October 9, 2015
The FAA is testing technology to locate and track drones flying near airports. [via TIME]
According to a press release from the FAA, the organization will work with CACI International Inc. on technology to identify drones flying within 5 miles of an airport through their radio signals.
“The demand for recreational drones has exceeded anyone’s expectations,” FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Whitaker testified before the House Aviation Subcommittee Wednesday, explaining the dangers of drones being operated near airports. “This demand is driven in large part by individuals who are completely new to the aviation experience. They are not necessarily the traditional model airplane operators—members of local clubs who follow safety guidelines and rules.”
Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon told USA Today that he received a CACI briefing about the technology used in military applications, and he explained how the tracking would work. “They can pinpoint the operator,” he said. “They can force the drone to land, they can force it to go back to the operator. Or, in the case of hostiles, they can deliver something to the operator.
Read full article.
October 6, 2015
The FAA is proposing the largest fine to date against a drone operator as the agency cracks down on the booming use of unmanned aircraft in congested skies over populated areas. Bloomberg reports.
The FAA said Tuesday it was recommending a $1.9 million penalty against SkyPan International Inc., which made 65 drone flights from 2012 to 2014 in airspace above cities including New York. The company uses drones to photograph the prospective views from Manhattan high rises under construction, according to its website.
The action comes as the FAA has struggled to enforce existing rules on drones and attempts to finalize the first regulations allowing small unmanned vehicles to operate commercially. Drone sightings by pilots, including close-calls with airliners, have surged from only a handful a month last year to over 100 per month.
Read full article.
October 1, 2015
As many as one million drones could be sold during this year’s holiday season, FAA official Rich Swayze has told ATW Online. [Fortune]
Officials are understandably concerned about what a million drone sales will mean for the safety of both their operators and the public, and they want to inform people about the risks.
The FAA will send a representative to Walmart to educate its salespeople about UAVs, and how to pass that information along to customers. This might not be all that helpful if people purchase them online. Walmart currently offers 19 drones on its website, the cheapest one going for just $19.99.
It has been difficult for government agencies to implement regulations regarding UAVs because there are so many different aspects to attend to. Swayze mentioned that in the 15 years he has been working on policy in Washington, D.C., he has “never seen so many divergent interests driving one topic.
Read full article.
September 17, 2015
America’s burgeoning drone industry is being threatened by liability risks. Fortune reports.
Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration approved its 1,000th commercial drone permit, 998 more than it granted last year at this time.
But as commercial drones move toward ubiquity, the industry still faces a major obstacle in assessing and appraising drone-related liability and adequately insuring both drones and the companies that use them.
A report released last month by UK insurance house Lloyd’s details just how challenging insuring the drone industry may become in the years ahead. The report cites “patchy regulatory regimes” and “poor enforcement” among the key risks facing the drone industry—risks that exist beyond the control of drone manufacturers or operators themselves.
Pricing risk in the absence of strong regulatory frameworks and enforcement mechanisms could prove troublesome, the report says. And, that’s before you delve into issues like third-party liability for a technology where risks range from broken windows or roof damage to major aviation catastrophes.
Read full article.
The animal kingdom’s ire toward drones spans the cornucopia of species. Dogs, birds, cheetahs and rams can all be seen sending drones into a death spiral with unflinching tenacity. [Digg video via Discover]
September 16, 2015
The UK government is working with Nasa to build a tracking system for civilian drones.
A potential system could involve commercial drone pilots having to enter their details into an online database that holds information about their flights below 500ft. [via The Telegraph]
NASA is already working with the US government and companies like Google, Amazon and telecoms company Verizon on developing a database which will allow drone pilots to reserve blocks of airspace for flights. There is nothing yet in place at the EU level.
The collaboration comes as a result of widespread anxiety about the possibility of a mid-air collision between small drones and commercial aircraft.
September 15, 2015
A team at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, has succeeded in launching 50 drones that were all controlled by a single person. New Scientist reports.
To our knowledge, this is a world record for the number of UAVs under single operator control, by quite a long way,” says project lead Kevin Jones.
The team aims to develop swarming behaviours that give the benefits of having multiple drones without the need for a large number of operators.
The Zephyr drones they used are custom-made, largely from hobby parts, and cost about $2000 each. Getting so many into the air at once was challenging because they cannot be hand-launched like some smaller drones.
A resident of Nottingham has been convicted of illegally flying drones over football stadia and congested areas in London and other parts of the UK, marking the first prosecution of its kind in the country. [via The Next Web]
London’s Metropolitan Police Service said that 42-year-old Nigel Wilson pleaded guilty to seven offences that went against the Air Navigation Order 2009 [PDF], and was fined £1,800 ($2,770) plus £600 ($923) in costs.
He has also been banned from purchasing, owning and flying drones for the next two years.
Wilson flew his drone over Anfield stadium last September to film a soccer match featuring Liverpool and Ludogorets FC. The stunt startled mounted police officers’ horses, which nearly injured passersby.
Read full article.
Le nombre de drones observés à proximité des avions ainsi que les accidents évités de justesse auraient triplé en 2015 par rapport à l’an passé, selon un nouveau rapport de la FAA, s’élevant à 678 pour la période de novembre 2014 à août 2015, contre 238 pour l’année 2014.
Emily Turrettini pour Le Temps.
Des chiffres alarmants, car si un drone devait se trouver aspiré par le réacteur d’un jet commercial, les conséquences seraient catastrophiques.
Pour Arthur Holland Michel, du Centre des Etudes de Drones au Bard College de New York, dont les propos ont été rapportés dans Vice, les chiffres de la FAA sont à prendre avec prudence. Lorsqu’un pilote rapporte avoir vu passer quelque chose à toute vitesse pendant une fraction de seconde, ce n’est pas forcément un drone. Et les objets volants non identifiés observés à l’horizon depuis un cockpit, pourraient être aussi bien être un oiseau qu’un ballon d’hélium égaré.
Du métal au lieu des plumes
Mais d’avantage que le rapport de la FAA, ce sont les propos du capitaine Chesley Sullenberger qui retiennent notre attention. Le pilote américain qui a fait atterrir le vol US Airways 1548 dans la rivière Hudson en 2009, sauvant la vie de 155 passagers après que des oies sauvages ont été aspirées dans ses réacteurs, s’est prononcé sur le danger des drones à proximité des aéroports.
«Nous savons que l’impact avec un oiseau de 3 kilos peux faire descendre un avion. Imaginez les dégâts que pourrait faire un engin pesant entre 11 et 30 kilos, composé essentiellement de métaux. La question n’est pas si cela va se produire, mais quand cela va se produire.»
Le danger est donc bien réel et il est urgent d’agir. Législateurs, constructeurs et innovateurs se penchent sur des solutions pour parer aux vols illicites.
De nouvelles lois se profilent, exigeant une formation de la part des pilotes, puis l’obtention d’une licence. La Nasa de son côté envisage un couloir aérien destiné uniquement aux drones commerciaux. Les constructeurs eux, installent des logiciels de “geo-fencing” dans leurs systèmes de navigation qui tiennent compte des zones interdites de survol. Ainsi bridé, lorsque le drone arrive dans une zone illégale comme le périmètre d’un aéroport ou d’une centrale nucléaire, il est programmé pour faire demi tour.
De son côté le groupe français Thales travaille sur un système anti-drone qui brouillerait les fréquences afin de perturber les échanges de données entre drone et pilote.
La fin de la légèreté
Et afin d’identifier à qui appartient cet objet volant qui bourdonne au-dessus de nos têtes, des chercheurs de l’University de Berkeley en Californie, dans le cadre d’un projet baptisé Lightcense, ont développé des plaques d’immatriculation dotées de lumières LED clignotantes, permettant d’identifier le propriétaire du drone selon la séquences des clignotements. Des séquences qui seraient stockées par les forces de l’ordre dans une base de données consultable par une application pour smartphone, selon le journal de MIT, TechnologyReview.
Les pilotes se doivent en tout temps de respecter le règlement de l’aviation civile de leur pays, mais les imprudences de certains ont fait la une des journaux, alarmant le public et les autorités. C’est la fin d’une certaine période de légèreté et de liberté pour les drones. Le Port Authority de New York et du New Jersey a même demandé qu’ils soient retirés des points de vente dans les aéroports sous leur juridiction.
September 8, 2015
A drone instructor has warned amateur pilots to take greater care, after one was involved in a near-miss at a public event in Cambridgeshire. ]via Cambridge News]
Spectators at Sunday's Duxford Soapbox Derby narrowly avoided injury after a drone lost control and collided with a tree.
lan Perrin, an instructor at the Cambridge UAV Academy, which trains commercial drone pilots, said event organisers were becoming more aware of the dangers of drones.
He told the News: "Lots of people who are interested in technology, or want the latest gadget, are getting drones for their own use, without understanding the rules, the potential pitfalls or the legalities they are associated with."
Drones can currently be used for personal use without licence, but anyone using one for commercial gain requires formal permission from the Civil Aviation Authority.
September 1, 2015
Built by a British Engineer, The Swarm has 54 counter-rotation propellers. It can run for about ten minutes and can manage to get 8-10 feet off the ground. [via Vice]
August 28, 2015
San Francisco-based startup Trees Delivery is gearing up to deliver marijuana by drone.
It's target markets? California, Colorado and Washington D.C. where smoking weed is legal.
August 27, 2015
It is now legal for law enforcement in North Dakota to fly drones armed with everything from Tasers to tear gas thanks to a last-minute push by a pro-police lobbyist. The Daily Beast reports via ReadWriteWeb.
House Bill 1328 wasn’t drafted that way, but then a lobbyist representing law enforcement—tight with a booming drone industry—got his hands on it.
The bill’s stated intent was to require police to obtain a search warrant from a judge in order to use a drone to search for criminal evidence. In fact, the original draft of Representative Rick Becker’s bill would have banned all weapons on police drones.
Then Bruce Burkett of the North Dakota Peace Officer’s Association was allowed by the state house committee to amend HB 1328 and limit the prohibition only to lethal weapons. “Less than lethal” weapons like rubber bullets, pepper spray, tear gas, sound cannons, and Tasers are therefore permitted on police drones.
Read full article.
August 26, 2015
Drones are being used to capture video footage that shows construction progress at the Sacramento Kings’ new stadium in California. MIT TechnologyReview reports.
The workers building a lavish new downtown stadium for the Sacramento Kings in California are being monitored by aerial drones and software that can automatically flag slow progress.
Once per day, several drones automatically patrol the Sacramento work site, collecting video footage. That footage is then converted into a three-dimensional picture of the site, which is fed into software that compares it to computerized architectural plans as well as a the construction work plan showing when each element should be finished. The software can show managers how the project is progressing, and can automatically highlight parts that may be falling behind schedule.
August 25, 2015
The number of drone sightings and near misses reported by pilots so far this year is nearly triple that of 2014, according to the FAA. And while not all of those encounters were necessarily dangerous (or even involved drones) some of the incidents were awfully close to catastrophe. Motherboard reports.
On Friday, the FAA released all of its incident reports of drone sightings and near-misses from November 13 of last year to August 20, 2015. Since January, there have been 678 reports, compared to 238 for all of 2014. This is alarming because, as the FAA likes to remind us, if a drone or model airplane were to be sucked into the engine of a commercial jet, the results could be catastrophic.
But there are some caveats to these reports as well. For almost all of the incidents, a drone operator is never identified, making it difficult to confirm whether it was in fact a hobbyist pilot and not a commercial or military drone. There is also a lot of variation in the details and circumstances of the reports, such as pilots who report the object they spotted “might have been” a drone, or others who spotted unmanned aircraft that were within the FAA’s guidelines (more than five miles from an airport and flying at less than 400 feet).
The FAA has also landed in murky water in the past for highlighting dangerous “near misses” without much evidence.
“The reports can only be trusted insofar as any preliminary report of an incident can be trusted without further investigation,” said Arthur Holland Michel, the founder of Bard College’s Center for the Study of the Drone. “Sometimes, it is simply a report from a pilot who saw a mysterious object whizz by the cockpit for a split second, and assumes it was a drone. Other reports even say that the unmanned aircraft could have been a kite or a balloon, but it was too far away, or too brief of an encounter, to tell.
Sony announced last month that it was teaming up with ZMP Inc, a Tokyo-based robotics company, to create commercial drones. The company, called Aerosense, will use drones to survey and inspect areas that are difficult to access. [via The Verge]
Everyone’s been getting into the drone business lately — companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google are all testing drones delivery, and just last week Virginia Tech conducted a FAA-authorized test to deliver medicine via drone. But Sony plans to target enterprise customers, at least for now, implementing its camera, telecommunication, and robotic technologies to capture aerial imagery that can be processed in the cloud.
Aerosense will be based in Tokyo and aims to roll out services starting early next year.
August 20, 2015
Three inventive brothers from Howick in East Auckland have been awarded $10,000 to design a new drone that could revolutionise the film industry. [via stuff]
The brothers decided to take on the challenge of creating a drone that could not only film, but also record spoken dialogue with very little unwanted noise.
They hope their combined experience in electrical engineering and biotechnology will help them produce a marketable drone.
The design includes 3D printed shrouding which will muffle the sound of the propellers, as well as technology that will record dialogue while removing any unwanted noise.
Read full article.
August 19, 2015
Requiring blinking LED license plates on drones could help the public and law enforcement keep them in line. [via MIT Technology Review]
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, are working on a project called Lightcense, which involves a rectangular array of bright, multicolored LEDs attached to the underside of a craft. The LEDs blink a unique pattern that could be looked up in a database by law enforcement to identify a drone’s owner.
The LED license plate is designed to be decoded by a smartphone app, specialized camera equipment in the hands of law enforcement, or even memorized by someone who spies a drone that’s up to no good. That would provide an urgently needed public accountability mechanism lacking today, says Aislan Foina, director of the Cal Unmanned Aviation Research Lab at Berkeley.
August 17, 2015
Peru, a country with a rich historical heritage, has added drones to archaeology’s classical tools for surveying, registering and protecting archaeological sites from climate- and human-caused damage. Droneblog reports.
The use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, has so far helped in registering 375 archaeological sites, or 63.5 percent of those in the Lima metropolitan area, and most of them are located among buildings and avenues in the city of more than 9 million people.
The project coordinator at the Culture Ministry, Aldo Watanave, described for EFE how difficult it was to develop a registry of archaeological sites before the arrival of drones.
“Back then, to obtain aerial images, we had to check records of aerial photography from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, or we were required to wait until a satellite orbited over a specific area and took a picture,” Watanave said.
Read full article.
When Capt Sully talks, we all listen.
One of the more prominent voices bringing attention to the heightened risk of a drone-on-aircraft collision is Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. Sullenberger, most readers will recall, is the now-retired US Airways pilot that in 2009 managed to safely land his Airbus A320 passenger jet in the Hudson River, saving all 155 persons aboard. [via TIME]
On a recent appearance on Face the Nation, Sullenberger, now an aviation safety expert—told host John Dickerson in no uncertain terms just how bad a collision between a passenger aircraft and a drone could get.
We have seen what a six-pound or an eight- pound bird can do to bring down an airplane,” Sullenberger said. “Imagine what a device containing hard parts like batteries and motors can do that might weigh 25 or possibly up to 55 pounds to bring down an airplane. It is not a matter of if it will happen. It is a matter of when it will happen.