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Rescue organization loses against FAA drone ban

Rescue organization loses against FAA drone ban

July 19, 2014 13:02 | By | 2 Comments

The US rescue organization Texas Equusearch, an NGO founded by the father of a missing child, has lost a court case against the FAA’s recently released interpretation of the law on UAVs. They lost not because of factual evidence, but because the FAA’s release is the “legal opinion of the FAA” and not a “decision with legal ramnifications”.

This line of reasoning is quite interesting because the FAA is already sending cease and desist letters and emails to organizations known to use UAVs, so it’s kinda difficult to argue that the FAA was just stating an opinion vis-a-vis acting upon it.

The FAA’s side of the story is that they’re keeping the skies safe etc. etc. – not an unreasonable point to make, just not related to the issue at hand. After all, it’s not like drones aren’t already part of aviation today, so broadly restricting civilian use due to “possible safety issues” is not really a compelling argument while military flight tests are sometimes not even filed beforehand.

UPDATE: To clarify, and because vice.com missed the point of the court ruling entirely, and a blog post on dyidrones quoted vice.com verbatim: The court threw out the Equusearch vs. FAA case beforehand because they said the cease and desist letters were not “real” cease and desist letters under the law, and thus don’t trigger the possibility to sue against. Vice is incorrect when they say that Equusearch has “won” anything. On the contrary, there is now no way to legally challenge the FAA position until after they fined someone under these new “interpretations”.  If anything, the FAA won, because their motion to dismiss was granted.

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NZ RC enthusiast forbidden from testing his selfmade Sense and Avoid system

NZ RC enthusiast forbidden from testing his selfmade Sense and Avoid system

July 4, 2014 14:04 | By | 1 Comment

Bruce Simpson, aka XJet on youtube, was planning to test his long-promised “Sense and Avoid” system. This system was meant to allow UAVs to sense approaching vehicles and prevent collisions between FPV UAVs and other models or full size aircraft. His plan was to use low-power 2.4GHz transmissions as a sort of cheap radar system. Asking for permission to perform these tests on the local Tokoroa airfield yielded a hard “no” from the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the South Waikato District Council (SWDC).

To quote Bruce:

They claim that the mere 35mW transmissions on the 2.4GHz band associated with my SAA testing would make flying RC model jets unacceptably risky – yet the very people flying them are all wandering around with wifi-enabled smartphones capable of putting out 200mW each on the same frequencies, and the average microwave oven in nearby houses may churn out almost a watt of noise by way of leakage — or at least that’s what Wikipedia claims here:

Bruce is by no means an unknown person in the RC community. He’s best known for his original pulsejet designs, the pulsejet go-cart, and his audacious plans to publish a book on how to build a DIY cruise missile, which resulted in him getting slapped with everything from letters from the US embassy to sudden tax fraud investigations.

Link to the local newspaper article and a video message from Bruce after the break.

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FAA updates rules on model aircraft

FAA updates rules on model aircraft

June 26, 2014 18:42 | By | 1 Comment

This news article from the FAA website is bad news for RC model pilots. If you remember the rather stringent rules laid out for RC enthusiasts in Austria, this will be very familiar to you.

In the notice, the FAA restates the law’s definition of “model aircraft,” including requirements that they not interfere with manned aircraft, be flown within sight of the operator and be operated only for hobby or recreational purposes. The agency also explains that model aircraft operators flying within five miles of an airport must notify the airport operator and air traffic control tower.

The FAA reaffirms that the Act’s model aircraft provisions apply only to hobby or recreation operations and do not authorize the use of model aircraft for commercial operations. The notice gives examples of hobby or recreation flights, as well as examples of operations that would not meet that definition.

The main thrust of the Interpretation Document (PDF) is this: RC model flight is meant for recreational purposes only. Any commercial use, monetization, flight beyond LOS or without the pilot having eyes on the craft, or flights for any reason other than your own personal recreation is strictly prohibited without a UAV license.

This means FPV flight is illegal in the USA, plain and simple. Doesn’t matter if you have a spotter. The Pilot’s eyes have to be on the model.

Are you a sponsored pilot? Then this bit is relevant to you as well:

Any operation not conducted strictly for hobby or recreation purposes could not be operated under the special rule for model aircraft. Clearly, commercial operations would not be hobby or recreation flights.
Likewise, flights that are in furtherance of a business, or incidental to a person’s business, would not be a hobby or recreation flight.
Flights conducted incidental to, and within the scope of, a business where no common carriage is involved, generally may operate under FAA’s general operating rules of part 91.
Although they are not commercial operations conducted for compensation or hire, such operations do not qualify as a hobby or recreation flight because of the nexus between the operator’s business and the operation of the aircraft.

Now is the time to act. The FAA is inviting comments, so be sure to make your voice heard. The AMA has already objected to the new developments.

Sadly, we here in Austria did not have a modeler’s lobbying group pushing for our rights. If you live in the US, please don’t repeat our mistake. Act now.

UPDATE: AMA response here (PDF).

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Plastic 2-axis GoPro Gimbal Review

Plastic 2-axis GoPro Gimbal Review

May 28, 2014 19:52 | By | Add a Comment

Gimbals are all the rage. This cheap plastic gimbal offers 2-axis stabilization and an extremely lightweight construction. But is making a gimbal out of light plastic a good idea? Read on in our review after the break.

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Parrot Bepop is a GPS-enhanced RTF camera quadcopter

Parrot Bepop is a GPS-enhanced RTF camera quadcopter

May 14, 2014 9:18 | By | Add a Comment

French company Parrot recently announced their latest product, the Bepop Drone. It’s a lightweight quadcopter with a digitally stabilized camera, eschewing mechanical gimbals in order to save weight.

The 14 megapixel camera isn’t the only attraction though, for it boasts a dual-core embedded linux flight controller with 8GB of RAM, Wifi range of up to 300 meters or, with a range extender package, going as far as 2km.  Their “SkyController” is basically a tablet dock with sticks, not exactly a brand new idea but definitely executed in an interesting fashion.

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Price is said to be above the Parrot.AR, but below the Phantom 2. Watch the official product video after the break, and check out the official website.

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DJI Phantom 2 with H3-2D Gimbal Review

DJI Phantom 2 with H3-2D Gimbal Review

May 12, 2014 22:34 | By | Add a Comment

The Phantom 2 is available as a complete package complete with 2-axis brushless gimbal. The price for this combo started out at over $1000.- but has recently come down to a more manageable $680. Magazine reviews are glowing, but few of them have any comparisons to make. Is the Phantom 2 combo offer worth the price of admission, or should you look elsewhere? Find out in our review!

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FAA cracks down on UAV demonstration at Kennedy Space Center

FAA cracks down on UAV demonstration at Kennedy Space Center

May 12, 2014 9:10 | By | Add a Comment

It was planned as a rich demonstration of civilian UAV technology, but the FAA once again stepped in and made sure as few people as possible got to see it.

Last Sunday, the Exploration Park of the Kennedy Space Center was abuzz with drones of all types and sizes, thanks to the “Aerospace Research Challenge” hosted by Space Florida. The AUVSI tries to raise awareness about the commercial use of drones and the need for more open regulations. It’s a bitter irony that the very thing they are currently fighting hindered this demonstration: The FAA cracked down on the event, imposing strict rules that basically ensured that the large crowd of interested individuals got very little to see. Observers trying to see the actual flight demonstrations were ushered out by the FAA, for “safety reasons”. And even at a respectable distance observers were asked to leave.

A few TV cameras were allowed to record the actual flights. Each drone had to be controlled by two pilots, both were required to have a full pilots license plus medical flight status certification.  The FAA justified their restrictions pointing to recent incidents of careless individuals flying rc models near airports.

Tomorrow, the AUVSI will host the Unmanned Systems 2014 in Orlando, where the topic of current US regulations is going to be a hot topic.

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Black Knight Transformer is what happens when the military plays with multirotors

Black Knight Transformer is what happens when the military plays with multirotors

May 12, 2014 6:50 | By | Add a Comment

While not exactly FPV related, this is a multirotor: The Advanced Tactics Black Knight Transformer adds VTOL capabilities to a land vehicle using several rotors. According to AT, it can survive the loss of one engine without problems, and the whole system is modular so it may be bolted onto other vehicles in the future.

 

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Hubsan X4 Pro – even more footage

Hubsan X4 Pro – even more footage

April 28, 2014 19:14 | By | 2 Comments

Apparently the Hubsan X4 is slated for a big reveal at the Bejing Expo soon. And in preparation they’ve posted another video which does look quite awesome indeed. And compared to the Phantom 2 (which we are currently reviewing btw) the X4 appears to be in another class entirely. Hubsan seems to have spent their time perfecting the stabilization to a level we’ve only seen with the Blade 350QX – at least when it comes to RTF quads.

Will the X4 be amazing, or will it be plagued by design flaws like the Phantom 2’s magnetizable compass sensor cover? Hopefully we will find out soon! If this footage is anything to go by, we’re going to have a really hot summer.

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Oculus FPV is yet another stereoscopic FPV project for RC models

Oculus FPV is yet another stereoscopic FPV project for RC models

April 28, 2014 9:23 | By | 3 Comments

We love our Oculus SDK1, so much that in addition to a DK2 preorder, we also backed the RiftUP! project. So it’s all the better to see more and more RC applications to pop up.

oculusfpv

The Oculus FPV is a project by the Norwegian Institute of Science and Technology, mounting two cameras on a 2-axis servo mechanism (no brushless gimbal there sadly) and using two separate video downlinks for left and right eye. Sadly they went the cheap route, simply using a tiny program running on a full Windows PC to calculate the image distortion required to make things look good on the oculus. We’d say this is the easiest way to achieve this effect without designing custom hardware like the Transporter3D.

Commendably, the full writeup of the project as well as all sourcecode can be found on Github.

 

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Flying through Fireworks

Flying through Fireworks

April 26, 2014 9:24 | By | Add a Comment

Gasper’s buddy flew his Phantom through some fireworks, resulting in this awesome video.

Of course, repeat at your own risk 🙂

 

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Align M480 Multicopter

Align M480 Multicopter

April 26, 2014 9:13 | By | 1 Comment

Align, still remember that name? They’re back in force, showing off their new M480 Multicopter system. Featuring retractable legs, a quad or hexcopter setup and running on 6S 5200mAh for up to 20 minutes of flight time, we don’t know the price tag on this one yet, but it sure ain’t going to be cheap. Or maybe Align will surprise us and the competition, and finally drive down the inflated price points of some of the RTF systems out there. Yes DJI, we’re looking at you.

 

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HK KK HC adds rugged case to the KK 2.x, is not a secret message

HK KK HC adds rugged case to the KK 2.x, is not a secret message

April 25, 2014 10:35 | By | Add a Comment

The nifty KK2.x is an awesome flight controller regardless of whether you have one of the earlier or the later models. Now Hobbyking adds a Hardcase variant into the mix: Realizing you only really need the display and buttons during initial setup, they moved those components into a separate programming box, while also giving the main controller a rugged case.

hkhcInternally, it’s a KK 2.1.5, which means a solid MPU6050 sensor and excellent performance and stability. The connectors now exit to the side, which is good news for a lot of people who had problems with the layout of the KK 2 board until now. The external programming box is hot-pluggable, allowing you to connect and disconnect it at any time. The previously optional buzzer is now already installed inside the controller case. In our review we found the KK 2.1.5 board to be ideal for both people looking for great stability as well as aerobatics.

The whole thing is being sold for USD $35.- which is slightly more than a “naked” KK 2, but in our opinion a very welcome upgrade. Now Rolf just needs to add GPS support… 😉

Product video after the break.

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Hubsan H109S X4 Pro “throw” teaser

Hubsan H109S X4 Pro “throw” teaser

April 23, 2014 11:52 | By | Add a Comment

Hubsan posted a new short teaser video showing the upcoming H109S X4 Pro RTF Quadcopter being thrown into the air. While this is standard fare for 350QX owners, and even a homemade $120 Quadcopter can do the same thing, it’s good to see Hubsan spend time on testing and tweaking their upcoming Phantom-competitor.

 

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FAA announces investigation into drone flying at 4/20 rally in Denver

FAA announces investigation into drone flying at 4/20 rally in Denver

April 23, 2014 8:51 | By | 1 Comment

The 4/20 marijuana rally in Denver was scene to a nervous and typical reaction by US authorities to a private hexacopter with a camera flying overhead and filming the event.

Denver police say they found two unidentified men flying a drone over the rally in Denver’s Civic Center Park. The men were asked to leave the top of the McNichols Civic Center Building because they didn’t have the proper permission.

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The FAA is now investigating this event, issuing several statements alleging that even private, non-commercial use of model aircraft may be a problem – if they don’t want you to, of course.

“Anyone who wants to fly an aircraft — manned or unmanned — in U.S. airspace needs some level of authorization from the FAA. Routine operation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems over densely-populated areas is not allowed,” the FAA said in a statement.

Did the persons operating the hexacopter fly below 400ft AGL? We don’t know, but it appears the burden of proof is on the side of the FAA. However, it is disturbing to see the FAA mix and match regulations from manned flight operations, controlled airspace and commercial UAV regulations and apply bits and pieces to effectively claim that they are to be asked for permission for any flying thing. The fact of the matter however is that they are not, and while flying a multirotor craft over a public event may not be the most politically sensitive thing to do, it remains to be seen whether the FAA can substantiate their claims – or whether they’ll just wait until new, restrictive regulations are being passed into law. The FAA has issued a fact sheet regarding the use of UAVs, which of course does nothing to substantiate whether a flight such as in Denver is illegal or not. It should be noted that no arrests were made, and all the police could do was to “ask” the pilots to leave the roof of the building from which they were controlling the craft.

Our guess is that the US will see restrictive regulations and classifications eerily similar to the ones recently passed in Austria.

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