Martha Stewart has a drone. Rupert Murdoch has flown a drone. But the newest celebrities to use a drone really aren’t all that surprising.
Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage of Mythbusters revealed that they have been using flying cameras in productions for years.
“Up until (recently), we had used helicopters, but that was a $5,000-15,000 solution,” Savage said.
“We started looking into this camera platform five or six years ago, but it just never worked out,” Hyneman said.
Jump to five years later, and with improvements like telemetry, the Mythbusters rely on drones to propel their show forward.
“It’s a tool for storytelling,” Savage said. “That’s what we do on Mythbusters — we tell stories. It’s not just the master shot that is really cute or really cool. It’s telling the audience where we’re going.”
A custom-built octorotor was used in the last two seasons, where flying shots introduced the beginning of episodes. Other uses of drones were in an episode shot at Pebble Beach.
“It’s an amazing time because of how much hacking is driving innovation,” Savage said.
Savage is referring to hacker movements like DIYdrones and DJI’s app store.
And Hyneman said he believes drones will become ubiquitous eventually.
“All of us remember the time when there weren’t cellphones, he said. “Drones are in that world right now. Things that we would have never thought were possible ten years ago are commonplace now.”
Whenever someone approaches me as I’m flying a drone, the first thing they ask is, “so, are you trying to spy on someone?”
And every time, my answer is no. Unlike your surprisingly stealthy iPhone camera, drones are too large to not see. They’re also too loud to not hear. Have you heard one? They sound like a pack of bees.
“New innovation is often feared, because innovation challenges the status quo,” said Lisa Ellman, who formerly led the Justice Department’s working group on domestic use of drones and who is counsel at McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP.
2014 is the year America was struck by ‘Drone Fever’: we have a rapidly growing group of creative engineers, artists, scientists and businesspeople who want to use drones to make their work smarter and more efficient. Then we have a vocal group of people who protest drones over privacy concerns. And we have policy makers, who are trying, and failing, to sort it all out.
The responsibility of responding to privacy concerns has, by default, fallen on the Federal Aviation Administration, the group tasked with issuing regulations as to how commercial drones could operate in the U.S.
But the already bureaucratic FAA doesn’t have the expertise to solve privacy concerns, and has historically only been involved in the safety side of aviation.
”The FAA has no jurisdiction or inclination to worry about privacy,” Ellman said.
Because of so much outcry over privacy, the FAA has implemented legislation that has been flawed and outdated. Commercial use of drones is completely banned, unless you file for a Section 333 petition with the Federal Aviation Administration, which usually takes a neither speedy, nor efficient, 120-days to process from the time you file to when it’s approved.
Translation: the government makes it really hard to legally make money off flying your drone.
That’s a problem for people like me and the thousands of other Americans who own a drone (or will get one for Christmas this year) and want to use it to take pictures, or for real estate agents who want to show off large parcels of land, or for farmers who want to survey their crops. Japan has been using drones for crop-dusting since 1987.
For a country that places so much value on innovation, why does the U.S. allow policy that clearly impedes it?
Drones certainly bring privacy issues. One real estate agent used pictures taken by a drone to market a property without realizing they included images of a neighbor sunbathing, topless, in her backyard.
And celebrities worry that paparazzi will use drones to sneak photographs.
A video posted by Miley Cyrus (@mileycyrus) on Jul 7, 2014 at 8:17pm PDT
But those privacy concerns apply just as much to someone with a telephoto lens, satellite views such as Google Earth, or a camera on a helicopter.
“There’s enough framework that already exists in government, enough of a framework to legally protect yourself,” said Gretchen West, former executive vice president of drone lobby group AUVSI. “‘Peeping Tom’ laws exist already.
Instead of solving the safety concerns that come with drones, such as addressing technical failures or sorting out flight patterns when multiple drones are flying in the same region, the FAA is wrapped in a box of trying to fix all the world’s drone worries.
It seems to be an issue of word choice. Ellman says there is an unclear differentiation between what’s “prohibited” vs what’s “unregulated.”
The FAA has wanted to require drone operators to have a pilot’s license, a time-consuming and expensive process.
“There is a general community concern that requiring a pilot’s license to fly a drone is a bit excessive,” said Helen Greiner, chief executive of CyPhy Works Inc. and co-founder of iRobot. “Requiring a pilot’s license for drone operators does not make sense. Flying a plane is not like flying a drone.”
She said that drone operators would benefit from the ground-school classes that teaches about airspace.
“But we can now program this knowledge into the drones…which is better than depending on a pilot to look it up for each flight.”
She also said that the FAA’s requirement that drones operate only during the day is also a bit short-sighted.
LOS ANGELES – Their backgrounds in the drone field ranged from marine conservation to robotics research and development to film and TV production, but the speakers and panelists at the LA Drone Expo overwhelming used their spotlight to discuss the possibilities the new technology can bring to the world.
Of course, that was not without a short disruption by protesters.
Drones, or unmanned aerial systems, are emerging as the next decade’s multibillion dollar industry with applications in anything from making family vacation videos to helping business run more efficiently, experts said at the convention.
“What I’ve seen is that this has now became a product for everyone,” economist Tom Marchesello said in the expo’s opening keynote address.
Presented by the Unmanned Autonomous Vehicle Systems Association, the expo, believed to be the largest of its kind in the world, was staged to unite the fledgling drone community, which has so far been largely spread across small groups of filmmakers, hobbyists and researchers with little organization to banner under.
Vendors and speakers comprised of a wide range of pioneers in the field, from DJI and 3D Robotics to Drone Dudes and law firm McKenna Long & Aldridge, which works with aerial production companies seeking to get an exemption from the Federal Aviation Administration’s drone regulations, which essentially bars commercial drone use and has been a high point of contention in the industry. Continue reading Inaugural LA Drone Expo celebrates the technology’s use for good→
Drones have been virtually stranded at the gates of the struggling journalism industry.
It is being called tomorrow’s multi-billion dollar industry, the mechanized perfection of Da Vinci’s dreams of humans rising to the skies with applications in the lucrative agriculture, real estate and business markets.
Already, hobbyists and creative professionals have pioneered their place into this new industry of drones, those remotely-controlled civilian aircraft equipped with GoPros or other small cameras.
But while the technology is increasingly being adopted far and wide, drones, officially called unmanned aerial systems, have been virtually stranded at the gates of the struggling U.S. journalism industry.
There may be two primary parties responsible for this:
1) The journalism industry itself, for hardly attempting to adopt the cutting-edge technology and equipment, which may be seen as a lack of interest in innovating but may also be the result of slashed budgets.
2) The Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. agency responsible for regulating aircraft, for so far failing to create unified, or coherent, regulations on UAV/drone usage in the U.S. (Note that this post is referring only to the U.S.; I am unfamiliar to the state of global drone journalism.)
Sally French: I work professionally full-time for a newspaper. Actually before I got that job, I had my own drone blog. I had this interest of being a photojournalist and using drones to take photos. So I sort of started thinking that since the regulations are really unclear, I could establish myself as a thought leader in drones and journalism. This is why I started the blog The Drone Girl.
Goller: So you started it primarily because of the ambiguity with the current regulations?
French: Yeah, a lot is still unknown. So much is ambiguous, so I figured that by having this drone blog, I could explore these things and show on one hand how drones can be used for good. Often, people think of drones as something that is strictly used for war. I think a lot of people ignore the consumer side of drones. They fail to distinguish that on one side of the world drones are killing people and on the other side drones are helping find lost hikers! It should not have a negative connotation one hundred percent of the time. I wanted to explore the privacy and safety issues as well.
Goller: What of surveillance and privacy?
French: Just as large telephoto lenses challenged the privacy and surveillance regulations when they were becoming more widespread, so do drones challenge the current regulations. I think it needs to be approached the same way that people have always approached handling the same photojournalism laws. Yes you can stand on a sidewalk, but there is that ethical concern. People have the implied right to privacy. I really think that people need to take a step back and view a drone as another tool and address the laws the same way they would with any other tool – this one just happens to be in the air.
Goller: So drones are basically just heightening the current issues by approaching from a different angle?
French: Yeah, exactly. People were so scared when telephoto lenses came out. Now your mom probably has one and she probably bought it at Target. A lot of people get really scared that drones might be spying on them. Going back to what this blog is for, the drones that people have are the size of a small child. You can’t miss them!
Goller: What do you think of the FAA and the current situation with regulation in the national airspace?
French: With the Parker case, the FAA said they would fine him $10,000. So he fought them in the court and won, but just recently the ruling was overturned. So it’s very unclear. He doesn’t have to pay. Then he does have to pay. What of my blog? Is it commercial? I do think there has to be some amount of regulation. There has to be a happy medium between the people who want to ban drones completely and those on the other end who don’t want any regulations.
Goller: Do the benefits of domestic drones outweigh their potential problems?
Surely you have feelings about drones, and we want you to share them here!
Drone Girl is now accepting article submissions so you can get your voice heard! Maybe you’ve talked your families’ ears off about the wondrous things a drone can do, or perhaps you’ve found some awesome drone video that must be shared.
Maybe you just want to post once, or maybe you’d like to post once a week. Either way, I want more voices on Drone Girl (you don’t have to own a drone, and you don’t have to be a girl…you just have to write riveting content about drones)! Send me a message with the subject line DG Reader Submission and let’s chat about posting it here!
Here are some ideas of posts I would love to see:
Drone News Commentary
They can be serious or silly, filled with GIFs or packed with powerful prose. Either way, if you are interested in joining the Drone Girl team, then I’m interested in hearing from you!