Welcome to the Weekly UAS News Update. We have four stories for you this week: DJI loses $279 million in a lawsuit, Autel Robotics is potentially releasing a new drone called the Autel Alpha, an Arkansas country of origin ban bill, and an NPRM that could overhaul the Part 107 waiver process. Let's dive in.
Our first story this week is Textron versus DJI. Textron sued DJI in 2021, alleging that some of DJI's drones were using patents related to their hovering capabilities. Textron won the Legal battle, and a federal grand jury in Waco ruled that DJI willfully infringed on Textron's patents, awarding a $279 million verdict. DJI argued that Textron is a military helicopter company, while DJI is a civilian drone company, claiming there are no similarities between the two technologies. We will keep you updated as this battle continues.
The second story this week involves a leak from Autel. Rumors and specs have emerged about an unreleased Autel drone called the Autel Alpha, which appears to compete with the DJI Matrice 30. The leak was reported at an Autel Robotics Global Partner Summit and included images of the aircraft and a spec sheet. The Alpha may feature a 50-megapixel wide camera, a 4K zoom camera with 25x zoom, a 640×512 thermal camera, and a laser rangefinder. The Alpha will likely be an upgrade from the Max, which hasn't been seen flying yet. Autel seems to be targeting the same market as DJI with the Matrice 30 and Mavic 3 Enterprise. The Alpha also appears to have capabilities for multiple payloads, a 45-minute flight time, and 360-degree obstacle avoidance. We will keep you updated on the Alpha's release.
Our third story this week is another country of origin ban for public safety, this time in Arkansas. Law enforcement will have four years to phase out the use of foreign drones, and departments may need to apply for waivers through the Secretary of Transportation. This follows a similar ban in Florida last month, with additional bans being considered in Texas, California, and Tennessee. We would prefer to see uniform security standards for drones that can be tested individually rather than outright bans from certain manufacturers, but the proponents of these bans have a different story to tell.
Our final story this week is a call to action. There's a new NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking) on how the FAA approves airspace waivers and airspace authorizations. The NPRM would continue to give the FAA authority to collect data on operations to issue airspace authorizations (LAANC). If the FAA were stripped of their authority, ATC would have to do it manually, which proved to be problematic early on after Part 107 was introduced. The FAA estimates there will be about 1.5 million airspace authorizations over the next three years. To keep the U.S. industry moving smoothly, we believe that LAANC and the FAA's drone authorizations must continue as they are. You can leave your comment on the NPRM until May 22nd.
A quick reminder that we will be at AUVSI Xponential in Denver from May 9th to May 11th next week. We hope to see you there; you can stop by our booth 2643, say hi, and chat. On Monday, we will have a live “Ask Greg Anything” session from Colorado. Mark your calendars, and we hope to talk to you then. We may even have some surprise guests. Have a great weekend, and we will see you next week.
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