Drones are in the news again, this time for the nuisance they caused during the wildfire blazing across the highway in San Bernardino County. Five hobby drones were spotted circling the area, forcing firefighting copters to dump their fire retardants and land early.
While the drone pilots are trying to be located and some are calling for criminal prosecution, I think what this really highlights is the void in clear rules, processes, and education about what you can and can’t do with a drone.
If I try to picture myself at the scene of the fire with a drone, the sky might be clear so I’d think it’s ok to send up a drone to get some footage. Little do I know the sky is clear because firefighting copters aren’t coming to the area due to the hazard of the drone. I’m sure the majority of drone pilots are not out to impede firefighting abilities. They just don’t know that they are.
Now apparently two of the drones did chase or fly near helicopters. They are morons that should be held criminally liable.
But I feel the vast majority of drone operators don’t want to get in the way. They just don’t know.
Some groups are trying to educate pilots with programs like Know Before you Fly. While it does a good job presenting the information out there for different types of shooters, it can only do so much because the governing bodies like the FAA have no clear processes, training, or forms for staying in compliance.
I’m about to get more into drone shooting and I’d love to keep everything legit. But when I look into getting my company approved by the FAA for film production, I find I have to petition for exemption under Section 333. I don’t think you could make up a more bureaucratic sounding title. If you follow the instructions, there isn’t even a form you fill out. You file your petition via a comment on a post at regulations.gov. Yes, a comment, which they reiterate in their PDF instructions. Then you wait 120 days. It’s not even clear what you’re supposed to put in this comment, so if you mess up time to wait another four months.
So is your average drone hobbiest that spends a few hundred bucks for a drone going to go through this hassle? No. I’m a professional and I don’t even fully understand what I’m supposed to do or what I am and am not allowed to do with a drone.
But if clear guidelines were established with what you can and can’t do with a drone and provided as a pamphlet with the drone, I’m sure most users would stay in compliance.
The forest service has started a campaign to educate drone users to stay away from forest fires so they can do there job. It’s still the wild west of drone flying and there’s a lot to be sorted out.
At NASA’s Moffett Field, about four miles from Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., the agency has been developing a drone traffic management program that would in effect be a separate air traffic control system for things that fly low to the ground — around 400 to 500 feet for most drones.
Much like the air traffic control system for conventional aircraft, the program would monitor the skies for weather and traffic. Wind is a particular hazard, because drones weigh so little compared with regular planes.
The system would also make sure the drones do not run into buildings, news helicopters or other lower-flying objects — a more challenging task than for an airplane flying at 30,000 feet. There would also be no-fly zones, such as anywhere near a major airport…
Unlike the typical image of an air traffic control center — a dark room full of people wearing headphones and staring at radar screens — NASA’s system, like the drones themselves, would dispense with the people and use computers and algorithms to figure out where they can and cannot fly.
NY Times reporting today on more drone announcements from Google and what’s being done to manage the influx of drones – both the commercial potential and current open skies for hobbyists.
There definitely needs to be some sort of air traffic system in place but what isn’t clear from this bit about NASA is how does Joe Consumer who bought a DJI Phantom drone to get some cool GoPro shots know where the lanes are? Are manufacturers going to be required to install chips that block the drones from entering certain areas?
As drones become more and more prevalent (especially ones with cameras) I’d expect to see more challenges with rights to privacy and what is and isn’t considered public space. Sidewalks are public property and fair game for taking pictures from. Does that extend 400 feet into the sky?
Update: LaCie responded with a link to the product on their website: LaCie Rugged USB3 Thunderbolt Series. It comes in the below mentioned 1 TB flavor, as well as 120 GB and 256 GB SSD. You can win one on their website here.
Was in the Apple store yesterday when I spotted something that seemed too good to be true. A LacCie Rugged drive with Thunderbolt, priced at $249 – Thunderbolt cable included!
This is what I’ve been waiting for with Thunderbolt – a portable, bus powered drive that doesn’t cost $400. I hadn’t heard anything about this drive, yet here it is, right in the Apple store. I would have bought it on the spot except for one thing – the drive was only 5400 RPM. Why go full throttle with Thunderbolt, only to kill the speed boost with a slow hard drive? Made no sense. And the Apple specialists didn’t know anything.
What’s strange is I can’t find this hard drive anywhere on the Internet. Not even on Lacie’s website. Or Apple’s. Was this stocked too early? Hopefully more will come soon, in a 7200 RPM flavor.
On Tuesday the NY Times wrote about internet service providers offering low cost internet options that restricts your monthly data usage, similar to most smart phone plans. This obviously has huge issues for online video content creators. What’s the first thing people are going to stop doing if their data is limited? Cut bandwidth heavy videos.
Yesterday there was a House hearing on whether current laws address the demands of new technology, and the NY Times article was brought up.
Represented were Netflix, Roku, Hearst TV, Dish Network, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, and others. Here are some interesting points:
1:17:30 – The committee asked about the article and restricting data. The general reply was it boils down to competition. If someone offers unlimited at a fair cost, people will subscribe to that. One executive said this was a blunt solution to handling demand peaks. If she’s backing up data at 3 AM, demand is at a minimum, but that’s counting against her quota.
1:55:00 – Debate about the Dish’s Auto Hopper feature, which lets you skip ads on recorded programs (it can also lower the audio on commercials on live broadcasts).
2:09:45 – Pretty much split vote on if they thought customers were offered enough choice to watch content whenever and wherever they wanted.
2:17:00 – A showdown between Dish and a congressman over the Auto Hopper feature when the congressman didn’t seem too happy that someone could skip over his political ad in November.
Giving up my unlimited iPad data plan to go to Verizon, I can say data caps are extremely annoying, having gone over them twice. And even AT&T is a pain, sending me text messages that they’re going to start throttling my ‘unlimited’ iPhone data (thanks to Spotify). But I don’t think limited data, especially at the home, will last for long. People won’t put up with it and the market will sort it out. Google already has fiber optic internet that’s 100 times faster than broadband.
The Auto Hopper debate is interesting. They’re arguing that it takes the three steps a consumer is already doing to skip commercials and boils it down to one. But studies have shown that people still remember commercials while fast forwarding them. I have no problems with commercials, especially on the web, like with Hulu. But that’s because I understand the economics of why they’re necessary. I find a few minutes of my time fair payment to watch something for free online. Maybe the commercial break needs to be redesigned to highlight the economics behind it and how it pays for the programming you’re about to enjoy.
I’m not one to post breaking news, but as a Mac Pro user this make me very happy. A lot of new Apple toys were announced on Monday. Many of us hoped there would be an update to the Mac Pro, which hasn’t seen any changes in over 2 years.
What Apple did was akin to leaving a 10 cent tip. They didn’t forget about the Mac Pro, but they did quietly update the Apple store with a new model that lacked a lot of needed features, like Thunderbolt and USB 3.0.
A concerned user emailed Tim Cook and shockingly got a reply.
Thanks for your email. Our Pro customers like you are really important to us. Although we didn’t have a chance to talk about a new Mac Pro at today’s event, don’t worry as we’re working on something really great for later next year. We also updated the current model today.
We’ve been continuing to update Final Cut Pro X with revolutionary pro features like industry leading multi-cam support and we just updated Aperture with incredible new image adjustment features.
We also announced a MacBook Pro with a Retina Display that is a great solution for many pros.