The Justice Department in the USA has announced the publication of its updated Policy on the Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems. In light of advancements in unmanned aircraft system (UAS) technology, and lessons learned from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s limited use of UAS, the Policy enables the Department of Justice’s law enforcement components to safely and responsibly employ UAS technology within a framework designed to provide accountability and protect privacy and civil liberties.
The Policy permits the use of UAS only in connection with properly authorized investigations and activities. It also requires compliance with the Constitution and all applicable laws and regulations, including regulations issued by the Federal Aviation Administration. Department of Justice components anticipate using UAS to support crime scene response and investigation, search and rescue, and site security, among other authorized uses. In order to ensure accountability and airspace safety, the Department requires UAS operations to be approved at an appropriate level and conducted by personnel who meet Department-wide training standards. Importantly, the new policy also requires components to evaluate UAS acquisitions for cybersecurity risks, guarding against potential threats to the supply chain and DOJ’s networks.
The Policy reflects the Department’s strong commitment to the protection of privacy and civil liberties, mandating annual privacy reviews of UAS programs and assessments of new UAS technology from a privacy perspective. It also places limits on data retention, generally requiring privacy sensitive data to be deleted within 180 days, unless certain exceptions are met.
In addition to utilizing UAS as a law enforcement tool, the Department takes seriously the threat posed by unlawful and unsafe uses of UAS. The Department has trained federal prosecutors and agents across the country on the criminal and civil enforcement tools available to counter the misuse of UAS, such as the use of drones to smuggle contraband into prisons or violate restricted airspace. www.justice.gov
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced two important expansions of the Low Altitude Authorization and Capability (LAANC), which automates the application and approval process for drone operators to obtain airspace authorizations.
Four airports – Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Dulles International Airport, William P. Hobby Airport in Houston and Newark Liberty International Airport – joined the list of approximately 400 air traffic facilities covering about 600 airports where LAANC is available. LAANC, a collaboration between the FAA and the Unmanned Aircraft Systems(UAS) industry that directly supports the safe integration of UAS into the nation’s airspace, expedites the time it takes for drone pilots to receive authorizations to fly under 400 feet in controlled airspace. The service is accessible to all pilots who operate under the FAA’s small drone rule.
senseFly enterprise partnerships with Trimble and Microsoft
senseFly has announced new strategic partnerships. The organisations include Trimble and Microsoft and demonstrate the capability and suitability of senseFly’s fixed-wing drones and drone sensors for precision agriculture.
senseFly’s distribution agreement with Trimble, as part of its Trimble Select list of preferred partners, will see senseFly products distributed via the Trimble Agriculture network, giving agriculture professionals across North America and Europe direct access to senseFly products. It also announced partnership with Microsoft Azure FarmBeats, which is an agriculture initiative that seeks to sustainably increase global food production by 70% by 2050. Azure FarmBeats combines IoT sensors, UAVs and more, to collect and analyse large amounts of agriculture data. The data is then used to develop new artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to provide actionable insights to farmers. www.senseFly.com
The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has launched Drones Reunited, a platform set up to help recover the thousands of drones lost in the UK each year. It will help drone users recover their missing machines – a serious problem for flyers, as new research reveals that over a quarter of drone owners (26%) have lost a drone.The study found that drones are most at risk of being lost due to flight malfunctions – with more than half (51%) of misplaced drones going missing due to battery loss, poor signal, or a technology failure. And in a quarter of cases it’s down to pilot error. www.caa.co.uk
Trimble has introduced a compact, high-precision GNSS board designed for unmanned aerial systems (UAS): the Trimble UAS1. The board’s simple connectivity and configuration allow UAS system integrators to easily add satellitebased positioning using rugged connectors and Trimble’s software interface, with the ability to upgrade capabilities later.
The UAS1 incorporates Trimble Maxwell technology with advances in highprecision GNSS positioning. The GNSS engine with 336 channels is capable of tracking L1/L2 frequencies from the GPS, GLONASS, Galileo and BeiDou constellations for robust centimeter-level, real-time kinematic (RTK) positioning. The board has a Remote Network Driver Interface Specification (RNDIS) that enables manufacturers to access the web user interface with the USB connector.
XAG’s project Vesper delivery drone
Since July 2019, Airbus and XAG teams have combined efforts to develop a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) service to start testing deliveries. This MVP is built on top of the P30 platform, XAG’s award-winning plant protection drone. The objective of the trial is to validate a highly automated delivery flight from the vendor to the destination and back, across precisely pre-selected pathways. Joining the extensive experience of XAG in designing, manufacturing, and operating small drones at scale – tens of thousands of drone flights every day – to Airbus’ expertise in design, engineering, assembly, and certification of aircraft of various form factors, this trial will create feedback cycles to learn and iterate on a drone cargo service in China.
In this trial, a select group of customers in Guangzhou, can order their favorite food from a nearby noodle shop through the Drone Cargo WeChat application. The fresh food is prepared and then the cooked dish, carefully placed into an insulated box, is itself loaded into the waiting drone on a custom locker. The noodle shop being only 1.6 kilometers away, the flight to the first destination locker takes just under five minutes. The customer receives a notification on their phone about the approaching drone and directions to the nearest locker. The drone lands at a safe height, separated from people, and the customer retrieves their food. www.xa.com
Frequentis and A1 make drone flights safer
Frequentis and A1 Telekom Austria develop system to expose drone violations to public safety authorities as electronic identification rules are phased in Drones provide an innovative and cost-effective way to deliver services but the potential for misuse or danger to other airspace users is cause for concern. Rules for compulsory registration and electronic identification are about to be phased in, in Europe, to ensure safe integration and the potential for intervention. Frequentis has partnered with A1 Telekom Austria to create a powerful application for this purpose.
Compulsory drone registration and electronic identification will be phased in from 2020. Mobile cellular networks can provide a lot of benefits to the future management of drones. Besides the registration and identification of drones and their owners, they can also track and steer the drone during its flight – even beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). Mobile network technology is powerful for reliable, high-speed and real time transfer of any kind of drone sensor data (payload data). www.frequentis.com
Microdrones’ three new UAVs
Microdrones is releasing three new Integrated UAV Systems based on the heavy lifting power, resilience and efficiency of the Microdrones md4- 3000 aircraft: the mdMapper3000DuoG VHR, the mdMapper3000DuoG, and the mdMapper3000 PPK. The company has also updated the mdTector1000CH4 LR with a Pergam Laser Methane Falcon sensor for detecting Methane (CH4) and methane-containing gases.
In a test to improve delivery of health services between communities in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) and its public health laboratory, the USVI Department of Health, Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) and other collaborators made a successful 43- mile open-ocean drone crossing last week between St. Croix and St. Thomas.
The flight carried simulation vials and other health supplies in a temperature-controlled compartment. While drones have been trialed internationally in the past, this test marks a critical milestone for domestic use of drones in public health. aphl.org
FLIR introduces StormCaster payload family
FLIR Systems, Inc. has announced the FLIR StormCaster™ family of Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) payloads for its SkyRanger® R70 and R80D SkyRaider® airframes. The new line launches with two multi-sensor products –StormCaster-T, which delivers continuous zoom and longwave infrared (LWIR) imaging; and StormCaster-L, which provides ultra-low-light imaging, tracking, and mapping. www.flir.com
Leonardo is accelerating the progress of technology and innovation in autonomous flight by investing in Skydweller Aero Inc., a US/Spanish start-up specializing in large-scale solar-powered unmanned air systems. The initiative will result in the development and deployment of the Skydweller drone, the world’s first fully-electric unmanned aircraft capable of carrying large payloads with unlimited range and ultra-persistent endurance.
Skydweller combines potentially unlimited persistence and range with the flexibility of an aircraft. It will operate from existing airbases around the world, deploy thousands of miles away to areas of high need, and remain overhead for orders of magnitude longer than current aircraft. This revolutionary platform will be used for purposes ranging from land and maritime surveillance to monitoring the environment and infrastructure, from industrial geo-information services to telecommunications and precision navigation. During emergencies and disaster-recovery situations, the system can be rapidly deployed from distant locations to provide backup communications and direct support to first responders.
The Skydweller project builds on a proven and mature aircraft that successfully circumnavigated the globe in 2016. The first phase focuses on converting the aircraft from a manned platform into an Optionally-Piloted Vehicle (OPV) by integrating advanced autonomy algorithms and vehicle management systems. The second step of the project will culminate in the first production aircraft, designed solely for unmanned operations and hardened against a range of environmental conditions. Autonomous flights of the OPV are projected for 2020 and the first production model of the unmanned version of the aircraft is expected in 2021. www.leonardocompany.com