CONFIRM Flight Operations Begin

Attollo kicked off flight operations with the Coastal and Fire Management (CONFIRM) project on December 11th. Flight crew members consisted of personnel from the Duke University Marine Lab, University of North Carolina Institute for the Environment, Camp Lejeune Environmental Management Division and Attollo.

Multiple flights were conducted aboard Camp Lejeune along Onslow Beach for baseline data collection and post storm analysis after Hurricanes Florence and Michael roared through eastern North Carolina a few months ago. While the beach has been surveyed from the ground previously, this marks the first occasion local university scientists have mapped the beach via unmanned aerial systems. Ground control points (GCPs) were also established along the beach to validate the accuracy of aerial collection.

These were the first flights utilizing the Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) waiver granted to the CONFIRM project team utilizing the SenseFly eBee Plus aircraft. There have been very few COTS waivers granted by the DoD due to the complex security problems posed by UAS, however execution of the plans laid out in our waiver did not pose any issues. Integrating into flight operations with military aircraft in restricted airspace and coordinating with Camp Lejeune Range Control proved to be seamless and efficient.  

Attollo Enables CONFIRM PROJECT with DoD COTS UAS Ban Waiver

On May 14th, 2018, the Department of Defense banned the purchase and use of all commercial-over-the-shelf (COTS) unmanned aerial systems (UAS) while on DoD owned property. Senator Chris Murphy cited security risks from foreign-made drones prompting an investigation by the DoD Inspector General. The IG found that the DoD had not implemented an adequate process to assess cyber-security risks associated with using COTS unmanned systems.

Attollo works directly with DoD installation partners to support Small UAS integration to enhance the capability and efficiency of DoD land management and the “COTS Ban” presented a significant challenge to the approach of this project.

With the backing of Marine Corps Installation Camp Lejeune, Attollo submitted a request for exemption to the DoD CIO and USD (A&S) which address the two primary concerns of the COTS ban: adequately assessing and mitigating the cyber security risk of COTS drones.  To address assessment of cyber risks Attollo developed a Risk Management Framework (RMF) for the aircraft to be utilized for the Coastal and Fire Management (CONFRIM) project. This RMF dictates the mitigations or controls to limit impact and likelihood of cyber threats and is designed to be continuously monitored for effectiveness and to capture changes to the system and environment in which it is used.

On Friday, 21 September 2018, this framework was signed and accepted by USD (A&S) and Attollo/Duke University will be able to capture critical data regarding the response and recovery of Camp Lejeune training areas after the severe impacts of Hurricane Florence.

As a small business comprised of military veterans, we take pride in providing solutions that are rooted in past experiences with these same challenges and look forward to assisting Camp Lejeune installations in their recovery efforts from the storm.

Attollo Facilitates Training of New Blackjack Pilots

Attollo UAS traveled to Hawaii for Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron (VMU) 3’s transition from the RQ-7B “Shadow” to the RQ-21A “Blackjack”.  During the event, Attollo demonstrated its expertise in the implementation and facilitation of training on the Mission Training Device (MTD), a system which serves as the RQ-21A’s simulator/emulator and mission planning device.

Two of the squadron’s subject matter experts were able to receive advanced training on the system’s core applications and usage, as well as coding, networking, and troubleshooting during the event.

“Learning the capabilities of the MTD is a humbling responsibility.” said LopezRoman, a Systems Engineer at Attollo UAS. “The coding files that are created on this device are the same files which are loaded onto the unmanned aircraft for live flights. In essence, the responsibility you now have can determine your unit’s success”.

The Attollo team was able to set-up 4 instructor and student simulator training stations using 8 Mission Training Devices. In total, 16 students were trained utilizing the devices.

Knowledge Gap

For the first 100 years of aviation most of society’s interaction with aircraft was that of a passenger. The complexities of flight were left to the professionals to handle. The dawn of the small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS), or drone, has changed the course of the industry and placed aviation in the hands of the masses. Innovation and application soared to new heights, but the forward progress has also created a knowledge void.

The main misperception about the aviation industry is that flying an aircraft is hard. Being a pilot is not for everyone, however manipulating the controls of an aircraft is within the capabilities of most with the desire to learn. However, operating an aircraft as a safe and efficient participant in the National Airspace System is difficult. Drones have given the public a false impression that the difficulties of aviation have been solved, but in reality, drones have only simplified flying not aviation.

Whether realized or not, every drone flight is participating in the greater airspace system. Often these flights are harmless, often illegal in one manor or another, but harmless. The safety of aviation relies on a concerted effort to identify and mitigate risk. Here lies the problem, most sUAS flights are harmless due to chance, not planning. An ignorant or negligent flight doesn’t end in a mid-air collision because the other aircraft happens to be absent.

This is the knowledge gap. Most airspace is void of traffic 99% of the time. While airspace is a huge volume of air, most of manned aviation happens in very predictable columns and corridors. Knowing how to be a safe participant in the National Airspace system allows a sUAS pilot to analyze where they are flying and make smart decisions based on risk levels vice chance.

Until the knowledge gap is recognized and adopted by the public, sUAS operations will continue to be a game of luck. Yes, you are probably more likely to be struck by lighting while flying your drone than to have a mid-air collision. That doesn’t make you any less culpable.

"Traffic, Traffic" - Near Mid-Air in Hollywood, Florida

On Aug 16, 2018, a small Unmanned Aircraft System was involved in a near miss with a Bell 407 helicopter flying in Hollywood, FL. In a video shot by the drone camera and posted to YouTube, the helicopter is seen passing just feet beneath the drone. The operator, Masih Persian posted, “Enjoying an afternoon flight with my drone around Hollywood Beach, FL. A private helicopter flew right into my drone. I guess I got lucky that day nothing has happened. Phewww.” The FAA is currently investigating the incident.  

The consequences of a mid-air collision need no explanation. Ways to mitigate future incidents such as this, however, require further discussion. The first question is: what level of training, if any, does the UAS pilot have? Drones are often thought of as toys, but it is easy to see in the picture that a ‘toy’ could easily cause an aviation disaster. Masih Persian is not listed in the FAA’s Airmen Inquiry page as holding any aviation certificates. Due to the abundance of highly trafficked airspace in south Florida, it is safe to say that, without any formal training, a novice operator would be lost in the complexity.

Over the span of 55 miles of coastline between Miami and Pompano Beach, there are 7 high traffic airports consisting of Class B, C, and D intertwined airspaces beginning at the surface. Using a Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) system facility map, it appears the flight was conducted in a 400 ft authorization box. If this was indeed the location of the flight, the pilot would have been required to file a request which requires a Part 107 certificate. Further, following the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (PL 112-95 Sect 336), you are required to follow a community-based set of safety guidelines. I assume the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) would definitely advise against flying in this congested area.

Many UAS pilots operate under the misconception that staying below 400 feet is the safe zone, which Mr. Persian said he was. This case exemplifies the shortcomings of that thought process. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, it is clear to see that the helicopter would have been flying at less than that. If the flight was conducted 500 yards to the south, it could have been legal, and Mr. Persian would still have been faced with the same near miss scenario. A thorough study of the area before takeoff is essential to the safe conduct of a flight.

redUAS to Develop Counter Unmanned Aircraft Systems (C-UAS) Course for First Responders

HOLLYWOOD, MD, June 6, 2018 – redUAS, a counter-UAS services, training and operations company, was awarded a contract through New Mexico Tech to develop and deliver C-UAS training. redUAS will build C-UAS training specifically for first responders, security and emergency management personnel worldwide.

New Mexico Tech’s Energetic Materials Research and Testing offers high-quality training to emergency responders around the globe. New Mexico Tech’s offerings are geared toward preparing emergency first responders to better prevent and respond to terrorist incidents.

In an environment where drones are proliferating, and many hobbyist operators fly without awareness of FAA rules and airspace regulations, first responders and emergency crews face increasing security risks from above. There is also growing concern over the threat of weaponized or other payload-equipped drones being utilized by malicious actors or terrorist organizations, as detailed in the DHS bulletin issued last year. redUAS offers training, services and technology consultation to organizations seeking to mitigate this threat.

“This training is critical and comes at a time when the threat is very real,” Chris Sacco, Managing Partner of redUAS noted. “redUAS has been building counter-UAS capabilities through both operational experience and as the C-UAS firm of choice for high-profile public events like the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. As one of the only companies offering training, services and assistance with technology selection, we are uniquely qualified to assist NMT with ensuring first responders across the country are prepared for any UAS-based threat they may encounter.” 

Associate Director of Training at NMT, Joel Haley, said, “This training will help round out our preparedness offerings in an area we believe to be increasingly critical to first responders. We are pleased to be teaming with redUAS and believe the operational perspective they bring as former military members and first responders will be a good fit for our students.”

About redUAS: redUAS is a joint venture between six veteran-owned and first responder-owned small businesses with unique first-hand knowledge of how drones are being employed for military operations, emergency services, and for homeland security. The company is made up of combat-proven drone professionals with real-world counter-UAS experience who can help customers gain true understanding of the threat, and work with partners to develop employable C-UAS Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs). redUAS includes: ABSI Defense, Avian, Atollo, Liberty Consulting Solutions, Company 6 UAS and Golden-Aero.

About New Mexico Tech:   Preparing emergency first responders to better prevent and respond to terrorist incidents in communities around the globe.

Attollo Provides ESTCP UAS Technology Transition for MCB Camp Lejeune

Attollo LLC has teamed up with Duke University Marine Robotics & Remote Sensing Lab and University of North Carolina Institute for Marine Sciences for DoD awarded UAV land and facility management project. During this multi-year project, Attollo will leverage it's experience in UAS training and operations to safely integrate UAS into the complex airspace above military instillation for environmental management and research purposes.