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Apr 05 2011

Mention of unmanned aircraft in new FAA Act

The Dayton Business Journal provides a short review of the language in the new FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011 that would lead to official FAA Unmanned Aerial Vehicle regulations and classifications, along with official test sites in Dayton.  You can have fun with the text of the legislation from the Library of Congress, here.  The section on unmanned aircraft is brief, but a few key points should be noted. 

  • Aircraft are classified as public ('...an unmanned aircraft system that meets the qualifications and conditions required for operation of a public aircraft...') or small ('...an unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds...')
  • The FAA will make the determination "...which types of unmanned aircraft systems, if any, as a result of their size, weight, speed, operational capability, proximity to airports and population areas, and operation within visual line-of-sight do not create a hazard to users of the national airspace system or the public or pose a threat to national security..."
  • That the determination of these aircraft types is to occur within 180 days from the enactment of the Act
  • The FAA has 270 days from the time of approval of the Act to issue a plan for developing regulations
  • The plan must be in effect by September 30, 2015.

In summary, it looks like we might get a word on regulations of particular size, weight, range classes of aircraft this summer, but that the full regulatory system is still years away.  I think that the language I highlighted in the second bullet is particularly important, it tells us that determinations are going to made based on whether the craft poses a threat to users of the national airspace and to national security.  Arguably, working with small, light-weight aircraft (< 4 lbs) at altitudes below the national airspace (< 400 ft) will make sure that our research stays within the safezone.  

As a side note, I think there is also some language in the Act about the popular passenger bill of rights, but I didn't take the time to look!


UPDATE: The AMA just sent out a post about this as well:

Oct 07 2010

Back in the air and doing great!

One week after a nasty crash at one of our suburban forest study sites, we are back in the air and *hopefully* back on track for a great collection of vegetation dynamics this month.

More on the crash and the rebuild on the Weekly are forthcoming, the team has mid-terms right now, but I wanted to post about the recovery and success today.  We had two Hexas on order and they arrived on Thursday of last week.  Nisarg and Garrett put in the time this past weekend to get the two new birds up and running and we had a few great tests in a parking garage and in an empty gymnasium, inside because of a cold autumn rain.

On Monday we calibrated the receivers to the units and everything appeared ready for great flights once the weather broke.  The forecast called for rain until Thursday and then becoming beautiful.  The forecast for today included rain but the morning and midday had light winds and mostly overcast skies so we decided to go for it.  I knew the gear was ready and I pulled out some of my new pre-flight checklists to prepare the field kit.  Garrett showed up and helped with the packing while I prepped the official flight path in ArcGIS.

Here is the breakdown of field work by time:

  • 10:30 – Arrive at site and unload (leave note on car begging not to be ticketed)
  • 11:30 – All markers are placed with position recorded in GPS
  • 12:00 – Back to site and ready to go after realizing I left camera battery in lab
  • 12:05 – Garrett has arrived and we are powering up Hexa
  • 12:30 – Updated and verified Mikrotool settings, unit has GPS lock, ready to go…
  • 12:33 – Take off!
  • 12:48 – Jonathan grabs Hexa as it makes its descent. Touchdown.
  • 13:05 – Gear is packed up; Depart site
  • 13:30 – All gear has been unloaded and we are back in lab downloading data

In sum, about 2 hours on-site for what appears to be a perfect 15 minute data acquisition.  I expect that we can take off at least one hour from this as we get better at making acquisitions.  A Photosynth of the photos is running now and I will update with a link when it is ready.  I have also attached below the KML file of the track downloaded from the MicroSD card on board the Hexa’s navigation control board.

HR_20101006_Mikrokopter_GPS_telemetry.KML (49.45 kb)

UPDATE: The Photosynth run is finished, http://photosynth.net/view.aspx?cid=011796ed-ed9e-43d5-bc0a-f5a80bcae7d6 . This was based off of every other photo in the set, amazing.  I can't wait to get some seasonal change in the canopy, it will look beautiful.