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Sochi Drones Are Shooting the Olympics, Not Terrorists

samzenpus posted about 2 months ago | from the target-aquired dept.

Technology 108

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Rachel Feltman reports that drones are being used to film ski and snowboarding events at the Winter Olympics in Sochi and unlike military drones, which often look like a remote-controlled airplane, the creature floating around Sochi resembles a huge flying spider. The legs of the flying spider hold the rotors that spin around to keep it airborne. The drone then has a flight deck that holds the flight control system with GPS for navigation, sensors and receivers. The camera can be mounted in the middle or suspended below the flight deck. A drone with mounted camera can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to $37,000 for a top-of-the-line Ikarus from Britain's Heliguy, which is advising broadcast clients in Sochi on using drones. That compares with the cost of a few thousand dollars an hour to rent a helicopter with pilot, not including the camera crew and equipment. Cameraman Remo Masina says he can fly a drone at up to 40 mph while transmitting a high-definition, live image and says the chances of drone crashes are close to zero when a drone is handled by an experienced pilot, because the drones are programmed to return to base at the slightest problem — such as a low battery, rough winds or a malfunction. 'There have been mishaps, however. In one case last year, a drone filming an imitation version of Spain's running of the bulls in Virginia crashed and injured a few spectators.'"

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108 comments

Lame (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46302729)

Ugh. Close to zero chance but then tells of crash.

Re:Lame (3, Informative)

Chrisq (894406) | about 2 months ago | (#46302745)

Ugh. Close to zero chance but then tells of crash.

Be fair - he said "close to zero when a drone is handled by an experienced pilot". We don't know who was flying the drone in that crashed in Virginia!

Re:Lame (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 2 months ago | (#46302765)

In addition, I'd rather have one of those drones crash than a helicoptor carrying pilot, cameraman, and such. The piloted craft is much larger and therefore more hazardous if something goes wrong(and it does semi-regularly).

Re:Lame (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46302789)

A certain Irish pub on what was either a Friday or Saturday night, both tragically and recently come to mind. I don't even think it happened last year. Anything that might have otherwise lessened the severity of that tragedy would have been welcome.

Re: Lame (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46302873)

Scotland 2013 actually. Pity you didn't care enough to even Google 'pub' 'helicopter' 'crash' before posting. Ho-hum.

Re: Lame (1)

SpzToid (869795) | about 2 months ago | (#46302897)

Anonymous Coward, was a citation really necessary to make the point? And if it was, then you could have provided one yourself?

Re: Lame (1)

jabuzz (182671) | about 2 months ago | (#46303077)

Yes but it was an "Irish" pub.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2... [wikipedia.org]

Happened seconds of flying time from where I work. Prompted some additional thought into disaster recovery and data protection. However a fire the year before had already done that

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J... [wikipedia.org]

Re: Lame (1)

gsslay (807818) | about 2 months ago | (#46303427)

"Irish" in what way ?

Re: Lame (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46303635)

In the way that Scotland and Ireland and the same thing as far as Americans are concerned. I know this because I've been in the United States on a number of St. Patrick's Days. Still, apparently some of them realise that there are actually places other than North America in the world, so that's something, I suppose... Now where did I put that fire extinguisher, I've a feeling I'm going to need it ;-)

Re: Lame (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 2 months ago | (#46304013)

An Irish theme pub, in the same way you might go to a pub themed after a German Brauhaus. They're surprisingly common in the UK, and the places in Europe Britons go on holiday.

Re: Lame (1, Offtopic)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 months ago | (#46303093)

Pity you didn't care enough to even Google 'pub' 'helicopter' 'crash' before posting.

He didn't have any tea and biscuits ready for the police squad, and he didn't want to come off as a lousy host.

Re:Lame (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 months ago | (#46302837)

The larger helicopters do have to stay further away, because of the noise(and sometimes local regulatory bodies); but they certainly will flatten whatever they fall on a great deal more forcefully(in the context of civilian helicopters 'light' still tends to mean a metric ton or more).

It probably doesn't hurt that a lot of the larger short-duration/high-stability drones are hexacopters or even octocopters. Losing an engine isn't going to do one of those any good; but with the onboard gyros and some clever coding by the Control Theory guy, the odds of at least achieving a relatively civilized crash aren't so bad.

A full size helicopter with that many independent engines would be consigned to the 'heroic freaks of history' category, and probably never actually see use.

Re:Lame (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 2 months ago | (#46302973)

A full size helicopter with that many independent engines would be consigned to the 'heroic freaks of history' category, and probably never actually see use.

It's possible because they're relatively cheap modular electric motors. But 8 engined craft do exist(B-52), along with even crazier designs [wikipedia.org] having existed in history.

But an 8 engined helicopter? You're right, that would be pretty crazy.

Re:Lame (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 months ago | (#46303025)

When it comes to crazy, I'm not sure that even the Russians, back in their glory days of dubiously-wise white elephant weapons have anything on Project Pluto [wikipedia.org] ... I have to admire the sheer craziness with which they operated back in the day; but I can't say that I'm sorry to have missed the Cold War's greatest hits outside of playing Fallout.

As for 8-engined helicopters, my naive-because-it-isn't-his-problem! engineering assessment is that you could probably build one by bolting together enough lesser helicopters and borrowing the feedback/stability control systems from the little octocopters; but barring a contract to airlift an oil rig, assemble a prefab skyscraper like a layer cake, or some other slightly nutty project, I'm having a hard time thinking of what you would use such a monster for...

Re:Lame (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 2 months ago | (#46303047)

You do run into the problem of beam weight - you need the blades for each helicoptor far enough apart to not interfere with each other, but they also need to be physically tied together. As size goes up, so doesn't the length of the beam required, and to retain enough strength the weight of the beam tends to go up by the cube as length increases linerally.

You should be able to save some weight by removing sophisticated pitch control systems from the individual blades, as well as the tail rotors, but it's still going to be less efficient than a single rotor craft.

Large Russian helicopters (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 2 months ago | (#46303397)

I think the biggest helicopter ever built had 4 engines.

The Mi 12 Homer was a cargo carrying craaft built over 40 years ago. I don't think any still exist today

Re:Lame (1)

tsqr (808554) | about 2 months ago | (#46303905)

you could probably build one by bolting together enough lesser helicopters and borrowing the feedback/stability control systems from the little octocopters; but barring a contract to airlift an oil rig, assemble a prefab skyscraper like a layer cake, or some other slightly nutty project, I'm having a hard time thinking of what you would use such a monster for...

Speaking of slightly nutty projects, bolting several helicopters together has actually been tried, with rather spectacular results. Witness the Piasecki PA97 Helistat [youtube.com] , where the blimp just adds more fun to the mix. The fun starts about 50 seconds in.

Re:Lame (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46306549)

That was the funniest thing I've seen all week! What fucking dumbasses could look at that thing and think it could fly? "Hell of a configuration" is an understatement.

Then it said someone actually lost their life to this idiocy. That's sad.

Re:Lame (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 2 months ago | (#46305149)

The person flying the helicopter has a much better incentive not to crash. They've also been required to learn how to fly it correctly.

Re:Lame (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | about 2 months ago | (#46302811)

Also, it was an American drone. It might have been commandeered by the NSA to kill a suspected terrorist.

Re:Lame (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 months ago | (#46302843)

Also, it was an American drone. It might have been commandeered by the NSA to kill a suspected terrorist.

In Virginia, it's probably also worth checking to see whether it was hunting season at the time or not...

Re:Lame (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | about 2 months ago | (#46302847)

Elmer Fudd using a drone to hunt Bugs Bunny? Dammit, I don't think I've seen that one yet.

Re:Lame (2)

sumdumass (711423) | about 2 months ago | (#46303005)

PITA has been known yo use octocopters to tresspass on private land durring hunting season to harrass game or hunters or record what they think is abhorent behavior. Slashdot even carried a story a while ago about a hunting club doing a pideon shoot being harrassed by them and shooting the copter.

If i wasn't on my phone i could post a link. I think you were joking but i wanted to reference that in case others didn't know about it.

Re:Lame (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 months ago | (#46303221)

I don't know if they actually every did it or not; but they managed to make enough noise that illinois introduced and passed legislation intended to stop them [ilga.gov] .

Based on the absence of either drone's-eye-view PETA releases or ground-level shots of triumphant hunters holding up birdshot-riddled drones, I'm inclined to think that it was two publicity seekers engaging in a codependent relationship, rather than anything actually hitting the air; but I wasn't able to authoritatively confirm or deny.

Re:Lame (1)

cygnwolf (601176) | about 2 months ago | (#46303237)

I beleive you mean PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, but I'm pretty sure loads of people think of them as Pains In The Aft region too....

Re:Lame (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46303327)

I beleive you mean PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, but I'm pretty sure loads of people think of them as Pains In The Aft region too....

I believe you mean PETA, the People for the Eating of Tasty Animals.

Re:Lame (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46303069)

Also, it was an American drone. It might have been commandeered by the NSA to kill a suspected terrorist.

Actually, it's Obama who's Assassin-in-Chief.

The NSA merely exists to prove that everyone is a terrorist and therefore a legitimate target.

Re:Lame (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 months ago | (#46302817)

The one curious thing is that the low risk of failure is 'when the drone is handled by an experienced pilot'; but it is attributed to sophisticated auto-abort features in the drones' programming, something that presumably works without regard for who is at the controls.

I don't doubt that an experienced pilot helps, or that having a mechanism send the drone back to base if it detects the battery heading toward thermal runaway is a good idea, it just seems a very odd description.

Re:Lame (3)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | about 2 months ago | (#46302919)

The automatic recover features are worth mentioning. It reduces the risk of danger due to human error, or signal loss: those are inevitable in a crowded environment with thousands of cameras and radio transmitters saturating the airwaves legally and illegally.

My concern would be about the ability to hijack the drones, and about getting the crowds used to low flying remote controlled aircraft. Similar, unauthorized dromes could be reloaded with light and bring it near the crowds or athletes from well outside of any reasonable security perimeter.

Re:Lame (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 months ago | (#46302999)

I'd hope that drone control systems are using encryption by now (though, given that military Predators and Reapers were, at least originally, being sent up with what was essentially a lightly modified satellite TV transmission system, easily attacked with the tools used for pirating satellite TV, I wouldn't bet too much money on it). As for malicious payloads... I'm glad that I'm not a VIP, and that the world is (all impressions to the contrary) apparently made largely of people who are either decent, painfully incompetent, or lazier than they are malicious.

If it were my job to guard somebody who occupies an office with, um, 'high medical turnover', I'd be shitting myself about the capabilities that drones bring to the table. Since I'm not, nor do I occupy such an office, I take comfort in the fact that bombings and similar incidents of all types are statistically well below my preference for video games and coding rather than exercise in terms of mortality risk, and that (to my knowledge) a drone has yet to be involved in such an attack, except as an agent of state force and under color of something vaguely resembling 'law'.

Re:Lame (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | about 2 months ago | (#46303099)

> drone has yet to be involved in such an attack, except as an agent of state force and under color of something vaguely resembling 'law'.

I wasn't personally thinking of well focused assassination, but rather of attacks like the Boston Bombing. Even indiscriminate manslaughter among such large crowds has enormous political force, and the Olympics focus worldwide attention on a crowd aimed specially at international cooperation. I can vividly remember the Olympic hostage crisis in 1972: It focused worldwide attention on the politics of the terrorists who committed those murders.

Re:Lame (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 months ago | (#46303135)

I was including those sorts of attacks. I'm, obviously, not in favor of explosives going off in crowds of civilians; but at a population level the risk of such is hanging out so far below various far more banal causes of morbidity and mortality that it just seems illogical to concern myself overmuch. It's tragic for the people who end up holding the short straw; but I'm incrementally more concerned that I might become one of the ~35,000 deaths/year caused by traffic accidents, among assorted other more-dangerous-things.

Re:Lame (1)

Hairy1 (180056) | about 2 months ago | (#46306795)

Perhaps the biggest reasons quadcopters will not be used by terrorists relates to the fact they are TERRIBLE weapon delivery systems. They have virtually no payload capability, meaning you would be lucky to get a hand grenade on them. A person with a backpack can carry far more and gain entry to places where attacks could occur. A mid range car could carry a far larger device, and is faster,
No doubt Quadcopters will be employed for evil at some point, just like cars are, but we should not allow irrational fear to override the larger good they could do. What we do need is sensible regulation and new technology to ensure separation between air traffic.

Re:Lame (1)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | about 2 months ago | (#46303777)

Not really. The DJI Phantom-2 is famous for thinking the battery is dead and splashing straight down.

Waypoints make these things pretty cool, but you really need to keep the size down before they get "too big", and that is hard when you need better dampening on the gimbal, better low light performance, better endurance, and wider control radius.

Re:Lame (1)

PingPongBoy (303994) | about 2 months ago | (#46306029)

Similar, unauthorized dromes could be reloaded with light and bring it near the crowds or athletes from well outside of any reasonable security perimeter.

That's how competitive it is at the top. Winning is about using any advantage you can get away with, whether it's doping, corrupt judges, or a load of light.

You know, there's a different angle to think of here. Drunken boxing would probably be a fun Olympic sport to watch.

Re:Lame (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46303429)

I'm an experienced drone pilot, and have worked significantly with the design teams. The risk of failure is unacceptable on anything with single string controls, that requires powered lift from all fans to maintain control,or has no redundant line of sight datalink for terminal area operations. Basically, it's about $10M in engineering work to get in the game of acceptably safe aircraft design, and all (modern) drones are digital fly by wire aircraft, which has a well understood level of safety required. If you're not using the design processes that Airbus/Boeing and the like are using, you're wrong and your aircraft should not be allowed anywhere near people you don't plan to kill.

Re:Lame (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46302989)

`... tells of crash.

Which would be great if it happened at the Olympics!

Even better if they were shooting Olympians!

Stupid Title (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46302805)

> Sochi Drones Are Shooting the Olympics, Not Terrorists

Sigh...

Re: Stupid Title (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46302855)

Didn't you know? The Olympics are now just a showcase of how safe we can be from terrorists if we just let the authorities take all necessary precautions. Or do you really hate freedom that much?

Re: Stupid Title (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46303835)

Murica! Fuck yeah!

Wait, where is it?

No Brainer (2)

darkain (749283) | about 2 months ago | (#46302809)

So the cost of PURCHASING a drone is about the same as RENTING a helicopter for the same time? With the drone, of course, being re-usable, and creating significantly less impact when comparing the results of a potential crash, and can get much MUCH closer to the action.

This is seriously the best of all worlds. Now if only we can get away from the mainstream stigma of the term "Drone", such as going back to the term UAV instead? Really, the only down-side is ignorant media perception of these devices.

Re:No Brainer (4, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 months ago | (#46302879)

I find the use of the term 'drone' rather irksome because the vast majority aren't actually very automated(quadcopters and similar obviously have automated stability control, and some of the fancy ones can be handed a set of waypoints and told to make it so; but 'autonomy' is presently the realm of short-term, safety-enclosed lab environments).

That said, I'm not sure rebranding is going to save them. This isn't a situation like NMR/MRI, where 'nuclear' is a scary word; but basically everyone is 100% onboard with better diagnostic imaging. This is a situation where the capabilities that used to require the budget for a helicopter or fixed wing aircraft and crew are falling rapidly in cost, and increasing rapidly in bang-per-buck. If somebody has preexisting suspicions of any aircraft user, or would-be aircraft user, they aren't going to be entirely pleased to hear that the people they don't trust can now do whatever it is they wish to do for less money, and thus more often and in more places, along with groups that previously didn't have access to aircraft getting in on the action.

Precisely because the value proposition is so compelling, drones don't really need the PR boost, they'll be adopted one way or another just because they are so useful; but it's simply a fact, independent of their name, that they are so, so, very useful to a variety of groups that just don't have a warm and fuzzy reputation.

Re:No Brainer (3, Informative)

Sockatume (732728) | about 2 months ago | (#46302903)

I'm pretty sure that "drone" to mean "remote-controlled military aircraft" predates the sense of "autonomous military aircraft". That was the usage in my old flight sim manuals in the '90s at any rate. The terminology is correct here, the issue is that public perception that drones are autonomous has built up a second meaning in direct conflict with the first.

Re:No Brainer (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 months ago | (#46302975)

I'm definitely no military historian; but my understanding is that the desire for practice targets somewhat less dangerous than sending up a manned aircraft to drag a target at a (hopefull) safe distance existed at least in theory back to the dawn of the 20th century, and practical models were being built and shot at somewhere in the late '40s/early '50s at the latest(just on general principle, I'm going to assume that the Nazis came up with a scary-advanced one; but had resources enough to only build a prototype, just because that seems to be the backstory for practically everything in the air at that time...).

What I can't find (any kind soul with an institutional OED subscription?) is how 'drone' in the sense of 'parasitic, unproductive, scrounger' came to be attached to the notion of remote-controlled (or just 'light the fuse and hope the aerodynamics work out') aircraft. The connection isn't wildly counterintutive; but it also isn't immediately obvious. Just slang? Did some early model make a particularly distinctive buzzing sound? Was Sir Somebody Somebody, 3rd Earl of Something both an amateur apiarist and a crucial figure in early RAF training doctrine?

Re:No Brainer (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 2 months ago | (#46303083)

I found an about.com article that attributes it to the stripe patterning of those early training aircraft, but obviously that's not much to go on.

Re:No Brainer (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about 2 months ago | (#46303091)

If you think that a drone is an unproductive parasite, I invite you to remove all the drones from a bee colony and see how long you get honey.

I don't know if the OED would be as much help on where the military adoption comes from as a good military history would, but I can hazard a crude guess. Here goes:

The roots of the word "drone" seem to be more about making a continuous monotonous noise rather than specifically about the alleged productivity of male bees. In that sense, an automated noise-making vehicle would probably sound more monotonous than something that a pilot was continually adjusting and navigating. And the noise an engine makes is typically called "drone" in any event, whether it's an airplane or an automobile. So something that isn't always flitting about, but makes a continuous noise would fit the name "drone" as well as anything.

Re:No Brainer (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 2 months ago | (#46303125)

You're confusing drones with worker bees; their purpose is to breed, not to make honey. Hence its usage in English as a term for a slacker.

Re:No Brainer (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about 2 months ago | (#46303289)

You're confusing drones with worker bees; their purpose is to breed, not to make honey. Hence its usage in English as a term for a slacker.

Which says something about human perceptions, when the quantity of the work you do is more important than whether or not it's essential to the survival of the species.

Re:No Brainer (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 2 months ago | (#46303363)

I think you're reading too much into a flippant figure of speech that likens an unproductive (to the beekeper) bee to an unproductive (to his boss) worker.

Re:No Brainer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46304831)

You're confusing drones with worker bees; their purpose is to breed, not to make honey. Hence its usage in English as a term for a slacker.

No you're filing to relise that without drones for breeding the supply of worker bees will run out.

Drones apear to do nothing (they don't even feed themselves) but without them the colony can't exist long term because the one thing they do do (produce sperm) is essential for reproduction.

Re:No Brainer (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 months ago | (#46303231)

The drone is obviously vital to bees in the long term; but aside from mating, it takes no part in the productive activities of the hive (and, if memory serves, a queen bee needs mate only very infrequently, so each drone won't even be required to do prodigious... service along these lines.)

Re:No Brainer (1)

expatriot (903070) | about 2 months ago | (#46303713)

The roots of drone are the male bee, then to unproductive parasite (not making honey), then to the sound that these bees made.

there are two paths to the modern usage: drone as parasite, and the drone sound of a plane.

A target drone would be a mix of the two being non-productive as a war ship and sounding like a plane.

As the drone targets were at least partially on auto pilot, the drones that were "productive" as war ships kept the same name.

Re:No Brainer (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about 2 months ago | (#46304339)

The roots of drone are the male bee, then to unproductive parasite (not making honey), then to the sound that these bees made.

there are two paths to the modern usage: drone as parasite, and the drone sound of a plane.

A target drone would be a mix of the two being non-productive as a war ship and sounding like a plane.

As the drone targets were at least partially on auto pilot, the drones that were "productive" as war ships kept the same name.

You found a different dictionary than I did, then, because the predecessor words listed for "drone" in mine were all relating to sound. Implying that the bee got its appellation from the noise it made (perhaps all buzz, no honey).

Re:No Brainer (1)

rvw (755107) | about 2 months ago | (#46303103)

That said, I'm not sure rebranding is going to save them. This isn't a situation like NMR/MRI, where 'nuclear' is a scary word; but basically everyone is 100% onboard with better diagnostic imaging.

Totally offtopic: Reading your comment, along the lines of the medical branding. They should rebrand AIDS (Auto Immune Disease Syndrome) to Autoimmune Disease Syndrome: ADS! See how that would fit the situation a lot better?

Re:No Brainer (2)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 2 months ago | (#46303133)

I find the use of the term 'drone' rather irksome because the vast majority aren't actually very automated(quadcopters and similar obviously have automated stability control, and some of the fancy ones can be handed a set of waypoints and told to make it so; but 'autonomy' is presently the realm of short-term, safety-enclosed lab environments).

Actually some of the BASIC ones have waypoint control including directional control and guiding for cameras and gimbals, automatic return to home functions, and event driven missions such as "fly in this circle taking pictures in this direction here, here, here and here until the battery gets to 10%". Short of loading on a copy of skynet what makes these drones any less autonomous than any other proper use of the word drone?

Oh and I really mean basic ones. TFS says drones start at several thousand, but all the above features can be had in a single pre-packaged unit that can be had for $600.

Re:No Brainer (1)

tsqr (808554) | about 2 months ago | (#46304091)

TFS says drones start at several thousand, but all the above features can be had in a single pre-packaged unit that can be had for $600.

Can that $600 model dead-reckon back to home and autoland if it loses both GPS and its control link?

As to the use of the word "drone", I think we can thank the media for using it to describe anything from a micro-UAV that looks like a hummingbird [wikipedia.org] , to a huge stratospheric flier [airforce-technology.com] . Also, has anyone else noticed that an article about a hobby quadcopter is likely to be accompanied by a picture of a Reaper launching a Hellfire missile? That really helps with the public's perception of small UAVs.

Re:No Brainer (1)

Chelloveck (14643) | about 2 months ago | (#46305403)

Actually some of the BASIC ones have waypoint control

The way you capitalize that makes me think the drones are programmed like...

10 REM WAYPOINTS IN LAT/LONG ORDER
20 DATA 43.36,39.43
30 DATA 43.37,37.44
40 DATA 43.40,37.39
50 RESTORE
60 READ LA,LO
70 GOSUB 200
80 READ LA,LO
90 GOSUB 200
100 READ LA,LO
110 GOSUB 200
120 GOTO 50
200 REM FLY TO LAT/LONG
...

Re:No Brainer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46304707)

I find the use of the term 'drone' rather irksome because the vast majority aren't actually very automated(quadcopters and similar obviously have automated stability control, and some of the fancy ones can be handed a set of waypoints and told to make it so; but 'autonomy' is presently the realm of short-term, safety-enclosed lab environments).

That said, I'm not sure rebranding is going to save them. This isn't a situation like NMR/MRI, where 'nuclear' is a scary word; but basically everyone is 100% onboard with better diagnostic imaging. This is a situation where the capabilities that used to require the budget for a helicopter or fixed wing aircraft and crew are falling rapidly in cost, and increasing rapidly in bang-per-buck. If somebody has preexisting suspicions of any aircraft user, or would-be aircraft user, they aren't going to be entirely pleased to hear that the people they don't trust can now do whatever it is they wish to do for less money, and thus more often and in more places, along with groups that previously didn't have access to aircraft getting in on the action.

Precisely because the value proposition is so compelling, drones don't really need the PR boost, they'll be adopted one way or another just because they are so useful; but it's simply a fact, independent of their name, that they are so, so, very useful to a variety of groups that just don't have a warm and fuzzy reputation.

You don't really have to drone on about it.

Re:No Brainer (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about 2 months ago | (#46303053)

all it needs is for someone to mount Google Glass on a drone and then all hell will break loose in the media.

They'd probably ban all drones at that point.

Re:No Brainer (1)

recharged95 (782975) | about 2 months ago | (#46305553)

They used it mainly to get closer to the action and rolling/panning shots.

A large copter would blow away snow at anything under 500ft and be too loud and distracting to the athletes.

It was a great application of multis...

Not really new... (1)

addie (470476) | about 2 months ago | (#46302813)

The use of helicams is not really new for television. I know that Survivor (a guilty pleasure, flame on) has been using them for years to get sweeping overhead shots that you may believe are from a helicopter. Also, most of the Korean shows that I watch that have outdoor scenes make extensive - perhaps to the point of overdoing it - use of these things.

I agree they're a great way to get impressive footage for relatively low cost, and it makes sense to use them for sport. Just thought I'd point out this is nowhere near revolutionary - just an opportunity to use "drone" and "Sochi" in the same story.

I'll have double check... But (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46302849)

I could swear that I did see some photo-age from the Suchi Olympics that was shot from a full size helicopter. Female, skiing of some sort.(maybe in the morning I'll look for the clip) The reason I am sure it was a full sized helicopter was the shadow it cast on ground and you could here the noise from the main rotor tail rotor interaction. As someone you holds a helicopter licence.(Not flying Now due to medical) It was nice to think that drones hadn't completely taken over. Also, this drones wouldn't do much in even moderate wind like 12 knots and 20 would half there speed in one direction, there just too small for those types of winds.

Re:I'll have double check... But (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46302871)

Nigger poop cock ass cunt pussy squirt

Re:I'll have double check... But (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46303007)

WRONG!!!

It`s ` shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits``

Re:I'll have double check... But (1)

xyra132 (615021) | about 2 months ago | (#46302985)

Wind was my first thought as well. For quad-copters the simple fact is the lack of collective pitch does massively affect the maneuverability in adverse conditions. You need a high volume of airflow over the blades to compensate and fixed pitch there is not much you can do to increase airflow without climbing rapidly. (although whether you could do it with an octocopter with four of the blades pulling down and four pushing up to counteract the climb?) There are plenty of model sized helicopters (even some microhelis with 8" blades can handle 15mph with a skilled pilot) that handle wind very well - they just need a high head speed.

If you have something up in the air... (1)

Viol8 (599362) | about 2 months ago | (#46302889)

... there's always a chance of it coming down in the wrong place no matter how sophisticated. But I'll take being hit by a 10kg electric drone any day over a 1000kg chopper filled with kerosene.

Mental handcuffs (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 2 months ago | (#46302965)

Look at that story. It's obviously not the product of an open-minded person. It's just that in today's media-saturated society, in some circles, the word "drone" doesn't mean "aircraft that flies without a pilot". It has a political meaning, and these people just can't see past that. They see the word drone and immediately they think military, because their minds are small. "Wow, look, one that carries a camera, instead! Remarkable! And it's a quadrotor and not a fixed-wing aircraft! I've got to write an article about this right away!"

It would be humiliating if they weren't so unaware of any existence outside themselves and their little cliques. What's the word for that...oh right, solipsist.

Re:Mental handcuffs (1)

Mikkeles (698461) | about 2 months ago | (#46303035)

Well, in the military sense, a drone was just a towed (unmanned) target to be blasted away for practice.

The current actions are just the drone` revenge!

Re:Mental handcuffs (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 2 months ago | (#46303137)

I'm not sure I follow. If a remote controlled pilotless aircraft that can be set on a predetermined path and complete it's mission automatically (like the one in the article) isn't a drone, then I don't know what is.

Re:Mental handcuffs (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 2 months ago | (#46303293)

The one who wrote it sees the word "drone" and immediately thinks of "Afghanistan" and is shocked to find that the word has another use. Said person considers herself educated and worldly, but in fact lives in a tiny world and has a small mind. Meanwhile the rest of us have this in our daily vocabularies.

Re:Mental handcuffs (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 2 months ago | (#46304035)

You obviously didn't read the article, which is a short puff piece about how great and soon-to-be-ubiquitous drones are:

There are limitations: In many countries, drone regulations are still lagging behind the times, and it might not be clear to a broadcaster that they can be used legally. Then there are concerns about crashes. But with the risks low and potential benefits high, it could be that sports photography will be one of the first uses of drones to go mainstream.

If you want to complain about the summary, your target is Hugh Pickens Dot Com.

Re:Mental handcuffs (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 2 months ago | (#46304039)

Or assuming you refer to the other article, the following is the only part that isn't a bunch of interview answers:

That drone you might have spotted hovering and zipping around the Sochi Olympic slopes isn't searching for terrorists or protesters hiding behind the fir trees. It's being used to transmit live video of snowboard and ski jump competitions to a screen near you. Unlike military drones, which often look like a remote-controlled airplane, the creature floating around Sochi resembles a huge flying spider. Drones are increasingly common at sporting events, and these Olympics is the highest-profile showcase yet for their use in broadcasting. Here's a few questions and some answers about the drone and its place at the Sochi Games.

Re:Mental handcuffs (1)

PPH (736903) | about 2 months ago | (#46304425)

Yes, but think of the culture. Thanks to FAA regulations, Americans are completely unfamiliar with the commercial versions of these. See a little quad-copter and camera flying around and we must be under attack. Meanwhile, the rest of the world pulls ahead of us technologically developing these for crop monitoring, search and rescue, utility line inspection and a bunch of other applications.

We are still behaving much like some Amazon tribe seeing its first airplane pass overhead. Shaking our talismans and screaming at it in fear.

And what of the victims of Chernobyl? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46303019)

And the UA in general, hm? Syria v2.0. When does Putin say, Release the drones!

Even for Slashdot that's a bad headline/summary. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46303067)

The first article linked doesn't even mention terrorists or 'flying spiders', although the second one does - but then the second article reads like it was written by someone new to the art to writing - I do not expect to find a journalist writing anything with those kind of glaring grammatical errors.

Cost? (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 2 months ago | (#46303115)

A drone with mounted camera can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to $37,000

This sounds like an article from 5 years ago. I just assembled a quadrocopter with HD video recording on a brushless DC gimbal + GPS + advanced flight controller for about $800. Entry level video ones start from around $350.

Re:Cost? (2)

azaana (1444353) | about 2 months ago | (#46303161)

Digital media giant cameras still cost a dam site more than your consumer HD video cam then theres the survive X windspeed, X amount of snow, etc stability of shot with only X shake dont forget the other costs which go with building something then add the mark up so the company makes a proffit and $37000 sounds quite cheap.

Oh my (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46303157)

If the FBI has anything to say about it we'll be hearing all about terrorist drones at 6.

Not innocent people (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46303277)

Big difference from U.S drones killing huge numbers of inncoent people, women and children... creating terror in foriegn lands (terrorism) USA

Terms that start rumours (1)

AlabamaCajun (2710177) | about 2 months ago | (#46303365)

RC Helicopter or Multicopter but not Drone! If you talk to just about anyone that builds flys or develops small flying RC aircraft we don't use the word 'drone'.
They do resemble drones to the general public but they are not militarized hardware and that is were the term drone came from. We have never used the term drone on our normal biplanes, piper cubs or swizzle sticks, helicopters, etc in the RC clubs. The only time the word drone come up is when someone was someone had a model military plane that some one would fly a drone RC plane for it to chase/ mock-shoot down. The English language gets muddier everyday and people are getting all hyped up by journalist that are stirring the pot of words. If people want to rag on the police use of surveillance copters then they may at least be closer to a military than the 6 or 8 rotor "chopperazzi" flying over the Olympics.
A.C. 2014

rachel who? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46303507)

What rock does this rachel feltman live under for being surprised that a drone can be a 'huge flying spider'?
I mean come on, these things have been all over the place for years.
And then another question: Why the hell is samzenpus (OP) even on /. ?
People on /. used to know that quadcopters exist. What is the audience he/she is targeting? 3rd graders?
This all has to do with beta and a general dumbing down, right?

Bogus helicopter flight time numbers (1)

gavron (1300111) | about 2 months ago | (#46303511)

"That compares with the cost of a few thousand dollars an hour to rent a helicopter with pilot"

Bell LongRanger with pilot $1300/hr
Bell JetRanger with pilot $980/hr
Robinson R44 with pilot $650/hr
Robinson R22 with pilot $300/hr

A few thousand an hour? PUHLEAZE.

E (a real live helicopter pilot)

Re:Bogus helicopter flight time numbers (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 2 months ago | (#46303663)

Yeah, but this is in Russia. How much does it cost to rent a Hind?(And how much extra for the weapons pod?)

I was *wondering* who was shooting the Olympics. (1)

greeze (985712) | about 2 months ago | (#46304031)

It makes me feel better knowing it's not terrorists who are shooting the Olympics.

Re:I was *wondering* who was shooting the Olympics (1)

CryptDemon (1772622) | about 2 months ago | (#46305053)

That headline confused the fuck out of me for a while. A pun on the word shooting? Cameras shoot film. Terrorists shoot people. Or drones are shooting people instead of terrorists. Or the drones are the ones responsible for shooting people, and the terrorists did nothing of the sort. Finally I realized that it's saying "Drones are not terrorists. They're filming the olympics."

In S0VI3T RVSSIA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46304097)

You shoot the drones.

Anything from a few hundred... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#46304235)

Phantom drones cost almost nothing, these days.

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