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Bring Back the Earmark

Earmarks can fix our partisan gridlock and our crumbling infrastructure.

By Jacob Anbinder

Oct. 22, 2014 | 1:30 p.m. EDT


Remember the “Bridge to Nowhere?”

The most famous piece of infrastructure never built, the bridge was supposed to serve an Alaskan island with just 50 residents, thanks to more than $100 million in earmarks slipped into the text of the 2005 highway bill. Instead, it became a symbol of government waste and played a role in House Speaker John Boehner’s decision to ban earmarks when Republicans took control of the House four years ago.

With midterm elections less than two weeks away, though, candidates who criticize the United States’ crumbling infrastructure must speak truth to power. The fact is, while much maligned, earmarks were the linchpin of American infrastructure investment. And it’s time we gave them a second chance.

Why are earmarks so important to infrastructure spending?

It’s not that they’re the most reasonable way to allocate money – far from it. Research from Gian-Claudia Sciara, an expert on earmarks at the University of California-Davis, has shown that earmarking tends to shift funds away from local transportation priorities rather than adding new money to the infrastructure pot.

Nor is it because earmarks ever comprised a major part of federal spending – Sciara’s work found that even at their peak in the mid-2000s, they comprised little more than 5 percent of total transportation appropriations.

But while banning earmarks may not have eliminated a significant chunk of infrastructure funding, it did eliminate the main reason congressmen were interested in infrastructure in the first place. For all their problems, earmarks were a genius bit of legislative procedure, giving politicians a personal stake in passing broadly beneficial infrastructure authorization.

The 2005 highway act – by some measures, the last truly comprehensive transportation bill to pass Congress – was approved by the House 417 to 9 and by the Senate 89 to 11. With billions of dollars in more than 5,000 earmarks, the law promised enough ribbon-cuttings to please every lawmaker involved.

Since the ban, however, members’ reelection prospects are no longer so closely linked to the amount of infrastructure money they can direct to their district. As Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said earlier this month, this new reality has “created a situation where you can’t get transportation bills passed.” With no incentive to support large authorizations, lawmakers have resorted to the bare minimum: Short-term appropriations that fund existing programs – and little else.

In this Sept. 12, 2014 photo, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin D-Ill., answers questions during an interview with The Associated Press in Chicago. Durbin is running for re-election against Illinois State Sen. Jim Oberweis R-Sugar Grove, Ill., in the November general election. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

Sen. Richard Durbin thinks the ban won’t even let transportation bills survive.

Ironically, this financial uncertainty makes life difficult for the same local transportation agencies whose priorities were once ignored by overly aggressive earmarkers. Without a federal commitment to multi-year funding, local transportation planning has in some cases devolved into mere guesswork, which in turn scares away investors and drives up costs for everyone involved.

It seems to have scared voters, too. In the post-earmark era, Americans are notably less happy with their representation in Congress than before the ban was in place. Though the data is too limited to draw any formal conclusions, there is some evidence that the end of pet infrastructure projects has coincided with the demise of “Fenno’s Paradox,” the old aphorism that people hate Congress but love their own congressman.

As the figure below shows, the decline of earmarks since the mid-2000s has roughly mirrored the rise in voters’ disapproval of their own member of Congress – a figure that recently surpassed 50 percent in one study for the first time since pollsters began asking the question. And though earmark critics cited corruption as a key reason to ban them, more voters now say”yes” when asked if their congressman is corrupt than did eight years ago.

It’s understandable why the quid pro quo of earmarking leaves a bad taste in voters’ mouths. The tradition doesn’t square with our notion of how infrastructure spending – or Congress in general – should work. But if there’s one midterm reality check this country needs, it might be admitting that Congress’ old pork-barrel traditions, however icky, were what made it tick.

After all, Congress doesn’t care at the end of the day about the pothole on your street. Your representative might, but only if he can take credit for fixing it. The earmark ban, for all of its good-government intentions, took that power away. And with it went lawmakers’ interest in infrastructure altogether.

At the time, it may have seemed like the right thing to do. Now, however, it’s preventing us from passing the infrastructure legislation we sorely need. Federal infrastructure spending is stagnant, and the American Society of Civil Engineers has estimated that $3.6 trillion of new investment will be needed by 2020.

Ending the earmark ban will go a long way toward fixing the problem. And if that means beating back a few Bridges to Nowhere along the way, then so be it.


Researchers identify sophisticated Chinese cyberespionage group

By Ellen Nakashima October 28 at 12:01 AM 

A coalition of security researchers has identified a Chinese cyberespionage group that appears to be the most sophisticated of any publicly known Chinese hacker unit and targets not only U.S. and Western government agencies but also dissidents inside and outside China.

News of the state-sponsored hacker group dubbed Axiom comes a week before Secretary of State John F. Kerry and two weeks before President Obama are due to arrive in Beijing for a series of high-level talks, including on the issue of cybersecurity.

In a report to be issued Tuesday, the researchers said Axiom is going after intelligence benefiting Chinese domestic and international policies — an across-the-waterfront approach that combines commercial cyberespionage, foreign intelligence and counterintelligence with the monitoring of dissidents.

Axiom’s work, the FBI said in an industry alert this month, is more sophisticated than that of Unit 61398, a People’s Liberation Army hacker unit that was highlighted in a report last year. Five of the unit’s members were indicted this year by a U.S. grand jury. The researchers concur with the FBI’s conclusion, noting that, unlike Unit 61398, Axiom is focused on spying on dissidents as well as on industrial espionage and theft of intellectual property.

“Axiom’s activities appear to be supported by a nation state to steal trade secrets and to target dissidents, pro-democracy organizations and governments,” said Peter LaMontagne, chief executive of Novetta Solutions, a Northern Virginia cybersecurity firm that heads the coalition. “These are the most sophisticated cyberespionage tactics we’ve seen out of China.”

Chinese Embassy spokesman Geng Shuang said in an e-mail that “judging from past experience, these kinds of reports or allegations are usually fictitious.” He repeated Beijing’s position that Chinese law prohibits cybercrime and that the government “has done whatever it can to combat such activities.”

Senior Obama administration officials have over the past year and a half publicly called on China to halt its practice of stealing U.S. commercial secrets to benefit its own industries. China, especially in the wake of disclosures last year of widespread U.S. government surveillance by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, has pushed back, arguing that it is the United States that needs reining in.

Geng said in his e-mail: “China is a victim of these kinds of attacks, according to the Snowden revelations.” Following the PLA indictments in May, Beijing pulled out of bilateral talks aimed at easing tensions in cyberspace.

In recent weeks, the research consortium has detected Axiom malicious software on at least 43,000 computers around the world belonging to law enforcement and other government agencies, journalists, telecommunication and energy firms, and human rights and pro-democracy groups.

The group said there also are indications that Axiom may be behind a high-profile cyberattack on Google, announced in 2010, which compromised the tech giant’s source code and targeted Chinese dissidents using Gmail.

At least one Chinese-language computer in the United States was targeted, the report said, without specifying to whom the computer belonged.

Novetta senior technical director Andre Ludwig also said Axiom is seeking to hack personnel management agencies to obtain the personal data of people who have access to classified information that it can use for future targeting.

Axiom has been active for at least six years and employs techniques that make it stand out from other hacker groups, the researchers said. For one thing, it is highly skilled at burying malware within legitimate computer traffic so that a company or agency analyst who is studying traffic logs cannot detect it, Ludwig said.

The malware, called Hikit, can create multiple points of presence — what Ludwig called “breadcrumbs” inside the network to help Axiom move around and steal data, all without arousing suspicion.

Axiom also appears to have a “maintenance cycle” in which it periodically switches out malware, Ludwig said. “They have an advanced playbook,” he said.

Unlike the security firm Mandiant, which reported on Unit 61398, the researchers were unable to identify the locations in China where Axiom operates from or identify its members. Axiom’s members, Ludwig said, are better at covering their tracks than those of Unit 61398. They did not, for example, keep e-mail accounts or have an online presence that could be traced back to them.

China military expert Mark Stokes said it was “not surprising” to find that Unit 61398 was not as sophisticated as Axiom. That unit is part of the second bureau of the PLA’s Third Department, which is the rough equivalent of the NSA. “Cyber seems a really small part of second bureau’s broader mission, which is signals intelligence,” said Stokes, executive director of Project 2049 Institute, an Arlington think tank. “There are other parts of 3 PLA that reasonably could be expected to have a much more dedicated cyber mission.”

Some security experts said the report carries valuable remediation advice not often seen in such reports. The researchers created custom “signatures,” ways to detect Axiom malware in users’ computers. This is the sort of data more traditionally exchanged in private intelligence-sharing groups, the experts said.

“This is the beginning of what will hopefully be a long line of industry-coordinated efforts to expose these threat groups, and to do so without having to use law enforcement, to help corporations and governments around the world combat” hackers, said Stephen Ward, senior director of iSight Partners, another coalition member. “This is a big first step.”

Other coalition members include Microsoft, Bit9, Cisco, FireEye, F-Secure, Symantec, Tenable, ThreatConnect, ThreatTrack Security, Volexity and threat researchers who did not wish to be identified.


Opinion: Bumbling Caused B-52 Reengining Delay

Better late than never to re-engine the B-52


Oct 27, 2014

Bill Sweetman 

Aviation Week & Space Technology



The U.S. Air Force is taking a serious look at reengining the Boeing B-52. The question is not whether it makes sense, but why it hasn’t been done. The answers include poor planning, budgetary procedures that defied economic logic and at least one bone-headed accounting error.

Putting new engines on the Buff, or Big Ugly Fat (cough) Fella, became a possibility after 1978, when the commercial business launched two modern powerplants that would fit a four-engine Buff: the Rolls-Royce RB.211-535 and Pratt & Whitney PW2000. Pratt published a study in early 1982 that showed the reengined airplane would fly farther and need less tanker support.

But in 1982 the Air Force expected to replace all of its bombers, well before 2000, with 100 B-1Bs and 132 Advanced Technology Bombers (ATB); and gas was cheap. The idea went nowhere.

Within another decade, the ATB—the B-2 stealth bomber—had been cut back to 21 aircraft, the B-1B had been shorn of its cruise-missile armament under the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, and the B-52 was going to be around for a while longer. This time it was Rolls-Royce, which had just acquired a U.S. military foothold in the form of Allison, that proposed leasing RB.211-535s to the Pentagon, reducing the upfront investment.

Legal problems with the lease deal were one reason for the proposal’s failure. It was a sign of a deeper and as yet unsolved problem: Budget rules often run counter to common sense. Corporations and even people decide every day to spend money today on energy efficiency, calculating the payback period. In the Pentagon, procurement and operations budgets for weapon systems are separated by a near-unbreachable wall. It’s easier for the Air Force to spend money on golf carts for on-base transport, or solar panels for the O-club roof, than to put new fuel-saving engines on its aircraft.

But as a Defense Science Board (DSB) task force on the B-52 reengining proposal reported in 2004, the Air Force also made an elementary mistake. It had assessed the payback period using fuel prices on the ground, and overlooked the fact that fuel coming out of the back end of a KC-135 was a little more expensive. Fifteen times more expensive, to be exact. The DSB recommended that the Air Force proceed with a new engine immediately, a suggestion that vanished without a trace in the service bureaucracy. The same fate overtook a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report in 2009 that recommended new engines for the B-1B and E-3 Sentry as well.

The economic case for reengining the B-52 should in theory have become weaker in the decade since the DSB report, given that the retirement date has not changed, but the reverse has happened. Newer engines burn less fuel, and that fuel costs more. The maintenance cost of the wheezy old TF33 has soared past Air Force predictions, possibly because it’s not just a matter of nobody making TF33s any more; nobody makes engines that even look like TF33s. Today’s new engines are designed to stay on the wing so long that they will never be removed routinely until the B-52s are retired.

The technical risk is manageable. There have been questions about the engine-out characteristics of a four-engine B-52, but if that issue cannot be solved there is an eight-engine option with General Electric

Do some generals worry that upgrading old airplanes weakens the case for new ones? That would not be logical, even though stories of pilots flying their grandfathers’ bombers make good copy. The longevity of combat aircraft is a good-news story: Since today’s B-52s rolled off the Wichita production line, the Navy has launched and scrapped two classes of destroyer and four cruiser classes, and that comparison makes a $550 million Long Range Strike Bomber look a little more digestible.

Operationally, the case for extending the B-52’s life is at least as strong as ever. The decision to rebuild the Triad (AW&ST Sept. 29, p. 14) includes a new long-range cruise missile. In the Air-Sea Battle concept, the idea that B-52s carrying Lockheed Martin‘s Long-Range Anti-Ship Missiles could be almost anywhere, able to hit your ships while staying far out of range of missiles or even carrier-based fighters, will concentrate an adversary’s mind wonderfully. And when a hypersonic strike weapon is available, what better platform than an aircraft that was built to carry a Mach 14 weapon, the AGM-48A Skybolt? 

The B-52 is not the only aircraft that might need a new powerplant. The 2009 NAS report also pointed out that the C-17 is the Air Force’s biggest fuel user, and that its early-1980s engines could benefit from a technology infusion. If the E-3 is not to be replaced before 2030, a CFM56-7 installation would be relatively easy. The challenge is to make sure that common-sense, valuable opportunities don’t fall through the cracks again. 


Skyward announces first commercial drone network demonstration

by Press • 28 October 2014


PORTLAND, OREGON, Oct. 28, 2014 – SkyWard, a leading software platform for the aerial robotics ecosystem, today announced the Urban SkyWays Project, the first end-to-end demonstration of a commercial drone network operated with full regulatory and insurance compliance.

SkyWard is partnering with NASA to incorporate technology and research from their UAS Traffic Management (UTM) System into the Urban Skyways Project. The first demonstrations will take place in Las Vegas, Vancouver, London, and Portland, Ore. Each city will showcase demonstrations such as drone deliveries, emergency-response capabilities, infrastructure inspection and network coordination.

Urban SkyWays is a partnership between top aerial robotics manufacturers, commercial operators, and airspace management agencies. It will demonstrate urban commercial package delivery and emergency response by aerial robots, also known as drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). “The airspace is a great place to build a new highway” said SkyWard CEO Jonathan Evans. “Bringing together global partners solidifies the magnitude of this project, and is the first step in enabling the Aerial Robotics Network and realizing its potential.”

Urban SkyWays partners include (in alphabetical order): 3DRobotics, Accuas, City of Las Vegas, City of Portland, DJI Innovations, Drone Deploy, NASA, Pix4D, Sky-Futures. The Project will showcase what is possible with aerial robotics and demonstrate the standard of professional aviation safety needed to develop commercial systems that the public can trust. Transport Risk Management Inc. is the official insurance partner for Urban SkyWays. Insurance for all US flights will be underwritten by Global Aerospace, a leading global provider of aviation insurance which is backed by Berkshire Hathaway and Munich Re, among others.

All flights are compliant with jurisdictional regulations and will operate under the appropriate authorization, including: Certificate of Authorization (COA) issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA); Special Flight Operation Certificate (SFOC) from Transport Canada, or Permission to operate small unmanned aircraft from the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

About SkyWard

SkyWard provides a pathway for businesses to manage legal and insured flight operations around the world. Unique, portable identities for drones and people give managers real-time visibility on assets in the field; customer requests can be efficiently dispatched; and flight operations can be tracked at all times. Logs for aircraft and personnel are automatically updated and the information flows seamlessly to the regulator and insurer as needed. SkyWard works with regulators and local governments to map and establish safe urban flight corridors, and provides access to those corridors to operators through its network. As a member of the Small UAV Coalition and DroneCode, Skyward collaborates with cross-sector industry experts to build the Aerial Robotics Network safely and in accordance with regulations.



Unique drone store to open in Dayton Mall

Oct 28, 2014, 1:48pm EDT Updated: Oct 28, 2014, 2:11pm EDT


Olivia Barrow

Senior Reporter-

Dayton Business Journal


A local retailer is opening a drone sales and training store at the Dayton Mall, which he says will be the first in the country.

Jay Day, who operates a drone store for hobbyists at Trader’s World in Cincinnati, is opening Dayton Drones at the Dayton Mall on Nov. 3.

The 3,100-square-foot store next to Sears is entirely dedicated to drones of every shape and size, Day said. The machines range in price from $30 to $150,000, although Day said the most expensive one he has in the store costs $15,000.

“I’m going for the consumer as well as the business end of it,” he said.

The store includes a training center where customers can learn how to fly their drones around both an indoor obstacle course and indoor race track.

The drone industry possesses massive growth for the U.S. economy. The Dayton region is positioning itself to become one of the national hubs for drone research and testing.

Day said he has invested $150,000 so far in opening the store. He is also looking into opening another location at The Mall at Fairfield Commons.

Dave Duebber, general manager of the Dayton Mall, said he is excited for the store to open.

“We’re already starting to get a lot of inquiries from customers walking through seeing the store coming together,” he said.


Pentagon urges industry to innovate, take risks to meet threats

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON Tue Oct 28, 2014 6:03pm EDT


(Reuters) – The U.S. Defense Department is expanding its dialogue with weapons makers about emerging threats and potential technology solutions, a top U.S. official said on Tuesday, urging companies to invest in areas such as “big data” and quantum sciences.


“Technological superiority is not assured,” Katrina McFarland, assistant secretary of defense for acquisition, told executives at a conference hosted by the TechAmerica Foundation. “The firms that make strategic investments now will succeed.”

McFarland said she and other defense officials were meeting with the chief technology officers at the biggest U.S. arms manufacturers so that both sides could get smarter on emerging threats and new technology developments to combat them.

The department was also trying to gather data from companies earlier in the acquisition process to better understand emerging capabilities as it shaped requirements for new weapons systems.

Big weapons makers such as Lockheed Martin Corp, Boeing Co, and Northrop Grumman Corp say they are focusing on innovative approaches, but industry executives say they need the Pentagon to be more specific about its needs as it decides where to focus limited research dollars.

McFarland said the Pentagon was particularly focused on ways to counter current and emerging threats, including weapons of mass destruction, electronic warfare, attacks that could disable satellite services such as communications, navigation and timing; and assaults on U.S. computer systems.

“What we need from industry is an expensive but innovative counter to these low-tech threats,” she said.

To help the U.S. military develop “technological surprise,” she urged industry to invest in research on such things as quantum, or particle, sciences; and “big data”: computer analyses of very large sets of data for patterns, trends and associations.

McFarland said there has been improvement in this research in recent years but said further gains were urgently needed.

“A great deal of emphasis is being put on these areas because we believe that’s going to create us an advantage and we’re very interested in that,” she said. “If we want to continue to be the superior force, we need to take chances, and taking risks is not optional.”

Bill Greenwalt, a former senior Pentagon official who is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, welcomed the increased focus on innovation and dialogue with industry.

But he said the Pentagon’s recent initiatives to drive down the cost of weapons had imposed new burdens on use of commercial products, discouraging the very companies at the forefront of technological innovation from entering the weapons market.

“To get innovation, they’re going to have to make it easier for the defense industry and commercial interests to partner,” Greenwalt said in an interview at the conference.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)


DHS Mismanages Pandemic Preparedness Amid Ebola Crisis    

By: Amanda Vicinanzo, Senior Editor

10/28/2014 ( 7:39am)


In the midst of rising fears over the spread of Ebola, a recent hearing revealed that Department of Homeland (DHS) has not effectively managed and overseen its inventory of pandemic preparedness supplies, including protective equipment and antiviral drugs, calling into question the ability of DHS personnel to effectively respond to a pandemic.

With the importance of the continued operations of DHS during a pandemic, Congress appropriated $47 million in supplemental funding to DHS to train, plan and prepare for a potential pandemic. DHS used the funding to stockpile protective equipment and antiviral drugs for pandemic response.

However, at a recent House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing, DHS Inspector General John Roth referenced an August audit that concluded DHS did not adequately assess its needs before purchasing pandemic preparedness supplies, and then did not adequately manage the purchased supplies.

As Homeland Security Today previously reported, “DHS did not adequately conduct a needs assessment prior to purchasing pandemic preparedness supplies and then did not effectively manage its stockpile of pandemic personal protective equipment and antiviral medical countermeasures.”

When the Inspector General’s report was initially released, Homeland Security Today also reported that it sparked sharp criticism from public health sector and other authorities.

“Specifically,” the IG reported, DHS “did not have clear and documented methodologies to determine the types and quantities of personal protective equipment and antiviral medical countermeasures it purchased for workforce protection.

Roth said that determining the adequacy of equipment stockpiles requires DHS to conduct a needs assessment. However, DHS reportedly spent $9.5 million on protective equipment since 2006, as well as $6.7 for antiviral drugs, without first determining the types and quantity of medication it should purchase or the amount of protective equipment it needed.

Roth expressed concern that DHS may not be able to provide pandemic preparedness supplies to crucial personnel necessary to continue operations during a pandemic. Specifically, by failing to implement controls to monitor its stockpiles, DHS cannot be certain whether it has too little, too much or ineffective supplies.

“DHS purchased these supplies without thinking through how they would need to be replaced,” said Roth.

For example, the stockpile contains 4,982 bottles of hand sanitizer, 84 percent of which is expired. Moreover, the Transportation Security Administration’s stock of pandemic protective equipment includes about 200,000 respirators that are beyond the 5-year usability guaranteed by the manufacturer. The glut in supplies means millions of dollars wasted on unnecessary drugs and equipment that need to be replaced in order to be continuously prepared.

“We spent millions of dollars for a pandemic … We don’t know the inventory, we don’t know who’s got it, and we don’t know who’s gonna get it,” Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., said during the hearing.

Roth responded: “You are correct.”

Roth’s remarks during the hearing coincide with looming fears over US preparedness to meet the threat of Ebola on American soil. Just this month, Thomas Eric Duncan—the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the US—died.

After Duncan’s death, DHS announced plans to implement new layers of entry screening at five US airports that receive over 94 percent of travelers from the Ebola-affected. However, last week Dr. Craig Spencer, New York City’s first Ebola diagnosis, passed through enhanced screening at JFK airport without incident after returning from treating Ebola patients in West Africa.




“The healthcare worker had returned through JFK Airport on October 17 and participated in the enhanced screening for all returning travelers from these countries’ affected by the virus,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement.

“What you have in place has failed,” Mica said. “The New York doctor self-reported. We need to learn from this example.”

The number of cases in the Ebola outbreak has exceeded 10,000, with 4,922 deaths recorded as of October 23, according to the World Health Organization.

Amid rising concerns over the spread of Ebola, Roth’s remarks on the August audit which found DHS is internally unprepared to respond to a pandemic raise concerns that America is not prepared to face the threat of Ebola.

“This is a scathing report,” said Rep. Mica. “Page after page. The inventory is outdated. We spent millions of dollars, and we’re not prepared.”



GIS: The Biggest Little Drone Market in the World

by Colin Snow • 29 October 2014



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

By all measures, this event was a success. With more than 500 attendees, the symposium included presentations on a wide range of topics including vehicles, to software, to data collection, to workflow, to cameras and sensors and an afternoon of UAS demos. But what struck me most about the symposium was not just the participants’ level of sophistication and knowledge (it was very high), but also the suitability of drones for the mapping and surveying market. In this article, I’ll explain why I think this market will be the second biggest commercial drone market (behind aerial photography and cinema and ahead of precision agriculture) by telling you three things I learned about how GIS professionals see and use drones.

Drones are a perfect fit for GIS – A geographic information system (GIS) lets you visualize, question, analyze, and interpret data to understand relationships, patterns, and trends. GIS benefits organizations of all sizes and in almost every industry. So, GIS professionals, like those who are members of ASPRS, are no strangers to aerial imaging. They know cameras and aircraft – and surprisingly a lot about drones. When I asked the audience by show of hands how many are familiar with drone technology and have remotely piloted a drone, more than half said they were familiar and had been a drone pilot. This stands in sharp contrast to the audience of the large agricultural drone show I attended over the summer where most attendees had never flown a drone and were unfamiliar with the technology – let alone cameras.

As a profession, most of this audience does photogrammetry. They are image producers. As a profession, farmers are consumers of images. For the unschooled, photogrammetry is the science of making measurements from photographs. The inputs are georeferenced photographs. Up to now these have been taken from manned aircraft or satellites. The output is typically a map, drawing, measurement, or a 3D model of some real-world object or scene. Since photogrammetry is used in fields like topographic mapping, architecture, engineering, manufacturing, quality control, and geology, the accuracy of images matters to these professionals. What matters to their customers is whether the output is timely, rich, localized, and problem-specific.

So, what better way is there to get all that done than from a drone? None. Low altitude small drones provide an advantage over incumbent aerial technology for GIS work. The images from these drone sensors are more resolute, can be captured more frequently, and cost less to produce. GIS professionals are willing to spend a lot of money on drone systems — they already spend about $40K for a complete ground-based GPS rover system and more than $100K for 3D laser scanners. So, the idea of spending up to $100K for a turnkey unmanned aircraft system is not out of line — and drone vendors know this. That’s why those that exhibited at this event showcased their high-end turnkey systems.

GIS professionals need good drone software – There is a growing interest in and awareness of the economic and strategic value of GIS for the Global 2000, as witnessed by the recent integration partnership between Esri (world’s largest GIS software vendor) and SAP (world’s largest enterprise application vendor). But the race to the top is for the software front end to that enterprise piece. The part that mappers and surveyors use on a day-to-day basis—including software like work management, flight controls, mission planning, aerial capture, post-processing, and mapping, and modeling.

There were more than 25 software vendors at this show – each with a bit of news. Some of the most interesting came from DroneDeploy and Google. DroneDeploy announced the first drone software capable of creating orthorectified maps in real time. Users have typically had to wait for four to six hours for maps to be created from drone imagery, but now they can get real-time aerial maps. This will save operators hours every time they fly their drones, and enable better decisions, as data can now be verified during a flight instead of hours or even days later as is the case with existing systems. DroneDeploy is able to achieve this real-time stitching because the drones its product manages are all internet-enabled and use cloud infrastructure for the processing.

The other interesting news from the event came from Google. Its soon-to-be-released Earth Engine product can now mix the world’s satellite imagery with UAS images — along with trillions of scientific measurements dating back over 40 years — and make it available online with tools for scientists, independent researchers, and nations. All of whom can mine this massive warehouse of data to detect changes, map trends, and quantify differences on the Earth’s surface. Google has already worked with Skycatch and opened up the engine to other partners, so expect to hear more as they go to full-scale launch.


LiDAR drones are here

Mapping and surveying professionals love LiDAR. They love it because it allows them to capture minute details that photos can’t — and with those details create precise digital representation of objects, buildings, and the ground. LiDAR is based on the same concept as RADAR, but it uses laser light instead of radio waves. By sending out laser beams in all directions, collecting the reflected energy, and performing some nifty high-speed computer processing, a scanner can create a real-time, virtual map of the surrounding area. These representations have many uses.

But most LiDAR units are heavy and – up to now – had to be mounted on trucks or manned aircraft. So over the past couple of years manufacturers like Reigl and Velodyne have reduced the size and weight of their units such that that it’s now possible to mount them on large multicopters. Additionally, these same vendors sell or partner to sell their own dedicated drones, thereby ‘vertically integrating’ (no pun intended) their scanner offerings. By coupling novel drone-mounted LiDAR systems with vision cameras, advanced computer processing, and GPS, it has become possible to create a remotely piloted flying LiDAR scanner. These vendors were at the show as was Phoenix Aerial Systems and XactSense, both of which have LiDAR drones.

What’s next?

What will be the next innovation for this market? Well, maps of navigable drone highways in the sky, for one. These would be aviation maps that would help pilots of manned aircraft know where not to fly. This BHAG is already being taken on by SkyWard, which just introduced the Urban SkyWays Project and the first end-to-end demonstration of a commercial drone network operated with full regulatory compliance. After that? Who knows. One thing is certain: I expect to see the vendors that attended this symposium continue to innovate in big ways. Stay tuned. In the meantime, feel free to write me at and tell me what you think about the market opportunities


Pentagon Officials: No Hope for Budget Soon; Tech Development Vital

Oct. 29, 2014 – 01:50PM | By PAUL McLEARY | Comments

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s chief financial officer admitted on Wednesday that he is “not super optimistic” about Congress reaching a budget deal once the current continuing resolution temporarily funding the federal government expires on Dec. 11.

“What I do worry about is that we’re looking at a ‘new normal’ where people think [a budget being approved] three months late isn’t a problem anymore” said Comptroller Mike McCord during an afternoon speech at the TechAmerica defense industry conference in suburban Washington.

Even getting a budget done this year “doesn’t seem that likely” since Congress will be locked in a lame duck session after the midterm elections in November. Instead, it’s more likely that the looming debt ceiling expiration next spring will be the next best chance for Congress and the White House to reach a deal.

McCord, who did not take questions following his brief remarks, said that Pentagon leadership is “already carrying more risk” than they are comfortable with as the building prepares itself for the possible return of sequestration in 2016.

The fiscal 2016 budget request, which is currently working its way through the civilian Pentagon leadership channels, will likely begin to squeeze modernization accounts for existing platforms, a move that will allow the service chiefs to continue to fund readiness accounts to ensure that troops are properly trained.

Some of this has already happened, as seen in the Army’s cancellation of its Ground Combat Vehicle earlier this year, and the Marine Corps slowing down its acquisition of a new amphibious vehicle, both in the name of cost savings.

Both services still plan to move forward with upgrades, but not until later in the decade once they begin to see some budget relief.

As a result of cuts like this, McCord said he is concerned about the larger modernization effort across the services, and what effect such program slippages will have over the long term, since the longer a platform waits for upgrades, the more expensive it tends to be.

“We’re probably more concerned about the five years after the next five years being really harder for us as we face some hard bills to modernize the nuclear triad” in particular, he said. The triad modernization includes things like a new long-range bomber for the Air Force and replacing the Ohio-class nuclear submarine, which the Navy has said it will not be able to afford while also modernizing its surface fleet.

For the DoD to afford a sufficient level of readiness while also funding the development and acquisition of truly new technologies that will allow it to dominate increasingly sophisticated potential adversaries, it needs the defense industry’s help, said Katrina McFarland, assistant secretary of defense for acquisition.

“Technological superiority is not assured” in the future, she warned, adding that the Pentagon is particularly interested in capabilities that will allow it to counter threats like weapons of mass destruction, electronic warfare attacks, unmanned systems, and a variety of both near-peer and hybrid threats.

“A great deal of emphasis is being put on these areas because we believe that’s going to create an advantage and we’re very interested in that,” she said.

This is at the heart of the new “offset” strategy that Bob Work, undersecretary of defense for policy, and chief weapons buyer Frank Kendall have been pushing in recent weeks.

The Pentagon is looking for new ways to partner with industry and a select group of allies to share the cost burden of research-and-development activities to produce leap-ahead technologies.

McFarland insisted that “if we want to continue to be the superior force we need to take chances, and taking risks is not optional.



Wishful thinking in the U.S. plans against the Islamic State

By David Ignatius

Opinion writer

October 28


A glimpse of the anxiety sweeping the Arab world surfaced last week when an Arab woman complained during a talk in Amman at the Columbia Global Center for the Middle East. She said my speech’s title about the “crisis” in the region wasn’t accurate. The correct word was “disintegration.” The audience cheered loudly.

The Arab world is suffering a sense of vertigo these days. Extremists from the Islamic State, who have seemingly arisen out of nowhere, have burst through the gates of power. Political elites are confused and frightened. They’re angry at the United States (as always). But at the same time, they want the United States to explain a strategy for combating a group that threatens every structure of stability, including borders.

This anxiety has been compounded by President Obama’s slow start in rolling out his plan to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State. It was painful last week to hear Jalal al-Gaood, a tribal leader from the Albu Nimr clan along the Euphrates, tell me how his town was overrun because the United States hadn’t devised a plan to resupply tribal allies.

Since returning home, I’ve heard U.S. officials describe more details of their plans. The strategy has a lot of “ifs” and “maybes,” and it’s definitely a “work in progress,” as one U.S. official frankly admits. Among other drawbacks, it requires patience, in short supply in America and the Middle East; and it’s much clearer about Iraq than Syria. But the campaign plans do provide more clarity and allow for some needed public discussion.

For starters, this is an army at dawn, and U.S. commanders insist on taking little steps before big ones. The United States has posted a string of small successes, with air power backing Iraqi and Kurdish forces that liberated the Mosul and Haditha dams, freed trapped Yazidis on Mount Sinjar and successfully defended Irbil and Amerli.

Dozens of Iraq’s Kurdish fighters are set to fly to Turkey on Tuesday and cross into the Syrian border town of Kobane to help fight Islamic State militants. (AP)

Big, risky operations such as retaking the city of Mosul are many months away. But the ops tempo increased modestly this week as Iraqi security forces pushed to regain control of the strategic Baiji refinery and Kurdish forces attacked jihadists in Zumar in northern Iraq. Commanders believe that as U.S.-backed forces take the offensive, the extremists will face tough choices: They can fight, risking heavy casualties, retreat, or hunker down. All three slow their momentum.

U.S. commanders know they must act quickly to gain credibility with Sunnis, especially after Albu Nimr and other tribal strongholds in Anbar province fell recently. These areas were sacrificed because U.S. military leaders believed it was unwise to mount ad hoc operations to free small, stranded pockets. U.S. air power could have been used but the risk of collateral damage was judged too high.

The centerpiece of the Sunni outreach is a force of 5,000 “national guard” fighters, drawn from the tribes. Their development is seen as very urgent, and within the next two weeks commanders hope to begin recruiting, paying and training the Sunni fighters. Hundreds of U.S. and foreign trainers are supposed to be on scene by year-end. To help woo the Sunnis, a senior member of the Shiite-led government is supposed to meet 70 tribal leaders this week. U.S. officials think about half these tribes are ready to break with the Islamic State.

U.S. officials would also like to bring Jabr al-Jibouri, a prominent tribal leader, into the government, perhaps as head of the national guard or as a national security adviser. His brother told me last week in Amman that such a move would pull some tribal fighters away from the Islamic State.

Military commanders are always looking for signs of progress, and they claim to see some enemy weaknesses emerging, even as the extremists continue to gain ground: Intelligence reports say there are tensions within the Islamic State, between Iraqis and foreign fighters. In Mosul, these fissures led to their segregation in different buildings. The Islamic State has also been forced to change tactics — seeking shelter in urban areas and avoiding mass movements or overt displays, such as flags or caravans.

When the jihadists stand and fight, as they have done in the northern Syrian town of Kobane, they get pounded. U.S. officials estimate the jihadists have lost 400 fighters in that battle. U.S. airstrikes have also hammered their infrastructure in Iraq and Syria, including oil wells and supply depots.

There is some solid military planning in the U.S. strategy but it also includes some wishful thinking. The most dubious assumption is that Iraqi and Syrian recruits can win this fight against the extremists without U.S. advisers alongside them in battle.


Innovation Warfare: Technology Domain Awareness and America’s Military Edge

Adam Jay Harrison, Jawad Rachami and Christopher Zember    

October 29, 2014 · in Commentary


On December 21, 2013, a small Japanese robotics start-up called Schaft claimed top honors at the DARPA Robotics Challenge. With minimal funding, team Schaft’s robot was the only performer to successfully complete all of the challenge events and beat robots built by companies like Boston Dynamics, who delivered a competing system through a $10.8 million contract from DARPA. In 2013, Google purchased Schaft and six other robotics companies as part of a new broad scale robotics initiative.

In May 2011, D-Wave Systems, a start-up spun out of the University of British Columbia, announced they had created the world’s first quantum computer. The current generation D-Wave Two is benchmarked to solve some computational problems 3,600 times faster than conventional computers. A complete D-Wave Two system can be purchased for $10-15 million.

At the 2014 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago, Local Motors, a company that uses advanced manufacturing techniques and open collaboration to drive rapid product innovations, unveiled the world’s first 3-D printed vehicle. Over a 44-hour period on the floor of the trade show, Local Motors “printed” and assembled an entire vehicle, showing how direct digital manufacturing can quickly and cost effectively produce complex systems.

The genie is out of the bottle. Today, global commercial markets increasingly set the pace for advanced technology innovation. Enter Technology Domain Awareness (TDA) – a defense innovation concept that uses knowledge of the technology commons (i.e. the place where non-defense R&D intersects with defense applications) to incorporate the high tech outputs of the commercial marketplace. In the first of a series of three articles on this topic, we explored the underlying factors and goals of the TDA mission to develop a robust defense innovation base that cooperatively aligns the non-defense R&D marketplace with emerging defense capability needs. In this second article, we turn our attention to how TDA is accomplished.

An abundance of R&D capital, market-driven incentives, and efficient flows of information between technology producers and technology consumers are underwriting a global innovation engine that operates independently of traditional defense markets. This innovation marketplace does not function by technology suppliers picking “winners” so much as by letting the market determine those technologies and “killer apps” that will survive and thrive. In this context, the technological edge favors those organizations with the strategic flexibility to leverage the widest number of technology options and rapidly exploit the applications of these technologies that generate the most value. This model of competition has broad implications for future conflict scenarios where “leveraging to win” becomes just as important as “building to win.”

In the war for the global technology commons, the winners will be those militaries that can best adapt to rapid, disruptive technological change. As such, DOD must develop internal mechanisms to successfully capitalize on the dynamics governing the commercial marketplace in order to secure and maintain the military-technology initiative. Consistent with this objective, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, Frank Kendall, recently announced the third installment of DOD’s Better Buying Power (BBP 3.0) initiative, which focuses on delivering dominant capabilities through technical excellence and innovation. Among the prominent themes reflected in BBP 3.0 are removing barriers to commercial technology utilization, increasing the use of prototyping and experimentation, and improving technology search and outreach in global markets.

To achieve the ambitious goals of BBP 3.0, DOD needs an innovation business processes to (1) source products and technologies for near-term prototyping applications, (2) identify strategic co-investment opportunities where DOD can partner with academia and the global R&D marketplace, and (3) optimize long-term defense technology priorities and investments. We call this business process Technology Domain Awareness, and it represents an information-based framework that connects technology stakeholders in DOD, academia, and industry; informs defense technology decision-making; and builds cost effective defense capabilities.


Connect. In 2004, U.S. forces in Iraq began seeing signs of active efforts by Iraqi insurgents to modify their mortar and rocket tactics to evade detection by coalition Firefinder radars deployed in and around military installations. In one such attack on December 22, 2004 at a military base outside of Mosul, 22 U.S. and coalition personnel were killed and 66 injured, representing one of the highest single-day American casualty totals of the entire Iraq conflict. Based on requests for support from the field, the Army Research Development and Engineering Command deployed members of their Field Assistance in Science and Technology team to investigate the problem first-hand. The FAST team’s analysis in turn fueled a rapid reaction development effort at the Army Research Laboratory (ARL). Lacking the internal funding required to build and deploy a prototype countermeasure, ARL turned to the Army Technical Operations Support Activity for financial and operational resources. This collaboration between the field, the lab, and the resourcing agency led to the development of the Unattended Transient Acoustic MASINT System, a hostile fire geolocation system developed in fewer than 90 days from concept to implementation.

As the above example highlights, technological innovation requires a set of building blocks that must be successfully connected. These building blocks include people, needs, technologies, applications, capital, and a variety of enabling resources ranging from contract vehicles to specialized infrastructure. Social-scale networks like LinkedIn, Kickstarter, and Alibaba and open collaboration platforms like Innocentive and Local Motors have demonstrated the impact of extended connectivity on improving business efficiency and product innovation. In the context of defense, efforts like the Army Rapid Equipping Force’s Co-Create initiative have likewise validated the utility of self-forming communities of interest for solving military problems.

Available tools that can facilitate the desired levels of engagement between DOD stakeholders and their counterparts in academia and industry include both real world events and complementary online services. Real world activities like the Naval Special Warfare Group 2’s annual Trident Specter exercise provide a model for connecting diverse technology options with emerging operational needs in a collaborative, experimental environment. Scaling DOD-industry connectivity also requires Internet-enabled social networking tools that operate both inside and outside the DOD “firewall.” These tools should reach beyond conventional DOD communities of interest to foster persistent and diverse interactions with the defense innovation base. Such interactions, however, ultimately depend on appropriate outreach and incentive mechanisms to motivate participation by academia and industry. Communicating the value proposition of DOD engagement, lowering barriers to participation, and providing mechanisms for public-private co-investment opportunities are therefore all vital to the TDA idea.

Inform. Like most complex organizations, DOD is often challenged to connect the outputs of product innovation with corporate processes that enable such outputs to be scaled. Low transition rates for R&D technologies to formal sustainment paths limit DOD’s innovation return on investment. To enhance ROI, efforts must be made to more explicitly align prototypes with the DOD product portfolios managed by the military services, the U.S. Special Operations Command, and various DOD agencies. This approach involves creating a robust flow of information between defense prototyping activities and corresponding requirements, acquisition, and budgeting processes.

Improving technology ROI also means capitalizing on the information value associated with prototyping efforts – a concept that business strategist Greg Galle refers to as Learning From Investment. This idea forms the basis of the iterative development cycles underwriting product innovation in the commercial high tech world, where learning is synonymous with doing. TDA nominally provides the context for defense innovation stakeholders to self-organize and execute prototyping efforts, but the core objective is to leverage these transactions to create a learning context for technology experimentation. As defense technology stakeholders interact and build in the furtherance of specific project objectives, empirical data is generated. Accumulated knowledge developed from this data can then be used to optimize both follow-on prototyping efforts and strategic, DOD-wide technology priorities and investments.

Facilitating the collection, organization, and dissemination of transactional knowledge calls for a novel data model that relates technology information to decision making. This function is analogous to the intelligence community’s approach to collection management, where intelligence is developed in a manner that conforms to the essential elements of information (EEI) associated with acquisition, operational, and policy activities. One potentially promising approach consistent with the needs of TDA involves the use of scalable online tools that facilitate the organization of technology information around the building blocks (i.e. people, needs, technologies, applications, capital, and other resources) necessary for defense product innovation.

Build. We learn by doing. Similarly, building is an antecedent to innovation. Mr. Kendall recently underscored the need for DOD to increase the use of prototyping and experimentation to maintain DOD’s military-technology edge. In this context, prototyping acts as a bridge between technologies and military applications. The products and information derived from prototype development and experimentation are a critical resource for augmenting the conventional, industrial-scale defense acquisition system; however, significant barriers to entry limit the ability of the most promising commercial and university-derived R&D to penetrate DOD.

Insofar as DOD experimentation depends on a healthy supply of new technologies, the TDA concept is based on the employment of information and services that reduce or eliminate transactional barriers to entry. A number of existing DOD authorities can be leveraged in support of this objective, including (1) multiple-task Section 845 Other Transaction Agreements that incorporate simplified commercial contracting standards, (2) public-private partnerships and communities of practice that promote DOD-industry engagement and co-investment, and (3) common use infrastructure available to qualifying firms for defense prototype development. Incentivizing the commercial market to build with the needs of defense in mind, however, involves more than addressing transactional barriers. It also means meeting – at least in part – the R&D capital requirements of start-ups and established firms. As such, creative co-investment approaches that expand on the Central Intelligence Agency’s successful In-Q-Tel model and explicitly align non-dilutive, risk-taking public financing with venture capital investments are needed. The public-private co-investment approach allows DOD to distribute risk by spreading limited R&D funding over a larger number of opportunities and offset costs by leveraging private capital to a much fuller extent.

Technology Domain Awareness. The global R&D marketplace represents both an unprecedented threat and an unprecedented opportunity to the DOD. Defense-relevant technology innovations from commercial industry and the academic research community are a viable means to offset defense acquisition costs, distribute technology-related risk, and accelerate innovation. These same technologies, however, are also available to nations, organizations, and individuals antagonistic to U.S. interests. In order for the U.S. to maintain the military-technology initiative in this environment, DOD should aggressively pursue the development and deployment of business processes and tools optimized to exploit the commercial technology environment ahead of the threat.

TDA involves the creation of new and expanded channels for defense-relevant collaborative innovation incorporating the extended global, commercial, and academic R&D communities. Through information sharing and targeted services, the TDA approach promotes the transactions necessary for (1) advanced technology prototyping and experimentation and (2) development of the knowledge that will enable the U.S. to maintain and extend its decisive military-technology edge.

Adam Jay Harrison is Director of the Center for Smart Defense at West Virginia University. He is former Director of the Department of Defense Technical Operations Support Activity and founder of Mav6, an Inc. 500 aerospace and defense technology company.

Jawad Rachami is the Founder and CEO of Cylitix LLC, specializing in the application of human-centered design and collaborative innovation models to technology development programs. Jawad has over 16 years of experience in the execution and management of federal programs.

Christopher Zember is Director of the Department of Defense’s Information Analysis Centers, which annually conducts over $1.5 billion in technology-centered research and analysis. His prior positions include work in national security policy, Defense planning, and intelligence analysis, with posts both inside and outside government, in the U.S. and abroad.


FAA purports to criminalize unmanned aircraft and model aircraft operations near stadiums during certain sporting events.

by Press • 29 October 2014


Monday, October 27, 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration issued Notice to Airmen (“NOTAM”) No. FDC 4/3621, replacing NOTAM No. FDC 9/5151 from 2009 concerning the operation of aircraft and parachutes in the vicinity of stadiums during certain sporting events. The FAA’s new NOTAM adds the words “unmanned aircraft and remote controlled aircraft” to the scope of operating restrictions within three nautical miles of stadiums and racetracks on the day of certain sporting events, posing a potential risk of criminal prosecution to model aircraft and unmanned aircraft operators.

Background: Origins in the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks

The notion of restricting airspace surrounding stadiums during a sporting event arose in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks which were, of course, carried out using passenger airliners. On September 20, 2001, the FAA issued NOTAM FDC 1/0257 restricting aircraft flights within three nautical miles below 3000 feet over “any major professional or collegiate sporting event or any other major open air assembly of people.” Various revisions were made to this “sports/stadium” NOTAM in successive years, such as to remove the vague “open air assembly” language and to define the specific types of sporting events to which the NOTAM applied. The apparent regulatory premise for these NOTAMS was 14 C.F.R. § 91.137 (“Temporary flight restrictions in the vicinity of disaster/hazard areas”), a regulation that refers throughout to “aircraft.” In later NOTAMs on the subject, 14 C.F.R. § 99.7 (“Special security instructions”) was cited as regulatory authority, a regulation that requires “each person operating an aircraft” to comply with security-related instructions issued by the FAA “in the interest of national security.”

In February 2003, Congress codified the stadium/sports NOTAM in an appropriations bill, Pub. L. 108-7 § 352 (2003). Notably, the statute provided exceptions for broadcast coverage as well as allowing flights for “operational purposes of an event, stadium, or other venue” including the transportation of team members and officials involved in the event, among others, but only upon the issuance of an FAA waiver or exemption. The statute, which refers to “aircraft” and not to other types of devices, contemplated that modifications to the restrictions could be made “after public notice and an opportunity for comment.” Id. § 352(b). Commentators over the years have noted that the restrictions do little or nothing to prevent terrorist attacks because the three-mile distance (or 3000 foot altitude) can be traversed within minutes, while ensnaring pilots who inadvertently pass too close to a stadium during a game.


October 2014 Superseding NOTAM

In the February 2009 NOTAM, the FAA reiterated the classification of the area surrounding stadiums during certain events as “national defense airspace” and provided that: all aircraft and parachute operations are prohibited within a 3 [nautical mile radius] up to and including 3000 [feet above ground level] of any stadium having a seating capacity of 30,000 or more people where either a regular or post season major league baseball, national football league, or NCAA Division One football game is occurring.


FAA NOTAM No. FDC 9/5151 (Feb. 10, 2009)

These restrictions were indicated to be in place one hour before the sporting event to one hour after the end of the event.

In the new superseding NOTAM issued by the FAA yesterday, the FAA added the words “unmanned aircraft and remote controlled aircraft” to the operative text, so as to provide: all aircraft operations; including parachute jumping, unmanned aircraft and remote controlled aircraft, are prohibited within a 3 [nautical mile radius] up to and including 3000 [feet above ground level] of any stadium having a seating capacity of 30,000 or more people where either a regular or post season major league baseball, national football league, or NCAA Division One football game is occurring.


FAA NOTAM No. FDC 4/3621 (October 27, 2014) (emphasis added). The term “remote controlled aircraft” is not defined nor familiar from recent FAA policy documents; if the term was meant to refer to model aircraft, it is unclear why that language was not used in the NOTAM only a few months after the FAA’s noteworthy “Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft,” 79 Fed. Reg. 36,172 (June 25, 2014).


Potential Impact

The impact of the textual change is potentially quite substantial. NOTAM No. FDC 4/3621 places within its scope stadiums with a capacity of 30,000 or more, even if far fewer than 30,000 people are in attendance. Nearly 350 colleges and universities are members of the NCAA Division. There are estimated to be approximately 150 professional and college stadiums in the United States with a capacity of 30,000 or more.

The FAA’s NOTAM now purports to criminalize the operation of model aircraft near those locations on the day of baseball and football games (among other sporting events such as auto racing), even if the operation is conducted by the institution, team, or facility itself (in the absence of a formal waiver from the FAA).

The FAA’s issuance of the NOTAM follows a series of publicized incidents involving remote controlled model aircraft (“drones”) operated near stadiums and ball parks, and may be perceived as response thereto, notwithstanding the observation that the national security issues addressed by the original September 2001 stadium/sports NOTAM was quite different from potential safety or nuisance issues that could be said to be posed by small model aircraft or drone operations.

The consequence for a violation of national defense airspace is potentially quite serious, including a fine, imprisonment for up to one year, or both. See 49 U.S.C. § 46307. Unfortunately, compliance with stadium/sports flight restrictions is generally known to be challenging because the FAA does not publish individual notices of the many sporting events to which these restrictions are said to apply. (Major League Baseball, for example, involves 162 games per year per team.) Model aircraft and civilian drone operators who believe that the new NOTAM applies to their activities and endeavor to comply with it may wish to consult professional and university team schedules or unofficial aviation information resources such as for an indication of upcoming sporting events in their operating areas.

In a defense to an enforcement action or criminal proceeding, the FAA and prosecutors would face legal arguments concerning the categorization of remote-controlled model aircraft as “aircraft” for regulatory purposes, particularly because the regulations and statute authorizing the imposition of the stadium related flight restrictions address “aircraft” operated by “airmen” and not other devices.

The treatment of model aircraft as “aircraft” for regulatory purposes was rejected in a March 2014 decision by an NTSB administrative law judge in the civil penalty proceeding Huerta v. Pirker, CP-217 (March 6, 2014), which decision is currently pending on appeal before the NTSB Board. (This firm is counsel of record for Mr. Pirker in that matter.)

A challenge as to whether any new regulations may be imposed by the FAA upon the operation of model aircraft, particularly in the absence of proper rulemaking, is also pending in recently-filed litigation in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, UAS America Fund LLP v. FAA, Case No. 14-1156 and Academy of Model Aeronautics v. FAA, Case No. 14-1158).

(This firm is counsel of record for petitioners in those two proceedings.)

* * *

If you have any questions or need additional information about this Alert or any unmanned aircraft systems topic, please contact:

Brendan M. Schulman

Special Counsel




Pentagon Request Shows Scant Science Supports White House’s Ebola Assurances




The Defense Department is seeking research that shows federal public-health officials and the broader medical community have a limited understanding of the Ebola virus, despite their assurances that the public should not panic about the deadly disease.

On Oct. 24, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, charged by the Pentagon to counter weapons of mass destruction, began the formal process of paying someone to determine whether the virus can be transmitted through the air or live outside of the body for an extended period.

“While current science indicates the disease can only be transmitted by contact with contaminated body fluids, it remains unclear if other transmission modes are feasible,” the proposal read in a section labeled “Ebola Characterization.” “Filoviruses are able to infect via the respiratory route and are lethal at very low doses in experimental animal models, however the infectious dose is unknown. There is minimal information on how well filoviruses survive within aerosolized particles, and in certain media like the biofilm of sewage systems.”

The document, known officially as a “request for proposal,” continues: “Preliminary studies indicate that Ebola is aerostable in an enclosed controlled system in the dark and can survive for long periods in different liquid media and can also be recovered from plastic and glass surfaces at low temperatures for over 3 weeks.”

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency did not immediately comment on the proposal.

The research request comes two weeks after Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey worried that the Ebola virus could be transmitted through the air.

“If you bring two doctors who happen to have that specialty into a room, one will say ‘No, it will never become airborne, but it could mutate so it would be harder to discover,'” Dempsey mused in an Oct. 15 interview with CNN. “Another doctor will say, ‘If it continues to mutate at the rate it’s mutating, and we go from 20,000 infected to 100,000, the population might allow it to mutate and become airborne; and then it will be a serious problem.’

“I don’t know who is right,” the general added. “I don’t want to take that chance.”

The Pentagon’s search for more information does not mean that the outbreak underway in West Africa can spread like the common cold. There are five known strains of the virus. Only one – known as the Reston strain – can transmit through the air. And it cannot infect humans (it spread among monkeys in Reston, Va., in 1989).

However, public-health experts agree that more research is necessary. Academic work on Ebola is scant. Therefore, to stem future outbreaks, they need a better understanding of the disease.

“There are a lot of potential research needs in regards to the Ebola virus, especially in regards to transmission,” said Dan Hanfling, a clinical professor of emergency medicine at George Washington University who lectures on Ebola safety. “Looking at routes of transmission remains important. There are issues about viability of the virus outside the body. We need to continue to look at issues related to incubation.

Eden Wells, an infectious-disease expert at the University of Michigan, added that requests such as this are not unusual.

“This has been around as long as we’ve been worried about bioterrorism,” she told Foreign Policy. “We’ve always been worried that this is something that could become airborne if it was manipulated.”

“There hasn’t been a whole lot of the disease. It has been difficult to study the virus. It’s a very pathogenic virus and it’s not the easiest to conduct studies on,” Wells added.

Pieter Devries, the country director for Global Communities and chief of party for USAID’s Improvement for Water Sanitation and Hygiene, has been fighting Ebola in West Africa for months. He said that although the epidemic that has claimed approximately 5,000 lives so far is tragic, it is an opportunity to learn more about the disease and how it spreads to better protect people from it.

“There are a lot of lessons learned and there’s a lot of work to be done,” he said. “There are a lot of areas that are beginning to be impacted by the outbreak.”


New Strategy Would Cut F-35s, Boost Bombers and UAVs

The U.S.’s air-centered strategy has top-level backing

Oct 31, 2014

Bill Sweetman

Aviation Week & Space Technology


Today’s U.S. power-projection forces, and those currently planned for the future, will not be able to operate effectively or efficiently against anti-access/area-denial (A2AD) weapons and doctrine being developed by China and other adversaries, according to a new report by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) that details a new approach to defense strategy known as Third Offset.

Instead, the Pentagon should immediately refocus its development efforts on a global surveillance and strike (GSS) system based on long-range, very stealthy aircraft—including the Long-Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) and a new family of unmanned combat air systems (UCAS)—and submarines. Tactical fighter, surface combatant and heavy land-force programs should be cut back, the report suggests, to pay the bills and rebalance the force.

The CSBA report carries far more weight than usual because it was drafted under the leadership of deputy defense secretary Robert Work (AW&ST March 31, p. 20) and his senior advisers, according to a source directly involved in its production. It is intended to launch a detailed discussion of a major change in national strategy, inside and outside the Pentagon. Author Robert Martinage, a former senior Pentagon official, “can neither confirm nor deny” the extent of Work’s involvement, he tells Aviation Week.

The CSBA paper details the roles of new and existing systems in the Third Offset strategy. It recommends a larger role for the Long-Range Strike Bomber, suggesting that the program could be “accelerated and expanded.” Along with the B-2 and another proposed new weapon, a boost-glide missile launched from submarines, it is the only system able to deal with hard and deeply buried targets in a medium- to high-threat environment. According to the paper, too, it has a stand-in airborne electronic attack capability and can perform high-volume precision strike missions.

The biggest new program recommended in the report is the future UCAS family. Conceptually, Martinage says, this program’s prototype is already flying in the form of the Northrop Grumman X-47B UCAS-D (demonstrator), which could lead directly to a Navy operational aircraft: the CSBA report outlines an N-UCAS with an 8-10-hr. unrefueled endurance and a 3,000-4,000-lb. payload. As a CSBA analyst, Work was a vigorous proponent of a “high-end” Navy UCAS, and his influence has played a part in stalling Navy plans for a less capable and less costly solution to the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike requirement.

The CSBA report revives an idea from UCAS-D’s precursor program, the Joint UCAS: Because wingspan sets a cap on the payload and range of a carrier-based blended wing-body aircraft, a land-based version could benefit from being made larger. A U.S. Air Force version, identified as MQ-X, could handle double the payload, the report suggests, and have a 12-hr. unrefueled endurance. In a move that is unlikely to get strong support from the fighter community, the Air Force aircraft could be armed with air-to-air missiles for both offensive and defensive counter-air missions.

Persistence is a key advantage of UAVs, the report notes. A primary mission for the new UCAS in Third Offset is a “mobile and relocatable target killer,” using a combination of unrefueled range and tanker support to fly 48-hr.-plus missions and remain on-station beyond the limits of human endurance. The UAVs would be nodes in an aerial communications network that would hedge against an adversary’s counter-space activities—and thereby render anti-satellite operations less valuable. The report also cites an unpublished Northrop Grumman study showing that an unmanned replacement for the F/A-18E/F could save $56 billion over a 25-year service life, compared to a piloted aircraft.

Funding the new N-UCAS and MQ-X could call for “reduction in manned tactical aviation force structure” across all services and “scaled-back procurement of all F-35 variants—including possible cancellation of the F-35C, replaced with advanced Super Hornets and eventually N-UCAS.” In July 2011, during Work’s tenure as deputy Navy secretary, he directed the service to study alternatives to the F-35B/C.

The limits on the effectiveness of fighters—including the “semi-stealthy” F-35, so described to discriminate it from the wide-band, all-aspect stealth technology of the UAVs and LRS-B—include survivability and their dependence on tankers, which are vulnerable and difficult to protect. Martinage concurs with Aviation Week’s assessment of the Chengdu J-20 as an offensive counter-air fighter aimed at tankers and other air assets. “With an extended-range air-to-air missile the J-20 can push the tanker 800-900 mi. back. [U.S.] fighters can’t even make it to the beach.”

Another unmanned vehicle recommended in the study is a “future” stealthy, high-altitude long-endurance UAV. However, the report notes that only three of the most important new GSS elements are not currently under development (MQ-X, N-UCAS and a towed payload module for submarines). The so-called future Hale UAV appears, in fact, to be the in-development but secret Northrop Grumman RQ-180 (AW&ST Dec. 9, 2013, p. 20). The report suggests that the RQ-180 has a light strike capability, possibly for targets of opportunity.

An important caveat is that the Third Offset still addresses lower-intensity conflicts. As the threat becomes less intense and far-reaching, current systems such as tactical fighters and permissive-airspace Reaper UAVs should be available. “The most dangerous cost-imposing strategy is the one we impose on ourselves,” says Center for a New American Security analyst Ben FitzGerald. “It’s taking out a HiLux truck with a $500,000 weapon.” But a near-peer threat will be the driving factor. “You can’t lose an advantage versus a near-peer,” FitzGerald adds. “You don’t come back from that position.”

Martinage says that the CSBA report does not recommend specific numbers for new systems “because we did not intend this to be a budget drill.” But as one example, the Northrop Grumman study cited in the report suggests that a Navy UCAS force could replace a two-times-larger force of manned aircraft.

Submarine warfare is seen as another area where the U.S. has a substantial and enduring lead. The Third Offset report advocates improving the firepower and flexibility of submarine forces by accelerating the development of unmanned underwater vehicles, developing a long-range boost-glide weapon for submarine launch, and developing towed payload modules. The latter could be 3,000-4,000-ton unmanned systems with up to 12 large-diameter launch tubes, which could be towed into position and remain on station for months. Again, there is a price to be paid: the scaled-back procurement of large surface combatants of the DDG-51 class.

In the Third Offset strategy, the use of special operations and counterterrorism land forces is favored over large military formations. Ground forces, however, would play a strong role in establishing “local area A2AD networks,” particularly on the territory of threatened allies. Systems such as land-based anti-ship cruise missiles linked to aerostat-borne radars, for example, could both defend coastlines and inhibit an adversary’s naval movements.

A version of this article appears in the November 3/10 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology.



The Understated Role of the Air Force In the Battle Against Ebola

Janine Davidson Council on Foreign Relations October 30, 2014



With so much misinformation circulating about the scale and domestic danger of the Ebola threat, less attention has been paid to the U.S. military’s effort to stem the disease’s spread in Africa. Operation United Assistance is now well underway, drawing the joint armed services together with a wide range of interagency and multinational partners. While the headquarters of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division have been the most visible element of this operation, much of the behind-the-scenes work has been conducted by the U.S. Air Force. I spoke with Air Force participants to get a sense of this contribution:

Dr. Janine Davidson is senior fellow for defense policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. Her areas of expertise include defense strategy and policy, military operations, national security, and civil-military relations. Full Bio

1. The U.S. Air Force is the backbone of the anti-Ebola effort. From the outset of Operation United Assistance on September 17 to October 21, Air Mobility Command (the U.S. military’s worldwide airlift system, commanded by General Darren McDew) flew 208 sorties in support of operations, transporting 1,989 short tons of cargo and 595 passengers. This provided the logistical foundation for the entire mission.

2. Airmen are building bases and getting their hands dirty right alongside the Army. There are over 200 Airmen on the ground—roughly one quarter of the United States’ total 880 troops currently deployed to West Africa. These Airmen are civil engineers, logisticians, and operational coordinators, engaging in a wide range of tasks. They are assessing sites for temporary air bases and pitching in with the building.

3. Airmen are providing medical support, too. The Air Force’s Expeditionary Medical Support System (EMEDS) are devoting critical in-house talent to Operation United Assistance’s medical mission set. The Air Force’s 633rd Medical Group completed deployment of a modular hospital in Liberia on October 20—the first deployment of a facility of its kind. This hospital will be used to train crucial emergency care responders.

4. Volunteer Air Force Reservists and the Air Guard provide significant capability. The Air Force relies heavily on volunteers in its Reserve Component (which includes the Air Guard and the Reserves) for all of its day to day and surge operations. Accordingly, many of the C-17 sorties are being flown by Air Force Reservists, who have volunteered to take time off of their civilian jobs to support the anti-Ebola mission. Likewise, 70 Airmen from the Kentucky Air Guard 123rd Contingency Response Group have deployed to Senegal with active duty airmen from California and New Jersey to support the Joint Task Force—Port Opening (JTF-PO) operation, where their mission is to move the supplies and support through to the main effort.

Although the Air Force supplies only a quarter of the most visible “boots on the ground” for this mission, without the other dozens of less visible “boots in the air,” there would be no military mission at all.


HP’s move into 3D printing will radically change manufacturing

By Lucas Mearian

Computerworld | Oct 31, 2014 3:06 AM PT


HP’s announcement this week that it’s entering the 3D printing market with an industrial machine that is 10 times faster and 50% cheaper than current systems, immediately brought out the online snark.

“The question is, will it print a prototype that’s just in black if you’re out of Yellow polymer?” Reddit user ILikeLenexa wondered.

“3D printing from the company that charges the moon and stars for ink refills? Full vendor lock in? I don’t think so…” wrote another named TotalWaffle.

Cynicism aside, HP is a $112 billion company whose products span the corporate and consumer marketplace, and it can bring to bear 30 years of 2D printer R&D on the 3D printer space.

Simply put, the move is unprecedented.

“There’s a lot of parallels between document printing and 3D printing, so our company’s been looking at HP for a long time, thinking it’s an excellent candidate to enter this market place,” said Terry Wohlers, president of research firm Wohlers Associates. Recently, Wohlers said he was given a demonstration of HP’s new Multi Jet Fusion printer and was “blown away” by the speed, quality, feature details of printed items and by the brilliant colors it produces.

“It’s better than I expected. It’s many times faster than anything on the market,” he said. “It’s something that is vastly different than what has even been developed before.”

In the 3D printing world, buzz about an HP entry has been going on for the past year, and it has evoked both anticipation among those who use 3D printers and fear within the small but fast growing community of 3D machine manufacturers.

Stratasys, the largest maker of 3D printers today, and a company that regularly sees 60% year over year revenue growth, said HP’s entry is far from frightening. “This activity will bring more awareness, and it will lift the overall space. We see it as a big opportunity for the industry,” the company said in a response to a Computerworld request for comment.

Wohlers said that while 3D printing is still in its “early days” HP’s move will accelerate growth in ways never seen.

A one-quarter pound chain link made with HP’s Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer is prepared to lift a one-ton car.

“HP’s new 3D printer, if people see that and they’re not blown away, then they don’t understand what it takes to built parts using conventional manufacturing,” Wohlers said. “It’s not only a game changer, it’s going to rewrite the rules in the 3D printing industry.”

3D printing, which has been around since the 1980s, has mainly been used to more quickly produce prototypes — a process known as rapid prototyping through additive manufacturing. Rapid prototyping with additive manufacturing slashes development time and costs because test parts no longer need to be sent off to a design firm and then cut on a giant machine tool lathe from blocks of metal or other materials. With that method, it’s one mistake and back to the drawing board.

HP is claiming its 3D printing technology, called Multi Jet Fusion, will enable mass production of parts instead of just rapid prototyping. The new machine is unlikely to mass produce millions or billions of product parts; think, instead, in terms of tens, hundreds or thousands of parts.

A worker at the Ford 3D Printing Lab in Detroit removes a part from the 3D Sand Printing bin. Ford has several “binder jet printing machines” that churn out large bins filled with 100 or more molds into which molten metal will later be poured to make metal prototypes. A single binder jet print run can take as little as a week or as much as a month, depending on the job size and deadline.

Imagine 100 Multi Jet Fusion printers all churning out replacement parts on an as-needed basis for an aircraft or automotive manufacturer — and say goodbye to inventory storage costs or wasted product. Say you’ve got a new model car or you need to modify a faulty part — just adjust the part in CAD software and hit “print” again.

If there’s any doubt about that prospect, you need look no further than Ford or Airbus, two multi-billion-dollar, multinational companies that have been successfully integrating 3D printing into parts production for years.

“I see this as a revolutionary technology,” said Pete Basiliere, research vice president at Gartner. It’s unique, not because the printer’s components haven’t ever existed, but because they’ve never been combined into a new, faster process.

A view from the top of the HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer showing a print bar. It looks like a scanning bar on a typical 2D printer. The 3D print bar, however, has 30,000 nozzles spraying 350 million drops a second of thermoplastic or other materials.

The printer works by using a print bar that looks like a scanning bar on a typical 2D printer. The 3D print bar, however, has 30,000 nozzles spraying 350 million drops a second of thermoplastic or other powdered materials as it moves back and forth across a print platform.

The 3D printer combines the attributes of binder jet printing, where a liquid bonding agent is selectively deposited to join the powder materials, and selective laser/electron beam sintering, where layer upon layer of powder material is fused together with heat.

HP showed examples of 3D prints that were astounding in their complexity and durability. In one example, a one-quarter pound metal chain link was printed in half an hour and then tested to withstand 10,000 lbs. of pressure. In another example, a miniature model of an oil rig was printed with multiple colors and complex rigging thinner than pencil lead.

A model of an oil rig printed by the new Multi Jet 3D printer. Notice the details and colors all printed in one pass.


While the Multi Jet Fusion printer isn’t due out until 2016 — it’ll be beta tested by manufacturers in 2015 — its unveiling is sure to spur R&D in the 3D printing industry and beyond. That’s because the company that invents and successfully markets a better manufacturing method wins.

A survey of 100 top manufacturers by PricewaterhouseCoopers revealed that two-thirds are using 3D printing, some for rapid prototyping and others for production or custom parts.

As 3D printing techniques evolve to handle multiple materials and faster processes, they will find use beyond rapid prototyping, PwC said.

“As has happened all throughout history, if you invent a new process for making things, people will design new and better things,” said Carl Bass, CEO of Autodesk, a maker of professional 3D design software.


Opinion: FAA Must Act On Rules For Small UAS

Oct 28, 2013

John Langford

Aviation Week & Space Technology


It is rare that industries come to Washington begging for more regulation. But that is how we in the unmanned systems business find ourselves with respect to small unmanned aerial systems (SUAS). A notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) has been on the shelf for years. We need to move forward before a serious accident occurs.

The issue of how to safely integrate the myriad sizes and classes of UAS into the national airspace is complex. But it is clear that in at least one category, small UAS (under 55 lb.), we have a good idea how to start. The FAA convened a SUAS Aviation Rulemaking Committee, which had broad participation from many communities and completed its work in 2009. Many of us expected an expedited release of draft regulations. We are still waiting.

These regulations would impact three distinct communities. First are hobbyists, whose interests are represented by the Academy of Model Aeronautics. Since 1936, the AMA has set voluntary safety standards for models under which hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts have flown millions of flight hours with an admirable safety record. The AMA takes the not unreasonable position that voluntary standards have worked so far, so modelers should be exempted from FAA regulations. They convinced Congress to include language to this effect in the FAA’s 2012 reauthorization bill.

The second category is the “do-it-yourself drone” community, which comes more from computer and robotics enthusiasts than traditional aeromodelers. Chris Anderson, a former editor at Wired, estimates there are thousands of do-it-yourself drones in operation. Unlike traditional models, which are either free-flight or controlled by radio within the pilot’s line of sight, these computer-driven aircraft literally have minds of their own. The third category comprises aerospace and defense companies, which includes everything from the industrial giants to garage startups.


Models fly under the FAA’s Advisory Circular 91-57, issued in 1981. Everyone else needs either a special airworthiness certificate (experimental ticket), or a certificate of authorization (available only to public entities), or must fly in restricted airspace. The effect of this is that commercial UAS users—and by commercial, we basically mean anyone in the private sector who is being paid to do this—are prohibited from operating UAS in the National Airspace. This covers everything from aerial photography and surveying to news reporting to communications relay to cargo delivery. The effect is that professional aerospace companies—which arguably have the most to lose from lax standards, and who are mostly likely to have established safety procedures, to follow the rules and to carry good insurance—are being punished, while amateurs operating on the fringes are allowed to operate more or less with impunity. The public, of course, cannot tell the difference.

This is a recipe for disaster. The current situation effectively encourages people to fly in quasi-legal activities, without uniform standards and with little or no enforcement. This is not the way aviation has achieved its enviable safety record.

Furthermore, the absence of FAA rulemaking encourages others to fill the vacuum and preempt the FAA. Dozens of states are either considering or have already promulgated rules impacting SUAS—a morass that the FAA will have to untangle when it finally steps up to its leadership role.

Many of us in the business find ourselves in the paradoxical situation: An airplane we operate in our day jobs is essentially illegal, but is perfectly fine if we head off to the local schoolyard as modelers and fly for fun. Activities should be judged on objective standards of safety, not on whether someone is being paid to do it.

The issue of privacy has muddled the drive for UAS safety regulation. My own belief is that many of the things that most concern privacy advocates, such as flying low enough to look in someone’s window, may also be unsafe, and that effective safety regulations will go a long way toward addressing the privacy concerns. But the FAA must not allow such misgivings to stand in the way of implementing its primary charter. Its mandate is safety.

The history of aviation safety regulations is, sadly, one where rules are promulgated largely in response to accidents. We cannot, should not and must not follow this path on SUAS. Rules will evolve based on experience and practice, but we must start somewhere. The FAA should release the SUAS NPRM immediately so we can all get started.

John Langford is a longtime aeromodeler and the founder and CEO of Aurora Flight Sciences Corp.


Will Bust Pilots for Model Airplane Infractions

By Pia Bergqvist / Published: Oct 28, 2014


Earlier this month, the FAA released a National Policy Compliance and Enforcement Bulletin containing language that takes a harsh stance against pilots who operate unmanned aircraft. As a result of this new policy, pilots who operate UAS against FAA regulations or model aircraft in a manner that endangers aircraft in the National Airspace System (NAS) risk their ability to fly manned aircraft.

According to the bulletin, a civil penalty will be warranted for cases in which the FAA determines the violation imposed a medium or high risk to other aircraft in the NAS. However, the FAA takes disciplinary action further for pilot certificate holders who fly drones.

UAS operators who the FAA finds conducted a “deliberate and egregious violation” risk certificate action in addition to the civil penalty “regardless of whether the certificate holder is exercising the privileges of the certificate in connection with the violations associated with the UAS operation.” This means pilots could lose their ability to fly manned airplanes for a period of time or have their certificates revoked.

Not only do pilot certificate holders risk their flying privileges if they fly UAS or model aircraft; they may also receive a greater penalty than individuals who are not pilots would. The FAA bulletin states that certificate holders are more likely to be slapped with a civil penalty “above the moderate range for a single, first-time, inadvertent violation” because they “should appreciate the potential for endangerment that operating a UAS contrary to the FAA’s safety regulations may cause.”


Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Is there a Republican Congress coming on Tuesday? The votes are already being cast in a number of states around the country.

Voters believe more strongly than ever that the upcoming midterm elections will put Republicans in charge of the Senate. Confidence that Democrats will regain control of the House continues to fall. If these scenarios play out, President Obama will be facing a Congress entirely in the hands of the opposition party.

Just eight percent (8%) of voters think the current Congress is doing a good or excellent job. Sixty-two percent (62%) rate Congress’ performance as poor.

Going into Election Day, white voters are nearly twice as likely as blacks to believe America is a more divided nation than it was four years ago. For one-in-three of all voters, the president is what this election is all about. 

Voters are evenly divided when asked if Obama is a plus or a minus to political candidates in their states. But Republicans attach a lot more importance than Democrats do to whether a candidate voted for the president in 2012.

Obama’s daily job approval ratings continue to run in the high negative teens.

But then the president is at odds with most voters on several major issues including the new national health care lawillegal immigrationtaxes and spending and how to respond to the deadly Ebola virus.

Voters are getting increasingly fed up with a federal government that won’t give them what they want.

On the economic front, consumer and investor confidence began to go up last year but have flat-lined in recent months.

Meanwhile, in the area of national security, the number of voters who think the United States and its allies are winning the War on Terror continues to fall to new lows. More than ever they see a terrorist attack as the biggest threat to the nation. 

Following two recent deadly incidents in Canada that appear terrorist related, U.S. voters also feel more strongly that radical Islamic terrorism is a threat to this country, but they acknowledge overwhelmingly that not all so-called “lone wolf” attacks can be prevented.

Only 26% think the country is heading in the right direction, a finding that has been under 30% for most of the past year.

With only a few days until the midterm elections, Republicans have taken the lead on the Generic Congressional Ballot.  But the two parties have been separated by two points or less most weeks this year.

Republicans need a net gain of six seats to take control of the Senate, and looking over the past week’s surveys, AlaskaArkansasColorado and South Dakota look like good pickup possibilities for the GOP.  Republicans have a strong chance in Louisiana, too, but  this race appears headed for a runoff.

The Georgia Senate race may be decided in a runoff as well. This seat is now held by a Republican.

Contests for two other current Democratic Senate seats, Iowa and North Carolina, are Toss-Ups.

Michigan looks safe for Democrats, while New Hampshire remains a long shot for GOP challenger Scott Brown.

As for the governor’s races we looked at this week, Republicans have the advantage in Arkansas and Georgia, while Colorado appears headed to a photo finish. 

See our latest video election update.

In other surveys last week:

— Common Core or not, just one-in-three Americans rate the performance of the nation’s schools positively.

— Most Americans think college sports run the show and have too much influence over educational institutions.

— Most also believe that half or more big-time college athletic programs regularly break the rules.

— Most adults don’t think Halloween is just for kids, and a few more will be playing dress up this year.

— Some schools continue to prohibit Halloween costumes and candy, and most Americans still disagree with these policies. 


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