Arlington, VA

A fleet of drones will take to the skies above Arlington next month in an effort to figure out how many deer call the county home.

The drones will be piloted by a firm contracted by the county and overseen by Arlington County police. Normally, drone flights this close to D.C. are strictly prohibited, but Arlington is being granted special permission by the Federal Aviation Administration and other federal agencies. The county is also coordinating with Reagan National Airport.

The drones will look for heat signatures in the woods in order to develop a count of Arlington’s white-tailed deer. This will be “the first accurate measure of Arlington’s deer population,” the county says, noting that “only anecdotal data… currently exists.”

The dones will be launched just before sunrise on Monday, April 5 and the count will continue until just after sunset, for up to two weeks.

The county is careful to note that the drones will only be looking for deer and will “not identify people.”

More from a county press release, below.

Arlington County has hired a contractor to perform a drone survey of heat signatures of the County’s white-tailed deer population. The survey information will assist with the development of the County’s Forestry and Natural Resources Plan. The survey will only collect heat signatures of deer and does not identify people.

“We’ve all seen deer in the County at one time or another,” said Alonso Abugattas, the County’s Natural Resource Manager. “We’d like more than just anecdotal evidence. We want to clearly see how many and where they are so we can mindfully steward our natural resources.”

Thermal and infrared imagery has helped improve counting by relating animals’ unique heat and visibility signatures to precisely count only deer. In one study, it was shown that Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), commonly referred to as drones, can be about 43-96% more accurate than ground or human-made observations in counting wildlife. Montgomery County, MD, has conducted UAV deer surveys in locations throughout Montgomery to determine carrying capacity.

The drones will be flying over Arlington beginning a half hour before sunrise April 5 (weather permitting) each day until 30 minutes after sunset, until the survey is completed. They will not be flying at night. The survey could take up to two weeks but is weather dependent. Drones are not permitted to fly over Arlington except for very limited instances. Arlington has coordinated the project with US Department of Homeland Security, Federal Aviation Association (FAA), Transportation Security Administration, Ronald Reagan National Airport, and Arlington County Police Department (ACPD). In accordance with FAA guidelines, ACPD will be onsite monitoring the drone flights.

This will be the first accurate measure of Arlington’s deer population. Only anecdotal data on Arlington currently exists. By 1900, white-tailed deer population had been destroyed in most of Virginia. Through the 1940’s to 1980’s with restocking efforts, laws protecting deer and favorable habitat, deer have rebounded at an exponential rate in Virginia.

Accurate data will determine Arlington’s deer carrying capacity. Deer are important and a necessary aspect of wildlife with important wildlife functions when in balance with the surrounding habitat. Per the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, the carrying capacity for deer can vary widely between and within communities. Data from the surveys will help determine Arlington’s carrying capacity.

Photo via Arlington County

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If you live in Arlington, the Pentagon — specifically, its police force — wants you to leave drones off your Christmas list this year, at least if you’re planning on flying it locally.

The Pentagon Force Protection Agency yesterday tweeted a reminder that Arlington and the area around the Pentagon is strictly a “No Drone Zone.”

Not only is operating a drone near the Pentagon illegal, your drone could be forcibly brought down if it gets too close.

“Drones flying within the Pentagon Reservation may be subject to counter-UAS measures,” the post notes. That and criminal charges would make for a pretty unhappy holiday, the agency suggests.

Photo by Diana Măceşanu on Unsplash

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Morning Notes

Making the Case for Amazon in Crystal City — Amazon’s planned second headquarters would find a good home in Crystal City, according to Washingtonian magazine writer Dan Reed. He said the combination of a major airport close by, good transit links from Metro and the fact that it remains “underutilized” after Base Realignment and Closure makes it an attractive option. Reed also suggested Poplar Point on the Anacostia waterfront in D.C. or the Discovery District in College Park, Md. as other places that fit the bill. [Washingtonian]

More Than 40 Drone Flights Detected at Fort Myer — A study to detect unmanned aircraft found that 43 drone flights were picked up over Fort Myer over a 30-day period beginning in August. It is in the middle of a no-drone zone, with flights requiring specific permission from the Federal Aviation Administration. The report suggests the flights could have been from “well-intentioned” tourists at the nearby Arlington National Cemetery and other National Parks. [WTOP]

Leaf Collection Begins Next Week — “The Arlington County government’s vacuum-leaf-collection program is slated to begin November 13 and run through December 22. Each civic-association area is slated to get two passes during the cycle, with signs posted three to seven days before each pass, government officials said. Schedules also will be posted online. Residents wishing leaves to be vacuumed away should place them at the curb by the posted date, but avoid putting them under low-hanging wires or near parked cars.” [Inside NOVA]

APS to Slow Down Planning for Instructional Focus of New High School Seats — Arlington Public Schools and the Arlington School Board agreed to slow down the process of determining an instructional focus for the 500-600 new high school seats at the Education Center until a task force looking at the school’s strategic plan has finished its work. The plan had been for Superintendent Patrick Murphy to bring initial ideas for the site to the Board in December, but staff said slowing down would allow a “big-picture view of all high-school needs in the county.” [Inside NOVA]

Virginia Man Tried to Board Plane With Loaded Gun at Reagan National Airport — A Manassas man tried to board a plane at Reagan National Airport last Thursday with a loaded gun. The Transportation Security Administration detected the 9mm semi-automatic handgun during security checks, confiscated the firearm and cited the man on a weapons charge. It was loaded with seven bullets. [WJLA, WRC]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Morning Notes

Ballston time lapse photo (Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf)

Fmr. Arlington Resident John Glenn Dies — John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth, has died at the age of 95. In an article first published in 2012, the Arlington Public Library blog recounted the five years that Glenn and his family lived on N. Harrison Street in Arlington. [Arlington Public Library]

Soon: Central Place Apartments, Restaurants — Residents are expected to start moving into the new Central Place apartment tower in Rosslyn at some point during the first three months of 2017. Restaurants coming to the ground floor of the building include Sweetgreen, Little Beet, Nando’s Peri-peri and McDonald’s, while Cava Grill and Compass Coffee has signed leases for the Central Place office tower. [Washington Business Journal]

Fort Myer Getting Drone Detector — Officials from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall said at a recent Arlington civic association meeting that the base is working to procure a drone detection system. The base commander said he’s worried about “miniaturized tools of terror, specifically drones carrying home-made bombs.” [Pentagram]

Video: Ovi Delivering Pizzas in Arlington — Okay, it’s just a commercial and didn’t really happen. But a new 30-second TV spot from Papa John’s imagines Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin delivering pizzas in Arlington in 2001 as he pursues a childhood dream to become “the best pizza delivery boy in the world.” [Russian Machine Never Breaks]

Local Startup Scores Big Military Contract — Clarendon-based cybersecurity firm Endgame has won a $18.8 million contract from the U.S. Air Force. It’s believed to be “one of the largest endpoint protection software purchases in the Air Force’s history.” [Fedscoop]

Startups Recognized By County — Arlington County recognized four of the county’s fastest-growing companies this week as part of its second-annual “Fast Four” competition. The honorees were the Nicecream Factory ice cream shop in Arlington, Ballston-based Deep Learning Analytics, Clarendon consulting firm Enterprise Knowledge and Ballston-based software company Convoke. [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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FAA_NDZ_web(Updated at 10:30 a.m.) Arlington is a “No Drone Zone,” the Federal Aviation Administration is reminding residents and visitors.

The FAA launched a public outreach campaign this week to try to stop the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in the federal restricted airspace around D.C. It comes as a man was detained for flying a drone near the White House for the second time this year.

The area within a 15-mile radius of Reagan National Airport is restricted airspace, and all aircraft must get approval, even the small, remote-controlled kind.

“Anyone visiting the DC area should leave their drone at home,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a press release. “We want to make sure everyone knows and understands the rules about flying in the National Capital Region.”

The FAA says the D.C. region’s airspace is the most restricted in the county. It’s been tightly controlled since Sept. 11, 2001. Now, the new campaign is aimed at reminding residents and visitors of the area that nothing has changed.

The FAA is rolling out a GPS-enabled smartphone app that tells users when they are out of restricted airspace. They will also be providing materials to local jurisdictions — including Arlington, which sits entirely within the “No Drone Zone” — to educate their residents on the policy.

Image via the FAA

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Morning Notes

Snowy Dark Star Park and path in Rosslyn (Flickr pool photo by Brian Allen)

Arlington Named No. 3 Best Place to Live — Arlington has been named the No. 3 “best small to mid-sized city” to live in the U.S. The county scored high marks for civic engagement, education, amenities and diversity. Topping the list were Madison, Wis. and Rochester, Minn. [Livability.com]

County Still Winding Down Streetcar Project — Arlington County still is on the hook for about $60,000 worth of contract work associated with the canceled streetcar project. Most of the county staff members working on the project have been transferred to other departments, County Manager Barbara Donnellan said in an update to the County Board regarding the project wind down. [InsideNova]

Fmr. Rep. Moran to Lobby — Recently retired congressman Jim Moran has been hired by the Washington law firm McDermott Will & Emery. Moran plans to join the firm’s lobbying practice, lobbying primarily for defense contractors. [Washington Post]

Development Tracking Report — Arlington County has released its quarterly development tracking report for the fourth quarter of 2014. Notably, no new office construction was approved or started during the time period, although 761 new residential units were started and another 73 were approved. [Arlington County]

Drone Company Disables Flight in Arlington — Following a recreational drone’s crash landing at the White House, drone manufacturer DJI has pushed out a firmware update for its robotic vehicles that prohibits flight within a 15.5 mile radius of downtown D.C. [Engadget]

Making Business Easier in Arlington — Arlington County is taking some small steps toward making it easier to do business in the county. Arlington recently introduced online business license registration and a streamlined process for paying building permit fees. [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by Brian Allen

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