that out.” Author: Patrick C. Miller Staff Writer, UAS Magazine 701-738-4923


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UAS Magazine Q3 - 2015