Category Archives: UAS

FAA offers framework to legalize commercial — but not delivery — drones

Ben Fox Rubin for  15 Feb 2015

The Federal Aviation Administration took an important step Sunday toward legalizing and regulating routine use of commercial drones — though don’t expect a delivery drone to bring you a fresh pizza anytime soon.

The agency released its proposed requirements for unmanned commercial aircraft, saying the drones must weigh less than 55 pounds and be operated in daylight within the line of sight of the drone’s operator. Additionally, the drones must fly under 500 feet, no faster than 100 miles per hour, and away from manned aircraft. They must never fly over people except those directly involved with the flight.

The FAA for now doesn’t allow for regular use of commercial drones, so Hollywood studios and others have needed to gain special waivers to use the devices today. While the new rules provide for broad use of drones to shoot TV shows or movies, survey agricultural land or inspect a bridge, they nix the potential use of delivery drones, like those being developed by Amazon and Google, an FAA representative confirmed. However, the rules are still subject to change before being finalized.

In response, Amazon released a statement Sunday, saying it’s not giving up on its goals for its “Prime Air” drone-delivery service.  Read more here.

GIS: The Biggest Little Drone Market in the World

by • 29 October 2014

Last week I had the pleasure of participating in a two-day symposium on unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) hosted by the Northern California American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS). The event was held in Reno, Nevada, (otherwise known as “The Biggest Little City in the World”), and its purpose was to assemble UAS experts and enthusiasts to share information, showcase new technologies, and demonstrate systems in action – systems that support geographic information systems (GIS). Presentations covered a wide range of topics, including everything from vehicles, to software, to data collection, to workflow, cameras, and sensors. You can find my presentation here.

Continue reading GIS: The Biggest Little Drone Market in the World

Drone pilot settles controversial, 3-year case against FAA

Lorenzo Francheschi-Bicchierai in www.mashable .com

The controversial case in which a drone pilot fought the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for almost three years — and almost changed the rules of the game — is finally over. It ended in a tie.

Raphael Pirker, also known as “Trappy,” announced that he settled his case against the FAA on Thursday, agreeing to pay $1,100. That put an end to a case in which the FAA had fined Pirker for allegedly flying his drone “recklessly” while filming a commercial at the University of Virginia.  Click to read more.

Commercial UAV EXPO


Commercial UAV Expo is a conference and exhibition exclusively focused on the commercial UAV market in North America covering industries including Surveying & Mapping; Civil Engineering & Infrastructure;  Mining; Construction; Process, Power & Utilities; Precision Agriculture; Law Enforcement, Security, Emergency Response, and more. It is organized by SPAR Point Group. It will take place October 5-7, 2015 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. For more information, visit  Read the full article here.


BaySpec Introduces World’s Smallest UAV-Optimized Hyperspectral Imager

SAN JOSE, Calif., Jan. 23, 2015 — (PRNewswire) —

SAN JOSE, Calif., Jan. 23, 2015 /PRNewswire-iReach/ — BaySpec, Inc., a leading provider of miniaturized spectral engines, introduces the OCI-UAV™, a new ultra-compact version of its  award winning OCI-Series Hyperspectral Imagers.  (OCI is a phonetic spelling of “All Seeing Eye”.)

Photo –

OCI-UAV™ Series Hyperspectral Imager

The  OCI-UAV™ hyperspectral camera is designed specifically for use on unmanned aerial vehicles/systems (UAV/UAS), remotely operated vehicles (ROV), or anywhere needed. Without compromising performance in this small form factor, the OCI-UAV™ with miniature single-board-computer acquires Visible-Near Infrared VIS-NIR hyperspectral data with continuous spectral and spatial coverage.

Operating the OCI-UAV™ is automatic and requires minimal human set-up. The OCI-UAV™ design features signification reduction in size (camera head only 8 cm x 6 cm x 6 cm weighing approximately 0.4 lbs, ~180 g), with a computer, and faster data transfer rate (up to 120 fps) with automatic data capturing and processing.

Key Features/Benefits:

  • Effortless integration to existing camera-ready systems
  • True push-broom (OCI-UAV-1000™) and snapshot (OCI-UAV-2000™) with computer and storage packaged together in an extremely compact package, specifically design for UAV/ROV applications
  • Fast frame rate up to 120 fps
  • Innovative non-slit design significantly reduces system complexity
  • Less dependent on image orthorectification
  • Real-time image data preview
  • Ready-to-fly UAV system with Mission Planner available  Click to read more.

The 5 Most Viewed UAVs for Mapping and 3D Modelling on

Jan 8, 2015 — The website features a selection of the most important geomatics equipment, including UAS for Mapping and 3D Modelling. At you can compare product specifications and read users’ reviews before you buy. is the first product comparison website for geomatic and hydrographic devices. provides a complete overview ofUAV solutions and cameras, Lidar and processing software. By comparing product specifications and reading product reviews by other users, you can make a well-balanced purchase decision.

This category now features, amongst others: Ricopter (RIEGL), Aibot X6(Aibotix), eBee (senseFly), EasyMap UAV (FotoMapy), md4-200 (microdrones),Scout B1 100 UAV (AeroScout), SmartOne C (SmartPlanes), Trimble UX5(Trimble Navigation) and Aeromapper 300 (Aeromao). Others will follow soon. If you have used any of these or similar products, visit to share your own experiences with the geomatic community.

In addition to UAV systems, also includes GNSS receivers,total stations, digital cameras, laser scanners, Lidar, digital photogrammetric workstations and image processing software.

The following UAVs were the most-viewed by the Geo-matching.comcommunity in December 2014.

  1. eBee                            – Sensefly
  2. EasyMap UAV                – Trigger Composites
  3. TopoDrone-100              – DroneMetrex
  4. Bramor gEO                   – C-ASTRAL
  5. RiCOPTER                      – RIEGL

Click here to read more.


from  by Joan Lowy  28 Dec 2014  0707EST

(AP) — The Obama administration is on the verge of proposing long-awaited rules for commercial drone operations in U.S. skies, but key decisions on how much access to grant drones are likely to come from Congress next year.

Federal Aviation Administration officials have said they want to release proposed rules before the end of this month, but other government and industry officials say they are likely to be delayed until January. Meanwhile, except for a small number of companies that have received FAA exemptions, a ban on commercial drone flights remains in place. Even after rules are proposed, it is likely to be two or three years before regulations become final.

That’s too long to wait, say drone industry officials. Every year the ban remains in place, the United States loses more than $10 billion in potential economic benefits that drones could provide, according to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, a trade group.

“We need some sort of process that allows some of the low-risk operations,” said Jesse Kallman, the head of regulatory affairs for Airware, a drone technology company backed by Google Ventures. “I think Congress understands that, and hopefully they’ll take steps in the coming year to address that.”

That appears to be what some key lawmakers have in mind. “We in Congress are very interested in UAS,” Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said at a hearing this month, referring to unmanned aerial systems, or drones. “We understand UAS are an exciting technology with the potential to transform parts of our economy. … It is our responsibility to take a close look.”

One of the committee’s first priorities next year is writing legislation to reauthorize FAA programs and overhaul aviation policy. The bill is expected to include directions from lawmakers on how to integrate drones into the nation’s aviation system. The last reauthorization bill, passed in 2012, directed the agency to integrate drones by Sept. 30, 2015, but it’s clear the FAA will miss that deadline.

The FAA is expected to propose restricting drones weighing less than 55 pounds to flying at altitudes under 400 feet, forbid nighttime flights and require drones be kept within sight of their operators. Drone operators may also be required to get pilot’s licenses, a possibility already drawing fire from critics who say the skills needed to fly a manned aircraft are different from those needed to operate a drone.

Shuster indicated he’s concerned that requiring pilot’s licenses might be burdensome and unnecessary. And keeping drones within sight of operators would be too strict and limit their usefulness, he said.

The reason for keeping drones within line of sight is that they don’t yet have the ability to detect and avoid other aircraft.

AUVSI, the drone industry trade group, recently hired Mark Aitken, former chief of staff to Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., as its government relations manager. LoBiondo is chairman of the House Subcommittee on Aviation, which will write the FAA reauthorization bill.

“We’re really looking at an incremental approach still,” Aitken said. “It’s not something that is going to happen overnight.”

Congress already is getting pushback from private and commercial pilots who worry about possible collisions. The FAA receives reports nearly every day about drones sighted flying near manned aircraft or airports.

“As a (Boeing) 737 captain, I’ll be damned if myself and 178 other people are taken down by a 12-pound or a 50-pound or a 150-pound piece of metal coming through my windshield,” said Ben Berman at a recent forum hosted by the Air Line Pilots Association. “There are too many near misses occurring every day like this.”

Mark Baker, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, which represents private pilots, said online videos show that “operators are flying near airports, in the clouds and in congested airspace.” He called such actions “reckless” and said they will inevitably lead to a collision.

FAA regulations permit recreational users to fly small drones as long as they stay at least 5 miles away from an airport, limit flights to less than 400 feet in altitude, keep the aircraft in line of sight and fly only during the daytime.

Last week, drone industry trade groups teamed up with the FAA and model aircraft hobbyists to launch a safety campaign aimed at amateur drone operations. The campaign includes a website, , where operators can find FAA regulations and advice on how to fly safely. The trade groups said they also plan to distribute safety pamphlets at industry events and are working with manufacturers to see that safety information is enclosed inside the package of new drones.

Retailers say small drones, which are indistinguishable from today’s more sophisticated model aircraft, were popular gifts this Christmas.

Top Ten of 2014 (from Sensors & Systems)

16 Dec 2014  Matt Ball in

In our regular end-of-the-year reflection, Sensors & Systems looks back over the past 12 months to come up with the top developments of 2014 that will have strong implications for geospatial industry growth and diversity in the coming years. Making the list are technology disruptions, acquisitions, modeling frameworks, mapping efforts and global change.

1. DigitalGlobe Launches WorldView-3 — The successful launch of the world’s most sophisticated commercial imaging satellite promises to bring a new range of potential uses, thanks to the high resolution and the infrared bands for greater spectral coverage. WorldView-3 will provide higher 0.31m resolution as well as greater global coverage. The new capabilities include the ability to see through smoke, to map crop types and health, to monitor oil and gas, and to explore for iminerals thanks to the ability to identify chemical composition.

2. Relaxed Imagery Restrictions — The relaxing of resolution restrictions by the U.S. Department of Commerce means that end users can acquire satellite imagery at up to 0.25m panchromatic and 1.0m multispectral starting in the first quarter of 2015. This move helps the commercial satellite imagery companies as well as the end user, given the superior coverage and frequency of satellite platforms for massive amounts of data collection as well as ongoing monitoring.

3. Drone-sized Laser Scanners — In the reality capture realm, both Velodyne and Riegl released LiDAR scanners small and light enough to be mounted on drone platforms. The portability and flexibility of this new capture mode should open up new opportunities for more rapid data collection and more complete 3D models for such hard-to-capture areas as mines or complex processing plants.

4. Google Purchases Skybox Imaging — The rumors were flying for months prior to the announced acquisition of the smallsat company for $500 million. The shared Silicon Valley location was certainly a factor, although likely more important is the focus on data and analytic opportunities with the planned high-resolution constellation with an eye on daily collection. The move impacted the stock of other commercial satellite companies thanks to its potential to satisfy most of Google’s insatiable demand for imagery. It’s interesting that the company was snapped up so quickly with only a few of the planned satellites in orbit.

5. Incubation Aimed at Proliferation — Esri has been expanding their support for startup companies through grants and licenses for their software. One of the more impressive aspects of the show floor at the Esri International User Conference this past year was the Startup Zone with passionate small companies that aim to expand the use and awareness of geospatial technologies and provide solutions upon the platform that Esri provides. The company wins when these companies start getting paid for their service and in turn pay Esri, but they also win by spreading the word through the evangelism of these passionate and thankful users.

6. Hexagon Geospatial Formed and Power Portfolio Released — The packaging of Hexagon Geospatial happened early in the year, splitting the geospatial tools from Intergraph and allowing for a fresh packaging of products. The new Hexagon packages are divided into Producer, Provider and Platform, giving users a bundling of capable software to support imagery processing and analysis, geospatial solutions, Web mapping, data portals and advanced modeling. The move to create the new company and the new packages provides greater clarity of offerings and reinforces the integration of the toolsets that were acquired and have been integrated over time.

7. Airbus in Action — One of the more interesting and ongoiing company stories is that of Airbus Defence and Space, which has undergone rebranding this past year with the change from Astrium. Just recently, the company sold the operations of their Spot 7 satellite to Azerbaijan as well as selling their Tokyo Spot Image company to PASCO. This divestment and partnership approach places more importance on regional partners and their ability to grow the business locally. It will be interesting to follow to see if there will be any further activity to place more of a focus on sensors and satellites and away from services.

8. FAA Opens UAS Use for Surveying and Monitoring The recent relaxation of restrictions for four companies to use unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for surveying and monitoring follows a decision earlier in the year to grant exemptions to seven film companies working in both television and films. This exemption includes the drone maker Trimble and the surveying and mapping company Woolpert (who happen to be located in Dayton, Ohio where manned flight was born). This step may soon see limited exemptions for additional applications such as agricultural crop mapping and monitoring, utility and pipeline corridor inspections, and package delivery.

9. Coming Era of Real-time Geospatial Data — A number of very interesting data management tools from the likes of IBM and SAP are focused squarely on the rapid delivery of geospatial insight thanks to high-speed computing and advanced algorithms. A startup named SpaceCurve is also in this space. As geospatial data volumes continue to increase, these tools provide a distinct edge to not only make sense of all these feeds but to provide actionable information.

10. Increasing Cloud Commitments — Software companies across the full geospatial spectrum are making increased commitments to the delivery of hosted geospatial solutions as well as extending some of the data intensive heavy lifting of geospatial analysis to the infinite computing of the cloud. Esri’s repackaging of ArcGIS as Pro for desktop and Portal for Server provides increasing capabilities for Web GIS with data and infrastructure aimed at greater portability through the delivery of apps. Others are making similar moves to help organizations leverage their geospatial investments with greater access and integration into multiple simultaneous workflows.

– See more at:

The Future of HealthTech – Ambulance Drones

Robert J. Szczerba in  14 Dec 2014

In December 2013, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos caused quite a stir with the announcement of his company’s plans to offer 30-minute product deliveries via unmanned aerial vehicles (more commonly referred to as “drones”).  Drones have been deployed by the U.S. military since the 1970s, for purposes ranging from providing bird’s eye surveillance of troop movements and weapons facilities to launching attacks on terrorist organizations.

However, the same technology can also be used to help save lives.   Thankfully, a growing number of commercial, non-profit, and government scientists and laboratories are working towards that goal.

This past October the Netherlands’ Delft University of Technology announced that graduate student Alec Momont had developed a prototype drone that delivers a defibrillator to a heart attack victim.  To address the reality that the victim’s chance of survival decreases dramatically with each passing minute, this “ambulance drone” is guided by GPS to a mobile phone location within 4.6 square miles in under a minute.  Once there, the drone uses live streaming audio and video to allow emergency personnel to provide instructions on how to use the defibrillator correctly, and transmit the patient’s vital signs.  Widespread adoption of this kind of technology would be welcome news here in the U.S., where heart disease is the number one cause of death for men and women (about 1 in 4), claiming an estimated 600,000 lives each year.  Click here to read more.