First in Drones? NC Prepares for Boom in Unmanned Flight

By American Homefront Project

The state that boasts of being “First in Flight” is preparing for another major aviation development – an expected surge in unmanned flight.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation has hired its first official to oversee the regulation of drones. The department also is developing a test that by the end of the year will be mandatory for people who want to operate commercial and government drones.

Meanwhile, a center based at North Carolina State University is working with researchers, government agencies, and private companies that want to use drones in their work.

The preparations come as the Federal Aviation Administration readies new regulations that are expected to open the nation’s skies to commercial drones sometime in the next year.

“When the final rule is made into law, we will see tremendous growth,” said Thomas Haun, the Vice President of Strategy for Raleigh-based PrecisionHawk. The company makes drones, but focuses on sophisticated analysis of the data they gather.

PrecisionHawk is developing drone-based systems that it hopes will help farmers monitor pests and diseases, boost harvest size, and use less seed, herbicides, and pesticides. It also works with insurance and energy companies. It has been working closely  with N.C. State’s NextGen Air Transportation Center (NGAT), which helps it test its drones in the field.

“The market opportunity for UAVs is quite large,” Haun said. “There are estimates that the United States is in the hundreds of billions of dollars of market size in the future.”

A toy-like plane with serious uses

NGAT conducts flight tests almost every day on what it calls “unmanned aerial vehicles,” or UAVs. Using a rubber strap, the drone operators yank the toy-like, foam winged plane up a ramp and into the sky.

At a Wake County cornfield, NGAT Director Kyle Snyder watched as the drone made a recent test flight.  It passed methodically back and forth over the field, snapping photos. His group has special federal permits to use several test sites around the state. It’s collecting both flight safety data for the FAA and agricultural information for farmers.

“The flight data looking at the crops, we’re sharing that with our industry partners,” Synder said. “We’ve got one of our ag partners here today that’s looking at yield predictions for corn.”

Farmers are one of many groups eager to use drones. The state government also wants them for road surveys and bridge inspections. And at least one North Carolina town plans to use them to monitor construction projects.

Soon, they should all be able to fly without special permission, when the federal and state governments end their moratoriums on most commercial and government drone flights.

The state is rolling out a permit system, including the mandatory test for commercial and government fliers.

Chris Gibson, the new DOT drone officer, stressed the online test is not designed to assess flying skills, and he said recreational fliers won’t have to take it. Rather, he said the exam is designed to ensure operators know the laws that apply to unmanned aerial vehicles.

“If there’s a law on the books that specifies something as a crime, just because you use a UAV to do the same type of thing doesn’t mean that all of a sudden it’s not a crime, “Gibson said.

“So, we have Peeping Tom laws for example. You can’t go looking in your neighbors’ windows. Well, you can’t do that with a UAV either.”

Still, some experts say drones likely will raise some unforeseen issues and require additional laws.

“As the technology improves, they could get smaller and smaller and therefore less and less noticeable, said Sarah Preston of the ACLU of North Carolina. “Whereas you would maybe notice a helicopter hovering over your property for a period of time while pictures are being taken or video or whatever, you’re less likely to notice something that’s maybe the size of a bird and that doesn’t make a lot of noise.”

Preston said North Carolina’s drone law, which went into effect last year, allows law enforcement agencies to fly drones over public gatherings, even on private property. She says they could even use facial recognition technology to identify people at a political meeting. Or even a neighborhood barbecue.

“I think there’s a lot to it that people are not necessarily thinking through,” Preston said.

A birds eye view for local governments

Law enforcement is only part of what local governments are planning to do with drones. And just a small part for some of them.

A couple of years ago, the Town of Mooresville bought a small hovering drone for about $1,000.

It wanted aerial images of renovations to a town golf course for its web site. Before long, the town was using it to get crowd counts at street fairs.

Now, Town Manager Erskine Smith envisions using it to find lost people, give firefighters a birdseye view of fires, and help citizens track public works projects.

“This is certainly an easy way to allow people to understand that you’re going to build a road connecting from here to here,” Smith said. “They can actually see it and visualize it, and get an idea of ‘Oh, yeah, now I know what they’re talking about.’”

Mooresville had to mothball its drone because the state put a temporary moratorium on their use by local governments. That will end after the state permits are available and the FAA implements its regulations. But the town found the drone so useful that it applied for special permission to get back in the air sooner.

“It’s a very inexpensive tool that, you know, they always say a picture is worth a thousand words,” Smith said.

FAA reauthorization bill delayed

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has delayed plans to release its proposed FAA reauthorization legislation. That occurred after the House majority leader informed the committee that consideration of the FAA reauthorization bill has been moved to September.

The current FAA authorization expires Sept. 30. It was put into place after an agonizing 23 short-term extensions that stretched from September 2007 to February 2012. While some lawmakers had promised that wouldn’t happen with this reauthorization, a short-term extension of the authorization may be needed while lawmakers pound out the final bill.

The reauthorization bill provides funding for the agency, but also includes priorities for the FAA, as determined by the Congress.

Problem solved: iPad won’t charge in your plane?

General Aviation News

I’ve had my iPad display “Not Charging” before when plugged into a USB port that didn’t have sufficient current capacity, but the iPad Mini that I use to run ForeFlight in the cockpit of my RV-7A wasn’t even displaying THAT!  It acted as though I hadn’t even applied power to it at all.

Here’s the simple fix that got it working…


How many times have you plugged your iPad into a USB port and saw the message “Not Charging”? Well, it was even worse when I tried to use the hard-wired USB port I’d created for my RV-7A to charge my iPad running ForeFlight.

Originally I’d removed my Garmin 696 and replaced it with an Android tablet to run Garmin Pilot.  To make sure that the tablet didn’t run out of battery power on long trips I’d ‘hard wired’ a 12 volt to USB Converter into my electrical system.  I used the converter made by CPT, shown below. Everything worked great, the Android tablet remained 100% charged all the time.  Life was good!


However, after trying to use Garmin Pilot over the next five months, I became disillusioned in how slowly (and that’s being generous) Garmin enhances their product. I admitted to myself that I was better off going back to running ForeFlight, even though that meant having to go back to an iPad.

So I ordered a new RAM mount to hold my iPad Mini, and on the day it showed up, I went out to the hangar to swap out the Android.  A few minutes later, with everything mounted and the iPad Mini connected to the USB Converter, I flipped on the Master switch.  To my horror, NOTHING happened. No little lightning bolt on the battery symbol, not even the “Not Charging” message that I’d seen before when plugging it into my computer. In disbelief, I stuck a Micro USB cable into the other dongle of the converter and plugged it into the Android.  The charge symbol lit right up.  Since the converter is rated to supply 3 amps total to the two USB dongles, and I only had the iPad plugged in, there should have been plenty of current to supply the 2 amps needed to charge it. I couldn’t understand how this wasn’t working.  Hmmm!

So over the next few days I did some digging on the Internet looking for a USB Cable wiring hack but found nothing that helped.  Then I stumbled onto this little gadget that claimed to solve all “iPad won’t charge” problems.  I was skeptical, but the little adapter only cost $5.69 and I was out of options. I really thought I was throwing a few bucks down the drain but was willing to try anything at that point.


The part showed up in less than a week and to my amazement, IT WORKED!  Just by putting this little device in-line with the iPad Mini’s USB cable it was now showing that it was charging.   Still being a little skeptical I wondered if maybe it just tricked the iPad into ‘showing’ it was charging but really wasn’t. So I unplugged the cable and let the iPad’s battery fall to 90%.  After reconnecting the cable, the iPad gradually increased back up to 100%, proving it really is charging.

So in conclusion, if any of you are having trouble getting your iPad to charge, this cheap little device seems to do the trick.  You can find them here:


I haven’t tried this one, but here is another product that might work.

Flight school offers online ground school

BURLINGTON, N.C. – Elon Aviation at the Burlington-Alamance Regional Airport (KBUY) now offers live online video-based ground school, enabling students to learn in the comfort of their own home.

“Students’ time is valuable, and ground instruction often goes to the back burner even when weather prevents us from flying,” said Elon Aviation Chief Flight Instructor Chris Whittle. “We want our students to continue to progress through their training by offering real-time ground instruction they can access in their home, office, or even while traveling.”

Through live online ground instruction, students can immediately respond to and ask questions of their instructor. It provides an interactive element that’s not found in pre-packaged training sessions, and personalized training that group courses can’t provide.

Sessions typically last one to two hours.

You can find a sample lesson here.

Elon Aviation also expects to expand its reach beyond the North Carolina Triad and Triangle areas.

It will continue to provide in-aircraft training in its facility at the Burlington-Alamance Regional Airport, but its online ground school is available to students across the U.S.

Students can call 336-221-9393 or email to schedule a session.

Lisa Turner to Receive EAA Tony Bingelis Award

EAA AVIATION CENTER, OSHKOSH, Wisconsin — (June 30, 2015) — Lisa Turner of Hayesville, North Carolina, is the 2015 recipient of the EAA Tony Bingelis Award. The award recognizes her 10 years as an EAA technical counselor, promoter of builder education through EAA chapters, and author of numerous articles on flight building and safety in such publications as EAA Sport Aviation, The Experimenter, KITPLANES Magazine, The Safety Wire, and local chapter newsletters.

Turner (EAA 509911) has been heavily involved with EAA and is passionate about spreading awareness of flying and building safety for aircraft builders. She has been involved with various member projects as a technical counselor and flight advisor.

“Lisa’s contagious passion for reaching the dream of building or restoring an aircraft rubs off on everyone around her,” wrote Justin Griffin, the EAA member who nominated Turner. “The excitement is easy to enjoy, and has propelled many people to believe they can reach their dream of building and flying their own airplane, beginning the journey by joining the EAA.”

Lisa will receive the award at the Homebuilder’s Dinner on Thursday evening, July 23, 2015 during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015.

The Tony Bingelis Award recognizes EAA technical counselors for dedicated service and/or significant contributions in assisting members to build and restore aircraft. Recipients of the Tony Bingelis Award are chosen by a committee of their peers as outstanding examples of people whose contributions have positively affected members’ aircraft building or restoration projects. Honorees are commemorated in a permanent display at the EAA AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.