Saturday, October 24, 2015

Taming the Commercial and Recreational Drone Market

  • Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced the creation of a task force to develop recommendations for a registration process for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) aka “drones” and said, “Pilot sightings of UAS doubled between 2014 and 2015.  The reports ranged from incidents at major sporting events and flights near manned aircraft, to interference with wildfire operations.”
  • FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said “These reports signal a troubling trend … registration will help make sure that operators know the rules and remain accountable to the public for flying their unmanned aircraft responsibly.  When they don’t fly safely, they’ll know there will be consequences.” 
  • Transportation Secretary AnthonY Foxx said “Registering unmanned aircraft will help build a culture of accountability and responsibility, especially with new users who have no experience operating in the U.S. aviation system … It will help protect public safety in the air and on the ground.” Note: Between April 2014 and August 2015, the FAA said that passenger planes have reported 891 violations of FAA rules by drone operators.
  • Senator Dianne Feinstein of California said “The FAA’s decision to require registration is a key step, but the agency should have additional authorities to require safety features and set rules on when and where drones can fly. Congress must pass the Consumer Drone Safety Act to ensure drone safety is addressed in a comprehensive way.” 
  • Note: 1) Feinstein, along with Senator Charles Schumer of New York, is sponsoring of the Consumer Drone Safety Act and 2) California has the highest number of FAA drone violations with 189 sightings.
  • Regarding the drone taskforce – Given the increasing number of violations, there is a great need for education and oversight, to manage the pace of market growth as commercial firms and do-it-yourself (DIY) players introduce new products.
  • Regarding Feinstein’s efforts – Because of the significant use of drones in California, the state will likely be a legal trendsetter in the drone market. For example, the state recently passed a law addressing invasion of privacy when a drone knowingly enters the airspace above another person.  
  • Bottom line – Dronesrobots and hybrid devices will create 1) new market opportunities, 2) novel legal disputes and 3) regulatory oversight challenges

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Continuing Challenges of Cyber-Security

  • Last week, the Wall Street Journal’s article “Cataloging the World’s Cyberforces” said, “More than 60 countries have or are developing tools for computer espionage and attacks. The world is shrouded in secrecy, and the hackers involved are notoriously difficult to track, making certainty and comprehensiveness impossible … [some] have formal military or intelligence units dedicated to offensive cyberefforts … [some] have bought off-the-shelf hacking software … {most] use cybertools for surveillance, either domestically or internationally.” 
  • Separately, the Washington Post cited an Oct. 15, 2015 report by which said “Our results indicate 32 countries where at least one government entity is likely using the [FinFisher} spyware suite, and we are further able to identify 10 entities by name [Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Mongolia, Morocco, Nigeria and Serbia] … FinFisher is a sophisticated computer spyware suite and ...  [is] sold exclusively to governments for intelligence and law enforcement purposes.  Although marketed as a tool for fighting crime, the spyware has been involved in a number of high-profile surveillance abuses.  Between 2010 and 2012, Bahrain’s government used FinFisher to monitor some of the country’s top law firms, journalists, activists, and opposition political leaders. Ethiopian dissidents in exile in the United Kingdom and the United States have also been infected with FinFisher spyware.”
  • In addition, the Computer & Communications Industry Association (whose members include AmazonGoogleFacebookNetflixMicrosoftPayPalRedhatT-Mobile and Yahoo) said “The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) is again due for consideration in the Senate in the coming weeks.  The bill primarily aims to facilitate the timely sharing of cyber threat indicators between and among the private sector and government, with the goal of improving overall domestic Internet and infrastructure security … However, CCIA is unable to support CISA as it is currently written. CISA’s prescribed mechanism for sharing of cyber threat information does not sufficiently protect users’ privacy or appropriately limit the permissible uses of information shared with the government.  In addition, the bill authorizes entities to employ network defense measures that might cause collateral harm to the systems of innocent third parties."


  • Regarding cybeforces – As hackers increasingly access personal data on corporate services, the comments by the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post / are reminders that cyber efforts include the participation of governments of all sizes.
  • Regarding the views of the CCIA – In the post Edward Snowden era, concerns about how governments use personal data remain high.
  • Bottom line – Regardless of the outcome of debates about how personal data is shared, a broad set of physical and digital assets will continue to be compromised by cybercrime and cyberespionage.  

Sunday, October 4, 2015

As Renewables Transform the Energy Market

  • Last week, as G-20 energy ministers met in IstanbulFatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) said "We expect 2015 global oil investments to be 20% less than 2014 … this is the biggest decline in oil history” and “In 2014 the renewable energy investment in China was bigger than the investments in the U.S. plus all European countries all put together … Governments must remove the question marks over renewables if these technologies are to achieve their full potential and put our energy system on a more secure, sustainable path.”
  • IEA also released its Renewable Energy - Market Analysis and Forecasts to 2020 report, which said, “renewables are expected to be the largest source of net additions to power capacity over the medium term … Onshore wind leads the global renewable growth, accounting for over one-third of the renewable capacity and generation increase. Solar PV is the second-largest source of new capacity, another third of deployment. Hydropower accounts for one-fifth of new renewable additions.”
  • Separately, Former Vice President Al Gore, at the Washington Ideas Forum, said "The most exciting source of hope is that the engineers and scientists and business investors have come up with a stunning cost-down curve for electricity from solar energy."
  • Finally, Solar City CEO Lyndon Rive, at a product introduction in New York City, said the firm was introducing the “Most Efficient Rooftop Panel on Earth." 
  • Regarding oil investments – Oil price declines have negatively impacted a broad ecosystem of businessescommunities and investors involved with in the energy sector and it is unclear how long the “market rebalancing” process will take. (Note: the oil prices are driven by a complex mix of economic AND geopolitical dynamics.
  • Regarding demand for renewable energy – Successful deployments will be driven by providing better economics than incumbent energy sources,  as well as alignment with environmentally friendly initiatives – which may be supported with government subsidies.
  • Regarding Gore’s comments – Innovation should drive down costs and broaden adoption – but depressed oil prices may present headwinds for renewable adoption.
  • Regarding Solar City – It is unclear if their “efficient" product is also a “cost effective” product.The firm will likely continue to use panels from providers such as Canadian SolarTrina Solar and Yingli Green Energy.