How Did The U.S. Lag So Far Behind On UAS Integration

While it is no big revelation the FAA’s successive FAA administrators have been fiddling while the UAS/RPAS airspace integration Rome has burnt to the ground, but here we will examine how far ahead the rest of the world is and why?

The graphic aptly illustrates who is leading the way and how the U.S. as a country has fallen by the UA technology wayside to last place. All of this glory was accomplished with the political and bureaucratic prowess of some third world government. With all chagrins aside, it is only getting worse. If you’re not first… well, you get the picture.

Most folks don’t realize that this is the case as most reports paint a rosy picture of progress through 60_1130_Rose_610x343diligence and hard work. Two limited type certificates hardly justifies all the public jubilation or even meritorious mention beyond a glaring watermark of a grossly ineffective agency. Smart guys are even getting bamboozled. Amazon’s Bezos will be delivering DVD’s packages by drone in 4 years. To be honest, he is a smart guy with the publicity stunt. Bezos has probably already made more money with drones than most other folks will dream of in a lifetime. All without having to deal with the FAA.

We’ve heard the same tired excuses over the last 10 years about manpower and budgets and why the FAA just can’t seem to move anything forward. “We need data” is definitely plausible, but has outlived its shelf life as there is tons of data folks have wanted to share. The unsophisticated ruse in the estimation of the rest of the world community has only produced absolute bewilderment. They’ve been asking for and denying data for that same 10 years all the while sanctimoniously crowing about leading the way. Worse, is the world’s largest advocacy group carrying the water espousing the same obtuse mantra. Credibility and public confidence in that baloney are lower than a proverbial snake’s belly and shame just doesn’t compute in proximity to the Beltway. The whole area could be recognized and designated a UNESCO world heritage scruple free zone. No new tale to tell here.

Silver lining alert…

It’s not all doom and gloom as the FAA has been effective at one thing, silencing critics (except one) by offering either special dispensation or fear of retribution. The old carrot and stick routine. They don’t even have to show the stick just allude to the carrot. Anytime there is carrot talk you can bet the rest of the community is getting the stick and usually the dirty end at that.

I had heard reports that in public FAA folks were saying they’re watching who’s doing what and will remember them when the regulations come out. Boy howdy, is that the textbook definition of representative government or what? Man alive it just makes me well up with inspiration and pride. Do you reckon the FAA’s current administration was cagey enough to hatch this plan in house? Nope, this one is straight out of the accomplish nothing and retire to the private sector playbook. For those outside of the U.S., it is all the rage right down to the city council level. Representative government has devolved into a state sanctioned stand and deliver rebrand with supposed customer service where they pick your pockets with a smile. The teleprompter matched with the right canned goods makes for a potent tool.

Look at the budgets and manpower afforded the FAA by Congress. Nearly a billion dollars requested for NextGen in the $18.5 billion FSY 2014 budget, but no money for test sites or UAS NAS integration. Whoops must have slipped past someone’s watchful eye. Or, maybe their was/is no watchful eye watching managing the UAS integration project?? How many more billions of dollars will it take Mr. Huerta? Maybe if the staff traveled less, worked more, and had real oversight we’d of had or gotten some real progress? It’s all speculation as the sUAS News is still waiting on the UAPO/UASIO budgets and SOPs that were FOIA requested many months ago. Too busy planning the next working vacation in Europe or South America I suppose to get through the everyday paperwork.

On another side note…

Lets look at the rendering used in the DOT Budget Highlights PDF

Examine the rendering (in proximity to the Small Unmanned Systems Business Expo venue) looks very much like it was taken from a low altitude aerial photo. Possibly even shot from a drone. I can’t think of any tall enough buildings in that area where you get that shot.

Now, if we compare it to the budget (both manpower and money) at say the CAA U.K at 130,000,000 + pounds. They had a handful of people who certainly don’t have the budget to go on junkets all over the world. Sure, the air traffic isn’t the same scale either is the area and population, yet they were able to accomplish several stunning firsts in the vicinity of the 3rd busiest airport on the planet.

Disenfranchisement came early…

We, the small business stakeholder group, have been repeatedly and systematically disenfranchised from the public rulemaking process. Actually the process is designed and set up to disenfranchise people without lobbyists and or monetary means to stay in the public rule making process. For insurance, you install people that know as little as possible about the subject matter and drag it out for 5 to 10 years with no tangible results. Folks start falling by the wayside as they lose everything they have invested. Oh, and heaven forbid you bring it up… you should be happy to take your lumps or enjoy the fruits of the orchestrated debacle and suffer in silence.

The handwriting was on the wall over at RTCA. Things looked so bad after 7 years of reshuffled meetings with nothing to show that they had to scrap the whole 203 committee and start over. We are assured the 228 will get the support it needs to make progress. (I think the old script from 2005 was pulled out of the birdcage and trotted out as fresh ink.) But we have enough funding and manpower for this? Do we have a representative from the FAA that knows UAS from a can of Shinola. Or, do we have another new government person that will take 2 or 3 years to come up to speed? It could very well all be for naught. That effort may already be DOA as the scuttlebutt says the FAA isn’t going to support a public algorithm for ADS-B. Basically, that relegates ADS-B to a safety accessory. The Sky-king flight plan survives past 2020. Makes you wonder if that is at the behest of the AOPA. You need to get the “Administrator on the phone after hours” kind of clout. Yes, friends, they have that kind of pull.

He/she will have to take 6 months just to learn some of the acronyms. Then the vendors will all have to train them on the product lines that way when the integration hair shirt asks if they ever flown a UAS they can gleefully parrot… Wasp, Raven, Puma and sometimes ScanEagle. The later cost about $40,000 a head and isn’t as freely dispensed with as the interoffice musical chairs make a bad investment.

I can imagine that there is many an enterprising entrepreneur putting the business plan together. In the expenses column; training everyone in the UASIO, traveling to and fro D.C., following the staff around on the international junket circuit for the next 5 to 10 years. Then there are the dues and subscriptions to various associations, lobbyists, campaign contributions and all of the other trappings of the good old boy network. COA’s to fly out of public airports for commercial purposes don’t grow on trees Laddy. Actually, any and all special dispensation to play in this arena is going to cost you plenty of money. You start doing the math, and you realize real quick that your capital one card better come with an earmark-sized credit limit.

I knew it was all a sham prior to Margret Jenny (another beltway insider and company woman) who did not mention UAS when testifying to Congress about NextGen and what would be making the biggest impact on the NAS in the near future.

The only folks who still think the skies are opening up for UAS in September of 2015 are the mayor of Toronto and maybe Lindsay Lohan. However, post rehab I’m sure the doubts are starting to surface.

After 7 long years, ASTM is publishing documents. We’re fast tracking now as the canned goods have to be out and vetted for the DoD guys to fleece the municipalities out of money they could never hope to have. These same companies call me and ask what are big markets and where/how to invest to hit the jackpot. On the front side, they can’t be seen as associated with me as it would raise the ire of the FAA. No one who’s spent millions of dollars working the system wants to fall into disfavor with the Lords and Ladies of the FAA court.

The new square game includes hedging your bets by working all sides of the triangle…

You’ll hear how the DoD guys are working selflessly to get you into the NAS. I say hogwash and folks buying that malarkey are so deluded or ill informed that they could be beyond the righting of an intervention or re-education. Most reading this tome would most likely chuckle and say, “ I know, who’d buy that hogwash at this point?” Well, you’d be surprised how many people are betting the farm.

This graphic illustrates the money influence dynamic..


And it goes like this…

“I spoke with so and so over at the FAA, or someone at ATSM (they usually can’t remember whom they spoke with or his name) and he/they said in a year or so… we’ll be flying.” After laying out the end game, I get the old “you’re painting a dark picture response and that sounds like a lot of work.” On many occasions, I get off the phone and wonder how does a guy get a job with no experience in the field?

And Congress isn’t much help…

One of the newer go forward plans is to spend $10,000 on a lobbyist that knows nothing about the industry or what it needs. It’ll get the word out that we’re here, and things should work themselves out. Yeah, and then I ask if they read the BBC story about the Predator King, Big Buck’s “Buck” McKeon.

Now it is estimated that Buck has been on the receiving end of close to $850,000 in campaign contributions from the Drone industry. Now before you go breaking out the checkbook, realize that all they’ve been able to accomplish is for the public entities (the same group that can currently get COAs now) will get to go first. Gee willlikers, what systems will they buy? Most likely those usual suspects on the DOJ/DHS approved vendor list. Oh, they got this deal sewed up so tight, and everyone wants you to believe it all just happened that way. When you hear it’s all about safety, there is some truth in that as it is all about job safety. Do no harm to my career.

A couple more bullets in the back should kill this industry for small business…

Well, what about advocacy, who’s watching out for my patch? Unless your company is bringing down part of the $5 billion dollars a year in government contracts, your concerns may only warrant a chuckle.… Hard to squeeze personal gain out of a small business.

It is up to you to start advocating for yourself. Tell the companies and groups that are making money selling products that you would like to see them quit acting like the DoD blood money guys and put some of those profits into advocating for the small business end-user community.

Ok, you’ve highlighted the problems, what do we do?

Demand (not ask for) accountability from the FAA for public rulemaking.

A sub 2 or 3 kilo bin that is administered by a community based group. This will give people without huge budgets a safe place to operate. A reiteration of some of parameters… Speed under 35 knots, frangible made primarily of wood, plastic or foam. 400’ AGL and 1500’ laterally with no observer with direct pilot intervention. No class 2 medical, or commercial pilot certification.

Demand that the people involved with the rulemaking from the government side must know the technology they propose to regulate.

Demand that the people representing the industry must have industry experience. Not just board members from the DoD vendors and members of the GA groups.

Advocacy groups need to support qualified people (with experience operating UAS and running businesses) represent us to the FAA, ICAO and the Congress. Far too many mistakes have been made due to inexperience.

These existing conditions have added years as well as a hurdle to the airspace integration process.

Views: 956

Comment by BluSky1 on December 4, 2013 at 11:14pm

The reality is we all know it wouldn't take 9 year to make common sense rules for small businesses you just outlined.
In Washington all large government is for large corporations.
The corporations are the greatest donors and get preferred treatment.

 I am very interested to see how the FAA responds to losing in court against Trappy or winning.

The whole wreck-less charge and list of infractions the FAA has is great for 747 jet not a foam model airplane.

Comment by Monroe Lee King Jr. on December 5, 2013 at 4:22am

You guy's know the FAA was right about Trappy right? He was reckless and it will bite him on the butt and the rest of us too. Drones are not the end all be all. They do represent huge problems and they are not very practical. They stir up more trouble than they a worth by a factor of 10.

I like drones don't get me wrong but they don't belong flying over people and congested areas. IMO they are safe flown as model aircraft. I'm sure the government would love to capitalize on commercial drones if they could.

But the fact is they are not safe, they are noisy and they present a problem for privacy of individuals. Besides the fact no government wants to be spied on anyway. But that truly is a secondary issue in this case.

Drones flying over head and around people and traffic is just plain stupid.

Flying commercially for photography has it's merits but you want people doing that to know what they are doing! They need to know everything a pilot knows and then some because drones fly far closer to people and property than any manned aircraft.

Ultralights are nearly in the same boat and they are manned. Having a person in the vehicle automatically makes them safer because the pilot does not want to die. (Well most of them) But that is not the case with a UAV a drone can be a weapon all by it's self just like a plane can be except there is no pilot that get's killed.

Albeit drones are small they can still do damage remotely and possibly still deadly.

So it's not a clear case that drones are "good" by any stretch of the imagination. The way many drones are being flown is actually bad.

Trappy certainly is not the guy I would want to back if I where looking to get drone rights.

The US may be behind the curve but what they are doing is playing it safe. Because as of yet drones don't make enough impact to be that concerned about anyway.

You can jump on the propaganda wagon if you want to but there are MANY real concerns the FAA wants to deal with.

Of course you need lobbyist if you want to get anything done this is the US and that is how it gets done here good bad or indifferent whether you know it or not that's what makes the wheels turn in the US money! Lots of it.

The AMA has lobbyist. I told you guy's years ago if you wanted to be heard you had to ban together and form a group like the AMA if you wanted to be heard. 

Anyway I'm bored with it all by now.


Comment by Euan Ramsay on December 5, 2013 at 7:35am

The FAA is right about Trappy...according to their own guidelines. Which are flawed and contradictory. They should not be the basis of a "conviction", in the same way that flawed or tampered evidence in a murder trial in inadmissable.

The distinction between a UAV/drone and a RC plane/quad is distinct in my mind. One relies on the human for flight, the other does not, even if it's still "HIL". We should be careful to not create or ask for a set of regulation to cover both at the same time.

Which means I disagree with your negative assessment of the hobby. Many drones are not being flown in a bad manner. Some RC planes/quads *are* being flown in a bad manner. A $40,000 "drone", is likely to be flown much more safely, especially while automous controls of some functions are not that reliable or under testing. Autonomous flight is not a proven technology yet.

For parallels, see cruise control in the first generations/prototypes there were many "drive aways", they are taken for granted and many are happy to hand over control. Now we are into the second generation (adaptive speeds control, lane control, obstacle avoidance etc), and still the technology is trusted. The technology has proven itself, and does not need additional or seperate regulation covering its useage.

Comment by TBD on December 5, 2013 at 8:18am
Why? Because thats what happens when you have people in charge of something they know nothing about. That and the whole political system is flawed from the get-go because the most popular person is put in charge rather than the most competent.
Comment by John Moore on December 5, 2013 at 8:38am


The line between a $40000 "drone" and an RC toy are getting blurrier and blurrier everyday which is why the way the FAA seems to be going is worrisome. Theres going to be a time soon when a home made quad is safe enough to fly autonomously over a populated area; the question is will there be a resonable way for hobbyists like us to do it leagally.

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on December 5, 2013 at 8:43am

Why? Because thats what happens when you have people in charge of something they know nothing about. That and the whole political system is flawed from the get-go because the most popular person is put in charge rather than the most competent.

And the person in charge got to be popular by spending a lot of money on advertising, and the money they spent on that was given to them by other people who expect something in return, once the person wins the popularity contest.  

Thus is the nature of our democracy.

Comment by Monroe Lee King Jr. on December 5, 2013 at 9:00am

 The FAA surely DOES know about drones. They are for sure well informed about the going's on and far more informed and knowledgeable than the average drone flyer. The guy's that are the faces for any government offices are just that faces. They take what the real FAA guy's (the ones working in the trenches) know and try to present that.

 The FAA is not your enemy by any stretch most of the guy's in the FAA are flyers and fans of all types of flying. In fact they are being quite lenient at this time. Insulting these guy's is not in your best interest trust me.

 I believe they are trying to see if the drone users get organized and self regulate much like the AMA does. You guy's are handing your fate over to them you know? Because if there is no entity for self regulation the AMA is the next closest entity for the FAA the relies on.

 I love drones and model aircraft! In their proper place! There is a proper place for them. Spilling out into the public is NOT that place.

 Commercial drones is a good idea for sure but a free for all? No that aint gonna fly. There will be regulations you can count on it. There will be restrictions and licenses and permits.

 I see it getting way more restrictive rather than less. Mainly because drone flyers are determined to fly in congested areas and that's just not safe.

 It's not at all like a cruse control in a car it's more like an autopilot in an aircraft and there are lots of restrictions and regulations on those. If fact if your smart you'll look into those and get an idea about what your in for.

 Knowledge of the air, the way it is today will help you far more than what you know about cars and things on the ground.

 I don't think the impact will effect model plane flying much but it may for sure impact drone flying in public.

 The new regulations for commercial drones will have a positive effect on industry but it will come with a cost of regulation in several ways.

Comment by OG on December 5, 2013 at 9:38am


Most of these people are useful idiots yes! but useful to who.

safety is a concern but it is not your safety or privacy they are concerned about it is for the big entity out there there who effectively decide who makes money and who does not . As well trying to set up a monopoly over the industry so small operators do not even get a chance to make any money and get penalized if they do. 

The US  DOD has big plans for a DRONE roll out for Military and  law enforcement in the HOMELAND. Premature adaptation of non military drones will likely get DRONES band in the USA or establish an alternative UAV market to the DOD. There is a lot of opposition already.  They do not wan`t that to happen, that`s why no commercial use unless you are a deference contractor !

when the weapon carrying drones are ready for the homeland you see the sector open up but for the small guy it will be hard to make any money at that point . What you can do is sue the FAA for loss of revenue during this period of thumb twiddling by the FAA; May be a class action litigation I would start now stop acting like children waiting for permit from your parent.

Comment by Morli on December 5, 2013 at 10:24am

"The FAA is not your enemy by any stretch most of the guy's in the FAA are flyers and fans of all types of flying. In fact they are being quite lenient at this time. Insulting these guy's is not in your best interest trust me.

 I believe they are trying to see if the drone users get organized and self regulate much like the AMA does. You guy's are handing your fate over to them you know? Because if there is no entity for self regulation the AMA is the next closest entity for the FAA the relies on.

 I love drones and model aircraft! In their proper place! There is a proper place for them. Spilling out into the public is NOT that place"

I agree to above reasoning.  Self regulation is way to go IMHO.  Breaking few common sense rules ( like don't fly over public) does not make it easier for any one, and claiming to be FPV expert doing these make look us all like  idiots.

Now to the argument  of 40000 $  is safer that cheaper  drones is also very weak coz there are 1:1000 or more of 40$ drones against 40k$ drone that can still break your head or do fatal damages. Think about  it , imagine one buzzing over your kid's head   before answering.

Wiki Ninja
Comment by Gary McCray on December 5, 2013 at 10:54am

This is actually a great article and I am going to try and avoid the inevitable dispute here, but I have to take a bit of a disagreement with Morli.

" I love drones and model aircraft! In their proper place! There is a proper place for them. Spilling out into the public is NOT that place"

For model airplanes, the public has always been kind of the point and now for an entire emerging class of amateur drones and robots, the public is also the point.

In the US we live in a democracy, the public is the people and they are always the point.

Sometimes (often these days) our Government and our Big Corporations tend to think they are the point, but - they are not.

Basically the FAA is in a no win situation relating to "drones", if they are permissive, all accidents and fatalities will have fingers massively pointing at them, if they are to restrictive then business and the government will cry foul, and the rest of the world will make them look like a laughably inefficient organization.

Delay is there current strategy.


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