BOTACH and Sundance Media Group partner for sUAS Training & Consulting Services

Press Release

BOTACH and Sundance Media Group partner for sUAS Training & Consulting Services

Las Vegas, NV, November 08, 2018:

Botach, Inc. (OTC Markets: BOTACH) (“Botach” or the “Company”), Botach (a drone reseller), drone service provider and distributor of tactical products to the U.S. Public Safety channel, and the U.S. Government), announced a reseller/training partnership with Las Vegas-based Sundance Media Group (SMG), a company that specializes in assisting police, fire and private corporations with standing up training programs across the country and filing Certificates of authorization and/or waivers with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). SMG also creates or assists in the implementation of Policy, Procedures, and Operations manuals for ISO-compliant municipalities and organizations.

During the Nevada State Traffic Incident Management training event this past week, Chushim Botach, Botach’s Chief Executive Officer, commented: “Our reseller partnership with Sundance Media Group (SMG) enables us to offer a necessary and critical component of our everything drone strategy to our customers. Through SMG and our own product offerings, we possess the ability to offer our customers a turnkey acquisition, training, and COA/Waiver package. We have observed their abilities over the past two years and have been exceptionally impressed with their dedication to excellence.”

“Training, authorizations and waivers are vital to a viable and successful sUAS program.”

SMG has a 17-year history working in aviation, and has developed training missions for MIRT (Major Incident Response Teams), CSI, traffic homicide, night-time forensic missions, and crowd overwatch with and without tethering components.

We are very happy to be a component of the Botach end-to-end solution for Public Safety and Government sUAS programming,” says Jennifer Pidgen, COO of the company now celebrating 24 years in training. “We look forward to bringing our training standard of excellence and certified instructor/examiner program to Botach’s nation-wide clientele.”

About Botach

Botach Inc. is a family owned business and is one of the leading retailers of tactical and military supplies throughout our great nation. From duty boots to assault rifles, we sell products in every category in the tactical/military industry. Founded in the Los Angeles area, we have recently moved to a new home in Las Vegas. Las Vegas brings into a more shooter friendly environment to which we look forward to exploring and growing within.

Our expertise has kept us in business for over 20 years.  We take pride in caring for our customers.

For additional information about Botach, please visit https://www.botach.com/.

About Sundance Media Group

Founded in 1996, Sundance Media Group/SMG began as a training organization focused on cameras, codecs, and post-production technology. In 2004, the company began training in aviation technology, adding sUAS in 2011. In 2012, SMG produced the world’s first UAS training conference at the National Association of Broadcasters Post Production World Conference, and is an ISO-compliant organization.
With instructors from Public Safety, Construction, Vertical Inspection, Real Estate, and Cinematography, SMG instructors may be found speaking at technical, aviation, and UAS conferences around the globe. For more information on SMG, please visit sundancemediagroup.com

Hiring an sUAS/Drone Field Service Provider? You’ll wanna read this…

Organizations looking to hire a Drone Services Provider/contractor (DSP) or training provider are faced with so many choices (and questions), it’s understandable when confusion clouds the process. To help with details that will smooth some of the edges in the interview process, here are a few tips for hiring a Drone Service or Training provider.

1)  Request their Remote Pilot Certificate. Many refer to this as a “license,” but it is a certificate issued by the FAA to persons that have passed their written Part 107 testing examination. DSPs and training personnel should both be able to produce this carded document on demand. We have discovered several “trainers” instructing without holding this certification, which could potentially create legal issues for the hiring agency, and there are many DSP’s who do not hold this certificate.

Be aware that having this certificate offers no evidence whatsoever that the certificate holder has any skill, and does not demonstrate their hours of flight time nor flight experience.

It is important to note that hiring a non-certificated pilot carries large fines for the hiring agency/individual. Do not hire a non-certificated sUAS operator.

2)   Ask to see a certificate (proof) of insurance. Some DSP and instructors hold full-time insurance, while less professional operations purchase insurance per flight.  They should hold at minimum, a million dollar liability policy. Ensure their insurance is written by a known company. There are a few inexpensive, fly-by-night insurance companies available to DSP’s.  A professional, business-focused DSP should be able to immediately provide proof of insurance or Certificate of Insurance.  Things can go wrong with any project; ensure your company, property, and business are protected by the DSP’s insurance policy. This is often one of the most overlooked aspect of an operation, and if the pilot does not have insurance, the person or organization hiring the pilot is at risk.  Many/most DSP and training organizations will have hull insurance to replace their aircraft in the event of an incident, while many “wing it” without liability coverage. It’s not uncommon for large companies or event management to require a certificate of insurance that specifically names them as a beneficiary of the insurance in the event of a claim. Without liability insurance, we recommend the training or service provider not be hired, or if hired, an understanding that risk exists.

 

3) Peruse their website. Are the images seen on their website relevant to the job to be flown? More importantly, is the DSP the source of the images? It’s common for low-experience DSP to liberally “borrow” from other websites, presenting images as intimated evidence of their work. The difficulty is knowing whether they captured the images themselves (or not). One quick method of determining a photo’s origins is to right click the image and choose “Search Google for this Image.” Click the image to see how many results come up in a search.
In this particular example (as
presented on several sites intimating the DSP is active in Public Safety), the image was not captured by a sUAS, but rather a hillside shot from a well-known AP photographer (image courtesy Associated Press).

Following Hurricane Irma for example, disaster images popped up across the web, with unqualified DSP’s intimating they captured the images and have the FEMA qualifications for disaster or insurance-related work when in practice, they do not.

It’s much easier to hire someone for real estate imaging than for a construction site capture that will be stitched into an orthogrammatic image, just as it’s more difficult to find a DSP that has knowledge of flare stack inspections vs finding someone to document a community marathon or event.  Ensure the DSP has knowledge surrounding specific needs to guarantee everyone’s happiness at the end of the flight. This is also a safety issue. Having a photo on a website should not be an indicator of activity nor proficiency.

4) View a reel of their work. This isn’t necessary when selecting a training organization, but is critical if the work being hired involves images, video, or data analysis output. Try to determine if they are the organization that captured the video or if the video has been “borrowed” from other websites similar to the example above. 

Are they proficient in shooting quality video or photos? Are they able to properly use tools such as Pix4D, AgiSoft, DroneDeploy for final output and data evaluation?

If using an aggregator, ask if the DSP has skills specific to the area where they’ll be working. Many drone pilots are very capable of shooting nice photos, but have little to no training/skill for specific tasks such as real estate or inspection images.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5) Does the DSP hold any active operational waivers? This is critical if flight beyond sunset or prior to sunrise is required, and needed for flight over people, altitudes beyond 400’, flight in clouds, and other regulated activity. Without these, certain classifications of flight may not be accessible to the DSP nor the client.

If images like this one are seen on the website, it’s clear that the pilot does not observe FAA regulation, placing both the client and the pilot at risk for regulatory response by the FAA.

(image courtesy of ABC)

5) Who owns the original images/video? Spell this out in a Work for Hire contract if the client wants to own the source material. Most DSP’s will charge an additional fee if they do not retain rights to the original work. Determine how the work data will be kept secure in any event. Copyright nearly always belongs to the photographer/person who captured the images unless a signed Work for Hire agreement is part of the discussion.

6) If seeking a training provider, ask about their curriculum, training materials, and area of training. When it comes to flight, online-training is effectively useless, and practical flight programs require clear objectives with pre-test and post-training flight evaluations. One of the most valuable experiences a pilot or pilot’s organization can have is to be evaluated by a qualified third party.  Look for providers that embrace the Part 141 training pathway.

Look for any specialized certifications such as ISO audits, AUVSI’s TOP program certification, FAA certifications, or certifications from an other aviation-related training organization. Generally speaking, there is a significant difference between an instructor who teaches sUAS with risk-mitigation, and a super-hot, great sUAS pilot.

Ask about documentation that the pilot candidate will be taking with them post-instruction.

Identify what sort of post-training re-certification or recurrent training is recommended or required. Having a certificate from a reputable flight school will generally aid in applying for operational waivers and in some cases, may inspire an insurance provider to offer a discount based on training documents.

Hiring a DSP or training services provider/contractor in the world of Aviation isn’t quite as straightforward as it might seem.  It’s not terribly different than the facade buildings of the 19th century; something looks great on the surface, but in actuality, the backside is found wanting.

UAS are regulated by federal law, and any organization wants to take steps to ensure their services and education fall within all parameters of regulations. Following the above steps should help any organization avoid pitfalls related to safety and quality work.

sUAS and the 1 October Tragedy

1 October, Harvest Festival, Route 91” are all synonymous to Nevadans and first responders, marking the America’s worst-yet mass shooting event when a lone gunman in a high-rise hotel opened fire on concert goers (the official investigatory title for this event is “1 October”).

  • 58 victims died of gunshot wounds.   
  • 422 individuals were injured by gunfire.  
  • Approximately 800 concert attendees were injured from gunfire, trampling, or other injury escaping the chaos.

Over the course of several hours following the shooting;  law enforcement, fire, EMS services, and civilians acted as one to manage the scene, transporting victims to local hospitals, secure the area, and begin collection of evidence.

sUAS ON SCENE

sUAS were a component of the evidence-gathering process under the direction of the FBI and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD).


LVMPD partnered with Nevada Highway Patrol’s Multidisciplinary Investigation and Reconstruction Team and their sUAS as part of the scene given the size of the site, and the amount of data that needed to be collected in a short period of time. An outside technical advisor was also brought in to advise and as a subject matter expert to ensure automated mission compliance and best-practices were observed in each of the missions.

THE AREA

The area to be captured via sUAS was just over 19 acres in overall size.

Two primary considerations for data integrity:

  • Corruption of image from shadow/moving sun in a static environment
  • Corruption of area from propwash

To combat the second issue, altitudes for flight were selected based on height and downdraft from the aircraft.

Two types of aircraft were evaluated, a quadcopter and a hexacopter. The hexacopter offered significantly less ground disturbance and was selected for the mission. It was also much quieter and was expected to not attract undue attention at any altitude, as there were many tourists along Las Vegas Boulevard.

In order to counter the primary issue it was determined that the area would be captured with three simultaneous flights, spatially and temporally separated.

The mission requirements shed light on several challenges.

  • The site is located in Class B airspace, less than 500’ from active aprons, taxiways, and runways.
  • An active investigation underway created concern for flight in areas over investigators inside the secured perimeter.
  • Time was at a premium, as this is an outdoor venue and weather/sun were actively degrading evidence.
  • Helicopters from tour companies were not observant of the in-place TFR, and were constantly in the airspace, trying to show the crime scene to tourists.
  • Completing the missions within a narrow window of time was a crucial element so as to obtain the best possible images at all four primary areas of flight without shadow distortion.
  • A delicate balance of altitude and resolution needed to be struck to not affect evidence while obtaining the highest resolution possible.


Plans for automated flight were discussed on-site with time of flight determined by angle of sun. Once plans were determined and drawn, FBI and LVMPD personnel approved the automated flight areas, altitudes, and speed of flight. The automated, map-mission flight paths were programmed into each of the three ground stations, and verified by all authorized parties.

Flight plans included 85% overlap, 70% sidelap, with 25% additional area beyond the festival grounds captured for clean edges at the optical extremes.

Altitudes of flight were 60’, 90’, 150’, and 200’ with 5’ altitude offsets from center

North and South areas began flight in an easterly/westerly direction, while the center area began northerly/southerly directions, 5’ lower than north/south units. Temporal, horizontal,  and vertical separation ensured no possibility of mid-air collision existed.

Road closures surrounding the crime scene provided a secure area for launch/recovery of aircraft with no traffic in the area, providing for VLOS over the 19 acre property.

Once safety checks and the normal pre-flight checks were completed, the aircraft were placed in the launch/recovery area and three aircraft were launched eight minutes apart.

During flight, the ground station controller provided real-time feedback indicating where images have been captured.  


Donning sterile suits required to enter the perimeter of the crime scene allowed for manual flight in specific areas where closer inspection of complicated surfaces were required. Manual flights inside the area perimeter provided insights not visible from the ground level. Examples of projectile impact were found on a power pole at the intersection of two streets, and two impact points were discovered in the relay tower speakers that had not previously been found.

Original image courtesy of Las Vegas Review/Journal/modified by author

These areas were complicated for UAS flight, crossed with guy wires for tower stability, speaker cables strung across steel rigging, lighting instruments, hot, black metal in turbulent winds in areas where three observers were placed to assist the pilot in flying in these tight, physically and optically challenging spaces around the stage, speaker towers, food court/tents, billboard signage, and fence perimeters.

Original image courtesy of Las Vegas Review/Journal/modified by author

Following the nine flights (3×3) over the main grounds, a separate mission was executed over the abandoned hotel that extends into the entertainment property. These missions were a combination of manual inspection when potential evidence was observed, and automated mapping flights to capture the at-present data. In this particular instance, the benefits of the hexacopter were appreciated; turbulent ground winds, rotors, powerlines, palm trees, a confined area, and limited physical access each contributed to the challenges of this series of missions. VLOS was maintained with the observer standing on the rear of a patrol vehicle due to a high, covered fence and a limited launch area.


Three automated group flights at three altitudes, separate stage and hotel flights, manual flight inside the perimeter captured over 6,000 images. These images were input to two dimensional and three dimensional software applications for orthagonal mapping and 3D modelling. Survey markings were taken from previously operated TotalStation sites and physical objects used as GCP.

The author has not seen the final results from the orthogrammatic image render. The planned workflow is to render each of the separate areas for consistent GSD, added into a master render for each altitude. Once the flights were complete, memory cards were handed over to the federal agency.

This was very much a team effort. ATC, McCarran Airport, FAA, City of Las Vegas, Department of Public Safety, FBI, local subject matter expert, and other investigative agencies worked within a highly communicative environment to ensure no evidence was compromised, that all personnel were aware of each others activities, data/areas logged for clarity, and flights indicated in written, pictorial, and telemetry formats were shared between teams.

 

LOOKING BACK

Until October 1, the World Trade Center had been the largest physical crime scene in America with a total area of approximately seven and a half acres. 1 October is nearly three times in size.  Due to persons involved with both scenes, availability of data and cost from the two events may be compared and examined to gain an understanding of technical and operational improvements over the past 17 years.

 

In the last week of September, 2001, a Super Twin Otter with several sensor systems was called up to capture data from the World Trade Center scene.

Flying orbital and grid patterns over the course of five days, significant amounts of data were collected for analysis by multiple agencies.

Costs were reported over 1.5M, including fuel, personnel, equipment, and time.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Although the images captured are still classified, data from surrounding, unrelated areas demonstrate the poor quality of image capture. By comparison with modern technology, the images are of limited value, offering little useful data (by comparison).

The time, cost, labor, headcount, and quality of data are all areas where UAV have proven their value to law enforcement, and in this case, costing $1.5M vs $15,000 (cost of three aircraft, batteries, and accessories), while providing incalculably greater value through images that may be digitally shared in 2D, 3D form, annotated, analysed simultaneously by multiple agencies and investigators.

SUMMARY

The value of sUAS proved itself through rapid access to available airspace, speed of operation, quality of data, cost of operation, ability of continuous flight, noise and traffic impact on the surrounding area and area of investigation, speed to solution, instant verification of data capture and image quality, ability to simultaneously capture multiple areas, and most importantly, safety to all persons involved in the acquisition of data,  processing and investigation of the 1 October scene.

 

 

PRESS RELEASE: Global Security Exchange X-Learning Stages to Address Intersection of Security and Technology

FOR RELEASE:  September 18, 2018

Media Contact:
Peggy O’Connor
pr@asisonline.org
+1.703.518.1415

AERIAL VEHICLE OPERATIONS CENTER/AVOC to be on display at GSX, demonstrating present and future technologies for sUAS in Security Operations

Alexandria, VA – September 15, 2018  Security is an ever-evolving landscape and sUAS (Drones) are an undeniable,  significant component of future security operations. sUAS are disrupting virtually every corner of the security, law enforcement, and event management industries.

Sundance Media Group (SMG) and their AVOC will be center stage at the Global Security Exchange (GSX) conference being held Sept 23-27 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. In the first year of its rebrand following a 63-year history as the ASIS International Seminar and Exhibits, GSX is expected to attract more than 20,000 operational and cyber security professionals and 550 exhibitors for the industry’s flagship event. ASIS International is the world’s largest association for security management professionals.

“The AVOC is a game-changer in event security and security operations demonstration,” said Jennifer Pidgen, COO of SMG, “The technology and ability have already demonstrated their value in a post 10/1 environment. “ Coupling aerial robotics with automated perimeter security, 360 video, and a low-profile, controlled environment makes for a cost-effective, low profile presence for outdoor venue security and perimeter monitoring.  Attendees of the GSX conference will have opportunity to walk through the AVOC, see the latest technology in simulated use, speak with sUAS experts in the security and law enforcement sectors, and gain a deeper understanding of how sUAS are currently being implemented, and how security organizations may implement sUAS in the future near and far.

Douglas Spotted Eagle, Director of Educational Programming said, “we are thrilled to be a part of the GSX experience, demonstrating security and forensic applications of sUAS for both day and night functions, controlled through our AVOC, as well as outside the AVOC for smaller events. The computer horsepower, display systems, and aircraft combine for a near invisible presence in the skies as overwatch and perimeter security, and we believe attendees of the GSX event will be surprised and enthusiastic about the opportunity to know more about drones in this changing environment.”

At GSX, the exhibit hall will be transformed into a learning lab environment featuring thousands of security products, technologies and service solutions, as well as immersive learning opportunities designed to connect the current threat landscape, as well as emerging risks, with leading solutions available in the marketplace. New features available on this year’s show floor include:

X-Learning Theaters:

X Stage—features leading-edge technologies and their impacts across the industry, examining innovations like blockchain and cryptocurrencies, AI, drones and robotics, social media and the digital self;

Xcelerated Exchange Stage—provides a forum for the critical discussions that need to take place between practitioners and solution providers to proactively address the current and future security landscape; and

Xperience Stage—showcases case studies and other tried-and-true best practices that address security challenges facing practitioners across all industry sectors, including active shooter scenarios, bullying in the healthcare industry, and the risks associated with hosting a public event at cultural institutions.

Career HQ, with new career fair and enhanced career center:
Job seekers will have access to resume reviews, a headshot studio, career coaching, professional development sessions and networking opportunities with employers and peers—all free. The new career fair will have top companies looking to hire talent, such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Apple.

D3 Xperience (Drones, Droids, Defense):
Supported by Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), D3 will deliver an immersive learning experience focused on the impact of Unmanned Systems on the security industry. Education and demos will showcase the emerging technology around the use of drones, droids and counter-UAV defense systems.
Innovative Product Awards (IPAs) Showcase:

The 2018 Innovative Product Awards highlights the new products and services on the GSX show floor that are poised to disrupt the security marketplace. The submission deadline is August 3.

In addition to these features, the exhibit floor will house an International Trade Center and the ASIS Hub, which includes access to ASIS Council representatives, live streaming interviews, and fireside chats.

“We have completely re-engineered GSX to provide more opportunities for security practitioners, solution providers, students, military and first responders. From Career HQ and the International Trade Center to our three unique theaters of education and live demos, attendees and exhibitors will find tremendous value in our immersive, engaging, and informative expo hall,” said Richard E. Chase, CPP, PCI, PSP, 2018 president, ASIS International. “There is no other event that compares to what GSX is offering this year, and we’re just getting started. We will continue to evolve and grow GSX in the years ahead as a part of our new brand promise to unite the full spectrum of security professionals to create the only global “must attend” security event.”

GSX brings together attendees, speakers, exhibitors and press from more than 100 countries. To learn more and to register, visit www.GSX.org/register. Members of the press are eligible to receive a free all-access pass, including keynote presentations, education sessions, and the show floor. Email pr@asisonline.org with your media credentials to register.

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About Global Security Exchange

Entering its 64th year, Global Security Exchange (formerly the ASIS International Annual Seminar & Exhibits) is the world’s most comprehensive event for security professionals worldwide, dedicated to addressing fast-paced changes across the industry with a focus on immersive learning, revitalized networking, and a reimagined exhibit floor.

Attendance at GSX directly supports scholarship programs and the development of education, certification, and standards and guidelines year-round. ASIS International remains dedicated to expanding and enriching knowledge sharing, best practices, and peer-to-peer connections so security professionals across disciplines—and at all stages of their career—can get access to the information and resources they need to succeed. For information, visit www.GSX.org.

About  Sundance Media Group

Founded in 1996, Sundance Media Group/SMG began as a training organization focused on cameras, codecs, and post-production technology. In 2004, the company began training in aviation technology, adding sUAS in 2011. In 2012, SMG produced the world’s first UAS training conference at the National Association of Broadcasters Post Production World Conference and is an ISO-compliant organization.

With experts in Public Safety, Construction, Vertical Inspection, Real Estate, and Cinematography, SMG instructors may be found speaking at technical, aviation, and UAS conferences around the globe. For more information on SMG, please visit www.sundancemediagroup.com 

AUGMENTED SECURITY WITH sUAS

sUAS or “drones” are a big buzzword in security operations these days, as they should be. sUAS are a force multiplier like no human ever could possibly be.

For starters, sUAS are a dynamic aerial platform for CCTV, allowing security teams to monitor large-scale areas with ease, reducing headcount for manned patrols, able to travel faster and farther than a human can travel on foot, while providing access to detail that the human eye cannot see.

sUAS may be automated for perimeter security, allowing repeatable, automatic flight over any given area. Large areas may be hybridized, with manual and automated flight over defined sectors. Combined with security patrols/tours, sUAS provide a faster response time, greater situational awareness, and opportunity to track an incursion until law enforcement or other forces are dispatched.

Adding infrared/thermal to sUAS aircraft provides ideal vision in the dark, regardless of the environment. Seeing through smoke, fog, or darkness, thermal cameras allow detection of a live body in any area. Depending on the cost/resolution of the thermal camera, Detection, Identification, and even Recognition may be possible from very high in the air.

On large scale construction sites, sUAS are already serving double duty as mapping devices for progress reports, and security devices assisting in detecting shrink whether through shorting of delivered stock, disappearances of heavy equipment, or identification of individuals in unauthorized areas.

 

Equipped with a zoom lens, sUAS are capable of providing license plate information from a distance. Imagine for example, an incursion detection, the intruder runs to a car and drives away. Not only can aircraft track/follow the intruder as they exit the protected area upon detection, but the aircraft can also capture images, even in low-light, of the intruder’s license plate as they escape the area.

 

Tethered sUAS allow for aircraft to remain airborne for days, if necessary, providing instant overwatch at events, high profile gatherings, or in high-risk areas where temporary requirements make it infeasible to install pole-mounted cameras.

Additionally, areas where events may be held may be pre-mapped multiple times, onion-skinned for changes in the environment with differences outlined for security notification, or simply mapped for purposes of understanding crowd flow, ingress, egress, points of vulnerability, and planning response times.

All of this at greatly reduced risk to security personnel, greatly reduced cost, and with video/images to provide evidence in the event of an incursion.

 

 

 

Learn more at the Global Security eXchange Conference in Las Vegas, September 23-27. Several drone manufacturers, service providers, software developers, and consultants will be on hand to answer questions and provide information.

Drop by the Sundance Media Group booth 5413 and have a walk through of the AVOC and see how we have been assisting local agencies and organization with their sUAS implementations.

Part 91, 101, 103, 105, 107, 137: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

All these FARs, what’s a drone pilot to do in order to understand them? Do they matter?

YES!

In virtually every aviation pursuit except for sUAS, an understanding of regulations is requisite and part of most testing mechanisms.  As a result, many sUAS pilots holding 

a Remote Pilot Certificate under Part §107 are woefully uninformed, to the detriment of the industry.

Therefore, sUAS pilots would be well-served to inform themselves of how each section of relevant FARs regulate components of aviation.

Let’s start by digging into the intent of each Part.

  • §Part 91 regulates General Operating and Flight Rules.
  • §Part 101 regulates Moored Balloons, Kites, Amateur Rockets, Unmanned Free Balloons, and some types of Model Aircraft.
  • §Public Law Section 336 regulates hobby drones as an addendum to Part 101.
  • §Part 103 regulates Ultra-Light Vehicles, or manned, unpowered aviation.
  • §Part 105 regulates Skydiving.
  • §Part 107 regulates sUAS
  • §Part 137 regulates agricultural aircraft

RELEVANT PARTS (Chapters):

Part §91

This portion of the FARs is barely recognized, although certain sections of Part 91 may come into play in the event of an action by the FAA against an sUAS pilot. For example, the most concerning portion of Part 91 is  91.13, or “Careless or Reckless Operation.” Nearly every action taken against sUAS pilots have included a charge of 91.13 in the past (prior to 107).

Specific to drone actions, The vast majority of individuals charged have also included the specific of a 91.13 charge.

sUAS pilots whether recreational or commercial pilots may be charged with a §91.13 or the more relevant §107.23 (reckless)

It’s pretty simple; if there are consequences to a pilot’s choices and actions, it’s likely those consequences also included a disregard for safety or planning, ergo; careless/reckless. The FAA has recently initiated actions against Masih Mozayan for flying his aircraft near a helicopter and taking no avoidance action. They’ve also taken action against Vyacheslav Tantashov for his actions that resulted in damage to a military helicopter (without seeing the actual action, it’s a reasonable assumption that the action will be a §91.13 or a §107.23 (hazardous operation).

Other parts of Part 91 are relevant as well. For example;

  • §91.1   Applicability.

(a) Except as provided in paragraphs (b), (c), (e), and (f) of this section and §§91.701 and 91.703, this part prescribes rules governing the operation of aircraft within the United States, including the waters within 3 nautical miles of the U.S. coast.

The above paragraph includes sUAS.  Additionally, Part 107 does not exclude Part 91. Airmen (including sUAS pilots) should be aware of the freedoms and restrictions granted in Part 91.

§91.3   Responsibility and authority of the pilot in command.

(a) The pilot in command of an aircraft is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that aircraft.

(b) In an in-flight emergency requiring immediate action, the pilot in command may deviate from any rule of this part to the extent required to meet that emergency.

(c) Each pilot in command who deviates from a rule under paragraph (b) of this section shall, upon the request of the Administrator, send a written report of that deviation to the Administrator.

§91.7   Civil aircraft airworthiness.

(a) No person may operate a civil aircraft unless it is in an airworthy condition.

(b) The pilot in command of a civil aircraft is responsible for determining whether that aircraft is in condition for safe flight. The pilot in command shall discontinue the flight when unairworthy mechanical, electrical, or structural conditions occur.

§91.15   Dropping objects.

No pilot in command of a civil aircraft may allow any object to be dropped from that aircraft in flight that creates a hazard to persons or property. However, this section does not prohibit the dropping of any object if reasonable precautions are taken to avoid injury or damage to persons or property.

§91.17   Alcohol or drugs.

(a) No person may act or attempt to act as a crewmember of a civil aircraft—

(1) Within 8 hours after the consumption of any alcoholic beverage;

(2) While under the influence of alcohol;

(3) While using any drug that affects the person’s faculties in any way contrary to safety; or

Sound familiar?

SubPart B also carries relevant information/regulation with regard to operation in controlled airspace, operations in areas under TFR ((§91.133), operations in disaster/hazard areas, flights during national events, lighting (§91.209)

PART 101

Part §101 has a few applicable sections.

Subpart (a) under §101.1 restricts model aircraft and tethered aircraft (balloons). Although subpart (a.4. iiv) is applicable to balloon tethers, there is argument that it also applies to sUAS. Subpart (a.5.iii) defines recreational flight for sUAS/model aircraft.

 

Finally, §101.7 re-emphasizes §91.15 with regard to dropping objects (may not be performed without taking precautions to prevent injury or damage to persons or property).  Public Law 112-95 Section 336 (which may be folded into a “107 lite” version), clarifies sections not added to Part 101.

Bear in mind that unless the pilot follows the rules and guidelines of a NCBO such as the AMA, AND the requirements of that NCBO are met, the flight requirements default to Part 107 requirements.

PART §103

Part §103 regulates Ultralight vehicles (Non powered, manned aviation)

Although no component of Part §103 specifically regulates UAV, it’s a good read as Part 103 contains components of regulation found in Part 107.

PART §105

Part §105 regulates Skydiving.

Part §105 carries no specific regulation to sUAS, an understanding of Part 105 provides great insight to components of Part 107. Part 107 has very few “new” components; most of its components are clipped out of other FAR sections.

PART §107

Although many sUAS pilots “have their 107,” very few have actually absorbed the FAR beyond a rapid read-through. Without a thorough understanding of the FAR, it’s difficult to comprehend the foundation of many rules.

PART §137

Part 137 applies specifically to spraying crops via aerial vehicles.

Those looking into crop spraying via sUAS should be familiar with Part 137, particularly with the limitations on who can fly, where they can fly, and how crops may be sprayed.
One area every ag drone pilot should look at is §137.35 §137.55 regarding limitations and business licenses.

The bottom line is that the more informed a pilot is, the better pilot they can be.  While there are many online experts purporting deep knowledge of aviation regulations and how they specifically apply to sUAS, very few are familiar with the regulations in specific, and even less informed as to how those regulations are interpreted and enforced by ASI’s. We’ve even had Part 61 pilots insist that the FSDO is a “who” and not a “what/where.” Even fewer are aware of an ASI and how they relate to the world of sUAS.

FSIM Volume 16

It is reasonably safe to say that most sUAS pilots are entirely unaware of the Flight Standards Information Management System, aka “FSIMS.” I’ve yet to run across a 107 pilot familiar with the FSIMS, and recently was vehemently informed that “there is nothing beyond FAR Part 107 relative to sUAS. Au contraire…

Familiarity with the FSIMS may enlighten sUAS operator/pilots in how the FAA examines, investigates, and enforces relevant FARs.

Chapter 1 Sections 1, 2  and 4 are a brief, but important read, as is Chapter 2, Section 2.

Chapter 3 Section 1 is informational for those looking to apply for their RPC Part 107 Certificate.

Chapter 4 Sections 2, 5, 7, 8 are of particular value for commercial pilots operating under Part 107.

Volume 17, although related only to manned aviation, also has components related to 107, and should be read through (Chapters 3 & 4) by 107 pilots who want to be informed.

Gaining new information is always beneficial, and even better if the new information is implemented in your workflow and program. Become informed, be the best pilot you can be, and encourage others to recognize the value in being a true professional, informed and aware.

 

 

CSI and sUAS: Tools for the Crime Scene Analyst

FoxFury, Pix4D, Sundance Media Group (SMG), and the Nevada Drone Center of Excellence came together during the InterDrone Conference, sharing techniques and technology used for capturing forensic scenes during night hours. This event will be repeated during the Commercial UAV Expo in Las Vegas on October 3, at the WestGate hotel. Register now for the Commercial UAV Expo CSI demonstration.

Sundance Media Group and the CSI data may also be viewed at Booth #5413 at the Global Security eXchange Security Conference and Expo, September 23-27 in Las Vegas, NV at the Las Vegas Convention Center.  Register for the GSX show HERE.

Douglas Spotted Eagle addresses a crowd gathered for a crime scene/sUAS demo with local crime scene investigators, FoxFury, Pix4D, and Sundance Media Group

As you’d expect, the ratio of nighttime vs daytime crime is much higher,” said one investigator from a local law enforcement agency. “This sort of training and experience provides greater depth to our toolkit. We are grateful to have partners willing to research and share experiences that may benefit our agency.”

Using FoxFury Nomad Hi CRI, daylight-balanced lighting, to light the scene in an area of East Henderson where no power and no available light existed, the team used Hollywood makeup techniques, a bit of stage blood, and shell casings to re-create a genuine crime scene. The “crime scene” was kept pristine as nearly 100 attendees looked on.

The FoxFury Nomads, properly positioned, provide a no/low-shadow environment with accurate colors.

Most LED lighting systems will generate a color-cast that may create problems in the post-capture investigation. Moreover, the lights do not require cabling that can trip up those on-scene, or create their own form of scene contamination. To place them, we merely pull down three legs, raise the pillar, and power up the lights. At half intensity, the lights provide approximately 12 hours of lighting,” says Douglas Spotted Eagle of Sundance Media Group. The FoxFury Nomads may be charged over a 12v connection in a patrol/support vehicle as well. 

FoxFury Rugo’s are placed on the aircraft for additional lighting as well as for FAA compliance. The Rugo provides a constant flash indicator in addition to options for Flood, Flat, or Pinspot light distribution. The Rugo mounts for the Yuneec and DJI products offer a 360 swivel, allowing for light control in any direction. Users may choose from four intensities in addition to the flash/cycle option.

 

James Spear talked about the aircraft lighting, saying “We use the FoxFury Rugo’s for our scene and night lighting not only due to the many options for lighting focus, but also because of the interchangeable batteries. At full intensity, we enjoy about an hour of flight time, yet the lights will operate for up to three hours at lower intensities.”

Ground Control Points were laid into place on the perimeter of the scene, taking care to ensure no one stepped into the scene. These are used as tie-points during the 2D and 3D assembly of the data, using Pix4Dmapper. The GCP’s for night capture are painted with Day-Glo paint colors for bright visibility and identification in the darkness of night. Similar techniques may be employed during thermal mapping projects (Pix4Dmapper on the desktop may be used for thermal mapping if the thermal camera properly embeds/captures meta-data). Shown here by Brady Reisch of the SMG team, the GCP’s are a highly-valued component to set scale constraints to the scene.

The area was flown with a drone equipped with a camera capturing GPS location, capturing a reduced area for purposes of avoiding flight over persons, and for expediency during the demonstration.

The pilot, wearing a Brother AiRScouter HUD, is able to simultaneously observe the aircraft and telemetry. Attendees of the event had opportunity to wear the HUD and appreciate the value of a constant display that enables pilots to observe the aircraft, telemetry, and video data, all at once.  Jennifer Pidgen of SMG commented, “We have equipped each of our pilots with the AiRScouter system not only for these scenarios, but more importantly for those times where we’re inspecting critical detail and looking away from the aircraft may increase risk. The AirScouter enables our pilots to observe the aircraft flying closely to objects while providing a constant stream of information to the pilot.”

The sUAS captured nearly 100 photos used to create the overall model/map of the scene. Normally, the scene would encompass the entire area in the event that there may be more clues hidden in the brush or sandy areas surrounding the site. Thermal may also be used to search for other bodies, or persons involved in the crew.

The images were then taken into the Sundance Media Group AVOC computers, where we assembled them as a low-resolution 2D file to verify all areas of the scene were adequately captured,” said Sam Pepple, of Pix4D. “Once verification and confirmation are complete, the scene may be released to the rest of the CSI team for standard investigation. Following the low-resolution verification, a high-resolution image was processed and evaluated by the team, as shown in the Pix4D booth at InterDrone.”

The point cloud of the scene is shared online here. Hold CTRL+SHIFT to rotate the scene in 3 dimensions.

Once the scene is captured, the rectified scene may be viewed internally or via secured online site by CSA, or Crime Scene Analysts, allowing measurements to be verified, retaken, or examined from a multitude of angles. 

The Sundance Media Group team will be demonstrating this experience at the Commercial UAV Expo in Las Vegas on October 3. Location TBA, near the WestGate hotel (walking distance).  REGISTER HERE. It is recommended that attendees register early. The last event ran out of space/slots within three days.

Thank you to Pix4D, FoxFury, Brother, NDCOE, WestWind Unmanned, Las Vegas Metro, Henderson PD, and Sundance Media Group for their efforts to bring this to the attendees of the InterDrone event.

Douglas Spotted Eagle addresses a crowd of nearly 100 attendees at the CSI demo.

Sam Pepple of Pix4D addresses the crowd, describing how Pix4D will be used to capture the scene, the importance and value of GCP, and why these models are valuable to crime scene investigators. 

An investigator briefs the crowd on how UAS are changing the face of scene capture, and details how a scene is approached, observed, captured, and processed.

We captured the scene using multiple drones. Brady Reisch captured video of the event; we’ll soon have that available for viewing.

The SMG AVOC was the hub of activity prior to the night flight. Pizza and drinks provided by FoxFury and Pix4D.

The FoxFury Rugo lights are a key component to SMG night flight. They may be mounted  to nearly any sUAS platform including Yuneec H520, Hplus, DJI Phantom, Inspire 1, Inspire 2, Matrice 200 series, AEE Mach 4, and many others.

By | September 10th, 2018|Drone, Public Safety, sUAS, sUAS, sUAS Safety, Technology, Training, UAV|0 Comments

PRESS RELEASE: Aerial Vehicle Operations Center hits the skies of Southern Nevada, Utah

Mobile command post first of its kind in the South West

 

Las Vegas, NV, February 6, 2018:  Sundance Media Group (SMG) announces the Aerial Vehicle Operations Center (AVOC) for unmanned aerial operations. “We’re very excited about the AVOC, as it not only brings our operations to a more broad level, but also allows us to expand our operational ability,” says James Spear, pilot/instructor at SMG.  “The cooled, large interior operating space with multiple computer stations and operational components designed for night flight allow us to support Search and Rescue missions, overwatch, and other support activities in addition to our more common UAV activities in construction site data, real estate image capture, and training operations.”

The mobile operations center is self-contained with shore, generator, or battery power ability. In addition to supporting up to four UAS operators at one time, the AVOC is capable of delivering data in real-time to any organization requiring live video, photo, thermal image or data transfer.

“Combined with our Class B and Class B night operations waivers, SMG is able to satisfy virtually any client requirement, says Jennifer Pidgen, COO of SMG. “Our waivers, the AVOC, our many pilots that are certificated Airman, Instructor/Examiners, Advanced, Ground Instructors added to our 22 years of technology-focused training leave no doubt that we are the premiere training and post-production offering in the Southwest.”

The AVOC is the core of the field-training component of the SMG instructor/examiner program which trains UAS pilots to also be instructors, generating in-house training programs for corporations and organizations intending to field a fleet of UAS.

“Our training organization is quite different from the majority of training programs in the US,” explains Douglas Spotted Eagle, Director of Educational Programming at SMG, “Rather than simply being pilots that decided to teach, we have implemented aviation standards and training requirements that at the core, are about educational excellence first, risk mitigation-training second, and UAS operations third. Anyone can fly a drone. Yet few 107 pilots have aviation backgrounds and culture, in addition to understanding ISO risk mitigation practices. We offer that background, and that’s why we have so many State, Local, and Federal clients pass through our doors.”

For Release August 21, 2018

Sundance Media Group Contact:  Jennifer Pidgen      Ph: 801.231.4911       Email: jennifer@sundancemediagroup.com

 

 

PROPERTY OWNER “AIR RIGHTS:” FACT or FICTION?

IF A HOMEOWNER DOESN’T OWN THE AIR ABOVE THEIR HOME, WHO DOES?

Recently, heated discussions surrounding the topic of “Air Rights”have arisen within the UAS community, generating confusion and division within the community. In one forum of UAS professionals, an industry member was so angered by the confusion that negative press releases were threatened, jobs were held ransom, and phone calls to local FSDO’s were made.

The intent of this article is to clear up a few misconceptions. Note the author is not an attorney, but rather a very active, long-time member of the aviation and UAS communities (although this article has been vetted by multiple aviation attorneys).

As recently as July 2018, the FAA has re-emphasized their dominion over the National Air Space (NAS), meaning that the citizens of the United States own the NAS, with the FAA being the governing body. Municipalities, cities, and states may not abrogate nor preempt federal control over this airspace.


In general terms, once an aircraft is a theoretical “inch above the blades of grass,” it is in the NAS and subject to federal control, not state nor local control.

In general terms, an aircraft at rest/on the ground, may be subject to state or local regulation. Municipalities may control where an aircraft may launch or be recovered through regulation of public grounds. Municipalities should  not govern launch/recovery on private property. That said, a few misguided municipalities have created regulation surrounding UAS launch/recovery in much the same way they have mandated that dog houses must meet a certain specification, or that small animals such as chickens may not be raised in certain zones.

We also are observing either blissful ignorance or a coordinated attempt at stifling commercial enterprise in the recent actions of the Uniform Law Commission (ULC), who have proposed national legislation creating “aerial trespass” regulation.  These absurd notions have inspired the FAA to release the aforementioned press release regarding their dominion over the skies of CONUS. The National Press Photographers Association offered up a few words to the ULC as well.  However, the ULC proposal is just that at this point; a proposal of legislation.  It is not law, and unlikely to become such as currently written.

THE REALITY

Taking a specific case in point; a property owner and their real estate agent hire a UAS pilot to capture aerial photos of a home coming onto the market. During the capture of these photos, the pilot’s aircraft is hovering over a neighbor’s home. The camera targets the for-sale home and at no point does the camera capture images of the neighboring home.

Does the neighboring homeowner have a right to demand the aircraft not fly over their home?

No.

So long as the images being captured are of the home the pilot was hired to capture, the neighbor has no claim to control where the UAS flies. Moreover, there is little right to expectation of privacy should the camera capture ancillary areas of the neighbor’s yard (known in legal terms as “curtilage”).

Curtilage “is the area to which extends the intimate activity associated with the ‘sanctity of a man’s home and the privacies of life.’”71 As property owners may “reasonably . . . expect that [this] area immediately adjacent to the home will remain private,”72 the Court has found that curtilage is protected under the Fourth Amendment. Although the Fourth Amendment’s protections extend to curtilage, the Court has held that property owners do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy against naked-eye observation of curtilage from publicly navigable airspace. (Columbia Journal of Law)

Based on existing jurisprudence, warrantless drone surveillance of curtilage may not violate the Fourth Amendment if the drone operates within airspace legally navigable by drones. While this paragraph is predominantly related to law enforcement, it is reasonable to extend the concept into commercial/107 flights.

Homeowners have a right to an expectation of “reasonable privacy.” What is “reasonable” is a matter of debate. Sunbathing in the backyard next door to a home that has a deck higher than a fence, for example, would not be a “reasonable expectation of privacy.”

*it is important to note that the legal term “reasonable expectation of privacy” differs greatly from “right to privacy.”

Unfortunately, there is no Fourth Amendment right to privacy as relates to private citizens or commerce, leaving room for discussion and interpretation. Restrictions which law enforcement must follow in order to observe a property are very different from what a commercial UAS pilot must observe.

It is also a requirement in reading any law regarding privacy that may encompass law enforcement be accompanied by an understanding that law enforcement is held to a higher bar of respecting privacy than a citizen flying a commercial drone. Many states require warrants for any form of aerial surveillance, photography, or videography. Some states require additional certification for public safety officials/first responders, although this issue has recently been seen as a preemption and these requirements may quietly fade away.

IN GENERAL TERMS

The discussion regarding UAS photographing, mapping, or overlying a private home is fairly simple.

Regardless of whether the UAS is flying over a home, yard, easement, or other accessoral structures, a UAS pilot is well within their rights as granted by the FAA (discussion of waivers and airspace aside). So long as there are no MOA, TFR, or similar restrictions in place, the sky is a broadly accessible highway for aerial vehicles.

But…what about the UAS the hovers in a backyard and takes photos of sunbathing children? Doesn’t the FAA regulate this? Doesn’t the homeowner have “air rights?”

No to both questions.

-the FAA doesn’t govern what can/cannot be photographed.

-In theory, the homeowner has no so-called “air rights.” (The concept of “air rights” does exist, but is not related to aviation, rather relating to property views, sunlight blockage, etc, frequently found in large cities such as NYC or LA)

What the homeowner does have, is a potential claim of invasion of privacy. No different than a Peeping Tom putting a ladder on a fence and using the ladder as a photographic elevation, the aircraft’s violation of law is governed by state or local law, not federal law. Privacy laws vary from state to state. For example, in the State of Georgia, taking upskirt photos was legal until late 2017.  

Each state has its own definition of “invasion of privacy” and there are no federal laws, and no FAA position on this topic. State laws tend to lean towards anything being under cover, or behind a fence as “private.” However, many state laws do not consider areas over a fence as being “private.” An example might be a two story home with a deck on the upper floor that over looks the neighbors yard. Several precedents have demonstrated that this is an “open view” and not an area that holds an “expectation of privacy.”

 

In most states, while privacy is a concern, any attempt to regulate “air rights of privacy” would be likely considered preemptive and the FAA has made it clear in recent months they are the controlling agency of aerial operations. The question becomes “at what altitude does the FAA relinquish ownership of the air and the property owner takes possession? Three feet? Ten feet? Eighty three feet? Or is it the theoretical 1” above the blades of grass?

The concept of privacy is not federal; it is local, and no commercial UAS pilot engaged in common, authorized activity such as surveying, mapping, photographing, a client property should hold any concern for this topic at this time. As we evolve from law enforcement situations into privacy situations, it is entirely possible that federal law may change in favor of creating some sort of regulation relevant to aerial invasion of privacy.  The FAA has done an exemplary work in providing states with a basic fact sheet that should advise municipalities on what they may/may not regulate with regard to UAS use. 

WHAT ABOUT AVIGATION? (air easements)

In the recent spate of social media word battle, one or two individuals brought up their expertise in “avigations.” Avigation is an easement generated for purposes of keeping the peace in areas where aircraft may be landing or taking off. Issues ranging from fuel dispersion, noise abatement, dust/debris, fumes, vibration, etc may impact a homeowner’s quality of life. These issues bear no relevance to UAV operations. Avigations frequently fall under categories of “hazard” and “nuisance.” These sorts of issues frequently precede condemnation actions. Only an airport may possess an avigation easement.

“Control” easements also exist, requiring property owners to restrict the height of buildings, trees, power poles, etc yet again, these easements are of no concern to UAS pilots.

BUT, BUT, BUT…WHAT ABOUT UNITED STATES V CAUSBY?

Doesn’t that judgement say that property owners own the air up to 83’ above their home? That’s what a lot of websites say…

Causby’s decision primary does exactly the opposite of what some may feel it controls. Causby demonstrates that airspace is within the public domain, but did NOT determine the quantity of curtilage left to the land owner. Even in the instance that some court somewhere determines that 100% of non-built up property is sacrosanct, Causby provides jurisdiction by the FAA, not state nor local authority. This is likely the most misunderstood of all legal decisions relating to aviation with regards to UAS. 

ADDITIONALLY…

It is of significant note to realize that currently, the vast majority of precedent decisions relate to law enforcement use of manned aircraft for purposes of surveillance. As society becomes more aware of issues surrounding privacy, federal legislation may eventually be enacted which restricts FAA control of the NAS.  To date, there are three relevant cases to non-law enforcement uses of UAS.

Singer v Newton relates to private use of UAS, and is a District Court decision, affecting only areas within the State of Massachusetts, although it will likely be referred to in many courts to come. City of Chicago v Hakim determined that the local police had failed to meet a burden of proof in arresting a holder of an RPC for “flying over people.” Chicago v Hakim also demonstrates why the FAA must remain the sole arbiter and controlling agency over the skies.  Similarly, City of Los Angeles v Chappell determined that Los Angeles municipal laws (MCS 56.31) were a preemption of FAA authority over the skies, although the code is similarly worded to FAA regulations found in Part 107 of the Code of Federal Regulations. In LA v Chappell, Mr. Chappell’s drone had been confiscated and he was charged with violation of municipal ordinances. It’s interesting to note that the last line of the ordinance nullifies the entire ordinance if the aircraft and operator are operating under permissions of the FAA. In other words, a holder of a 107 RPC could not be found in violation unless violating other FAA operational or airspace requirements. The courts found in his favor and his aircraft was returned.

Eventually, complaints will come before the Courts, and we’ll likely see an invocation of some form of legal statement, and perhaps case law, setting a precedent. For now, what we have are listed above. Change, is inevitable.

HOWEVER…

Aside from the legal implications and responsibilities, it is this author’s opinion that UAS pilots have an obligation to the community and each other to raise awareness of activities. Awareness can be raised through common practices such as wearing blaze orange or yellow hazard vests, putting up sandwich boards, marking launch/recovery areas with hazard cones, placing advanced notification handbills on front doors or mailboxes in the area of operations, notifying local authorities of operations, having vehicles marked as a commercial UAS vehicle, having a visual observer in place to communicate with anyone questioning the operation, and more.  I believe it is incumbent on the professionals engaged in this infant industry, to help the general public learn to understand and accept our activities and see that it can be professionally practiced, vs the poorly dressed, angry guy that shows up with a small drone, launches from a sidewalk, and screams at the neighborhood about “his right to fly the drone anywhere he damn well pleases.” Being positive, firm, and informational goes a long way to helping concerned individual understand what a pilot is photographing, and allay fears of invasion of privacy.

Angry bystanders, homeowners, or property owners typically become angry due to fear, uncertainty, or doubt (FUD).  Generally, they are uninformed. Politely and firmly providing educational information in a calm manner will generally allay their concerns. There will always be “that one person” who won’t accept what they’re being told, and situations may be escalated. Try to keep yourself calm. If authorities are summoned, have your relevant documentation available such as any waivers, RPC, etc. A recording of the altercation may be valuable.

Remember that the municipality *may* have determined authority over launch/recovery areas, so ensure public areas are always used for launch/recovery, or that the landowner has provided (preferably written) permission to launch/recover from their property.

At the end of the day, it is the responsibility of the UAS pilot to be familiar with all local and State regulations regarding UAS flight, and aware of what is and is not permissible. After all, being fully informed is but one facet of being a professional, wouldn’t you agree?

 

 

 

 

Relevant reading material:

United States v Causby 1946

California v. Ciraolo (1986)

Dow Chemical Co. v. United States (1986)

Florida v. Riley (1989)

Los Angeles vs Chappell (2016/Chappell prevailed)

City of Chicago v Hakim (2017/Hakim prevailed)

Singer v Newton (2017/Singer prevailed)

 

BATTERY MANAGEMENT for sUAS

Batteries, Fuel, power, energy, no matter how the cells powering UAS are referred to, are components of the Unmanned Aerial SYSTEM that are frequently ignored, often to operational peril.

During this hot summer season we’ve had multiple agencies and individuals reach out with battery questions. In a few situations, fuel cells have been ignored for so long that the batteries are beyond recovery.

This issue is not limited, of course, to only UAS batteries. Laptops, mobile phones, radios, MP3 players, etc all run the risk of battery failure/damage if mismanaged.

HELP YOURSELF AVOID THIS ISSUE.

First and foremost, always store batteries at less than half-charge. Generally, batteries should be stored at 30-40% of charge. Yes, this may create some inconveniences for emergency services, and there are other ways around this issue. Proper battery maintenance means having a battery charging, logging, discharging, and storage strategy beyond the scope of this article.

Use a professional charging solution.

Manufacturers rarely provide quality charging systems. This means agencies and users must step outside the manufacturer ecosystem and purchase a third party charger. For example, Vertical Partners West manufactures a line of chargers branded as “Venom,” which fits into the low-midrange agency/organization price point and strategy. They also manufacture a high-end commercial charger with a subscription system, ensuring all-time battery optimization, monitored at the user location and/or their own servers in Idaho.

Note the “Cycle/Store” button options; these are critical for proper battery maintenance. Batteries that will not be used for some time should use the Storage feature to reduce the battery cells to 3.85 volts. This sort of system chargers at least 1.5X faster than manufacturer systems, so bringing a battery to full charge is a relatively fast process. These fan-cooled systems may live in the back of a patrol truck or command center; the key is keeping the battery cool.

Image courtesy Michael Panco

 

STAY CHILL!

One frequent cause of fuel failure stems from a fully-charged battery being kept in a black case in direct sunlight, a vehicle trunk, or other hot area. This will virtually always cause any battery to “gas off” and become puffy.  Some“gassing off” is normal of LiPo batteries, gassing off QUICKLY is not.

 

Some batteries are foil-wrapped and have air in the foil, vs the cell being truly puffed. These batteries should be disposed of for safety reasons, even though they may appear to be fully charged and operating properly.

Proper battery maintenance will USUALLY prevent this swelling from occurring. ** It’s important to note that battery life is reduced in extreme heat and extreme cold!

 

 

HANDLE WITH CARE

Next to overheating/over charging, the next biggest killer of LiPo batteries is from being dropped on the ground. Batteries are flammable, may explode in the perfect scenario, and should be handled with care at all times. We recommend storing them in cool, dry metal boxes or LiPo pouches. Surplus ammo cans are ideal. LiPo pouches, stored in a food cooler is another efficient means of storage.

Organizations with fleets of UAS are likely already using fleet management software, such as KittyHawk, Skyward, or similar. Fuel systems are often an afterthought. But what if the fleet management software could interface with the charging solution, ensuring accuracy and notification occur with battery management?

This is where a product like the Venom Commercial Battery Management System brings great value to the table. Fireproof drawers for charging batteries, intelligent interface that monitors battery health, cycles, temps, voltage, depth of discharge and more are possible. The system will also notify users of failing batteries. According to the VPW website, they also custom-build charging trays to user specification.

CHARGING ON-SITE

NEVER place a freshly-depleted/warm battery into a charger. Allow the battery time to cool off prior to re-charging.

USAGE TIP!

A common practice in many production houses is to place charged batteries on the prep table in the face-up position, or put a strip of green tape on the top of the battery. Depleted/ready to charge batteries are placed face-down/upside down on the charging table, sometimes with a strip of red tape on the bottom. Green/face up indicates a ready-to-go battery, while red indicates a depleted battery. Some houses go so far as to write battery cycles per-project on the tape so that batteries may be properly logged following production. These techniques help ensure fresh, fully functioning batteries on every project.

IN SUMMARY:

  • Store batteries at 30% of full charge
  • Store batteries in a cool, dark area
  • Log battery charge cycles. Replace batteries at 300 cycles (or follow manufacturer direction. For those in the USA, logging batteries is a maintenance requirement per AC107-2)
  • Replace/Dispose of swollen/puffy batteries
  • Use a professional-grade charging solution as opposed to manufacturer-included charging solutions

 

Douglas Spotted Eagle has been active in UAS aviation since 2010, and active in general aviation for nearly 20 years. He is a 25-year veteran of the Subject Matter Guru team, and a co-founder of Sundance Media Group (SMG), with a deep focus on sUAS for Public Safety, Construction, and Inspection verticals. As the co-author of five books on the topic of sUAS for specific uses, he continues to push the envelope in sUAS implementation.
Douglas welcomes input from readers.

By | July 22nd, 2018|sUAS Regulation, UAV Maintenance|0 Comments