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Civilian Use of Drone Aircraft May Soon Fly In the US

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the you-get-a-drone-you-get-a-drone-everybody-gets-a-drone dept.

Privacy 196

An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from the Seattle Times: "Drone aircraft, best known for their role in hunting and destroying terrorist hideouts in Afghanistan and Pakistan, may be coming soon to the skies near you. Police agencies want drones for air support to find runaway criminals. Utility companies expect they can help monitor oil, gas and water pipelines. Farmers believe drones could aid in spraying crops with pesticides. 'It's going to happen,' said Dan Elwell, vice president of civil aviation at the Aerospace Industries Association. 'Now it's about figuring out how to safely assimilate the technology into national airspace.' That's the job of the Federal Aviation Administration, which plans to propose new rules for using small drones in January, a first step toward integrating robotic aircraft into the nation's skyways."

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FTFY (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38209190)

"Drone aircraft, best known for their role in hunting and destroying houses and children"

Re:FT"FTFY"FY (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38209936)

"The US military, best known for their role in hunting and destroying houses and children"

Re:FT"FTFY"FY (4, Interesting)

quenda (644621) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210132)

That's not just a troll. The drones get much bigger headlines (just outside the USA?) for blowing up wedding parties and other civilians, than for killing enemies, even though they hopefully do the latter more often.
I was going to comment about blowing up allied border posts, but that particular massacre was done by piloted planes. So are drones really the problem?
Are drone pilots any more detached from the carnage than the WWII high-altitude incendiary bomber crews?

As for civilian use, we could use a couple of these for aerial shark patrols. Not too dangerous flying over the ocean. They could even be armed with a .50 cal gun.

Re:FT"FTFY"FY (0)

anagama (611277) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210684)

Drone attacks during Bush II administration: 52
Drone attacks during Obama adminstration: 257

FAA Director Yoda quoted: (5, Funny)

Leebert (1694) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209196)

"Begun, the Drone Wars have."

Oh he many uses (2)

NetNinja (469346) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209238)

How shall we count them?

Traffic reporting
Speeders/ Speed traps Hey someone has to pay for Maintenance, Fuel and Pilot for this thing!
Forestry service
Fire fighting
surveillance (Abuse of powers, Gonna happen)
Night vision, Infrared/Thermal imaging
Knock, Knock! Who's there!? Search Warrant!
BOOM! precision guided munition right into your toilet.

Let's not forget alien Centipedes for Senator assasinations.

Re:Oh he many uses (4, Funny)

zlives (2009072) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209264)

Ooh, target practice

Re:Oh he many uses (1)

evanism (600676) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210178)

hehe. Shoot them out of the air. That would be fun!

Modern Day Kite Fights? (5, Funny)

monzie (729782) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209244)

Kite Fighting [wikipedia.org] is a common festival in many parts of Asia. In a few years from now, imagine if a bunch of dudes do that with drones ( and the drones shooting at each other with Spud Guns in mid-air).

It will soon become and industry of its own. Microsoft and Sony will soon come out with Fighter Drones.

Microsoft's will have a "ring of death" ( It'll circle your house twice before crashing into your house and destroying the ceiling/attic.

Sony's will have the ability to fly carrying a dog as a passenger. But one day it'll disable it via software update and your mutt will no longer be able to fly.

Nintendo will come out with a cheaper, smaller drone will require you to flap your arms like a bird, which the drone will faithfully imitate.

I see a good future for the gaming industry with this.

Re:Modern Day Kite Fights? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38209294)

RC aircraft anyone?

Re:Modern Day Kite Fights? (0)

syousef (465911) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209360)

That's quite an imagination you have there. Did you orgasm as you finished writing that?

Meanwhile in the real world R/C clubs are dying off in the cities as land has become way too expensive and the population too densly packed to tolerate small aircraft falling out of the sky just so people can get their thrills.

Re:Modern Day Kite Fights? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38209502)

Meanwhile in the real world R/C clubs are dying off in the cities as land has become way too expensive and the population too densly packed to tolerate small aircraft falling out of the sky just so people can get their thrills.

Newsflash: Sometimes people leave the city for recreation.

And now I'll really blow your mind: Some people don't even live in cities to begin with

Re:Modern Day Kite Fights? (1, Flamebait)

syousef (465911) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210646)

Meanwhile in the real world R/C clubs are dying off in the cities as land has become way too expensive and the population too densly packed to tolerate small aircraft falling out of the sky just so people can get their thrills.

Newsflash: Sometimes people leave the city for recreation.

And now I'll really blow your mind: Some people don't even live in cities to begin with

Newsflash. Majority of the population lives in cities. Newsflash, modern life means opportunities to go away have severly decreased. Newsflash: r/c flying requires practice and upkeep.

With so many news flashes perhaps you should take up photography.

Re:Modern Day Kite Fights? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210852)

And leave for the countryside!

Re:Modern Day Kite Fights? (2)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210000)

Did you orgasm as you finished writing that?

Why do you ask? Do your fingers double as keyboard-sensitive erotic zones, also?

Re:Modern Day Kite Fights? (1)

yndrd1984 (730475) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210662)

Do your fingers double as keyboard-sensitive erotic zones, also?

Oh, yes.

Yes, YES, YES!!!!

And I'm spent.

Re:Modern Day Kite Fights? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38209540)

You forgot the Apple drone. It's white, loses reception if you touch the controls a certain way, and costs 3x more. And when an updated model comes out, the speed of the previous models is reduced greatly via forced update.

Re:Modern Day Kite Fights? (2)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209900)

It also has no user-serviceable parts and no bolt-on supplemental fuel tanks.

I don't see what's to stop... (1)

TWX (665546) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209250)

...people from taking pot shots at them, be it with firearms, slingshots, toy rockets, what have you. I suppose that the best way to prevent this from happening is to make them so hideously expensive to insure or operate that no one bothers.

A. Your local SWAT team (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209328)

I don't see what's to stop people from taking pot shots at them...

The SWAT team that will kick in your door and haul you away.

Re:A. Your local SWAT team (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38209386)

How does closing the barn door after the horse as left work for you?

Re:A. Your local SWAT team (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38209734)

Ask that of any rape victim, or murder victim, someone who's had their car stolen, and so on. In fact, don't bother, because you already know the answer.

Really... (4, Interesting)

Gription (1006467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210130)

Seeing that here in the US we live in the safest time in human history your apparent need to up the ante of the surveillance state seems to indicate you should move to a nice fascist regime. As a person who realizes that, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants" I also realize that the "blood of patriots" did not refer to young men shipped to foreign countries but possibly referred to liberty minded citizens right here at home who are willing to take the amazingly slight risk of allowing liberty to remain paramount. I also realize that "tyrants" could even refer to our own government and that the government should be trusted as far as I can spit up wind in a hurricane.

Government by popularity with a decision making process funded by corporations is an insanely dangerous thing.

No. I will not willingly give a blind government hierarchy a cost effective way to micromanage our lives and to automate the fleecing of the people. WE ARE NOT THEIR SOURCE OF INCOME. They are supposed to be our servants.
Think about this: It is impossible for a government, a corporation, or a committee to be moral. Morality requires a conscience and only an individual can have a conscience.

Re:I don't see what's to stop... (4, Insightful)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209452)

Do you also smash speed limit signs? Torch cop cars? Maybe you don't like TV, so you dig up and cut cables? To hell with all the anarchists who want society to be like the wild west. Believe it or not, we already have flying machines that can do all these things. Drones just make them cheaper and more accessible to everyone.

Go ahead. Shoot one down, if you want. If you're that violent a person, society will be better off with you in prison.

Re:I don't see what's to stop... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38209548)

I don't think you've ever tried to shoot something that is 40k feet up and 75ft across.

Re:I don't see what's to stop... (4, Insightful)

TopSpin (753) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209560)

taking pot shots at them

Cops routinely round up numpties that point lasers at pilots. You go firing at a UAV that is most likely returning real-time video of your brilliant self to the operator and you can bet they'll be at your door inside an hour with a picture of you drawing a bead someone's expensive aerospace equipment.

Have you not seen the video out of Iraq or Afghanistan of individual insurgents being hunted down by UAVs? Just replace the Hellfire with a patrol car and you've got the picture.

Re:I don't see what's to stop... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210650)

Have you not seen the video out of Iraq or Afghanistan of individual insurgents being hunted down by UAVs? Just replace the Hellfire with a patrol car and you've got the picture.

Are you suggesting that civilian UAVs should be outfitted to fire rocket-propelled patrol cars at ground targets? Because that sounds simultaneously awesome and impractical.

Re:I don't see what's to stop... (4, Insightful)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210160)

...people from taking pot shots at them, be it with firearms, slingshots, toy rockets, what have you. I suppose that the best way to prevent this from happening is to make them so hideously expensive to insure or operate that no one bothers.

Discharge of firearm in a populated area: bad, jail bad.

Slingshots: good luck hitting a small, erratically moving target 20 stories up.

Toy rockets: you got a gyro guidance system with optical tracking on that thing?

What have you: apparently you have nothing that can take out a drone, even the guns aren't going to be easy, trying to hit a 2' target at 100+ yards with a major elevation change.

Insurance: is based on risk, it's a business. The only way risk will be increased by lawmakers is if the chance for lawsuit is increased. Since most applications are downright illegal right now, drones are un-insurable. As for liability after they are legal, how much damage can 2 lbs of plastic do falling on whatever? O.K., now, how much damage does a Cessna do when it crashes while flying low for pipeline monitoring, crop dusting, etc.?

People hate change, drones are change. Don't hate the drones, they really are better than what we had before.

Go ahead and hate the people who will misuse them, but remember that you don't need to fly to install cameras on every intersection, automatic license plate readers in every squad car, or facial recognition cameras at the entry to every store.

Re:I don't see what's to stop... (2)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210284)

Depending on the size and complexity of the drone, I would wire up an appropriately-sized radio control airplane(or copter) with a camera and a light payload of explosive, probably using a servo instead of electronic signal as the detonator for safety reasons. It would be more expensive than firing off a few rounds, but the fact that the oppressors paid a hundred or even a thousand times more for their drone than I did would be worth it.

Drones (and drone operators) are extremely ill-suited to dealing with level playing fields. But you're right about everything else, though. Guess its time to move to a rural area, growing and hunting all of my food and saving up enough money to flee the country before its military is turned loose against the general population.

Re:I don't see what's to stop... (4, Interesting)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210706)

Depending on the size and complexity of the drone, I would wire up an appropriately-sized radio control airplane(or copter) with a camera and a light payload of explosive, probably using a servo instead of electronic signal as the detonator for safety reasons. It would be more expensive than firing off a few rounds, but the fact that the oppressors paid a hundred or even a thousand times more for their drone than I did would be worth it.

Stick with rifles, you'll have a hell of a time hitting it with an RC aircraft and they're more likely to know you did it - with the rifle you can shoot from a concealed location and disappear before they can find you. Either way, gunshots or flying explosive charges around, your're in jail when caught.

Drones (and drone operators) are extremely ill-suited to dealing with level playing fields. But you're right about everything else, though. Guess its time to move to a rural area, growing and hunting all of my food and saving up enough money to flee the country before its military is turned loose against the general population.

Point of the article is that drones are shrinking. Sure, the Predator is the size of a 707, but take a look at Switchblade [avinc.com] , smaller than the RC plane you can get at your hobby shop, faster too, not cheaper, but it costs less than your legal fees will trying to deal with the legal charges you'll face for putting RC explosives into the air.

The rural area plan sounds good, but unless you can afford hundreds of acres, it's not much more secure than living in a normal city. And, as for fleeing, to where? Try to take comfort in the fact that we've got less than 1% of our population in the military [wikipedia.org] , half of them as reservists, even if the military does consume nearly 5% of our GDP, those numbers have been generally falling from 10% of GDP and more soldiers (in absolute numbers) in 1960.

Re:I don't see what's to stop... (1)

infoseek (1596733) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210888)

Hell why bother with a kinetic strike. Just jam them and they'll crash. If the drone could switch into autonomous mode it would be more difficult. But there is all kinds of potential for spoofing, at least well enough to crash it. If the government ever lost it's marbles and and started to seriously oppress Americans I think they would be surprised at how quickly libertarian geeks would compromise all their systems.

This is simple (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38209266)

1. Aerial surveillance is a widespread random search. Like a checkpoint but without the fiction of surrendering your rights to get a license.

2. Facial recognition, searching databases to connect visual elements to a context of "finding perps", is warrantless search and research.

The mere fact it is possible to laser capture all audio from all windows of all residences simultaneously, does not make it right to capture the data.

More to my point, using military procedures, equipment, technology, and rules to persue civil crime or "violations" is a direct violation of the liberty clause of the Constitution (leave me alone principal).

There's my 2 cents. By the time I die expect to have exactly zero rights remaining, and all of a sudden to have spent more than my cumulative lifetime 12 hours in jail. I went to a scared straight program too. :D

JJ

Re:This is simple (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209418)

Strictly speaking that's not likely to be a violation of the constitution, but IMHO it does justify amending the constitution to provide at least some protection for it.

Re:This is simple (2)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209476)

Top it all off with a little Senate bill 1867 [allgov.com] and your nightmares have become true, my friend.

Start preparing for military rule.

what about useing military to monter Utility's (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209564)

what about useing military to monitor Utility's lines?

You can say it's tied to the national guard

Japan's Robot Overlords (5, Interesting)

Dutchy Wutchy (547108) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209274)

Japan has been using UAVs for agriculture for years. Pretty cool stuff.
http://benpheneverything.wordpress.com/2009/08/19/robotic-crop-dusting-in-japan/ [wordpress.com]
http://www.gizmag.com/go/2440/ [gizmag.com]

Re:Japan's Robot Overlords (4, Interesting)

ScottyLad (44798) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209562)

Here in the UK, drones have already been used by civilians to survey the masonary of the Stirling Bridge [bbc.co.uk]

The civilian contractors, however, appear to be more adept at handling the technology than Merseyside Police, who forgot to get permission from the Civil Aviation Authority [bbc.co.uk] to use their drone, before crashing it in to the River Mersey [telegraph.co.uk] a year later.

Re:Japan's Robot Overlords (1)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210014)

Well, on the other hand, they managed to keep it flying for a year, which must say something positive about their batteries.

and who carries the liability coverage? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38209276)

When one of the drones operated by a wage slave across the country in a nameless industrial park crashes into a preschool full of children, what happens then?

Who was the "pilot in command"?

These things aren't nearly as reliable as commercial aircraft, and their failure modes tend to be more catastrophic. There's no pilot inside trying Plan B, Plan C, Plan D, etc and finally pulling a Great Santini.

Fine in a battlefield environment where collateral damage is part of the game.

Re:and who carries the liability coverage? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38209352)

I've heard about friendly fire incidents were people have been accidentally bombed by drones, but has anyone actually ever been injured after a drone ran in to them?

Re:and who carries the liability coverage? (3, Insightful)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209390)

If you're looking for facts and data, you're obviously not spending that time thinking of the children. Won't someone think of the children!?!

Re:and who carries the liability coverage? (1)

mcavic (2007672) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210056)

Statistics aren't really necessary. If a drone can accidentally bomb someone, then obviously it can crash into a building. Even if a drone CAN'T accidentally bomb someone, it can still obviously crash into a building.

Personally, I love the idea of a driverless highway system. Of course there are good applications for flight drones also. But I don't think our quality control is nearly up to par yet.

That being said, I'll feel better if a drone is fully manned by a remote operator on the ground who has a similar level of visibility and control as a real pilot. Is that a reasonable requirement, or does it defeat the purpose?

Re:and who carries the liability coverage? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210234)

Sure the remote pilot with the same visibility and control as the insitu pilot can take care of ordinary flight just fine. Now let's talk about anomalies. What happens when the data link fails? Or the generator fails (I've been in a small plane where the electrical system failed, at night. That's why you carry a flashlight). Flying is VERY different from remote control automobiles for instance. If the car's ECU fails or the data link dies, it can go into a "limp home" mode or just coast to a stop. Can't do that in a plane: falling out of the sky is bad.

This is really why you haven't seen extensive use of (large) drones in populated areas. You see them used experimentally in desert test ranges, or along desert borders with Mexico or the wilds of somewhere doing pipeline inspection.. No insurance company in the world is going to write a liability policy for it when the possible payout is hundreds of millions.

Not to mention the "oops, that drone just hit that commercial airplane" Cerritos all over again.

Maybe in 20-30 years, when the technology improves for collision avoidance, and suitable "deploy parachute and float to ground in event of disaster" type hardware is developed and tested (such things exist for ultralights and small planes now)

Re:and who carries the liability coverage? (1)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210378)

"...has anyone actually ever been injured after a drone ran in to them?"

I don't know about injured, per se, but I was thrown for a loop when one of my coworkers bumped into me.

The fcc and faa should force local control (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209580)

The fcc and faa should force local control.

Re:and who carries the liability coverage? (1)

infoseek (1596733) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210912)

I think the solution is to keep them small, just a couple pounds. They could operate at a very low altitude, at a fairly low speed. If they crashed the potential for damage would be minimal. For larger UAV's there will need to be more of the kind of controls you have in commercial aircraft. With shrinking electronics you can still mount cool shit like IR camera's on a small platform.

Well, that's the trick... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38209304)

"how to safely assimilate the technology into national airspace.". THAT is the tricky part!

          Pilots (this is not just commercial airlines, but even a two-set Cessna...) must hold and keep current a license. The pilot must know actual operating characteristics of the types of planes they'll fly (for instance how susceptible it is to downdrafts and updrafts.) They must know when they can fly with visual flight rules, and when they must maintain radio contact. They must run through a full checklist on the plane before every takeoff. They must follow flight rules -- certain flight heights, when approaching an airport they must follow the approach pattern (so they don't cut off or ram other planes coming in), and so on. They must maintain awareness of their surroundings.

            Drones? I just have the feeling they will be flown by yahoos that may be able to keep the plane level, but won't keep up on maintenance, won't follow flight rules, won't maintain proper radio contact, and I'm not sure these drones even have the ability to allow complete awareness of surroundings (if it doesn't provide 360 degree camera coverage.) Honestly, if anyone flys these, they should have to follow EVERY single rule a Cessna would have to follow, including having a licensed pilot flying it, who will be fully responsible for any mishaps the plane gets into. These are not as big of planes, but will still kill someone if it crashes and hits someone on the ground, or hits the prop on a small plane.

hear are the pilots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38209604)

"how to safely assimilate the technology into national airspace.". THAT is the tricky part!

          Pilots (this is not just commercial airlines, but even a two-set Cessna...) must hold and keep current a license. The pilot must know actual operating characteristics of the types of planes they'll fly (for instance how susceptible it is to downdrafts and updrafts.) They must know when they can fly with visual flight rules, and when they must maintain radio contact. They must run through a full checklist on the plane before every takeoff. They must follow flight rules -- certain flight heights, when approaching an airport they must follow the approach pattern (so they don't cut off or ram other planes coming in), and so on. They must maintain awareness of their surroundings.

            Drones? I just have the feeling they will be flown by yahoos that may be able to keep the plane level, but won't keep up on maintenance, won't follow flight rules, won't maintain proper radio contact, and I'm not sure these drones even have the ability to allow complete awareness of surroundings (if it doesn't provide 360 degree camera coverage.) Honestly, if anyone flys these, they should have to follow EVERY single rule a Cessna would have to follow, including having a licensed pilot flying it, who will be fully responsible for any mishaps the plane gets into. These are not as big of planes, but will still kill someone if it crashes and hits someone on the ground, or hits the prop on a small plane.

http://www.mtv.com/videos/beavis-and-butt-head-season-9-ep-3-drones/1674141/playlist.jhtml#series=2211&seriesId=37392&channelId=1 [mtv.com]

Fourth Amendment (3, Informative)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209326)

This has major fourth amendment implications--When technology is in use by the civilian public, there is supreme court precedent saying the fourth amendment generally doesn't reach it. (An old thermal imaging case.)

Re:Fourth Amendment (4, Interesting)

failedlogic (627314) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209664)

I don't know which "thermal imaging" case you're referring to, but I am troubled by police using helicopters to find grow houses using thermal imaging and then getting a warrant to search the place.

Every time there's a new technology it seems the police want to jump on it. Crime levels have been falling. Yet we're spending more money on policing. This is the case in many major cities. Our city wanted to cut back our Fire service so the Cops could get a larger cut. If the police want to fight fires too, be my guest, until then stop invading on our privacy and turning our nice, (relatively) peaceful society into a police state. Its not like any appreciable increase in police or crime fighting technology has or will demonstrably deter or reduce crime.

Re:Fourth Amendment (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210428)

You certainly do have an appropriate name. "Crime levels have been falling, yet we're spending more money on policing". Hmm, I guess there's zero possibility the second has anything to do with the first eh?

Re:Fourth Amendment (1)

jasno (124830) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209922)

"in use by the civilian public... fourth amendment generally doesn't reach it"

Can you cite the case? I was curious about this - if a civilian uses technology the police aren't allowed to, can the civilian's report serve as probable cause? If that's the case, why don't police use more private contractors to break the law for them?

Regardless, even though the Supremes have declared it illegal for police to use IR cameras, they're doing it anyway: http://reason.com/blog/2008/12/06/gotcha [reason.com]

So what about drone detection systems? It would sure be nice if there was a way for civilians to track small drones with little to no radar footprint. I'd bet the acoustic or RF signature of the drone would be a good place to start.

Re:Fourth Amendment (2)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210642)

Kyllo, maybe? You'll find it in a second if you google it. Florida v. Reilly is also relevant, I think. (re: airplanes and the fourth amendment).

KILLERS (1)

dittbub (2425592) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209330)

these drones are job killers!

Re:KILLERS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38209454)

My dream of one day becoming a crop duster. It is shattered.

drone aircraft used on/against civilians (1)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209368)

The eye in the sky
That flies low and high
Is anon and nigh.,

Re:drone aircraft used on/against civilians (3, Interesting)

hguorbray (967940) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209472)

so, when it comes time to take out escalating OWS protesters -will it be done via security contractors in India or Pakistan? that would be too ironic...

only problem is -they might decide to take out the police -as the members of the Afghan military have done so often against the Alliance

In ancient Rome towards the end they would only allow foreign troops inside Rome to prevent coups and popular uprisings from having a sympathetic or communicative military...

-I'm just sayin'

Re:drone aircraft used on/against civilians (1)

Bucky24 (1943328) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209810)

In ancient Rome towards the end they would only allow foreign troops inside Rome to prevent coups and popular uprisings from having a sympathetic or communicative military...

Of course in Rome that only happened about 200 times...

hand size copters for media and protestors - (3, Insightful)

RichMan (8097) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209370)

The small copters should be autonomous and stream media to wifi.
Get it to follow a reporter/protestor into a situation like a Occupy eviction.

My camera, its up there. The foottage of you punching me in the face, that's already on google.

Re:hand size copters for media and protestors - (1)

Bucky24 (1943328) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209854)

In a situation like that don't you think the camera-drone would probably be shot out of the sky?

Re:hand size copters for media and protestors - (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38209872)

Our spectrum jammers, they're already deployed. We received information that terrorists were planning to disrupt your protest to make your protest's message look bad while causing panic and fear. Their nefarious plans to harm you and your cause rely on wifi access. This area has therefore been designated a no wifi frequency zone for your safety and protection, as well as to guard your right to express yourselves freely without terrorist interference. Please excuse any temporary inconvenience this may cause you and your cameracoptors.

Love, The Police.

Re:hand size copters for media and protestors - (2)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210214)

There are lots and lots of frequencies you can transmit video on, you can even put it spread spectrum across the police tactical frequencies - if they want to jam you, they'll take out their own C&C.

Re:hand size copters for media and protestors - (2)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210518)

There are lots and lots of frequencies you can transmit video on, you can even put it spread spectrum across the police tactical frequencies -

It is really really hard to put a full framerate video stream through a 7.5kHz pipe, even using "spread spectrum" or a digital voice mode.

The last new video streaming device for cops and fire had to get a waiver from the FCC so they could use amateur frequencies in the 70cm band. They couldn't find anyplace else to send the video back. Well, they could, but they'd have to redesign the hardware to use a different frequency and that would be Too Hard For Human Engineers. (google: recon robotics).

Re:hand size copters for media and protestors - (3, Informative)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210772)

If you're going guerrilla, there's no 7.5KHz pipe restriction, those restrictions are purely based on national laws, and most radios are developed for international markets, compliance is handled in software. Many of the better selling radios are easily modded (against the instruction manual) to operate in modes that aren't legal anywhere.

Having said that, yes, full frame-rate video transmission is a bitch, quadruplely so for 1080p (to get wide field coverage with good detail on what you really wanted to see). But, a FHSS radio TX-RX pair that can handle it over 1km will cost less than $3K [vfmstore.com] .

Doesn't certain licensing already exist? (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209382)

Some of these 'drones' that will be available aren't going to be much larger than R/C airplanes.

DIY Drones (4, Interesting)

Brian Stretch (5304) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209478)

Civilians are already building their own drones. See DIY Drones [diydrones.com] , etc.

Personally I'd like to see a drone airship that can hold a stable position around 70,000 feet (~21km) to use as a WiFi relay, which would fix the problem of getting a clear line-of-sight for point-to-point long-range wireless but good. I doubt it can be done reliably though. But if it could, and you built a fleet of them linked with Open Mesh [open-mesh.com] , you could build a global drone communications network for fairly cheap. Call it Skynet... oh.

Re:DIY Drones (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210396)

Call it Skynet... oh.

Call it a Stratellite [wikipedia.org] .

See and avoid... (3, Interesting)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209482)

Thus eviscerating the decades old policy of "see and avoid" as the bedrock of flight in this country. And the rest of the world.

Drones are both too small to see easily and have no pilot on board that can see any conflicting traffic.

Anyone want to open a pool to bet on how soon a drone gets sucked into a major airliner's jet intake and causes a crash? Yeah, big jets fly really high -- unless they are landing or taking off or approaching an airport. Drones fly really low -- right where the GA small-aircraft fly.

Re:See and avoid... (1)

mcavic (2007672) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210106)

"see and avoid"

What about TCAS? I'm not that familiar with the technology, but it seems like it should be relatively simple to implement on an unmanned craft.

Re:See and avoid... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210218)

"see and avoid"

What about TCAS? I'm not that familiar with the technology, but it seems like it should be relatively simple to implement on an unmanned craft.

TCAS relies on an active transponder. It would in no way allow a drone to "see" other craft operating under Visual Flight Rules (even most military drones stay in VFR-only flight space) since plenty of VFR-only aircraft lack the transponder and so must be "seen" in order to be avoided.

Since slashdot loves its car analogies ... a drone flying in civilian airspace is like a car with no side-view mirrors and a 100%-obstructed rear window driving on the highway. Dangerous and illegal for darn good reason!

Re:See and avoid... (2)

Starker_Kull (896770) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210404)

That may work well for airliners in areas where all aircraft are required to have a working transponder (roughy speaking, within 30 miles of 'large' airports - or above 18,000 feet)... but large majority of the U.S. airspace doesn't require this, and most smaller aircraft don't have TCAS, or sometimes even a transponder. 'See & Avoid' (or if you are feeling cynical, "The Big Sky Theory") is supposed to be the primary method of collision avoidance in VFR conditions, and even in IFR, you are expected, if you see something, that 'shouldnt be there', to avoid it!

When limitations of See & Avoid [SAA] were encountered in the past, specific mechanisms were implemented to preserve the concept while carving out sensible guidelines for exceptions. For instance, the military has some mighty fast airplanes that are designed to be extremely low visibility - not so good from the SAA perspective. So, large chunks of airspace called Military Operations Areas were carved out where they could go play. When an MOA is hot, you are not prohibited from going in there... but most sensible pilots do. Airliners fly in all sorts of weather & lighting, and as flights became longer in duration and more 'heads down' (navigating by instruments, more radio work, attitude instrument flying, systems monitoring, etc.), and in much faster aircraft, SAA became harder & harder to maintain. So, above 18,000 in the US, you are in class A airspace, which used to be called, much more descriptively, Positive Control Airspace. Every airplane there is under ATC control, and they take responsibility for aircraft separation. No VFR traffic allowed. Since this is generally above the altitudes most private airplanes fly, it was a nice idea that gained safety for the airlines while allowing general aviation to keep its freedoms & flexibility.

I hope something sensible like that will be done, perhaps to restrict drones to certain types of airspace... require some form of piloting qualifications for drone operators... require transponders on all drones, or... well something. Or one day, a drone is going to be enginebait & cause an accident. One of the biggest incentives for safety as a pilot is the fact that you are first to arrive at the scene of an accident. Drone operators don't have that, and I wonder if it will be possible to maintain such a robust safety culture without it....

Re:See and avoid... (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210410)

TCAS is not installed on many, if not most, of the GA fleet. And TCAS is an add-on to "see and avoid", not a replacement.

Every commercial airliner already is a drone (1, Insightful)

SlappyBastard (961143) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209512)

What's the big deal? The pilots on a commercial flight are just there to make the passengers feel better.

Re:Every commercial airliner already is a drone (3, Informative)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209622)

What's the big deal? The pilots on a commercial flight are just there to make the passengers feel better.

No, they are not. I wish people would stop repeating this stupid myth. Airline pilots do an enormous amount of work during a flight, particularly takeoff and landing. It may well be that their jobs could be automated away, or that this will be possible in the near future, but it's nowhere near happening yet.

Re:Every commercial airliner already is a drone (0)

SlappyBastard (961143) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209690)

No they don't. If it's not a puddle jumper, the damn thing lands itself.

Re:Every commercial airliner already is a drone (3, Informative)

shino6 (2368984) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209798)

No they don't. If it's not a puddle jumper, the damn thing lands itself.

How about we listen to an actual commercial pilot? http://www.salon.com/2011/08/04/can_jetliners_fly_themselves/ [salon.com]

Re:Every commercial airliner already is a drone (1)

SlappyBastard (961143) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210726)

Fair enough. I'll concede the pilots are still of utility when the shit hits the fan.

Re:Every commercial airliner already is a drone (1)

FlyingGuy (989135) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210144)

And you don't know what the fuck your talking about you god damn moron!

In the entire state of California there are two (2) airports that have that capability, LAX & SFO that its.

It takes VERY specialized equipment for an airplane to Auto-Land, and no GPS isn't it. Both the ILS and the MLS must be upgraded far beyond the standard for normal IFR approaches with a decision height of say 300 feet.

You don't know what you are talking about so STFU!".

Re:Every commercial airliner already is a drone (5, Informative)

Starker_Kull (896770) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210244)

No they don't. If it's not a puddle jumper, the damn thing lands itself.

Well, unless you count 737s, 757s, 767s, 777s, and a few dozen other 100+ seat commercial aircraft as 'puddle jumpers', you are wrong. These airplanes have the capability to autoland, under a highly restricted set of conditions, involving maximum wind speeds (on the 737, max headwind 25 kts, xwind 15 and tailwind 10), clearing a large ILS safe zone on the surface of the airport to assure no interference with the localizer & glide slope antennas, minimum visibilites (because many autopilot systems work only the ailerons & elevator, not the rudder, and once you are on the deck you need the rudder to track the centerline, which the autopilot can no longer do, and neither can you if you can't see), etc., etc., etc.

I flew 600 hours for a major airline on the 737 last year. I did exactly one autoland in the entire year, and it was because the Captain & I wanted the procedural practice, the airport had a CAT III ILS, and it was a quiet day & ATC was accommodating.

I really wish I knew what urges people to forcefully declare they know about something when they plainly don't. It only subtracts from the discussion and your credibility.

Re:Every commercial airliner already is a drone (4, Insightful)

SlappyBastard (961143) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210758)

I'll take my plate of crow now. FTR, what compels us is years of reading articles in credible computing circles that have said exactly what I said. Yes, upon further reflection, it does strike me that's industry bullshit from the folks who think automation works for everything. That said, I have not seen the claim credibly challenged before today. Clearly there is a lot of money out there selling the automated aircraft. I have known a lot of credible people in the computing, programming and robotics fields who have repeated this claim. My best response is that it is apparent pilots don't have the same sort of lobby out there explaining their side of the problem. Because frankly it looks like pilots have been decidedly left out of the discussion. Bear in mind, around these parts we're awfully prone to liking a good story about autonomous vehicles. Very simply put, good PR has sold me a lie that sits very easily with my mind.

Re:Every commercial airliner already is a drone (1)

infoseek (1596733) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210928)

Everything you say is true. But where was that autoland technology thirty years ago? Where will it be in another 30? We aren't there yet but I don't see any insurmountable obstacles to getting there in the future.

I'm uncomfortable with this... (1)

Improv (2467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209538)

I'm uncomfortable with this, but I'm having trouble understanding exactly why. Maybe it's that I think law-and-order should remain a point-of-tension that requires special effort on behalf of law enforcement, and that tension serves a number of reasonable social purposes; discreet direct action should probably remain possible.

Maybe I'm fighting the tide, and maybe I should find a way to pin down my discomfort more, but this still is uncomfortable for me.

so you've seen the flying colonoscope? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38209786)

Better proctology through robotics

Amazon (3, Funny)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209574)

Free No Rush Shipping with $1 Amazon MP3 Credit
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MAKE IT HAPPEN

Been thinking about this for years (3, Insightful)

cosm (1072588) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209590)

I did a college project and built a simple drone with Arduino parts and some model RC stuff. We had to come up with a business plan to present commercial applications for there are many:

firefighters need a temp profile of a building before they get there, send the drone
cops need eyes in the sky to find a perp, send the drone
high volume roadway monitoring, send the drone
video taping sports events (highschool, private, college, racing, etc), send the drone
monitoring wildlife/forestry/national park outdoorsey stuff, send the drone
weather monitoring and remote sensing in harsh environments, send the drone
Anything that requires helicopter eyes in the sky but doesn't need to transport human or heavy payloads (air fuel is not cheap)
many more than not 4th amendment violations, send all the drones you got baby.

With all the good that could come of this technology, I guarantee the loss of civil liberties and privacy will be ten-fold larger. First to market will make lots of money once they pay off the FAA and get through the red tape. Lockheed/Northrop/Boeing/large DoD contractors have the lock on the drone market for the gov't now, once a large demand is created in the non-government sector, we'll see more of these stateside once the red-tape and matters are worked out. Where drones are better at some things overseas, they will be utilized that way here as well (hopefully, but not guaranteed, to be ordinance free). Naturally drones are nothing new, the barriers to entry are cost, FAA regs, demand. But once contractors get the lock and private firms/governments see/feel/create the need, drones will become another fact of life here in Panopticonland.

iDrone is a phone (1)

vencs (1937504) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209704)

If it can tweet, its a new genus right there. and I see great future for Rovio, far beyond 2.5B
-- well, upyourkarma..

Re:iDrone is a phone (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 2 years ago | (#38209966)

Do you realize the twisted trainwreck of deviant thought that you have set in motion?

I just imagined "cheap, ubiquitous UAVs", coupled with disenfranchised hackers, playing "angry drones."

Story:

Angered by the theft of their privacy, the hackers swear phyrric vengence on the "pigs" which stole it.

Cue makers and hackers all over bombing police precincts with novelty makerbot derived UAVs...

Re:iDrone is a phone (1)

vencs (1937504) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210788)

You just set me off!
One more for you:
Don't miss out on your paint-sniffing as you can stalk the girl next door, her mom and her brother too at the same time! Buy a couple of drones and get one free and you can ustream at 1080p!!


--
well, upyourkarma..

Remember when...... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38209882)

Remember when we all objected to drones in our skies years and years ago and we were told this technology would NEVER be used on American soil to spy on Americans?

Remember that anyone?

Now this shit IS coming to our soil and WILL be used against us. Fucking Liars the lot of them.

CollateralMurder.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38209946)

Umm, just over a year ago didn't we decide that drones do bad things to people regardless of allegiance?

http://collateralmurder.com/

It's about time. (1)

lexsird (1208192) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210064)

The problem has been that the FAA and pilots have been holding this up I think. You need a pilots license to fly a drone here and that is sad.

Drone applications don't all have to be draconian in nature. There are a multitude of uses for them and they can help us with a variety to tasks. It will also help open up a high tech market sector for them here in the USA, I hope. This is one of my favorite subjects being I am in school for mechanical engineering stuff. Next year, I think they will turn me loose on working on the RepRap project I proposed my first semester. I would think with that, one could work next on the open source drone that is out there as well, being you can then generate the parts.

People are far too paranoid about the Government and things in general. Drones are America's new best friend. Didn't our mothers tell us to make friends?

Re:It's about time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210164)

Well, only part of this article matters. I designed (mechanically) one of these during my senior capstone project, and we did a ton of research on all aspects of this. First off, they are governed by the US export control laws (many have autonomous drone features, and are deemed "sensitive to national security"). Second, they are 100% legal to own and fly in the US so long as you fly them under the radio controlled model exemptions laid forth by the FAA. Unfortunately, these limit current craft to 200 feet height restriction and line of sight operation. Anything that is to exceed these specifications must apply to the FAA for a testing license, which can REALLY only be obtained by a university, research institution, or private company of significant name. That is why there are a grand total of less than 300 issued licenses (almost all of which are NOT issued to private individuals.)

Uses... (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210070)

Drone aircraft, best known for their role in hunting and destroying terrorist hideouts in Afghanistan and Pakistan, may be coming soon to the skies near you. Utility companies expect they can help monitor oil, gas and water pipelines. Farmers believe drones could aid in spraying crops with pesticides. Police agencies want drones to launch Hellfire missiles at Occupy UC Davis protestors so that individual police [daviswiki.org] can't be identified."

already got em (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210100)

the news stations already have these... http://articles.businessinsider.com/2011-08-03/tech/30044325_1_drone-news-corporation-unmanned-aircraft

Re:already got em (1)

mini me (132455) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210420)

I don't know of any farmers spraying with drones yet, but some farms already using them for crop surveying too. http://www.oneearthfarms.net/operations/ [oneearthfarms.net]

In other Alabama news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210392)

Ammunition prices set to rise as more Alabama residents play a new game called UAV target practice.

Wow, what a headline! (1)

ihateslashfags (2520814) | more than 2 years ago | (#38210398)

Sounds so original! I think the Seattle Times copied it.

The AMA has rules for UAVs that should apply. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38210906)

The American Model Aircraft Association has rules that members are required
to comply with.

First, you are forbidden from launching projectiles of any kind from model aircraft.
Exceptions are made for unpowered non-explosive ballistic drops for contests.

They recently allowed UAV remote piloting subject to the following limitations:
1) The aircraft must be flown within visual range of the pilot at all times.
2) The pilot must have a human spotter that can assume visual control of the
        aircraft in the event that the pilot loses visual. (No fumbling to recover if signal loss.)

There are other requirements concerning the separation between people and aircraft
that should apply to all civilian aircraft, RC or NOT.
CITE: http://modelaircraft.org/documents.aspx#SMB
and in particular http://modelaircraft.org/files/105.pdf

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