Inside Unmanned Systems

JUN-JUL 2019

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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by James Poss, Maj Gen (Ret.) USAF General Overview Policy 8  June/July 2019 unmanned systems inside T here certainly is a street, but it isn't an auto- bahn and it's really not a two-way street—yet. Until we get viable drone rules, it's more like a British "contra-flow"—a road meant for two-way traffic, but one the authorities have set to one- way traffic. As it stands now, the Department of Defense (DOD) has clear rules for flying drones and for bringing commercial drone tech to the military. But commercial drone f light rules are so restricted that military drone tech companies are hesitant to venture into the commercial mar- ket. When the FAA does set viable drone rules, I predict that contra-flow will move initially from the military drone world to the civilian side before becoming a real two-way street a few years later. The big aerospace companies are frustrated with the slow pace of drone rule-making com- pared with the rapid adoption of drone tech in the DOD. The U.S. military has been flying modern beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drones since the mid-90's. Indeed, the General Atomics MQ- 1/9 family of drones hit the four million flight hour mark in March of 2019, quicker than any previ- ous U.S. Air Force aircraft. Northrup Grumman's RQ-4 Global Hawk was the safest aircraft in the USAF Air Combat Command in 2018. As I write this article, 65 USAF MQ-9's and 10 U.S. Army MQ-1C's are in flight 24x7. They're joined by hun- dreds of smaller, even hand-launched, U.S. mili- tary drones f lown daily. These military drones vary from the Boeing 737-sized Global Hawk down to the palm-sized Black Hornet drone. Nearly every one of these drones—even the tiny Black Hornet—are flown BVLOS of remote pilots. Contrast that with BVLOS flight by U.S. com- mercial drones. Nearly any new BVLOS commer- cial drone flight is cause for a major press release. Every major news network carried stories about delivery of a human kidney via drone, which was done once as a demonstration for an FAA integrat- ed pilot program. The handful of companies the FAA allows to fly BVLOS generally do it over ease- ments owned by them and, even then, they must have visual observers monitoring each f light. A way ahead for BVLOS rules is unclear: FAA draft operations over people rules aren't viable for com- mercial UAS, remote ID rules are years out. Why would military drone companies want to switch from lucrative DOD contracts and step into an uncertain commercial drone market? The short answer is that defense companies don't want to venture into the commercial drone market. The longer answer is they're willing to try to gain advantage against their competition, but not as a stand-alone moneymaker. GIANT STEPS? Let's look at the two biggest aerospace compa- nies—Boeing and Airbus. Boeing has a large mili- tary aircraft segment and Airbus has a smaller one, but both make substantial profits from the military manned-aircraft market. However, commercial aircraft profits dwarf military in both companies. Boeing has hired and fired a commercial drone staff twice. Boeing Corporate gave up on the commercial drone market about three years ago and gave responsibility to Insitu, a wholly-owned Boeing subsidiary. Airbus only became interested in commercial drones with the advent of NASA's Urban Air Mobility project to find a path to unmanned drone taxi services. That captured the attention of Airbus Helicopters, and Airbus set up Airbus UTM to investigate the mar- ket. Neither has invested anywhere near the sort WHY NO FLOW? REGULATORY "STOP SIGNS" HAMPER MILITARY-TO- COMMERCIAL TECH TRANSFERS: RESTRICTIVE COMMERCIAL DRONE RULES FRUSTRATED MILITARY PROVIDERS COMMERCIAL BVLOS RESTRAINTS PART 107 LIMITATIONS POTENTIAL BRAND PUSHBACK IF COMMERCIAL GOES MILITARY THE MILITARY-TO-COMMERCIAL DRONE MARKET: IS IT A TWO-WAY STREET?

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