Open letter to the BBC

#1

The BBC cannot publish fraudulent tests without being called out for it.

The program was called “Britain’s next air disaster, drones”
It’s fear mongering at best, adding carbon fibre reinforced bars to its “drone penetration test” along with what looks like a solid aluminium block as a battery replacement.

They then fire this into a light aircraft wing at 400kph!

An Airbus A320 on final approach at an airport, the only time it’s ever below 1500ft is travelling at 272kph

An A320 wing is also SIGNIFICANTLY stronger than that of light aircraft.

We obviously DO NOT CONDONE any reckless use of drones, and believe that drones and commercial aircraft should never come close to each other. This is why we have decided to add ADSB-in to our standard Autopilots.

ADSB allows us to detect compliant commercial aircraft, and warn the operators, or take evasive action.

Letter contents below

Open letter
From: Philip Rowse, CTO of ProfiCNC and Hex (Now known as CubePilot)
To: the BBC
Subject: the two recent “drone documentaries”

I personally grew up listening to the BBC on the long wave radio in east Africa as a child in the 80’s. We listened to the BBC world service, to find out the facts surrounding events that happened around us, and at home in Australia. In the last 30 years, I have been in the Aviation industry, starting with bush aircraft in Zambia and Kenya, then aircraft in Australia for use in PNG, then as a contractor for the Royal Australian Airforce.

In all this time, the BBC was a source of FACT.

We have since been developing Autopilots for the Unmanned Aircraft industry, Our autopilots have been used by some of worlds leading Aerospace companies, names like Boeing, NASA, Airbus… they have featured in the worlds first commercial unmanned package deliveries in Switzerland, they even flew during the recent Paris Air show for the entire duration of the show. They are delivering medicine in the third world, mapping fire damage, protecting troops and civilians, patrolling swimming spots, and winning the world’s leading competitions on the use of unmanned aircraft (AUVSI and the Australian outback Challenge). Some of our favourite movies feature many shots made with our autopilot.
In all these use cases, the operators are responsible members of society.

Now comes the “Hobbyist” the real “villain” in these “Documentaries” these are the people that are being made to look like they are out to kill all our sons and daughters with their weaponised airliner seeking racing drones…. These “villains” are the future engineers and scientists, they are Journalists, they are doctors, teachers, students, filmmakers, real-estate agents, mums, dads, daughters and sons.

Our design of Autopilot, known nowadays as “The Cube” was previously known as the Pixhawk2, and featured at the heart of the 3D Robotics Solo multicopter. This copter was produced at the same time that DJI produced the Phantom 3 series multicopter. 10’s of thousands of Solos were sold over the next year or so, and many more Phantom 3’s, as well as subsequent Phantom 4’s, Mavics, Sparks, and many other drones from many other companies hit the market. These drones would represent the bulk of the “fear factor” that has been presented in the programmes being discussed.

Common factors in the common consumer drones…

  1. Weight is less that 1.5kg.
  2. No carbon fibre rods are used in the build.
  3. No solid lumps of aluminium were used as batteries.
  4. Available for the public to purchase and fly with limited piloting knowhow required
  5. All have return to home, flight logging, and some indication as to if flight is “OK” in the given area
  6. These drones tend to be flown below 400ft, and within 1 mile of the operator

Let us look at the Gatwick scenario. a few known facts.

  1. NO confirmed drone sightings that can clearly confirm that it WAS a drone.
  2. The most common aircraft type operating from Gatwick is the Airbus (https://www.gatwickairport.com/globalassets/publicationfiles/business_and_community/all_public_publications/aircraft_noise/fpt_annual_report_2014_v6_lr.pdf)
  3. After monitoring actual traffic at Gatwick below 1500ft, the top speed of the A319 aircraft was 170kts in take-off or landing configuration
  4. Smaller aircraft had much lower approach speeds

So if we are so worried about a “Consumer Drone”, i.e., one mentioned in the description above, colliding with an aircraft arriving or departing out of Gatwick, we can assume that we should use the above parameters for the test.

Actual Aircraft vs Drone collision data:
Since the advent of the “drone” from the consumer multicopter drone perspective, there has not been a single civilian aircraft involved with a collision with a drone. Unfortunately, there has been a lot of reporting of “suspected” collisions, but not much follow up reporting of the investigations that have cleared drones in ALL but the Canadian cases. In NO CASE worldwide was any evidence linked to an actual drone.
The incident in Canada has been blamed on a drone. http://www.tsb.gc.ca/eng/rapports-reports/aviation/2017/a17q0162/a17q0162.pdf
However, the lack of ANY evidence of drone, and the lack of damage to the aircraft either indicate that the risk is insignificant, or they did not in-fact hit a drone.

China has tested collisions of these consumer drones vs an aircraft, and the thing to note, is how the drone shatters on impact, it doesn’t act as a spear.

My questions to the BBC

  1. Why was the consumer drone in the test fired at 250kts not 170kts at a pre-damaged suboptimal fragment of a wing that doesn’t represent the aircraft that would be affected in the scenario that is being played out?
  2. Why was the “drone” augmented with solid carbon fibre reinforced rods that were allowed to “pre-fracture” the wing section?
  3. Why was the battery replaced with what appears to be a solid lump of aluminium?
  4. If in-fact there really was a drone at Gatwick, and it was malicious, how to you think better rules for the already hundreds of thousands of responsible drone users would deter a would-be terrorist?
  5. Given the only official drone vs plane incident had a very minor dent in it, how do you explain the test results?
  6. Given the Gatwick fiasco ruined the Christmas plans of hundreds of thousands of holiday makers, and the total lack of real evidence for risk caused by these devices, should we not be investigating why we are living in a climate of fear and paranoia, where panic is the only weapon we have against the unknown?
  7. Given the very nature of negative press, this story will be spread far and wide, and just like false stories before this one, they do not go away. They keep getting used and referenced, and retractions do not appear on the original stories with the required emphasis on corrections, are you willing to ensure enough coverage of the required corrections to this information?
    Examples of this are the Mexico “drone vs Airliner” that never happened, the BA plastic bag incident, the Mozambique incident of a 737 and so on. All get sensational media at the time of the “suspected incident” and float around forever doing massive damage to the industry.
  8. Given the millions of hobby drone users that have been vilified by these “documentaries”, how is the BBC going to assist them in repairing their personal reputations? How will it assist in repairing the damage to the industry?

Thank you for your time

Mr Philip Rowse
CEO ProfiCNC Pty. Ltd.
CTO Hex Technology


Open letter to the BBC.pdf (294.2 KB)

3 Likes
#3

It was pointed out to me by Mr Tom Pittenger that there was intact a MILITARY helicopter vs toy drone crash in the USA.

This as he pointed out is the only proven collision between a civilian UAS and an aircraft.

I had not pointed this out before as it was a MILITARY aircraft.

However, it’s worth noting, that though the helicopter sustained very expensive damage, it safely landed… where the remaining parts of the drone were removed from the helicopter.

In no way are we stating that there is zero risk! We are not! Again, as I pointed out in the post above, we believe that commercial aircraft and UAS should not have “incidents”

This is why we are including ADSB-in on our future standard Autopilot carrier board.

ADSB allows intelligent aircraft separation

#4

BBC has Never been a FACTS source. Like ABC,CBS, CNN and ABXY
Have Since the Late 50’s have ALWAYS used editing to Sway the public to Their specific agenda(s).

1 Like
#5

I grew up in corporate & general aviation, we had & still do an FBO in the states. I’m glad, I’m not the only one that gets a bur when the media resorts to these tactics in order to get more viewers. We had a similar event that took place in conjunction with one of our colleges and the FAA. The testing was skewed until they had catastrophic failure. Seems like it was the leading edge of a Mooney and a DJI Phantom the combined speeds were set at ??? 300-400mph. We reacted the same way as you, Philip. Eventually the study was dismissed or no longer considered valid by lawmakers.

The truth of the matter is if a drone strike were to be catastrophic it would have either happened by now or any one of the 1000’s of tests would have shown it to be such. The only way they can show what everyone is wanting to see is by skewing the parameters, testing method, or whatever in order to achieve their goal. This brings on the question whether or not ANY of these testing entities are biased, political motivated, or using objective scientific methods on ANY testing on UAV’s or outside the industry such as medical research, automobiles, environment, etc.

Why is it so difficult to get someone to perform a job properly without someone’s agenda getting in the middle of it?

Wormwood

1 Like
#6

Hello Philip,

Thank you four letter to the BBC, I live in Australia too, I wish if you could have taken some action in regards to proposed Drone registration and accreditation scheme. Already the laws in Australia are killing the industry and deterring the younger generation from taking this path, and as result loosing this industry to other country.

Already my family and I find it very hard to fly drones in Australia, I am certain it will be even more harder once the proposed laws have been implemented.

As always a few peoples agenda in fear of drones is being rushed through parliament at the grater cost for our future generation, not being able to take part in this evolving new future industry hence loosing Australian jobs to other countries. It is a bloody shame, as one individual I do not have the necessary political clout to make any sway in what is being proposed.

I wish you and others who hold a prominent place in this industry could jointly lobby the CASA.

Thank You
Ganesh

#7

I actually think that we have the worlds best rules in australia.
CASA are doing a great job.

I totally disagree with the registration cost… it’s absurd. But CASA had that forced on them unfortunately.

#8

From the BBC

“ On 11 Jul 2019, at 11:17 pm, "bbc_complaints_website@bbc.co.uk" bbc_complaints_website@bbc.co.uk wrote:

Dear Mr Rowse

Thank you for contacting us about ‘Horizon: Britain’s Next Air Disaster? Drones’.

We raised your concerns with the programme makers. To allow us to reply promptly to your concerns, and to ensure we use our licence fee resources as efficiently as possible, we’re sending this response to everyone who contacted us.

In the wake of the crisis at Gatwick Airport last year, and the strong public interest, the BBC’s flagship science strand ‘Horizon’ decided to investigate the latest technology behind drones and whether the safety measures around UK aviation are keeping pace with these advances.

Our programme investigates these issues in the public interest, to understand how best we can protect our airports and other vulnerable locations from the threat of potential drone misuse.

The continued relevance of this was highlighted again in the last couple of weeks when a spokesperson from the British Airline Pilots Association raised their concern with MPs that the threat to aircraft from drones is currently potentially underestimated.

Although the central drive of the film looks at the issues around safety and preventing potential misuse, from the outset and at several points during the programme the presenter Aldo Kane highlights the potential benefits of drone technology and the positive impact it can and will make in the future.

The film does not claim that drone technology is unsafe, but rather that it can be used maliciously when in the wrong hands. Indeed, as drone users ourselves, the BBC is well aware of the positive benefits of them when used appropriately.

Transformative technology such as drones will challenge many aspects of society and we believe it is important to provide the audience with rigorous scrutiny of new technology and an informed and intelligent analysis of the safety concerns that may raise.

The documentary is based on the very latest scientific research, and was made with advice from leading experts in drone security, technology, policy and legislation. We feel it provides an accurate and balanced reflection of the potential problems and solutions in this rapidly developing field of technology.

Please be assured that your comments have been added to the daily log which is circulated to senior programme makers and management.

Kind Regards

BBC Complaints Team
www.bbc.co.uk/complaints

NB This is sent from an outgoing account only which is not monitored. You cannot reply to this email address but if necessary please contact us via our webform quoting any case number we provided.”

#9

Hello All,

No surprises here, at the end of the day everybody is only interested in looking after them selves. I mean everybody even CASA, and other aviation industry around the world (Old boys club). Bodies like CASA are supposed to be independent of all influences. It is a shame, that a future industry like this being stifled and being pushed overseas for future development.

For example, CASA waited till the drone tests conducted by Google in Melboure Australia to come to an end before they plan to change the laws in Australia.

#10

Let’s keep this on topic regarding the UK… changing the law in australia takes many years, nothing to do with Google. I have personally been on some of the committees on these rules, and I can personally vouch that CASA are for this industry.

Feel free to pm me on this, I’m yet to see one area where the law has made it more difficult to use unmanned aircraft from a CASA point of view.

#11

Response to the BBC…

“Dear BBC
You did not address a single concern raised in our complaint to you, and you did not address a single concern raised by the other complaints that are widely available on various social media outlets.
Instead you quoted a spokesperson from BALPA who has previously pushed false information to push their unfounded fear mongering based on data that has been proven to state the risk at a level that is totally different from the concern raised.

In the “documentary”, there is a test where a drone is impacted into an aircraft wing.
This test was DELIBERATELY setup to bias the results by adding carbon rods to the squashed up drone that guaranteed catastrophic failure of the “wing”
Not only that, but the “wing” was not identified as to the aircraft type it was from, and the speed of impact was 250knts when aircraft arriving and departing Gatwick travel at 160-170knts when on approach or takeoff.

Your general response did not address the total lack of scientific evidence for these tests, and your inclusion of information from BALPA demonstrates the source of bias that we feared.

Regarding your desire not to waste money on a response to these matters, may I suggest you could save BBC a lot of money by not wasting it on fake documentaries about topics that are just designed to drive fear into the public.

Please RESPOND TO THE QUESTIONS IN THE FIRST EMAIL!”

#12

Agreed Philip, CASA is responding to a massive uptake in drone use in a measured and consultative way. As a commercial fixed wing pilot and someone active in the drone industry, I appreciate the balance CASA takes, I have heard too many of my fellow fixed wing pilots frustrated at sighting drones around 1500 plus feet on high traffic scenic aircraft routes. It’s a difficult one and CASA does work well with industry.

There will continue to be bad press for drones, purely because of fear and anxiety. The response is to promote the positive aspects for drones, we are rolling out drone technology education for primary schools in WA and doing talks in the community through Rotary / council libraries to better inform the community. We all have a roll to play in informing the broader community and perhaps getting our message through to the media too.

#13

Philip This is the standard letter the BBC are sending out to everyone who complains. Why is there such a problem with drones (Model Aircraft). I have been flying for 28 years and a member of the BMFA (British Model Flying Association) in the UK for that time and new been a problem between Maned Aviation and Model Aviation. There are several local clubs that not only fly in controlled airspace one actually shares the airfield.

As mentioned on RC Model Reviews a few weeks ago is there an agenda to ban drones and clear the airspage for Amazon, Google etc the do deliveries??

You have also probably seen this

#14

I’m not a big conspiracy theory person, but this whole thing stinks of it.

BALPA have an agenda… they are terrified that automation will cost pilots their jobs.

The big end of the UAV industry also has a lot to gain with lots of rules

But the biggest load of snake oil are the CUAV clowns. They are peddling fear, and fake solutions.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some very bad players using drones for very bad reasons… but more laws have nothing to do with that…

#15

Philip,

As I have mentioned earlier every one looks after themselves, and also you have agreed to my point to an extent that automation will cost jobs. But as it stands now the existing aviation industry has the whole air space monopolized and they are not willing to share with the newcomers like us (The Drone Industry), in fear of loosing jobs. Also because the existing aviation industry is the money maker for all involved they have better leverage to influence the Government of the day for Now.

It is like sticking your head in the sand and wishing the changes will blow away, but people in the current aviation regime including CASA are fighting against a loosing battle. They may have the upper hand now, but in the long run I do not see the need for roads, and we all have to learn to share the air space soon for transport. I feel very pity for the Governments who are big on spending money on, obsolete infrastructure, all I can see the taxpayers, money being wasted for a select few peoples gains.

#16

As I have said to you before… CASA are very active in promoting and pushing unmanned aviation forward in australia.

It is easy for anyone to go and get a RePL, or fly sub 2kg without it… you can fly up to 25Kg commercially on farms with little to no restrictions.

May I ask, what restrictions you are seeing from CASA?

#17

Ganesh,

We all look out for #1 but many (I hope most) of us look out for more than that. I don’t want to see anyone on earth get hurt by what we are doing. What we are doing is great and I want to defend that for all of us. By profession I am a sworn public servant, & I apply that to everything I do. We all do not just look out for ourselves. Example: Look at the unpaid help we get here!

Automation has not cost jobs it has moved them to higher thinking people. Uneducated and complacent people may gripe but the jobs are still here, it just takes willingness to learn new skills. This statement is based on the fact that population has increased by exponents and the unemployment rate percentage is consistent as a small percentage more or less.

This whole thing with the video and BBC concerns me for the long term of UAV. I want the UAV industry to thrive. Still as of today the FAA (Federal Aviation Admin.) has done a pretty good job of working with the AMA (American Modeling Association) and commercial pilots here in the US. Not to say everything has gone the AMA way but It seems cooperation between the groups has worked here better than some others. We have outlets for discussion, and I get emails weekly on laws we are working. I read them out of concern, but they all look positive and safety consensus. I do not get the feel like the manned aviation industry is pushing us out. I can’t speak for your situation and I hope I did not offend you or anyone reading by this.

We will always need roads. We cannot fly naturally, too many people will never be able or want to navigate through the air, even with automation. Also, construction is groundwork, we are a decades off from efficiently flying a 35,000 Kilo. tanker, concrete truck or scraper on a 5 or 100 KM trip.

Lastly, Infrastructure last 50 years. It is not a waste of money possibly in 200 years but first everyone would need to get over the last 200.

1 Like
#18

Latest reply from the BBC…
“ Thank you for taking time to contact us again recently. This is an update to let you know that although we had referred your complaint to the relevant people, we regret that it may be a little longer before we can reply.

We investigate and reply to most complaints at this stage of the complaints service within 20 working days (around four weeks), but cannot do so every time. It depends on what your complaint was about or how many others we are investigating, and can sometimes be affected by practical issues. For example a production team may already be working on another programme or have gone on location.

We apologise for this and have been in touch with the relevant staff again. We therefore ask you not to contact us further in the meantime.

For full details of our complaints process please visit: http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/handle-complaint/.

In the meantime thank you for contacting us - we appreciate your patience.

Kind regards

BBC Complaints Team
www.bbc.co.uk/complaints

Please note: this email is sent from an unmonitored address so please don’t reply. If necessary please contact us through our webform (please include your case reference number).”

#19

Philip

Where I could fly, and where I cannot fly. I agree CASA is one of the government agencies which is very considerate to drone users. I do not want to make any further comments on this subject.

Thank You.