All posts by Sally French

Calling all drone operators who have received cease and desist letters

documenttrackerAre you a drone operator who has received a cease and desist letter? Please get in contact with us, because we want to talk to you!

It is currently illegal to operate a drone for commercial purposes – that is until 2015, a date Congress declared for FAA to allow commercial drone use.

Until then, the FAA has delivered letters to select commercial drone pilots requiring they cease operations. It’s unclear which of the many commercial drone pilots out there have received letters. Some have been told to stop flying and have been to subject to fines for noncompliance. But the majority of commercial drone pilots continue to operate drones with no contact from the FAA. Those pilots include contractors for real estate agents who want fancy ways to demonstrate their properties, filmmakers and more.

Why is this?

We need your help to track down who all the letters have gone to. We’ve put in FOIA requests, to no avail. So our hope is you will send yours directly to us!

Check out our new page that documents all the groups we know of that have received cease and desist letters.

Al Jazeera explores drone journalism, featuring Drone Girl herself

ajAl Jazeera’s Listening Post feature this week takes a look at drones and how they are becoming tools of the journalistic trade.

“More and more news stories, particularly those on television, now include video shot by drones,” the latest update on Al Jazeera’s Listening Post page states. “Listening Post’s Will Yong reports on the potential – and some of the pitfalls – of the media’s unmanned eyes in the skies.”

You can listen to me, Sally (aka Drone Girl), talk drone journalism alongside our friend Matthew Schroyer, founder of DroneJournalism.org on the latest Listening Post episode here.

In other drone journalism news, the BBC has an entire news story taught by drone. Their bird’s eye view of a protest rally in Thailand is told via drone, including a stand-up.

Happy flying!

Flying robots for the masses: How Bezos’ Amazon Drone could be what Steve Jobs was to personal computers

jeffbezosIt’s unrealistic to assume that once 2015 hits, Amazon Drones will take off through the skies, single-handedly bringing a stop to brown UPS trucks.

But when they do take off, it won’t just be Amazon’s drones doing home delivery. Soon enough, Walmart will have a fleet of drones. Target too. Domino’s kinda sorta already has one. Even UPS quickly followed Amazon’s big reveal, reminding the world that they too are working on delivery drones.

Amazon will undoubtedly deliver packages via drones, and I’m sure it’ll happen in our lifetime. But will they corner the market in drone deliveries? Doubt it.

Where Amazon can in fact corner the market is in drone manufacturing. If this all plans out, I predict Amazon will move from enterprise (drone delivery) to manufacturing Amazon-brand drones that consumers can use themselves.

How will Amazon succeed at manufacturing consumer-level drones? Amazon has the brand recognition and economy of scale to undercut current drone makers if they wanted to be a part of the consumer-drone manufacturing market. Look at Kindle. Or purely the fact that with just a short clip on 60 Minutes, they convinced the world of the possible reality of flying packages. Continue reading Flying robots for the masses: How Bezos’ Amazon Drone could be what Steve Jobs was to personal computers

How hacker drones could turn your personal drone into its personal zombie

It seems as though spying or crashing is no longer what dronies should be cautious of.

Hacker Samy Kamkar released hardware and software specifications that hobbyists can use to turn their drone into a drone that seeks out other drones in flight, hacks them and turns them into an army of unmanned vehicles, all under control of the hacker.

Shooting Amazon drones down with a shotgun to steal your packages? So last year.

Taking control of the Amazon drone to get it to bring the package to your house and not the intended recipient? That’s this year. Like, right now.

“Using a Parrot AR.Drone 2, a Raspberry Pi, a USB battery, an Alfa AWUS036H wireless transmitter, aircrack-ng, node-ar-drone, node.js, and my SkyJack software, I developed a drone that flies around, seeks the wireless signal of any other drone in the area, forcefully disconnects the wireless connection of the true owner of the target drone, then authenticates with the target drone pretending to be its owner, then feeds commands to it and all other possessed zombie drones at my will,” Kamkar wrote on his site.

It’s a system he calls Skyjack. Cute name. Not so cute idea (if used for evil). Continue reading How hacker drones could turn your personal drone into its personal zombie

Amazon Prime Air is lots of hoopla, just hold up

Image courtesy of Amazon

Amazon announced their latest R&D project, Amazon Prime Air, to much hoopla yesterday. It’s a delivery system likened to the TacoCopter or Australian company Zookal, which will deliver textbooks with drones.

Drones are always a subject quick to gather cheap and easy media attention. Anytime there is a drone crash or some wacky new use for drones, they are nearly always guaranteed to land some sort of media attention. So it’s no surprise that Amazon Prime Air, or the #AmazonDrone on the Interwebz, is what’s keeping water coolers and Facebook news feeds abuzz these days. Now I can buy literally anything (sold on Amazon and weighing under 5 pounds) and have it delivered in 30 minutes?

Should we greet this news with excitement? Fear? Or simply chalk it up to an epic Cyber Monday PR stunt?

“One day, Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today,” Amazon’s new Prime Air page states. That’s an accurate assumption, Amazon. Drones have already proven more efficient, environmentally friendly and cost effective for a myriad of enterprise operations.

“We hope the FAA’s rules will be in place as early as sometime in 2015,” the text states. “We will be ready at that time.”

Hold up, slow down. This is what seems to be causing much hullabaloo. The fear of drones buzzing through the skies is certainly worth having, but it’s not completely rational given the limitations of the technology.

Drones can’t legally be used for commercial purposes until the FAA says so. That won’t be until at least 2015, according to the FAA’s Civil Unmanned Aircraft Systems Roadmap. Emphasis on the “at least.” Continue reading Amazon Prime Air is lots of hoopla, just hold up

Amazon news roundup by the numbers, in the media

Amazon drones could be flying through the sky delivering your purchases in fewer than 30 minutes. And Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says they will — in the next few years.

“One day, Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today,” the company said. Drones are not quite ‘normal’ yet, but they aren’t completely out of the realm of possibilities. Drones are already being used to gather aerial images of farmland to help farmers increase efficiency, to spot poachers in Africa or to deliver medicine to hard-to-reach places in the world, things companies like Airware and Matternet already do.

“I know this looks like science fiction, it’s not,” said Bezos.

The drone delivery is contingent upon FAA regulation of UAVs, which is still yet to be determined, but is expected to happen in 2015.

“This is early, this is still years away,” Bezos said.

  • Amazon currently has 96 massive warehouses, or “fulfillment centers”
  • 86% of Amazon’s packages are less than 5 pounds
  • More than 300 packages are ordered a second on Amazon during Cyber Monday

Tons of media outlets are out there reporting on Amazon’s huge announcement — delivering packages via drone. Here’s a roundup of some stories out there: