Inside Unmanned Systems

OCT-NOV 2017

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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10 unmanned systems inside   October/November 2017 lighting security concerns and DJI's response—a "bug bounty" program. Unfortunately, that wasn't the entirety of the security concerns—DJI report- edly stored imagery and telemetry on "off shore" servers. No worries, they said; we'll whip up a "local data" op- tion. Both initiatives lost traction, however, after a patch note for DJI's Spark threatened to disable the drone unless it was updated. This, coupled with an earlier reported threat to all but brick unregistered DJI drones, seems to have convinced key users that DJI really DID remotely control their products. The final blow was the report of a company-installed "backdoor" in DJI software. DJI's response that the backdoor was to install patches they didn't want to bother owners with did not impress the Internet. Even if this was the real reason for the backdoor, it's an absolutely horrible cyber secu- rity practice. Who Will Step In? Unfortunately, my big lesson from InterDrone is that there really aren't many "American/Friends" consumer drone manufacturers out there. That's understandable given that DJI has a massive 70-90% market share in the consumer drone markets, that has also bled into segments of the small com- mercial market. The last big American competitor to DJI was 3DR and they were sadly bought by DJI a few months ago. France's Parrot offers some con- sumer choices, but most of their drones are also made in China. New Zealand's Altus is one of my favorites—a solid system used by CNN. But Altus is strictly a commercial product and they don't dabble in the consumer segment yet. GoPro had a shaky start with its Karma drone, but seems to have re- covered. Aside from these companies, there aren't many other American/ Friends consumer drone makers. So where are the Empire's Big Guns? Where are those American defense com- panies who have decades of unmanned experience (and probably could actually build a Star Wars fighter for the right price)? They may—emphasize MAY—be starting to move into the commercial market. Up until now, the story was the same with Boeing, Northrop, Lockheed, General Atomics, L3 and Textron. It went something like this, "Until the FAA gets its act together on commer- cial UAS, we're sticking with defense." It's too early to tell if the DJI vacuum will spur the defense Bigs into action, but the FAA's recently announced UAS in Class A Airspace ARC is having an impact. Finally, after years of concen- trating on small UAS and within-visual- line-of-sight operations, the FAA began rulemaking efforts for large UAS flying beyond line of sight (BLOS)—hopefully in all classes of airspace. The Bigs believe there is no money in commercial drones until BLOS rules come out, and they can afford to wait. The DJI vacuum, however, w ill likely spur some medium/small de- fense UAS companies into the pro- THE DEFENSE BIGS COULD PROBABLY PULL OFF DESIGNING A STAR WARS FIGHTER IF PROPERLY MOTIVATED. INTEL COULD BUILD THE DEATH STAR ITSELF—WITH INTEL INSIDE AND WITHOUT BREAKING A SWEAT. MAJOR GENERAL JAMES O. POSS (RET) is a leading expert on UAS, having targeted the first armed UAS strikes, designed the U.S. Air Force's remote split operations system for UAS control, and designed the Distributed Common Ground Station for UAS intelligence analysis. General Poss was the Executive Director of the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE) of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Center of Excellence Team. He is CEO of ISR Ideas—an intelligence, unmanned systems and cyber warfare consulting company with decades of intelligence community experience, coupled with insider FAA knowledge. General Overview by James Poss, Maj Gen (RET) USAF

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