Iris Automation selected as DAA provider for ZM Interactive drones

Iris Automation today announced it has been selected as the detect and avoid (DAA) provider to ZM Interactive (ZMI) drones, enabling ZMI customers to conduct Beyond-Visual-Line-of-Sight (BVLOS) operations.

Iris is the critical missing piece that takes commercial drone operations from theoretical to functional, by enabling Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) to fly Beyond-Visual-Line-of-Sight (BVLOS). The Iris Automation Casia system is a turnkey solution that detects, tracks and classifies other aircraft and makes intelligent decisions about the threat they may pose to the drone. It then triggers automated maneuvers to avoid collisions, and alerts the pilot on the ground in command of the mission. The industry-leading collision avoidance system helps drones see the world how pilots do.

ZMI manufactures the xFold™ drone – an industrial, military-grade UAV that comes in a variety of different sizes and configurations. xFold™ drones are guaranteed to be the strongest and most advanced multi-rotor drones on the market, with uses ranging from aerial cinematography, 3-D Mapping and Inspections, cargo delivery, fire fighting efforts. Because its frame can change between a x4 (Quad), x6 (Hexa), X8 (octo) and X12 (Dodeca) configurations in minutes and heavy payload capability of over 300lb, the xFold™ is suitable for a wide range of commercial, industrial, military and emergency response applications. xFold™ drones are the only FAA-approved airworthy drone at that level.

Starting today, ZMI will provide the option of Casia integrated onto all of its drone platforms. Combined, the two companies provide customers with an all-in-one package ready for advanced missions, including safe BVLOS operations.

“This collaboration between Iris Automation and ZMI allows xFold™ drone customers to use their drones to their full potential,” Iris Automation CEO Alexander Harmsen. “Having drones pre-equipped with the option for advanced BVLOS capabilities is a basic requirement the industry will soon expect to see on all drones out-of-the-box.”

Last year, Iris Automation conducted the first Part 107 FAA-approved BVLOS drone flights without a requirement for visual observers or ground-based radar. The FAA’s approval for the flight was granted based on the utilization of the Casia detect-and-avoid system. As part of the partnership, Iris will also offer customers with Casia onboard regulatory support for Part 107 waiver writing and regulatory approval processes to secure the necessary permissions for their unique UAS BVLOS operations.

About Iris Automation

Iris Automation is building an AI-based collision avoidance system that helps drones see the world how pilots do. By enabling Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) to fly Beyond-Visual-Line-of-Sight (BVLOS), Iris is the critical missing piece that takes commercial drone operations from theoretical to functional. The company is based in San Francisco and is led by a team with experience at NASA, Boeing, and Nvidia, including PhDs in computer vision. Iris is a key partner on multiple FAA UAS Integration Pilot Programs, a participant of NASA’s Unmanned Traffic Management program and a participant of Transport Canada’s BVLOS Technology Demonstration Program. For more information, visit www.irisonboard.com

AirWorks Explains How to Protect Airports From Drones With DJI Aeroscope

DJI Aeroscope from Airworks a DJI Dubai Dealer

DJI Aeroscope can identify the most popular drones on the market today by monitoring and analyzing their electronic signals to gain critical information.

As consumer DJI drones become more popular, there are rising challenges in safety and security for areas such as airports, prisons, nuclear power plants, prohibited military zones and various government sites and infrastructures. Traditional protections in these locations may not be able to adequately detect and monitor UAVs to prevent consequential incidents.

The risk of drones flying near airports is certainly widespread, with news reporting momentary shutdowns in several cities. Just last November, suspected drone activity caused momentary flight diversions in Sharjah International Airport.

In the UAE, drone regulations are established by the GCAA, while in the Dubai Emirate, the DCAA is responsible.

Drone use is forbidden within a 5km radius of airports, and a minimum distance of 10km must be kept from takeoff and landing paths.

The flying regulations are many and not always easy to understand: to navigate through them, AirWorks offers a free online course about Dubai Drone Regulations. All the content is divided into three easy to follow chapters to ensure an enjoyable learning experience and learn all the necessary information.

Airports should definitely start thinking about investing in solutions to prevent drone-related accidents from happening.

DJI offers a GEO system that delineates where it is safe to fly a drone, where flight may raise concerns and where flight is restricted (such as around airports, power plants and prisons).

GEO limits flights into or taking off within zones that pose a security threat.

However, when drones are flying nearby airports, traditional protections may not be sufficient to adequately monitor and detects UAVs, and consequently prevent possible incidents. This is why DJI has introduced Aeroscope, an innovative and comprehensive drone detection platform that is able to identify the most popular drones on the market today. Aeroscope gathers information such as flight status, paths and other monitoring data in real-time.

The Aeroscope Stationary Unit is the ideal solution for the protection of large-scale sites. The system can be customized depending on user demands in order to completely cover the surrounding airspace. It can monitor and area of up to 50km and obtain information regarding drones within a few seconds.

The Aeroscope Portable Unit is designed for temporary events, mobile deployments and similar situations. Users can easily operate in a new or mobile location thanks to the single carrying case of the unit. This is the ideal solution for emergencies and wherever stationary units are not available or cannot be installed.

The system can be integrated with existing security systems in order to provide a seamless user experience and have all data gathered in one place: the Aeroscope Backstage Management System. This platform provides central monitoring, command and investigation tools, and is able to integrate data collected from previous flights for in-depth analysis.

Advanced navigation appoints chief revenue officer drive next stage growth

SydneyAdvanced Navigation, a leader in Inertial Navigation Systems, announced the appointment of a key executive, John Colvin, as Chief Revenue Officer. This appointment demonstrates the company’s commitment to investing in its leadership talent to foster continued growth.

“It’s an incredibly exciting time to join Advanced Navigation right now. The strength of our navigation and positioning solutions — and the growth we’re seeing in the global markets — is putting us on a steep upward trajectory,” said Chris Shaw, CEO and co-founder, Advanced Navigation. “John brings an extensive amount of experience and the necessary leadership skills to help guide the business to the next stage of our growth globally, and we’re excited to have him on the team.”

“I am extremely excited and honoured to join the Advanced Navigation team and be a part of an innovative company that is leading the industry with disruptive navigational technology, robotics and AI solutions”, said John Colvin, Chief Revenue Officer, Advanced Navigation. “There is an ever-increasing need for these advanced solutions across the automotive, aerospace, Defense, sub-sea, drone and commercial industries and Advanced Navigation is already primely placed with many of the leading companies in these spaces around the world.”

John Colvin, Chief Revenue Officer

As Chief Revenue Officer, Colvin will be expanding Advanced Navigation’s presence in the United States and be responsible for driving growth, market expansion and all customer engagement functions globally. He has more than 30 years of experience in the High Tech industry, with a proven track record of growing businesses, scaling companies and executing global go-to-market strategies. Most recently, Colvin served as Senior Vice President of Global Field Operations at Mimosa Networks. Prior to Mimosa, he was an officer in the company and held numerous Senior Leadership positions at Calix over a 13-year period. Previously to Calix, he also held Sales Leadership positions at Cisco, Cerent and Alcatel.

About Advanced Navigation:

Advanced Navigation was founded in Sydney in 2012 by Xavier Orr and Chris Shaw to commercialize thesis research into AI neural network based inertial navigation. The first product met the market with great success and the company expanded rapidly adding a portfolio of navigation offerings and moving into a diverse range of deep tech fields such as underwater acoustics, GPS, radio frequency systems, sensors and robotics. Today Advanced Navigation is a supplier to some of the biggest companies around the world, including NASA, Airbus, Boeing, Tesla, Google, Apple and General Motors. Advanced Navigation is headquartered in Sydney, Australia with a large research facility in Perth, Australia and sales offices around the world. Advanced Navigation is an Australian manufacturer exporting globally while maintaining carbon neutral operations.

For more information visit: http://www.advancednavigation.com

2020 Canadian Automated Snow Plow Competition – Call for Participation

CAVCOE is hosting and organizing the 2020 Canadian Automated Snow Plow Competition in Canada.

Autonomous snow plows are a next-generation engineering challenge that have tremendous economic and social potential. The aim of this student competition is to provide an opportunity for students to apply their knowledge and skills from the classroom to a tangible real-world problem, and to develop technical and business skills required to excel in today’s high-tech world.

Registration for the competition is open to teams from Canadian post-secondary education institutions. Registered student teams are required to develop a scale-model of an autonomous or semi-autonomous snow plow vehicle capable of completing several snow plow style tasks.

Prizes will be awarded to the winning team of each Competition round – Phase 1 and Phase 2!

To Register Your Team:

  • To register or for more information, please write to [email protected]
  • February 7, 2020 deadline for teams to indicate their intent to participate in the competition

Important Competition Info:

  • Competition rules and technical details are available in the Concept of Operations (Conops) document located at: http://caspi.cavcoe.com/2020_Student_Compeition_CONOPS_and_Rules_Rev1.pdf
  • Phase 1 Report:
    • February 28, 2020: registered teams to deliver a report with the technical design (approximately 10 pages) to the competition judge panel.
  • Phase 2 Onsite Competition:
    • May 2-3, 2020: teams to be present at the Ottawa L5 Automated Vehicle Test Facility in Ottawa, ON to make a presentation on their design, demonstrate their vehicles and compete with the other teams.

The Problem

A major snowstorm has dumped a metre of snow on Ottawa Ontario just in time for the City’s annual Winter Expo. What to do? Fortunately, an R&D company you have co-founded is developing autonomous ground vehicles. Your company has developed an autonomous snow plow and think this is a great opportunity to test the prototype. Your company offers to help the city with this emergency and the city has accepted, provided that your team-mates are available to operate it. Your company accepts the challenge.

The Challenge

Teams must develop a snow plow capable of completing a number of snow clearing tasks that may involve recognition of objects, detecting and avoiding hazardous conditions, path-finding and avoiding people and cars. Additionally, teams will be required to present a business case for their design. Teams will be scored on their design, their business pitch, and their snow plow’s ability to complete one or more challenges.

To Register, or for more information, please contact:

Barrie Kirk [email protected]

———–

David Mosley

Competition Project Manager

2020 Canadian Automated Snow Plow Competition

Swiss Post Up & Flying (Again)

The Swiss Post delivery system has resumed after being suspended in August 2019 for two drone crashes. After a review by an independent board of experienced aviation specialists, Michel Guillaume, one of the members of the review board, said, “Swiss Post and Matternet [the U.S. company that maintains the fleet] maintain high safety standards and a high level of safety awareness. The processes that were examined were at a high standard even before the incidents. There are no reasons why flight operations should not be resumed.”

The board recommended that Swiss Post and Matternet make four changes to their operations:

  1. Matternet should implement the new safety recommendations set by the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) and the Swiss Transportation Safety Investigation Board (STSB) following the previous crashes
  2. Establishment of an independent oversight body for safety-related processes before the end of March 2020
  3. Swiss Post given more control over the actual drone operations (which are currently run by Matternet), including the ability to audit Matternet’s drone operations
  4. Improved safety protocols for Matternet, including the hiring of a dedicated head of safety

Matternet has implemented the safety recommendations and hired a head of safety. The two companies have also spent time since the accident in May 2019 running over 2,000 test flights in Switzerland on improved drones that should be less prone to failure.

The Swiss delivery program has been running in Switzerland since 2017, flying blood samples between hospital facilities and labs.

Fly By Night: Training for after-dark flying with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

It is embarrassing—bordering on painful—to learn an obvious lesson in front of your colleagues, especially when your colleagues are literally the best in the world at what they do. Nevertheless, that was the situation I managed to create for myself during a recent trip to Prescott, Arizona. This incident unfolded amid heady circumstances. I had recently been named adjunct faculty to the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) Worldwide Campus Department of Flight. Along with other members of the team, I participated in a series of uncrewed aircraft system (UAS) training exercises and real-world testing this past October.

ERAU has two physical campuses, one in Daytona Beach, Florida, and the other in Prescott. However, we spent almost all of our time 20 miles north of the city at Gunsite Academy, an expansive civilian firearms training facility, encompassing 3,000 acres of arid scrub. Each day was punctuated by the distant sound of gunfire, as students from all over the country practiced their skills on the many ranges scattered across the property.

SAFETY FIRST

Although it lies beneath Class G airspace, flying over Gunsite required careful attention to the surrounding environment. In our immediate vicinity, the sectional chart noted extensive instrument flight rules (IFR) training at 10,000 feet and below. That meant that not only would there be a lot of airplanes flying around, but the student pilots would be wearing “hoods” designed to restrict their view to the instrument panel. So, each plane would have one less pair of eyeballs available to be watching for airspace conflicts.

To mitigate the risk, each UAS flight included at least one dedicated visual observer (VO), in addition to the required remote pilot in command (RPIC). Also, we had a hand-held aviation radio at our base camp, tuned to the control tower frequency for Prescott Regional Airport (PRC), surrounded by a protective ring of Class D airspace south of our location.

The student pilots used that frequency to call out their location and altitude, giving us some advanced warning when one was approaching our location. I quickly learned to identify ERAU’s own training aircraft—their white surfaces dazzling in the desert sun, with the tips of their wings painted dark blue.

Operating in the high desert was a reminder of another important aspect of flight safety: human factors. Although my fellow pilots and I never left the ground, flying took a toll on all of us, owing to the weather. It wasn’t especially warm, but the air was almost impossibly dry, making it easy to become dehydrated without noticing until secondary effects like fatigue and headaches began to register. Drinking water, and plenty of it, was an absolute requirement for safe flight operations.

Of course, safety is always the paramount virtue in aviation, but there was one additional factor that pushed it to the front of our minds during our visit to Gunsite. Several years earlier, a group of shooting range alumni were flying into the range on a private airplane for a class reunion. Making a low pass over the property prior to landing, they clipped a wing on a radio tower and crashed nearby. Tragically, all four people on board were killed.

GIVE IT A SHOT

One of the missions of the ERAU Department of Flight is to demonstrate practical applications for UAS technology, as well as the suitability of new platforms for particular missions. Among the projects we undertook at Gunsite was testing thermal imaging drones for their ability to detect and track an active shooter—that waking nightmare of modern American life wherein an armed individual enters a public space and fires on bystanders at random.

Active shooter response is among the most challenging scenarios that law enforcement must confront. It requires swift, decisive action while not further endangering the general public. Drones could be an enormous benefit in this type of incident, and that benefit could be extended to nighttime hours using thermal imaging technology.

Of particular interest to our research on this expedition was the FLIR Lepton sensor. A tiny, lightweight camera core, the Lepton makes it possible to add thermal imaging capabilities to everyday technology, such as smartphones. The Lepton is also the sensor installed on the Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual (M2ED) and the Parrot ANAFI Thermal.

For all of its advantages in terms of its physical specifications and low power consumption, the Lepton has one key drawback. It has extremely low resolution, delivering a 160×120 pixel image at 9Hz, which is to say, nine frames per second as opposed to the 24 to 30 frames per second we see in film and television. In short, it produces blurry, jerky video compared with what we are accustomed to by today’s standard. In spite of this drawback, we wondered if it could it still be enough to be useful in this real-world application.

To find out, we needed guns, drones, and darkness. Fortunately, we had all three available to us at Gunsite once the sun went down. The test would also serve a secondary function, allowing new members of the Department of Flight—like me—to demonstrate their night flying competence in order to qualify for operations under ERAU’s daylight waiver. What, I thought, could possibly go wrong?

NIGHT SIGHT

With the sun well below the horizon, the darkness that fell over Gunsite was nearly complete. Owing to the lack of nearby cities or even streetlights, the majesty of the night sky was on full display. For the first time in decades, I was able to plainly see the Milky Way, the disc of our home galaxy viewed edge on, stretching from horizon to horizon.

The location for our test was an outdoor shooting range, a flat, rectangular space with steel targets at one end, surrounded on three sides by earthen berms. A member of the ERAU faculty, who also works as a firearms instructor at Gunsite, took a shotgun, carbine, and several handguns downrange to play the role of an active shooter, while the rest of us hung back and set up launch and recovery pads using flashlights.

With a powerful strobe attached, visible for at least three statue miles, a M2ED orbited overhead. As our shooter blasted away at the targets, the strengths and limitations of the Lepton sensor began to reveal themselves. First of all, by registering the difference in temperature between objects in the environment, it was able to see, even in total darkness. However, the low-resolution image made it impossible to determine whether or not our colleague was carrying a carbine, a shovel, or anything at all.

FLIR’s patented MSX technology provided a partial solution. MSX works by combining a high-resolution visible light image with the low-resolution thermal image to enhance details. Of course, in total darkness, there is no visible light image. By powering up the M2ED’s onboard spotlight, attached specifically for this test, the visible light camera was able to provide an image for the MSX algorithm. However, at that point, we were able to simply look at the target through the visible light camera, no thermal imaging required.

It wasn’t as useful as larger, more powerful—and much more expensive—thermal cameras I had worked with in the past, but I thought it could still be useful for law enforcement. They could use the thermal camera to search for a suspect, then, after locating the target, turn on the spotlight to confirm the suspect’s identity.

Also, our “shooter” provided one piece of additional interesting feedback. When standing within the spotlight’s beam, he was effectively unable to see out past its circle of radiance. Effectively, he was left night blind to anything more than 15 or 20 feet away, while his exact location and movements were obvious to all of us, watching from the outside.

This would only work in a dark, rural area where there is no outdoor lighting apart from that provided by the drone itself, but it seems like the kind of insight that might someday save a life.

INTO DARKNESS

As I was already planning to submit a “Mission Profile” regarding my trip to Prescott, it occurred to me that I could use my own night qualification flight to enhance my reporting for RotorDrone Pro. Specifically, I thought I could take a long exposure image of our shooter uprange from his position, with his face and body lit by the muzzle flash of his own weapons.

Sounds awesome, right? I certainly thought so, but you will notice that no such image accompanies this report, which is your first hint that things did not go entirely according to plan. To prove my night flying competence, I attached a strobe to my own DJI Mavic Pro Platinum and sent it downrange.

Even after studying night flying procedures, as well as the physiology of the human eye and other factors, I found flying in total darkness extremely difficult. My previous night operations experience had been in urban environments, where it was still possible to discern something about the surrounding environment from the ambient light.

In the black desert night, I discovered, there is no such thing as depth perception—and therefore, no way to determine my aircraft’s position on the range relative to my subject, the shooter in our exercise. I might have been behind him, in front of him, or right beside him. Rolling the dice would yield just as accurate an estimate as my own senses.

Once I had managed to move past him with certainty and turn back toward him, I was unable to find him in the dark. The muzzle flash that accompanied each shot lasted only a split second: not enough time to fix his location in my drone’s field of view.

However, it turned out that failing to get a cool photograph was the least of my problems. When an errant flashlight beam swept across the berm at the end of the range, I saw something on my drone’s video feed that made my blood run cold: a tree branch, and then another—and another.

Through literally blind luck, I had managed to fly my drone into the middle of a stand of trees without hitting anything, so far. I quietly considered my options, well aware that my audience was a collection of the world’s best UAS experts and professionals, who had only lately invited me to join their ranks. A lot depended on what I did with my thumbs in the next 30 seconds.

UP AND AWAY

Rather than asking for help, which would have been my best option and most aligned with the overall goal of safety, I decided to try to solve the problem by myself. For the record, this was not the correct choice. One option would have been that the M2ED could have been brought over with its spotlight to help me see my way clear, drastically reducing the risk of a collision and subsequent crash.

Instead, I silently reasoned that trees get smaller the higher you go, so a vertical ascent was my best hope of escaping unscathed. I gently pushed up on the left stick, expecting to hear the sickening buzz of a propeller grinding against a branch any second—but that dreadful sound never filled my ears and my machine climbed up, up, and away from the obstacles. Once again in open air, I quietly completed the required maneuvers to fly under ERAU’s nighttime operations waiver.

During the debriefing at the end of the evening, it quickly became clear that my silence had not benefited me in the slightest. No surprise. This band of world-renowned experts had detected my error and called me out for it, reminding me that an essential step before any night mission is to scout the location in daylight, in order to determine the location of hazards that might go undetected at night.

I admitted my mistakes, and was let off with a warning—and a chuckle. After all, I had put my own machine at risk, not one that was the property of the university. I breathed a heavy sigh, grateful that such a dire lesson had come at a relatively modest price, and was reminded once again that no one, regardless of how many flight hours they have logged or what they have done in the past, is invulnerable. Follow the procedures, do the homework, and ask for help when you need it. Those are the qualities that truly define a good pilot. —Text & Photos by Patrick Sherman

UK Government Confirms Lower Airspace Review in House of Lords Debate

Baroness Vere of Norbiton

The Government has confirmed that it will be reviewing lower airspace infrastructure during a debate on a new airspace law.

In her opening remarks, Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Transport) confirmed that the Government will be reviewing controlled airspace, saying that the programme would include “airspace changes that direct airports to release underused controlled airspace so that General Aviation users can better access it.”

Several members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on General Aviation (APPG-GA) were present at a debate scrutinising the new legislation, titled ‘the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill’.

The new law will give the Secretary of State for Transport the ability to direct airports and other service providers to submit airspace change proposals. This new power will allow the Government and the CAA to carry out a programme of airspace modernisation.

Importantly, the Bill will also give the Government and the CAA the right to review airspace changes after they have been activated.

Speaking in the debate, Co-Chair of the APPG-GA, Lord Davies of Gower said “Diverse user groups all compete for the same volumes of sky, and the right of access for everyone must be protected as a central principle of airspace strategy. I always think of it as akin to the right to roam in the countryside.

“New powers to review and reduce airspace must be used with vigour to cut down redundant controlled airspace that is never visited by jets. It is right, proper and justified to open up areas of this common air for use by general aviation.”

The ability to review and amend controlled airspace was a key proposal made by the Lord Kirkhope Inquiry into Lower Airspace, published by the APPG-GA last year.

The report’s author and APPG-GA Vice-President Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate also spoke during the Bill debate, saying “Throughout our inquiry we were reminded of the pressing need to be able to remove airspace when it is not demonstrably required. Other noble Lords have also, rightly, pointed this out. It is important that such a reduction in airspace is available to us.”

Lord Kirkhope went on to point out that “General aviation in the UK is a substantial contributor to our GDP, greater than some of the other areas we spend a lot of time debating.”

The new Bill will also bring in extra powers for police in relation to drones. Police will now be able to ground a drone, issue on the spot fines and deploy anti-drone technology in areas at risk of drone interference.

Lord Davies said “It must be recognised that 99% of drone operators in the UK do so in accordance with the rules and cause no nuisance to the rest of aviation. However, it must also be recognised that drones have the potential to be used against aviation maliciously; it is good that police will now have the powers to manage such incidents swiftly.”

House of Lords approved the Bill at its second reading stage, and it will now go to its committee stage before moving to the House of Commons later in the year.

For a full transcript of the debate, the Hansard entry can be found here.

How The U.S. Department Of The Interior’s New Drone Policy Hurts America

In its broad mission to effectively manage over 500 million acres of land across the United States and its territories, the Department of the Interior has in recent years turned to drone technology to help get the job done. The DOI’s fleet of 810 civilian drones – only about 20 percent of which are DJI products – is the largest in the federal government and has become a trusted, invaluable resource for the agency. In 2018 alone, the DOI flew more than 10,000 drone missions to support everything from surveying migrating birds to fighting wildfires. It even used drones to support volcano monitoring and response efforts which were instrumental in the rescue of a Hawaii resident trapped by flowing lava.

That’s why we’re troubled by a new department policy that takes aim at drone technology. According to the policy, DOI employees can no longer fly drones made by foreign-owned companies or those made with foreign-manufactured components, with undefined cybersecurity concerns as the sole rationale. This policy has grounded the DOI’s entire drone program and all of the benefits that come with it. It is an alarming, politically driven decision that puts lives and property at risk.

First and foremost, the concerns raised by the agency regarding cybersecurity are not grounded in reality. As we said last year, we worked diligently with DOI officials, who themselves worked with independent cybersecurity professionals and experts at NASA over the course of 15 months to create a safe and secure drone solution that met DOI’s rigorous requirements. The result of this collaboration was our Government Edition (GE) solution which provides additional safeguards so drone data is not intentionally or accidentally shared with unauthorized parties. Just a few months later, at the request of the Department of Homeland Security, our GE drones were independently evaluated a second time by the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Lab, which also found no areas of concern related to data leakage.

Moreover, the vast majority of DOI missions are obviously not sensitive in the first place. A recent report shows that the programs impacted by this political decision include “missions to monitor fish, waterfowl and soil conditions.” In many if not most cases, the data DOI collects in these missions, as an agency using federal funds, is publicly releasable and available to anyone upon request.

With all of this in mind, we disagree with the DOI’s new policy because it treats a technology’s country of origin as a litmus test for its performance, security and reliability. Further, this decision makes clear that the U.S. government’s concerns about DJI drones have little to do with security and are instead part of a politically motivated agenda to reduce market competition and support domestically produced drone technology, regardless of its merits. It’s unfortunate that the government is letting politics play such an outsized role here, as people will likely suffer as a result, and lives may even be lost.

A Flawed Approach to Security

The DOI’s country of origin benchmark for security is ineffective and politically motivated, and ultimately does not address any real problem. It is not unreasonable for any government to prefer to buy products produced in its own country, but that sentiment simply doesn’t reflect the realities of today’s global technology supply chain. By the DOI’s own admission, all of the more than 800 drones it has procured are made in China or have components made there, including drones from companies headquartered in the US and Europe. The report from the Idaho National Lab recognizes this reality, saying, “[e]ven for the few small U.S-based companies that manufacture UAS’s in the U.S., the technical and economic viability of their UAS products relies on electronic components manufactured in China.”

Therefore, following its own policy to its logical conclusion would mean that the agency plans on keeping these drones grounded indefinitely, wasting the millions of dollars spent on procuring them. This policy might also require a restriction on other equipment used across DOI. How many DOI employees use smartphones, laptops, tablets, radios, weather monitors, cameras and other electronic equipment containing Chinese components in their jobs?

The Cost and Consequences

The DOI is beginning to acknowledge the negative implications of its decision, and the agency’s own 2018 report illustrates just how widespread the impact will be. By the DOI’s math, drones are anywhere from 32 percent to 63 percent less expensive to operate than airplanes, and four times less expensive than helicopters. These savings are even more pronounced given that the leading cause of death for wildlife biologists on the job is small plane or helicopter crashes. Last year, for example, a U.S. Forest Service helicopter crashed, killing one employee and injuring two other people, while on a mission to drop ignition spheres in a controlled-burn fire prevention operation – the same activity DOI did with drones before they were grounded by this policy.

Recent reports also indicate that some within the Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey have already raised concerns about long-term impacts the grounding may have on wildfire prevention and wildlife protection. Even worse, the DOI’s Bureau of Land Management has already cancelled several drone pilot training courses, causing a butterfly effect that will deprive operators of valuable information and experience critical to safely completing their missions.

In 2018 alone, drones saved an estimated $14.8 million over the cost of traditional ground-based methods. According to a DOI official, using a drone rather than a traditional approach can allow the DOI to perform a task in one-seventh the time, at one-tenth the cost. The DOI estimates that drones have saved $50 million just by detecting wildfires early, giving them time to protect critical land and infrastructure that may have otherwise been lost.

A Solution that Works

Instead of focusing on country of origin, a more effective solution would be to treat drones as any other information technology asset like a laptop or smartphone, and set clear industry-wide technology standards and requirements that ensure their safe and secure operation, much like those the DOI shared with us when we developed our Government Edition solution. Drone manufacturers would in turn ensure their products are built to meet the standards that are prescribed for the intended mission.

Similar to the approach currently used by Germany’s Interior Ministry, these standards could be focused on areas like functionality, safety and security. However, with the current lack of clear industry-wide guidance on standards, we believe that drone operators, including U.S. government and public safety agencies, deserve to make their own careful, fact-based evaluations and informed decisions about technology purchases, free from the influence of political priorities.

Permalink: https://content.dji.com/how-the-us-department-of-the-interiors-new-drone-policy-hurts-america/

Laflamme Aéro receives $2 Million in VC funding

Saint-Joseph-de-Coleraine , January 29, 2019 –Laflamme Aéro, located in the Thetford Mines region, announces the conclusion of a $ 2 million round of financing in which Investissement Québec, Anges Québec and Anges Québec Capital. Investments that are timely for the company which is preparing to market its LX300 drone from 2020, the first aircraft in the world of the unmanned helicopter type capable of carrying loads of 90 kilos.

“The LX300 is one of the largest civilian drones in the world. With its 300 kilos, it is mainly distinguished by its versatility, its ability to transport heavy loads and its flight autonomy of eight hours. This investment of $ 2 million now allows us to propel and promote our product to major national and international markets, “explains Enrick Laflamme, engineer, co-founder and president of Laflamme Aéro, the company he founded with his brother. David also an engineer and vice president of engineering for the growing company.

In addition to the commercial deployment of the LX300, the new investments announced today will support the improvement of the company’s infrastructure and the establishment of an assembly line, the addition of new resources to support the growth of Laflamme Aéro, as well as the research and development continuity of new products.

Developed by the family business since 2013, the LX300 is an innovative product intended for the private, commercial, military and government sectors. Very versatile, the device can be fitted with surveillance cameras or even transport equipment over long distances, to supply a sector that is difficult to access, for example. The LX300 has successfully encountered numerous flight tests and other delicate takeoff and landing manoeuvres in the past two years.

“It has all the advantages of a helicopter, but without the need for a pilot. It is fitted with a tandem rotor system (two propellers), allowing vertical takeoff and landing and great stability. All of these elements and the quality of the design make it an extremely reliable product with competitive operating costs, ”adds Laflamme.

UPS And Henry Schein Sign Agreement To Explore Drone Delivery

UPS Drone

UPS (NYSE:UPS) and Henry Schein, Inc. (Nasdaq: HSIC) today announced an agreement to explore and test a variety of drone delivery use cases. The use cases would examine unmanned aerial vehicles within business-to-business operating models.

The initiative to explore drone deliveries will begin in 2020 and will focus on testing the transport of essential healthcare products by UPS to customers of Henry Schein, a provider of healthcare solutions to office-based dental and medical practitioners.

“It is exciting to see Henry Schein come aboard this groundbreaking program,” says Scott Price, UPS chief strategy and transformation officer. “Healthcare and life science logistics are strategic priorities for UPS, and the testing of this drone program is a testament to the value organizations are seeing in this dynamic technology.”

UPS Flight Forward and Henry Schein will explore methods under oversight of the Federal Aviation Administration to test final-mile delivery where traditional road transport may be less effective or timely. This may include health campuses, remote communities, or temporarily inaccessible areas due to natural disasters.

In September 2019, UPS Flight Forward, the company’s drone airline subsidiary, received the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Part 135 Standard certification with authorization for the use of unmanned aircraft systems to operate a drone delivery program at WakeMed Hospital in Raleigh, N.C.

“Our customers rely on us to provide an exceptional experience with the ultimate goal of providing patients quality care,” said Gerry Benjamin, Henry Schein executive vice president and chief administrative officer. “As we scale our current capabilities, we are exploring new solutions to address the unique logistics challenges in healthcare. We are pleased to work with our long-time healthcare partners at UPS to advance the exciting capabilities that drones offer to shorten the time and distance between essential medical supplies and patient care.”