Monday Update – December 24, 2018

UAS Technology Is Huge – But Until Drones Can Be Monitored – Ground Them. Now.

Drone Technology: A New Communications Channel That Will Transform Logistics.

But For Now, Ground Them.

Flak… for all those playing the home game, it’s short for Fliegerabwehrkanone… a weapon that ultimately splattered the sky with small metal pieces– maybe 3-6 inches long – pieces meant to hit and down aircraft.

Drones – UAVs – small flying machines weighing as little as 5 or ten kilos. They can and have gotten in the way of airplanes. Kinda like flak, ‘cept they’ve not knocked any airplanes out of the sky.


Stealth Operators & Almost Stealth Machines. While there are significant differences between a lightweight drone and the ordinance shot off by a German 88, the one thing in common is that they both represent objects that are threats to air navigation. And, unlike the flak version, there is no way of telling who’s tossing them into the sky, or from where.

The recent shutdown of London Gatwick Airport due to the presence of unauthorized drone activity is a final message – one that the FAA has consistently been dodging.

Let’s put this in context… Reports of little devices buzzing over the airfield have just shut down London’s #2 airport for a couple days because nobody could trace where they were coming from or where they were going. More critically, the operators were almost 100% assured of having complete safety from being traced.

Not a bad M.O. for a lunatic or a terrorist.

An Imperative Security & Safety Issue. Despite some panting media stories, this is no grand revelation. Two airports in China were repeatedly affected last year due to untraceable drone activity. There are already reports of aircraft colliding with these devices. It’s been going on for years. Regardless of reports from London that maybe the sightings were just the result of some people’s imagination, the fact is that this type of event has happened elsewhere.

More and more of these privately-operated machines are being bought and used. Sure, the FAA in its wisdom has regulations on their use. But that is entirely different from controlling and monitoring how and who is operating these contraptions.

Tumble to it: It’s only a matter of time before there is a fatal event – accident or intentional.

The message is that drones can easily be used improperly and, worse, as weapons. At London Gatwick, the incident was essentially using drones as instruments of terror. In this case, nobody was killed, but it successfully made an entire airport inoperative. Point: that is the goal of terrorism, which is to shut down our systems.

A Growing Security Time Bomb. Conclusion: At least for the time being, privately-operated drones must now be banned – taken out of the skies – until and unless there are mechanisms in place to be able to easily detect them, and – far, far more importantly – ways to immediately and consistently trace where they are operated from.

A Future Transportation System In Jeopardy. It also is now incumbent on the leaders in the UAS industry to make detection systems – both of the unit and its operator – their #1 priority. That’s because the entire drone concept is one that in the future can have enormously positive effects on commerce and trade.

But just like horseless carriages needed to have new sets of legal controls, so do drones. Regardless of the size of the UAV industry, and regardless of how many folks have bought these devices, they need to be prohibited until such mechanisms are fully in place.

FAA & Homeland Security – Professional Cadavers. ‘Course, the FAA is still off in la-la land… here’s one of their shallow-end comments…

“Generally, drone operators should avoid flying near airports because of other air traffic. It is very difficult for other aircraft to see and avoid a drone while flying, and drone operators are responsible for any safety hazard their drone creates in an airport environment.”

“Generally…?” Is there anybody awake and sober in the front management offices at the FAA? In the context of how drones can be used to create mayhem, the FAA’s out to lunch. Just like they were before 9/11, when they were responsible for aviation security.

Back then, they couldn’t hear thunder, and they ignored repeated reports regarding sloppy airport security. Today, they and their demon spawn from the outcome of 9/11, Homeland Security, are just as numb to reality.

A Promising New Communication Channel – But Not Yet Safely-Ready. This isn’t a suggestion that will be met with much enthusiasm from the folks in the drone industry. Or some businesses that have spent a lot of money preparing new applications for these machines. That’s understandable, in that they fully recognize that this is a technology that represents an incredible new communications channel.

As Boyd Group International has pointed out, combine this with the 5,000 airports in the USA, and this could be a whole new logistics system that eventually will be competitive with ground transport. At the 20th International Aviation Forecast Summit in 2016 at Las Vegas, we had an extensive workshop on the entire UAS future… and it is incredible what it represents.

As a harbinger of this, there’s already a small Chinese airline that is reportedly converting old AN-2 type biplanes into drones to deliver goods and cargo to remote communities that barely have a gravel strip. Imagine what new-technology drones, particularly with hybrid powerplants, could represent in the US.

But all that future is now at risk until the security issues with drone technology can be addressed.

In the meantime, the responsible action is to prohibit all commercial and private use of drones, before there is a body count.

One incident, and you can make book that the inhabitants of the Marble Playpen in Washington – also known as Congress – will stampede in all directions like a herd of self-righteous water buffalo, to completely ban any drone usage in the private sector. They could kill off the future that this technology represents.

The new imperative is to find solutions ASAP.

In the meantime, take these devices out of private use.