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FAA OKs US UAVs

Soulskill posted 1 year,29 days | from the asap-iirc-bbq dept.

Transportation 52

Two unmanned aerial vehicles have received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to perform commercial operations in United States airspace. The Scan Eagle 200 from Insitu will be launched from a ship and used to monitor icebergs and migrating whales in parts of the Arctic where companies are looking for oil. The PUMA from Aerovironment will be used by emergency response teams for monitoring oil spills. (Both are referred to as unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, by the Administration.) "Issuing the type certificates is an important step toward the FAA's goal of integrating UAS into the nation's airspace. These flights will also meet requirements in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 that define Arctic operational areas and include a mandate to increase Arctic UAS commercial operations."

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Filter error: (0, Offtopic)

virgnarus (1949790) | 1 year,29 days | (#44438589)

Don't use so many caps. It's like YELLING.

Re:Filter error: (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#44438941)

Don't use so many caps. It's like YELLING.

Sorry, grammar wins, internet fashion loses. The title was nearly entirely acronyms, acronyms should be capitalized.

If you want to complain about a title being nearly entirely acronyms that is fine, but complaining about all caps is incorrect in this case.

Re:Filter error: (1)

RaceProUK (1137575) | 1 year,29 days | (#44445001)

acronyms should be capitalized

Unless they can be pronounced as a word, in which case they can be lower-case, like laser and radar :P

Re:Filter error: (1)

gstoddart (321705) | 1 year,29 days | (#44445285)

Unless they can be pronounced as a word, in which case they can be lower-case, like laser and radar :P

That usually means the acronym has been around so long that it has effectively become a word in its own right, even if it started as an acronym.

UAS instead of UAV (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#44438597)

While it says "unmanned aircraft systems" perhaps "unmanned aerial surveillance" is a better fit for the acronym.

Re:UAS instead of UAV (1)

hedwards (940851) | 1 year,29 days | (#44439357)

That's rather optimistic of you. I'm curious how long until they do more than surveillance on US soil.

Re:UAS instead of UAV (4, Informative)

icebike (68054) | 1 year,29 days | (#44439437)

Looking at each of the two systems you will see that these are fairly range limited, one having only a two hour endurance and a 9 mile range, the other (Boeing) having 20 hours endurance, 62 mile range, (and a ceiling of 16000 ft, high enough to interfere with commercial flights).

Most of the range issues are telemetry for remote piloting.

Still, you can expect some states and agencies to pick up the 20 hour Boeing ScanEagle, based on search and rescue justifications, while the shorter range craft will probably be bought in larger numbers by law enforcement, (And will quickly be proven a money and manpower wasting boondoggle).

(Dispatch: All searchers and helicopters please return to base so we can send the Drone into a clean environment! News choppers, please clear the airspace and maintain 20 mile distance for drone operations!)

You can soon expect to hear the lament: If only one lost child's life is saved.....
 

FAA OKs US UAVs? (4, Funny)

tocsy (2489832) | 1 year,29 days | (#44438635)

WTF OMG?

(I have nothing further to add to this conversation. I apologize for having wasted your time.)

Re:FAA OKs US UAVs? (2)

oodaloop (1229816) | 1 year,29 days | (#44438693)

It's OMGWTFBBQ. Get it right.

Re:FAA OKs US UAVs? (4, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | 1 year,29 days | (#44438981)

You were supposed to write "RTFM" instead of "Get it right". Now you've ruined it.

Re:FAA OKs US UAVs? (1)

Brandano (1192819) | 1 year,29 days | (#44441631)

TL;DR

Re:FAA OKs US UAVs? (1)

antdude (79039) | 1 year,29 days | (#44442205)

STFU! ;)

Re:FAA OKs US UAVs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#44443077)

kthxbai

And when are the Hellfire missles coming? (0)

tekrat (242117) | 1 year,29 days | (#44438643)

It's only a matter of time before UAVs are free to fire on civilians, so, at some point, the Hellfire missiles will also be OK'ed by the FAA. I hate to agree with the gun nuts, but if I see a drone, I'm grabbing the shotgun and firing at it.

Re:And when are the Hellfire missles coming? (4, Insightful)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | 1 year,29 days | (#44438701)

I hate to agree with the gun nuts, but if I see a drone, I'm grabbing the shotgun and firing at it.

If you think about it, that doesn't really make sense except that the FAA is keeping the power dynamic unfairly tilted. The taco copter should be free to delivery to you and welcome, but only law enforcement and oil companies are being allowed access to airspace, apparently.

Re:And when are the Hellfire missles coming? (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | 1 year,29 days | (#44439065)

law enforcement and oil companies are being allowed access to airspace,so far

FTFY. It is a new program and the FAA is trying to avoid mid air collisions. They are working on the rules.

Re:And when are the Hellfire missles coming? (2)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | 1 year,29 days | (#44439477)

FTFY. It is a new program and the FAA is trying to avoid mid air collisions.

I've heard that for a few years ... so I wonder:

  • is the software on these oil company UAV's sufficient to avoid mid-air collisions?
  • does the FAA think this software is possible?
  • does the FAA have any certification process in place for collision avoidance software?
  • is there a public API for validation / supercomputer simulation?
  • does the public interest demand an open source freely-available collision-avoidance algorithm?

Re:And when are the Hellfire missles coming? (1)

icebike (68054) | 1 year,29 days | (#44439605)

It is a new program and the FAA is trying to avoid mid air collisions. They are working on the rules.

If they were concerned with mid air collisions they would not certify a device with a 16,000 foot service ceiling.

If anything, they are limiting the SIZE to something that is likely to be fairly inconsequential if hits a building or a passenger plane, and with very small payload capabilities. Mostly camera and telemetry packages. Still once certified, there is nothing to prevent anyone from owning one.

When licensing these to private companies, not to mention law enforcement, you can expect a lot of push back when these start showing up over residential areas. You can hear a chopper coming, but at 16000 feet you won't hear much of anything till its past over you. By getting everyone used to seeing these once in a while, they can then authorize the military grade drones.

Re:And when are the Hellfire missles coming? (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | 1 year,29 days | (#44439979)

If they were concerned with mid air collisions they would not certify a device with a 16,000 foot service ceiling.

Most mid air collisions occur at much lower altitudes. There is also a difference between what something is capable of doing and what something is authorized to do. By your logic the government would never license a street vehicle that could go over 80 miles an hour.

they are limiting the SIZE to something that is likely to be fairly inconsequential if hits a building or a passenger plane

Considering birds ingested into jet engines have brought down aircraft the drone does not have to be that large.

they can then authorize the military grade drones

I have no problem with military grade drones. The issue is military armed drones and I don't see them ever being in common use.

Re:And when are the Hellfire missles coming? (2)

NewtonsLaw (409638) | 1 year,29 days | (#44440941)

FTFY. It is a new program and the FAA is trying to avoid mid air collisions. They are working on the rules.

As an interesting sidebar...

The missing piece of technology required to *safely* integrate drones into a country's national airspace is something called "Sense And Avoid" (SAA).

Now for the past year or so, I've been developing an SAA system that does not rely on transponders (as most existing SAA systems do) and so far the test results are very encouraging. In effect, this SAA creates a virtual sphere around the craft to which it is fitted and then tracks any objects entering that sphere - plotting and extrapolating their course while constantly checking to see if it is convergent with the host craft. Also, unlike other SAA systems, this unit is small, light and cheap (under 250g and could be mass-produced for around US$300 each).

The next phase of testing is to strap the hardware to a small foam RC model and fly it over a grassy meadow so as to generate some "real world" datasets for refining the software algorithms and coding.

You'd think that would be simple right? You'd think that the authority responsible for ensuring the safety of the national airspace would be pulling out the stops to support such a valuable piece of safety technology -- right?

Well in a world free of politics and bureaucracy it would be -- however, that's not the world in which we live.

Here in NZ, the CAA (our version of the FAA) has declared that because my development work is "commercial" in nature (even though it's entirely self-funded), I must get a "commercial operating authority" before I can fly my toy plane over a grassy meadow.

If I do not get this authority, which they tell me involves gaining various full-sized pilot qualifications at significant cost, before flying my toy plane, they will take "enforcement action" against me (stiff fines and/or a term of imprisonment).

WTF?

CAA has openly acknowledged that this device has huge potential to increase the safety of the national airspace by reducing the risks of mid-air collisions between UAVs and full-sized, and even between full-sized and full-sized (there were 10 reported "near misses" at an airfield near here last year alone).

However, because *they* have deemed my project (despite my suggestions I might eventually open-source it) to be "commercial", I am now unable to continue working on this device.

I can fly a 7Kg gas-powed model with a 5hp engine up front over the grassy meadow quite legally. I can fly a 200mph jet-powered RC model over that grassy meadow without fear of prosecution. But... if I strap 300g of passive electronics to a 900g RC model made of foam while developing technology to dramatically improve air-safety then it's "do not pass go, do not collect $200, go straight to jail".

Unbelievable!

Re:And when are the Hellfire missles coming? (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | 1 year,29 days | (#44441063)

If it is passive, what does it sense?

Re:And when are the Hellfire missles coming? (1)

NewtonsLaw (409638) | 1 year,29 days | (#44441297)

It combines active and passive elements (but it's not optical or audio).

Re:And when are the Hellfire missles coming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,28 days | (#44446381)

One option would just be to Monte Carlo it. Start flying your RC plane without your invention in it, since that is OK. Maybe with a weight to simulate it. Wait to get busted. If they come to try and bust you, you're in the clear. If not, they don't care that much. Do that for a couple of months, regularly, then slip your payload in at random and collect your data.

Make them waste their time and they'll give up.

Re:And when are the Hellfire missles coming? (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | 1 year,29 days | (#44439161)

I hate to agree with the gun nuts, but if I see a drone, I'm grabbing the shotgun and firing at it.

If you think about it, that doesn't really make sense except that the FAA is keeping the power dynamic unfairly tilted. The taco copter should be free to delivery to you and welcome, but only law enforcement and oil companies are being allowed access to airspace, apparently.

So... then it does make sense...

Screw the shotgun, I'm savin' up microwave parts so I can protect my property with a HERF array.

Re:And when are the Hellfire missles coming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#44439195)

I hate to agree with the gun nuts, but if I see a drone, I'm grabbing the shotgun and firing at it.

Joe Biden is that you again? You're going to need at least an AR15 to have a chance on a low flying drone...

Re:And when are the Hellfire missles coming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#44443775)

It sucks that oil companies get special considerations.

Re:And when are the Hellfire missles coming? (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | 1 year,29 days | (#44438723)

Good luck with that. UAV's don't tyically fly 30ft from your house, so a shotgun isn't going to do much. Anything short of a .50 BMG sniper rifle will have little chance of hitting a small UAV flying miles away. And yes, some can zoom in on your house from miels away.

Re:And when are the Hellfire missles coming? (1)

Thud457 (234763) | 1 year,29 days | (#44439211)

I'm pretty sure I saw a documentary on TV [tntnewsroom.com] just last night about some guy that knocked a UAV out of the sky with an EMP gun.

Re:And when are the Hellfire missles coming? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#44439213)

I don't think he literally meant a shotgun - a medium-strength laser should do the trick nicely.

Re:And when are the Hellfire missles coming? (1)

rahvin112 (446269) | 1 year,29 days | (#44438747)

Unless that drone is at 50' your shotgun isn't even a threat. Have you even fired a shotgun before?

Re:And when are the Hellfire missles coming? (1)

i.r.id10t (595143) | 1 year,29 days | (#44439413)

Skeet/trap clays take 7 or so pellets hitting it to break nicely. Competitive trap shooters with great handicaps stand 27 yards back from the bunker, clay isn't visible above the bunker until it has traveled another 5 or 6 yards... And it is moving at about 60mph out of the gate. Then ya gotta find it, get a good sight picture, and then shoot it. Granted, the target is flying mostly away from you, not complete left to right (or right to left) like the center stations when shooting skeet.

Using a larger shot size 50 to 60 yards isn't unreasonable for a practiced shooter to get enough hits to damage a drone. Damage enough to bring it down? Dunno... but multiple shots would almost guarantee it.

If that's not enough (1)

Firethorn (177587) | 1 year,29 days | (#44440297)

If you're still not having the range/mass of shot necessary to bring down the drone, trade up from your 12 gauge to a punt gun [wikipedia.org] .

Re:And when are the Hellfire missles coming? (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | 1 year,29 days | (#44438849)

Where's the 10ga Saiga/Vepr with the 36" barrel when you need one?! :p

Re:And when are the Hellfire missles coming? (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | 1 year,29 days | (#44438905)

It'll happen right after huge amounts of collateral damage on home soil become acceptable to the public.

They can't just call all dead adult American males "suspected militants" and Americans won't just say "meh" to their own dead women and children either.

Re:And when are the Hellfire missles coming? (1)

icebike (68054) | 1 year,29 days | (#44439673)

Americans won't just say "meh" to their own dead women and children either.

Americans are already in the process of saying "meh" to total Government awareness and spying on every facet of their lives, and using SWAT teams for mundane process server jobs. What makes you think they won't excuse collateral damage deaths [reuters.com] as inevitable consequences that have to be accepted for the greater good?

Re:And when are the Hellfire missles coming? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | 1 year,29 days | (#44441515)

They'll accept a small amount of collateral damage, but when it's more collateral than targets they definitely won't take it. Try to confine it to "bad areas" where the middle class will think "they're all a bunch of hoods anyway" and you'll get race riots. There's no way to pull it off.

Your future Darwin Award ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#44439079)

It's only a matter of time before UAVs are free to fire on civilians, so, at some point, the Hellfire missiles will also be OK'ed by the FAA. I hate to agree with the gun nuts, but if I see a drone, I'm grabbing the shotgun and firing at it.

Congratulations in advance for your future Darwin Award.

Re:And when are the Hellfire missles coming? (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | 1 year,29 days | (#44439197)

It's only a matter of time before UAVs are free to fire on civilians, so, at some point, the Hellfire missiles will also be OK'ed by the FAA.

So why haven't they equipped their helicopters with Hellfires yet? They have had the capabilities for decades. You logic is flawed.

Are you a psychic that you know for certainty what will happen years if not decades down the line? Remember your diagnosis was "psychotic" not "psychic". Tou have watched "Blue Thunder" too many times.

Re:And when are the Hellfire missles coming? (2)

PseudoCoder (1642383) | 1 year,29 days | (#44439693)

To start with, PUMA's and ScanEagles weigh much less than a single Hellfire missile, so cool the hyperbole. They have cameras that still can't see you in your Mom's basement eating Doritos in your underwear. And while we're name-calling other people "gun nuts" you're probably a Halo Hero who likely couldn't shoot anything to save your life, much less hurt a flying fixed-wing vehicle with a shotgun.

Regarding local law enforcement exclusively I was at a UAS event a few months ago where the Executive Director of the Airborne Law Enforcement Association spoke unequivocally that the agreement in the law enforcement community is that arming UAS in domestic soil is a "BAD IDEA". At this same event, many discussed other issues regarding positive civilian uses of Unmanned systems.

http://www.auvsi.org/1832013/2232013CapChapter [auvsi.org]

On the other hand, considering the Federal Government's track record over the last decade, I wouldn't trust them not to cross the boundary with armed UAS, but they will do it bit by bit so as to not cause a stir until they've come up with a good way to sell it to the public. Customs and Border Patrol are already using Predators and Reapers at the border, so it may only be an "Executive Order" away.

http://libertycrier.com/customs-and-border-patrol-considered-weaponizing-drones/ [libertycrier.com]

And no, you can't shoot those down with your shotgun either.

Re:And when are the Hellfire missles coming? (1)

icebike (68054) | 1 year,29 days | (#44439849)

On the other hand, considering the Federal Government's track record over the last decade, I wouldn't trust them not to cross the boundary with armed UAS, but they will do it bit by bit so as to not cause a stir until they've come up with a good way to sell it to the public. Customs and Border Patrol are already using Predators and Reapers at the border, so it may only be an "Executive Order" away.

Once they certify the platform, the FAA has nothing more to say about what it can carry, especially in the hands of law enforcement. The ScanEagle can carry a payload about the size of a two liter soda bottle. Plenty big enough for armed use.

When your local Sheriff's department gains a UAV it will be sold as search and rescue, with children trotted out to pet it and photo ops. It will save the children, you know.

Make no mistake, this is a trial balloon, with use cases mentioned far away in places, where "nobody lives" (Alaska). Neither of the devices has the range to be of any value what so ever in Alaska, where 60 miles is just a grocery run.

Re:And when are the Hellfire missles coming? (1)

Rich0 (548339) | 1 year,29 days | (#44442737)

On the other hand, considering the Federal Government's track record over the last decade, I wouldn't trust them not to cross the boundary with armed UAS, but they will do it bit by bit so as to not cause a stir until they've come up with a good way to sell it to the public.

When was the last time you saw a government-operated manned aerial vehicle actually fire on something over US soil? I don't really see why unmanned aircraft would be any more likely to be armed. The only time I can think of where law enforcement actually fired on something from an aircraft was this incident. [wikipedia.org] It didn't end well.

Weapons deployed from aircraft are really not a good solution to most problems, especially when you have police stations every few miles anyway. I can see why they are used deep inside enemy territory, or in military campaigns. About the only time they'd make sense domestically is if you happen to have some guy with the trigger to a weapon of mass destruction in your sights and no other way to take him out.

Re:And when are the Hellfire missles coming? (1)

NoImNotNineVolt (832851) | 1 year,29 days | (#44440047)

"Gun nut" here. Don't bother with the shotgun. Birdshot has an effective range of 200 yards, and even 00 buckshot won't damage a drone out past 500 yards. And that's horizontal range. Of course, you could use [non-Foster] slugs, but at that range you won't have a prayer at striking your target. You'd have much better luck with a rifle, but really, small arms aren't going to help you take down any drones unless they're flying very low, very slow, and you have very good aim.

Better idea: take apart a microwave oven, pull out the magnetron, and make yourself a nice long 2.4GHz waveguide.

Also (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#44438765)

will be launched from a ship and used to monitor Sea Sheppard and migrating whales in parts of the Antarctic where companies are looking for whales.

Re:Also (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#44438897)

will be launched from a ship and used to monitor Sea Sheppard and migrating whales in parts of the Antarctic where companies are looking for whales.

And the Sea Shepherd will probably operate one too. If they can afford to operate a Hughes 500 helicopter they can probably afford to operate a UAV.

Re:Also (1)

plover (150551) | 1 year,29 days | (#44440007)

They're in international waters, so they shouldn't have to worry about FAA rules. And a drone would be a whole lot cheaper to operate than that helicopter. I think the bigger problem is the environment: it's cold, it's spraying sea salt, it's windy, it's rainy, it's foggy, and OMG it's cold!

Distances are a big deal on the ocean. Their ship can see another boat on radar to about 17 NM, so to be more effective than radar, their drone would have to fly 17NM away from the ship, probably circling their ship for maximum coverage. Assuming the ship continues to move, one loop around their ship would be around 100 NM, and they should try to cover that distance in about an hour. The drone would have to carry a lot of serious detecting equipment (the more the better), such a camera array including different lengths of lenses pointed in various directions, an IR camera, radar, radar detectors, radio ranging and detection equipment, etc., plus the avionics and the flight control radios. The payload will take a decent sized battery to run all that gear, a big wing to lift it all up, a bigger motor to push it around the sky, and even more fuel to carry around for the flight. And they'll need plenty of reserve fuel, because I've never seen them properly manage or time anything on that boat. Then after the flight they have to safely recover it. Will they land it on some mythical runway on the ship, catch it in a net, land on the water, or just splash it down and deploy a buoy line they can grab?

Finally, the Sea Shepherds would need to find someone smart and competent enough to actually pilot and maintain the damn thing and all its systems, yet dumb enough to sail the Antarctic Ocean under that stupid, incompetent captain. That's a rare person.

It'd actually be a very interesting problem to work on.

Worst /. title ever? (-1, Troll)

Moskit (32486) | 1 year,29 days | (#44438795)

And worst "editing" if such a fail got through.

I had my hopes too high for writing standards I guess ;-)

Is there any Value Add to them (0)

Bucc5062 (856482) | 1 year,29 days | (#44439717)

What I am trying to understand is the rational for using UAV on US soil versus standard aircraft. It still requires a pilot even if the pilot is sitting in an office. The plane still has the same general costs so where is the savings? If we are talking programmed drones with no human connection, that is just scary.

I can see a UAV for flying into hostile territory, thus the military bent to using them and saving pilot lives, but on domestic soil I do not see what a drone or UAV can do that cannot be done with a GA type aircraft. From Gyro-Coptors, to balloons, to ultra-lights, helicopters, and finally to fixed wing it seems that we got the skies covered for everything from S&R (CAP does a great job assisting local/state groups), survey, and yes even surveillance. Like another /.er stated, an aircraft can sit pretty far away and still take close ups. These vehicles have similar fuel constraints so no gains in longer survey times and I'd rather have a human eye looking for me, not a camera.

I love RC aircraft as a hobby and some of the large planes are bigger then one of the planes mentioned though so will the FAA start to allow RC hobbyists the opportunity to DIY their own UAV for fun? For me, I do not see a need for UAVs other then the weak excuse to send it into harms way.

Re:Is there any Value Add to them (1)

couchslug (175151) | 1 year,29 days | (#44440189)

UAS use over ocean or ice where a "locally manned" airframe loss would kill the crew before rescue make sense.

"These vehicles have similar fuel constraints so no gains in longer survey times and I'd rather have a human eye looking for me, not a camera."

Modern vision systems work much better than the Mark 1 eyeball and can do so at night. You can hang those on "directly piloted" aircraft but then you need another crewman.

"It still requires a pilot even if the pilot is sitting in an office."

That pilot can work longer hours and stay alert more easily. He's less likely to spatially disorient etc. He can take a shit without undue disruption of control.

Re:Is there any Value Add to them (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#44440489)

1. Cheaper cost of operations.... a camera on a Penguin B platform (http://www.uavfactory.com/product/46) cost about $50,000US, and has significant lower maintenance costs over a similarly equipped GA aircraft....can be launched and recovered from your back yard, so no airport fees/hangar rentals, etc.... I imagine that every TV station will want them to replace the news helicopters once they become viable.
2. One operator several aircraft. If Fedex can make their cargo fleet unmanned, use fewer pilots to share the load between flying aircraft, they can cut costs tremendously.
3. Money
4. Money
5. Money

Re:Is there any Value Add to them (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | 1 year,29 days | (#44440745)

These vehicles have similar fuel constraints so no gains in longer survey times

Care to cite anything to back this up? Not having a pilot on the aircraft is a weight savings and therefore a structural savings which makes a bigger weight savings which means less fuel used. There is also the weight saving of all the instruments that are not necessary. Sire there are radios needed but they are in a regular aircraft too.

Maintenance costs are lower,
No need for improved airstrips.
Less fuel required therefore less costs and transport issue..
Can operate from regular ships using catapult launch and net recovery
Non specialists can be trained to fly the drones.
For long duration flights pilots can be swapped without landing.

The thing is that to take up a pilot and an observer requires a much bigger aircraft than an RC.

One definite use is fire suppression observation flights. Those pilots get into some hairy situations.

Post title misleading.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#44440319)

Only 2 units were approved for research purposes basically.

UAVs in general are not cleared for commercial use YET.

The Arctic (1)

PPH (736903) | 1 year,29 days | (#44442883)

US airspace? Most of it isn't. And others exploring for oil up there (Russia for one) might look upon this as a form of surveillance of their exploration activities.

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