Category Archives: News

Are drones illegal in your state? This map can tell you.

This post was originally written by me for MarketWatch.com. Read the entire, original version of the story there.

As the federal government decides how to regulate drones in the U.S., states are moving on their own. Check out the status of drone legislation in your state here.

There is currently no federal regulation of unmanned aircraft, but Congress passed a law two years ago ordering the FAA to issue national rules legalizing drones for commercial purposes by September 2015.

In 2011, the FAA penalized drone videographer Rapheal Pirker $10,000 for using a drone. Pirker challenged the fine, and a federal administrative-law judge overturned the penalty, saying there was no law banning the commercial use of small drones.

The FAA on Monday released its interpretation of rules for model aircraft after recent incidents involving reckless use of drones. The FAA states that hobby or recreational flying doesn’t require FAA approval, but recommends following their safety guidelines, which encourage contacting the airport operator when flying within 5 miles of an airport, not flying near manned aircraft or beyond the operator’s line of sight. It also specifies model aircraft as weighing fewer than 55 lbs.

Read the rest of the story at its original location on MarketWatch.com.

Portable charging pad is revolutionary next step in drone flight time

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Photo courtesy Skysense

Andrea Puiatti knows a problem when he sees one. And it only took him 6 months to come up with a solution that could further disrupt an industry you thought couldn’t get any more revolutionary.

Puiatti is the CEO of Skysense, a company that creates portable charging pads that automatically charge your drone, no humans to plug it in required.

Here’s how it works: Your drone flies miles away from you. The battery has probably lasted 20 minutes — 30 minutes on a good day. Your drone autonomously lands — but not just anywhere — on a portable landing pad no more than the size of a bath mat, which you’ve set up ahead of time. Wires connected to the drone touch the pad, and through direct contact, the batteries on the drone immediately start charging. Once charged, the drone takes off and resumes the mission you’ve programmed for it.

“This solves two problems,” Puiatti said. “The first, it enables you to manage the operation remotely. Second, you can have a drone that takes off at any time without human intervention to change the battery, thus enabling fully autonomous missions.”

Andrea says the charging is just as efficient as if you were to plug the battery charger in the socket wall.

The product would enable a drone to have full automation, particularly useful in cases such as inspection, security and agriculture, and it has a retail price between $1000-1500 dollars. Continue reading Portable charging pad is revolutionary next step in drone flight time

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

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.

 

Broadcast news station in South Africa to use drones in traffic reporting

Two South African media outlets are working to provide real-time traffic updates to the community using a drone.

Kagiso New Media and Jacaranda FM have plans to launch a remote-controlled drone over the N1 highway; up-to-the-minute online video feeds will capture images of traffic congestion to enrich on-air traffic reporters, as well as be streamed live online.

“In a metropolitan area with so many traffic issues, this offering will save our audience a lot time and hassle,” said Jacaranda FM general manager Kevin Fine. “We see it as a potential revolution not only in traffic reporting, but also in news reporting. It’s another innovative avenue that keeps us connected to our audience.”

The stations are the next in a wave of journalism organizations embracing the use of drones to improve upon the quality and reduce the costs of journalism. Broadcast stations often deploy helicopters to monitor traffic, so a drone offers a cheaper, more efficient alternative.

“We believe that UAV technology is an integral step into a future of transparent communications and information because it provides real time data when people need it,”said Craig Corte, chief digital officer at Kagiso Media. “We plan to be at the forefront of this technological boom so that we can capitalize on the many opportunities which it will provide.”