Tag: Drones

FAA celebrates 616.000 RC model registrations

FAA celebrates 616.000 RC model registrations

December 22, 2016 13:36 | By | Add a Comment

Back in December 2015 the Federal Aviation Administration launched their drone registration program for hobbyists. Since then, every rc model pilot must register themselves after a short online questionnaire. Registration is subject to a $5 fee, which is a recurring charge.

Now, a year later, the total count is up to 616.000, although the FAA doesn’t disclose any details like whether or not commercial drone operators are included in this count or not.  For the FAA this is a big success: Not only can they book this as a boon for flight safety, but regularly getting 3 Million USD for running a simple website is a fantastic business idea. We’re written about why registration solves nothing, but the FAA insists that their short online quiz makes hobbyists fly safer.

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BBC Series “Casualty” depicts typical drone scare scenario

BBC Series “Casualty” depicts typical drone scare scenario

November 22, 2016 13:43 | By | Add a Comment

BBC One’s TV drama series “Casualty” recently took up that whole drone topic, and decided to go for a fair and balanced, even realistic depiction of the difficulties and challenges of the growing popularity of hobby multirotor models.

Except no, that’s not what happened. Instead they went all-out on the ultimate drone scare scenario: small toy multicopter collides with full scale helicopter and sets off a chain of event that causes massive destruction and loss of life, complete with buildings collapsing.

If you really want to see this fearmongering sequence, check it out after the break. And always remember: RC toys are extremely dangerous and can kill hundreds of people. At least, according to BBC.

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European Model Flight Union founded to represent RC modelers throughout Europe

European Model Flight Union founded to represent RC modelers throughout Europe

November 10, 2016 11:15 | By | Add a Comment

In light of the recent activities and proposals by EASA, the German Aeroclub and the Austrian Aeroclub, in collaboration with nine other national RC model associations, founded the European Model Flight Union (EMFU). The goal of the EMFU is twofold:

  1. Collaborate with EASA on the development of regulations that keep our hobby unharmed
  2. Forming a comittee that represents the interests of the RC model sport on an international level

Because time is of the essence (in fact it’s running out already), the EMFU has been fast-tracked into existence and two representatives (Bruno Delor from France, David Phipps from England) have been named to represent the EMFU in coming meetings with EASA. So far, EASA has welcomed this development, as they finally have someone to talk to on a european level, instead of having to discuss matters with each national association. The EMFU currently has 11 member organizations, and is open for any RC model association to join.

Our take is that this is an excellent development – albeit a very, very late one. It’s sad that it took the threat of a regulation that would kill the entire hobby for the various associations to start pulling in a common direction. It is great however, that this is finally happening, and we wish the EMFU the very best in their task to keep this hobby free and legal.

Let’s hope it’s not too late.

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EASA Explanatory Note shows US RC model flight was saved, but sacrificed in the EU

EASA Explanatory Note shows US RC model flight was saved, but sacrificed in the EU

October 25, 2016 15:13 | By | Add a Comment

It is a sad day indeed when an explanatory note clarifies that while the new EASA restrictions include (and effectively kill) RC model flight as a hobby, AMA and FAA in the US apparently managed to come to a mutually acceptable compromise by excluding RC models from the harsh restrictions of “drones”, which typically are flown outside AMA-sanctioned RC flying sites.

FAA and EASA keep each other informed on their activities. Part 107 is the recently adopted FAA regulation for small unmanned aircraft systems below 25kg. It will create a process that will replace their present exemption process (around 3000 delivered). It corresponds broadly to our ‘open’ category.
Some common points: MTOM 25kg, operation VLOS; maximum altitude 400ft (we propose 500ft); competence requirements for the pilot;
Some differences: it does not apply to model aircraft when our prototype regulation does, it does not require geofencing or identification, no sub-categories, no essential requirements for design.

And again, there have been voices claiming that the Prototype Regulations don’t apply to RC models. This is not true:

Article 15 provides the transitional provisions for recreational operations of UA in the frame of associations or clubs (‘model aircraft’ operations).It is proposed that they can continue to operate as of today in accordance with National regulations or practices. After 3 years after the entry into force of the regulation an authorisation shall be issued by the national authorities to associations or clubs taking into account their safety record and defining limitations and deviations to the subpart B.

…and…

Excluding ‘model aircraft’ from these prototype rules would allow operators to declare their UA as a model and escape to the requirements, therefore opening a safety gap. It must be kept in mind that a significant number of incidents are caused by UA operated non-commercially.

If RC models were exempt from these regulations and the requirements to feature hard-wired geofencing with autopilot, redundant systems etc., then there would be no need for a transition period. As it stands, the proposal envisions the creation of “revenue” for compliance-businesses, meaning you are supposed to pay a company to certify your RC model. That is, after you equipped it with a GPS-driven autopilot that enforces geofencing, prevents climbing higher than 150 meters or accelerating faster than 50kph.

How could this be fixed? Simple, create a separate category for RC models flown at registered RC airfields and/or under supervision of a recognied, national RC association. At the same time, flight altitude limits at such sites could be lifted, enabling F3A competitions to be held without constantly violating an arbitrary 150m altitude limit. Registered RC flying fields should be entered into digital and traditional NOTAM databases, similarly to skyjumping sites for example.

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Sweden passes restrictive rules for “camera drones”

Sweden passes restrictive rules for “camera drones”

October 25, 2016 14:58 | By | Add a Comment

The use of camera-carrying RC models, multicopters and drones has been ruled illegal by the Supreme Administrative Court in Sweden. In addition to requiring a license, they are now classified as “surveillance cameras”, requiring them to adhere to the same rules regarding privacy protection as a camera that’s set up for 24/7 monitoring. Interestingly enough, mobile phones equipped with cameras are not classified as surveillance cameras, neither are cameras mounted overhead swedish highways.

Overnight, FPV flying has been ruled illegal in Sweden.

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EASA Prototype Regulations would put an end to RC model flight as we know it

EASA Prototype Regulations would put an end to RC model flight as we know it

October 9, 2016 19:02 | By | Add a Comment

For some months now, EASA has been at work trying to fix a perceived loophole in previous legislation drafts: Hobbyists and tinkerers who “hack their drones” to “fly further, higher, faster”. This is seen in Brussels as a great risk, so EASA was asked to come up with a regulation that would form the grounds for anti-modification legislation.

Enter the “EASA Prototype Regulations”. These regulations define four categories (A0, A1, A2 and A3) with increasing capabilities and restrictions. For example, A0 allows you to fly without registration, but you are limited to 250 grams takeoff weight, and you can’t fly higher than 50 meters. Category A3 allows you to fly up to 150 meters but your RC model needs to be equipped with a GPS geofencing function that cannot be turned off. This means that if you have an old wooden glow engine model or a scale jet, it needs to have a GPS and an autopilot on board. And you can’t fly higher than 150 meters. And you need to be at least 50 meters away from spectators (20m for rotor craft).

Don’t like this? Write EASA, todayUASPrototypeRule@easa.europa.eu

Check the detailed regulations after the break.

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FAA Reauthorization Act 2016 proposal includes FAA exams for RC pilots

FAA Reauthorization Act 2016 proposal includes FAA exams for RC pilots

March 16, 2016 9:49 | By | 1 Comment

The Proposal for the FAA Reauthorization Act 2016 contains several new rules and regulations that cover RC hobbyists and FPV pilots. Among other things, it proposes the introduction of an exam administered by the FAA, which will become a requirement for being allowed to fly any RC plane. This makes it look and feel a lot like how ham radio licenses work today.

While this may appear reasonable, what has to be kept in mind is that a single radio amateur transmitting something on the wrong frequency or with the wrong equipment can ruin parts of the spectrum for everyone, including people on the other side of the globe. That’s why entering the hobby of ham radio requires such a detailed exam. The safety rules for RC planes are much simpler and common sense, their ramnifications restricted to the immediate vincinity of the pilot, thus making the FAA administer exams is pure overkill.

Another juicy detail is the proposed requirement for manufacturers to prevent tampering or modification. This would rule out self-build models and is so detached from reality, it’s not even funny anymore.

Expect things to get worse, not better.

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FAA Drone Registration going online December 21st, up to $270.000 penalty for unregistered pilots after February

FAA Drone Registration going online December 21st, up to $270.000 penalty for unregistered pilots after February

December 14, 2015 21:40 | By | Add a Comment

We told you it would come. We just had no idea things would move so quickly.

Starting December 21st, you will be able and required to register your RC model. All of them. Anything weighing more than 0.55 pounds (250 grams) and less than 55 pounds (25 kg) has to be registered. Registrations will be free until January 20th, after which they will cost $5. You are required to complete registration by February 2016.

Registration will get you a three-year license, after which you have to renew your registration – and pay again.

Failure to comply may result in civil fines of up to $27.000, and/or criminal penalties of up to $250.000

This does apply to hobbyists, and this does apply to anything that flies, not just multirotor craft.

The AMA has responded to this new regulation, and predictably they are not happy. Trouble is, their objection is unlikely to find many supporters, and if you think we’re safe in Europe, I can tell you right now that these regulations have been harmonized between FAA, EASA, Eurocontrol as well as between the US Government and the EU. Similar rules will be enacted all across Europe soon.

Needless to say, registration will not prevent bad things from happening, and it will not prevent people with bad intentions from doing bad things.

Edit: Watch Bruce fume on youtube about this after the break.

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Ad companies want to track you with drones for “consumer insights and targeting”

Ad companies want to track you with drones for “consumer insights and targeting”

February 24, 2015 16:57 | By | Add a Comment

Aren’t ads amazing? Don’t you love watching those clips on youtube, you know, the ones that come before the actual video unless you employ an adblocker?

No? Things will get worse for you then, if AdNear has their way. They plan to use drones to track wireless devices to build customer profiles. Flying over cities and other populated areas, they want to collect everything from WiFi access points to mobile phones, including their location and movement patterns. So essentially, they want to do mass surveillance without your consent.

AdNear is quick to state that, “Privacy and legal compliance are of highest importance to us. Just to keep the record straight; we only collect signals passively and do not record videos or photos.

Trouble is, that statement doesn’t mean a thing, and doesn’t change the fact that both the legality and morality of this endeavour are questionable at best. AdNear has already conducted tests, according to their own statements, and it would be interesting to know whether these tests were already observing all the applicable laws. They’re not having that discussion in their cheerful press release however.

For brands, this would mean more data points for accurate audiences and more location points for consumer insights and targeting. For us, this means a ton of fun!

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NoFlyZone.org lets you blacklist your home from consumer UAV traffic

NoFlyZone.org lets you blacklist your home from consumer UAV traffic

February 24, 2015 11:16 | By | Add a Comment

The private website noflyzone.org allows private property owners to put their house and garden onto a blacklist, which will then be used by several multicopter manufacturers in their firmware to establish no-fly zones and prevent their products from being operated within, or fly over, the blacklisted areas.

This is a lot like what DJI is doing with their hardcoded airport locations and certain locations like the white house now being off-limits and blocked on a firmware level.

Listing your property on noflyzone.org is free, however you have to re-confirm your entry once per year. Strangely enough, the website does not require you to provide proof of your claim unless you submit more than one. However, you can also whitelist your property and prevent others from blacklisting it again.

Among the manufacturers using the blacklist data are Horizon Hobby, Hexo+ and PixiePath.

It remains to be seen how useful such a list is. Not only are there ways to circumvent the blacklist, but not all vendors and open source projects are on board with this. And to make matters worse, a lot of fly-away situations happen because of sensor issues (like GPS glitches or the DJI Phantom magnetometer design flaw). During such malfunctions, the craft can and will violate pre-programmed no-fly zones because its navigation is malfunctioning. It feels a lot like “gun free zones”. Knowing that this blacklist won’t prevent malfunctioning drones, nor drones flown with the intent of violating privacy, nor any government UAVs from hovering over your lawn, we have to ask: What’s the point?

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South Park covers drones…

South Park covers drones…

October 30, 2014 20:53 | By | Add a Comment

“Shock and outrage all over the states tonight after an armed police drone shot down an unarmed civilian drone. And worst of all: Yes, the civilian drone… was black.”

The episode is a bit technically optimistic, and it doesn’t really get into the actual problems of civilian UAV regulations in the US, but it is worth a few laughs. If you haven’t seen this episode yet, you can watch it right here on the official site.

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FPV Drone Racing is as awesome as it sounds

FPV Drone Racing is as awesome as it sounds

October 7, 2014 11:55 | By | Add a Comment

The video is so very very french. But when a group of FPV enthusiasts gather to fly a friendly racing competition in the middle of the woods, you can’t help but smile. The footage is breathtaking and this could very well become a very popular and interesting regular event.

PS: No stab at the french implied. We’re all Fou le fafa 🙂

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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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EU Commission working on stricter rules for drones

EU Commission working on stricter rules for drones

April 9, 2014 14:03 | By | 2 Comments

The European Commission has today proposed to set tough new standards to regulate the operations of civil drones (or “remotely piloted aircraft sytems” – RPAS). The new standards will cover safety, security, privacy, data protection, insurance and liability. The aim is to allow European industry to become a global leader in the market for this emerging technology, while at the same time ensuring that all the necessary safeguards are in place.

Civil drones are increasingly being used in Europe, in countries such as Sweden, France and the UK, in different sectors, but under a fragmented regulatory framework. Basic national safety rules apply, but the rules differ across the EU and a number of key safeguards are not addressed in a coherent way.

Vice-President Siim Kallas, Commissioner for mobility and transport, said: “Civil drones can check for damage on road and rail bridges, monitor natural disasters such as flooding and spray crops with pinpoint accuracy. They come in all shapes and sizes. In the future they may even deliver books from your favourite online retailer. But many people, including myself, have concerns about the safety, security and privacy issues relating to these devices.”

The technology for civil drones is maturing and there is potential for significant growth and job creation. On some estimates in the next 10 years it could be worth 10% of the aviation market — that’s €15 billion per year. The Vice-President added, “If ever there was a right time to do this, and to do this at a European level, it is now. Because remotely piloted aircraft, almost by definition, are going to cross borders and the industry is still in its infancy. We have an opportunity now to make a single set of rules that everyone can work with, just like we do for larger aircraft.”

 

So much for the press release by the European Commission. Interestingly, nobody talks about regulating the sale and use of ladders, to help prevent people from peeking into your bedroom. If anyone was hoping for a liberal, progressive stance on the private and commercial use of UAVs by the EU Commission, today’s news is less than positive, to put it mildly.

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Ex-Ubisoft veterans plan to map the earth for a giant game – using drones of course

Ex-Ubisoft veterans plan to map the earth for a giant game – using drones of course

March 24, 2014 17:04 | By | Add a Comment

If you want to show the collapse of civilization in a game, having a realistic, detailed world is key. Several former Ubisoft have founded Pixyul to do just that. Their first project, ReRoll, is slated to arrive in several installments called “Bricks”. Brick 1 aims to recreate the city of Montreal, with more locations to follow. The core idea of Pixyul is to utilize autonomous drones to create high-resolution imagery and 3D scans of the world.

This ambitious project is going to face severe issues in the wake of restrictive legislation being passed in countries all over the world or, as is the case in the USA, commercial use of drones being heavily debated right now. Nevertheless, an ambitious project indeed. For now they are betting everything on the results of their crowdfunding campaign, which they conduct outside Kickstarter et al – for now, have a flashy animated teaser trailer after the break.

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