News

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As soon as this holiday season

Soon, the FAA will force U.S drone owners to register their UAVs after quite a few incidents around airports this year.

The Department of Transportation took the first step on October 19 by announcing the formation of a task force to create a registration process.

Small drones weighing less than 55 pounds have been an increasing safety concern for years. According to the FAA pilots reported unsafe activity by UAVs about 100 times a month, in 2015 alone. Last August, two airliners flying over the New York City area each reported passing within 100 feet of drones.

“We require car registration to ensure safety and accountability, and we should do the same for drones,” said Sen. Edward Markey, D-Massachusetts in a statement.

 

Drones that fly too close to aircraft can easily be sucked into a jet engine, or crash a cockpit window.

But the safety hazards are not only found near airports.

Drones crashed last month at two sporting events, too. ON at theU.S. Open tennis tournament and another one at a University of Kentucky football game.

Five drones prevented California firefighters from dispatching helicopters for up to 20 minutes over a wildfire that roared onto a Los Angeles-area freeway in July this year. The Choppers could not drop water because the five drones hovered over the blaze.

The task force will be made up of 25 to 30 diverse representatives of drone manufacturers, manned aviation industries, the federal government, and other stakeholders,” said the DOT.

The task force has a good deal of work before them as quite a few questions remain unanswered. It is still unclear which drones will need to be registered and which will be classed as toys. Unanswered is how the registration will be enforced, too.

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Good thing we have just the ammo you need

drone-below

Snake River Shooting Products from Idaho are now producing “Anti-Drone ammunition”.

While it seems to be just normal small game and bird shot, their marketing is very heavy handed on the fear factor.

In addition to the marketing on dronemunition.com “Prepare for the drone apocalypse”, here is a summary from a review article by Scott W. Wagner cited on their own website:

People are buying and using video-equipped hovering drones for purposes other than legitimate recreation.

In addition to these downright dangerous uses of private drones, some operators are invading the privacy of neighbors via these high-tech aerial Peeping tomsystems-sending them over neighbor’s property to spy on their activities.

Peeping tomsystems

In order to make the most out of the characteristics of the shotgun and give the defender the best possible opportunity to down one of these things, the folks at Snake River Shooting Products have introduced their 12-gaugeDrone Munitionanti-drone load.

It seems odd that the manufacturer seems to be well aware of the legal conundrum that anyone shooting down a drone will face.

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The Swiss postal service is thinking about using drones to provide services to hard to reach areas. For this, tests with drones are beginning in Switzerland today.

“We want to reach every corner of Switzerland” states Dieter Bambauer, head of PostLogistics Switzerland. “With this project we test the use of existing drone technology.”

Commercial use is planned earliest in five years, since a full list of technical and legal questions will have to be answered first.

One of the technical issues is the limited battery life of the drones. The current prototype can deliver a package of 1kg (~2lbs) over 10km (~6 miles)

Drones made in Silicon Valley

The drone was constructed by the US based firm Matternet. The company was in the limelight for helping to bring medicine and equipment to out of reach clinis in the Himalaya mountains.

The expedited transport of medical samples is another use case. The “flying mailmen” could bring medicine to mountainous regions, too.

Official video

Not weatherproof

According to the manufacturer, the drone is constructed to be very light.

The drone is controlled by an iphone app. Given the coordinates, the drone will use the matternet navigation system to find its destination. On its way, it will heed obstacles, terrain and weather conditions.

The use in adverse weather conditions is limited, as Mr. Raptopoulus states.

The tests under different conditons is one of the goals of the project.

The so called “Project Phoenix” also includes Swiss WorldCargi, the Air cargo division of the Swiss airlines.

No substitute for mailmen

Replacing the mailmen is not a realistic goal says Mr. Bambauer “With over 500,000 Packages delivered daily, this would be an impossibility in our small airspace.”

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The fleye is yet another drone under development.

Aimed at amateur users, this autonomous drone will be about the same size and weight than a soccer ball (22cm wide, 350g). Its single propeller is fully shielded. That means that you can safely hold it in your hands, throw it, catch it, and fly it nearby people.

The flye is controled by a smartphone app.

 

Fleye

For more information, visit the creators’ website at gofleye.com

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While drones aren’t generally something that airlines want anywhere near their planes.
Yet European budget airline EasyJet is eyeing their use to speed up aircraft reviews.

The organization is planning to use drones preprogrammed to inspect aircraft on the floor after in-flight events like lightning strikes.

Nowadays, such reviews are done visually and need an engineer to get up above the aircraft and around its exterior. This requires a working platform and takes a lot of valuable time.

The drones will fly around an aircraft snapping images, which will be fed to engineers for analysis.

Engineers will use the pictures instead of visual inspections to check possible difficulties. A human review and sign-off will still be considered necessary on any aircraft that has been scanned by drone.

EasyJet is working with Blue Bear Systems, a British drone company and Bristol University, to test the technology and says it’s already demonstrated that the drone fly-around is possible.

Next, it’s working on getting higher resolution pictures from the drone to provide a clearer view for engineers.

The airline said it is trialling the use of 3D printing to replace parts within the cabin like arm rests to speed up the replacement process and reduce the storage of spares. 3D printing will be a part of the next generation engines that easyJet has on order. The LEAP engine features 3D printed parts including fuel nozzles, carbon filter fan blades and ceramic matrix composites.

Video of the Easyjet Innovation Event.

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At the reCode conference GoPro CEO Woodman revealed that GoPro is working on a drone, slated for debut in the first half of 2016.

“It’s incredible to see our world from new perspectives. It’s a real ‘Oh my God’ moment,” said Woodman on stage at the conference. “We did that with our GoPro cameras, and we see a similar opportunity in the quadcopter market. It’s something that’s in our DNA, and we are excited about it across the company.”

Read more at the source.

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New rules regulating the use of UAVS have been signed by the Minister of Transport, Ms Dipuo Peters and will be officially be put into effect 01 July 2015.

The director of Civil Aviation Poppy Khoza said the South African Civil Aviation Authority had engaged with a number of key role players such as operators, manufacturers, and other airspace users and after months of amendments and incorporating requests by various stakeholders a draft was approved by the Minister of Transport on 5 May 2015.

The announcement of the official regulation means the SACAA has in fact taken the lead in formulating its own recommended standards and practices, ahead of the global regulator ICAO.

“In the absence of guiding documents from ICAO, regulators such as ourselves have had to swiftly derive measures to address the regulation deficiency in response to a growing demand to regulate this sector.”

“The SACAA took into account the national safety and security needs. We also took into account the work done by ICAO thus far and what is likely to be an international position and customised it into local regulations, taking into account our unique conditions.”

Khoza said the regulations related to remotely piloted Aircraft are specifically governed according to Part 101 of civil aviation regulations. She also said drone rules do not relate to toy aircraft or unmanned free balloons or other types of aircraft which cannot be managed on a real-time basis during flight.

Essentially the new rules require a person who operates a drone to have a CAA approved and valid remote pilot licence as well as a letter of approval to operate the drone. Approval letters will be issued for 12 months at a time.

Drones also cannot be sold unless the seller makes the purchaser aware of the SACAA’s criteria but proof of licence does not seem to be a prerequisite for purchase.

Those who fly drones adjacent to or above a nuclear power plant, prison, police station, crime scene, court of law, national key point or strategic installation will be seen as breaking the law.

Additionally, drones cannot be flown within 50m above or close to a person or crowd of people, structure or building – without prior SACAA approval.

The new regulations also states that an RPA shall give way to manned aircraft.

In addition to this, RPA pilots will be required to tune into the air traffic services for the controlled airspace they will be flying in as well as keep a logbook of all flying times and distances.

Khoza conceded that the regulations would not please all the stakeholders concerned.

“Let us all be reminded that this is the very first attempt at regulating this new industry. Moreover, there are no best practices to benchmark against anywhere in the world.”

Khoza said that the SACAA would use the next few weeks to put the final touches to the internal processes required to provide the necessary approvals and also to ensure that enforcement processes are in place in case the need arises.

“As the SACAA we are not claiming that these new regulations are static. Given the rapid pace of technological development in this area, we treat these RPAS regulatory framework as a continual work in progress, and hence we will continue to engage with industry to refine the regulations when, where and as deemed necessary.

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The government of Nepal recently cut down on drone use over the disaster areas.  This came as a surprise to many, but it should not have.

IRIN delivers an in depth article about the perils and pitfalls surrounding drone use in disaster areas.

Looking at the media reporting on drones helping in disaster recovery, one might not think this possible. But the recent earthquake in Nepal has shown some of the limits of these efforts. There are now at least ten international teams trying to help the earthquake-stricken nation.

The limits of drone use are beginning to show.

Chaos

It starts at the disorganization among the helping hands. This has been reported on by irevolution, too. A publication that was very positive about the “Digital Jedis” flocking to disaster areas before.

The article continues with a critical assessment of the use of the drones seen in Nepal. Commercially available drones like the Phantom 2 simply can only fly for a very limited time, in optimal conditions, and might be of less use than common methods.

Last but not least comes a look at the actual organizations and privateers in the area.

Opportunities for Data and Profit

Organisations such as the humanitarian UAViators might be above suspicion. The loose collaboration of individuals might mean more hindrance than help, though.

Commercial operations such as Skycatch might be trying to help, but one might wonder as to hidden motives. The Indian government’s fear of data like photos and maps taken for further commercial use could be well-founded.

Other groups, like the California-based Team Rubicon, link to actual intelligence efforts. In this case, the data mining firm Palantir Technologies. Official Website | Wikipedia

Not a ban

Even though the harder line against drone use in Nepal has been reported on as a “ban”, it isn’t.

The government uses licensing and permits to protect security relevant areas from drones, coordinate efforts, and be able to take a look at who is flying the machines over their airspace.

All these are valid concerns for any nation.

Growing up

Drones will be an important -if not vital – part in the future of disaster recovery. With this comes the need to coordinate, and regulate these efforts however well intentioned they might be.

A critical look at the possible misuse, working out a strategy to coordinate with governing bodies, and adherence to the laws are part of the maturation process for any technology.

Drones will be no exception.

Not even in diaster areas.

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A new bill introduced by U.S. Senators Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey, and John Hoeven, a Republican from North Dakota will look to establish temporary rules to regulate and manage the emerging commercial drone industry.

On Tuesday 12th of may 2015 the Commercial UAS Modernization Act, a bill that will set guidelines for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS or UAVs) was unveiled.

The widespread commercial use of UAVs is currently banned by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Currently, businesses have to apply for exemptions to operate drones on a case-by-base basis.

It is expected that it could take several years to establish permanent rules.

Read the full text of the proposed bill

Full text of the UAS Modernization Act of 2015. Proposed by Cory Booker and John Hoeven.

The new bill plans to create a deputy administrator position for the integration of unmanned aircraft, which will report to the head of the FAA and the Secretary of Transportation, and also suggests that the FAA establish an aeronautical test to license drone pilots.

The proposal comes as a response to the often lamented slowness in which the regulating bodies are dealing with the new technology.

Some might remember Amazon’s vice president of global public policy, Paul Misener complaining at a senate subcommittee hearing in March 2015:

“We innovated so rapidly that the UAS approved last week by the FAA has become obsolete. We don’t test it anymore. We’ve moved on to more advanced designs that we already are testing abroad.”