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Widespread Commercial Drone Flights ‘Years Away’

by Press • 11 August 2014

Andy Pasztor


WASHINGTON—Widespread use of commercial drones is likely to take significantly longer than many proponents of the budding industry anticipate, according to U.S. and Canadian aviation regulators.

That blunt message was delivered by high-ranking aviation safety officials from the U.S., Canada and the United Nations last week to an industry conference here.

At a time when champions of unmanned aircraft are escalating efforts to obtain federal approvals—with some U.S. lawmakers also demanding swift regulatory action—the latest comments highlight the extent of the hurdles that remain.

Last week’s session underscored the reluctance of regulators across North America and other regions to quickly give the green light to extensive drone flights, based on safety concerns. A representative of the International Civil Aviation Organization, an arm of the U.N., expressed similar sentiments during the panel sponsored by the Air Line Pilots Association, a major union.

Granting regulatory approval to operate remotely piloted vehicles among manned aircraft is “not going to be as soon as some people tend to think,” John Hickey, the No. 2 safety official at the Federal Aviation Administration, told the gathering.

“We’re still many years away from what you would see as safe integration in the very busiest airspace,” according to Mr. Hickey. “We will not allow [drones] to come into the system until we are completely sure they are safe.”

Congress has mandated that by the fall of 2015, the FAA institute a comprehensive plan to safely integrate manned and unmanned aircraft in U.S. skies.

Mr. Hickey’s comments reiterated that the FAA considers itself obligated to formulate a plan by that deadline, rather than start allowing widespread drone operations by then.

Initial U.S. rules covering the smallest unmanned aircraft aren’t likely to become final until late next year. Rules for larger, more-capable models are likely to come years later.

During the same conference session, Martin Ely, who heads civil aviation regulation for Transport Canada, the government’s regulatory department, said sweeping integration of drones into national and international airspace “is probably a long way away.”

Mr. Ely said Transport Canada last year approved nearly 1,000 permits authorizing drone operations in designated areas, segregated from common airspace.

That is three times the number approved a year earlier, he said.

But Mr. Ely said the industry hasn’t yet developed the technology drones need to see and avoid other aircraft—safety features considered essential before operations can be approved in normal airspace.

Mitchell Fox, head of ICAO’s flight operations office, predicted that international standards for certifying drones, pilots and widespread operations are at least four years away. And they won’t be binding on regulators or operators. “The incremental approach is essential,” Mr. Fox said.

To ease mounting pressure from drone advocates, the FAA is allowing case-by-case approvals for a modest number of specific uses of small, low-flying drones. Industry proponents, however, have been clamoring for expanded approvals.

In June, the U.S. Transportation Department’s inspector general issued a report concluding that “the magnitude of unresolved safety and privacy issues will prevent” the FAA from meeting the timetable imposed by Congress. The report said the FAA has so many challenges to resolve that it isn’t clear when remotely controlled aircraft can be safely integrated into U.S. airspace.

In addition to technical issues regarding navigation, systems reliability and emergency procedures if communication links go down, federal officials have been struggling with privacy considerations.

FAA officials remain leery of being responsible for regulating privacy, and the White House and other agencies are debating where in government such matters should be decided.

Last fall, when federal aviation regulators released their first overall plan to eventually integrate drones into U.S. airspace, they riled critics seeking greater attention to privacy protections.

At the time, the FAA laid out nearly 100 pages of specific technical and procedural principles intended to ensure safe design and operation of domestic drones—an early step toward what proponents project could be routine flights by tens of thousands of government and commercial drones by 2025.

But the plan was less encompassing and detailed regarding privacy issues.

The FAA acknowledged the agency wasn’t expert in that area, and largely reverted to existing state and federal laws for privacy safeguards when drones start flying at six test sites.

Recognizing that “there is substantial debate and difference of opinion” about whether the test sites will raise new privacy concerns, the FAA opted to require operators to collect written plans for each drone’s use and retention of data, among other rules.

Over the years, the FAA has approved many drone operations by law-enforcement and other public agencies, but all of those were and remain restricted to areas strictly cordoned off by regulations from all other air traffic. Commercial users, by contrast, are seeking to integrate drones into the broader national airspace.

In June, BP PLC signed a five-year contract to use drones at its oil operations in Alaska, the first large-scale, government-approved commercial use of unmanned aircraft in the U.S.



Air Force Space Command boss to step down

By Tom Roeder Updated: August 11, 2014 at 7:41 am •  6


One of the generals who redesigned the military’s approach to space is stepping down this week in a Peterson Air Force Base ceremony.


Air Force Space Command boss Gen. William Shelton guided Air Force Space command through unprecedented budget strife that saw it cut $1 billion in annual spending, but he is best known for his plan to increase on-orbit intelligence and pursue a future with smaller, cheaper satellites. He’s set to give way Friday to his deputy, Lt. Gen. John Hyten.

The new plan for space is driven by an increase in the number of space-faring nations and the fear that the first shots in the next war could be fired high above Earth.

“We’ve seen this coming for a long time in space,” Shelton said.

But the fix Shelton sought required asking hard questions about what America was sending into space and how it was being protected.

“How do we make ourselves survivable in light of what is a very challenging space domain going forward?” Shelton asked.

Until a few years ago, the United States and Russia had a lock on technology required to shoot down satellites. But China has a demonstrated anti-satellite missile, and nations including North Korea and Iran are thought to be on the brink of their counterspace programs.

Losing satellites could be crippling to any American war effort. Troops relay on satellites for weapons guidance, navigation, communications and intelligence.

Some new weapons systems, including drone aircraft, won’t function without satellites.

“We can no longer believe space is a peaceful sanctuary,” Shelton said.

The general sought to change the way the Air Force has been building satellites as a partial solution.The service has relied on relatively low numbers of technologically complex satellites to fulfill missions. In that system, if one satellite gets shot down there’s a dramatic drop in capabilities.

Now, Shelton says, America needs big numbers of smaller, less capable satellites, which in concert can do the job of their bigger, more complex cousins.

Because there would be a lot more of them, the smaller birds would form a self-healing network that would be able to weather the early stages of a space war.

Shelton said Pentagon leaders and satellite builders have agreed to the plan after years of arguing.

“There has been this national consensus,” he said.


The second part of Shelton’s plan is taking shape, too. In July, Space Command launched a satellite to spy on other satellites and watch for space attacks.


The recently declassified Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program uses those satellites to give Space Command bosses a better picture of what’s going on in orbit and could gather intelligence to warn of an attack or avert it.


That, combined with new ground-base sensors such as the Space Fence radar being built on a Pacific Ocean atoll, will serve as a security guard for American interests in a place where commandeers can’t send troops or planes.


The command is struggling with other issues in Shelton’s last days. Debate is raging over the use of Russian rocket motors used on the Atlas boosters used in some Air Force launches.


Space Command is considering plans for a new American motor or launches using other rockets until tensions with Russia wind down.

“I can tell you, there are lots of mitigation studies underway,” Shelton said.

The command also faces years of budget austerity, Shelton said.

Shelton said he’s happy to be leaving Space Command in the hands of a smart subordinate whose equipped to deal with the challenges ahead.

“Certainly, John Hyten comes to the job with a full understanding of the issues that come with the job.”

Shelton is leaving the command but won’t be far away. He’s retiring in Colorado Springs.



Background Check Firm Hit by Breach

Incident ‘Has Markings of a State-Sponsored Attack’

By Jeffrey Roman, August 7, 2014. Follow Jeffrey @gen_sec


U.S. Investigations Services, which conducts background checks for the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies, says it has identified a cyber-attack on its corporate network.

“Experts who have reviewed the facts gathered to-date believe it has all the markings of a state-sponsored attack,” the company says.

Upon learning of the incident, USIS immediately informed federal law enforcement, the Office of Personnel Management and other relevant federal agencies. “We are working closely with federal law enforcement authorities and have retained an independent computer forensics investigations firm to determine the precise nature and extent of any unlawful entry into our network,” USIS says.

The Office of Personnel Management says it’s working closely with US-CERT and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to determine the impact of the breach to OPM and its agency partners. “Out of abundance of caution, we are temporarily ceasing field investigative work with USIS,” Jackie Koszczuk, communications director at OPM, tells Information Security Media Group. “This pause will give USIS time to work with US-CERT and OPM to take the necessary steps to protect its systems.”

OPM says it hasn’t been notified of any loss of personally identifiable information so far. “We are vigorously working to learn the extent of the situation at USIS, and we are taking appropriate actions to protect the security and integrity of our systems and data,” Koszczuk says.

A Department of Homeland Security forensic analysis has concluded that some DHS personnel may have been affected by the breach, according to news reports.

USIS says it’s working collaboratively with OPM and DHS to resolve the matter. “[We] look forward to resuming service on all our contracts with them as soon as possible,” the company says. “Given the involvement of law enforcement and the active nature of this investigation, we cannot provide any additional information at this time.”

DHS did not immediately respond to a request for additional information.


Beefing Up Security

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, says the USIS breach calls attention to the need to beef up network security.

“The latest report of a cyber-attack on the major government contractor USIS is deeply troubling and underscores the scary reality of how much of a target our sensitive information has become in cyberspace,” he says. “While the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Personnel Management and other agencies have a number of tools and resources under existing authorities, it is critical that we modernize our outdated federal network security laws to prevent further attacks from happening.”



U.S. agencies halt background checks by contractor after cyberattack

U.S. Investigations Services claimed the incident has the markings of a state-sponsored attack

By Jeremy Kirk

August 7, 2014 06:26 AM ET


IDG News Service – Two U.S. federal agencies have halted background checks with a contractor that said Wednesday its networks had been breached in a cyberattack suspected to have been coordinated by an unnamed country.

US Investigations Services (USIS), based in Falls Church, Virginia, said federal law enforcement is investigating the incident, which it claimed “has all the markings of a state-sponsored attack,” according to a statement. It has hired a computer forensics firm to “determine the precise nature and extent of any unlawful entry into our network.”

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) temporarily suspended its contracts with the company, but USIS said it hoped to resume business soon.

USIS, which is now part of a group of companies including Kroll and HireRight owned by Altegrity, formed in 1996 after the OPM privatized its background-check functions, according to the company’s website. It does employee background investigations for the government as well as other security-related investigations, such as health care fraud.

USIS said it had invested heavily in security but that cyberattacks had become an epidemic. It said it could not provide further details because an active investigation is underway.

The cyberattack adds to the contractor’s difficulties of late. USIS performed the background check for former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked classified intelligence documents to several publishers last year. It has also been under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for allegedly taking short cuts during background checks.


Russian bombers testing US defenses?

By Kristina Wong – 08/07/14 01:41 PM EDT


Russian strategic nuclear bombers entered U.S. airspace at least 16 times during the past 10 days, marking an unusually sharp increase of aerial incursions, The Washington Free Beacon reported.

The intrusions by Tu-95 Russian Bear H heavy bombers prompted the scrambling of U.S. fighter jets on several occasions. On one occasion, a Russian intelligence-gathering jet was detected along with the bombers near Alaska.

“Over the past week, NORAD has visually identified Russian aircraft operating in and around the U.S. air defense identification zones,” said Maj. Beth Smith, spokeswoman for U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command told the Beacon.

The encounters come during a time of heightened tensions between the U.S. and Russia over the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea and its continuing military assistance to pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine.

The flights took place mostly along the Alaskan air defense identification zone — an area where foreign militaries must announce flights before entering. The zone covers the Aleutian Islands and Alaska.

The flights were a mix of the heavy bombers, Tu-142 Bear F maritime reconnaissance aircraft and one IL-20 intelligence collection aircraft.

News of the flights comes weeks after an incident during which a Russian aircraft encountered a U.S. spy plane in international airspace near Ukraine.

The Air Force RC-135 Rivet Joint flew into Swedish airspace to avoid being tracked. The Russians sent at least one fighter jet to intercept the aircraft, according to CNN.

On April 23, a Russian Su-27 Flanker fighter jet came within 100 feet of the nose of a U.S. Air Force RC-135U reconnaissance plane over the Sea of Okhotsk between Russia and Japan, a Defense Department official said.

In addition, two Bear bombers flew within 50 miles of the California coast on June 9, the closest the Russians have flown their nuclear-capable bombers since the days of the Cold War. A U.S. F-15 intercepted the bombers, the Beacon first reported.

A defense official said Russian strategic nuclear forces appear to be “trying to test our air defense reactions, or our command and control systems.”

“These are not just training missions,” the official told the Beacon.

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The U.S. Needs More Drones

Paul Scharre August 11, 2014


Al-Qaeda is morphing and metastasizing, spreading like a cancer in an arc of jihadism from the deserts of Northern Mali through Libya, Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq. Islamic extremists continue to gain ground in Iraq, and President Barack Obama has authorized more than a dozen airstrikes as fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant threaten to take Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Meanwhile, the Defense Department is cutting one of the most vital tools against this threat: loitering unmanned aircraft, aka drones, to provide persistent surveillance of terrorist networks.

While DOD has had drones flying over Iraq for over a month, a drastic shortfall in global supply means that their presence in Iraq is at the expense of another vital mission elsewhere. And yet not only is DOD not moving to address this shortfall, it is taking steps to reduce its drone fleet, a dangerous move that will make it harder to keep tabs on a growing and changing terrorist threat.

In its recent Quadrennial Defense Review, the Pentagon announced a 15 percent cut to its Predator and Reaper fleet, the bulk of the unmanned aircraft currently used to surveil terrorists around the globe. This isn’t because there is an excess of capacity. Demand for airborne surveillance for critical missions like countering terrorism far outstrips supply. It’s because the ugly disease of “next war-itis” that Defense Secretary Robert Gates repeatedly warned about during his tenure has flared up in the Pentagon yet again.

Despite guidance from the president that prioritizes fighting terrorism, Pentagon force planners have taken their eye off of today’s threats and are overly concentrating their budget dollars on potential future challenges at the expense of current threats. With U.S. troops on their way out of Afghanistan, DOD leaders have mistakenly assumed that demand for unmanned aircraft will abate. In reality, the threat from terrorism is changing in ways that will make intelligence collection all the more important.

The number of radicals is increasing and they are spread across a larger geographic area among a more diffuse array of groups. A recent report from the RAND Corporation revealed that from 2010 to 2013, the number of Salafi jihadist groups increased by more than 50 percent and the total number of fighters more than doubled. Not all of these groups pose direct threats to the United States, but understanding which ones are homeland threats and which ones have only local ambitions depends on good intelligence. Drones are vital intelligence collection tools and yet are precisely what DOD is choosing to cut.

Air Force officials have made no secret of their dissatisfaction with Predators and Reapers, citing their lack of survivability in contested airspace. A senior Air Force officer has gone so far as to call them “useless” in roles outside of tracking al-Qaeda. But penetrating the air defenses of a sophisticated nation isn’t the mission of these low-cost drones. What Predators and Reapers allow is persistent overhead surveillance at relatively low cost, a 24/7 unblinking eye watching terrorists, tracking their movements, and mapping their networks.

It is true that the way in which unmanned aircraft are used today is very personnel-intensive. While the air vehicles themselves are relatively cheap, there are a tremendous number of people behind each “orbit” flying the aircraft, managing the sensors, and processing the reams of intelligence they produce. A smarter way to go about reducing costs in today’s budget-conscious environment would be to invest in new technologies that can reduce the manpower burden for operating these aircraft and exploiting the intelligence. These include multi-aircraft control technology to reduce the number of pilots, wide area sensors that multiply the amount of information collected from each aircraft, and automated video processing to cut down on the number of intelligence analysts needed to manage the deluge of data. Together, these could dramatically reduce operational costs, conceivably even allowing a greater amount of intelligence to be collected at lower cost. Some of these manpower-reducing technologies are already fairly mature, and are explored in greater detail in the Center for a New American Security’s recent report, “Robotics on the Battlefield – Part I: Range, Persistence and Daring.”

But rather than invest in the necessary upgrades to make the current Predator and Reaper fleet more capable and more cost-effective, the Air Force is looking to simply reduce its investment in this mission. Meanwhile, the strategic need is increasing. The terrorist threat is changing and evolving, and DOD’s preoccupation with future threats at the expense of today is strategically flawed, inconsistent with the president’s guidance, and dangerous.

That this is occurring is no surprise. From mine resistant ambush protected vehicles (MRAPs) to countering improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to fielding intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft, the Pentagon’s normal bureaucratic processes have been unable to sufficiently address wartime needs when they have arisen in the most recent conflicts, instead requiring the creation of ad-hoc processes, in some cases reporting directly to the Secretary of Defense. If the United States is going to be prepared to keep tabs on an evolving terrorist threat and be poised to act when needed, whether in Iraq or elsewhere, urgent senior leader attention and involvement at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the White House, and Congress is needed.

Paul Scharre is a fellow and Director of the 20YY Warfare Initiative at the Center for a New American Security. From 2008-2013 he worked in the Office of the Secretary of Defense on unmanned systems and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities. He is a former reconnaissance team leader in the Army’s 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment and has served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.


The climate change money machine

August 12, 2014, 06:30 am

By Benjamin Zycher, contributor


The period of atmospheric and surface warming that began in the late 1970s ended in the mid- to late 1990s, but the climate change industry is hot. Witness a new effort by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) to use unsupported assertions about the hugely adverse effects of greenhouse gas emissions purportedly now looming large to justify federal auctions of “carbon” permits, with the revenue inevitably used by the political class for purposes of redistribution to favored interest groups.

Van Hollen has introduced The Healthy Climate and Family Security Act of 2014, which would impose steadily declining limits on “carbon pollution” — a classic example of the political propaganda at which the climate change industry is so practiced — by auctioning permits to the “first sellers” of oil, coal and natural gas in the U.S. market. The goal would be an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions below 2005 levels by 2050.

Let us begin with the central congressional “finding” (that is, bland assertion) in the Van Hollen legislation: “The warming of our planet has led to more frequent, dangerous, and expensive extreme weather events, including heat waves, storms, fires, droughts, floods, and tornadoes.”

Wow. With respect to the explicit assumption about the “warming of our planet”: The most recent warming period ended 15 or more years ago. More generally, global temperatures increased roughly from the middle of the 19th century (the end of the Little Ice Age) through the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883, and then from about 1910 through about 1940. They were roughly constant through the late 1970s, increased until approximately 1998 (a year with a strong El Niño), and have exhibited no trend since then. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report summarizes the relevant data as follows: The total increase between the 1850-1900 average and the 2003-2012 period (in short, approximately a century) was 0.78 degrees Celsius. For the period 1951-2012, the increase was 0.12 C per decade, or about 1.2 C per century.

In short, it appears to be the case that the earth has been warming in fits and starts since the end of the Little Ice Age. That more-general observation in a sense is a bit tautological — the “end of the Little Ice Age” is defined as the beginning of a warming trend — but it does highlight the underlying reality that no one knows the degree to which this longer-term warming is anthropogenic. The climate models are of little help, in that they simply do not predict the recent temperature record, although some satellite observations of slight warming at higher latitudes in cold, dry air masses in the Northern Hemisphere, and some observations of slight cooling in the lower stratosphere, are consistent with standard global warming theory. Taken as a whole, this suggests that anthropogenic warming is real but small, and that assertions of imminent apocalypse are not to be taken seriously, as the IPCC does not.

The language of the Van Hollen bill goes downhill from there, particularly in terms of the “finding” of “extreme weather events” and associated effects. The past two years have set a record for the fewest tornadoes ever in a similar period, and there has been no trend in the frequency of strong (F3 to F5) tornadoes in the United States since 1950. The number of wildfires is in a long-term decline. It has been eight years since a Category 3 or higher hurricane landed on the U.S. coast; that long a period devoid of an intense hurricane landfall has not been observed since 1900. The 2013 Atlantic hurricane season was the least active in 40 years, with zero major hurricanes. There has been no trend in the frequency or intensity of tropical cyclones, and global cyclone activity and energy are near their lowest levels since reliable measurements began by satellite in the 1970s. There is no long-term trend in sea-level increases. The record of changes in the size of the Arctic ice cover is far more ambiguous than often asserted, because the satellite measurements began at the outset of the warming period from roughly the late 1970s through the mid- to late 1990s. The Palmer Drought Severity Index shows no trend since 1895. Flooding in the United States over the last century has not been correlated with increases in GHG concentrations.

Van Hollen’s willingness to make unsupported assertions about temperatures and weather is in sharp contrast with his loud silence on the effect of the proposed 80 percent GHG emissions reduction in terms of future temperatures and “extreme weather events.” If we apply the climate model developed at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, used by both the Environmental Protection Agency and IPCC, the Van Hollen “carbon pollution” policy would reduce global temperatures in the year 2100 by about 0.14 degrees under the highest climate sensitivity assumption made by the IPCC. As the annual variability of our temperature measurements is about 0.11 degrees, this effect would be barely measurable, and not different from zero as a matter of statistical significance. Under the second-highest IPCC climate sensitivity assumption, the effect would be less than 0.11 degrees, and so not distinguishable from natural variability.

But the true low point of the Van Hollen argument is his assertion that the proposal will “boost the purchasing power of American consumers” by “returning the resulting (auction) revenue to everyone equally.” Wow, again. Put aside the reality that there is no reason to predict that the bargaining process in Congress would yield an outcome in which the revenue would be divided equally among all Americans. It is impossible that “purchasing power” — that is, the size of the aggregate economic pie — would increase, because the proposal would make energy artificially expensive, thus distorting resource use and so reducing “purchasing power” — that is, increasing the aggregate level of real prices — unambiguously. That is what it means to implement a system transferring revenue — real resources — to the government, and the choice among the alternative ways in which government distributes the revenue is irrelevant. Ordinary people will pay more for energy, for goods made with it, and for goods complementary to it. Moreover, because different economic sectors have varying energy (or “carbon”) intensities, relative prices would shift; the proposal would cause a resource reallocation process across industries and regions, the short-run effect of which would be recessionary. “Short-run” does not necessarily mean a short period of time.

Back to consumers: People are different, making decisions under vastly differing circumstances, and so consume very different baskets of goods and services. It is obvious, therefore, that some would be hurt more than others. Accordingly, it is no answer to say that the auction revenue would be returned “to everyone equally,” even if that were possible politically. And “consumers” are producers also; even Van Hollen would be too embarrassed to assert that producers would be affected “equally,” and so, again, the net outcome would be massive wealth redistribution, a smaller economy and net adverse effects for many or most. Van Hollen’s gambit of “returning the resulting revenue to everyone equally” is fraudulent.

Beware politicians promising gifts. By taking resources from one set of pockets and returning (some of) them to others, the federal government cannot improve aggregate economic performance. In the context of climate policy, it can have only the most trivial effect. But it can reward friends and punish adversaries, the inexorable result of disingenuous environmentalism run amok.

Zycher is the John G. Searle scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.



Air Force Has the Strategic Edge

A New Strategy Shows the Service’s Enduring Value

By Alex Ward

August 13, 2014


The U.S. Air Force recently released its newest strategy, “A Call to the Future,” and it is the best of its kind put out by a U.S. defense and security entity in a long time. The new concept—”strategic agility”—will allow the Air Force to employ new technologies, better deal with increasingly powerful state and non-state actors, and adapt operations to new environments over the next thirty years. The strategy is so comprehensive that other military branches—and even the State Department and White House—should incorporate these themes into their future strategies.

“Strategic agility” is based on the “four strategic trends of the emerging global environment.” First on the list is “rapidly emerging technological breakthroughs.” The Air Force rightly addresses this trend first, promoting it as the most important. There are myriad technologies – some already here and some on the horizon – that threaten to disrupt the status quo. Technologies like big data, automation and robotics, urban and green technologies, advanced manufacturing (3D and 4D printing), and quantum computing will lead to new methods of warfighting that could potentially be more effective and lethal.

Second, the Air Force accepts that we live in a perpetual era of “geopolitical instability.” We are in a Westphalian-Plus world, where non-state actors like ISIS threaten the security of traditional nation-states, creating new instability. Finding ways to effectively deal with these actors, while simultaneously counteracting revisionist state actors, will be one of the biggest challenges for military services and central governments alike.

Third, the Air Force grapples with a “wide range of operating environments.” There are many volatile regions around the world that may require U.S. action. The varying theaters and types of conflict require the Air Force to prepare for almost any contingency.

Lastly, the Air Force warns of the “increasing importance and vulnerability of the global commons.” Understanding that technological availability provides everyone more access to the commons, including cyberspace, is crucial. Finding ways and means to protect these spaces will be a big, but important, challenge for the service.

It’s hard to argue with the diagnosis and the prescription. Indeed, the U.S. government should fold some of the concepts into a new, sorely needed national strategy. For example, since it is now known that technologies will not only change the battlefield but also civilian life, the U.S. government needs to strengthen private-sector partnerships to anticipate, shape, and leverage technological change. The continued economic and military strength of the United States depends on our continued edge in developing and deploying groundbreaking new technologies. Similarly, understanding future technologies, and how they can ruin best laid American plans, will be just as vital to deter and defend against them.

Global instability will be a fact of life of the future global environment. Up until today, the United States rightfully focused on maintaining a stable post-World War II international order. Now, as state power is eroding and other forces rise, instability becomes the new normal. What will characterize an effective force—and a leading global power—will be the country that can marshal its resources to harness the instability for national advantage. Focusing on maintaining stability would be useless and futile. While global instability is not desirable, it need not be damaging if managed effectively.

While the Air Force’s strategy is cutting-edge, it still has its weaknesses. For one, a dogmatic focus on agility—getting smaller and sleeker—loses the quality of quantity. Having overwhelming firepower will be crucial for dealing with a high amount of contingencies. In addition, it is clear this strategy was developed under the correct assumption that the fiscal reality for defense spending will be dire. Transforming the Air Force in such a fundamental way will require a lot of money, so the Air Force must convince Congress that it is money well spent.

The Air Force seems to be thinking more strategically than other U.S. services and certainly more than the Defense Department as a whole, as evidenced by the underwhelming Quadrennial Defense Review. Other branches of the military and U.S. government must take note and begin to think more strategically for future shocks. If anything, the Air Force did a wonderful job of showing the “grounded” school that it remains a vital service for the United States.

Alex Ward is a program assistant in the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security where he focuses on US defense policy and strategy. He tweets at @alexwardb.


USAF General: DoD Must Change How it Buys Satellites

Aug. 13, 2014 – 09:50AM | By MARCUS WEISGERBER |


HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA — The Pentagon needs to fundamentally change the way it buys satellites in an effort to lower costs as US defense spending contracts, a top Air Force general said.

The military oftentimes spends between $3 billion and $5 billion to design, develop and test new satellites, Lt. Gen. John Hyten, vice commander of Air Force Space Command, said. Those so-called non-recurring engineering costs come before DoD buys an operational satellite.

“We should not have to spend billions of dollars in non-recurring engineering … to build these kinds of satellites,” Hyten said Tuesday while speaking at the annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium.

At the same time, Hyten — who is scheduled to pin on a fourth star on Friday when he becomes the commander of Space Command — said that although the Air Force and industry have effectively brought down the costs of new satellites, much of the architecture is dated and “the world has changed.”

“The industry … knows how to build those satellites today,” he said. “We have to define our requirements correctly.

“They should not push the envelope too much,” Hyten said. “Any place where we push the envelope, we have to retire that technology risk before we actually start the production program — so that when we start the production program, we know what it’s going to cost, and we’re going to pay that amount and we’re not going to pay anymore.”

Sequestration Fears

The general said that although the Pentagon does not face a threat of sequestration in 2015, looming budget caps in 2016 pose challenges for Space Command.

“[20]16 scares the heck out of me,” Hyten told a small group of reporters after his speech. “Our [operations and maintenance funding] is very different in our command. It’s bad on the aviation side, but they can ground squadrons. We can’t.”

The problem, the general said, is that the entire military relies on satellites routinely. The command’s GPS satellites are used by the military, commercial industry and civilians globally.

“Everything we put forth is critical to some military mission,” he said.

Many cuts offered up by the command when sequestration hit in 2013 were rejected because of the negative operational impact, Hyten said. Back then, the command made cuts to contractor support and weapon system sustainment.


Americans’ optimism is dying

By Dana Milbank Opinion writer August 12 at 5:41 PM 


It is the very essence of the American Dream: an irrepressible confidence that our children will live better than we do.

And now it is gone.

It has been slipping for some time, really, but a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll this month put an exclamation point on Americans’ lost optimism.

When asked if “life for our children’s generation will be better than it has been for us,” fully 76 percent said they do not have such confidence. Only 21 percent did. That was the worst ever recorded in the poll; in 2001, 49 percent were confident and 43 percent not.

When you look closer, things seem even worse, if that’s possible. I called Fred Yang, the Democratic pollster who conducted the survey along with Republican Bill McInturff, and he told me the pessimism was universal. The wealthy were as down as the poor (75 percent and 73 percent, respectively) and even those who felt that they were doing well personally didn’t think their children would do as well (61 percent). Women are as grim as men, and there’s little difference according to race (whites are slightly more pessimistic and Hispanics slightly less) or by region (Westerners are slightly less gloomy than the others).

The young are relatively less pessimistic than the old (64 percent to 86 percent) but still plenty discouraged in absolute terms. Republicans (88 percent) were more dour than Democrats (61 percent), just as Democrats were more dour than Republicans when the question was asked in 2006 (56 percent to 71 percent) during a similar stage in George W. Bush’s presidency.

In other words, the gloom goes beyond wealth, gender, race, region, age and ideology. This fractious nation is united by one thing: lost faith in the United States.

Certainly, some of the dark outlook has to do with the slow recovery. And there’s justification for the pessimism: Millennials are, by some measures, the first generation in U.S. history to see a decline in living standards. But now the economy is improving measurably, and optimism hasn’t followed. “I keep thinking, boy, these numbers are going to turn around, and they don’t turn around, they’re enduring,” said Andrew Kohut, founding director of the Pew Research Center.

Kohut attributes the phenomenon to structural problems such as income inequality, and he notes that people in other advanced countries have also been more pessimistic since the 2008 economic collapse. That’s true, but Americans were already plenty pessimistic about the next generation (65 percent to 27 percent) back in 2006, when the economy was strong.

Yang’s suspicion, which I share, is that something deeper is also at work: Americans are reacting, in part, to the breakdown of the political system, which leaves people quite rationally worried about American decline and the nation’s diminishing ability to weather crises. “One of the hallmarks of being an American is the optimism that your children will be better off,” Yang told me. The lost optimism, he said, “says a lot about how shaken we are by the inability of our political system to address seemingly easy issues, and it leaves us worried about the future.”

In a narrow sense, this is good news for President Obama because it means the problem is not of his making but the result of two decades of scorched-earth politics. That’s bad news for the rest of us, though, because the problem is larger than any leader’s ability to bring hope and change.

For much of U.S. history, optimism was a given. The Post’s polling analyst, Scott Clement, came up with a 1942 survey by Princeton University’s Office of Public Opinion Research that found U.S. parents, by 43 percent to 27 percent, expected their children to be better off in 20 years. A Roper poll in 1983 found that 54 percent thought it likely that children would have a better life than their parents, versus 44 percent who didn’t. In 1990, the WSJ/NBC poll found the optimists besting the pessimists, 50 percent to 45 percent.

Since then, various polling outfits have had different results, with some finding generally higher levels of optimism and others closer to the NBC/WSJ results. But virtually all polling shows a steep decline in optimism since the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Yang doesn’t see that improving much, even as the economy does. “The unsettledness of the public is what is normal now,” he said. “To me, this is less about economic reality than about our political system — our lack of confidence that our political leaders, regardless of party, are equipped to deal with the future.”


Rome, New York unmanned aircraft systems test site goes live

by Press • 13 August 2014


FAA announced the Griffiss International Airport unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) test site in Rome, New York—the fifth of six—is now operational.

FAA granted the Griffiss team a two-year Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) to use a PrecisionHawk Lancaster Platform UAS. The Lancaster Platform weighs approximately three pounds and has a wingspan of four feet.

The site’s specific UAS projects include detection of insects, weeds, diseases, crop characteristics, crop biomass and background soil characteristics in two farm fields. Flights will take place at or below 400 feet, and will last up to 60 minutes from takeoff to landing. Eventually, the site also will manage unmanned agricultural research flights from Joint Base Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

The Griffiss team also plans to work on developing test and evaluation processes under FAA safety oversight, and conduct research on sense and avoid capabilities to prevent collisions with other manned and unmanned aircraft.

“The data the Griffiss team plans to acquire and share will help the FAA in researching the complexities of integrating UAS into the congested Northeast airspace,” FAA administrator Michael Huerta said.

FAA said the research at the Griffiss test site will also evaluate methods for scouting agricultural fields using different types of sensors, including visual, thermal and multispectral equipment, which will benefit farmers regionally and nationally. The research will enhance current methods of monitoring crops and provide additional information for continuing field research efforts.

FAA selected six congressionally mandated test sites on Dec. 30, 2013. It said it is working with the test sites to guide their research programs to help the agency safely integrate UAS into the national airspace over the next several years.



Drone tests over NY farm near Batavia will start soon

by Press • 13 August 2014


David Riley,

Drones may soon be buzzing near Batavia.

An announcement last week that researchers will soon fly a lightweight, self-guided drone over a farm near Batavia revealed that a federally backed project to test unmanned aircraft could reach farther into western New York than originally expected.

The flight in Genesee County will be the first overseen by operators of a drone testing program based out of Griffiss International Airport in Rome, Oneida County. It’s one of only six sites in the U.S. where the Federal Aviation Administration said earlier this year it will allow tests to help regulators develop rules for pilotless aircraft to share the sky with traditional planes.

Two dozen states competed fiercely for those test sites, and local proponents had what seemed like a major advantage: Access to a huge swath of restricted airspace along most of the U.S. side of Lake Ontario, where the military already flies its own drones. Applicants even called that airspace the “crown jewel” of their proposal last year.

But test site operators now say that the FAA has discouraged them from using that territory and urged them instead to seek out research projects in regular airspace, as long as they can show that the flights can be done safely. Last week’s news that the initial test flight will be in Genesee County was the first clear signal that the FAA will allow drone tests well outside the airspace along the lakeshore.

“That kind of turned the whole model on its head,” said Larry Brinker, executive director and general counsel for the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance, or NUAIR, a coalition of organizations from New York and Massachusetts that runs the testing program. UAS is short for unmanned aerial systems — industry parlance for drones.

The FAA wants NUAIR to operate in regular airspace because the program is all about learning how UAS and piloted aircraft can fly safely together, Brinker said. “This project is about integration and not segregation,” he said.

The flight somewhere near Batavia — organizers wouldn’t say exactly where — may be the first of many in this region to explore how small drones equipped with sensors can help farmers.

Cornell Cooperative Extension, which worked with NUAIR to get federal permission for the flight in Genesee County, plans to apply for similar tests at farms in nine other counties, including Monroe, said Bill Verbeten, regional agronomist for the extension’s Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock and Field Crops team.

“Depending on the acres the farmers have committed to us, we’re looking at somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 acres,” he said. “We’re really trying to capture most of the types of farms we work with and to see what’s consistent across farms and what’s different.”

Beyond Monroe and Genesee, the extension hopes to fly at sites in Ontario, Wayne, Yates, Seneca, Livingston, Wyoming, Orleans and Niagara counties. Verbeten said he hopes to have drones flying at 12 to 15 farms by spring of next year.

Cornell Cooperative Extension and NUAIR would have to apply separately to the FAA for each site. Meanwhile, Brinker said NUAIR also has seven other applications with the FAA for projects with different partners, most of them in Griffiss’ airspace. One would explore technology for drones to detect and avoid obstacles.

The FAA document authorizing the test in Genesee County was not immediately available, but Verbeten said flights would occur only at one farm within a roughly 1-mile radius and less than 400 feet off the ground. Before that happens, an independent safety review board will go over the project and flight plan — a process that should take about two weeks, according to Brinker.

Researchers plan to work with a Lancaster Hawkeye Mk III made by PrecisionHawk. The fixed-wing plane weighs just 3 lbs. and has a 4-foot wingspan. The device can be launched by hand, flies according to a preprogrammed path and lands itself, according to the manufacturer.

Verbeten said Cornell Cooperative Extension wants to test three types of sensors on the drone. One might be used to count plants and estimate crop yields. Another could capture thermal images of crops and spot potential pests or diseases, which workers could then scout out on the ground. A third camera might be able to help farmers to apply fertilizer more precisely.

Farmers or agricultural consultants already have some similar tools at their disposal, but researchers want to see whether they can be used more efficiently and at a lower cost from the air.

“We’re trying to figure out what scans at what time of year are most relevant for making management decisions,” Verbeten said. “That’s going to be critical for the eventual commercial use of these drones — actually having something that a farmer can make a decision with and not just take a pretty picture.”

NUAIR also will collect data from the Genesee County project on drone safety and performance.

Cornell Cooperative Extension wants to test this equipment on farms across the region to see how it can be used to monitor various crops grown in different terrain, Verbeten said.

NUAIR said it expects the precision agriculture industry to be a major force in the market when commercial use of drones gets the FAA’s OK. When that may happen is unclear.

The FAA is supposed to release draft rules for the use of small drones weighing up to 55 lbs. by the end of the year. Congress gave the FAA a 2015 deadline to develop plans to integrate drones and commercial jets, but watchdogs have said the agency probably will miss that cutoff.

A legal battle also is playing out over whether the FAA has authority to regulate drones at all.

All that has some investors wary about putting money into drone testing, Brinker said.

“There’s some hesitancy on the parts of the people who have to make these investments to make them,” he said. “It’s going to happen. The timetable is hard to predict.”

What’s a drone?

The difference, if any, between drones and model aircraft that hobbyists have flown for years is a tricky subject for both owners and regulators. The term “drone” usually refers to unmanned aircraft that have become more sophisticated and cheaper in recent years. Some models of the popular DJI Phantom quadcopter, for example, sell for less than $1,000.

The FAA defines an unmanned aerial system (UAS) as a pilotless aircraft “and all of the associated support equipment, control station, data links, telemetry, communications and navigation equipment” needed to fly it. Some UAS can fly autonomously, without a remote control, and many are equipped with increasingly powerful cameras and sensors.

Drones also come in various shapes and sizes, from the military’s MQ-1 Predator with its 18-yard wing span to the Black Hornet, which can fit in the palm of a hand.



FAA drone ruling said to be setback for farmers, research

by Press • 13 August 2014

Paul Hollis | Southeast Farm Press

A recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ruling that governs the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or so-called drones in commercial agriculture is a setback for farmers and those whose research directly benefits farmers, says an Auburn University Extension specialist.

“At this time, farmers are unable to fly over crop fields or pastureland to capture pictures or video of anything they plan to sell commercially,” says John Fulton, Auburn University Extension precision agriculture specialist.

“For a majority of use on the farm and research, this means development and understanding of this technology must cease until the FAA provides updated guidelines. However, one is still able to fly as a hobbyist over their property. They can also take pictures of non-commercial items,” says Fulton.

The ruling, issued on July 3 by the FAA, states, “Farmers, ranchers and all commercial operators are prohibited from using UASs until the FAA institutes regulations for the safe integration of UASs into National Airspace. The FAA was given a deadline by Congress to allow commercial drone flights by September 2015. The Office of Inspector General released an audit this week that doubts the FAA will meet this deadline.”

“Overall, the ruling sets U.S. agriculture back and will put us behind on using this type technology to enhance the production of food and fiber,” says Fulton. “For Auburn University, we will be unable to develop the needed sensor systems and processing algorithms to better manage crops and inputs for our Alabama farmers. Essentially, we are grounded from crop research with UAS’s until they allow COAs to be established at universities for crop research. Again, this represents a setback to us and the education we can provide farmers and the ag industry on the beneficial uses of UAS’s in agriculture.”

A UAS demonstration that had been scheduled in a central Alabama farmer’s field on July 8 was cancelled shortly after the FAA ruling.

“At this time, it is difficult to know when researchers and the agriculture industry might be able to again fly over commercial crops and further develop the needed systems to support agriculture,” says Fulton.

The announcement, he says, was a surprise since the wording provided in the release differed from original interpretations that the agriculture industry had understood over the past couple of years.

“The agriculture industry needs these types of new technologies to fine-tune the management of crops, pastures and animals. The public expects farmers to manage in a sustainable manner while being environmental stewards, and these types of technologies provide the capability to support that expectation,” says the Extension specialist.

The ruling is limiting the advancement of Alabama farmers, Fulton says. “It is a detriment to the entire ag sector. I respect the FAA and its responsibility, but agriculture is trying to use this technology in a beneficial way; not misuse it. The FAA needs to quickly provide guidelines or a new ruling. It is interesting that one has the inability to capture valuable information, at low altitudes, on private farmland.”



Nevada drone testing off to slow start

by Press • 13 August 2014



CARSON CITY — Testing of unmanned aerial vehicles in Nevada has gotten off to a slower start than expected, with the first test flight in April and about $300,000 in revenue from testing collected so far, a state economic development official said Tuesday.

The development of the program since Nevada was selected as a testing site for drones by the Federal Aviation Administration late last year, “has been slower than we hoped,” said Steve Hill, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

“At times the federal government doesn’t move quite as quickly as we would like,” he told the state Board of Examiners.

The main reason is because of safety concerns by the FAA, Hill said.

“So it has taken time just to get the test sites open,” he said. “We were one of the first to be opened.”

Hill said his office has identified about 300 companies with an interest in flying in Nevada. About a third have been contacted with 20 serious conversations underway.

“And that ranges from a one-time effort to test one specific topic that they want to what could be a multi-year testing process,” he said.

The company involved in the April test requested confidentiality so no information is available.

Two other flight tests were performed in May, but not at any of the four FAA-designated sites in Nevada. The flights, called Magpie and Arcturus, used Department of Defense airspace, according to a briefing paper provided in June to the economic development board. The Magpie is a Sensurion Aerospace product. Sensurion is based in Minneapolis and offers a wide range of UAS technologies. Arcturus is based in Rohnert Park, Calif., and is recognized for its rugged airframes produced from Kevlar, fiberglass, and carbon fiber.

But being open doesn’t mean financial self-sufficiency, Hill said. As a result, the agency asked the board to approve a request for nearly $1.25 million of a $4 million fund established by the 2013 Legislature to move the UAV program forward. The board, including Gov. Brian Sandoval, approved the request, which will now be considered by the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee.

Hill said the agency is looking for self-sufficiency by mid-2015.

Flight testing was originally seen as the primary source of revenue, but it won’t ramp up as quickly as first thought, he said.

So the state is looking for other revenue sources, including funding from Congress and the potential of research dollars if Nevada becomes part of the FAA’s planned Center of Excellence, Hill said.

The state is also looking at indoor testing areas which are not under FAA control, both for commercial applications and drone aficionados.

“We really see some big upside in that area,” he said.



I Fly, I Can Spy, and I Can Collide

By Joe Urli, Brad Mason and Peter La Franchi

August 14, 2014


Lightweight remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), already widely available as low cost commercial and hobbyist products, are posing new security challenges for Australian aviation and law enforcement policy makers. By Joe Urli, Brad Mason and Peter La Franchi The capacity of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) to support domestic law enforcement and security applications is widely recognised as an important emerging focal point for capability planners in Australia as well as internationally. There is a darker side to that outlook however, the rising domestic security challenge of unregulated RPAS being fielded the specific intent to conduct illegal operations that range from outright acts of delinquency to criminality and terrorism. Lest the use of RPAS in such dark ways be considered speculative, consider this: There is already legislation in place in Queensland banning the use of RPAS and hobbyist radio control model aircraft in the designated security zones being established for the conduct of the Group of Twenty (G20) summit in Brisbane in mid-November this year. The basis for that ban is obvious if the parameters of RPAS technology are understood: a proficient operator fielding an $800, four-rotor multicopter with a video camera could track a given diplomatic official from his hotel to the conference venue with the imagery helping perfect an assassination attempt. Another proficient operator, using an $8,000, eight-rotor commercially available RPAS could carry a small improvised explosive device and fly it into a selected diplomat’s car even as it sped down a Brisbane motorway. Nor is the capacity to use commercially available UAS as a threat system restricted in any sense just to high profile diplomatic gatherings. These readily available commercial products are in fact already a very real problem from a variety of perspectives. At the end of June this year, security guards in Dublin, Ireland, discovered a crashed hobbyist-grade RPAS in a prison exercise yard; the user is believed to have been attempting to deliver contraband. Three months earlier, Victorian police arrested a man flying a hobbyist RPAS near the Melbourne metropolitan remand centre, with charges including possession of a drug of dependence. In October 2013 a visitor from the United Kingdom flew his hobbyist grade system, brought into the country in his suitcase, around the Sydney Harbour Bridge under the cover of darkness. The RPAS crashed onto the railway lines on the Western side of the bridge deck and briefly sparked a reaction from Sydney-based counter terrorism unit. The RPAS operator was later fined by the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), one of the few instances of prosecution that has occurred in Australia despite the regulator frequently acknowledging it does not have the resources to effectively monitor and oversee the breadth of this important and rapidly growing segment of aviation. CASA’s solution, made public in May this year in the form of a proposed change to Australian aviation regulations, is the complete removal of regulatory oversight of RPAS below 2kg in weight unless they are being used for commercial purposes. Such small systems, CASA argues, are unlikely to be capable of causing harm or incidents and should therefore be treated as an evolved form of model aircraft. The proposal has generated widespread concern within the Australian aviation community, linking organisations ranging from the Australian Certified UAV Operators Association, the Australian Airports Association and the Aerial Agricultural Association of Australia in a common position of opposition. Small Things, Big Impacts The need for effective and common security structures as part of ensuring the safety of the global air navigation has been an essential feature of national and international air law since the 1944 Chicago Convention. The place of all forms of RPAS in that global regulatory structure is still in a state of flux, however CASA’s proposed deregulation is unique in global terms. There is no other national aviation regulatory authority in the world seeking to remove an entire class of aircraft from its oversight and indeed, if the example of the United States is considered, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is seeking to expand and enhance its controls over the small RPAS segment at a broad level, even as it also moves to facilitate commercial applications. Can lightweight and hobbyist grade RPAS pose a specific and credible threat to aviation safety? In November 2013, a hobbyist flew a small RPAS over the final approach flight path into Vancouver International airport, filmed a commercial airliner flying just beneath it, and then posted the video to YouTube. In May this year a commercial airliner landing at Perth airport in Western Australia had to take evasive action at 3800ft altitude because an RPAS was flying in its path. On 30 June 2014, Canadian police launched an investigation of yet another incident involving yet another RPAS incursion at Vancouver International. In the United States, the FAA is investigating a series of critical incidents involving near misses near airports, the most recent being an American Airlines flight almost colliding with a RPAS on final approach in regional Florida. While the RPAS in each case were small, ingestion of the system into an aircraft engine at a critical phase of flight could cause a major crisis, and a $500 hobbyist RPAS can easily fly to altitudes of several thousand feet for tens of minutes. CASA itself released a study in early June 2014 which assessed the potential damage that a small RPAS could cause to an airliner, with this acknowledging significant damage could result in an engine ingestion scenario. The study also cautioned the regulator that more research, including trials looking at issues such as the likely consequences of a lightweight RPAS striking the windshield of a general aviation aircraft were required before any definitive safety decisions could be made. CASA has not actioned that recommendation despite its deregulation push. While these near airport safety incidents appear largely to be the result of hobbyists flying in ignorance of aviation regulations and with common sense set aside, they flag the possibility of a more significant problem, with security at its core. Consider a scenario where multiple small systems are intentionally placed in the flight path of an airliner. To bring down a passenger flight as it closes in to land at Brisbane International, imagine a swarm of 50 modified hobbyist-category RPAS, each no more than 2kg in weight and launched from multiple park and backyards under the primary south-southwest approach. Each RPAS is programmed to fly by different routes to arrive at the same time at a single waiting point directly inside that main flight path, perhaps 8-10km from the start of the runway. At this point a descending airliner is flying at speeds of around 170kt and is at an altitude of below 3000ft. The actual skills necessary to coordinate multiple systems to a single point in the sky is well within the grasp of most recreational RPAS flyers today. Optimising the timing for the launch of the swarm could be as simple as using a live flight tracking program from the internet, these using aircraft ADS-B transmissions to provide highly accurate positional data for individual commercial aircraft. Terminal phase precision aiming of the swarm could be achieved by using commercially available ‘First Person View (FPV) flying modes for designated ‘leader’ RPAS modified to act as a virtual homing beacon for other units. One leader RPAS is flown in FPV directly towards an airliner engine intake, and half the swarm follows in milliseconds. A second operator uses another leader RPAS to take out a second engine with the remainder of the swarm. Would such a strike be detectable in its critical convergence phase by extant sensors aboard an aircraft or by air traffic control radar? For a commercial airliner the answer is clearly no, nor would air traffic control likely detect the converging RPAS because of their small size as well as their separation during all but the final seconds of flight. For a military or modified state aircraft, nose mounted radar or an imaging sensor may provide some warning but only in the final seconds of swarm convergence, directly before the commencement of impacts. The total cost of equipment needed to mount such a terrorist action could be as low as $100,000 using nothing more than adapted existing commercial products. The lead time for a technically proficient, hostile actor to create and ready such a swarm can be reasonably estimated at less than tens of weeks. This is not an argument for outright banning of all forms of RPAS, which would be a retrograde and economically harmful step, but rather a clear pointer towards an intelligent regulatory structure of far greater sophistication than we see today. Blurred Lines The extant challenge of hobbyist RPAS operators flying near airports has already seen one major manufacturer, the Chinese-based Dajiang Innovation Technology (DJI) company, introduce firmware restrictions in the autopilots of its most popular product, the Phantom II. This firmware, rolled out in early 2014, creates GPS-defined ‘no fly zones’ around major airports on all continents if the RPAS is being flown in GPS navigation mode. Within 2.4km of an airport the feature prevents a Phantom II from being able to take off at all. At 2.5km from the airport the firmware allows the UAS to fly but to a maximum altitude of 35ft. As the user moves further from the airport, that height ceiling is progressively raised, to peak at 400ft at a distance of 8km. The firmware also restricts the default height ceiling to 1300ft and the maximum distance of the RPAS from the operator to 1.6km. DJI explained the new firmware to its user community, which is huge in both the USA and Australia, as a reaction to multiple air safety regulator warnings that hobbyist RPAS users could not be relied upon to demonstrate safe operational practices as defined by respective national aviation codes. The DJI solution can be considered partially workable for the closed architecture, consumer grade systems which the company produces, and can be anticipated to have a positive impact on compliance of non-expert hobbyists with air safety regulations as long as the feature is actually switched on. A Phantom II can also be flown in what is called ‘atti’ or wholly manual mode which disables the automatic no fly restrictions. However, the closed architecture of the Phantom II also means it is unlikely to be the RPAS of choice for any actor interested in stepping outside the bounds of aviation regulations. The global market is awash with open source autopilots, developer code and do-it-yourself RPAS kits and components. Even DJI offers pick and choose hardware elements which more technically adept users can draw upon to create their own tailor-made systems, many of which have further evolved to become commercial systems in their own right. DJI’s ‘no fly zone’ precedent, in this regard, is inherently limited as a functional technical solution. Australia’s existing regulations for RPAS, comprising Part 101 of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations (CASR), seek to tightly bind operators, whether hobbyist or commercial. Part 101 seeks to distinguish RPAS from model aircraft in general, with this an important element of ensuring that hobbyists are not subject to unnecessary or onerous regulatory provisions. CASA has long regulated the Australian model aircraft sector via the delegation of administrative authority to the Model Aeronautical Association of Australia (MAAA). Common CASA and MAAA definitions holds that a model aircraft is one that is flown by remote control and solely for the purposes of sport of fun. Traditionally, model aircraft are flown by manual means, within visual line of sight of the pilot at all times. Standing MAAA guidance defines model aircraft as being without autopilots, INS, IMU or any form of flight control or flight navigation system and as such, command a fair degree of pilot proficiency to control them and fly them safely. The emergence of low cost autopilots however, has shifted the very nature of that definition, with even the most basic hobbyist RPAS now featuring quite sophisticated pilot automation capabilities that allow a complete novice to fly one well beyond visual sight. Some so-called hobbyist RPAS even feature waypoint based navigation using an Apple iPhone as the command display. All multicopter types require a flight control system if they are to fly and even if being operated purely for fun or sport, such systems no longer fit established definitions of a model aircraft. Commercial information technology developments have effectively shifted the parameters of the sector far beyond what extant regulations can reasonably handle, and that mixed status does little to help resolve the parameters of meaningful regulations as a whole. Taken wider, this blurring presents a significant challenge to security planners. So common is it becoming today, to see someone flying a recreational RPAS in a city or suburban environment, that the public would be hard pressed to distinguish the harmless model aircraft operator from the committed terrorist. That blurring, in the context of the Queensland Government G20 ban on RPAS and model aircraft, raises other challenges. The Queensland bill was enacted in October 2013 and came as a surprise to the Australian commercial RPAS sector and the wider model aircraft community. There was no prior consultation by the Queensland Government, nor has there been any subsequent attempt by any Queensland state entity to explain the parameters of the bill and how it will be enforced. There are hundreds of small RPAS like the Phantom II in the hands of hobbyists across the greater Brisbane area, and widespread knowledge of the G20 ban cannot be assumed by Queensland law enforcement authorities. On the other hand, there is widespread awareness of and support for the proposed deregulation of the sub-2kg class of RPAS amongst model aircraft enthusiasts. Encouraged by CASA’s proposals, the foreshore parklands of the Brisbane River as its flows through the city centre area are already a popular flight zone for lightweight RPAS, and the potential for ‘innocent incidents’ being met by disproportional reactions during the G20 must therefore be regarded as high. Finding Forward Directions Given that the fundamental parameters upon which CASR Part 101 have been superseded by technology, it is well time for an intelligent and well-structured review of Australia’s regulatory framework for all forms of RPAS as well as model aircraft. The spectrum of capabilities and applications which can be facilitated by this technology, and the policy and regulatory challenges they pose require the combined attention of not just CASA, model aircraft enthusiasts with the many commercial and emerging public sector users of RPAS, but also law enforcement and public safety agencies. RPAS are a technology of immense significance to Australia’s aviation future, and while the current regulatory structures have their limitations, they are allowing an important national industry to develop. The next iteration of those regulatory structures must be, like the original Part 101, far sighted and innovative. CASA has been right to launch a review of Part 101 in this regard, however its push for a rapid, across the board deregulation of systems which have clear capacity to pose new safety and security challenges is short sighted. That deregulation drive should now be set aside, and a more involved process of review initiated. More voices are needed at the table, coupled with more detailed safety and security analysis. The future regulatory structures need to be based on evidence, and with more than 100 certified commercial RPAS operators now approved by CASA, there is sufficient weight of capacity to generate the requisite underpinning data. Finally, noting that given CASA itself has only limited resources available to oversee its RPAS responsibilities, it would be appropriate for any more substantive process of review to proceed as combined initiative of the Federal Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development and the Federal Attorney Generals Department. On Terminology The terms ‘Unmanned Aerial Vehicle’ (UAV), ‘Unmanned Aircraft System’ (UAS), ‘Remotely Piloted Aircraft System’ (RPAS) and ‘Drone’ are, in the broad, all references to one and the same thing, this being: “An aircraft (or aircraft-system) that is flown from a remote location without a pilot located in the aircraft itself.” ‘UAV’ was the original term adopted for regulatory application by CASA in July 2002 and is still widely in use including much of CASA certification, licencing and guidance material. This term predominated at the time of the formation of the Australian Certified UAV Operators and its legal incorporation. ‘UAS’ is the more up-to-date internationally accepted term in use today, with this now recognised as the overarching ‘class’ terminology by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) as well as by CASA. ‘RPAS’ is defined by ICAO as a form of UAS which is non-autonomous in its capacities, the aircraft being subject to direct pilot control at all stages of flight despite operating ‘remotely’ from that pilot. CASA has recently shifted to use of the term RPAS as its primary day to day terminology. ‘Drone’ historically refers to a military UAS which exists to act as a target for live-fire air defence weapons training by armed forces with this remaining the correct terminological reference. Popular culture uses the term as a generic descriptor for all classes of unmanned or remotely piloted aircraft, but particularly in relation to military systems with weapons carriage capabilities. Drone has no status as a legal term in any CASA or ICAO regulatory document. Ironically, the Queensland G20 legislation referenced by this article uses the term ‘drone’ and in doing so has created a terminological discrepancy not supported by overarching national aviation regulations. Author notes: Joe Urli is the President of the Australian Association of Commercial UAV Operators (ACUO). He is a CASA certified commercial operator and heads the Brisbane-based UAV Systems company. Brad Mason is the Secretary of ACUO and was the first CASA certified commercial RPAS operator in Australia. Peter La Franchi is an internationally recognised unmanned systems business and policy analyst. – See more at:



The League of Landowners and Drone Operators (LLDO)

by Wendel Meier • 14 August 2014


The League of Landowners and Drone Operators (LLDO) was formed for the purpose of asserting the rights of the landowner to exclusive control of the immediate reaches of the enveloping atmosphere over his/her property and promulgating guidelines for the safe operation of Drones within that airspace.

The Supreme Court in Causby v. The United States ruled, “We have said that the airspace is a public highway. Yet it is obvious that if the landowner is to have full enjoyment of the land, he must have exclusive control of the immediate reaches of the enveloping atmosphere. The landowner owns at least as much of the space above the ground as the can occupy or use in connection with the land.” This is contrary to the FAA’s current policy that they control of all of the National Airspace System beginning from the surface of the earth.

The League seeks a collaborative, non-confrontational relationship with the FAA. However, the FAA seems unable to address this issue of airspace, specifically concerning the operation of drones over the landowners property. The league would like to help.

In 2007, the FAA made a policy, and said, “Everyone must stop commercial UAV operations until we [the FAA] can generate the applicable rules.” That was seven years ago, and the promised rules are nowhere to be seen. To date, only two civilian commercial UAV operations have been authorized; and those for flights over the arctic. Seven years, two authorizations, and those were commanded by Congress.

Historically, the land owner has owned the airspace above his/her property to the beginning of the universe; until 1958. Then, Congress declared the Navigable Airspace to be public domain, and charged the FAA with responsibility for managing it. The FAA now claims authority over the total National Airspace System (NAS) from the surface upward. The floor of the NAS has not been specified by the FAA with regard to the ceiling of the landowners airspace. This begs the question, who owns what airspace? What constitutes, “the immediate reaches of the enveloping atmosphere?” Does FAA policy over-rule the Supreme Court decision in Causby v. United States? These questions need to be answered now.

Why is this so important now? Informed sources estimate that 70 percent of commercial UAVs will be used in agriculture. Let’s use that as an example.

No longer can farmers plant seeds from last years crop, pray for rain, and expect to feed the world. Things have changed, mostly for the better. My grandfather plowed with mules, killed weeds with a hoe, fertilized with manure, harvested by hand and produced about 60 bushels of corn per acre. About average for the time. Then came the age of mechanization. Farmers now plow with tractors, plant GMO seeds, kill weeds with herbicides, fertilize with liquid nitrogen, harvest with combines and produce about 150 bushels of corn per acre; more than double the previous yield. Informed sources estimate that farmers will have to double their yield again by 2050 to feed the world. That requires precision farming, and precision farming requires data. You can’t manage what you don’t understand, and you can’t understand what you can’t see.

That is why farmers need the UAVs to image the fields. Now they use satellites and manned aircraft; neither is efficient. Farmers need to image their fields often, and on their schedule, in order to manage irrigation and apply herbicides and pesticides to affected areas quickly before damage is done and the infestations spread. Only UAVs can provide this data in a timely and cost effective manner.

The FAA’s seven year moratorium on commercial UAV operations in the interest of safety has had unintended consequences. This doesn’t just affect farmers. Everyone I know eats food. Withholding UAV produced data from farmers reduces their ability to increase yields and subsequently increases food prices. This hurts everyone. Also, without timely data farmers have to use more herbicides and pesticides as infestations spread. In addition to the expense, this means greater contamination of the environment than would otherwise be necessary.

Farm yields have suffered from lack of data, and food prices are rising. The environment has suffered from over application of herbicides and pesticides due to lack of data. Businesses that were, or were planning to, provide this data have gone out of business, with subsequent loss of jobs and tax revenues. The technological lead of the U.S. in small UAVs has now gone to China and other countries. This has become a man made disaster as the result of indecision by the FAA, and it continues under the excuse of safety. How is it safe to fly the same aircraft, in the same airspace, taking the same picture, for a hobby, and not safe to do the same thing commercially. This FAA decision defies all logic.

The Supreme Court ruling under Causby v. United States proclaimed, “The landowner owns at least as much of the space above the ground as the can occupy or use in connection with the land.” Therefore, the landowners, not the FAA, must take responsibility for operations in their airspace. It is the intent of the League to promulgate guidance for the safe and effective use of UAVs in that airspace, with or without input from the FAA.


Let us begin:



The lateral boundaries are easy, they are the surveyed boundaries of the landowners’ property. The flight must remain therein at all times. The vertical boundary is open to discussion. What constitutes, “at least as much of the space above the ground as he can occupy or use?” What constitutes, “the immediate reaches of the enveloping atmosphere?” Until the FAA or the Courts render a decision, how about starting at 400 feet above ground level (AGL), the same as the recreational flyers? That sounds reasonable.

In most rural areas this will be uncontrolled airspace, well below the Navigable Airspace which the ATO controls. Why does this matter? Because Air Traffic Control does not provide separation between aircraft in uncontrolled airspace. “See and Avoid” is the rule for traffic separation. When the drone operator sees a manned aircraft he/she SHALL take action to avoid it. Simple, yes? Which brings us to:



There are no winners in a mid air collision, and they should be avoided at all costs. Since the ATO is not responsible for separating traffic in uncontrolled airspace, therefore, “See and Avoid” would apply.

Historically, right of way is given to the least maneuverable craft. That’s just common sense. Drones are difficult to see, especially by a pilot enclosed in a cockpit with limited visibility and heavy task loading. Therefore, collision avoidance is the responsibility of the Drone operators.

There must be two operators of the Drone, the Pilot Flying (PF) and the Pilot Monitoring (PM). That makes four eyes to spot conflicting traffic. However, usually the manned aircraft will be heard well before it can be seen, thus giving even greater opportunity to take evasive action. Naturally, the Drone shall ALWAYS give way to the manned aircraft. Typically, the Drone will have descended to a landing before the manned aircraft even knows one was flying in the area. This makes the “See and Avoid” safer between a Drone and a manned aircraft than between two manned aircraft. This definitely satisfies the equivalent level of safety issue.

Visual Line Of Sight (VLOS) must be maintained at all times, otherwise “See and Avoid” is — well, void.

The greatest number of manned aircraft using the rural airspace under the Navigable Airspace are the Aerial Applicators. Which brings us to:



Although aerial applicators share the same lateral airspace as the Drones, this is not a high risk situation. Crop dusters typically “ferry” (travel between the point of loading and spraying) at or above 300 feet AGL. This is to avoid being surprised by another crop duster pulling up out of a field in a “Duster Turn.” This is well above the normal height of the imaging swath of 60 to 120 feet for the Drone. In addition, the Drone operator SHALL descend to a hover, and land to deconflict any encounter with a manned aircraft. This is really necessary for the Drone pilot, as the wake turbulence from the larger manned aircraft flying overhead could upset the Drone with expensive results.

While manned aircraft use “see and avoid” for traffic separation, the Drone operators use “Hear, then See and Avoid” to provide and even greater level of safety.

Coordination with the aerial applicators operating in the area is not only neighborly, it can improve scheduling to prevent having to sit out a planned flight while a manned crop duster works an adjacent field and overflies the boundaries during turns. That leaves privacy issues:



Peeking drones are in the news lately, however this privacy issue is not germane to agricultural operations. There are two reasons for this. First, the agricultural Drones are operated in rural areas and only over the land owners property. Second, orthogonal photography is used for agricultural imaging, meaning the camera is pointing straight down at the crop. Not at the neighbors window.



Currently we are talking about an air vehicle weighing less than 55 pounds, flying at an altitude of less than 400 feet AGL, at an airspeed of approximately 10 meters per second (less than 30 miles per hour), with a flight duration of 15-25 minutes, all this only over the land owners property. Also, we are talking about professional agriculturists acting responsibly with a real need to have the data that can only be supplied by UAVs under their direct control. The UAVs they fly must be both safe and reliable to meet their requirements. These are not thrill seekers trying to capture outrageous video of spectacular events, and flying near and/or over people in public places. The FAA needs to be cognizant of the risk/reward factors in their decisions concerning authorization of commercial UAV operations.

Also, the rule-making process has too much inertia to keep up with this fast changing technology. In 2007 when the FAA began its moratorium on commercial UAV operations, multi-copter aircraft were in their early developmental stage. Today they are the fastest selling type of hobby aircraft, and they are everywhere. Yet, the FAA will not allow them to be used for commercial purposes. The league hopes to change that, at least in a focused way. The league will promulgate information and procedures for the safe operation of this technology. Hopefully the result will be as effective as the AMA effort. And, as with the AMA guidance, the information will need to be kept current with the advances in the technology.

But this is not recreation, this is business, and we need to begin now. The League believes the best course of action, for everyone, is for the FAA to honor the Supreme Court decision in Causby v. The United States and restore “exclusive control of the immediate reaches of the enveloping atmosphere” to the land owner. We are only talking about 400 feet AGL above the landowners property. This would also transfer the risks involved with operating UAVs in that airspace to the landowner. This can then free up FAA resources for dealing with the exponentially expanding use of this technology in higher risk areas, such as flights over congested areas or near large gatherings of people. Also, this would allow the FAA to truthfully say to Congress that they had opened the airspace for, potentially, 70 percent of commercial sUAS operations.

If you wish to receive more information on rights of the landowners, or the safe operation of Drones over your property, contact the League at the

e-mail address below:

“Justice is the firm and continuous desire to render to everyone that which is his due.”

Daniel Webster


Army: DCGS Competition Planned for 2016

By Brendan McGarry Thursday, August 14th, 2014 10:20 am


The U.S. Army plans to hold a competition in fiscal 2016 to develop the next phase of its controversial battlefield intelligence system.

The service on Wednesday released the first of what is expected to be several requests for information, or RfIs, from companies for assessments on how to build the so-called Distributed Common Ground System Increment 2, according to a press release.

“This RFI — in conjunction with a series of planned industry days — will solicit vendor feedback on ways to improve and replace the software-based tools soldiers use to analyze and integrate data and visualize intelligence information,” it states. “Today’s announcement builds upon ongoing efforts to address well-publicized soldiers concerns regarding the existing DCGS-A system’s ‘ease of use’ in the field.”

Army units in Afghanistan have repeatedly complained that the multi-billion-dollar, military-wide system is complicated, unreliable and difficult to use, prompting many of them to rely on commercial software instead. Last year, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-California, and Army Chief of Staff Raymond Odierno debated the issue after the lawmaker asked why troops weren’t getting a commercial product called Palantir as requested.

During a presentation last year at Fort Belvoir, Va., Army officials said DCGS draws on more than 600 sources of information, from Global Hawk drones and GPS satellites to ground sensors and biometric scanners. It uses a mix of military and commercial software applications, including Google Earth made by Google Inc. and i2 Analyst’s Notebook made by IBM Corp.

But units in Afghanistan have said they only use a fraction of the system’s applications in part because soldiers in the field prefer other, more intuitive software for various missions.

For example, the 101st Air Assault Division in Regional Command — East relied mostly on ArcGIS, a mapping product made by Esri, and rarely touched such DCGS tools as QueryTree, Link Analysis and the Tactical Entity Database, or TED. The unit turned to Palantir for some of its intelligence needs because it was more intuitive and other soldiers were already using it for targeting purposes.

Meanwhile, Marines and Special Operations forces have also embraced the software made by Palo Alto, Calif.-based Palantir Technologies Inc. The company was founded in 2004 with seed money from In-Q-Tel, the venture capital arm of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The firm, which has done demonstrations for the Army but isn’t a contractor on the DCGS program, is expected to reply to the Army’s RfI and eventually compete to upgrade the system.

Across the military, the Distributed Common Ground System is estimated to cost at least $10.6 billion. More than half of that, or about $6 billion, has been spent, according to the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

Yet glitches in the technology persist.

The Army reportedly withdrew the system from a major network test this fall because of “continued significant software incident reports,” and “overall network operational readiness issues,” according to an Associated Press article that cited a July 15 memo signed by Gen. John Campbell, the Army vice chief of staff who will take over as the top commander in Afghanistan later this month.

The Army is considering a shift in acquisition strategy in which a contractor rather than the service acts as the prime integrator of the system’s components, according to the solicitation. A so-called industry day, in which the service discusses with potential bidders the planned competition in more detail, is planned for early next year.



Last two UAS test sites come online

Aug 14, 2014, 4:59pm EDT

​The final two test sites for unmanned aerial systems are online, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Tristan NaveraStaff Reporter-

Dayton Business Journal


The final two test sites for unmanned aerial systems are online, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

FAA announced it has granted Virginia Tech certificates of authorization for a number of small UAS. Among them are the Smart Road Flyer, a low-cost UAS being developed to study transportation, as well as eSPAARO, Aeryon Sky Ranger, MANTRA2, Sig Rascal, and two AVID EDF-8 micro UASs.

This just days after it announced a test site in New York came online. Last week, Griffiss International Airport in Rome, N.Y. came online with a COA to use the PrecisionHawk Lancaster Platform UAS. It is studying ways UAS can monitor crops with sensors, including visual, thermal and multi spectral equipment.

The FAA tightly regulates the use of unmanned systems using the COAs, but with these permissions, testing can begin at each site.

Virginia Tech will conduct testing in Virginia, New Jersey, and Maryland, and study the use of UAS as agriculture equipment, developing operational procedures for agriculture surveys and more.

With the announcements, all six of the test sites around the country the FAA selected late last year as laboratories for UAS development are ready to test.

“We have undertaken the challenge of safely integrating a new and exciting technology into the busiest, most complex airspace in the world,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The six test sites are going to play a key role in helping us meet that challenge.

Dayton had sought to be one of the test sites, but was passed over. Local officials have continued with UAS efforts, though, with the upcoming Ohio UAS Conference and several other initiatives aimed at drawing in research dollars and companies interested in developing drones.


Rasmussen Reports

What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls

Bottom of Form

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Get out of my face: That’s the message most voters still have for the federal government six years into the presidency of the man who hoped to make us all believers in big government.

Sixty percent (60%) of Americans believe instead that the federal government plays too big a role in the lives of average Americans.  

Of course, it doesn’t help that voters by a two-to-one margin consider the federal government today a threat to individual liberty rather than a protector. Only 19% trust the feds to do the right thing most or nearly all the time.

Case in point: We’ve spent countless millions on the war on drugs over the past several decades, and an overwhelming majority of Americans still believe we’re losing.

Sixty-three percent (63%) of voters prefer a smaller government with fewer services and lower taxes over a more active one with higher taxes. Support for smaller government has run in the low to mid-60s in most regular surveys since 2006. 

Attitudes toward the president’s chief legislative achievement, the law that makes the government the major player in health care, remain mostly negative.

Not that the government doesn’t keep trying. Officials who want to change habits they consider bad for the public often try to use the tax code as a way to discourage consumption, and now a proposal has been made to tax sugar to make us use less of it. Like most so-called “sin taxes,” this one doesn’t go down well with Americans.

On the other hand, what voters want is often ignored. For example, a sizable number of Americans know a second language and think it’s an important skill to have in today’s world, but they still don’t think it’s as important as encouraging immigrants in this country to speak English. Thirty-one states have made English their official language, and five more are hoping to join the club this year. But the federal government resists taking that step, even though Americans strongly believe English should be the nation’s officially recognized language.

Most Americans also have said for years that government workers don’t work as hard as those in the private sector but make more money

Americans also think they work harder than the president and the average member of Congress. 

No wonder the president’s job approval rating is stuck in the high negative teens, while voters remain strongly convinced that Congress is doing a lousy job.

Will the president and congressional Democrats pay a price at the polls this November for their efforts to transform America with their plans for bigger government? 

Or will an upswing in consumer and investor confidence be a more decisive factor? 

For the second week in a row, Republicans lead Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot after trailing for most of this year.

Make sure you check our new video election update every Friday to catch up on the week’s political polling.

To recap:

Will she or won’t she? The race to replace Iowa Democratic Senator Tom Harkin couldn’t be any closer. Republicans need this one to take control of the Senate.

Kansas may have a Senate race after all. Incumbent Republican Senator Pat Roberts has just a four-point lead over Democratic challenger Chad Taylor.

Republican Senator Lamar Alexander holds a double-digit lead over Democratic challenger Gordon Ball in his bid for reelection in Tennessee.

Wisconsin’s may be the nation’s closest-watched governor’s race, and it remains dead even.

Republican Governor Sam Brownback is in a 10-point hole in his race for a second term in Kansas.

Incumbent Republican Bill Haslam is well ahead of his Democratic challenger Charles Brown in Tennessee’s gubernatorial contest.

In other surveys last week:

— Twenty-seven percent (27%) of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction.

Are women smarter than men?

— Most voters approve of U.S. military airstrikes but still think Iraq may already be lost to radical Islamic insurgents.

— Most also believe their fellow Americans stand behind Israel more than the Palestinians when it comes to the fighting in Gaza, but they aren’t as sure about the Obama administration or the media here and abroad.

— Twenty years after going into effect, most Americans are not sure if Megan’s Law has actually done anything to reduce the number of children attacked by sex offenders, although they remain strongly supportive of a public registry for these criminals.

Do Americans think they work harder than those in other countries? Do we take more vacation than they do?

— Americans are steadily dropping their newspaper subscriptions. Why, and where are they turning for news?

— No wonder Hollywood was planning a sequel to “Mrs. Doubtfire.” An overwhelming number of Americans say they have seen a film starring the late Robin Williams, and that film is their favorite. 


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