New MicroUAV from Theiss, but stymied by regulation

Here's an interesting lifting body design for a MAV (Micro Air Vehicle) by Theiss Aviation. Its autopilot uses thermopiles, so you won't be using it indoors.

From Robot Living:

"The new model TIC costs around $6,000 and can potentially be launched from the trunk of a car. It contains chemical as well as biological sensors and could also be outfitted with a small color camera. These vehicles are designed to fly in ventilation shafts, tunnels, small quarters and even dense woods. Using a 72 MHz radio, the TIC has a range of 1.5 miles and can be run in basic radio controlled mode, auto assist mode or completely autonomously.
Theiss Aviation is now seeking to sell these aircraft to police departments, search and rescue crews or other emergency personnel.

Unfortunately the FAA seeks to treat these tiny craft just like regular planes.

The owners of a TIC must register the aircraft with the FAA and give 60 days notice of flight plans to the FAA."

Here's more about Shawn Theiss, from Fortune Small Business, discussing the regulatory problems for UAV entrepreneurs. We should have him on as a podcast guest!

From FSB:

"Here's what every TIC owner must do to be certified: submit detailed drawings of every part of the plane, wait three months, answer any FAA questions, then wait another month for a registry number.

Finally, the tiny drone must be cleared to leave the ground by FAA officials every time it flies. For drones, most flight plans must be filed 60 days ahead of time.

"The size of the unmanned air system doesn't matter," says Alison Duquette, an FAA spokesperson. "Any size could pose a danger to private or commercial planes." Also, officials point out, the TIC is too small to be tracked via radar.

Critics argue that the agency is being squeamish about a technology that would help public safety more than harm it.

"Small unmanned planes are not rocket science," says Dave Nestic, entrepreneur in residence at JumpStart TechLift Advisors, a Cleveland incubator that studies the propulsion market.

Theiss, stymied in his bid to sell to anyone but the military, is still fuming. The FAA is "not aviation-minded," he says. "It's regulation-minded."

Views: 1211

Comment by Tj Bordelon on January 4, 2010 at 1:24pm
I was waiting for someone to give the FAA some PR around this issue. They're really killing innovation in this country.
Comment by Nullified on January 4, 2010 at 1:27pm
Are you sure that uses thermopiles? The ground station software running on that laptop is Procerus' Virtual Cockpit for the Kestrel autopilot ( In which case if it uses the Kestrel I would expect it to cost much more. Either way, it's a very cool design.
Comment by Tj Bordelon on January 4, 2010 at 1:28pm
I love the FAA's response. Don't they realize that airplanes don't fly below 500 feet? And my neighbor hitting golf balls into my yard is far more dangerous.

From what I understand from some folks "in the know", the big boys don't want private companies cluttering "their" skys. Nothing to do with safety... but that's the excuse. We'll see how long they can hold the flood gates closed.

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on January 4, 2010 at 1:34pm
It may be that they use different sensors for flight assist mode vs full autonomy. From the page linked above: "This option uses a simple onboard autopilot assist system with thermal imaging sensors for roll axis and
pitch axis."

Comment by Gary Mortimer on January 4, 2010 at 1:44pm
ITAR is killing innovation in your country

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on January 4, 2010 at 1:53pm
Regulatory roadblocks are just fuel for the open source fire. If they're going to make life hard for the pros, the amateurs will rise to fill needs. Once these projects are open, actual production can happen anywhere, with the "atoms" side of the process migrating to countries with the most welcoming regulatory environment. It's a global market and I for one don't care what country things are made in as long as the technology is available to users everywhere.
Comment by Tj Bordelon on January 4, 2010 at 2:05pm
@gary - ITAR looks very scary. I had no idea they even existed! Seems they could arbitrarily come down on anyone at any given time over anything. Are they working with the FAA to clamp down on private companies' use of UAVs? Or is the "they" just regulations and not a separate body of government? Either way, this reminds me of something Burt Rutan told me ... "The laws of this country are harder to overcome than the laws of physics".

Comment by Gary Mortimer on January 4, 2010 at 2:07pm
Not for this thread perhaps, but open source in a closed airspace system, an interesting thought, innovation takes ages in manned flight. GPS based approaches are only really rolling out now but the tech has been around for a while and lots of jungle jepps exist ;-) still did'nt make them legal.
Comment by Tj Bordelon on January 4, 2010 at 2:21pm
Just a shame, really. Yet another industry will run off to some other country. The US could surely use an industry like this to create a whole new market with jobs, exports, and bring back the spirit of innovation. When NPR talks about this stuff, they like to say "We'll have inventors come up with stuff you can't even imagine, like the Web in the 90s. That will lead us out of the recession". Well, not if regulations kill new markets.Almost seems by design....

But Chris, I think you are right-- At some point this tech will be so ubiquitous that it really won't be practical to lock up the skys to UAVs. At least, I hope that's the way it will work out.

Comment by Morli on January 4, 2010 at 2:28pm
Burt Rutan is right , he knows the big boys very well and overcame many such hurdles. :) Big boys may have lots to loose if amateur guys like us can do what has and is being done here , the day is not far when most of the big guys toy's can be replicated in terms of technology capability @ 1/100 budget :) , now that they don't want :+)


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