The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) posted a rule in the Federal Register requiring small drone owners to display the FAA-issued registration number on an outside surface of the aircraft. Owner and operators may no longer place or write registration numbers in an interior compartment. The rule is effective on February 25, 2019. The markings must be in place for any flight after that date.
When the FAA first required registration of small drones in 2015, the agency mandated that the registration marking be readily accessible and maintained in readable condition. The rule granted some flexibility by permitting the marking to be placed on an enclosed compartment, such as a battery case, if it could be accessed without the use of tools.
Subsequently, law enforcement officials and the FAA’s interagency security partners have expressed concerns about the risk of a concealed explosive device might pose to first responders upon opening a compartment to find a drone’s registration number. The FAA believes this action will enhance safety and security by allowing a person to view the unique identifier without handling the drone.
This interim final rule does not change the original acceptable methods of external marking, nor does it specify a particular external surface on which the registration number must be placed. The requirement is that it can be seen upon visual inspection of the aircraft’s exterior.
The FAA has issued this requirement as a Interim Final Rule – a rule that takes effect while also inviting public comment. The FAA issues final rules when delaying implementation of the rule would be impractical, unnecessary, or contrary to public interest. In this case, the agency has determined the importance of mitigating the risk to first responders outweighs the minimal inconvenience this change may impose on small drone owners, and justifies implementation without a prior public comment period.
The FAA will consider comments from the public on this Interim Final Rule, and then will review any submissions to determine if the provisions of the ultimate Final Rule should be changed. The 30-day comment period will end on March 15, 2019. To submit comments, go to http://www.regulations.gov and search for “RIN 2120-AL32”.
As Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao promised last month, the FAA also posted proposed new rules to let drones fly routinely at night and over people and to further integrate them safely into the nation’s airspace. The comment period for these proposals is now open and ends on April 15.
Domino’s Pizza is experimenting with the idea of delivering your pizza to you via drones (instead of drivers). The “DomiCopter” is a manned drone that was created through a partnership between a digital media company called T and Biscuits and a company called Aerosight that makes Heli-cam drones that are designed to be used for filming and photography. Both are UK companies.
There is potential that the “DomiCopter” could turn out to be nothing more than a way to attract attention to Domino’s Pizza. (In other words, it might be just a PR stunt). In the United States, there are Federal Aviation Administration rules that specifically do not allow companies to fly an experimental drone for commercial purposes.
The Oppikoppi Festival, which takes place in South Africa, is intending to use drones to deliver beer to people who are in a crowd at the music festival. The idea is to prevent people from having to walk away from the stage where a band is playing whenever they want to buy a beer. Instead, the drones are supposed to drop the beer from the sky to the person who ordered it.
It will be interesting to see how that works out. Drones that deliver beer. Drones that deliver pizza. What’s next?
This video shows the “DomiCopter” in action.
The Oppikoppi Festival has been taking place in South Africa every year since 1995. It is a big music festival. For this year, the 19th year of the festival, they are going to be trying something new to help distribute beer to the people who attend.
According to HypeBot the festival will make use of small drones that will deliver beer directly to the person who ordered it. He or she won’t have to walk away from the music, and stand in a long line, in order to purchase a beer.
Instead, a small, 8-propeller helicopter drone, that has been loaded with beer, will fly over the festival and locate the person who ordered a beer. The drone will then drop a single beer, which has been attached to a small parachute. Use your smartphone to order the beer, and stay put. The beer will come to you!
This year, the Oppikoppi festival planners are intending to have people hand guide the drones. In other words, the drones won’t be functioning without a human guiding them along behind the scenes. If things work out well, there is potential that other large, outdoor, music festivals may decide to use some beer delivery drones.
Image by Stock Photo Beverage Series Beer by BigStock
Drones are unmanned flying vehicles which are controlled by operators from thousands of miles away. They are used extensively in Afghanistan to track the Taliban’s activities. There has been increase talk among law enforcement in the United States that using drones might be useful in fighting crime. There is a Federal mandate that would permit drones to be used in US airspace. There are many questions involving the use of drones including privacy rights, lack of search warrants …. There are also technical questions. Right now the biggest problem that the DHS and the FAA are facing involving drones are jammers which don’t control the drones but simply jam the signal. This is the way the Iranians insist they were able to bring down a drone in 2011. Although that is still disputed by the US who insist it was operator error and not Iranian jamming that caused the drone to land off course.
However solving the jamming problem maybe easy compared to the problem of spoofing. Spoofing is where the drone is actually controlled by a third-party. In order for spoofing to be successful the drones GPS system must be hacked. That is what the University of Texas, Cockrell School of Engineering did under Assistant Professor Todd Humphreys when it hijacked a drone using $1,000 worth of equipment and custom software. These drones were using unencrypted software that the University of Texas team was able to hack. Their signal was more powerful than the GPS signal that the drone was receiving from the satellite that was originally controlling it. They were able to over ride that GPS signal sending the drone where they wanted to. As you can image this is a huge potential problem. Imagine what would happen if a terrorist group was able to hack a drone and send it where ever they wanted it to. They could control it from anywhere and sending it crashing into buildings with no risk to themselves.
Right now the DHS is still working on the jamming problem through the Patriot Watch and the Patriot Shield programs but the programs are underfunded and haven’t even started looking into the spoofing problem. Before we allow drones to fly above US cities we might want to find a solution to both jamming and spoofing first.