The widely anticipated 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which may contain a Chinese drone ban, will be delayed until after the US election in November.
Industry stakeholders, manufacturers and savvy drone pilots are all aware of an upcoming Chinese drone ban by the American government. Many drone pilots want to discover what sort of ban is included with the 2020 NDAA.
Right now, the industry is relying purely on speculation. It seems like the Alliance for drone innovation is aware of a potential Chinese drone ban. They recently wrote a letter to the Armed Services committee raising concerns of a potential Chines drone ban.
The National Defense Authorization Act was supposed to be released at the end of September. The Drone U Flight crew was avidly awaiting the release of the document. We were ready to scour the document to better discern what this rumored ban would look like and how our community would be affected.
Would the US Government ban Chinese drone parts? Would they ban smart parts or internet enabled parts? Would they ban all over the counter drones made with Chinese parts? If the NDAA banned all drones with Chinese Parts, even American drones like Skydio would be banned. Yet Skydio
Speculation has persisted that the US Government would ban Federal Agencies, State agencies and any public safety from using federal grant money to buy or fly Chinese made drones. Speculation around security concerns have run rampant for the last four years. Politics are now involved, the USA has been in a trade war with China. Even some Chinese based app's have suffered an attempted nationwide deletion.
The politics of anti-China rhetoric has only ramped up over the last few years. While regulators discuss the dangers of Chinese drones, America doesn't have a viable drone solution. There is not a single drone manufacturer who can produce a drone comparable in features or price to DJI drones. Most of the American drone solutions are made with Chinese made parts. Where will the US Government draw the line?
During a Defense news conference address, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said the report on the NDAA is most likely to come out “pretty quickly” after the election. Drone pilots will have to wait until after the November 3rd election to learn if there is a Chinese drone ban.
Right after drone pilots learn what is in the NDAA, the FAA is expected to publish Remote Id shortly thereafter. During a webinar with Auterion today, a representative leaked that the Freefly Astro meets standards set forth by the NDAA. Clearly manufacturers are aware of what may be included with this NDAA. Once again, drone pilots are the last to learn.
On a positive note, maybe the FAA will give us a positive Christmas present? The holiday season is sure to be exciting for drone pilots.
Will the NDAA ban previously owned drones? Will the NDAA enact a Chinese drone ban or will it ban Chinese made parts? Will existing drone pilots be exponentially more valuable? Will the drone industry look like the Cuban automobile market? Only time will tell.
1. Monitor Construction Projects and Worker Safety:
With rising demand for amenities and space for living and learning, construction projects are a constant on many campuses. As concrete is set and support beams are lifted, onsite safety and project management can be a critical concern.
To make monitoring easier, researchers at the University of Illinois developed the Flying Superintendents project. The drones are designed to keep watch over construction sites by autonomously collecting and downloading video and still images. The project team can then assess this footage to track progress, more quickly identify safety issues, or predict and mitigate project delays.
“From these video streams, new computer vision methods will detect, track, and analyze activities of the construction equipment and craft workers in 3D to provide an accurate and direct measurement of productivity on the site, and enable root-cause assessment on performance deviations,” according to the university’s website. “By providing a visual interface to the outcome of monitoring operations, the system improves decision-making that can lead to efficiency in execution of the project.”
2. Increase Campus Safety with Unmanned Safety Inspections
Along with construction, building maintenance is an integral part of day-to-day campus life. Towering campus dining halls and dormitories can make even standard maintenance a dangerous undertaking.
Kansas State Polytechnic devised a way to limit the number of times campus staff would have to conduct these inspections by using drones with cameras to inspect campus infrastructure.
Along with campus buildings, the program has been used for taller, more daunting tasks like checking electrical and cell towers, transmission lines and bridges, University Business reports.
“People can focus a little more clearly when they have both feet on the ground and are looking at a camera versus trying to balance themselves on a ladder and make sure their safety clips are in place while simultaneously doing an inspection,” Kurt Carraway, executive director of K-State’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Applied Aviation Research Center, told University Business. “It makes that inspection safer and more effective.”
3. Encourage Student Creativity to Soar
Drones are not just for expanding the campus, but the minds within it as well.
The increased popularity of UAVs is opening new pathways for students to explore the creative uses of these machines, and institutions such as the University of Michigan are excited to fan the flames.
Students at the flagship campus in Ann Arbor are able to experiment with drones in the university’s new outdoor drone testing facility, EdScoop reports.
The 9,600-square-foot facility, which cost $800,000 to build, is equipped with sensors and data-collection instruments, which cost an additional $200,000. The netting around the testing space allows students to subject drones to the elements while skirting outdoor flying restrictions.
Along with academic endeavors, the area is open for students to enjoy recreational activities.
“On Tuesday nights, we plan to set up bleachers and have drone racing and some other fun park-like activities,” Jessy Grizzle, director of Michigan Robotics told the Detroit News.
4. Enticing New Students with Unique Campus ToursOne of the pulls for drone advocates is giving users access to new experiences while still remaining grounded.
At Colgate University, unmanned vehicles allow recruiters to show potential students a unique campus tour from the air.
Utilizing intuitive hardware, like DJI’s Phantom 4 Pro, campus marketing teams are able to explore creative ways to show off university facilities.
Drone video production for marketing has become so popular that new companies such as Sly Dog Productions have started partnering with universities to deliver compelling imagery of campus.
Cathy Baur, associate vice president for university communications at California State University San Marcos, told Sly Dog Productions that investing in drone video was “the best marketing investment I have made
In years past, firefighters might have proceeded with just the limited information provided by a helicopter operator struggling to see through the haze.
Instead, a California Air National Guard aircraft with infrared capability flying thousands of feet above the Ferguson fire was able to determine that firefighters were facing not one spot fire but seven, which were quickly growing together.
Amid weeks of conflagrations and heat waves that have shattered grim records across California, the Ferguson fire has made some good history: It marked the first time incident commanders battling a wildfire have been able to tell firefighters what was being reported from high above the fire in exact detail in near real time.
“For firefighting, it’s a game changer, no doubt. And it’s only going to get better,” said Damian Guilliani, situation unit leader on California Interagency Incident Management Team 4, which helped battle the Ferguson fire.
Firefighting technology in California took a big leap five years ago, when the Guard first used a large drone to fly over the Rim fire in San Diego County. It sent video footage back to an operations facility.
Since then, the Guard’s 163rd Reconnaissance Wing has helped fight more than 20 wildland fires.
The California Air National Guard arrived at the Ferguson fire on July 18, initially employing drones as well as a manned aircraft. (The drones soon were diverted to the Carr and Mendocino Complex fires.)
Command leaders fighting the blaze that has closed Yosemite Valley indefinitely have taken the Guard intel and gotten it to their troops on the ground — hotshot crews, incident mapmakers and air assault teams — within 15 minutes.
In coming fire seasons, leaders anticipate that process will only become more efficient.
The Guard’s aircraft can fly at night and at high altitudes, above the smoke, recording video via infrared technology. It also can fly around the fire’s perimeter faster than a helicopter.
“The technology … is absolutely amazing,” Guilliani said. “Not only can they see live video, but you can actually see at 25,000 feet when they shoot down on the fire line, you can actually see people walking around and see fire trucks through infrared.”
Since it began July 13 in the Sierra National Forest, the Ferguson fire has burned more than 94,000 acres. On Tuesday, it was at 43 percent containment, with almost 2,400 firefighters and support personnel working to stop it.
The region’s unforgiving landscape — steep, rocky hillsides and deep canyons and cliffs — has made portions of the wildfire too perilous to reach. Nearly 50 percent of the Sierra National Forest is wilderness, making it one of the largest contiguous blocks of such land in the continental United States, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
Instead of focusing on fighting the fire with a perilous frontal assault, crews have worked for several days to burn a boundary around the fire to keep it from reaching farther into Yosemite National Park and toward the small communities along Highway 41.
Along with 33 bulldozers, dozens of hotshot crew members have journeyed miles through the forest to carve out a fire line against the spread of flames. Usually a crew — often dropped off by helicopters into the forest — can construct a mile of line in a setting like the Sierra National Forest in one day. Because of the number of trees killed by drought and a bark beetle infestation that have fallen throughout the region, they’ve been lucky to construct one-third a mile of fire line, officials said.
Between 2010 to 2017, an estimated 129 million trees have succumbed in California. That includes two areas where the Ferguson fire has burned: 31.8 million dead trees in the Sierra National Forest, and another 9 million in the Stanislaus National Forest.
“A fire of this magnitude means there are a lot of different challenges and a lot of different obstacles in firefighters’ way,” said Joe Amador, a public information officer. “It’s not just about taking a hose up the hill and putting it on the fire and then (the fire) goes away.”
Hand crews have spent days working 16-hour shifts using chain saws, Pulaskis — part ax, part grub hoe — and other tools to clear miles of manzanita and other brush along roads and highways in preparation for back burning. The technique, which involves firefighters burning a line around a wildfire, is designed to slow or stop the blaze by depriving it of fuel.
“(Clearing brush) makes the burning operation much more safe and effective as a whole,” said Jennifer Martin, a crew boss trainee with the Forest Service overseeing a hand crew of about 20 people last week.
“If we have full brush, it’s going to be throwing embers across,” making it hard to hold the fire line, she said.
Robby Peterson, a Corona battalion chief, said his team was hearing and seeing dead trees, dubbed by firefighters as “snags,” fall every few minutes.
To avoid the danger, he said, firefighters do their best to avoid them, trying to make sure they are uphill from the dead trees and being mindful to identify which ones they think might fall.
“Imagine a sparkler that’s 150-feet tall that’s throwing sparks across our line,” Peterson said. “That’s the problem. That’s what makes it a challenge. It doesn’t take much wind to carry those (embers) because the trees are so high.”
That’s part of the reason the California Air National Guard’s presence has been so crucial.
By knowing a wildfire’s exact behavior in real time, fire chiefs can place firefighters more strategically — and hopefully keep them safer.
Since the Ferguson fire began, two firefighters have been killed.
Cal Fire heavy equipment operator Braden Varney died on July 14 when his bulldozer fell down a steep canyon while he was working. Two weeks later, Capt. Brian Hughes of the Arrowhead Interagency Hotshots was killed by a falling tree.
The information from Guard aircraft, officials said, will help ensure crews have a more precise idea of what they’re up against.
“In 45 years of fighting fires, it’s never easy being on an incident where you have fatalities,” said Deputy Incident Commander Rocky Opliger. “This will help us