Senator Cory Booker To Introduce Commercial Drone Legislation Following FAA’s Amazon Ruling

DHL has already begun experimenting with drone delivery in Germany. Senator Cory Booker is expected to introduce a bill on Tuesday that will allow for companies to test drones for commercial purposes in the U.S. dhldrone-e1427135330207-1940x1091(Photo: Associated Press)

By Ryan Mac and Frank Bi

U.S. Senator Cory Booker is set to introduce legislation to establish temporary rules to govern the commercial use of drones that could greatly expand the ability of companies to fly unmanned vehicles, according to documents obtained by FORBES.

On Tuesday, the junior senator from New Jersey could present a bill before the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security that will allow for the piloting of small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for purposes such as the surveying of construction sites or the mapping of crops. If passed, the legislation will dramatically change the government’s stance toward the commercial use of drones, which is currently banned by the Federal Aviation Administration, with only a few exceptions.

According to sources familiar with Booker’s proposed legislation who provided a two-week old draft of the document, the bill will create a temporary set of conditions that will be placed on UAVs used for business until the FAA issues final rules on the matter. The “Commercial UAV Modernization Act” will allow operators that have passed a knowledge test to commercially operate drones below a 500-feet limit, within the FAA’s already defined “visual flight rules” and only during daylight, unless otherwise exempted. One source expected Booker to unveil the legislation on Tuesday, while another said that tomorrow may be too early, but to expect the bill in the near future.

“It’s all speculation at the moment,” said Monique Waters, a spokesperson for Senator Booker, when asked about the legislation.
With observers expecting the FAA to possibly take up to two years to define rules regarding commercial drones, the bill already has support from members of both parties within the 20-person subcommittee, which includes Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Maria Cantwell of Washington state, according to the source. The source also noted that Republican Senator Dean Heller from Nevada is among its biggest proponents. A spokesperson for Senator Heller did not respond to calls requesting comment.
Booker’s legislation is separate from the new rules that are expected to be introduced by the FAA before a congressional subcommittee hearing on Tuesday. First reported by Reuters, the FAA, may streamline the process by which companies can obtain drone exemption permits by no longer requiring businesses to file for documentation for each new use of a drone. Until recently, the administration has received more than 750 requests for exemptions under the current ban on commercial UAVs, but has only issued about 50. The FAA was unaware that Booker was going to introduce legislation and declined to comment.

“Today there are thousands of end businesses waiting for the appropriate regulatory environment to use drone-based solutions,” said Kespry CEO Paul Doersch, whose startup is developing a high-end drone for aerial imaging and analysis. “As the industry evolves, we can expect hundreds of thousands of businesses to take advantage of this technology over the next five to ten years.”

Last week, AMZN -0.41% received a much-publicized certificate to begin testing its delivery drones in its home state of Washington. The airworthiness certificate came with many stipulations including requirements that drone operators must have private pilot certificates. Most crippling of all, however, was the fact that the certificate only applied to a specific model of drone and did not allow for iteration or modification on that vehicle as the company tested its Air Prime delivery program.

While some commended the FAA for being forward-thinking, those close to the Seattle-based tech company thought otherwise, deeming it a shallow move that promotes little innovation. On Tuesday, Amazon will trot out Paul Misener, head of the company’s global public policy, to speak in front of senators on its desire for greater leeway when it comes to UAV policy. Currently Amazon has been unable to test its latest drones in the U.S. and has instead been testing its program in Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

Amazon declined to comment ahead of Tuesday’s hearing.

Booker’s proposed legislation may be the type of wide-ranging policy that Amazon is hoping for. Meant to serve as temporary rules until the FAA can propose its own, the modernization act will require companies to carry liability insurance but it will be much more lenient to drone operators. Unlike Amazon’s certificate and current exemptions going out to other businesses, UAV operators will not be required to have a private pilot’s license under Booker’s legislation and will only be required to pass an “aeronautical knowledge test.”

The bill also calls for the appointing of a “Deputy Associate Administrator for Unmanned Aircraft” to report to the head of the FAA and the Secretary of Transportation. While the FAA for most of its existence has overseen the operations of manned vehicles, the new position suggests a need for another leader to understand unmanned aircraft issues. That person will oversee the administration of the other rules set forth in the bill including the proper reporting of any drone-associated accidents, the registration of commercial UAV operators and the creation of further rules with regards to payloads and the flying of drones out of a pilot’s line of sight.

Posted in faa, U.S. Senator Cory Booker | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

FAA plans new steps to speed up commercial drone use: sources

(Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration plans to unveil new steps soon to make it easier for companies to use drone aircraft for specific business operations, according to people with knowledge of the

Commercial drone flights are generally banned in the United States, except in a small number of cases where the FAA has granted an exemption. The has agency received more than 750 requests for exemptions to the ban, but has awarded only 48.

Now the U.S. aviation regulator intends to streamline the process by no longer requiring companies with exemptions to obtain a new certificate of authority for each new use of a drone, the people familiar with the matter said.

The FAA could announce the change next week, ahead of a congressional hearing on drones scheduled for Tuesday, these people added.

The FAA had no immediate comment. The agency has been taking measured steps to ease restrictions on commercial use of drones.

The change in policy could be a positive signal to a wide swath of companies that are pushing for federal regulators to remove barriers to commercial uses of automated aircraft, and help foster growth of an emerging sector of manufacturers and service providers built around drone technology.

The rule changes also would be a boost for companies that already have exemptions from the commercial drone ban, such as Chevron (CVX.N), Berkshire Hathaway’s BNSF Railway Co (BRKa.N), State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co, and a number of film and media companies. Those companies could get more flexibility to use pilotless aircraft for rail and pipeline inspections, crop surveys and aerial photography for commercials or movies.

Companies awaiting exemptions from the overall ban could also benefit, Inc (AMZN.O) and Yamaha Motor Co (7272.T).

On Thursday, Amazon got FAA clearance to experiment with drones at an outdoor facility in Washington state under a different set of federal rules. Amazon hopes to develop drones capable of delivering packages to customer doorsteps.

Industry lobbyists have criticized the current process as too slow. Companies with approval to fly unmanned aircraft must obtain government permission each time they intend to use drones for a new project. They must fill out and get FAA approval for a two-page “certificate of authority” before each flight specifying where, when and how long the drone will fly.

The process of authorizing specific flights has bogged down, said Mark Dombroff, a partner in the drone practice of McKenna, Long and Aldridge. In one case, Dombroff said, applicants sought permission to fly over an area of land, but the FAA “wanted us to apply for every farm individually.”

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta told industry representatives at a recent meeting that his agency was moving to streamline the process, the sources added.

In February, the FAA proposed rules that would lift the current ban on most commercial drone use. But industry representatives say it could be years before the ban is lifted, leaving businesses to follow the cumbersome exemption process for now.

(Reporting by David Morgan in Washington, additional reporting by Alwyn Scott, editing by Soyoung Kim and Joe White)

Posted in The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

These Are The Top 20 US Accelerators

Editor’s Note: Yael Hochberg is an Associate Professor of Finance and Entrepreneurship at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business and a managing director of the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project. Susan Cohen is an Assistant Professor of Management at the Robins School of Business at the University of Richmond and is a managing director of the annual Seed Accelerator Rankings Project. Dan Fehder is Associate Director and Chief Technologist at the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project.

Startup accelerators have become a prominent feature of the tech landscape in recent years, with more and more programs popping up every month.

In many ways, they have become a rite of passage for thousands of entrepreneurs who apply to and join programs annually.

Yet, with so many programs to choose from, and little publicly available data on each program, it can be hard for entrepreneurs to figure out which programs are most effective and which specific program would be the best fit to help launch their startup. We founded the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project with this challenge for entrepreneurs in mind.

Competition for the top 20 spots this year was fierce. With so many new programs coming into their own, and the addition of eligibility for non-equity-taking programs and programs with specific affiliation requirements (such as university-affiliated programs), the pool for this year’s ranking has grown considerably.

Our aim is both to foster conversation about the accelerator model that has emerged over the last decade, and help entrepreneurs gain a measure of visibility into the strengths of various programs.

The project is an outgrowth of the original accelerator rankings study conducted by Aziz Gilani, Kelly Quann and Yael Hochberg in 2010.

Today, at SXSW, we released the latest version of our annual rankings.

This year, a number of trends are apparent. First, while many new programs have emerged, a good number have also shut down. Furthermore many of the newer programs are vertically-specialized, focusing on a specific industry – for example, healthcare or energy. Finally, a good number of new programs are associated with local governments or state initiatives.

Overall, we found many interesting new programs that were simply too young to have reliable outcomes, and that were therefore not included in this year’s rankings. However, we expect to see some of these programs in top categories in years to come.

In determining who qualified for the rankings, we considered all programs that met the formal definition of an accelerator program: fixed-term, cohort-based, with educational and mentorship components, culminating in a public pitch or demo day.

Additionally, programs had to have graduated at least one cohort, have at least 10 graduates, be primarily located in the U.S., and be willing to provide full transparency to our team. Of course, there are some programs out there that call themselves accelerators who do not meet these criteria, and therefore did not qualify for this rankings project. Ultimately, we verified and invited over 150 programs to participate in the rankings process.

To construct the rankings, we collected detailed data on a large number of accelerator programs and their graduates including confidential data provided by the accelerators themselves.

We then calculated a variety of quantitative measures to better understand how programs stacked up on several important outcomes, including: valuations, fundraising, exits and survival. We supplemented those measures with a broad survey of each accelerator’s graduates, in order to determine their satisfaction with the program and whether they would recommend it to fellow entrepreneurs.

Nearly 1000 accelerator program alumni shared information about their startup’s experience with us.

Here are the top 20, based on our criteria:

Rank Program Rank Program
1 Angelpad 11 Surge
2 Mucker Lab 12 MassChallenge
3 Techstars 12 Brandery
4 University of Chicago NVC 13 Gener8tor
5 Alchemist 14 ZeroTo510
6 StartX 15 AlphaLab
7 Amplify LA 17 BlueStartups
8 500 Startups 18 ERA
9 Capital Innovators 19 BetaSpring
10 Dreamit 20 IronYard


This year, the list is topped by a new champion: Angelpad (last year’s #3 program). Mucker Lab (#4 last year) and Techstars (last year’s #2) took second and third respectively. Angelpad’s rise to the top is rooted in extremely high satisfaction of its graduates, high valuations for its portfolio companies and fundraising success.

Mucker Lab similarly distinguished itself with high alumni satisfaction and fundraising numbers, while Techstars is particularly successful in the valuations and firm survival categories, with a strong alumni network also in play for its graduates. The University of Chicago New Venture Challenge, in its first year of participation, slots into fourth place on the strength of a number of strong exits, including the $2B Grubhub IPO and Braintree acquisition.Rankings5

There are a number of close groupings and an outright tie in this year’s rankings. The 5th through 10th ranked programs are relatively close in composite score. There is an outright tie for 12th place, and the programs in slots 16 to 20 are also relatively close in score.

Notably absent in this year’s list are Y Combinator and RockHealth–both programs now classify themselves as seed funds rather than accelerators, and asked us to respect their evolution into a new model. This, of course, is not a statement about efficacy of those programs – based on the 2013 data submitted to the rankings team, Y Combinator would still have topped the list if they had not transitioned models.

So what are the metrics we used to assess accelerators’ effectiveness? To get a more accurate picture of accelerator programs, we calculated many different measures: the average valuations of the portfolio companies; the percentage of graduates that raise significant venture or angel funding; the average amount of dollars raised by the companies; the percentage of portfolio companies that have had a significant exit event; the average valuation of the companies at exit; the percentage of companies still operating; and the opinion graduates have of the program.

To make sure we are comparing apples to apples, we measure one, two and three years after graduation, and we adjust for differences in the stage companies are at when they enter the accelerator, such as whether they have come in having already raised a round of two of financing or with positive revenue, versus entering as a brand new company.

Overall, the startups that have graduated from the accelerators in our top 10 have a current total valuation slightly under $4.4 billion. Roughly 3.5% of the companies that have gone through an accelerator in the top 10 have exited successfully, a number that is low, but not necessarily surprising given how new the phenomenon is relative to the typical number of years it takes for a seed stage startup to reach a successful exit.

Another 35.6% of the companies raised a significant round of financing within a year of graduating from a program, with an average raise of $1.5 million. Also, it is remarkably clear is that for the top programs, there is near universal satisfaction from the startups’ perspectives.

For example, in the top 10 programs, 96% of the startups said that knowing what they know now, they would repeat the experience.

Competition for the top 20 spots this year was fierce. With so many new programs coming into their own, and the addition of eligibility for non-equity-taking programs and programs with specific affiliation requirements (such as university-affiliated programs), the pool for this year’s ranking has grown considerably. Given this, snagging a spot anywhere in the top 20 is a sign of distinction.

Posted in Angelpad, Mucker Lab | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Drones take real estate marketing to new heights

Though all real estate is local, there are some national issues that affect the industry. Real estate agents across the country have been waiting for the Federal Aviation Administration to release guidelines permitting the use of drones for commercial purposes, such as marketing real estate. Last month, the FAA released its proposed rules, which would allow real estate professionals to use drones to aid their clients in marketing and selling properties.

Unmanned aerial vehicles, more commonly known as drones, are aircraft without a human pilot aboard. The applications for this new technology are varied and numerous. Property managers are interested in drones’ property inspection applications while real estate agents hope to use drones to capture videos and pictures that help visualize and market clients’ residential and commercial properties.

New drone technologies can help real estate agents market homes and properties in ways that were cost-prohibitive in the past. Aerial photography and video could someday be an added value that Realtors provide for all of their clients, creating eye-catching listings that stand out to potential buyers.

The new rules provide guidance on the various permits and registrations operators will need to obtain, when and where the drones can be used and the requirements for reporting accidents or injuries. It will likely take two years for the rules to be finalized and go into effect.

Some of the requirements included in the proposed rule are:

Commercial drones’ flights would be restricted to 500 feet in altitude, 100 miles per hour of speed and daylight hours.

All flights would need to be within visual line of sight of the person operating the drone.

Operators of commercial drones would be required to pass an aeronautical knowledge test and be issued a permit to fly, which must be renewed every two years. This would be different from receiving a pilot’s license.

While drones are exciting new technology, until the rules are finalized the Greater Nashville Association of Realtors reminds sellers that real estate professionals cannot use drones to aid in the selling and marketing of properties.

Currently, using drones to market and sell either residential or commercial property can result in heavy fines for agents. But when the rules are finalized, drones will hopefully become an exciting, new tool to help sellers make their property even more attractive to buyers.


Posted in faa | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

U.S. Will Allow Export of Armed Drones

Export requests will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis

The State Department announced new policies Tuesday stipulating that U.S. drones can only be exported through government programs and that the receiving country needs to agree to certain conditions about what the drone will be used for.

Under the new rules, exports of armed military drones must be made through government entities and the nations receiving the devices must agree to “end-use assurances,” according to the State Department.

“The new U.S. UAS [unmanned aerial systems] export policy provides a disciplined and rigorous framework within which the United States will exercise restraint in sales and transfers and advance its national security and foreign policy interests,” says a State Department fact sheet.

These new proposals come amid increasing controversy anduncertainty over the use of drones, after one crashed onto the White House lawn last month.


Posted in Armed Drones, State Department | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Drones are now used to save animals from being poached in Africa

With this breakthrough technology, drones can now be used to steer animals away from poachers as well as identify the poachers themselves.


Posted in breakthrough technology, drones | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

NACA – NASA 1915-2015 “We Fly, We Explore, We Measure, We Reveal, We Discover”

NACA – NASA 1915-2015 “We Fly, We Explore, We Measure, We Reveal, We Discover”



.5 minute NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center video used for AVBOT 2/27 Outlook Conference


On March 3, 1915, Congress established the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) to “direct and conduct research and experimentation in aeronautics, with a view to their practical solution.”

In 1946 at Muroc, California the NACA established a facility known as the NACA High-Speed Flight Research Station, now known as the NASA Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center, to conduct flight research and validate the technologies of high speed flight, including the Collier Trophy winning supersonic X-1 and hypersonic X-15 rocket planes.

Today NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards, California is helping advance NASA’s missions of aeronautics research, Earth and space science and aerospace technology. In 2014 the Center was named for Neil A. Armstrong, an NACA and NASA research test pilot from 1955 to 1962 who went on to command the historic Apollo 11 mission. It is home to the Hugh L. Dryden Aeronautical Test Range and serves as NASA’s center of excellence for atmospheric flight research.

Topics include:
Celebrating a New Name: Armstrong Flight Research Center
High-Speed testbeds- quieter supersonic flight studies- F-15 F-18
Advanced Flight Control Software- increased flight safety- F-18 853
New UAV Technologies- simulations & flight tests- Ikhana
High Altitude Hydrogen Powered UAV- successful flight tests
Tail-less Flight Concept mimics bird flight- PRANDTL
Fiber-Optic Sensors- measure wing loads in flight- APV-3
Shape-Shifting Wings- flight tests- GIII
Airborne Science- studies our planet- C-20 DC-8 ER-2 RQ-4
Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy- reached full operational capacity- SOFIA
Innovative Inflatable Heat Shields- flight load tests- HIAD
Towed Glider Air Launch System- flight tests
Vertical Landing Rocket- private industry testbed- Masten Xombie
Orion Spacecraft- NASA’s Next Giant Leap- Ikhana


– See more at:

Posted in faa, NASA, NASA Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment