“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:

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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.

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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.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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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

While drones have generated controversy for their use in war zones as well as fascination for their potential use in delivering everything from pizzas to packages, unmanned aerial vehicles also hold the promise to revolutionize archaeology. Learn how archaeologists are employing the most high-tech of tools to discover and protect the most ancient of artifacts.

Remote Control Drones

Archaeologists are increasingly discovering that the best way to find out what is hidden below the ground is to take to the skies. According to an article in the May 2014 issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science, researchers last summer employed a pilotless aircraft to learn more about an ancient village that lurks beneath the layers of dusty soil and sagebrush of remote northwestern New Mexico.

University of Arkansas archaeologist Jesse Casana and University of North Florida professor John Kanter outfitted a remote-controlled, eight-rotor mini helicopter with a heat-sensing camera that revealed buried structures in the 1,000-year-old settlement known as Blue J, approximately 40 miles south of Chaco Canyon, an ancient Pueblo cultural and religious center. The heat-imaging revealed stone rubble, ceremonial pits and the footprints of houses lurking beneath the desert landscape, discoveries that in the past would not have been possible without disturbing the site.

Kanter told the Associated Press that the use of drones saved archaeologists considerable time and money. “Really within a few hours we were able to survey this area that took me a long time, years of what we call ground reconnaissance and excavation to see what’s below the surface,” he said. “So this is great for quickly and pretty cheaply being able to find sites.” Plus, the aerial information will allow researchers to pinpoint exactly where they should dig.

For decades, archaeologists have known about the promise that heat-imaging holds in locating cultural remains buried underground because bricks and stone walls retain and emit warmth differently than the surrounding soil. However, low-altitude flights were needed in order for aerial thermography to be effective, something that wasn’t technologically or economically feasible until the development of affordable pilotless aircraft. In the past, archaeologists seeking bird’s-eye views needed to access satellite data, strap equipment to kites or balloons or rent crop dusters, but these failed to provide the more detailed views offered by drones and could be expensive. Small drones that can be operated with a radio-controlled handset cost around $1,000, and instructional websites such as DIYdrones.com are democratizing access to technical information.

Archaeologists are employing drones for additional uses besides aerial thermography. They are attaching infrared sensors, magnetometers, barometers and GPS devices on craft to assist in their work. In locations throughout the Middle East and South America that have been prone to looting, archaeologists are mounting video cameras on drones to keep an eye out for vandals, protect sites from destruction and create a digital record of ruins for posterity in case any damage reconstruction needs to be undertaken.

Pilotless aircraft are assisting researchers in creating data-rich, three-dimensional maps of archaeological sites. Since drones skim close to the ground, they can measure topographical changes within an accuracy of half-an-inch. The time-consuming task of mapping that previously had been done by hand and could take months and years can now be done in a matter of days.

Archaeologists are also employing unmanned aircraft to explore remote locations that they cannot safely reach. The flipside is that tomb raiders and antiquities traffickers interested in plundering ancient artifacts could have access to the same capabilities. By making these remote locations more accessible, the risk increases that they will not be kept intact.

While drones hold the promise of revolutionizing archaeology, potential obstacles remain. With current technology, flights usually can last only a maximum of fifteen minutes, and the mini helicopter used by the archaeologists in New Mexico has a tendency to suddenly stop and crash to the ground.

And as drones have proliferated, so have safety and privacy concerns. A Pew Research Center poll released last week found that 63 percent of Americans believe that allowing personal and commercial drones to fly through U.S. airspace would be a change for the worse. While “hobbyists” are allowed to fly drones at low altitudes, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) currently prohibits their commercial use. However, the FAA is working to develop operational guidelines on the commercial application of drones by the end of 2015. Any easing of restrictions on the commercial operation of drones holds the promise in aiding the future work of archaeologists.

Source:  http://www.history.com/news/can-drones-revolutionize-archaeology?utm_content=buffer87166&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

 

North Dakota will soon get a glimpse of a future where farmers can monitor their crops using small, flying drones. That’s because the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has given the state the go-ahead to start using its unmanned aerial systems (UAS) test site. It’s the first one to become operation among the six commercial UAS testing program sites chosen by Congress in 2013. The state’s Department of Commerce will hold two rounds of flight tests using Draganflyer X4ES drones not only to monitor crops, but also to test soil quality. These are relatively small, helicopter-like machines, which measure 36.25 inches in length and width and are equipped with Sony cameras.

While the mission’s main goal is to prove that drones can be used for those aforementioned farming tasks, authorities will also be collecting safety data from the flights.

According to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta:

These data will lay the groundwork for reducing risks and ensuring continued safe operations of UAS. We believe the test site programs will be extremely valuable to integrating unmanned aircraft and fostering America’s leadership in advancing this technology.

In other words, missions conducted in the six test sites will determine the future of UAS in the country and perhaps even to make the public realize that not all drones are harbingers of doom. The Draganflyer X4ES drones will take to the skies on the week of May 5th at North Dakota State University’s Carrington Research Extension Center and then again at Sullys Hill National Game Preserve this summer. But, as the permit to operate the site is good for two years, the drone will likely roam more Peace Garden state fields in the future.

Source: (Thanks Kevin!) http://www.engadget.com/2014/04/21/drone-test-site-north-dakota

Archaeologists flew a drone over an ancient site called Blue J in northwestern New Mexico to obtain aerial thermal images of the site.

 

Thermal images captured by an small drone allowed archaeologists to peer under the surface of the New Mexican desert floor, revealing never-before-seen structures in an ancient Native American settlement.

Called Blue J, this 1,000-year-old village was first identified by archaeologists in the 1970s. It sits about 43 miles (70 kilometers) south of the famed Chaco Canyon site in northwestern New Mexico and contains nearly 60 ancestral Puebloan houses around what was once a large spring.

Now, the ruins of Blue J are obscured by vegetation and buried in eroded sandstone blown in from nearby cliffs. The ancient structures have been only partially studied through excavations. Last June, a team of archaeologists flew a small camera-equipped drone over the site to find out what infrared images might reveal under the surface.

“I was really pleased with the results,” said Jesse Casana, an archaeologist from the University of Arkansas. “This work illustrates the very important role that UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) have for scientific research.”

Casana said his co-author, John Kantner of the University of North Florida, had previously excavated at the site and the drone images showed stone compounds Kantner had already identified and ones that he didn’t know about.

For example, the thermal images revealed a dark circle just inside the wall of a plaza area, which could represent wetter, cooler soil filling a kiva, or a huge, underground structure circular that would have been used for public gatherings and ceremonies. Finding a kiva at Blue J would be significant; the site has been considered unusual among its neighbors because it lacks the monumental great houses and subterranean kivas that are the hallmark of Chaco-era Pueblo sites, the authors wrote in the May issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.

The images also could guide archaeologists’ trowels before they ever break ground.

“Now that we know what household compounds look like in thermal imaging, we could use it to prospect for structures at other sites,” Casana told Live Science.

How it works

Archaeological features like bricks and stone walls retain and emit warmth differently than the surrounding soil, meaning heat maps can provide an outline of rubble buried underground. Casana said archaeologists have been talking about using thermal imaging technology to probe ancient sites for decades, but it’s been almost impossible to operationalize.

“To do it, you need to get a really high-resolution thermal image collected at the right time of day,” Casana said. “It involves tasking a plane with a very expensive sensor to fly at a very low altitude, and that’s just not something that archaeologists could afford.”

Casana primarily studies archaeology of the Middle East and was leading a dig in Syria until civil war broke out in the country in 2011. In 2012, he got a Start-Up grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities to study aerial thermographic imaging. Casana has been investigating archaeological sites with an eight-rotor CineStar 8 remote-controlled copter, which he built from a $6,000 kit a few years ago. So far, he has tested the technology at a site in Cyprus, a Plains Village settlement in South Dakota and the ancient city of Cahokia near modern-day St. Louis, among others. He said he would be taking the craft to Iraq this summer for a new project in Kurdistan.

The uncertain future of drones for science

Archaeologists and other scientists who want to study the Earth from above are increasingly looking at drones as a research tool as the cost for unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, goes down. But the technology is hardly perfect, and there are legal hurdles, too.

“People who fly them for fun say it’s not a question of if you’ll crash it, but when and how badly,” Casana said. He found that to be true in his trials. Hardware sometimes comes loose mid-flight and the software on the ground occasionally freezes, Casana said. He travels with replacement parts and backup systems like balloons and kites.

Meanwhile, the lack of regulations for UAVs in the United States makes it difficult to implement the technology just yet.

The Federal Aviation Administration has set a goal to implement commercial drone regulations by 2015 and recently designated six drone-testing centers across the country to research how UAVs could be safely introduced to U.S. skies. FAA officials have held that it is illegal to fly commercial drones until they write those rules, though they suffered a setback last month when a judge for the National Transportation Safety Board overturned the FAA’s decision to fine a man $10,000 for using a drone to shoot a promotional video, Bloomberg News reported.

To comply with these legal gray areas, Casana said he had to rely student volunteers to operate the drone in New Mexico this summer. (“Hobbyists” have no problem flying the aircraft.) He expressed concern that debates about drone use often ignore scientific applications.

“When legislators think about use of technology, they often don’t think about science,” Casana said. “They need to come up with some regulations. Until they do, it’s really kind of hamstringing science.”

Source: http://www.livescience.com/44679-drone-images-reveal-buried-archaeological-ruins.html

smalldrones
Arch Aerial Drone

A couple years ago, Ryan Baker founded Arch Aerial, a Houston-based drone manufacturer. An archaeologist by training, Baker worked on shooting excavations for clients, and eventually moved into working on films. Then, universities and high schools came knocking; they wanted drones to film their athletics. Now, with drones recently shooting sports at the Sochi Olympics, the idea might be gaining some mainstream traction.

Baker gave a talk at South By Southwest about how drones are changing sports, and we caught up with him after to chat.

Popular Science: Can you start by telling me a little bit about how drones are already being used in sports photography?

Ryan Baker: It made the most sense and it was first adopted by extreme sports, because one, the general user in extreme sports, a lot of times they’re younger, and they’re trying to get shots of them skateboarding or skiing or snowboarding. That’s where it’s at now.

Drones being used at Sochi—that was huge, for our industry in general, because it put it in the public eye. It’s becoming a thing that’s adopted by mainstream sports.

PS: Like what? Football?

RB: Football, initially people think wide game passes, that’s a possibility. But I think it’s more going to be used for practice film and promotional film for teams. Certainly you can get those long shots using those things, but I don’t know if they’ll actually implement that for liability reasons.

 

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