Summary of the FAA’s Proposed Drone Regulations

This morning the FAA held a conference call to announce its highly anticipated small UAS (sUAS) regulations. Sunday morning might strike as odd timing, however it’s likely that the timing had to do with the leak of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Regulatory Evaluation, Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems, which I wrote about on here yesterday. Below is a summary of the critical aspects of the proposed regulations from the FAA summary (the proposed rules have not been made available at the time of writing).

Operational Limitations

• UAS must be under 55lbs
• UAS must be operated within visual line of sight
• FPV is not permitted
• Operator must not fly over people not involved in the operation
• Daylight operations only
• Maximum speed of 87 knots
• Maximum altitude 500 feet AGL
• A single person cannot act as an operator for more than one UAS operation at a time

Operator Certification and Responsibilities
• Operators must pass an aeronautical test
• Operators must obtain an sUAS operating certificate

Aircraft Requirements
• Airworthiness is NOT required
• Aircraft markings required

Model Aircraft
• Proposed rule would not apply to model aircraft
• Proposed rule would codify the FAA’s enforcement authority in respect of model aircraft operators who are endangering the safety of the national airspace

Some of the items that are not addressed in the FAA summary which I am particularly interested in are: (1) whether the proposed rules allow a single person to operate a fleet of drones within the same operation, and (2) what the TSA security clearance check will entail.

Possible Leaked FAA Document Provides Hints Regarding Proposed Rulemaking for sUAS

A new document purporting to be prepared by the FAA Office of Aviation Policy and Plans provides hints regarding the anticipated proposed small UAS (sUAS) regulations. The possible leaked document is dated February 2015 and is titled “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Regulatory Evaluation, Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems.” The document’s authenticity has not been established, however assuming that the document is authentic, here are some of the more noteworthy insights into the upcoming proposed regulations…

Line of Sight in Daylight Below 500 ft

The FAA proposes that operators must fly within visual line of sight. The document states that at this time “there is no acceptable technological substitute for direct human vision.” The document also proposes that operators are only permitted to fly between sunrise and sunset. The rationale provided for this requirement is that sUAS will be flying at low altitudes and flying at night would make it difficult to see people on the ground. The proposed rule requires operators of sUAS to operate below 500 ft. The logic behind this ceiling height restriction is that manned aircraft generally operate above 500 ft.

sUAS Registration Requirements, No Airworthiness

Each sUAS would have to be registered with the FAA. Registration would cost around $5 and would have to be renewed every three years. According to the document, the FAA Aircraft Registration database would enable the FAA and the public to identify registered owners and operators. The document states that “this information is necessary for FAA Aviation Safety Inspectors to perform their routine checks or to investigate an incident or accident.” Although sUAS would have to be registered, airworthiness compliance would not be imposed. Because sUAS pose a lower risk to people and property, the document provides that airworthiness compliance “would not result in significant safety benefits.”

No Pilot’s License but Requires Knowledge Test and Operator Certificate

A pilot’s license would not be required to operate sUAS. The document admits that the “training, testing, proficiency and experience requirements for obtaining a commercial pilot’s license have limited relevance to the nature of small UAS operations.” Instead, operators would have to pass a test demonstrating aeronautical knowledge and would be required to obtain a small UAS operating certificate from the FAA. The test would take roughly 3 hours to complete.

TSA Security Threat Determination

According to the document, the “TSA would [need] to determine if the operators pose a security threat. The TSA considers someone to be a security threat when he or she is known to pose or is suspected of posing a threat to national security, to transportation security, or of terrorism.” The estimated cost of a security threat determination is $130 per applicant. Although the proposed rule does not impose this fee on the operator, the document states that “at some point in the future these costs may be passed directly to the operator.”

Physical Capacity Certification

The document provides that sUAS applicants would have to certify that they have “no physical or mental condition that could interfere with the safe operation of a small UAS.”

Alternative Approaches

Finally, the document reveals alternative approaches that the FAA considered in the rulemaking process. For instance, the FAA considered parsing sUAS into subcategories based on weight, operational characteristics and operating environment. The FAA dispensed with this approach as it was deemed too burdensome. However, the FAA is apparently considering a micro sUAS rule for UAS under 2kg that meet certain operational parameters including operating at less than 30 knots below 400 ft within line of sight without use of FPV. Under the micro sUAS classification, the operator would not have to complete the knowledge test however a micro sUAS operating certificate would be required.

Before Comparing Dating Profiles, Determine which Platform has Privacy Characteristics that Suit Your Needs

With Valentine’s Day looming on the horizon, it’s an ideal time to have a look at how popular dating sites and apps fare up in terms of privacy. In order to prepare this post, I reviewed the privacy policies of Match.com, OkCupid, JDate and Tinder – you’re welcome ; )

An interesting fact I came across was that several popular dating sites are part of a family of businesses that share information. For instance, Match.com and OkCupid are both part of the IAC group of companies (which also includes non-dating sites such as Ask.com, College Humor and About.com). Similarly, JDate, ChristianMingle and BlackSingles.com are all part of Spark Networks. Both IAC and Spark Networks share personal information about their users that is collected from a particular member site with other entities in the same family. But that’s just the beginning…

Match.com and OkCupid (which incidentally have the same privacy policy) state that they use personal information collected from users “to register [them] with and display [their] profile on other online dating and other social websites owned by IAC”. The policies further state that “[a]s part of our online service, your profile may be registered on and/or appear in search results or other areas of other online dating websites owned by IAC.” This disclosure is somewhat unclear, however it doesn’t seem to suggest that the use of profile information from one site on additional sites only occurs to the extent that a user chooses to register with such additional sites.

Third-party platforms offer an additional source of information. For example, if a user accesses Match.com, OkCupid or Tinder through Facebook, information from the user’s Facebook profile and from cookies placed on the user’s device by Facebook may be captured. While registering through Facebook is presented as merely an option on some dating sites, those who wish to swipe right for Tinder have no choice but to register using their Facebook account. The implication of this is profound – users have no option to keep their Facebook information separate from their Tinder account.

So, what does Tinder do with Facebook information? Tinder’s privacy policy states that “other users will be able to view information you have provided to us directly or through Facebook, such as your Facebook photos, any additional photos you upload, your first name, your age, approximate number of miles away, your personal description, and information you have in common with the person viewing your profile, such as common Facebook friends and likes.”

In what other contexts is information shared? Besides the typical law enforcement and service provider disclosures, in some cases, personal information collected by online dating platforms may also be sold or transferred to third parties. For instance, JDate’s privacy policy states that “should Spark Networks file for protection, or have a third party petition filed against it under the bankruptcy code, any assets of the company, including member personal and non-personal information may be sold or transferred, in whole or part to a new entity.” The policy doesn’t seem to impose restrictions on how such information may be used when transferred in this context.

What about communication practices? Does the platform require users to give their express consent to receiving communications through an opt-in model, or does it presume communications are desired? Each of the four platforms that I reviewed adopts an opt-out model, meaning that the provider will send communications to a user until such time that the user indicates a desire to stop receiving messages.

For the millions of users of dating sites and apps, it’s important to keep in mind that there are privacy costs to consider when setting up a profile. Just as selecting the right partner is an important choice to be made, so is determining if online dating is right for you, and if so which platform offers the privacy characteristics that you are looking for. Happy searching…

Possible Liability Concerns for Drone Manufacturers Imposing Technical Measures to Enforce No Fly Zones

Shortly after a Phantom crash-landed on the grounds of the White House, its maker DJI announced that it would release a mandatory firmware update that would restrict flights within 15.5 miles of downtown Washington, D.C.

On Friday, Senator Schumer’s office released a statement urging the FAA to mandate that manufacturers impose technical controls to prevent drones from flying in high risk areas including near airports, other aircraft and the White House.

Whether drone manufacturers enforce “No Fly Zones” on their initiative as DJI has announced it will do, or whether they will be required to do so by the FAA at a later date, there are legal liability issues that should be considered.

If a manufacturer has not imposed technical measures to enforce No Fly Zones, and an operator enters a restricted area, liability is fairly straightforward. Assuming there is no design or manufacturing defect that causes the drone to fly into the restricted area, it is unlikely that the manufacturer would be held liable for any physical injury or property damage that may occur if the operator enters a No Fly Zone.

However, if a manufacturer implements technical measures to restrict drones from entering No Fly Zones, and such measures fail, they may be opening themselves up to legal liability if an operator flies into a restricted area and causes physical injury or property damage. Although it is unclear how liability may be allocated between an operator and a manufacturer in such a case, unless manufacturers are granted immunity from such lawsuits, they may be opening themselves up to liability by attempting to enforce No Fly Zones.

A History of Designers’ Efforts to Circumvent Fashion Hacking

Over the winter holidays, I checked out Faking It: Originals, Copies and Counterfeits, an exhibition at The Museum at FIT that explores the historical battle between fashion designers and counterfeiters, and the increasingly blurred distinction between originals and unauthorized copies.

Throughout history, luxury brands have adopted measures aimed at preventing the creation of counterfeit copies. Christian Dior’s early garments donned a special ink that was only visible under black light. In the 1920s, Couturier Madeleine Vionnet used her own thumbprint as a marker of authenticity on her labels. She also applied an intricate beading technique intended to be too difficult to copy. Balenciaga and Givenchy barred the press from fashion shows in an effort to stall counterfeiters. Such efforts turned out to be futile.

In the 1930s, the Fashion Originators’ Guild of America intervened in the battle against design pirates by creating a registry of designer creations. The concept behind the registry was that manufacturers would refuse to make unauthorized copies of any designs that were registered. However, in 1941 the Federal Trade Commission found that the Guild was “eliminating the right to free competition” and subsequently the Guild was disbanded.

While many luxury brands were preoccupied with the fight against counterfeiters, a certain Coco Chanel stood apart. Madame Chanel viewed the mainstream protectionary approach as unenlightened, suggesting that “[t]he very idea of protecting the seasonal arts is childish. One should not bother to protect that which dies the minute it is born.” While other designers employed techniques aimed at deterring counterfeiters, Chanel enabled copying of her designs by selling them along with patterns and fabric samples.

The logic behind Chanel’s approach was that her original designs and their counterfeit copies served different markets. However, in recent decades, these markets are becoming less distinct with the emergence of collections like Missoni for Target that are aimed at the lower end of the market.

Transport Canada’s Position on Indoor and Tethered Drone Operations

In November, Transport Canada issued Staff Instruction 623-001, which provides guidance on the review and processing of Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) applications. Among the issues addressed are whether an SFOC is required for indoor and tethered drone operations. Below is a summary of Transport Canada’s position…

Indoor Operations

According to the Staff Instruction, there are certain situations in which you don’t need an SFOC to conduct an operation inside a building or a structure, however this is not always the case. Whether you need an SFOC or not for an indoor operation turns on who is actually present while the operation is being conducted.

If only the operation crew is present, an SFOC is not required. Similarly, if only the crew and other people who are directly participating in the operation are present, an SFOC is not needed. For example, for an indoor movie set, an SFOC would not be required if only the crew and actors are present. However, if there are individuals present within the building or structure who are not directly involved in the operation, then an SFOC would be required. An example of this would be a sporting event where members of the public would be present.

Tethered Drones

The Staff Instruction characterizes tethered drones as “obstacles to air navigation [that] are to be marked and lit in accordance with the obstruction marking and lighting standards” found in the Canadian Aviation Regulations. The Staff Instruction further provides that tethered drones that are “extremely manoeuvrable and which operate over wide vertical/horizontal areas may require an SFOC.”

It is unclear what Transport Canada considers to be an ‘extremely manoeuvrable’ tethered drone or what constitutes a ‘wide vertical/horizontal area’. However, the Staff Instruction states that, “operating an aircraft on a tether simply to avoid SFOC requirements is not a viable solution.”

Canada’s Regulations for Foreign Commercial UAV Operators

Canada’s relatively favorable framework for commercial UAV operations is attracting interest among foreign operators who are frustrated with restrictions in their home jurisdictions. The following provides a breakdown of Canadian regulations affecting foreign commercial operators…

Are foreign operators eligible to operate in Canada?

Foreign operators may conduct commercial operations in Canada if they are granted a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) from Transport Canada. To be considered a candidate for an SFOC to conduct a commercial operation, a foreign operator must demonstrate legal eligibility to operate in the operator’s home jurisdiction. For example, a US operator would require a Certificate of Waiver and Authorization (COA) or a Special Airworthiness Certificate (SAC) to be eligible to apply for an SFOC to conduct a commercial operation in Canada.

What options are available for foreign operators who aren’t legally eligible to operate in their home jurisdictions?

First, foreign operators who have no legal basis for operating in their home jurisdictions are permitted to conduct research and development operations in Canada under an SFOC. Such activities must be conducted at designated UAV test sites such as the CCUVS site recently approved in Southern Alberta. The CCUVS site operates under restricted airspace that spans 700 square nautical miles running up to 18,000 feet above sea level. Because the airspace is restricted, it is possible to complete more risky operations such as those conducted beyond visual line of sight.

Second, foreign operators who have no legal basis to operate in their home jurisdictions can set up a Canadian subsidiary through which they may conduct commercial operations. By establishing a Canadian corporate entity, operators can avoid the foreign eligibility requirements and apply through the normal SFOC process open to Canadian operators. For example, if a US corporation sets up a Canadian subsidiary, the Canadian entity can apply for an SFOC without having a COA or a SAC. Additionally, the Canadian entity would be eligible for the two new exemptions from the SFOC process (assuming the other exemption criteria are met).

From Literature to Living Rooms: Perceptions of Robots in Society

As drones have become increasingly accessible, media outlets have been preoccupied with news stories that fuel our fears about the prospect of privacy invasion and physical harm. Although drones have only recently become mainstream, society has endured a long-held fixation with the need to regulate robots in order to save itself from coming into harm’s way. This dystopian view of robots originates in Golem literature and the romantics. In 16th Century Jewish literature, Rabbi Loew of Prague created the Golem, a creature constructed from clay to protect the community from being expelled by the Roman Emperor. Rabbi Loew would deactivate the Golem on Friday evenings in preparation for the Sabbath. One Friday, the Rabbi forgot to deactivate the Golem, and it became a violent monster that needed to be destroyed. A similar theme emerged in Marry Shelley’s Frankenstein, in which a man-made monster turned against its creator.

The blueprints outlined in Golem literature and the romantics were further refined in the realm of science fiction. Writing just prior to the advent of the modern robotics industry, Asimov advanced three laws to negotiate the dangers associated with the introduction of robots into society proper. Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics provide that:
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm;
2. A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings; except where such orders would conflict with the First Law; and
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Asimov later added a Zeroth Law that would supersede the Three Laws: a robot may not harm humanity, or by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

I posed the following question to Tony Dyson, designer of R2-D2, the brave and lovable droid who many perceive as the true hero of Star Wars: As robots become increasingly autonomous, do you think we will need Asimov’s laws? Here is what Dyson had to say:

I would love to say yes, all intelligent machines (autonomous robots) that are programmed to think for themselves, must also have an overriding ‘hard wired’ set of rules to work with. These should not be guidelines, but must be a set of laws, clearly defined by the ruling body. However the practical problem is, as Rodney Brooks, co-founder of iRobot has alluded to: ‘People ask me about whether our robots follow Asimov’s laws. There is a simple reason [they don’t]: I can’t build Asimov’s laws in them.’

So we ask the question, do we face any danger from robots without Asimov’s laws? I don’t see our AI research progressing into ‘Skynet Terminator’ anytime soon, but I may be just saying that, as part of my evil plan – there is a good reason why I share the same name as the ‘Head Robotic Scientist’ in the film Terminator.

Why do we fear robots? The term robot comes from the Czech word robota, which means forced labour. Simply put, we create robots to serve and fulfill our needs. However, advances in artificial intelligence are bringing us closer to achieving autonomous robotics. If and when robots become truly autonomous, we fear that they will no longer serve us – or worse that they will turn against us and destroy us. The consequence of our fear of robots is that we will systematically resist technological advances that may prove beneficial. The debate is yet to be settled on whether robot surgeons will err less frequently than their human counterparts, or whether driverless cars will decrease the number of accidents on our roads. The point is that if we resist these advances, such questions will remain unanswered.

How can we move forward and change our perceptions about robots? In Japan, robots are highly integrated into society and this may have something to do with the different cultural outlook on human-robot interaction. For instance, in 2007, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs designated Astro Boy as the nation’s envoy for safe overseas travel. In North America, Hollywood could play an important role in shaping positive attitudes towards consumer drones and robots.

Earlier this year, Clive Thompson published an article in the Smithsonian titled “Why Do We Love R2-D2 and Not C-3PO? Thompson explored how the design of robots impacts our reaction to them, arguing that: “R2-D2 changed the mold. Roboticists now understand it’s far more successful to make their contraptions look industrial—with just a touch of humanity. The room-cleaning Roomba looks like a big flat hockey puck, but its movements and beeps seem so “smart” that people who own them give them names.” And it appears that Hollywood does in fact inspire robot makers… Co-founder of iRobot, Helen Greiner recently posted a note on Dyson’s LinkedIn profile, stating: “Because of Tony’s compelling emotive design, I fell in love with R2D2 when I was 11. This enabled my whole career in robotics from attending MIT to cofounding iRobot, the company that makes the Roomba vacuuming robot. I hope you see a little of R2D2 in your Roomba!”

Transport Canada Releases New Framework for UAV Operations

Earlier this month, Transport Canada announced that commercial operators will soon be able to benefit from two exemptions from the general Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) requirement. Today, Transport Canada published an infographic on its site detailing the new exemptions. Here’s a breakdown of the new framework…

When do you need a SFOC?
A SFOC is required if you are operating a UAV that weighs more than 35kg for any purpose. Operators must also obtain a SFOC if they are flying for “work or research” purposes and they do not meet the requirements of either of the new exemptions (for instance, if the UAV weighs more than 25kg). Before outlining the exemptions, it is important to highlight that the “research” criteria reflects an expansion of the general SFOC requirement.

When can you avoid a SFOC?
If a UAV is not being used for “work or research” and it weighs 35kg or less, a SFOC is not required, however operators are still expected to engage in safe practices. Transport Canada has enumerated “safety tips” such as: flying during daylight, within sight; avoiding airports, populated areas and moving vehicles; and not exceeding an altitude of 90 meters.

Those operating UAVs for “work or research” may be able to benefit from two exemptions. The first of these applies to operators flying UAVs weighing less than 2kg. The requirements that the operator must satisfy to qualify for this exemption include: age restrictions, carrying liability insurance, flying during daylight in direct line of sight, and flying at a distance of at least 30 metres from people, animals, buildings and vehicles not involved in the operation.

The second exemption applies to operators flying UAVs weighing between 2kg and 25kg for “work or research” purposes. This exemption features a more stringent spin on the requirements that apply to UAVs under 2kg (i.e. staying at least 150 metres away from people, animals, buildings and vehicles not involved in the operation). Additional criteria includes: developing and adhering to landing and recovery procedures and having a fire extinguisher on site.

Reflecting on the new exemptions, Brendan Schulman, a New York attorney representing commercial operators commented that “Canada’s new regulatory framework reflects a thoughtful risk-based approach and recognizes that at low weights and low altitudes, commercial drones do not pose serious safety risks. I hope our regulators in the United States take note of this alternative path to the future regulation of commercial drones.”

Transport Canada’s Exemption Notification Simultaneously Signals a Relaxation of Commercial Drone Regulations and an Increased Focus on Academic Use

Last week, Transport Canada announced upcoming changes to the regulatory framework surrounding drones. As of the end of this month, commercial operators could benefit from two exemptions from the general Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) requirement. First, an SFOC will no longer be required for commercial operators flying UAVs under 2 kilograms. And second, commercial operators conducting low risk operations using UAVs under 25kg will also be exempt from the SFOC requirement. Transport Canada has yet to release information regarding the factors that will determine whether an operation falls into the parameters of the second exemption.

A closer look at the Transport Canada announcement suggests additional implications are on the horizon. Here is the relevant statement:

“Until the new requirements come into effect, you must apply for a Special Flight Operations Certificate if:
1. Your aircraft weighs more than 35 kilograms (77 pounds).
2. You use your aircraft for work or academic purposes (such as aerial photography, geomatic surveying, crop observation, advertising, research and development).”

The academic purposes concept seems to be a new addition to the SFOC requirement. Let’s trace the evolution of the terminology employed in determining whether an SFOC is required…

Transport Canada enforces the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) and the Aeronautics Act. Subsection 101.01(1) of the CARs defines a UAV as a “power-driven aircraft, other than a model aircraft, that is designed to fly without a human operator on board.” Section 603.66 prohibits flying a UAV without complying with SFOC requirements.

Under the CARs, model aircraft means an aircraft weighing no more than 35kg that is mechanically driven or launched for recreational purposes. The CARs do not define “recreational purposes”. However, Transport Canada’s Staff Instruction No. 623-001 points to the definition in the Aeronautics Act which turns on whether there is hire and reward, which is defined as “any payment, consideration, gratuity or benefit, directly or indirectly charged, demanded, received or collected by any person for the use of an aircraft”.

A few weeks ago, Transport Canada published an infographic on its website to assist UAV operators in determining whether they need to apply for an SFOC. The infographic states that if you are not using the UAV for “work” and it does not weigh more than 35kg, you do not need an SFOC – still no mention of academic purposes. It appears that the notice regarding the two upcoming exemptions might be the first instance of the academic purposes terminology.

What are the implications of the new terminology? Without a definition of “academic purposes”, it is unclear how far reaching the effects of the terminology will be. Is the term meant to capture research and development activities taking place in academic institutions? Will it apply to student projects outside of research lab environments? Transport Canada will need to explain what is meant by “academic purposes” to ensure that UAV operators have clarity regarding the application of the SFOC requirements in academia.