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FEMA Grounds Private Drones That Were Helping To Map Boulder Floods

Unknown Lamer posted about 7 months ago | from the we-don't-know-what-we're-doing-but-we'll-arrest-you dept.

Government 356

First time accepted submitter MrMagooAZ writes "An interesting article about a questionable reaction by FEMA in response to the flooding in Colorado. It seems a small firm was working free of charge with County officials to use drones to map the area and provide near-real-time maps of the flood damage. When FEMA took control of operations one of their first acts appears to have been to not only ground the drones, but threaten the operators. 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help you?'" The drone model in question has permits from the FAA to be flown around even. The drones were replaced with manned craft that, due to the terrain, where unable to fly low enough to make useful maps.

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356 comments

American Exceptionalism and Moral Superiority (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869177)

Yes, I do! I find it quite amusing that America was schooled by Putin on exceptionalism.

For a country one who claims to boast its own national exceptionalism and moral superiority. Yet, forgets to mention they are the holders of the largest national debt known to man. If you ask me. I find this fact hardly exceptional or superior ... heck it's not even moral!

Re:American Exceptionalism and Moral Superiority (-1, Offtopic)

kwbauer (1677400) | about 7 months ago | (#44869555)

Ff it is the largest then it is both exceptional and superior. Exceptional and superior don't have to be good do they.

Re: American Exceptionalism and Moral Superiority (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869681)

In Post-Soviet Russia, authoritarianism isn't back. It was never permitted to leave...

Freedom in America is a Thing of the Past (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869183)

.. as is individual efforts and coming together in crisis..Technology *is* powerful so of course individuals can't use it, no matter if it is a time of community crisis or not.

Not autonomous? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869187)

Can we stop referring to anything that is remotely controlled as a drone?

Re:Not autonomous? (2, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | about 7 months ago | (#44869469)

Can we stop referring to anything that is remotely controlled as a drone?

No. Otherwise we'll have to get into all sorts of grey areas. Is it a drone if it follows a pre-programmed flight path? is it a drone if it can be sent waypoints "on the fly"? At some point or another the unit is remotely controlled.

Re:Not autonomous? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869561)

Wana see my 1973 drone.

Re:Not autonomous? (4, Insightful)

Eyeball97 (816684) | about 7 months ago | (#44869503)

Sure. What's your noun to define, in general, a remote controlled unmanned vehicle?

We'll start a campaign to have your word replace "drone" in the Oxford English, Merriam Webster, Collins dictionaries immediately.

Re:Not autonomous? (3, Insightful)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about 7 months ago | (#44869607)

Sure. What's your noun to define, in general, a remote controlled unmanned vehicle?

Toy helicopter.

Re:Not autonomous? (1)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about 7 months ago | (#44869649)

I should say that every article in the last month that I've seen mention 'drones' has been about devices I would call 'toy helicopters'. None of them have been about the Predator drones we have carrying missiles in the Middle East.

Maybe this one is about real drone-style craft.

Re:Not autonomous? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869759)

I should say that every article in the last month that I've seen mention 'drones' has been about devices I would call 'toy helicopters'. None of them have been about the Predator drones we have carrying missiles in the Middle East.

Maybe this one is about real drone-style craft.

No, not a real drone style. Check the article, it's a toy airplane.

Re:Not autonomous? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869801)

You over-estimate the sophistication of Predator drones IMHO. Even the control surface actuators are simply super-sized hobby servos. Anything with a weapon strapped to it is inevitably controlled by a pilot in a terrestrial cockpit.

Even then, "Team Blacksheep's" FPV rig is likely a better value than the DoD trailer-home equivalent without head-tracking.

If you ask me, the bleeding edge of autonomy is in Unmanned Underwater Vehicles where it is a matter of necessity rather than idealized support logistics. AUVs/UUVs don't catch the headlines because they don't have puppeteers & remote processing to lean on for their independence. Even Astronauts on a space walk have radio comms.

Re:Not autonomous? (1)

gd2shoe (747932) | about 7 months ago | (#44869707)

Sure. What's your noun to define, in general, a remote controlled unmanned vehicle?

We'll start a campaign to have your word replace "drone" in the Oxford English, Merriam Webster, Collins dictionaries immediately.

Before the word "drone" really took off, they were called UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicle).

(Drone is actually a broader term that could refer to land or sea based semi/fully-autonomous vehicles.)

Re:Not autonomous? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869645)

Or you could stop fighting the masses and call them remote-controlled drones and autonomous drones. Or if you come from that country where everything must be an acronym, RCD and AND for short.

Perfect example of Federal Government fucking up (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869191)

Local municipalities do very well at taking care of themselves in the event of a disaster, and all the federal government does is come in, screw everything up, and make it hard for the local community to get their promised reimbursement money after the disaster is over.

Re:Perfect example of Federal Government fucking u (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 7 months ago | (#44869515)

I don't know if you are joking or not... some people really do think like this, despite pictures of people on their roof waiting for a Federal helicopter to pick them up.

Re:Perfect example of Federal Government fucking u (5, Insightful)

gd2shoe (747932) | about 7 months ago | (#44869721)

Federal resources are appreciated in an emergency. They save lives. Federal bullying is not appreciated in an emergency. It can jeopardize lives. There are examples of them doing it right, and of them doing it wrong. This UAV incident seems to be the latter.

Well... (3, Informative)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 7 months ago | (#44869199)

It was Colorado. Wasn't there a town that was talking about selling drone hunting licenses. The last thing they need are people shooting into the air.

That's because we have a big US Defense Drones (3, Funny)

Virtucon (127420) | about 7 months ago | (#44869203)

Yes, your little, puny drones are no match for our US Defense Contractor drones that have a staff of thousands and bases all over the world. Trust us, we're much more capable of doing this job once we get the emergency congressional appropriations bill through and sign a new contract with the firm to load the special cameras we should be able to start mapping in about two years. By then we'll have this situation well in hand.

"Every Nation gets the government it deserves" - Joseph de Maistre
 

Re:That's because we have a big US Defense Drones (4, Informative)

russotto (537200) | about 7 months ago | (#44869275)

Yes, your little, puny drones are no match for our US Defense Contractor drones that have a staff of thousands and bases all over the world.

I cheated and read the article. They WERE US Defense Contractor drones that FEMA shut down.

Re:That's because we have a big US Defense Drones (5, Insightful)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 7 months ago | (#44869365)

Yes, your little, puny drones are no match for our US Defense Contractor drones that have a staff of thousands and bases all over the world.

I cheated and read the article. They WERE US Defense Contractor drones that FEMA shut down.

That were replaced by manned aircraft that couldn't fly low enough to be as useful. So to summarize,: FEMA came in and replaced something that was probably cheaper, more effective, and safer with something that was more expensive, considerably more dangerous, and useless.

And we wonder why the government can't pass a budget, let alone one that lowers spending.

Re:That's because we have a big US Defense Drones (2, Insightful)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | about 7 months ago | (#44869571)

The best way to clear airspace is to... clear the airspace.

No one wants a UAV thru their helecopter windscreen.

Re:That's because we have a big US Defense Drones (5, Interesting)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 7 months ago | (#44869771)

Except that's not what happened. from TFA:

On Thursday afternoon while all National Guard aircraft were grounded due to weather Falcon UAV was proud to have been the only aircraft that was able to take flight to support the flood efforts in Lyons.

So nothing was flying that day. Except for the drones.

Just as Falcon UAV was off to another damage assessment in Lyons, Colorado we were requested to standdown for National Guard helicopters now supporting evacuation efforts.

So they stopped flying due to this request.

Enter FEMA.......

Early Saturday morning Falcon UAV was heading up to Lyons to complete a damage assessment mapping flight when we received a call from our Boulder EOC point of contact who notified us that FEMA had taken over operations and our request to fly drones was not only denied but more specifically we were told by FEMA that anyone flying drones would be arrested. Not being one to bow to federal bureaucrats we still went up to Lyons to do a site survey for how we can conduct a mission in the near future to provide an adequate damage assessment to this storm raveged community.

While we were up there we noticed that Civil Air Patrol and private aircraft were authorized to fly over the small town tucked into the base of Rockies. Unfortunately due to the high terrain around Lyons and large turn radius of manned aircraft they were flying well out of a useful visual range and didn't employ cameras or live video feed to support the recovery effort. Meanwhile we were grounded on the Lyons high school football field with two Falcons that could have mapped the entire town in less than 30 minutes with another few hours to process the data providing a near real time map of the entire town.

So helicopters were not the issue. The CAP as well as civilians had planes in the air. Do you really think the national guard would have wanted civilians in the air if they were conducting helicopter flights? If FEMA would have had any intelligence they would have given them the 30 minutes to image the area. This had nothing to do with helicopter safety. It was some ass at FEMA on a power trip and not wanting to look bad because they couldn't have done this. Or best case, who ever made the decision at FEMA didn't want to be held accountable if something went wrong.

Re:That's because we have a big US Defense Drones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869805)

This.

I honestly don't think FEMA came in and told them to leave just to be bossy. They are in charge of the area, and having drones flying around their airspace is just one more thing they have to worry about / deal with / be at risk of running into. Could this have been handled better? Yes. It sounds like the drones were providing a valuable service, and in hindsight it would probably make sense for FEMA to try to collaborate here.

Re:That's because we have a big US Defense Drones (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869789)

Running SRT, evacuating stranded people out with UH-60s and CH-47s in the same airspace as your drones, is just not a good idea. You sure as hell don't want to bring down an aircraft, crew and couple dozen evacuees because one element of the operation was cheaper. It gets a whole lot more expensive, and arguably less effective and safe, exponentially quicker then, doesn't it?

Re:That's because we have a big US Defense Drones (-1, Flamebait)

amiga3D (567632) | about 7 months ago | (#44869797)

And isn't that the primary purpose of the government, particularly the federal government. To fuck up everything they touch. They've done wonders for education and now they're working on destroying the health industry. FEMA is staffed by some fine people at the lower level but at the top the idiots reign supreme as they do in all federal bureaucracy. That's how it works by design in government. The idots rise to the top which fully explains the executive office for the last few decades.

Re:That's because we have a big US Defense Drones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869435)

I think, per summary, is that there is CAP.

Re:That's because we have a big US Defense Drones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869551)

But, also per summary, CAP couldn't get in close enough to make useful mappings when compared to the drones.

It's perfectly fine to use Drones to kill people stateside, but not to do something actually USEFUL with them...typical of FEMA. They have to "manage" the Emergency.

It's no damned wonder Katrina went the way it did. This is going to be ending up to be a pooch screw now that FEMA's involved- just like Katrina.

Re:That's because we have a big US Defense Drones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869525)

"Every Nation gets the government it deserves" - Joseph de Maistre

Explain Korea.

Re:That's because we have a big US Defense Drones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869685)

Yah, and every website gets the editors it deserves:

The drone model in question has permits from the FAA to be flown around even.

Heavens to Murgatroyd! Exit stage left!

The drones were replaced with manned craft that, due to the terrain, where unable to fly low enough to make useful maps.

Not only that, they 'where' unable to fly accurately enough to make sense. Retards.

ouch (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869223)

This "The drone model in question has permits from the FAA to be flown around even." mad my head hurt reading it even.

What Do You Expect? It's FEMA. (1, Funny)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 7 months ago | (#44869261)

I don't remember when FEMA last responded promptly and appropriately to a disaster.

Wait... yes I do. Never.

Re:What Do You Expect? It's FEMA. (2)

Hartree (191324) | about 7 months ago | (#44869299)

Actually, they did pretty well during the Mississippi River flooding in 1993.

Re:What Do You Expect? It's FEMA. (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 7 months ago | (#44869325)

Now that you mention it, I think that's right. But that's the only one I actually remember.

Hurricane responses have been abysmal. New Orleans was nothing short of tragedy. Etc.

Re:What Do You Expect? It's FEMA. (4, Insightful)

jythie (914043) | about 7 months ago | (#44869403)

Success is not very news worthy. FEMA does pretty well on any number of smaller disasters, but more things go wrong in big disasters and just like the CDC, FEMA has become associated with 'bad things' and thus people tend to focus on the negative.

Re:What Do You Expect? It's FEMA. (4, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 7 months ago | (#44869475)

"FEMA does pretty well on any number of smaller disasters, but more things go wrong in big disasters..."

But see, that's the whole point. Their REASON FOR EXISTENCE is basically big disasters. If they can't do that well (and arguably, they have demonstrated that they can't), they should be disbanded and the money redistributed to the states, which would at least do no worse.

Re:What Do You Expect? It's FEMA. (2)

amiga3D (567632) | about 7 months ago | (#44869819)

Small disasters are handled by mid level management who are somewhat competent. The big disasters they call in the high level bureaucrats to handle it and those are the truly incompetent ones. Actually they are really just politicians and good at kissing ass and things like that but not good at handling disasters.

Re:What Do You Expect? It's FEMA. (2)

MightyYar (622222) | about 7 months ago | (#44869527)

You'll note that they seem to do the poorest job in areas where people were told to evacuate, but didn't for whatever reason. I think there might be a connection.

Re:What Do You Expect? It's FEMA. (4, Interesting)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 7 months ago | (#44869799)

You'll note that they seem to do the poorest job in areas where people were told to evacuate, but didn't for whatever reason. I think there might be a connection.

I think there is a bigger connection between "FEMA not taking over an incident" and "Governor of state refusing to ask for aide from FEMA when it would have done the most good." You know, like three days before Katrina made landfall and everything could have been staged while the roads were still passable and stuff, instead of several days after and the police of a major city involved fled in panic.

Now, the company who is trying to make themselves look good has claimed that CAP didn't carry cameras or video. Yes, CAP has an entire ES qualification dealing with aerial photography (i.e., they were almost certainly carrying cameras) but are hindered in real time video by managing a data link of sufficient bandwidth. The FCC rules prohibit use of cell phones (and data) while airborne, so it's not just a case of slapping a cell data card in a laptop and firing off the data. That's not to say that GIIEP [capmembers.com] should be as stupidly complex as it is, however. Forcing all data through one military system with associated military level authentication and sucky bandwidth is a mistake, but the approved cell data cards are not generally available as far as I know.

Re:What Do You Expect? It's FEMA. (2)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | about 7 months ago | (#44869639)

The funny thing about disasters is that they are disastrous.

Know what else is disastrous? Public outcry from people who have no idea what it might take to respond to a large scale disaster.

No one REALLY wants to pay for emergency preparation. How many people do you know who have no appreciable food / water / emergency supplies, emergency plans in place, and conduct any kind of training or rehersals with their families? Most people have no real will to prepare themselves, and that mentality shows in government funding choices.

So few people pay any kind of mind to preparing themselves for emergencies, it gets tiresom hearing people bitch about the government not being as ready as their extensive movie-watching has led them to believe is reasonable.

Re:What Do You Expect? It's FEMA. (3, Informative)

PPH (736903) | about 7 months ago | (#44869517)

Hurricane Sandy. Even Governor Christie (GOP) complemented [thehill.com] the Obama administration on its response. Which incurred a political cost. So I don't think he made his comments lightly.

Re:What Do You Expect? It's FEMA. (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 7 months ago | (#44869653)

Okay, maybe. I don't deny that Sandy was bad, but it was mainly bad because of its trajectory. It hit a much large part of the United States than most such storms. So it wasn't so much a local disaster as a distributed one. Still bad, I grant.

Severe, local disasters (e.g., New Orleans) have been where FEMA has pretty much stunk.

Could this be due to the helicopter operations? (4, Interesting)

Above (100351) | about 7 months ago | (#44869271)

Speculation on my part...

There are a large number of military helicopters operating in the area carrying relief supplies and evacuating people and all sorts of other activities. They can get on the radio and tell other (human) traffic in the area to get out of the way. I'm betting this drone can't respond to such verbal requests.

So if I was FEMA and I was tasked with coordinating all of these helicopter flights I might also say no to any drones I wasn't positive wouldn't be accidentally running into a helicopter full of evacuees.

I'm curious if there is a current NOTAM requiring special clearance to fly, or to obey extra rules in the area (like a specific radio frequency). If there is and the drone isn't following them, it is in violation.

Re:Could this be due to the helicopter operations? (5, Informative)

Above (100351) | about 7 months ago | (#44869285)

Bah, hate replying to my own comment, there is a NOTAM: http://tfr.faa.gov/save_pages/detail_3_4481.html

"No pilots may operate an aircraft in the areas covered by this NOTAM (except as described)."

Reason for NOTAM : TO PROVIDE A SAFE ENVIRONMENT FOR LARIMER COUNTY FLOODING SAR

So the drone operators are in violation of FAA rules.

Re:Could this be due to the helicopter operations? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869345)

Didn't they tell the people in the area to leave as well? Telling them that if they stayed there would be no supplies for them? Now if one was a conspiracy theorist, they might wonder what was there or going to be there that they don't want any witnesses of. Any known government facilities in the vicinity? Any old SAC silos etc?

Re:Could this be due to the helicopter operations? (1, Insightful)

Thesis (1983882) | about 7 months ago | (#44869373)

According to the articles linked, they have FAA approval to fly in the area at this time. Also, they were wanting to fly mapping operations to help local officials while the weather grounded all other aircraft operations, hence there would be no air traffic issues. The drones are far more capable of imaging and mapping the flooded area in a timely manner than any manned aircraft available.

Re:Could this be due to the helicopter operations? (5, Insightful)

Above (100351) | about 7 months ago | (#44869419)

I don't think that's what the article says, but you might have to know some things about FAA regs for them to make sense.

"It has public safety flight approvals from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly in some parts of Colorado."

They most likely have a conditional certificate to fly only in particular areas of low traffic/population for an experimental drone. That's similar to having a pilots license (approval to fly a plane), or even a drivers license (approval to drive a car).

NOTAM's, or NOTice to AirMen are temporary restrictions on ALL flight operators. Think of them as a construction detour in your car, or a bridge washed out barricade. A common NOTAM might be that a runway is closed for resurfacing, or that a chuck of airspace is blocked off for an air show.

So while they may have general approval to fly, the NOTAM cancels that for the specific area covered. Most likely the FAA has delegated to FEMA the ability to control all flights in this box as they coordinate SAR, Search and Rescue operations.

So to extend my car analogy, it's like there's a washed out bridge from a flood, and they put up a barricade across the road while they tried to recuse someone from the flood waters and these people simply drove around the barricade and said "we're here to help!". The answer was get back on the other side of the barricade, or be arrested.

Re:Could this be due to the helicopter operations? (1)

khallow (566160) | about 7 months ago | (#44869533)

So to extend my car analogy, it's like there's a washed out bridge from a flood, and they put up a barricade across the road while they tried to recuse someone from the flood waters and these people simply drove around the barricade and said "we're here to help!". The answer was get back on the other side of the barricade, or be arrested.

And what happens if those people really were more capable of helping than the government which is threatening arrest? After all, trying to rescue someone is not quite the same as actually rescuing someone.

UAVs could have been hampering rescue operations (5, Insightful)

Camael (1048726) | about 7 months ago | (#44869699)

And what happens if those people really were more capable of helping than the government which is threatening arrest? After all, trying to rescue someone is not quite the same as actually rescuing someone.

A little bit of context. Rescue operations were then ongoing, in fact what is now deemed the largest aerial rescue operation since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 [yahoo.com]. More than 700 people were evacuated by air.

The rescue operations also included the town of Lyons, Colorado which is the same location where the UAVs were operating.

It is not inconceivable given the scale of the rescue operations that the UAVs were impeding the helicopters. And to use your analogy, the helicopters were actively 'rescuing someone' compared to UAVs which were... mapping. You can draw your own conclusions which is more important.

Re:Could this be due to the helicopter operations? (1)

FrankSchwab (675585) | about 7 months ago | (#44869379)

Exactly correct, and why I hate the concept of drones (or other pilotless aircraft) in our airspace - they violate that prime directive of VFR flying, "See and be seen". An RPV or drone simply can't scan the sky for other aircraft, and frankly have a lot less to lose from not seeing another aircraft than a manned plane.

Re:Could this be due to the helicopter operations? (5, Informative)

russotto (537200) | about 7 months ago | (#44869387)

Wrong NOTAM, as they were in Boulder County, not Larimer County. There is a NOTAM [faa.gov] for Lyons, but since the drone operators were operating under Boulder County SAR's authority, they were not violating it.

Re:Could this be due to the helicopter operations? (1)

Above (100351) | about 7 months ago | (#44869459)

Ah, thanks for the geographic correction.

I wasn't aware any counties had delegated authority from the FAA, I've only ever seen that given to other federal agencies (like FEMA), or sometimes state level agencies. Did Boulder County actually have the ability to approve such a thing in the first place?

Re:Could this be due to the helicopter operations? (-1, Flamebait)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 7 months ago | (#44869457)

"No pilots may operate an aircraft in the areas covered by this NOTAM (except as described)."

(scrolls down) From September 16, 2013 at 0339 UTC Sooo... they issued this NOTAM retroactively. In other words, at the time they asked them to cease operations... the NOTAM was not yet provided. They then promptly went ahead and published one, you know, as a fuck you... four days after the disaster started, to give them retroactive authority. If "Larimer county flooding sar" was so important... then what, exactly, were they doing for the past three days?

And as a bonus... most NOTAMs in these situations are for aircraft flying at 3,000 to 5,000 feet. Now, I can't confirm if that's the case for this one, but low-flying aircraft, such as drones, RC airplanes, etc., can fly in so-called 'restricted airspace' -- and the FAA doesn't require permission to fly anything under 100 yards from the ground... well, not exactly. I mean, everything that flies is under FAA authority, but you don't need a special license, pilot's license, filing of a flight plan, etc., for these sorts of things.

So FEMA officials have likely misinterpreted the FAA rules; But since they can basically become a government unto themselves and declare martial law, imprison people, or do whatever they want once a federal disaster area is declared, it's probably a moot point. My advice is, if you live in an area and it's declared a federal disaster area, grab your valuables, any spare food and gas, and drive as fast as you can until you're out of it... because people who are accountable to nobody and have a god complex are going to be descending upon your already fucked up part of the neighborhood like a plague of locusts.

FEMA is a disaster unto itself... they've botched more disaster relief efforts, in some cases making the situation worse than if no help at all had arrived.

Re:Could this be due to the helicopter operations? (5, Informative)

Above (100351) | about 7 months ago | (#44869487)

Apparently you didn't even read the NOTAM.

"Altitude: From the surface up to and including 13000 feet MSL"

I actually got the wrong NOTAM, which is why the date is wrong. The right one is http://tfr.faa.gov/save_pages/detail_3_4333.html and was issued back on September 14th. It says "Altitude: From the surface up to and including 11500 feet MSL"

Re:Could this be due to the helicopter operations? (0)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 7 months ago | (#44869757)

It says "Altitude: From the surface up to and including 11500 feet MSL"

Sounds like one hell of a dick move. Why would they need pretty much everything from ground to flight ceiling unless they were trying to block the drone operators? And is there any actual evidence that they're using search and rescue aircraft in the area -- I mean, from what I've read, the aircraft they're using can't do accurate mapping, and I haven't seen any press releases indicating there's any helicopters or airplanes operating in the area as part of active search and rescue. In fact... because of the terrain, they can't do it with fixed-wing aircraft anyway... and that's all they brought to the party.

So declaring it's for search and rescue is either boilerplate; just part of what FEMA does whenever it decides it wants to own part of the country, or it's bullshit. But either which way, this is a case of the government unnecessarily making the situation worse while screaming "Respect mah authoritah!"

Re:Could this be due to the helicopter operations? (0, Offtopic)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 7 months ago | (#44869375)

Judging from your UID, you've been around long enough to know that moderate reactions and calm consideration aren't welcome here. There is a seminar next week on proper kneejerk technique. Your attendance is mandatory.

Re:Could this be due to the helicopter operations? (1)

jythie (914043) | about 7 months ago | (#44869409)

That is generally what I suspect. They have exclusive priority access to the airspace right now and do not want to deal with private aircraft which are not coordinated with them and do not have the time to tie their communication together.

Re:Could this be due to the helicopter operations? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869437)

If this was in fact the reason for the drone retraction, that represents a VERY sad state of affairs for US emergency response. Seems nothing has really improved since Katrina(some of you will see that as a cheap shot, but the truth hurts!).

You're telling me that FEMA, FAA, National Guard, and these volunteer drone services can not logistically coordinate helicopter operations and drone flight in VERY WELL studied and topographied areas? Sorry, but that's really fucking pathetic! And I'm not seeing a 'legal' or liability problem in FEMA using said service. It's a damn natural disaster!

I'm betting this is actually politcal bullshit toe-stepping more than anything else. I'm even betting that if Falcon UAV went directly to FEMA, or the National Guard directly and offered to help, they would have still been turned away. It's a state of EMERGENCY! Why not use every resource available?

Re:Could this be due to the helicopter operations? (2)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 7 months ago | (#44869467)

So if I was FEMA and I was tasked with coordinating all of these helicopter flights I might also say no to any drones I wasn't positive wouldn't be accidentally running into a helicopter full of evacuees.

I have a relative who works with the FAA regarding drones. They cannot be flown in US airspace without someone either on the ground or in a chase plane to keep it in line-of-sight at all times. You may find this interesting: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R42718.pdf [fas.org]

I don't think there was much danger of one hitting a helicopter if those are the restrictions on their operation.

Re:Could this be due to the helicopter operations? (1)

ThomasBHardy (827616) | about 7 months ago | (#44869777)

Your comments exactly mirror the ones I intended to post. I would have expected that slashdotters would have taken a more intelligent response to this article instead of an instant "pile on" mentality

Typical government thinking. (2, Insightful)

lunatick (32698) | about 7 months ago | (#44869281)

If it is not in the written procedure STOP IT NOW!!!!
Seriously. They have a procedure they have to go through and follow to the letter. There is no room for innovation or individual thinking when it comes to Federal agencies. You deviate from written procedure you get written up or lose your job.
I have run into it enough times in action to know this was probably the case.

Re: Typical government thinking. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869335)

Unless you work for the IRS, or the Justice Dept., or the ...

Re:Typical government thinking. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869363)

If it is not in the written procedure STOP IT NOW!!!!
Seriously. They have a procedure they have to go through and follow to the letter. There is no room for innovation or individual thinking when it comes to Federal agencies. You deviate from written procedure you get written up or lose your job.
I have run into it enough times in action to know this was probably the case.

Think about the man that was run over by a fire truck after that 777 crash in San Francisco a few months ago.

That's why the procedures are written.

Re:Typical government thinking. (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 7 months ago | (#44869729)

To fix the previous 'screw-up'?

For all we know the new procedures will result in people burning in the next similar crash. The girl that was run over was covered in firefighting foam and likely already dead.

Re:Typical government thinking. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869761)

I'm sure the next version of the procedures will include "Don't run over people with fire trucks"

Invasion of Privacy (0)

TheCouchPotatoFamine (628797) | about 7 months ago | (#44869293)

One of the things about most of Colorado is that the people that live there experience privacy in their homes and land that is unknown in places like urban Maryland or New York.

As a policy, i am completely cool with maintaining that privacy against an influx of civilian, largely un-regulatable (as opposed to unregulated) drone activity. No thanks!

Re:Invasion of Privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869347)

So you are okay with a person with a video camera flying over your house but you are not okay if a person is on the ground and has a remote controlled helicopter with a camera flying over your house?

Re:Invasion of Privacy (1)

TheCouchPotatoFamine (628797) | about 7 months ago | (#44869599)

yes because one is much cheaper and easier, thus, there will be much less accountability and much more likelihood of unethical operation. It's not just what it's used for today, it's what it will be used for 5 years from now, if there is no public blowback.

This is in fact a slippery scope, because we haven't developed city-wide immune systems* yet, unless i've missed something /as seen in the book "Diamond Age"

Open letter to President Obama (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869307)

Dear Mr. President,

As you are the Chief Executive, you can give orders to FEMA. Please order FEMA to stop being idiots and accept the free help.

Thank you.

Door number 2 (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869317)

Or rather Fema was going to have many national guard, army,and civilian aircraft flying about and did not want to worry about drone collisions.

But hey maybe the OP is correct and they where just being stupid. Your choice.

Re:Door number 2 (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about 7 months ago | (#44869413)

Or rather Fema was going to have many national guard, army,and civilian aircraft flying about and did not want to worry about drone collisions.

But hey maybe the OP is correct and they where just being stupid. Your choice.

(looking from outside, looks like a typical US reaction: "us or them")
What stops FEMA integrating the drone operators into the effort? Cooperating with them instead of shutting them down?

Actually makes sense (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869323)

While it may sound boneheaded, the reality is that FEMA has a plan; even if it is using "outdated" tech--live pilots flying around. Their concerns are not irrelevant: flying objects they have no control/coordination of, and potential impact that can have on their piloted craft. When FEMA is called in, they become responsible. They are the ones everyone is going to scream at if things don't happen exactly the way we hope. If there are problems with inter-operation of drones with piloted craft FEMA would be skewered. Of course they'll be skewered because they aren't using drones as part of their SOP. But then again, when FEMA asks for money to update themselves and their SOP (for instance, so they can add drones to their toolset) the taxpayers scream bloody murder...

Re:Actually makes sense (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about 7 months ago | (#44869383)

While it may sound boneheaded, the reality is that FEMA has a plan; even if it is using "outdated" tech--live pilots flying around. Their concerns are not irrelevant: flying objects they have no control/coordination of, and potential impact that can have on their piloted craft. When FEMA is called in, they become responsible. They are the ones everyone is going to scream at if things don't happen exactly the way we hope. If there are problems with inter-operation of drones with piloted craft FEMA would be skewered. Of course they'll be skewered because they aren't using drones as part of their SOP. But then again, when FEMA asks for money to update themselves and their SOP (for instance, so they can add drones to their toolset) the taxpayers scream bloody murder...

What stops FEMA to integrate (/coordinate with) the drone operators into their effort?

Re:Actually makes sense (1)

Above (100351) | about 7 months ago | (#44869563)

Your question is legitimate, and in point of fact we don't know yet.

I suspect so far what's happened is FEMA found out there was a flying object (the drone) in an area they had helicopters and planes in, so they shut it down. They don't know if it is safe, useful, or practical at that point, and their tired and true methods, and more importantly humans in those other machines take priority.

They may well talk to them, and find the tech useful, and be able to find windows for them to fly when other operations aren't in the area. Heck, they might be back in the air tomorrow. However badmouthing FEMA or the FAA to the press makes this a less likely outcome.

Re:Actually makes sense (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about 7 months ago | (#44869755)

They don't know if it is safe, useful, or practical at that point, and their tired and true methods, and more importantly humans in those other machines take priority.

To my mind, it takes about a quarter of a man*hour to assess this info, especially since they collaborated with the local county in the days before FEMA stepped in.

... However badmouthing FEMA or the FAA to the press makes this a less likely outcome.

(the more I look at US of A, the more alien/outlandish they look to me.
* individualism being pushed atop collaboration
* indivialism pushed to the limit is antagonizes with itself: not the type of "let live" individualism but authoritarianism
* "bad mouthing" - "the attack on prestige/authority"? - matters more than doing a good job together...)

Re:Actually makes sense (2)

jythie (914043) | about 7 months ago | (#44869451)

Add to that how much 'free' help can cost, it really is not as much help as the company makes it out to be. Even if those drones do a lovely job of avoiding other aircraft and taking pictures, that information still needs to be tied into their C&C, which means they have to dedicate people to coordinating with the private entity and merging the two data sets. Combine that with being unable to actually direct or coordinate with the private individuals and those good samaritans can really get in the way.

If they really want to help, I am sure there are relief efforts all over the region that could use some extra manpower.

Re:Actually makes sense (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 7 months ago | (#44869647)

If the assertions made in the last linked article are accurate, they wouldn't have had to merge two data sets, because the drones would have provided the only useful data set.

Can't fly low enough for mapping? (1)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | about 7 months ago | (#44869371)

That statement about manned aircraft not being suitable for mapping was brain-torturing nonsense.

They've been used for mapping for generations and you can even make useful maps from _orbit_.

Re:Can't fly low enough for mapping? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869499)

It's all about resolution.
The definition of useful can very greatly by purpose.

wait? we're pro-drone now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869441)

i thought drones were bad, i guess i missed the memo...

Re:wait? we're pro-drone now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869573)

Depends on the use cases for them. If you're doing life-saving things with them and not spying or attacking people with them- it's cool. Always HAS been- and isn't what people are calling "bad".

If you're this clueless...oh, wait...this is /.

Carry on then.

Is there anything government does well? (1)

WCMI92 (592436) | about 7 months ago | (#44869449)

Beside overspend, run up deficits, and generally behave according to the Peter Principle? The federal government is a Dilbert cartoon.

Reality... (3, Insightful)

MasseKid (1294554) | about 7 months ago | (#44869483)

The reality here is someone with some authority was an idiot. This is getting spun as "evil fema shut down the little nice drone maker" which clearly isn't accurate at all. It wasn't FEMA that did this, it was a guy who works at FEMA. I very much doubt the W. Craig Fugate ordered this, nor any of his staff. It was some idiot that works there without the knowledge of his superiors (although I bet they know now...). Also, he didn't just shut down the drone guy, this guy at FEMA is also clearly stepping on the toes of all the local authorities already on the scene.

I'm not saying the correct response here isn't to make it into a story, or to be upset about how this was handled. But the anger shouldn't be directed against the agency, it should be directed against the individual who made this call. I know big governmental agencies are faceless organizations, but it is nothing but a collection of people, and it's actions are those of the people it employees. If you want change, then demand change of the people and you'll get change of an organization.

Re:Reality... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869609)

Reality? How about asking how in the heck someone could have that sort of "authority" which really belongs to FAA, even IN the context of an Emergency- and how he could've been followed, clueless as he was, in the manner he was in this situation. (And why aren't we hearing from the FEMA people how this joker's overstepped his authority and has been replaced in the field and is no longer employed?)

Why is anybody surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869595)

Despite living in the 21st century, FEMA's mandate is still to ensure the continuation of America's culture in the event of nuclear war (the Russkies, remember?) These days they're just doing whatever they can, trying to look necessary so no one notices they need to be dis-banded and replaced with people not born into the cold war.

all your base are belong to us (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869659)

we are fema you do as we say. stop surviving and doing things better than us. give up your pets and guns then go live in our disease filled camps while we loot your goods.

No kidding (1)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | about 7 months ago | (#44869677)

Was anyone expecting FEMA to just suddenly pull its head out of its ass? There weren't any real consequences imposed after their abortion of a performance in Louisiana so why would they do anything differently? Until we hold those fuckers directly, and personally, accountable for their actions we aren't going to see any changes. Lock up the director and some of the managers for 5 years for contributing to the deaths and injuries of hundreds of people and maybe we'll see some intelligent work being done over there.

H-1V Escapees (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869713)

Boulder, Colorado is a 'high tech' incubation region in Colorado.

'High Tech' today means foreign people, i.e. non USA people, i.e. non citizens.

Companies and the US Government hire foreign 'workers' through the DoS H-1B program.

From Wikipedia: "The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa in the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act, section 101(a)(15)(H). It allows US employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. If a foreign worker in H-1B status quits or is dismissed from the sponsoring employer, the worker must either apply for and be granted a change of status to another non-immigrant status, find another employer (subject to application for adjustment of status and/or change of visa), or leave the US."

Without H-1B, "America", i.e. United States of America, would be back to a slave colony milling Cotton for Britain.

Now, the World is the 'slave colony' of the United States of America.

Ha ha. Fuck you World.

Shits in your britches World!

We hate you, and WE, USA, Rule U. :)

Oh dearest World.

I have a poison pill for U.

Swallow its.

Yummy Yummy,

Now die World, die die DIE.

Silly World, Tricks Are For Kids. ,.|..
A 'Bird To The World.'

I'm from the government and I'm here to help you? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44869803)

I'm from the government and I'm here to help you

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!! The scariest sentence in the entire English language! Aaaaaaaa....!

(OMG... on an unrelated note, I know what I'm going to this Halloween's costume party as: Uncle Sam! At this point, scarier than any zombie, vampire, "terrorist", axe-muderer, kkk/neo-nazi thug, or tax collector!)

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