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As the drone industry gears up to produce technology to knock down their own products, they may find a big customer in the U.S. government. The Trump administration is circulating draft legislation that would give the government sweeping powers to track and destroy drones over the U.S., according to The New York Times.

The proposed legislation is part of a broader law on computer privacy, surveillance and aircraft protection. According to the draft bill, the government would be authorized to track, seize or destroy any unmanned aircraft it deems to post a security threat to areas identified for special protection. While the government would have to respect privacy, civil rights and liberties in pursuing such enforcement, courts would have no jurisdiction to hear lawsuits arising from its anti-drone actions.

The proposal was tacked on to the annual National Defense Authorization Act. As AVweb reported during its coverage of the AUVSI Xponential show earlier this month, anti-drone technology is now an industry focus, with about 65 companies considering products or services to defeat drones. 

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Garmin today announced the latest addition to its growing line of action cameras, the VIRB 360. The camera is a spherically stabilized, 360-degree compact camera that's waterproof and shoots up to 5.7K/30fps resolution, plus it has a built-in GPS and a variety of other sensors. These provide customizable Garmin G-Metrix data overlays during video editing.

The VIRB 360 also has voice commands, with options to remotely start and stop the recording and take still images. The camera has livestreaming capabilities for posting video to YouTube and Facebook Live via a smartphone. The device also takes 360-degree still images, in 15-megapixel resolution. There's also the Travelapse feature, which converts lengthy video clips into shorter highlights. The camera is compatible with some virtual reality headsets and with the VIRB tablet/smartphone app.

Garmin says the rechargeable battery has a one-hour endurance during recording and the camera is designed to resist overheating. The VIRB 360 has a sunlight-readable display for monitoring and playback, plus it has built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Garmin's ANT+ interface and also NFC for use with Androids. Captured media is stored on microSD memory cards, which are optional. 

The VIRB 360—along with the existing VIRB XE and VIRB Ultra 30 action cams—is targeted at a wide market segment, which obviously includes aviation and outdoor/fitness. It comes with its own unique handgrip/tripod, has a retail price of $799.99 and is expected to be available this June. Look for a full review of the VIRB 360 in a future issue of AVweb sister publication Aviation Consumer magazine. 



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Boeing’s Phantom Works will partner with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to design, build and test a technology demonstration vehicle for the Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program, DARPA announced this week. Boeing will develop an autonomous, reusable, hypersonic spaceplane, called Phantom Express, capable of deploying small satellites of up to 3,000 pounds into low Earth orbit. “Phantom Express is designed to disrupt and transform the satellite-launch process as we know it today, creating a new, on-demand space-launch capability that can be achieved more affordably and with less risk,” said Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works. Boeing and DARPA will jointly invest in the development.

The XS-1 program envisions a fully reusable vehicle, roughly the size of a business jet, which would take off vertically like a rocket, according to DARPA. The vehicle would be launched with no external boosters, powered solely by self-contained cryogenic propellants. Upon reaching a high suborbital altitude, the booster would release an expendable upper stage able to deploy a 3,000-pound satellite to polar orbit. The reusable first stage would then bank and return to Earth, landing horizontally like an aircraft, and be prepared for the next flight, potentially within hours. “We’re delighted to see this truly futuristic capability coming closer to reality,” said Brad Tousley, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, which oversees XS-1. “Demonstration of aircraft-like, on-demand, and routine access to space is important for meeting critical Defense Department needs, and could help open the door to a range of next-generation commercial opportunities.”

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An online retailer in China,, announced this week it plans to develop heavy-duty drones that can deliver one ton or more of cargo. The drones could also be used to ferry goods out of the rural areas, such as fruits and vegetables headed for urban markets, according to the company. JD chairman Richard Liu said he plans to build 150 drone delivery sites in China’s rural districts within the next three years, according to The Wall Street Journal. The company, which is second only to Alibaba in the region, already operates about 30 drones that deliver shipments to customers in remote areas of China.

A spokesperson from JD told Recode the one-ton capacity drone should be ready to fly in about two to three years. The company also said it now operates about 20 drone delivery routes, but plans to expand to 100 by the end of this year. CEO Liu said delivering by drone to rural areas can be 70 percent cheaper than by truck, and is much faster.

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London City Airport, a general aviation field popular with business travelers, will become the first airport in the U.K. to install a digital control tower, the airport has announced. The tower will be equipped with 16 high-definition cameras that will transmit data to a control center in Swanwick, Hampshire, about 100 miles away, where air traffic controllers will do their job off-site. “The cameras will provide a full 360-degree view of the airfield in a level of detail greater than the human eye, and with new viewing tools that will modernize and improve air traffic management,” the airport said in a news release. Two of the cameras will have pan, tilt and high-definition 30x zoom capabilities, providing detailed views of activity on the airfield, including close-up views of aircraft movements along the runway.

The facility at Swanwick, developed by Saab Digital Air Traffic Solutions, will also include the audio feed from the airfield, and radar readings from the skies above London. The London City controllers also will have real-time operational and sensory data to build an augmented-reality live view of the airfield. For example, they can overlay the images with weather information, on-screen labels, radar data, aircraft call signs, or track moving objects. The technology is already in use at two airports in Sweden. The London City remote tower will become operational in 2019.

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Many homebuilders are caught off guard by the often stringent training requirements and cost of insurance for the first year of flying coverage. A higher potential for loss drives insurance companies' strict requirements, but with knowledge and planning, you can meet their conditions. Here's some pre-completion advice to those of you still in the build phase.

Right now, Van's Aircraft is among the most popular of homebuilts. Currently (This article appeared in the May 2015 issue of Kitplanes, Ed.), eight companies offer insurance for Van's RVs. However, out of those eight, only a few offer coverage during the fly-off period without coverage restrictions. For other kit aircraft, the number of companies willing to insure the fly-off period may be smaller. For example, Kitfox, Rans, Glasair, Sonex, and Lancair may only have two or three companies insuring them, depending on the model type. Some of these models could only have one. It's much harder to place insurance for uncommon kit aircraft, as there are not enough flying for insurance companies to decide rates, so fewer are willing to quote them.

The fly-off period generally comprises the first 40 hours the aircraft will be flying after you complete it. The fly-off hours required can sometimes be lower depending on the propeller and engine combination or if your plane is classified as a Light Sport Aircraft.

Pilot Hours

Minimum pilot hours are an important factor in the process of insuring a recently completed plane. Required hours vary, depending on which model you are building. It can be quite shocking to complete your aircraft and be ready to fly, just to be told you do not meet the insurance companies' minimum pilot requirements. The table shows suggested minimums for ratings and hours for a few popular homebuilt aircraft. Note these suggested minimums will not necessarily exclude you from getting quotes, but are just recommendations to acquire the best price for your first year. In order to obtain coverage with a stable, dependable insurance company for more complex aircraft such as a Lancair, you'll need to be a higher-time pilot with time in the aircraft you wish to insure. If you do not have any time in your type, however, there are a few newer insurance companies willing to offer quotes.

Types of Coverage

Not all insurance is the same. Make sure you understand the different kinds of coverage available.

• Ground and Flight: Provides physical damage and liability coverage while the aircraft is flying, taxiing, and on the ground.

• Ground Not in Flight: Provides physical damage coverage only while the aircraft is taxiing (off the active runway) and while on the ground. The liability portion of the coverage applies while flying, taxiing, and on the ground.

• Ground Not in Motion: Provides physical damage coverage only while the aircraft is not in motion (under its own power). The liability portion of the coverage applies while flying, taxiing, and on the ground.

• Liability Only: Provides no physical damage coverage, only liability while flying, taxiing, and on the ground.

• Storage: Provides hull and liability coverage only while the aircraft is not in motion (under its own power). The liability portion of the coverage excludes passengers.

Dual Instruction

Another variable that inevitably comes up is how much dual instruction is required. We suggest you contact your insurance broker for full flight insurance quotes well in advance of the time you'll need them—three to six months as a rule of thumb—so you can gauge the time and expense of training requirements. Once your broker works with you to select an insurance carrier, you will know how much dual instruction the insurance company requires. The quote may also list solo requirements, which you must fulfill in your aircraft prior to carrying passengers.

Transition Training

After you receive the quotes and select a carrier, you can start planning transition training. The insurance companies that insure the fly-off period understand that this can be difficult, and may provide some leeway on the model in which you train, depending on the aircraft. The new Additional Pilot Program may help in some cases, and more kit companies are committed to helping with transition training all the time. If you've built a Van's RV, for example, you may be able to train in any Van's model with the same gear type (tailwheel or trigear) as your aircraft. If you plan on training in a model that you are not building, however, it is advised that you verify instruction in the planned model will be approved by the insurance company. For more complex aircraft like the Lancair Evolution, you will need to plan on a more extensive training program. There are several places for you to do this; ask your broker for more specific information.

For Glasair, Sonex, and Rans aircraft, the insurance companies likely will require you to train in the same model you have built since these manufacturers are not as common and do not have as many similar models available.

Understandably, this is a lot of information to digest, especially when completing the aircraft is your first priority. By planning ahead, you can make the transition from workshop to cockpit smooth. Be sure to contact your broker for any questions or concerns you may have.

Shanna Linton and Jennifer Cummins are homebuilt insurance specialists with NationAir Aviation Insurance. You can contact them at:, (877) 577-8267 or, (855) 538-8267.

This article originally appeared in the May 2015 issue of Kitplanes magazine.

Read More from Kitplanes, and learn how to receive your FREE copy of The Annual Homebuilt Buyers Guide.

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I suppose it was just a matter of time before Dunning-Kruger popped up in an aviation reference and let me proudly say one of our aviation publications made the pioneering leap. The recent reference was a throwaway in an article about accidents used to explain why some pilots take on more weather than they can handle.

On the off chance that you just this morning got broadband access or you’ve been in a coma since 1999, the Dunning-Kruger effect is a psychological phenomenon in which people of relatively low knowledge and experience vastly overestimate their own competence in whatever field is being considered. Here’s a summary of David Dunning’s and Justin Kruger’s research on this topic: “The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it.”

Maybe it’s just me, but I think that’s pretty well a personality requirement for a pilot, no? So are at least three of the so-called hazardous attitudes. You’ve heard them before: Resignation, anti-authority, impulsivity, invulnerability and macho. I’ll let you ruminate on which three apply, but you get the point. Or, maybe you don’t, if my view of the world is as acidly skewed as I will concede it sometimes is.

Dunning-Kruger, if it applies to aviation at all, is probably most noticeable in the 500-hour wonder who professes to know it all. As the eyes roll up into the skull when listening to someone like this, there’s also a little wonder. Well, maybe he really is that good. This leads me to posit that like being injected with vaccine to stimulate antibodies, a little Dunning-Kruger may not be a bad thing. I’d suggest that we all need to gently push the limits of our own comfort zones and, personally, my theory is that this is where advanced skill comes from. You can’t learn to land on a 1500-foot runway unless you try to land on a 1500-foot runway. In the past, we had a name for this: learning.

If you prang one while doing this, perhaps you exceeded your own limits or the airplane’s and this may have been due to lack of knowledge, a skill deficit or just a bad day. Either way, with help from your insurance company, you’re probably well on the way to solving the problem. But if you never confront it in the first place, retiring instead as far inside the guard rails of your own fears as you can get, where’s the fun in that? Or the challenge?

In the accident reports I slog through from time to time, it’s hard to tell if Dunning-Kruger is at work. I think pilots can make basically sound judgments based on good knowledge and preparation, but then screw up the hand-eye coordination part. If a pilot gets in over his head in weather, is that because he overestimated his own skills or just couldn’t have known what he was going to run into? Nobody is prescient. Anyone can be surprised.

At the motorcycle tracks I occasionally inhabit, the running joke is that if you don’t crash once in a while, you’re not trying very hard. The humor is of the graveyard sort, but it offers a truth: Pushing a little makes you better at whatever thing it is you’re trying to do. I found my corner limits once by running wide and low-siding into the dirt. But at least I knew the limits.

The analogy is not a perfect fit for airplanes because the consequences of running wide could be terminal. But I think the principle is, nonetheless, applicable. Maybe that’s where a little bit of Dunning-Kruger is a good thing because it allows you to gently sneak up on what you don’t know, learn it and be less irrationally fearful for lack of skill. And a lot more confident, which, although it can lead to overreach, is also a force multiplier in a consciousness of survival. 

You may have noticed that the current rage in GA is the rusty pilot seminar; AOPA is conducting them. They have a rich vein of corrosion to mine, I’m thinking. But eventually, those pilots will have to get into airplanes and actually fly and keep on flying. I suspect fear has something to do with pilots accumulating rust, but it’s probably a lot more to do with lack of motivation complicated by an anemic budget. There’s a name for that, too: Bored and Broke effect. I can’t suggest a cure.   


If you had around $4.8 million to spend on a new light jet, you might shop the Cessna Citation M2, the Embraer Phenom 100 and the HA-420 HondaJet. After earning Part 23 FAA certification in December 2015, Honda Aircraft Company has already delivered over 40 HondaJets and has spooled up production for a lot more deliveries. In this video, Honda Aircraft Company's manager of flight operation and demonstration discusses the aircraft's design, systems and performance. A flight trial report follows in the July 2017 issue of Aviation Consumer magazine.


Picture of the Week <="229034">
Picture of the Week

Tricia Cronin came along for Love is in the Air Tour over the Grand Canyon and we love the result. Thanks to everyone who entered this week. Here's a hint from the judges. We like pictures of airplanes, not pictures from airplanes (unless they have airplanes in them.)


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