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USA local: Nasa article - Could This Become the First Mars Airplane?


June 30, 2015

When an aircraft makes its first flight on Mars in the 2020s, a NASA Armstrong innovation may have made it possible.

A prototype of the Preliminary Research Aerodynamic Design to Land on Mars, or Prandtl-m, which is a flying wing aircraft with a twist, is planned to be ready for launch from a high altitude balloon later this year. The Prandtl–m will be released at about at 100,000 feet altitude, which will simulate the flight conditions of the Martian atmosphere, said Al Bowers, NASA Armstrong chief scientist and Prandtl-m program manager.

The tests could validate how the aircraft works, leading to modifications that will allow it to fold and deploy from a 3U CubeSat in the aeroshell of a future Mars rover. A CubeSat is a miniature satellite used for space research that is usually about four inches in each dimension, a 3U is three of those stacked together.

"The aircraft would be part of the ballast that would be ejected from the aeroshell that takes the Mars rover to the planet," Bowers said." It would be able to deploy and fly in the Martian atmosphere and glide down and land. The Prandtl-m could overfly some of the proposed landing sites for a future astronaut mission and send back to Earth very detailed high resolution photographic map images that could tell scientists about the suitability of those landing sites."

Because the Prandtl-m could ride in a CubeSat as ballast aboard the aeroshell/Mars rover piggyback stack going to Mars in 2022-2024, the additional weight would not add to the mission's cost, he said. Once in the Martian atmosphere, the Prandtl-m would emerge from its host, deploy and begin its mission.

"It would have a flight time of right around 10 minutes. The aircraft would be gliding for the last 2,000 feet to the surface of Mars and have a range of about 20 miles," Bowers said.

Before that happens, a configuration will be developed for the first of three tests here on Earth.

"We have a number of summer community college students coming that are going to help us design and build the aircraft that will complete the first phase of the mission," Bowers said. "We're going to build some vehicles and we are going to put them in very unusual attitudes and see if they will recover where other aircraft would not. Our expectation is that they will recover. As soon as we get that information, we will feel much better flying it from a high-altitude balloon."

In fact, Bowers credited the idea of the Prandtl-m to a brainstorming session with colleague Dave Berger, a NASA Armstrong aeronautical engineer who specializes in flow physics and propulsion and works with the Education Office. Berger and Bowers discussed a project that college students could immerse themselves in that would be extraordinary – helping to prepare a vehicle that could lead to a Mars flier was their answer.

"The actual aircraft's wingspan when it is deployed would measure 24 inches and weigh less than a pound," Bowers said. "With Mars gravity 38 percent of what it is on Earth, that actually allows us up to 2.6 pounds and the vehicle will still weigh only 1 pound on Mars. It will be made of composite material, either fiberglass or carbon fiber. We believe this particular design could best recover from the unusual conditions of an ejection."

The Flight Opportunities Program, which is managed at NASA Armstrong, has agreed to fund two balloon flights during the next several years and potentially a sounding rocket flight following that to demonstrate how the flier would work on Mars, Bowers said. The flights will be at one of two locations – Tucson, Arizona, or Tillamook, Oregon. NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California, manages the Flight Opportunities solicitation and selection of technologies to be tested and demonstrated on commercial flight vehicles.

"We are going to use GPS initially, but obviously there is no GPS on Mars, so later on we will have to find something else for navigation," Bowers said. "But the little autopilot that provides the waypoint navigation, that's one of the things we're going to exercise on a research vehicle and then on the prototype that flies on a future balloon flight."

The flight test could also include some scientific research that will apply to a Mars mission.

"We could have one of two small science payloads on the Prandtl-m on that first balloon flight," Bowers said. "It might be the mapping camera, or one might be a small, high-altitude radiometer to measure radiation at very high altitudes of Earth's atmosphere. Eventually the aircraft may carry both of them at the same time."

A second research flight from a balloon is planned for next year and would feature an aircraft capable of returning to the launch site on a flight that could be as long as five hours as it glides back to Earth, he said.

"We will do the same thing again with a balloon flight to about the same altitude," Bowers said. "On that mission Prandtl-m would actually be inside a CubeSat container. The balloon would drop the CubeSat container and then the aircraft would deploy from the container right after the drop, unfold and fly away."

Success could lead to a third mission that is already being discussed because the Flight Opportunities Program has access to a sounding rocket capable of going to very high altitudes, Bowers said.

"That mission could be to 450,000 feet and the release from a CubeSat at apogee," he said. "The aircraft would fall back into the Earth's atmosphere and as it approaches the 110,000-to-115,000-feet altitude range, the glider would deploy just as though it was over the surface of Mars.

"If the Prandtl-m completes a 450,000-foot drop, then I think the project stands a very good chance of being able to go to NASA Headquarters and say we would like permission to ride to Mars with one of the rovers."

This illustration shows what a Prandtl-m might look like flying above the surface of Mars.
Credits: NASA Illustration / Dennis Calaba


Jay Levine, X-Press editor
NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center



(Drone) Test Sites in the USA


Test Sites

State of NevadaUniversity of Alaska
North Dakota Department of CommerceTexas A&M University Corpus ChristiGriffiss International Airport (NY)Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State

FAA Announces Six UAS Test Sites

After a rigorous 10-month selection process involving 25 proposals from 24 states, the Federal Aviation Administration has chosen six unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) research and test site operators across the country. In selecting the six test site operators, the FAA considered geography, climate, location of ground infrastructure, research needs, airspace use, safety, aviation experience and risk. In totality, these six test applications achieve cross-country geographic and climatic diversity and help the FAA meet its UAS research needs.

Across the six applicants, the FAA is confident that the agency's research goals of System Safety & Data Gathering, Aircraft Certification, Command & Control Link Issues, Control Station Layout & Certification, Ground & Airborne Sense & Avoid, and Environmental Impacts will be met.

Each test site operator will manage the test site in a way that will give access to parties interested in using the site. The FAA's role is to ensure each operator sets up a safe testing environment and to provide oversight that guarantees each site operates under strict safety standards.

UAS Designated Airworthiness Representatives (DARs) at UAS Test Sites

The FAA issued an Order for Designated Airworthiness Representatives for UAS Certification at UAS Test Sites on September 17, 2014.

This order sets policy and provides training requirements limited to the issuance of special airworthiness certificates in the experimental category at UAS Test Sites. Experimental certificates are issued to aircraft that do not possess traditional airworthiness certificates, for specific operations including crew training or showing compliance with regulations.

For more information or to take advantage of this program, contact a UAS Test Site.

Final FAA Privacy Policy for UAS Test Sites

In connection with the UAS Test Site selection, the FAA is sending a final privacy policy to the Federal Register that requires test site operators to comply with federal, state, and other laws on individual privacy protection, and take other measures related to privacy. Read the Final Privacy Requirements for the UAS Test Site Program (PDF)






By Lia Reich

Tue, 05/26/2015 - 07:35 pm

Over 40 university and corporate partners including Texas A&M and Mississippi State University are providing analysis products for the marketplace. Additionally, PrecisionHawk’s acquisition of satellite data provider TerraServer will allow marketplace users to link satellite and drone data to observe change over time.

Raleigh, NC – The Algorithm Marketplace, launched today in BETA, provides automated analysis of aerial data acquired by UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles). Using sophisticated algorithms, drone operators no longer need a background in geographic information system (GIS) or remote sensing to interpret their aerial data, instead, the marketplace provides an action-based report to improve management of assets. The BETA launch includes initial algorithms in agriculture, but users can expect solutions to be deployed in the areas of environmental monitoring, energy, insurance and infrastructure assessment.

“We spent the past 18 months aggregating more than 100 aerial analysis algorithms from leading research partners in North America and Europe,” said Dr. Ally Ferguson, PrecisionHawk Director of Geospatial Applications.  “Although several are deployed now, we are testing many of our internal and partner solutions in real world environments throughout the summer of 2015.”

The patent pending marketplace is a part of, PrecisionHawk’s drone data platform. Video Overview:

DataMapper is an end-to-end data processing, management and analysis tool for drones designed to deliver actionable insights across industries.

“As we deploy additional automation and verification tools over the next few months, users can expect many of the analysis algorithms to process in as little as a few minutes, empowering a wide variety of industries,” said Andrew Slater, PrecisionHawk VP of Software. “Automation benefits companies who not only need answers quickly, but also those who need to control costs when they need to analyze large volumes of aerial data.”

The market is open to companies, universities and students to post and monetize their analysis tools at no cost. A share of the revenue generated from every algorithm sale goes back to the partner. In addition, algorithm automation tools can be set to private by companies who wish to extract the benefit of automation without sharing any IP with anyone outside their business.

“We set out to build an open IP platform from the beginning,” said Bob Young, PrecisionHawk Chairman. “In the same way that desktop computers needed an abundance of easy to use software to change the world, similarly, drones need a platform where software developers can build the tools that are necessary to scale.”

“The Algorithm Marketplace opens up the remote sensing community and allows institutions like Texas A&M, to see its research solve tangible real world problems for non-technical users.” said Michael Bishop, founding director of the Center for Geospatial Sciences, Applications and Technology at Texas A&M University.

Algorithms are being developed to help companies better evaluate change in conditions over time. To support these tools, PrecisionHawk recently acquired Terraserver (, a leading online satellite imagery provider. TerraServer, an 18-year old business, has 1.6 million visitors annually.

“We kept finding that we needed satellite data to create software solutions for the drone industry,” said Stefan Lataille, PrecisionHawk GIS Scientist.  “Drone platforms need to understand their environment, and Terraserver, with its access to historical and current satellite data provides the building blocks to create better analysis tools for drone users to identify how the world changes over time.”

About Data Mapper by PrecisionHawk:

DataMapper is a set of aerial software solutions created by PrecisionHawk. DataMapper provides users with the ability to store, process, share and analyze aerial data collected by unmanned aerial vehicles. The cloud and desktop based software tools are designed to help users efficiently move aerial data with software and compression tools, to process and interpret raw data into usable information in the form of automated 2D and 3D orthomosaic processing and allow users to simply apply analysis tools in The Algorithm Marketplace. To learn more visit or Twitter @TheDataMapper.




New America launches new database of drone regulation and civil use of drones

press release | June 03, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC — New America is pleased to announce the public release of “World of Drones,” comprising two new databases, of drone regulation and civil drone use, which can be found at:

As drones have grown cheaper and more capable, they are becoming much more common. Nevertheless, until today, drone users have not had a single destination with up-to-date information about worldwide drone regulations. This site fills that gap. In some countries, the regulation of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) is quickly changing; many others still lack a clear regulatory regime. The map of UAV regulations is New America's effort to gather in a single place the best available information about the current state of global drone regulation.

The new website also includes a database of over 120 civil drone projects that is meant to illustrate the diverse uses of drones in disaster response, mapping efforts, environmental monitoring, and other applications. It includes examples like mapmaking drone flights made by Peruvian archaeologists and by an NGO that worked with Guyanese villagers, the UAV response to the earthquake earlier this year in Nepal, and efforts by UN peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to use drones to protect civilians.

Both databases will be updated regularly. Drone users, regulators, and interested members of the public are invited to proactively inform New America of developments via a web form (available here) or by sending an email to

“These databases will be a valuable resource both for people seeking to fly drones and for those seeking to understand what drones are capable of accomplishing,” said Peter Bergen, New America Vice President, and Director of the International Security and Future of War programs. 

These maps are a joint effort of New America's International Security Program and Open Technology Institute. They are part of a larger project that builds on the policy and technical expertise of both programs to provide critical analyses of the challenges facing those who would use drones and other aerial surveillance platforms to combat poverty and insecurity. They are made possible with support from Omidyar Network and Humanity United.

This work is the latest chapter in New America's broader work in analyzing the impact of drones, including analyses of the production and export of military drones.




France local: CerbAir, creator of DroneWatch - the very first effective and accessible small drone detection system

Press Release : June 15, 2015

TechnoFOUNDERS launches start-up company CerbAir, creator of DroneWatch - the very first effective and accessible small drone detection system

In response to the recent growth of the civilian drone market (nearly two million will be sold within the next five years) and the increasingly problematic threat they pose, French start-up company CerbAir, conceived by TechnoFOUNDERS, has developed DroneWatch, the first drone detector to feature a stereoscopic camera.

Until now, there existed not a single small drone detection system - despite more the presence of more than five million sensitive sites worldwide. Now the call for detection has been answered: French start-up company CerbAir, launched by the venture builder TechnoFOUNDERS, introduces a revolutionary drone detector: DroneWatch!

DroneWatch was created with businesses, government institutions and private parties in mind. Aside from easy installation, a secure and customizable online platform and real-time alerts, DroneWatch boasts even more cutting-edge features:
 o     Optical stereoscope technology allows for precision tracking of aerial targets, paving the way for eventual neutralization;
o     Precision data-processing algorithms allow for highly accurate, real-time detection and analysis of small, airborne drones within the surveillance zone;
o     Accessible pricing for any and all establishments seeking to equip their premises with a counter-drone system capable of detecting spy and cargo drones.

Compared to competitors, DroneWatch has positioned itself as the first effective and accessible small drone detection system. As the first start-up company launched by venture builder TechnoFOUNDERS, CerbAir forecasts hundreds of unit sales, as well as the creation of approximately 15 jobs, all within the next few months.

Bastien Oggeri, CerbAir product manager, said, “While nearly two million drones will be sold within the next five years, we are responding to a gap in the market with an effective small drone detector.”

While nearly two million drones will be sold within the next five years, we are responding to a gap in the market with an effective small drone detector.



USA local: Press Release - PHPA Submits Drone Recommendations to FAA

Professional Helicopter Pilots Association (PHPA) Submits Drone Recommendations to FAA

Los Angeles, CA, June 2, 2015: Last month, we advised our members that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was soliciting input from the aviation community regarding future regulations affecting drone operations.

PHPA representatives submitted a response based on our discussions with several key players, including helicopter operators, drone operators, air traffic controllers and others. Our submittal is attached below, but here are a quick list of some of our recommendations.

 Altitude limits (200' AGL)
 Different classes based on weight, with additional limitations
 Delay larger weight ranges pending further experimentation
 Expand and continue the COA approach for certain categories
 Aircraft markings for day visibility
 Tracking capability / geolocation
 Speed limitations (50 mph)
 Airspace restrictions
 Expanded operator training including real world orientation flight
 Insurance requirements of substantial nature
 and more.
We will keep you updated on future developments.

These devices are permanently changing the helicopter industry in many ways beyond the issues of safety (paramount) and into the issues of cost efficient methodologies and markets for hover-capable craft.

PHPA Board of Directors

FAA Rulemaking Docket 2015 - 0150
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140
Washington DC 20590

Date: April 24, 2015

Subject: FAA Drone Rulemaking 14 CFR 91

The Professional Helicopter Pilots Association based in Los Angeles, California, has considered the current FAA Rulemaking Project for the operation of Drone Aircraft in U.S. Airspace. As you are aware the airspace in the greater Los Angeles area is among the most congested airspace in the United States as well as the world. Our concerns are for safety of operations and protection of human life. We offer the following comments for consideration by the FAA in the current Rulemaking Project.

Comments: Rulemaking Process: Given the extreme issues of safety, visibility, control, certification and enforcement, we respectfully suggest that the rulemaking proceed in progressive steps, limited at first and expanding as time and experience accumulate ~ even more so than is currently the case.

For instance, rather than have initial rulemaking apply to UAS under 55 lbs gross weight at take-off (“GWATO”), initial rulemaking should be only for UAS under 15 lbs GWATO. Experience should be gathered for two years under whatever broad licensing rules are established for operation of UAS at 15 lbs or less, and then move to Rulemaking for UAS of a higher gross weight at take-off, such as <55 lbs.

For those parties who wish to operate UAS at or below 55 lbs GWATO, such partiesshould, during that subsequent two year period (likely 2017~2019) be required to receive a Certificate of Authorization (“COA”) as these parties are today.

This approach would not limit legitimate operators willing to go through the COA process, yet it would provide the FAA with critical and substantial information regarding the regulated operation of UAS both of the very small size (under 15 lbs) and further and critical information in regards to operations of UAS at or below 55 lbs GWATO.

Such a progressive Rulemaking Process would also provide time for the technology to catch up with the desires in the marketplace as well as the substantial difficulties of integrating UAS into a long­operating and extremely well­operating National Airspace System (“NAS”), a NAS that has taken over 100 years to develop and is arguably better than any “nas” of any other country.

For instance, this would provide time for miniaturization, cost reduction and weight reduction of transponder technology, for miniaturization and cost reduction of TCAS technology, and even miniaturization, weight reduction and cost reduction of ADS-B Out technology.

Effectively, this approach would allow not only for the accumulation of far more illustrative data on which the FAA would be afforded the opportunity to make wise decisions, but this approach would allow for the affordable “sense and avoid” technology to develop for UAS that will make it as or more effective than the FAR requirements for “see and be seen” in VFR piloted aircraft or asis created today by sophisticated Air Traffic Control for IFR traffic.

We strongly recommend this tiered approach to the development of FARs. However, whether or not this specific recommendation for expanded tiered or stair-stepped development of FARs is adopted by the FAA, we make the following comments and recommendations under the current approach.

Aircraft Requirements:

 Small UAS under 55 pounds should have lighting systems to provide visual awareness to other aircraft and persons on the ground. This lighting system should be intense enough to be visible during daylight and under bright sunlight conditions.
 UAS markings should include bright color finish and markings to ensure they are highly visible during daylight hours of operation.
 While the NPRM requires some form of aircraft registration we recommend that each UAS in this category be registered for operation to enable tracking and accountability.
 UAS Aircraft noise emissions should be below 65 DBE under all conditions of operation. Operational Limitations:
 Maximum altitude for Small UAS operations should be restricted to 200 ft AGL unless under positive control by ATC to prevent collisions with low flying helicopters and other aircraft. This is a highly significant recommendation at this stage of progressive integration and data accumulation for effective Rulemaking.
 Small UAS aircraft must not be operated over persons or property in an unsafe manner, or in a manner not directly involved in their appropriate permitted operation ~ provision for which should be made. FAA support should be provided for means by which individuals or companies can limit or eliminate the overhead or adjacent operation of UAS by anyone other than properly certified public service / public safety operators.
 Visual observation by a second person as a means to provide a primary set of eyes and control should not be permitted. Such an approach involving little or no direct control allows substantially unsafe operating conditions.
 Maximum operational airspeed should be restricted to below 50 mph. The proposed 100 mph limit is excessive and unsafe under many conditions within which UAS will fly.  UAS operations in Class B Airspace should not be allowed even with ATC permission unless a certified transponder or other certified multi-dimensional position-locating device is installed which is operational at least above 200 feet AGL.
 Eventually, such certified multi-dimensional position-locating device should be required of ALL UAS being flown in U.S. Airspace regardless of status as COA- holder, licensed operator and/or hobbyist and regardless of whether the UAS operation is in currently regulated airspace or in currently unregulated airspace (such as Class G Airspace or airspace below the final determination of allowed altitude of operation by licensed operators).

Notification of Operations:
 All operations of UAS over 200 feet (by definition of these recommendations requiring a COA for the next 3~4 years) should require notification of no less than 48 hours in advance to the FAA for smooth and easy incorporation of operations plans into NOTAMs and, if applicable, ATIS broadcasts.
 The FAA should provide an easily accessible and effectively-staffed capacity to handle and process these notifications especially in, but not limited to, areas of congested airspace such as the greater Los Angeles area and other major metropolitan areas of the United States.

Operator Certification:
 The FAA Regulations should require UAS Operators to report to the FAA within 48 hours all accidents resulting in substantial damage to the operator’s UAS and absolutely provide reporting in regards to accidents involving other aircraft during flight whether the other aircraft are “manned” and cockpit­piloted or “umanned” and not cockpit­piloted.
 UAS Operator Certification should be required and issued by the FAA and require examination by a certified FAA UAS Examiner. Such training should require a review of cockpit-piloted aircraft rules and regulations AND a familiarization flight of at least one hour and a half or more with a CFII in a cockpit-piloted aircraft (fixed or rotary) in the general area of proposed UAS operations, with at least one-half hour of that occurring well into darkness, for instance at least an hour past official sunset or an hour prior to official sunrise. Such a “fam­flight” is particularly important in airspace as congested at what we experience in greater Los Angeles, but such a “fam­flight” should be required of any UAS Operator as a part of receiving his or her or the entity’s Operator Certification and especially in the case of receiving a COA for commercial operations or operations over 200 ft AGL.
 Pilot-in-Command concept equivalency should be established within the context of operation of a UAS. Not only must the individual operating a UAS be licensed but any corporate entity receiving a COA must have a designated “UASOPIC” (or “UAS Operator Pilot in Command”) specifically designated and put in writing (similar to the use of logbooks in cockpit-piloted flight) and kept on record for a minimum of five (5) years with access provided to any Law Enforcement Officer or FAA Inspector upon request.
 Public privacy is a critical issue for operations of UAS Aircraft as is respect for the FARs that result from this Rulemaking Project and others that may follow. Making sure that such respect exists both for privacy as well as for rules of operation is beyond the manpower capacities of the FAA as currently organized or likely eventually to be organized; therefore, we have the need for delegated or distributed enforcement. Operators of UAS should be required to present their Operators Certificate to any Law Enforcement Officer or FAA Inspector on demand. As a part of such an enforcement initiative, it will be incumbent upon the FAA to provide educational materials and a program for education of all local and national law enforcement organizations and employees. Such a program should, ideally, have Congressional approval and legislative support; however, should that not be forthcoming, it is our considered opinion that the FAA should provide at the very least the educational materials on the internet to all local, State and national law enforcement organizations in regards to the FARs, as hereby developed, and the effective “deputizing” of these personnel as “arms of the law” (or, specifically, the FARs) in the enforcement and control of any operator of UAS in public airspace as specified in the FARs.

Model or Hobby Aircraft:
 The proposed rules should codify FAA's enforcement authority in Part 101 to prevent careless and reckless operations of UAS or Model/Hobby Aircraft wherever such aircraft are operated, including restricted airspace and including TFR designated airspace.
 Our recommendations are not designed to further limit Model or Hobby Aircraft operations in specifically designated airspace “boxes” where these are currently allowed or may in the future be established.
 To the extent that these airspace “boxes” for Model or Hobby Aircraft are established, such “boxes” should be appropriately charted and such charts as TAC and Sectional charts be updated periodically in regards to the existence of these “boxes”.

 As we are all aware, the private sector, through independent insurance companies, as much or more than the FAA, designates who can fly and who cannot fly at least in commercial operations and often in aircraft rental or lease operations in the U.S.
 Given that the barriers to entry into operation of UAS of anything less than meaningful military magnitude, and certainly for anything under 55 lbs GWATO, has come down by leaps and bounds; and since these cost barriers to entry are so low BUT the cost of collision with very expensive and multi-passenger cockpit-piloted aircraft has expanded exponentially in the past few years and even the past few months plus given the not-inconsequential potential losses and liabilities to ground-based assets and personnel ~ given these facts, we strongly recommend that any COA holder (according to these recommendations anyone operating a UAS above 200 feet or over 15 lbs GWATO) be required to carry a minimum of $1,000,000 gross insurance and no less than $200,000 per human disabled or deceased as a direct or indirect result of that COA holder’s operation of a UAS. Further, we recommend that any licensee (as determined to be so by the FAA) be required to hold such insurance for all operations including those under 200 ft AGL immediately.
 Such insurance requirements should be promulgated for at least the next five (5) years and, if set in place for only those five (5) years, reviewed in regards to the mandate at year four (4) for consideration and continuance beyond the initial five (5) years

PHPA also respectfully requests extension of the comment period from April 24, 2015 to May 24, 2015 as previously requested by Helicopter Association International. This time extension would allow comments from operators of helicopters who will be sharing the airspace with these UAS to ensure the safety of these operators and the safety of the general public. 

William Withycombe
PHPA Board of Directors