PITTSBURGH  Amazon wants to use them to deliver orders. One hovered over a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game last summer. And earlier this year, one crashed onto the White House lawn.

Drones are not everywhere yet, but once the Federal Aviation Administration fine-tunes the rules for commercial drone use, thousands of companies could receive licenses to do business via unmanned aircraft.

Using a drone for business purposes poses a host of potential legal issues, with privacy concerns at the top of the list, according to attorney Doug Wood. He recently co-authored a white paper titled, “Crowded Skies,” which explores the legal implications for companies using drones in the course of doing business.

“There’s a level of clandestine surveillance these things offer,” said Wood, managing partner of law firm Reed Smith’s New York office. “You don’t hear them coming.”

The FAA’s draft rules, released in February, are now subject to a public comment period that ends April 24, according to agency spokesman Jim Peters. Under the proposed rules, commercial drones under 55 pounds would have to be registered with the FAA, and operators would have to pass a written proficiency test and pay a fee.

Commercial users would not have to be licensed pilots, but would only be allowed to fly the drones during daylight hours if the draft rules are adopted as written.

The FAA began allowing drones in the country’s airspace in 1990, but with restrictions on commercial use. Companies must obtain what’s known as a Section 333 “special airworthiness certificate” to receive an exemption that allows limited commercial applications.

Wood said the most prevalent users of drones for commercial purposes at present are motion picture studios.

But for new changes proposed in February, known as Part 107, it’s expected to take much longer before the rules are official. In the meantime, last month the FAA said it would issue waivers to companies that already have the exemption allowing them to operate drones for commercial purposes for flights at or below 200 feet, according to Peters.

Wood pointed out that since so many drones are so quiet, the aircraft could be directly overhead before it’s detected by people on the ground, which is why the privacy issue is usually the first one to consider.

And if a movie producer uses a drone for filming, what responsibility does he or she have to avoid encroaching on private property or filming someone who doesn’t want to appear on camera?

Would trespassing rules apply, or could a drone flying overhead be considered an invasion of privacy? Or, if a company wants to use drones to capture security camera footage, what should the limitations be on how that footage can be used?

There also are considerations for liability. For instance, what steps does a commercial drone user have to take to be sure its aircraft doesn’t crash and injure someone? What level of insurance, if any, should a drone user carry?

While the FAA continues to work on its rules, drone technology is outpacing the regulations. According to a report last month in The Guardian, Amazon is testing its drone delivery services in Canada, apparently frustrated by the slow pace of the U.S. government’s action.

While the laws surrounding drone use lag behind the technology, Wood said commercial operators who don’t consider the potential legal risks before launching their drones do so at their peril.

“Once the commercial side becomes viable, then it creates a host of legal issues beyond the license to use a drone,” Wood said. “With the white paper, we were trying to paint a picture for commercial users so they understand the legal issues before they rush down the road.”

Source: http://poststar.com/ap/business/privacy-concerns-raised-over-drones/article_05e8883a-3fee-5ccc-abc9-6d72cc767bf7.html

San Diego County is a hub for drone manufacturing. There are nearly a dozen companies around the county involved in the manufacturing of drones and drone parts.

Innov8tive Designs in Vista is one such company.

KPBS Evening Edition spoke to Innov8tive Designs CEO Lucien Miller about how regulations may be affecting the drone manufacturing business and various uses for drones. Drones are being considered for use in firefighting and search and rescue.

Meanwhile, Amazon is considering using drones for package deliveries.

Just this week the Federal Aviation Administration gave retail giant Amazon the green light to begin testing its air-delivery drones. The FAA issued a certificate for the company to experiment with drones for research, development and crew training.

The FAA said Thursday that under the provisions of the certificate, the flights must be conducted at 400 feet or below during daylight hours. The drone must also remain within line of sight of the pilot and observer. The person flying the aircraft, meanwhile, must have a private pilot’s certificate and current medical certificate.

Amazon must also provide monthly data to the FAA on the number of flights conducted, pilot duty time per flight, unusual hardware or software malfunctions and other information.

Amazon had asked the FAA for permission to fly drones for package deliveries last July.

Source: http://www.kpbs.org/news/2015/mar/20/san-diego-drone-manufacturer-regulations-uses/

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Lucien Miller, President & CEO of Innov8tive Designs, Inc. informs us about what kinds of drones there are and what they can do. Click here to see this six minute segment for San Diego’s local news station, Channel 6.

Herding cattle. Counting fish. Taking an animal’s temperature. Applying pesticides. When it comes to drones, “your imagination can go pretty wild in terms of what would be possible,” says Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union. This month, the Federal Aviation Administration issued the first permit for agricultural use of unmanned aerial vehicles. Steven Edgar, president and CEO of ADAVSO, says his Idaho-based business will use a lightweight, fixed-wing drone to survey fields of crops.
Drone technology, already used in other countries, can make farmers more efficient by helping them locate problem spots in vast fields or ranchlands. Increased efficiency could mean lower costs for consumers and less impact on the environment if farmers used fewer chemicals because drones showed them exactly where to spray.
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, a trade group, says agriculture could account for 80 percent of all commercial drone use, once government regulations allow it. That could be a while. The Federal Aviation Administration has been working for years on rules that would balance the desire for commercial flights of small drones with the need to prevent collisions involving manned aircraft.

Five ways drones could affect the food supply:

SCOUTING FARMS

The first agriculture drones are looking at massive fields of crops to scout out where crops are too wet, too dry, too diseased or too infested with pests. They can help farmers count plants or measure their height. Farmers can now use satellite technology, but it’s slower and less detailed than images from low-flying drone.

“This is about getting the most productivity from every square inch of a farm,” says ADAVSO’s Edgar.

Alabama farmer Don Glenn said he would buy a drone or use a service that provides drone surveillance on his farm of corn, wheat, soybeans and canola. It’s hard to survey corn fields when they are 8 feet to 10 feet tall, he says.

Drones can carry different tools, including high-resolution cameras, infrared sensors and thermal sensors. Ground-penetrating radar could even measure soil conditions.

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APPLYING CHEMICALS

Once the land is surveyed, farmers could use that data to narrow the areas that need treatment. If a plot of farmland is infested with weeds, for example, a farmer could spray a small amount of herbicide just in that area, instead of an entire field, to kill them. Farmers hope that they eventually could use drones to do the spraying.

Kevin Price of the Iowa-based drone company RoboFlight Systems says that kind of precision would put farmers at a huge advantage, helping them reduce the costs of chemicals and their application.

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PLAYING COWBOY

The National Farmers Union’s Johnson says his father used to fly a plane over his ranch and his neighbors’ to spot escaped cattle when he was growing up in North Dakota. That’s something a drone could do with far less money and effort.

Lia Reich of the UAV manufacturer PrecisionHawk says the company’s drones can use thermal sensors to take the temperature of cattle. The data comes back as bands of color, and “if all of the cattle look green and one looks dark purple then that one has a higher temperature,” she said.

Drones could help ranchers count cattle, disturb pests that are aggravating livestock or even apply insecticide to an animal.

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FINDING FISH

A University of Maryland project is developing drone technology to monitor fish in the Chesapeake Bay. Matt Scassero, the project director, says the idea is that a laser-based sensor mounted on a drone would allow scientists to see through the water and measure the size of a school of fish. Researchers could ascertain the conditions of the water, too.

Some drones can land on water, making it possible to measure water quality, as well.

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REVEALING SECRETS

There are downsides for farmers. Documentary filmmaker Mark Devries has used an unmanned vehicle to fly over large commercial hog operations and film them. He wants consumers to see the buildings full of animals and huge manure pits.

The drones “allow for close-ups and vantage points that satellites and airplanes cannot easily obtain,” Devries says.

R.J. Karney of the American Farm Bureau Federation says there is a “major concern” about those kinds of films and his group intends to work with the Obama administration and Congress to address it. He says such films are not only a privacy violation, but can put farmers at a competitive disadvantage.

Still, the agriculture industry sees the advantages of drones as far outweighing the disadvantages.

“We’re concerned about falling behind other countries” as the FAA delays, Karney says. “Farmers are anxious to see where this can go.”

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/5-ways-unmanned-drones-could-affect-american-food-123420545.html

“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”

–Eleanor Roosevelt

According to industry reports, the UAV sector will see $98.2 billion in total cumulative spending for drones over the next 10 years — $11.8 billion of which will be for non-military commercial drones.

And, while the swarms of new drones buzzing over our heads have the capacity to improve lives, the reality of any emerging technology is that, sooner or later, someone will cause harm through recklessness or ignorance. How can you, the nascent drone pilot, avoid becoming the next cautionary headline? Heed the mistakes of your hapless forebears. Don’t do … this:

Read the rest of this entry »


After years of waiting, a Federal Aviation Administration official said the agency was close to releasing a ruling that would give commercial entities greater access to fly small unmanned aerial system in the domestic airspace.

The proposed ruling, which the agency has been working on over the past year, is currently being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget, Jim Williams, manager of the FAA’s UAS integration office, said on Nov. 5.

“We’re taking great strides to authorize commercial operations in the U.S., and the small unmanned aircraft systems rule that we’ve all been waiting on so long is getting really close to being done. We hope that it will be published before the end of this year,” Williams said during the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s annual program review.

Williams said he could not discuss specifics, but that the ruling “will open the door to a lot of commercial operations that aren’t authorized today.”

Under the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act, Congress mandated that the agency integrate small UAS — defined as systems less than 55 pounds — into the domestic airspace by September 2015.

Recreational drone users already enjoy flying their craft within line of sight, away from airports and under 400 feet. Commercial entities, on the other hand, are barred from flying drones until the FAA releases the much-anticipated small UAS ruling.

In late September, commercial users saw a glimmer of hope when the FAA announced it had granted six movie production companies regulatory exemptions to fly small UAS at controlled sets. Shortly after, a seventh company was exempted. Williams said the first filming would start this week.

The exemptions are permitted under section 333 of the modernization act, which gives the FAA more flexibility in allowing some commercial entities to fly small UAS safely, he said.

Williams said the agency had received 117 exemption requests as of Nov. 5, and the number increases every day. The FAA hopes to answer them within 120 days of their submission.

Many companies have expressed disappointment and frustration with the FAA because of what they perceive as delays in fulfilling its congressional mandate. AUVSI, for example, has been publicly vocal about the need for the FAA to speed up the small UAS ruling.

Eric Hudson, a senior analyst at the Government Accountability Office, said the GAO has been researching integration since 2008. While progress has been made within the FAA, more must be done. Specifically, it is imperative that the agency release the small UAS ruling.

“It’s critically important … because there continues to be additional users out in the airspace,” Hudson said. “It has kind of become a little bit out of a wild west out there. Obviously Congress isn’t interested in an accident happening, [and] the FAA’s not interested in an accident happening.”

While the Section 333 exemptions are a good step forward, the FAA must go further, he noted.

“There’s more and more requests each day for those exemptions and there’s no way those individual exemptions can keep up with demand,” Hudson said.

Despite criticism, Williams said the FAA is on its way to meeting its September 2015 deadline, though that doesn’t mean full integration will be completed.

“If you go look carefully at what the legislation actually says for the 2015 deadline, it says we have to have a comprehensive plan that describes what safe integration looks like by 2015, which we have, and we’ve got milestones along the way. We’re going to show progress by 2015 toward that safe integration, but the bottom line is Congress wanted us to be safe,” Williams said.

Last year, the FAA released a roadmap that detailed its plan for integration. Additionally, the organization in 2014 opened six UAS test sites throughout the country to research how to safely integrate the technology into the national airspace.

This is “an incremental process,” Williams said. “Yes, there are things we’ll have done by 2015 … [that] we’ll be very proud of. There’s a lot more work to be done that won’t be done by 2015 as well.”

As for when there would be full integration, Williams said he couldn’t answer that.

Source: http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=1663

The Hague (AFP) – A Dutch-based student on Tuesday unveiled a prototype of an “ambulance drone”, a flying defibrillator able to reach heart attack victims within precious life-saving minutes.

Developed by Belgian engineering graduate Alec Momont, it can fly at speeds of up to 100 kilometres per hour (60 miles per hour).

“Around 800,000 people suffer a cardiac arrest in the European Union every year and only 8.0 percent survive,” Momont, 23, said at the TU Delft University.

“The main reason for this is the relatively long response time of emergency services of around 10 minutes, while brain death and fatalities occur with four to six minutes,” he said in a statement.

“The ambulance drone can get a defibrillator to a patient within a 12 square kilometre (4.6 square miles) zone within a minute, reducing the chance of survival from 8 percent to 80 percent.”

Painted in emergency services yellow and driven by six propellers, the drone can carry a four kilogramme load — in this case a defibrillator.

It tracks emergency mobile calls and uses the GPS to navigate.

Once at the scene, an operator, like a paramedic, can watch, talk and instruct those helping the victim by using an on-board camera connected to a control room via a livestream webcam.

The prototype has already attracted the interest of emergency services including that of Amsterdam, the Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad said.

The Dutch Heart Foundation also applauded the idea, the newspaper added.

Momont however wants his drone to become a “flying medical toolbox” able to carry an oxygen mask to a person trapped in a fire or an insulin injection to a diabetes sufferer.

However, the drone is still in its infancy as far as developing its steering mechanism and legal issues regarding its use are concerned, Momont said.

He said he hopes to have an operational emergency drone network across the Netherlands in five years.

The drone is expected to cost around 15,000 euros ($19,000) each.

“I hope it will save hundreds of lives in the next five years,” Momont said.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/ambulance-drone-prototype-unveiled-holland-190813697.html?soc_src=mediacontentsharebuttons

More information: http://www.tudelft.nl/en/current/latest-news/article/detail/ambulance-drone-tu-delft-vergroot-overlevingskans-bij-hartstilstand-drastisch/#.VFD0ed3U0rs.twitter

As he went around Napa Valley in the past two years, Ken Giles had the unenviable task of notifying nearby residents that UC Davis would be conducting a demonstration project using drones to spray pesticides at its vineyard in Oakville.

Giles, a professor in the university’s biological and agricultural engineering department, said he was prepared for questions, especially given the civil rights qualms over military and police use of drones.

“I would go out and say, ‘I’m here to talk on drones spraying pesticides.’ If I was spraying over GMO crops, then I would have been three for three (on paranoia),” Giles wryly noted, referencing concerns over genetically modified organisms.

But Giles said he has not experienced much uproar over the program with partner Yamaha Motor Corp. USA, which has used its RMAX helicopter to test the efficiency and safety of aerial spraying over the Oakville vineyard. “It seems to be quieted down a bit,” he said.

The drones are expected to be more commonplace in the Napa vineyard, likely by next year if the Federal Aviation Administration approves Yamaha’s application to use unmanned aircraft systems for agricultural purposes.

Such approval appears increasingly likely as the FAA on Sept. 25 authorized six aerial photo and video production companies to use drones in the film and television industry.

“We feel the timing is right to investigate the U.S. market. We have been doing it the last couple years,” said Steve Markofski, business planner for Yamaha. “We have been focusing on high-value crops, specifically grapes here in Napa.”

Yamaha and UC Davis conducted a demonstration of the RMAX helicopter on Wednesday in conjunction with the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, a trade group which supports the defense, civil and commercial sectors. The aircraft, a small helicopter that weighs 140 pounds, carried water in its 2.1-gallon tanks, instead of pesticide.

Officials at the event were on message to continually utter the phrase “unmanned aircraft” as opposed to drones, which carry a more sinister meaning.

So far, the opposition to commercial use of drones is not as intense as that for military and police use.

“Our primary and basically exclusive focus has been and will continue to be on the use of drones by law enforcement,” said Will Matthews, senior communications officer for the ACLU of Northern California, via email.

Japan pioneered the use of drones in agriculture during the early 1990s, and now unmanned aircraft farm up to 40 percent of that country’s rice crop. Australia also uses drones for agricultural purposes.

Yamaha’s pitch for the American market is simple: the unmanned aircraft can save money, time and be more efficient than the traditional method of spraying by either tractor or by hand.

For example, the RMAX, flying approximately three meters above the vines at a speed up to 20 kilometers per hour, can cover up to 12 acres an hour. In contrast, a tractor can cover one acre. “We’re quite a bit faster compared to the current method,” Markofski said.

If approved, Yahama would likely target hilly vineyards, such as those along the Mayacmas Mountains, where spraying is much more difficult and time consuming. It also would apply for use in Yamhill County, Ore., which also has many wineries.

“Can you imagine treating those (hilly vineyards) with a ground tractor, how narrow those (fields) are and how risky that can be?” Markofski said.

The drones also can apply fertilizer and seeds as well as monitor crops. Yamaha would lease the aircraft, operated by a three-man team. The operator must remain up to 150 meters near the drone.

Yamaha is still formulating the price of the drones, pending approval, Markofski said.

UC Davis continues to crunch data from the test flights to monitor the drones’ efficiency, productivity and spray drift, Giles said. But so far there have been no red flags, especially in its safety.

“It’s a vehicle with potential where we know there are things we can do with it that we couldn’t do in the past — spot treatments, quick treatments, delivery of a very localized payload,” Giles said.

The Small UAV Coalition

Posted: October 6, 2014 in Uncategorized

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The Small UAV Coalition advocates for law and policy changes to permit the operation of small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) beyond the line-of-sight, with varying degrees of autonomy, for commercial, consumer, recreational and philanthropic purposes.  Our members, including leading consumer and technology companies such as Airware, Amazon Prime Air, DJI Innovations, Google[x], GoPro, Parrot, and 3DR, believe that U.S. leadership in the research, development, and production of unmanned aerial vehicles will benefit consumers in all walks of life. We believe that, working together, we will be able to remove unnecessary policy or regulatory hurdles that impede small UAV development, sales, job creation, and services. For more information about the Small UAV coalition, check out their website: smalluavcoalition.org!

Source: http://www.smalluavcoalition.org/

The FAA will approve Hollywood’s request to use drones for filming, government and industry sources familiar with the process have told Forbes. On Thursday afternoon the FAA will announce its decision, and explain the procedures under which production companies will operate and the aviation rules which they are exempted from, the sources say.

In May, seven aerial photo and video production companies asked for regulatory exemptions (known as a 333 exemption) that would allow the film and television industry to use drones with FAA approval. Those seven companies and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), were asked by the FAA to develop the guidelines and safety procedures under which they planned to operate. The FAA reviewed those procedures and is expected to approve the drone-specific rules and standards that will enable Hollywood to be exempt from existing aviation regulations.

The process was an onerous one that began more than four years ago with aerial cinematography companies working to develop internal guidelines. After filing their request for an exemption, the industry began drafting rules and guidelines, with the participation of pilots, lawyers, consultants, unmanned aviation experts, cinematographers, representatives from the studios, and experienced cinematography companies including Aerial Mob, Astraeus Aerial Cinema Systems, Flying-Cam Aerial Systems, Heli Video Productions, PictorVision, Snaproll Media and Vortex Aerial.

A representative from Vortex Aerial, one of the companies involved in the exemption process, said, “We are very proud to be a part of this monumentally historical event. Being the result of over 4 years of industry leader collaboration we can only hope that this most daunting and financially taxing of tasks will finally come to fruition and not be yet another false start for our industry.”

Aerial Mob, one of the aerial cinematography companies involved in the exemption process features this image on their website.

The exemption is expected to specify detailed procedures under which companies may operate. The companies involved expect to release clear safety rules and guidelines that will set the standard for other companies to follow. The exemption allows the companies to fly pursuant to specific rules for the types of flights film productions plan to conduct. By definition, the exemption means that Hollywood will not need to to comply with some of the general flight rules covering pilot certificate requirements, manuals, maintenance and equipment mandates and certain airworthiness certification requirements.

Hollywood is an appropriate industry to be granted one of the first exemptions, said Tony Carmean of Aerial Mob, because it can address the FAA’s two major concerns: safety and privacy. “Most studio productions take place on closed sites with an established perimeter, ensuring that personnel on those sites are affiliated with the production and are aware of inbound aircraft,” he said. Aerial Mob has worked with clients such as the BBC, Nike, Harvard University and MTV.  The company suspended all operations inside the United States while awaiting FAA approval, oftentimes filming in Mexico, which has a more permissive environment for aerial cinematography.

The companies involved in the exemption process have extensive flight experience with both manned and unmanned aircraft, suggesting that certification as a pilot of manned aircraft may be a criteria that the FAA believes is important for the operation of unmanned aircraft.  To date, the FAA has received 45 requests for exemptions from large and small companies across a range of industries including agriculture, oil and gas, pipeline inspectors and surveyors.  “We have even received an exemption request from a realtor, and a person asking for permission to use a UAS for news gathering,” said FAA spokesman Les Dorr.

Currently, Certificates of Waiver or Authorization are available to public entities that want to fly drones in civil airspace.  The FAA says that commercial operations are authorized on a case-by-case basis. Such operations require a certified aircraft, a licensed pilot and operating approval. The exemption process under Section 333 provides an additional avenue for commercial UAS operations.

Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/gregorymcneal/2014/09/23/drones-are-coming-to-hollywood-faa-will-announce-approval-this-thursday/

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A drone lifts off at Kunde Family Vineyards near Santa Rosa, Calif. Ryan Kunde, a winemaker at DRNK Wines, flies his drones recreationally and has been testing drones with the goal of one day using them to help make decisions in the vineyard.

When Steve Morris began building unmanned aerial systems in the late 1990s, he envisioned flying them over fields and collecting data that would be useful to farmers.

But after the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, drones became largely associated with military strikes and surveillance operations. Morris said the technology became the subject of contentious political debates and public paranoia.

“The entire dream evaporated at that point,” said Morris, founder and president of MLB Co. in Santa Clara, Calif. “In an alternate universe where [drones] rose to prominence through helping the economy, creating businesses and jobs, people would have a different view of them.”

More than a decade later, attention is refocusing on development of drones for commercial purposes. Amazon.com Inc., Google Inc. and Walt Disney Co. are grabbing headlines with plans to develop drones for deliveries, mapping and entertainment. I think it’s going to change agriculture as we know it in North America. It’s definitely going to allow producers to become much more efficient. – Scott Shearer, a professor at Ohio State University and an expert in precision agriculture

But the big boom in unmanned aircraft may come from what’s known as precision agriculture — using high-tech systems to help farmers increase yields and cut costs.

Read the rest of this entry »

Earlier this month, first responders in China used drones to determine the hardest-hit areas following a massive earthquake that killed more than 600 people, in one of the first displays of how drones can be used during emergency situations.

One of the great promises of drones is the technology’s inherent ability to be flown above a disaster site, giving first responders a survey of the situation and allowing them to direct where to send aid to. But, until now, that’s been more of a theoretical benefit of drones—very few people have actually used them in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Take, for instance, the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan last year in the Philippines: Tons of search and rescue helicopters, but not a single drone, searched for survivors.

Well, after an earthquake hit Yunnan, China, earlier this month, rescue workers there called up Hong Kong’s DJI (the largest commercial drone manufacturer in the world), and asked its pilots for help.

“We sent a team of pilots to assist the China Association for Disaster and Emergency Response Medicine following the earthquake. This was the first time [the country] used [drones] in its relief efforts and as a result many of the cooperating agencies and bodies working on site have approached us for training / using UAS technology in the future,” Michael Perry, a spokesperson for the company, told me in an email.

Perry said that the drones were able to relay images back to rescue workers, who used them to determine which roads needed to be cleared first and which areas of the rubble to search for possible survivors.

“Aerial images captured by the team were used by workers in the epicenter area of Longtoushan, where most of the traditional buildings in the area collapsed,” the company said. “The dense rubble and vegetation have made ground surveying extremely difficult, so using aerial images has helped identify where relief teams can focus on searching for survivors.”

It’s not clear if the drones directly helped save any lives (and granted, everything we know about the aerial imaging effort in this case is coming from the company itself), but this is clearly the future of disaster relief.

Drones are cheap, can be flown close to the ground, and are safer to use than helicopters. It’s only a matter of time until the very first response by first responders is to toss a drone in the air to get a survey of the situation. After that, they just might toss a drone in the air to help deliver medicine and supplies.

Source: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/what-chinas-drone-led-search-for-earthquake-survivors-looks-like

With all the negative press that UAV’s (we try not to label them as ‘drones’ due to the association of small, unmanned aerial vehicles being confused as military applications/weaponry), it’s refreshing to see the sheer beauty this technology can capture. A good example of this is the YouTube video below. UAV’s, when used safely and properly, can capture aerial imagery that no other technology could ever do. Enjoy!

When Virginia resident Guillermo DeVenecia went missing last Wednesday, police and searchers were dispatched to find the 82-year-old man, who suffers from dementia and hearing loss.

For three days, police, search dogs, a helicopter, and hundreds of volunteers combed heavily wooded areas and fields around DeVenecia’s Fitchburg home to no avail. Concerned for his safety as the search dragged on, Fitchburg police issued a news alert to all residents to be on the lookout for the missing man.

It took David Lesh about 20 minutes to find DeVenecia with a drone.

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Lesh usually uses his drone to photograph skiers and snowboarders for his Colorado sports-apparel company, Virtika. Hearing about the missing man, Lesh, his girlfriend, and her father took to the skies on Saturday above a 200-acre soybean field to aid in the search.

“I thought what would happen would be we’d be able to give them the peace of mind to cross of some more areas quickly,” Lesh’s girlfriend, Katie Gorman, told local NBC news affiliate WMTV.

According to Gorman’s father, Gary, he didn’t think at the time that they’d find DeVenecia alive and safe.

“To be honest, when David was flying the drone over the bean fields, we thought we were looking for a body,” he told reporters.

Using a FPV, or first-person-view controls, Lesh was able to fly above about 200 feet above the area and view it through the drone’s camera. He canvased the field, which might have taken volunteers many hours, in just a handful of minutes.

At the end of the flight around 1 p.m., Lesh said he saw DeVenecia through his camera, standing in the bean rows.

“As we were making the last turn to fly it, we noticed a man out in the field sort of stumbling, looking a little disoriented,” Lesh told reporters.

Lesh and his group carried DeVenecia out of the field and drove him to the local search command center and his worried wife.

“To get a hug from someone’s wife when they’ve been missing, just a tear-filled hug, is a feeling I won’t forget for a long time,” Katie Gorman told reporters.

Despite being without food, water, or shelter for three days, DeVenicia was found in good condition, suffering only from some mild dehydration, according to police. Reports indicate that he had no idea he’d been gone that long or that a massive search was underway.

Source: http://www.examiner.com/article/amateur-drone-pilot-finds-man-missing-for-three-days
Thanks to John Ellenberger over at Cleveland Aerial Media for the link!

LINK: Watch the video here.

It’s a view of Tampa like you’ve never seen before, a dazzling look at some the city’s most beautiful sights.

“I was just blown away. It was a weird moment, this is like a whole new perspective,” said Ben Bradley.

USF graduate Ben Bradley is the guy behind the controls. He owns the Right Hand Films production company and he used a drone to shoot the video.

“I love Tampa. I want to share our city, show our city. I think from an aerial perspective, it’s a great way of doing that,” he said.

His video has gone viral, eclipsing 60,000 views. It’s garnering attention from all over the country.

“I got an e-mail from a lady who moved out of state a few years ago. She was born in Tampa and she got emotional from the video because it brought her back,” he said.

Ben is already working on future shoots with his eye in sky. He believes with drones, the sky is the limit.

“If you’re careful with them and responsible with them, they can be a great tool,” he said.

Source: http://www.myfoxtampabay.com/story/26017552/with-soaring-views-drone-video-of-tampa-goes-viral

The new FAA rules: http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FAA-2014-0396-0001

It’s hard to know where to even begin with the new FAA rules that could soon the law of the land when it comes to model aviation. This reminds me of when Senate Bill 71 got rolling here in Oregon – except that I immediately grasped that threat.

FAA_PQ_01For me, personally, this latest twist in the seemingly unending saga to establish a regulatory framework for civilian drone operations in the United States came with a slow-burning fuse attached. I was busy with other projects and, frankly, I didn’t take the time focus on this subject – even as e-mails with subject lines like, “This is Really BAD!” started stacking up in my inbox.

Part of it, I think, was that I could not conceive that such sweeping, draconian regulations could be put into place by the FAA on a whim. (Actually, there is a pretty good legal argument to be made that they can’t – but we don’t want to be tied up in court for years on this issue, so long as we have better options available to us).

And, make no mistake, these new rules are terrible. They would undermine everything that many of us have been working on for years. Here are some highlights:

  • FAA_PQ_02FPV is gone – a clear violation of FAA regulations;
  • All aeromodelers are held to heretofore unimagined standards within the federal aviation regulations requiring, in some instances, that they hold full-sized, manned aircraft pilots’ licenses; and,
  • Doing pretty much anything related to model aviation for pay – like reviewing a new model for a magazine or receiving a sponsorship – is forbidden.

…and I’m really just scratching the surface here. There are depths of badness within this proposal that require spelunkers more dauntless than myself to bring into the daylight – and perhaps the most galling thing about this proposal is that the FAA could have simply enacted it without allowing public comment. They have given us until July 25 to provide feedback as a “courtesy.”

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Marking a milestone for the industry, Monrovia drone maker AeroVironment Inc. announced a contract to use an unmanned aircraft to perform routine commercial services over land in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration regulations.

The company’s small drone, called Puma AE, is now scouring BP Exploration Inc.’s Prudhoe Bay oil field in Alaska, a first under FAA authorization.

“These surveys on Alaska’s North Slope are another important step toward broader commercial use of unmanned aircraft,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “The technology is quickly changing, and the opportunities are growing.”

Since Sunday, the drone has been flying above the largest oil field in North America using high-tech sensors to create 3-D computerized models of roads, pads and pipelines for industrial applications.

The five-year contract could be a sign of things to come as drone technology becomes more advanced and demand increases from police agencies and others for using drones in the commercial world.

Melanie Hinton, spokesperson for Assn. for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the nation’s largest drone trade group, said the milestone is “an exciting moment in the integration process.”

Drones “have proven adept at safely and effectively performing aerial surveys, and can be an effective tool for the oil and gas industry,” she said. Hinton said her group believes more needs to be done to allow for such operations, with limits.

The Puma, which takes off after being thrown into the air, was designed to give troops on the ground a bird’s-eye view of what’s happening over a ridge or around a bend.

In one mission for BP, the AeroVironment drone assisted drivers moving  3.5-million-pound drill rigs on tight roadways in low visibility conditions by giving them high resolution 3-D models of the road ahead.

“This is an important achievement for our joint team and for the industry in demonstrating the safe and effective use of our proven UAS technology for commercial applications,” said AeroVironment Chief Executive Timothy E. Conver in a statement.

AeroVironment is the Pentagon’s top supplier of small drones — including the Raven, Wasp and Puma models. But the company, which makes drones in its Simi Valley facilities, has seen sales decline as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have come to a close.

Hoping for new revenue streams, AeroVironment has been waiting for the FAA to allow drones fly freely for commercial purposes here at home.

Currently, drones are not allowed to fly in the U.S. except with special permission from the FAA. As demand increases from commercial industries, though, the agency has moved to ease restrictions.

Oil and gas companies, like BP, want to utilize them to keep an eye on their pipelines. Movie makers want to use drones to film action scenes. The idea of using robotic aircraft as transport vehicles has been discussed as a way to deliver books for Amazon.com and pizza for Domino’s.

The FAA is working to meet a congressional mandate to integrate the airspace with robotic aircraft by September 2015.

However, the prospect of thousands of unmanned aircraft flying around U.S. airspace in populated areas beginning at that time appears unlikely. The FAA has said that remotely piloted aircraft aren’t allowed in national airspace on a wide scale because they don’t have an adequate “detect, sense and avoid” technology to prevent midair collisions.

Last summer, the FAA gave away two first-of-its-kind certificates that permitted operators to fly drones for commercial purposes. However, they were in remote areas over water.

The oil field at Prudhoe Bay is in the northernmost part of Alaska, near the Beaufort Sea. There, AeroVironment’s Puma, which has a wingspan of about 9 feet, flies at 200 to 400 feet above ground level for up to 3.5 hours at a time.

“This technology will help BP optimize the planning and implementation of maintenance programs for the North Slope infrastructure throughout Prudhoe Bay,” said Dawn Patience, a BP spokeswoman. “Targeting maintenance activities on specific road areas will save time, and address safety and reliability.”

Source: http://www.latimes.com/business/aerospace/la-fi-faa-bp-drone-20140609-story.html

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More forward-thinking farmers are dabbling with small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)—or drones—for a multitude reasons. For Donavon Taves, it all started because of the bears.

That’s right—black bears roaming the Louisiana countryside have a tendency to step on or occasionally bite through Taves’ poly pipe irrigation. It was easy enough to fix, but it was time-intensive to check his fields daily for the recurring problem.


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What You Need To Know About Drone Safety


Taves fitted his small hexacopter (six rotors) with a camera and programmed it to fly over the poly pipe. Each morning, he sits down with a cup of coffee and reviews the footage so he knows which poly pipes to patch before he leaves the house. Problem solved.

“There are so many great ideas to explore using this technology,” he says. “They are easy-to-fly work toys. A quick look at fields from 300′ up can help identify lodging and wind damage issues and help you make decisions regarding field harvest order. Return on investment comes very quickly.”

Taves emphasizes the importance of responsible use, which primarily means don’t fly the drone over your neighbor’s fields. Be mindful of limiting factors such as battery life, which typically is 20 minutes or less.

Matt McCrink, a Ph.D. student with The Ohio State University, says that UAVs have numerous other potential uses in production agriculture. Drones can also be used for monitoring and recording plant health, water usage and pesticide dispersal.

“This will allow for the creation of a historical database, which farmers might use to project future crop yields and soil health,” McCrink says.

Awareness—and scrutiny—for drone technology have grown side by side. Interest has skyrocketed since the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International said that the agriculture industry would be the biggest benefactor of UAV use, says Rory Paul, CEO of Volt Aerial Robotics.

“My phone has been ringing off the hook since then,” Paul says. If farmers could use UAVs to capture just 1% more efficient operations or just 1% more yields, “you’re talking about billions of dollars,” he says.

But the technology is not without its critics. Most consumers were introduced to drones as weapons of war, not as farm scouting tools. Public outcry varies, but some pockets have generated heated debate about civilian spying and other potential privacy concerns. The citizens of Deer Trail, Colo., will even vote this fall whether the town can issue “drone hunting licenses,” which would allow the townsfolk to shoot down drones and collect $100 bounties for their efforts.

There’s also the matter of legality, or possible lack thereof.

Most UAV operators follow 1981 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines for recreational model planes. Under these guidelines, a UAV can’t fly higher than 400′ and must stay away from airports and other “sensitive” areas such as schools and hospitals.

However, these guidelines were never meant to govern on-farm UAV usage. They are only for recreational use, which currently excludes commercial use by individuals or companies. Congress has directed the FAA to address commercial UAV use no later

Source: http://www.agweb.com/article/enter_the_drone_zone_NAA_Ben_Potter