Archive for June, 2014

California’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Summit Explores Potential Industry Growth

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

The California UAS Summit held on Tuesday, June 10, 2014 in San Diego brought together thought leaders from government, trade organizations, military, academia and a diverse mix of private sector companies to explore how California can continue to be a world leader in unmanned aircraft systems and be positioned to support businesses in this industry while helping facilitate the FAA’s initiative to integrate UASs into National Air Space in a safe and responsible way, while allowing for innovation and the development of new and exciting uses.

Besides exploring the challenges facing the UAS industry and the economic and jobs impact to the state, the summit participants considered how to balance regulation with innovation and advance safety and security.

California is a Center of Excellence in the development, manufacturing, and testing of Unmanned Aircraft Systems. From industry leaders General Atomics, Kratos Defense Solutions, and Northrop Grumman’s Center for Unmanned Systems headquartered in San Diego, as well as The Boeing Company and AeroVironment in Los Angeles County, major UAS companies have a history in California. With the addition of numerous small and emerging companies throughout the state, like 3D Robotics and AirCover Solutions, California is the world leader in taking UAS into the commercial space, developing innovative systems and advancing capabilities in preparation for integration.

Even though California ranks as the #1 UAS region, it was not chosen as one of the designated test sites by the Federal Aviation Administration in December 2013. The six selected operators are: the University of Alaska, the state of Nevada, New York’s Griffiss International Airport, North Dakota Department of Commerce, Texas A&M University, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Geographic and climatic diversity were key requirements for the selection, and the test sites were to begin operation within 180 days of the announcement to conduct research to help the FAA develop regulations and operational procedures for the safe integration of UAS into national airspace.

The coalition to develop an UAS Test Range in California was headed up by already established entity called the California Unmanned Systems Portal (Cal UAS Portal), based in Indian Wells. The coalition expanded in April 2013 to include the AUVSI San Diego Lindbergh Chapter, the San Diego Regional Economic Development Council (EDC), the San Diego Military Advisory Council (SDMAC), the Imperial County EDC, County of Imperial, Holtville Airport, Indian Wells Valley Airport District (IWVAD), and defense contractors including General Atomics, Cubic Corporation, and Epsilon Systems Solutions, Inc. The proposed UAS Test Site would have extended from the NAS China Lake/Edwards Air Force Area, West to the Pacific Ocean, South to the Mexican border and East to the Arizona border.

Currently, UAS are being used around the word in categories from A to Z, such as: aerial imaging/mapping, agricultural, Border Patrol surveillance, disaster management, environmental monitoring, law enforcement monitoring, oil and gas exploration, telecommunication, TV news coverage, sporting events, moviemaking, weather monitoring, and wildfire mapping.

The summit’s keynote speaker was Gretchen West, Executive Vice President, Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) was. She said that AUVSI was started 42 years ago, has 30 chapters, and publishes two magazines, Mission Critical and Unmanned Systems, as well as a UAS directory and Robotics directory. AUVSI is active in public policy advocacy in Washington, D. C., and there is an Unmanned Systems Caucus in the House and Senate, as well as a Congressional Robotics Caucus.

She gave a brief overview of the UAS industry, and said that the FAA integration is the key to expanding opportunities for UASs in the U. S. The bill mandating that the FAA safely integrate UAS into national airspace passed in February 2012, and safe integration is supposed to be completed by September 30, 2015. Until then, commercial applications of UAS are prohibited in the U. S. The selection of the site for the UAS Center of Excellence will be made in March 2015.

One of the major problems for the UAS industry is the negative — and incorrect — public perception of drones as immoral killing machines or intrusive spy machines hovering at our windows. Because of this misperception portrayed by the news media, several states have outlawed use of UAS by either private citizens or law enforcement or both, and several other states have pending legislation. These bans would prohibit use of UAS for many of the above listed applications and would inhibit the growth of commercial usage of UAS.

Three panels of speakers followed Ms. West. Panel #1 was “Large Industry – Manufacturing and Production – Economic impact, jobs & industry growth.” The panelists were:

RADM Christopher Ames (USN Ret), director, international strategic development, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. – he said that there have been 17 variants of General Atomics’ Predator over the past 20 years, logging over 2.8 million flight hours. The challenge is to have access to U. S. national airspace. GA-ASI is developing and testing an air-to-air sense and avoid system.

VADM Jerry Beaman, (USN Ret), president, Kratos Defense, Unmanned Combat Aerial Systems Division – he said his company is focused on a jet powered UAS that will fill the high performance, high altitude market. Key features of their UASs will be ability to operate in a contested airspace and a GPS denied environment.

Albert Bosco, business development, unmanned airborne systems, The Boeing Company – he said, “UAS aren’t a panacea, so need to decide how, when, and where to use them.” UAS use by First Responders, environmental monitoring, and infrastructure monitoring may be major areas of focus.

Carl Johnson, vice president, unmanned systems, Northrop Grumman Corporation – he provided the highlight of this panel by showing the video of Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk X47B landing successfully on an aircraft carrier.

Panel #2 was “Commercialization of Small and Medium UAS – Balancing privacy with innovation combat aerial systems division.” The panelists were:

Jill Meyers, senior manager, 3D Robotics – she said that while their headquarters is in Berkeley, they have engineering support in Sam Diego, marketing and video production in Austin, Texas, and manufacturing in Tijuana, Mexico. They have three “copter” models and an airplane, and have a DIY community of 54,000 active users of Droneshare in the Cloud. There is an innovation evolution occurring on autopilot software through their open source development.

Roy Minson, senior vice president and general manager, AeroVironment, Inc. – he said that AeroVironment makes small unmanned systems and have seven vehicles in the Smithsonian. He announced that this was the day the “FAA grants the first-ever over-land restricted type certificate to AeroVironment Puma AE UAS for use in day-to-day operations at the BP-operated Prudhoe Bay oil field on Alaska’s North Slope,” and that BP had selected AeroVironment for 3D mapping and other services at their North Slope operations over a multi-year period. AeroVironment flew a Puma AE drone on its first commercial flight Sunday to survey BP pipelines, roads and equipment at Prudhoe Bay, the largest oil field in the U.S., according to the FAA. Using the Puma’s sensors, BP hopes to target maintenance activities, in an effort to save time, improve safety and increase reliability in the sensitive North Slope environment.

Nelson Paez, CEO, DreamHammer – he said that Dreamhammer has developed an “operating system” for UAS, and their Drone OS has open applications built-in for specific industries.

Steven Bishop, Business Development, INSTU – he said that INSTU is a wholly owned subsidiary of Boeing that started as a company looking for tuna and now has two unmanned vehicles, the Integrator, and Scan Eagle, as well as ground control stations, and a UAS launcher, Skyhook. They also provide field operation and logistic services, payload, and training. They did a demo with Conoco in the Arctic in 2013.

Cliff Johnson, CEO, CTJ & Associates, LLC – he said that CTJA Unmanned Systems Engineering doesn’t sell into the U. S. at all; all of their customers are international. Their manufacturing is conducted in Portland, Oregon, but systems integration is done in San Diego. They have four vehicle platforms that utilize solar turbines, and the solar power is stored in ultra capacitors so the vehicles can fly up to 14 hours at night.

Panel #3 was “Campus Research and Development – Advancing technology for safety and security.”The panelistswere:

Charles Johnson,Senior Advisor for Unmanned and Autonomous Systems, Armstrong Flight Research Center – he said that the Armstrong Center has been working under contract to help the FAA review and analyze data to develop the rules for commercial use of UAS in the U. S.

Dr. Jason Miller, Senior Research Officer, Cal State University Channel Islands – he said that there is great interest at his campus in using UAS to monitor the Channel Islands, study the humpback whale, and study wildfires.

Dr. Vibhav Durgesh, Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Cal State University Northridge – he heads up the aerodynamics lab that could provide airfoil data for UAS manufacturers.

Brandon Stark, Mechatronics, Embedded Systems and Automation (MESA) Labs, University of California Merced – he said that they see UAS as toolset for solving large problems, and they have a fleet of small unmanned platforms that monitor water and air quality, take soil samples, and other types of environmental monitoring.

Dr. John Kosmatka, Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering Department, University of California San Diego – he said that UCSD actually developed a UAS for the City of Napes, Italy and conducts research in applications, science missions, and sensor development.

“A lot of people are familiar with UAS in some of the military applications,” said Treggon Owens of Aerial Mob. “What they may not be familiar with is the first responder and rescue and agriculture. So, there’s a numerous amount of platforms – it really goes beyond what people usually think of a UAS. And that’s when you get into commercial applications.” Aerial Mob is one of the growing number of companies using new technology invented by the military. The company displayed thrilling images of UAS flights at the summit.

”It’s as big as our own imagination, really,” said Kevin Carroll of Connect. “The applications for unmanned systems are endless. It’s not going to supplant the existing world,” continued Carroll. “What it’s going to do is augment this world. And you’re looking at 17,000+ jobs in California. And these are very high-paying jobs, advanced manufacturing jobs. And then you look at the economic impact – it’s around $14 billion when you go out 10 years as they integrate the airspace.”

The panel discussions showed that the UAS industry is at a crossroads facing significant challenges in business, government, and law. The U. S. industry faces competition from foreign countries, many of whom have a more positive business climate. There are severe limitations in the civilian market in the U. S. until the FAA integration is complete. The challenges faced on the governmental side are: slow-to-develop rulemaking by the FAA, inconsistent support from federal, state and local authorities, and troublesome legislation at the state and local level that threatens to hamper the industry. Finally, there are many legal challenges facing the UAS industry: A near total ban on “commercial” drone operations, defined as any non-recreational use, unclear standards for designing, building and operating UASs, and undeveloped liability standards paired with unproven insurance products.

The current forecast is that California’s UAS industry is expected to create 18,161 jobs within a decade of airspace integration, which would have an estimated $14.37 million economic impact. However, this forecast would be reduced if California becomes one of the states that ban use of UAS by private industry and law enforcement. Now is the time to voice your support for the UAS industry to your elected representatives in California.

Free Trade is the source of our Trade Deficit and National debt

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

We all like to get something for free, so free trade sounds good. The question is: do we even have free trade? No, we do not. What we call free trade isn’t “free,” and it isn’t “good,” at least for most Americans. At best, it benefits large, multinational global corporations that have manufacturing facilities located in other countries. At its worst, it is the primary source of our trade deficit and loss of good paying manufacturing jobs, leading to an escalation of our national debt.

Brian Sullivan, Director of Sales, Marketing and Communications of the Tooling, Manufacturing & Technologies Association says, “We should rename ‘free trade’ because it isn’t free and it isn’t fair. Since it’s trade that’s regulated in favor of multinational special interest groups, why don’t we call it for what it is: How about ‘rigged market trade’ or ‘turn your back on your fellow countrymen trade’ or ‘throw American workers out on the street trade.’”

For more than the first 150 years of its history, the United States was a protectionist country in order to protect its fledgling manufacturing industries and then gain preeminence as an industrial nation in the 20th century.

After World War II, the U.S. switched from protectionism to free trade in order to rebuild the economies of Europe and Japan through the Marshall Plan and bind the economies of the non-Communist world to the United States for geopolitical reasons.

To accomplish these objectives, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was negotiated during the UN Conference on Trade and Employment, reflecting the failure of negotiating governments to create a proposed International Trade Organization. Originally signed by 23 countries at Geneva in 1947, GATT became the most effective instrument in the massive expansion of world trade in the second half of the 20th century.

GATT’s most important principle was trade without discrimination, in which member nations opened their markets equally to one another. Once a country and one of its trading partners agreed to reduce a tariff, that tariff cut was automatically extended to all GATT members. GATT also established uniform customs regulations and sought to eliminate import quotas. By 1995, when the World Trade Organization replaced GATT, 125 nations had signed its agreements, governing 90 percent of world trade.

In 1994, GATT was updated to include new obligations upon its signatories. One of the most significant changes was the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO.) The 75 existing GATT members and the European Community became the founding members of the WTO on January 1, 1995. The other 52 GATT members rejoined the WTO in the following two years, the last being Congo in 1997. Since the founding of the WTO, a number of non-GATT members have joined, and there are now 157 members, including China. The main countries still outside it are Iran, North Korea, and some nations in Central Asia and North Africa.

A major benefit for GATT and WTO members was the reduction or elimination of tariffs. However, while the U. S. and other member countries complied with this provision, over the years, the other 156 members have replaced their tariffs with Value Added Taxes (VAT), which range from a low of 10% to a high of 24%, averaging 17%. The U. S. is the only member country that doesn’t have a VAT.

A VAT is a border adjustable consumption tax on goods and services. This means that virtually all of our trading partners tax our exports with their VATs, when our goods cross into their country, and rebate their VATs when their companies export. VATs are essentially a tariff by another name. Our trade agreements, such as NAFTA, CAFTA, and KORUS do not address VATs, and the WTO rules allow VATs. This means that U. S. companies are at a disadvantage in the global marketplace, so that so-called free trade has become “unfair trade” for U. S. companies.

According to Alan Uke’s book, Buying Back America, the United States now has a trade deficit with 88 countries. Of course, some deficits are small, but some are enormous, such as China. Our top six trading partners are: Canada, China, Mexico, Japan, Germany, and South Korea. These six countries represent 64% of our total trade deficit, but China alone represents 46% of the U. S. trade deficit of $688.4 billion. Our 2013 trade deficit with China was $318.4 billion, and we are on track to equal that in 2014.

Some may claim that we are still the leader in advanced technology products, but this is no longer true. The U. S. has been running a trade deficit in these products since 2002, which has grown to an astonishing average of $90 billion per year since 2010.

So how do our trade deficits add to the national debt? One way is that many products, especially consumer products, which were previously made in the U. S., are now made in China or other Asian countries, so we are importing these products instead of exporting them to other countries. The offshoring of manufacturing of so many products has resulted in the loss 5.8 million American manufacturing jobs and the closure of over 57,000 of manufacturing firms. These American workers and companies paid taxes that provided revenue to our government, so now we have less tax revenue and pay out benefits to unemployed workers, resulting in an escalating national debt.

Let us consider whether or not our most recent trade agreements have been beneficial to the U. S. The Korea U. S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) went into effect on Mach 2012. The Office of the   U. S. Trade Representative for the Obama Administration touts, “Since the Korea agreement went into effect, U.S. exports to Korea are up for our manufactured goods, including autos, exports are up for a wide range of our agricultural products, and exports are up for our services.” However, the reality is that our imports continued to exceed our exports, and the U. S. trade deficit with Korea jumped from -$13.62 billion in 2011 to -$20.67 billion in 2013, which is a 64% increase in only one full year.

The U. S. has fared better with CAFTA-DR, the Central America-Dominican Republic trade agreement, which was signed on August 5, 2004. The trade balance with Costa Rica went from a plus of $188.2 million in 2005 to a deficit of $4.7 billion in 2013, but the Guatemala and Honduras trade balance went from deficits of $302 and 495 million to surpluses of $1.642 billion and $2.97 billion. The Dominican Republic trade balance stayed positive, growing from $115 million to 1.97 billion. If you balance out the deficits and surpluses, the U. S. comes out ahead for these countries.

Now we are faced with the prospects of an even more encompassing trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), for which the Obama administration has conducted negotiations behind closed doors through the offices of U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk without any involvement with Congress.

Eleven nations have participated in the negotiations: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. Japan announced its intention to join the agreement last spring. Because the TPP is intended as a “docking agreement,” other Pacific Rim countries could join over time, and the Philippines, Thailand, Colombia, and others have expressed interest.

What makes this agreement of even greater concern is that President Obama is seeking Fast Track Authority under the Trade Promotion Authority. Both Democrat and Republican Representatives in the House have expressed concern over delegating Congress’ constitutional authority over trade policy to the Executive Branch. I won’t repeat the points I have already made in my previous blog articles published last year on the dangers of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and granting the president Fast Track Authority; however, I urge you to read my January article, “We Must Stop Fast Track Trade Authority from Being Granted!

Beyond stopping Fast Track Authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership from being approved, we need to focus on achieving “balanced trade” in any future trade agreements. Until we change the goal of trade agreements, we should refrain from negotiating any trade agreement. The last thing we need is to increase our trade deficit more than it already is. In addition, we need to pass legislation addressing the predatory mercantilist activities of our current trading partners, such as currency manipulation, product dumping, and government subsidies. We should consider comprehensive tax reform that includes a border adjustable tax to address the unfair advantage caused by the rebate of VAT taxes. We should enact countervailing duty laws and County of Origin labeling on all manufactured products, including food.

I urge you to call your Congressional representative and Senators now to urge them to oppose granting Fast Track Authority and approving the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.