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A Cessna 172 that crashed in in Alaska in April, killing all four on board, had struck a bald eagle, the NTSB found in its ongoing investigation. The lead investigator said this week it appears to be the first U.S. fatal crash for a civil flight resulting from a bald eagle strike, according to an Alaska Dispatch News report. Residue that appeared to be remains of a bird was found and analyzed, NTSB officials said in the report, "and it was determined to contain feather particles of an immature bald eagle."

"It's the first civil aircraft accident following an impact with a bald eagle that resulted in fatalities," the investigator said. The Cessna crashed April 20 in wooded terrain about two miles southwest of Birchwood Airport near Chugiak, northwest of Anchorage. A post-crash fire consumed most of the aircraft, according to the NTSB's preliminary report. The Cessna was on a local aerial photography flight in VFR weather about 9 a.m. local time. Radar data show it maneuvering in various areas, its altitude ranging from 1,500 to about 2,400 feet. Later on, radar data was lost when the airplane was about 800 feet msl, with a groundspeed of about 102 knots.


The FAA will stand up a new advisory committee for the drone industry beginning sometime this summer, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said on Wednesday. Speaking at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International in New Orleans, Huerta said the committee will be modeled after a similar panel organized to funnel industry opinions into the emerging NextGen system. Huerta said the NextGen Advisory Committee has 30 members from industry, most so-called stakeholders who have an interest in NextGen development issues.

The Drone Advisory Committee, which Huerta said will eventually get its own discrete name, will be headed initially by Intel CEO Brian Krzanich. In addition to being a pilot himself, Krzanich oversees a company that has made significant recent investments in unmanned technology. Huerta said the composition of the committee will be announced later, with RTCA serving as the point of contact and oversight.

When AUVSI host Miles O'Brien asked how the FAA responded to recommendations made by the NextGen committee, Huerta said it did so by re-ordering priorities. He gave two examples: emphasis on performance-based navigation and datacomm for transmission of air traffic instructors and other flight critical information. "This has worked very well with the NextGen committee. We need to work with our stakeholders to establish priorities and hold each other to them," Huerta said. When asked if the FAA can ever get ahead of the rapid pace of unmanned vehicle innovation, Huerta said, "I don't think we can get ahead of it, but we can engage with the industry."

When asked by audience members via Twitter for specifics on the release of the new FAA Part 107 regulations for small UAS, Huerta said he expects the regulation to appear in late spring, which we take to be within the next three to five weeks. However, he demurred when asked when operators could actually fly under the new rules. He did say, however, that when the final regulation is in place, operators will be able to fly largely without reverting to the cumbersome Section 333 certificates of approval. Operators have complained about both the complexity and time required to obtain 333 approvals.

With the FAA predicting as many as 7 million drones sold annually by 2020, O'Brien couldn't resist asking Huerta if the FAA views the entire industry as a headache or an opportunity. "It's both," he said, "Everyone sees this as a game changer." Huerta said the sheer number of drones and the wide variety of applications will force the agency to keep up and the only way it can is my soliciting industry input.

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A Beechcraft Bonanza crashed in a residential area on New York's Long Island Tuesday after the pilot declared an emergency, reporting a failed vacuum system. All three people on board are dead and the aircraft appears to have broken up in flight. The Bonanza departed Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, about 12:45 p.m., heading for Plainville, Connecticut, according to news reports. About 2:30 p.m., the pilot declared an emergency and reported a vacuum failure. According to audio from, the pilot told New York Approach he was partial panel and "VFR over the top" and did not want prolonged flying in IMC to get below the clouds. After a few exchanges and receiving a vector, the pilot said, "we are IMC at this time." Later, he said, "I just lost a little bit more control here," then "we just lost more of our panel." Radar contact was lost moments later.

The aircraft's FAA registry shows the model is a V35B, registered in Bristol, Connecticut, near Plainville. Witnesses near the crash site on Long Island reported hearing an aircraft overhead, then seeing debris raining down from an overcast sky. Authorities recovered the bodies and the NTSB arrived at the scene to find hundreds of pieces of the aircraft and other items scattered around the neighborhood. A few schools in the area had a short lockdown just after the crash, an NBC station in New York reported.


Five people were injured on an Allegiant Air jet that encountered clear air turbulence Thursday, forcing the flight to divert and land at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The Airbus A319 departed Punta Cana and was bound for Pittsburgh with 137 passengers and six crew members, according to media reports. The airline stated that "three passengers and two flight attendants from Flight 7001 have been transported to the hospital," WTAE in Miami reported

The flight landed in Fort Lauderdale at 2:43 p.m. local time with ambulances waiting. Passengers told a CBS station afterward they were already experiencing a bumpy ride when the severe turbulence caused a rapid descent, sending people and loose items tumbling. Other witnesses told the station the injuries included a broken nose and a head injury.

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A Boeing B747-400 that has been converted to an aerial firefighting tanker is ready to enter service, Global SuperTanker Services has announced. The airplane, christened Spirit of John Muir, will be based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. From there, it can be deployed at speeds up to 600 mph to reach wildfires almost anywhere in the continental U.S. within 4.5 hours, or anywhere worldwide within 20 hours. It can deliver nearly 20,000 gallons of water or fire retardant per flight, almost twice the capacity of the next-biggest tanker. The airplane is operated by Global SuperTanker, which is owned by Cyterna Air.

The airplane's firefighting gear is the same system that was used by Evergreen International, which operated a smaller 747-100 in its fleet from about 2009 to 2013, when the company declared bankruptcy. Two separate, but identical, constant-flow pressurized systems allow for continuous discharge or up to eight separate drops. The system can deploy retardant, gel, foam, water, or the combination of any two of those agents. Ground servicing for the next sortie can be completed in 35 minutes or less. The cabin is configured with 14 first-class seats and two bunks for support staff and flight crew. The John Muir will perform a flyby in front of invited guests, press and government officials on Thursday, in Colorado Springs. This video was posted by the company today.


At the AUVSI show in New Orleans, a new company called SkyeIntelligence was showing a trick drone with self-following capability. You simply launch it, and it follows your every move. AVweb shot this short news video on the product.

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Although there haven't been many accidents involving unmanned aircraft systems, there have been enough for the NTSB to begin building the investigatory resources to determine causes, just as they have for years with manned aircraft. In this exclusive AVweb podcast recorded at the AUVSI trade show in New Orleans, the NTSB's Bill English explains what's involved.


As an early proponent of drones for television news stories, journalist Miles O'Brien says this technology has fundamentally shifted the way stories can be told. O'Brien is a well-known independent science and technology reporter with stories appearing frequently on PBS. AVweb spoke to O'Brien Tuesday at Xponential 2016, the trade and technology show of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International in New Orleans. O'Brien is hosting the daily general sessions at the show.

O'Brien pioneered small drone use for television work out of necessity and lack of budget, filming a documentary on how big cities can protect themselves against rising water. Some of the shooting was to be done in the Netherlands where the Dutch have centuries of experience keeping the sea at bay. He wanted aerials for his story, but was quoted $23,000 for helicopter and camera rental. That experience led him to build his own drone months before the first DJI Phantom appeared.

"I discovered immediately that it was not just a lot cheaper -- I could have put 23 drones in the drink and still been ahead. But it was also amazing, the footage I got, it was so different than a helicopter, flying low along a levy or a dike, literally with a flock of birds with me and getting these amazing shots. The power of it was immediately obvious to me," O'Brien told us. Now a drone accompanies O'Brien on all his production work around the world. He says the DJI Inspire, a high-end prosumer drone, offers the best combination of cost and quality.

O'Brien has found that having drone aerials fundamentally changes the way a story can be told. He's done a couple of documentaries on the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and Japan using a drone to capture imagery impossible to shoot any other way. "Fukushima is a very difficult story to get a handle on in the big picture. They'll tour you to the plant, but you can't really get the overview that you want," he said. Using the drone "gave such a different understanding of the story that you would have never gotten it no matter how long you stayed trudging through the trenches on the ground. That ability to look down, to have the God's-eye view, really does change the way you tell stories," O'Brien said.

You may recall that O'Brien is a longtime general aviation pilot and flew a Cirrus for many years. In 2014, his left arm was amputated after a freak accident and he's been mostly absent from the cockpit since then. In our interview, O'Brien told us that he'll soon take a checkride to requalify for pilot in command duties.

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AVweb's search of news in aviation found announcements from jetAVIVA, Flightdocs, Kansas State Polytechnic and the Upwind Foundation. jetAVIVA announced that it has reached an agreement to acquire Kansas Aircraft Corporation, a highly respected aviation sales firm based in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Flightdocs Inc., global provider of aircraft maintenance tracking services, announced the release of Flightdocs Enterprise. Incorporating the best features of the powerful Flightdocs Maintenance Tracking system, Flightdocs Enterprise provides full fleet capabilities, maintenance-inventory-flightlog integration, comprehensive work order management and API integration to customer business systems.

Kansas State Polytechnic is introducing Fly K-State Academy — a three-day piloting program, June 27-29, for high school students entering their freshman through senior year who dream about a future in aviation. In this immersive experience, students will complete four missions and earn three and a half hours of flight time. The Upwind Foundation announced the Upwind Summer Scholarship Program Class of 2016 for the following California high school juniors: Travis Bender of Redwood City, Kyle Caverly of San Mateo, Leon Lam of San Jose, Michael Salazar of San Bruno and Patrick Shea of San Carlos.


The Weekender sees spring fever picking up all over on SocialFlight with airshows, fly-outs and airports opening up for the flying season. Fort Lauderdale's 2016 "Ford Lauderdale" Air Show, running Saturday and Sunday, will feature the Navy F-18 Hornet, U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, Canadian Air Force Snowbirds and the first civilian airshow performance of the F-35 Lightning II. Across the country, the Green River Chapter of the Washington Pilots Association will hold its Annual Work Party on Saturday to open the Ranger Creek airstrip for summer. Work starts at 10 a.m. followed by a chili feed at noon. Help pitch in and enjoy the scenic foothills of Mt. Rainier.

Also Saturday, the Mandan Aero Center in North Dakota welcomes all pilots to join this year's Aviation Poker Run to three different airports, heading back to Mandan Municipal Airport by noon. There will be three community cards and the one with the best five-card hand will win the grand prize. Join fellow pilots for a day of flying, more prize giveaways and lunch. In Illinois on Saturday, the Quincy University Aviation Club will host an all-you-can-eat pancake and sausage breakfast. Head for the Great River Aviation hangar at the Quincy Regional Airport. Aircraft rides will also be available. Proceeds will benefit the QU Aviation Club. For more details on this weekend's events, visit SocialFlight.

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I remember my first flight as left-seater in a TAA (technically advanced aircraft). Too. Many. Buttons. And each switch, knob and button had multiple roles, depending on my stage of flight and the information I wanted to pull up or program into it. And harmony? Well, other than the integrated glass panels available on then-new Cirrii and Cessnas, those first TAAs were hybrids of systems from Avidyne, Bendix/King, Chelton, Dynon and Garmin. The logic of pulling up information or programming them was just different enough between the companies to make you cross-eyed trying to remember it all.

My first IFR student in a TAA—an aircraft equipped with an autopilot, a GPS navigator and a moving map—flew a new Cessna 182 with a first-generation Garmin 1000. What a difference, and what a challenge all on its own. Instead of pushing and pushing to get my student's scan up to speed, we worked on decoding the vast amount of information he was being presented, and built his system knowledge, layer upon layer, as his blind-flying skills (almost a misnomer in an MFD-equipped aircraft) improved. Since this was before really good Garmin 1000 PC simulation was available, that meant pages and pages of manuals, combined with hours sitting on the ground with the aircraft plugged into ground power to get the finer points right. The good news is that's not a bad way to learn glass panels.

The Gotchas of TAAs

I'm convinced that steep learning curve for complete glass-panel systems in modern TAAs is why so few pilots operating PFD/MFD-equipped aircraft, even today, bother to do much more than navigate direct from point to point, plus pull up and fly approaches. And even when pilots do take the time to read the electronics' manuals, sit through training sessions and learn to program the boxes in useful ways, ATC-mandated re-programming at inopportune moments becomes the distraction possibly causing a loss of situational awareness. Clearance amendments can pose significant workload increases if the change is received when the workload is already high, such as immediately prior to or just after takeoff.

The NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) is filled with examples like this one, gleaned from a pilot's anonymous report: "Tower said '...cleared for takeoff, maintain 2000 feet, at [VOR] 154 degree radial turn left heading 220 degrees.' We had to sit on the runway, pull out different maps, install the 154-degree radial, locate the [VOR] identifier and reset clearance altitude."

Sitting on the runway scrambling to reprogram your boxes after receiving a takeoff clearance is not a happy place for pilots or controllers. It's also the perfect high-stress recipe for programming errors, which can form the first links in a chain leading to accidents. These guys would have done better to tell the tower they were going to need a minute to reconfigure. Yes, they risked losing their takeoff clearance and being asked to taxi clear, but at least that would have given them the time they needed to properly program their boxes without risking someone landing on top of them.

Other nightmarish ATC requests include being held high and then dumped onto the localizer above the glideslope—a prescription for busting minimum altitudes on the approach while rushing to get down—and one that happened to me just the other day: a request to speed up 20 knots for traffic behind me, followed by a frequency change and a new controller who requested I slow down 30 knots for traffic ahead. All that can be a little tricky in a slippery piston airplane between the three and two-mile mark on final to an airport with parallel runways and lots of traffic. All of these requests create major distractions from flying, right at the moment when the pilot should be completing the landing checklist and verifying with the tower he or she is cleared to land. Just dialing in and changing frequencies requires a minimum of three button pushes and two knob twists on my primary radio, a Garmin 300XL. No wonder the ASRS database is full of pilot confessions of landing without a clearance.

For these reasons, it turns out that TAAs are anything but immune from human-error precipitated accidents. Even with all of the situational awareness pilots have via GPS- and ADS-B-driven PFDs and MFDs, if the flight plan isn't input properly, the aircraft won't be heading off in the direction or at the altitudes the pilot and ATC expect. Those kinds of mistakes and distractions cause controlled flight into terrain (CFIT), complete with pretty pictures to tell you what is going on as you arrive at the scene of the accident.

Two telling accidents happened in aircraft equipped just like mine, with a non-TSO'd EFIS coupled to TSO'd GPS units. One in Alabama, where the meandering track of the RV-10 between the three IFR approaches it attempted, and the data left behind in the boxes were testament to the pilots' (yes, there were two) difficulty programming the equipment. Near Lake Placid, N.Y., the problem involved programming the box during the missed approach procedure, which resulted in a CFIT.

So how does one avoid the distraction of ATC's bad timing when flying in the system? Well, practicing your buttonology skills in your primary aircraft is a good start. But even the most practiced of us sometimes need to remember to say, "Standby one," a great reply when ATC starts rattling off a clearance change. Especially if you are hand-flying, put the autopilot on and set up "heading" or "track" mode. No autopilot? Set the trim so you can let go of the yoke or stick. Pick up your pen and come back to ATC with "Say again, slower."

Once you've got the new clearance, crank the first fix into your primary GPS/Nav and, after verifying it is in the right place, enter it and couple the autopilot. Cross-check your altitude and heading with your clearance. Make any necessary adjustments. This buys you time to go back to your navigator's flight-plan mode and program the entire route, including the new clearance, at which point you can activate it and re-engage the autopilot (it may kick off when you change over from the initial fix to the full routing). Confirm you are still tracking correctly and terrain/weather/traffic is not a problem. Breathe (just in case you forgot to).

That's an en route change—the real challenges are typically closer to the ground, on takeoff and approach to landing.

Love That Pink Line

"Just give me a pink line to the runway and a localizer and a glideslope," chuckled one old-timer when we talked about autopilot-coupled instrument approaches. "I'll use the autopilot in heading mode only and drive my airplane onto the line that way," he said, relishing the controlled feeling it gave him.

Many a light-airplane pilot has given up coupled approaches completely after wrestling with an autopilot-to-EFIS connection that wants to turn onto the final approach segment before ATC provides a vector to intercept it. There is no one more confused than a pilot in IFR trying to figure out why his autopilot is taking him somewhere he did not command. And we wonder how accidents happen in IMC.

The autopilot doesn't know ATC isn't ready for you to turn inbound when it senses the localizer. The fix? The "old-timer" had it halfway right. In systems with this flaw (and a lot of light aircraft with mixed old/new systems act this way), fly the airplane with the autopilot in "heading" or "track" mode through the intercept vector, then engage its "Nav" mode as you make the intercept turn on ATC command.

Another gotcha is making sure your system is in VLOC mode, not GPS mode. Sure, many ILS approaches have co-located GPS approaches, but they are not identical, and even if you have VNAV, the vertical profiles are not the same. Make sure your autopilot is tracking the correct navigation system for the approach.

Finally, be aware that Garmin systems can compute their own course to an initial approach fix when you load and activate the approach, and this becomes part of the flight plan at that point. If you're being vectored and your heading turns out to be significantly different than the boxes' computed heading, you might need to hit the Direct button to recompute the course. If you don't, your box might not sequence correctly, confusing your autopilot, and you, too.

Treachery in the Missed

Beware of missed approaches. The logic on almost all the certified GPS boxes want you to do some flying and navigating first, before you punch the correct button and put the autopilot/GPS back in charge. That's why so many Garmin boxes will go into "suspend" mode as they fly past the FAF.

This isn't the place to discuss missed approaches, but do as you normally would: Aviate (climb), then navigate per the missed procedure, and communicate. The more you know your panel, the better you can do all that.

Of course, if you have a Garmin GNS 480 or a non-Garmin box, sequencing beyond the FAF will work differently. I'm going to hope you are not trying to fly an aircraft with both a Garmin and another brand navigator onboard, because learning the buttonology for both divergent systems and regurgitating it in the soup could be truly challenging. The fact is that there are plenty of hybrid aircraft out there.

Mine's one of them. I fly with a "legacy" Garmin 300XL navigator coupled to a GRT Avionics EFIS display, with its own internal GPS. Imagine my surprise the first time I hit the "suspend" button while flying a non-precision approach and saw my approach depiction disappear from my EFIS. I made the procedure turn without a line to trace, shifting to my old-fashioned spatial awareness methods, but I was relieved to see the depiction return once I re-engaged the GPS sequencing. To prevent this surprise, I now copy the external flight plan from the Garmin to my GRT's internal GPS once the approach is programmed. Just a couple more button pushes added to my approach checklist, what the heck, right?

Go With The Flow

The amount of button-pushing and knob twisting involved in coupling an autopilot to an EFIS can be daunting, but it doesn't have to be. For want of a good checklist with a logical flow to it, pilots are missing out on the tremendous power to navigate and avoid traffic and weather with relative ease—if they only could remember how to use those functions.

Studies by NASA have shown that by following a natural pattern of eye and hand movements in the cockpit, pilots can develop a checklist that has a natural "flow" to it. Airlines call it the cockpit's "flow-pattern." When a checklist flows, the pilot is more likely to actually look at the checklist item, then touch it to verify it is in the proper configuration.

Create your "flow" checklist for each aircraft by following the logical series of stops across the panel necessary to set up a given configuration. Use your hand to wave across the panel in a smooth fashion. If you have the "flow" right, it should be a graceful movement that helps you remember what to do. Of course, you'll back up your flow by using a confirmatory checklist—either memorized or printed—but the idea is to create a logical pattern correctly configuring the panel for the coming task. Do this for each phase of flight, VFR and IFR, and for each type of approach to landing. Create cards with tabs in a binder—make it digital on your iPad, with touch-to-verify functionality—whatever you have to do, but do it.

As you create these lists, you're bound to notice some of the layers of function in your PFD/MFD setup are less than intuitive for you. Study that and check around. You may discover there is more than one way to program or reprogram your box. Most can tolerate a certain amount of software customization, something the avionics shop installing your panel may have missed. But if you take the time, it's likely you can devise shortcuts to the page and function you need in fewer steps, and fewer steps mean more time for you at crucial moments during an IFR flight.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

Face facts: Unless you are in a factory-standard machine outfitted purely with a Garmin 1000, it's unlikely you can use a PC simulation to practice on a panel configuration just like yours. So, once you've devised the flow checklist that works for your particular installation—be it Garmin on Garmin, Avidyne with S-Tec, Honeywell with Bendix/King or, like me, a non-TSO'd/TSO'd combination—hook up a ground-power unit and light up the boxes so you can practice programming them via your checklists. Do this once a month, minimum, if you want to stay proficient for IFR flight. As you get good with this flow, it will take less and less time. But the need for the refresher will never go away, especially if you fly as infrequently as most GA pilots.

It's worth it. There is nothing quite like my wonderment up at altitude, floating above an overcast, watching the world, traffic, terrain, weather and all gliding by on my MFD. When I am confident in my buttonology, IFR flying in my TAA never ceases to amaze me. And the challenge to stay proficient? It's what keeps me sharp and safe.

This article originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of Aviation Safety magazine.

For more great content like this, subscribe to Aviation Safety!


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I wasn't precisely counting, but at this year's AUVSI event, there seemed to be more companies hawking a particular kind of software meant to integrate, analyze and order the oceans of data and imagery that all these flying eyes in the sky are pumping into various networks. And everything is tied into what's commonly called the internet of things. Flying machines are just another sensor. Your refrigerator will be able to communicate with one of Amazon's drones and automatically order milk and cottage cheese. All you'll have to do is pick it up from the landing pad on the patio.

At the show in New Orleans, a well-known company called Harris was aggressively handing out handbills for a product called Corvuseye, which it claims can gather critical intelligence "over a city-size area—day and night." One line in the handbill caught my attention: "Using automated tools to establish the interconnected patterns of life." In other words, it's trending toward artificial intelligence that will figure out what time you go to work, what route you usually take and when the Amazon drone needs to deliver milk, all automatically because it knows you better than you know you. It will figure that out at the mega and the micro level, I'm sure.

It reminds me a little of that security conglomerate in RoboCop; all full of good intentions, but incapable of controlling the dark side of its machines. At shows such as this, no one really discusses the ethical and legal issues of such things, although I did attend a seminar on counter-drone technology. It mainly concerned itself with the technical and legal what-ifs, not breach of privacy issues or an automated, self-aware system evolving into the capability of warrantless search. Which is to say this technology has massive potential for abuse of the sort that just evolves in slow motion with no one noticing or objecting because everyone is enthralled with the tech. For as promising as it is, it bears close watching, lest we find ourselves in a surveillance society. Or more of one than we've already signed up for.

Then there's the downright absurdity of some of the apps. With a completely straight face, I filmed this segment of a company building drones that they say can deliver coffee for $3 per trip, including keeping the java warm enroute. At some point, is it so unreasonable to expect the harried city dweller to just plug in the ^%$*ing percolator? I was sort of thinking that. To be fair, the company also sees their drones as deliverers of medicine and other high-value goods, which makes tolerable sense to me. Most of the drone applications are trending toward survey, inspection, agriculture and industrial ISR—intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Burn that term into your brain. It's tossed around in the drone world in every other sentence.

Where is Everybody?

As with most conventions, the general session at AUVSI is held in one of those cavernous, over-chilled ballrooms with enough room to seat thousands. In the afternoon session on Tuesday, once my eyes adjusted to the dark, I scanned the hall. It wasn't even half full. I'd say it might have been a third full, with acres of empty seats.

Last year, it was standing room only at Atlanta. What the heck is going on? Sitting next to me was Merritt Patterson, a maker of drone engines. He's been attending this event for 10 years and had an answer. "It's gone global now," he said, "there are shows all over the world." And indeed there are and Patterson told me both exhibitors and attendees are getting pickier about where and what to attend. None of these shows are exactly cheap to attend. At the least, if you're an AUVSI member, attendance costs $899 for an all-access pass or $349 to get into the exhibit hall. Non-members pay more. Think about that next time you're carping about the price of AirVenture tickets. Further, some people I spoke to think the industry and events that promote it are going more vertical. Sixty percent of companies showing at AUVSI are aviation-related. I won't be surprised to see more, smaller shows devoted exclusively to UAS and even a smaller AUVSI show, despite forecasted explosive growth.

Success and Failure

When I was talking with Miles O'Brien on Tuesday, I remarked that the boss I'd least like to have is John Chambers. He's the former hard-charging CEO of Cisco Systems who's now consulting in the unmanned segment. He bounded on stage like a Ninja, sans the stealthy silence. In a short talk, he buried the audience in a nonstop, rapid-fire paean to digitization and a future for automation that he predicts will reach an inflection point in 2017.

Since he comes from a sales background, I'm not surprised. But he made the valid point that many companies seeking their survival and prosperity in the bold new autonomous world will fail not because they don't develop products or understand the technology but because they fail to master the transition to a fully digitized economy. Not surprisingly, Chambers believes we aren't fully in that economy yet.

Sweeping his hand toward the crowd, Chambers predicted that 40 percent of the companies represented in the room would fail. You could quibble with the number, but the sentiment is about right, in my view. I can't help but wonder if GoPro, the 800-pound gorilla of the action cam world, will be one of them. Competitors are not only producing better, easier-to-use cameras, they're attaching them to gyro-stabilized platforms with centimeter-capable positioning. We've been hearing about a drone from GoPro for months, but same was conspicuously absent from their booth here in New Orleans. It supposed to appear sometime this year, but we heard that last year. Right next door to GoPro was SkyeIntelligence, a Chinese upstart with a great camera and auto following. See the video here. My Phantom 2, which fits a GoPro Hero4 to a Zenmuse platform, is now all but obsolete, given newer models with integrated cameras better than the Hero. GoPro may need to pedal faster or risk being buried.

The FAA Speaks

I was bemused by FAA Admin Michael Huerta's speech at Xponential. The stage was set up runway style, so most speakers walked the stage, eschewing a podium or notes. That had giant screens in the footlights to help with that. Huerta, on the other hand, stood behind a podium installed at almost the extreme back of the stage, with a big FAA shield on the front. I couldn't help but think of the word redoubt.

Huerta, I think, is well aware that the FAA is not much admired by the AUVSI crowd. The U.S. autonomous flight industry considers itself a world leader in innovation, but it feels intensely stifled by FAA foot-dragging on regulatory finality. Many companies are miffed that they've had to go to Canada or the UK to conduct testing and in his speech, John Chambers said the French government has so embraced autonomous technologies, that France has become a world leader in new startups, outpacing the U.S.

I give the FAA props for standing up a new government/industry drone committee, but it should have done that at least two years ago and probably four or five years ago, at least in wire frame form. It's not like no one shouldn't have seen this coming. I haven't heard a plausible theory to explain why the FAA has moved at such a glacial pace, but no one denies that it has, including Huerta himself. He said the agency has to learn to move at the speed of Silicon Valley, not the speed of government. With the coming revision of FAR 23, itself another endlessly delayed change, there's a fresh breeze supposedly blowing through 800 Independence Ave. All I can say it we'll have to see where we are a year from now. Part 107's integration will be a bellwether, I hope.

California Power Systems || Rotax Overhaul Services

FreeFlight Systems has been getting the word out in the past year on cost-effective ways for aircraft owners to comply with the ADS-B Out mandate effective Jan. 1, 2020. Starting with a basic system priced just under $2,000, FreeFlight found that while many operators have upgraded to systems that feature ADS-B In, Out and more, there weren't as many early takers as expected on the low-price end. It seems that many are waiting for cheaper options, more options or both. But as FreeFlight's Pete Ring explains at the Aircraft Electronics Association show this week, prices are actually creeping up and the waiting lines could get longer for those who procrastinate.

TKM Avionics || MX170C & MX300 || Direct Slide-In Replacement Nav/Comms You Can Install Yourself in Minutes

Hurray, hurray, the month of May,
Airborne folly starts the day,
You forget how significant a Convective SIGMET really is,
But memories revive in a rite of spring that begins by acing this quiz.

Click here to take the quiz.

Lightspeed's 'Get a Charge Out of Spring' Sale - Now Until May 8, 2016

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