All posts by Sally French

Document from film company shows what exemptions they want the FAA to make for them

The FAA announced last week that seven aerial photo and video production companies had asked for exemptions to its commercial drone ban.

Not that Hollywood hasn’t already been using drones — reports state that drones have aided in the filming of blockbusters including Skyfall, The Hunger Games and even The Smurfs 2. And even the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded Gifford Hooper and Philip George of Hovercam an Oscar for the continuing development of the Helicam miniature helicopter camera system, a high-speed, extremely maneuverable, turbine-engine, radio-controlled miniature helicopter that supports professional film and digital cinema cameras.

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This picture shows a turbine-powered helicopter flying over a highly populated area to film a movie. A drone could replace this helicopter.

“Helicam provides a wide range of stabilized, remotely operated pan, tilt and roll capabilities, achieving shots impossible for full-size helicopters,” the award states.

But 7 companies, Aerial MOB, Asraeus, Flying-Cam, HeliVideo Productions, Pictorvision, SnapRoll Media and Vortex, want to work with the FAA by asking for exemptions to any FAA standards for flying drones.

DroneGirl has obtained a copy of a 14-page letter sent to the FAA by SnapRoll Media, one of the film companies that wants the FAA to make an exemption to their regulations so they can use drones to shoot films.

“Given the small size of the sUASs involved and restricted sterile environment within which they will operate, the applicant falls squarely within that zone of safety in which Congress envisioned that the FAA must, by exemption, allow commercial operations of UASs to commence immediately,” the document states. “Also due to the size of the UASs and the restricted areas in which the relevant sUASs will operate, approval of the application presents no national security issue.”

The letter outlines requirements, and immediately follows them with reasons why an exemption is needed. If the letter (posted here) is tl;dr for you, here are some key points:

 

Continue reading Document from film company shows what exemptions they want the FAA to make for them

Second-take: Recent drone near-miss adds weight to justification for UAV rules

A past Drone Girl article discussed the Florida “Near-miss” drone accident, in which the FAA revealed that a drone may have collided with a US Airways airplane in Tallahassee, Fla. Now, Brock Christoval, Founder of Flyspan Systems who also sits on an FAA advisory board is offering a different opinion on the matter. Here’s his take:

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F-4 Phantom Model UAV

The recent near mid air collision near the Tallahassee airport is a cause for concern. It adds weight to the justification for having rules to operate UAV’s.

The main concern from the recent incident is that that drone was in close proximity to the commercial aircraft. The commercial pilot reported of a UAV that was shaped like an F-4 Phantom. The maximum gross take off weight for this type of UAV is around 40 lbs. That’s roughly the size of a very large bird. Amateur model pilots most often use this type of aircraft and it most likely had a small turbine for its propulsion. An aircraft that size could easily take out an engine on a large commercial aircraft. Continue reading Second-take: Recent drone near-miss adds weight to justification for UAV rules

Air-Vid takes off with worldwide directory of drone and UAV pilots

Looking for a drone pilot to shoot aerial video for a research project, film or even your wedding?

Air-Vid, an aerial pilot directory, does just that. And now, they have 500 pilots from 44 different companies.

It’s beneficial for pilots, who can get business and profit from flying drones. But it’s also beneficial for people who need a pilot to capture video for them.

“It’s an easy process to find a videographer,” said Air-Vid Chief Marketing Officer George Gooderham. “It’s like a matchmaker service.”

How it works:

  1. Pilots register for Air-Vid, including uploading contact information, location, photos, demo reels
  2. Anyone who needs a UAV pilot can search the directory
  3. They can view their contact information and connect with them off the site
  4. All transactions are done outside the site

Pilots in the Air-Vid community range from hobbyists to professionals who have worked on Hollywood films — among them are Drone Dudes, whose clients include Nike and GoPro. Customers can search pilots based on the skill level they’re looking for, whether they’re looking for someone to fly over an event, rescue mission, news story or even a wedding.

“Air-Vid is a one stop shop to find and compare companies from all over the world,” said Eric Maloney, Head of Production at Drone Dudes. “It will allow clients to quickly decipher who the real talented high-end guys are and who is just getting started.”

Air-Vid pilots are capable of doing flights including:

  • search and rescue
  • cinematography
  • mapping
  • roof inspections
  • 3D Imaging
  • asset management

Gooderham, an accomplished aerial photographer, had the idea to crowd-source a UAV pilot when his daughter went on a school trip to Italy.

“Wouldn’t it be cool if I could watch their outdoor concert in Rome from my home in Toronto?” he said.

Meanwhile Egan, a licensed pilot, who separately works for a major commercial real estate firm, wanted a way to show off multi-million dollar parcels of land in order to differentiate his marketing.

“Typically there’s always a photo with no context looking out over a green field, but there’s no proximity to retail, roads or traffic,” Egan said. “An aerial image would give context to that property.”

Over coffee one day, they realized why isn’t there an easy way to find a UAV pilot online?

Air-Vid does just that.

Continue reading Air-Vid takes off with worldwide directory of drone and UAV pilots

First Take: What really happened with the Florida “near-miss” drone accident

The Federal Aviation Administration this week spoke at a conference of a drone that nearly collided with a US Airways airplane in Tallahassee, Fla.

“He (the US Airways pilot) reported what appeared to be a small, remotely piloted aircraft at approximately 2,300 feet in the air,” the FAA’s Jim Williams said during the Small Unmanned Systems Business Exposition in San Francisco.

The incident reportedly happened March 22 near Tallahassee Regional Airport.

The news is swiftly making its rounds on major news outlets including the Wall Street Journal and USA Today. It’s even the top trending story on Facebook.

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A CNN anchor called it “a near nightmare.” The FAA’s UAS head Jim Williams referred to this type of accident as “perilous.”

But where’s the rest of the story? The data to back it up? The facts? Or just something that Williams said.

Anytime there is a near miss, which could include a collision with another airplane or that vehicle flying too close to ground obstacles, both the pilot and air traffic controller traditionally files a voluntary near miss report through the Aviation Safety Reporting System database, which has been managed by NASA since 1988.

“It’s one of the best safety databases in the entire world in terms of accuracy of data and reporting,” pilot Davis Hunt said.

The thing is, this drone collision report is nowhere to be found in the ASRS database, something drone lawyer Brendan Schulman noted on his Twitter account.

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Continue reading First Take: What really happened with the Florida “near-miss” drone accident

Exclusive interview: what it’s like being on the FAA’s drone advisory board

 

Photo/Sally French

Last week we wrote about Flyspan Systems, a new startup whose founders have a background in government work in drones. Today we speak with Brock Christoval, who sits on the advisory board, which is working to integrate unmanned systems into the national airspace.

The FAA is working to create a set of operating procedures in order to adhere to a Congressional mandate for the FAA to regulate sharing the skies between drones and commercial airlines. Congress set a deadline of September 2015 for the regulations to be laid out.

The document is being created based on input given by a variety of people including drone manufacturers, researchers and NASA.

On that advisory board is Brock Christoval, a former military engineer who focused on the experimental side of UAVs and the co-founder of drone consulting startup Flyspan Systems. He revealed never-before-told insights of what will be in the document, as background into the process behind writing the document that has generated huge controversy in the drone community.

“The 2015 goal is to come up with the minimum operating procedures,” Christoval said. “It outlines the procedures we need to bring this technology to the national airspace.”

Creating the document isn’t easy, Christoval points out.

“It’s a very technical process,” he said. “We have a lot of people there that are inputting their background and knowledge into that document. A lot of times we want to rely heavily on research, but you’ve got to go out and test this in real life.

The advisory board is less political, and more a hub of technical jargon floating around. But that doesn’t make it any easier to get that document completed, he said.

“I think some of that might actually be slowing us down, because engineers and scientists like to over think things,” he said.” Continue reading Exclusive interview: what it’s like being on the FAA’s drone advisory board

F-16 fighter jet turns into an unmanned drone

Thousands of planes that were otherwise grave yard bound, with costs in the hundreds of millions, are now being used as never before. They’ve been transformed into drones – a first for a full-sized jet airplane.

These Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets had been sitting in the bone yard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona for 15 years.