FAA Part 107 has made it even easier to Fly
Legally in the USA under 14 CFR Part 107. It's what we have all been
FAA Automatically Grants "blanket" COA'S -
As of March 23, 2015, the FAA will automatically
grant "blanket" COA's for flights at or below 200 feet to any UAS
operator with a Section 333 exemption, provided the aircraft weighs less
than 55 pounds, operations are conducted during daytime Visual Flight
Rules (VFR) conditions and within visual line of sight (VLOS) of the
pilots, and stay certain distances away from airports or heliports.
FAA Grants UAV Permits for Agriculture & Real Estate Companies -
The Associated Press reports that on Tuesday, the FAA issued exceptions
to the commercial UAV ban, permitting the monitoring of crops and real
estate use for aerial photographs of properties for sale. This is the
first time permits have been granted to agriculture and real estate
Deploys the RDASS Q1000 UAV -
HSE announces the deployment of the
new RDASS Q1000 4 rotor electric UAV. The RDASS Q1000 series is
designed to meet the hi-tech needs of the user at a price to meet any
city or county budget.
Chief Will Johnson announced that the Federal Aviation Administration
has given the city permission to get the rotors turning on the police
UAV drone project.
Supreme Court & The
4th Amendment - The US
Supreme Court has held that individuals do not generally have
Fourth Amendment rights with respect to aerial surveillance. Can the
lower courts or State, county, city municipalities outlaw the use of
UAV's for law enforcement?
UAV FAA Regulations
- For more
than five decades, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has
compiled a proven track record of introducing new technology and
aircraft safely into the National Airspace System (NAS).
Drones Are the Future of War, So Why Is the Pentagon
Spending Over $1 Trillion on the F-35 Fighter J
Source: Andy Wolfe, U.S. Navy, via Wikimedia Commons.
To the left is an
F-35. It is -- at least in theory -- the pinnacle of American military
The F-35 has been in development since the 1990s, when by rare
coincidence the three branches of the American military that fly all
approached Congress with multibillion-dollar requests for aircraft
updates. It is the result of the Joint Strike Fighter program, which
resulted in Lockheed Martin gaining a virtual monopoly on
next-generation military aircraft production. From day one, it was
designed to serve the needs of the Air Force, the Navy, and the Marine
Corps simultaneously, incorporating the vertical takeoff and landing
features of Britain's Harriers with modern radar-evasion technology and
speed sufficient to break the sound barrier.
Each F-35 will cost the Pentagon at least $159 million, before factoring
in the staggering maintenance expenditures that are expected to soar
well past a trillion dollars over the F-35's potential half-century of
service. With a total of 2,443 F-35s slated for purchase, the lifetime
cost of each jet is likely to reach at least $600 million.
The first test flight of the F-35 took place in 2006. It will not enter
operational service for the Marines until late 2015. The Air Force is
targeting an operational service date at the end of 2016, and the Navy
expects its variant to begin service in 2019. Source:
Brigadier Lance Mans of the NATO Special Operations Coordination Centre,
via Wikimedia Commons.
To the right is a Predator unmanned aerial vehicle, UAV -- a drone. The
military -- at least in theory -- uses it to blow up extremists hiding
The General Atomics MQ-1 Predator, which is perhaps the most famous of
the military drones, was first introduced in 1995 as an unmanned aerial
surveillance platform, and has since been upgraded with missiles to
better take out cave-cowering extremists.
The Predator was used to locate terrorist Osama bin Laden, wanted at the
time for bombings in 1993 and 1998, a year before Al Qaeda destroyed the
World Trade Center. Since its first use, Predators have flown over a
million hours of operations for the American military, and have made a
large number of the estimated 4,700 kills recorded by American UAVs by
the start of this year, according to Senator Lindsay Graham.
The U.S. Air Force ordered 268 Predator drones before shifting to more
advanced UAV platforms in 2011. Each Predator costs roughly $5 million.
The lifetime cost of deploying 2,443 F-35s could equip the Air Force
with 290,000 Predator drones.
One of these aircraft is the future of warfare, and the other is not. So
why is the clunky F-35 -- over budget, behind schedule, and already
embarrassing Pentagon leaders into publicly lambasting its development
as "acquisitions malpractice" -- the recipient of such persistent
support, while the growing U.S. military UAV program is the target of so
Let's face it: the future of warfare isn't going to have a lot of human
beings on the battlefield. The sooner military planners accept and adapt
to that reality, the sooner resources can begin to flow away from
obsolete strategies and toward the real fight for the future.
Unfortunately, it seems like that shift may come too late to adapt to
the new realities of combat.
The Army began to show a serious interest in automated warfare around
the same time as the Predator began to take on a larger role in the war
against terror. The "Future Combat Systems" program, was set in motion
in 2003 and advanced in 2005 with a projected $130 billion outlay for
robotic support and other technological upgrades, with a long-term goal
of replacing front-line troops with capable robotic soldiers. However,
that ambitious program was canceled outright in 2009 and replaced with a
more modest modernization effort that now "emphasizes the role of
battle-tested soldiers" rather than robotic brigades. The Pentagon's
most recent procurement budget has little in the way of funding for
autonomous or unmanned systems, and much of that is going toward buying
Source: United States Department of Defense .
In percentage terms, the UAV purchase program is about 5% of about 27%
of the entire Pentagon weapons-buying program, or just over 1% of the
total purchase allocation. Other autonomous systems are still primarily
in the development phase -- with the exception of the $400,000 iRobot
PackBot (over 3,000 have been deployed since 2002), few autonomous
ground-based systems have seen much use in the American military. The
Pentagon's robotics development program doesn't appear to be its highest
funding priority, either, as funding for robotics R&D hasn't been
updated on the budget since 2012's $11 million outlay. The Navy's
unmanned X-47B, a more advanced drone that looks like the infamous B-2
stealth bomber -- perhaps unsurprising in light of the fact that both
aircraft were developed by Northrop Grumman -- has cost $813 million to
develop, which is about half a percent of the expected lifetime cost of
the F-35 program.
Wages of War
a single lost F-35 would be worth about 120 Predator drones, and its
destruction also risks the life of a highly trained pilot. Digital war
games conducted by the RAND think tank in 2008 highlighted just how real
a risk that is, as a hypothetical Chinese attack devastated a
hypothetical American F-35 fleet in battle over Taiwan. While F-35
developer Lockheed Martin fiercely defended its aerial cash cow to the
press, there have been more than enough instances of public condemnation
to cast doubt on the F-35's ultimate usefulness in battle.
The F-35 -- and, indeed, most of the military's arsenal -- is built
around assumptions generated from World War II, the last symmetric war.
David Axe, in his exhaustive feature on the F-35's shortcomings
published on Medium.com, points out that the Marines learned to crave
jet fighters that could take off in minimal distances after fighting
without air support in the Asian jungles against the Japanese. These
helicopter-like jets, the theory went, would free the Marines from
reliance on the Navy's aircraft carriers or on secured full-length
runways, an understandably scarce resource on tropical battlegrounds.
The Army has over 8,000 tanks and over 18,000 total armored fighting
vehicles, but it's learned that these multimillion-dollar behemoths can
be rather easily taken out by cheap explosives -- by 2005, over 80 of
the Army's 1,100 deployed Abrams tanks were effectively disabled in Iraq
by combatants using little more than improvised roadside bombs.
The last symmetric war wasn't decided on technological superiority
alone, but numeric superiority as well. The Allies fielded an incredible
227,235 tanks and 633,072 aircraft in World War II, far outstripping
Axis production. When your enemy is lobbing rockets at you from a cave,
you don't need to send $600 million jets or nearly $10 million tanks to
blow them up. And when your most advanced weapon designs can be hacked
and stolen by the only feasible symmetric enemy on the planet (China has
already launched a prototype jet that distinctly resembles the F-35
without all the weaknesses created by vertical takeoff capabilities),
you're left trying to field more of those weapons rather than hoping to
outclass the enemy. However, if you can solve both problems by either
the tactical or massed deployment of unmanned systems, why would you
continue to use human soldiers on the front lines at all?
The Pentagon wants to keep the F-35 in service for at least a
half-century. So much can happen in the next 50 years that it seems
unlikely to expect this next-gen jet to maintain its technological edge
for even a decade after its first deployment. a large force of
inexpensive unmanned and robotic warriors would be easier to upgrade,
cheaper to replace, and far less of a strategic risk to deploy on the
front lines than the manned tanks, planes, and ships on which the U.S.
military now relies. For the security of the future, we should hope that
the Pentagon realizes this without first suffering a catastrophic loss
of its flagship hardware.
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