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U.S. Passenger Jet Nearly Collided With Drone In March

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the lining-up-our-next-aerial-disaster dept.

Transportation 151

SonicSpike sends word of an FAA report that a small, remote-controlled aircraft was nearly struck by an American Airlines passenger jet as the jet was preparing to land. The pilot saw it briefly as he flew by — it was close enough that he was sure it stuck the plane, but no damage was found upon inspection. Jim Williams, head of the FAA's drone office, said the incident highlights the risk of ubiquitous, unregulated drone use. He said, "The risk for a small UAS to be ingested into a passenger airline engine is very real. The results could be catastrophic." The article notes that the FAA "currently bans the commercial use of drones in the United States and is under growing pressure to set rules that would permit their broader use. Hobby and many law-enforcement uses are permitted. Last year, the agency began establishing test sites where businesses can try out commercial uses."

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Please, come on (-1, Offtopic)

ShaunC (203807) | about 4 months ago | (#46970301)

This hit every other website a day and a half ago. Yes, it is of interest to nerds, and it is stuff that matters, but like so many stories posted here these days, it just isn't news and the discussion has already played out elsewhere.

Sigh.

Re:Please, come on (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46970333)

This raises a good point, instead of filling the front page with possibly unrelated posts, why doesn't slashdot have a "sticky" posts equivalent which floats at the top as a reminder to an ongoing yet important news story. For example, the Lawrence Lessig Super Pac donation raising story is still very important and needs as much awarness as possible. Just my opinion I guess, let's fix curropt politics & eventually save the Internet ya'll! :) ...

- stoops

Re:Please, come on (1)

aardvarkjoe (156801) | about 4 months ago | (#46970405)

This hit every other website a day and a half ago.

But that's impossible! I thought the whole reason that slashdot "editors" don't proofread or dupe-check was so that they could get the stories posted faster.

Re:Please, come on (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 4 months ago | (#46971067)

This hit every other website a day and a half ago.

But that's impossible! I thought the whole reason that slashdot "editors" don't proofread or dupe-check was so that they could get the stories posted faster.

What's even more fun is when you were the one that submitted it minutes after it came out only to have it not posted and someone else's post excepted 2 days late with crappier links and less detail.

Re:Please, come on (2)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | about 4 months ago | (#46970503)

Where has the discussion played out? I would love to see the discussion happening elsewhere. Slashdot is mainly for comments. If I could see the comments elsewhere, that has been moderated well, I would agree this story is not needed in slashdot.

Drone? (5, Informative)

Pumpkin Tuna (1033058) | about 4 months ago | (#46970341)

If you read the stories on this carefully, you find out that it was a model of an F4 Phantom, not a copter type "drone" that we think of now.

Why is it that everything that flies now and doesn't have a pilot is called a drone and is a major new concern, even if it's been around for decades?

Re:Drone? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46970427)

Simple.
"Fucktards keep flying R/C planes and choppers in restricted airspace, just like they have been doing for decades" won't get many views/clicks.

Re:Drone? (2)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 4 months ago | (#46970451)

The difference now being that with the advent of cheap cameras and video controllers these aircraft can be much further away from the operator than ever before.

Re:Drone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46970519)

They're still bound by the range of the electronics on board.

Re:Drone? (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 4 months ago | (#46970585)

This video [youtube.com] was taken at 8000 feet. That is far beyond line of sight. According to their web site a DragonLink [dragonlinkrc.com] can reach up to 30Kms.

Re:Drone? (1)

firex726 (1188453) | about 4 months ago | (#46970649)

The device though is not a trivial purpose ($270) and largely unnecessary save for highly specialized uses. A DX6i which is pretty entry level, has a range of around 600m-1200m depending on conditions and RX. That type of system is not going in your average quadcopter, but rather very expensive and specially made Oct/jet planes.

Re:Drone? (1)

Calydor (739835) | about 4 months ago | (#46971043)

You don't think people spend 270 dollars on their hobby?

Re:Drone? (3, Funny)

the grace of R'hllor (530051) | about 4 months ago | (#46971087)

Luckily, irresponsible amateur enthusiasts never pump vast quantities of money into their hobbies.

Re:Drone? (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 4 months ago | (#46970433)

The only thing in the article about what type of RC aircraft is as follows;

The pilot reported seeing a small, remote-control aircraft very close to his plane

It was at 2,300 feet and about five miles from the airport when it encountered the remote controlled jet.

How do you get F4 Phantom from that? There are many remote controlled jets [google.ca] out there that are not F4 Phantoms.

not a copter type "drone" that we think of now.

That may be your definition but many people, including me, define drone as any aircraft controlled outside of line of sight. The line of site being the dividing line between RC aircraft and drone.

Model fighter jet... (2)

Sooner Boomer (96864) | about 4 months ago | (#46970495)

From: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/... [bloomberg.com] - "The pilot said it appeared the drone was a high-end model built to look like a fighter jet and powered with a small turbine engine, according to the FAA. Such model planes are capable of reaching higher altitudes than drone copters and may cost thousands of dollars. "

F-4 Phantom jet... (1)

Sooner Boomer (96864) | about 4 months ago | (#46970525)

Yeah, I know, replying to my own post...

Another article: http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/09/... [cnn.com]

"The pilot reported that the small unmanned aircraft involved looked similar to an F-4 Phantom jet, and not like a helicopter that might hold a camera that many associate more closely with drones. Such planes have gas turbine engines and can fly higher than an average drone, according to the FAA. Neither the drone in this case, nor its pilot, have been identified.

Why does the media insist in calling everything from model airplanes to 747's "drones". I think they're the real (mental) drones...

Re:F-4 Phantom jet... (3, Insightful)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 4 months ago | (#46970685)

Because these days they usually are. A drone is an aircraft of any size that can be flown unmanned, autonomously without human control, or remotely without line of sight.

These days MOST cheap model craft fit that description. You can get a model plane to fly remotely using FPV out of line of sight for a cool sub $250. You can get a model plane to fly autonomously for under $400.

You fail to realise just how much the small hobby equipment has caught up with it's military counterparts.

Re:F-4 Phantom jet... (2)

sabri (584428) | about 4 months ago | (#46970955)

You fail to realise just how much the small hobby equipment has caught up with it's military counterparts.

Yeah, and only if the owners of that gear would be responsible in using it. I nearly hit something flying at 3500ft over Palo Alto on a Bay Tour last week. I reported it to Norcal Approach, but there was not much they could do.

What angers me about that is that these idiots fly their toys in class B airspace without caring much about the people that are actually in the air. If I make a mistake, I die. If they make a mistake, I die.

Re:F-4 Phantom jet... (1)

mysidia (191772) | about 4 months ago | (#46971881)

What angers me about that is that these idiots fly their toys in class B airspace without caring much about the people that are actually in the air. If I make a mistake, I die. If they make a mistake, I die.

There's the problem.... they don't have any consequences.

The FAA should get off their butts and require licensing for drone pilots, safety testing for autonomous drones, and setup the technical and administrative requirements to require they document their flights, meet flight information recording requirements, and provide sufficient identification of their craft to be held accountable and legally liable in the event of an accident.

in B4 roman_mir (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 4 months ago | (#46972953)

The FAA should get off their butts and require licensing for drone pilots

But ... but ... the constitution. And freedom!

Re:F-4 Phantom jet... (1)

sjames (1099) | about 4 months ago | (#46973213)

Or they could listen for R/C signals within restricted airspace. There's no reason a kid in the middle of nowhere Kansas should have to be licensed to fly a 'drone' in the back 40. There's no reason a kid should need a license to operate a toy plane in his own yard.

Re:F-4 Phantom jet... (2)

mpe (36238) | about 4 months ago | (#46971809)

Why does the media insist in calling everything from model airplanes to 747's "drones". I think they're the real (mental) drones...

Probably the same reason they insist of refering to "The pilot" when any airliner has at least two pilots. (QF32 actually had five pilots...)

Re:Drone? (1)

nicnet (1232268) | about 4 months ago | (#46970449)

not a copter type "drone" that we think of now

How is this NOT a drone, based on accepted definitions like "any unmanned aircraft or ship that is guided remotely"?

Why is it that everything that flies now and doesn't have a pilot is called a drone and is a major new concern, even if it's been around for decades?

Because every irresponsible kid on the block has one now.

Re:Drone? (0)

Arker (91948) | about 4 months ago | (#46970625)

We've had RC model aircraft for a very long time now. 'Drones' are a new thing, and yeah, they are basically RC model airplanes at their core, but they have new features such as MUCH longer range remote control system and at minimum some remote sensors. The ones that tend to make the news the most are the ones that have full fledged military weapons systems on top of that, but even an unarmed recon drone is actually a quite different thing from a remote control F-4 model that has no sensors and a radio that will just last from one end of the park to the other.

Sounds to me like this guy was flying a standard old RC airplane and doing so too close to an airport, which is already illegal. Since there are no remote sensors, no long-range radios or autonomous control systems involved he had to have been extremely close to the airport at the time, keeping the model within his eyesight while holding a fairly conspicuous controller with antennas sticking out of it, and no extra laws are needed to catch and punish him, just a little police shoe-leather.

Re:Drone? (2)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 4 months ago | (#46971229)

You missed one very important point. The aircraft that it almost hit was at 2300 ft above ground level. That is much further than the other end of the park and far out of line of site. The only way to fly that high in control would be with a remote camera. Therefore RC aircraft + beyond LOS + camers = drone.

Sounds to me like this guy was flying a standard old RC airplane and doing so too close to an airport, which is already illegal.

It is actually not illegal. You just need to inform the airport [modelaircraft.org] .

when flown within 5 miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft provides the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport) with prior notice of the operation (model aircraft operators flying from a permanent location within 5 miles of an airport should establish a mutually-agreed upon operating procedure with the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport)).

The article also states that the aircraft was about 5 miles from the airport so he may have been just outside the 5 mile reporting requirement.

Re:Drone? (2)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about 4 months ago | (#46971293)

You missed one very important point. The aircraft that it almost hit was at 2300 ft above ground level. That is much further than the other end of the park and far out of line of site. The only way to fly that high in control would be with a remote camera. Therefore RC aircraft + beyond LOS + camers = drone.

Sounds to me like this guy was flying a standard old RC airplane and doing so too close to an airport, which is already illegal.

It is actually not illegal. You just need to inform the airport [modelaircraft.org] .

when flown within 5 miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft provides the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport) with prior notice of the operation (model aircraft operators flying from a permanent location within 5 miles of an airport should establish a mutually-agreed upon operating procedure with the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport)).

The article also states that the aircraft was about 5 miles from the airport so he may have been just outside the 5 mile reporting requirement.

Actually, he was in violation of the law. Notification is only a part of it:

(4) the aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft; and

(b) Statutory Construction.--Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit the authority of the Administrator to pursue enforcement action against persons operating model aircraft who endanger the safety of the national airspace system.

(c) Model Aircraft Defined.--In this section, the term ``model aircraft'' means an unmanned aircraft that is--

(1) capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere;

(2) flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft; and (3) flown for hobby or recreational purposes.

Number 4 makes it clear you must avoid commercial planes since they certainly are manned; and

given the altitude I doubt he was in conformance with c.2 as well.

Given the statutory construction statement I think it's pretty clear he violated the law and is subject to enforcement actions.

Of course, that doesn't change the problem of a few idiots who do stupid things and contribute to more regulations and hurt the many more responsible hobbyists who take great pains to avoid causing a dangerous situation. Couple stupidity with the increasing ease which novices can get more sophisticated devices that make it easier for them to commit idoicy and I can see why the responsible hobbyists are getting worried that their hobby will be ruined by a few idiots.

Re:Drone? (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 4 months ago | (#46973593)

From your original post;

keeping the model within his eyesight while holding a fairly conspicuous controller with antennas sticking out of it, and no extra laws are needed to catch and punish him, just a little police shoe-leather.

The drone was at least 2300 feet from the controller and therefore not as easily found as you may think. The controller could have been miles away.

Re:Drone? (4, Informative)

tysonedwards (969693) | about 4 months ago | (#46970463)

Because thanks to the Terminator movies and the US Air Force's use of the term "drone", the populous now emotionally associates a drone as a fucking scary autonomous killing machine; a Model Airplane... not so much. A UAV, still nothing... So, the thought of some anonymous twenty-something kid going around and flying their own "drones" and nearly killing hundreds of people will resonate emotionally with people and help to create the state of fear that is being fostered by those in power to control the masses.

It doesn't matter that this act is no different than those over the past forty years, nor that it is no different than what damage that can be caused by a bird.

Plus, if said kid's name was even vaguely ethnic or could be made to sound ethnic, do you think that it would still be kept "confidential" or would it be trotted out in the court of public opinion as a "Towel-Headed, 'Murica Hatin' Muslim Terr'rist!"?

Re:Drone? (1)

DMUTPeregrine (612791) | about 4 months ago | (#46970501)

Because the phrase drone is scary. It invokes imagery of the military's drones, of weddings bombed and people dead. So instead of calling things RC aircraft like they used to people can call them drones, thereby scaring people and getting page views (and thus money) or political influence.

Personally, I think the definition of "drone" should be restricted to aircraft with a remote pilot (or no pilot) capable of some fully autonomous operation. So while a 747 has an autopilot it's not a drone because it has a pilot in the cockpit, and an RC plane isn't a drone because it can't do anything autonomously.

drone = autopilot. 2,300 feet probably not model (3, Informative)

raymorris (2726007) | about 4 months ago | (#46970505)

To me at least, the primary distinctions between a model aircraft and a drone are a) autopilot of some type (or very good telemetry for remote piloting) and b) range / flight time.

Model aircraft are flown by watching them from the ground. Drones are flown POV through on-board cameras and generally some autopilot capabilities.
  Model aircraft typically have the capacity to fly for 10 minutes or so. Drones, an hour or more.

Drones, here defined as remotely piloted or preprogrammed aircraft with a flight time longer than twelve minutes, have not been widely available for decades.

In this particular case, the actual object has not been identified. We only have the report of the jet pilot who saw it. That report does say it was at 2,300 feet from the ground. That means nobody was looking up at it and flying it, in all probability. That altitude strongly suggests it was either following a preprogrammed flight path or was being flown from an onboard video feed.

Since an RC operator wouldn't be looking straight up at it, but would need be looking up at less than a 45 degree angle, someone flying it by remote control would have been a mile away. You can't look at a model a mile away and see whether the wings are level, or what the pitch attitude is. Therefore, it's rather unlikely that this was an RC model.

Re:drone = autopilot. 2,300 feet probably not mode (2)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 4 months ago | (#46970697)

To me the distinction between a model aircraft and a drone is that one can be remotely controlled at range and the other sits on the bookshelf or a tether.

This really shouldn't be up to discussion, all the major dictionaries define pilot-less remote controlled aircraft as drones providing they can be flown out of line of sight, and the Cambridge dictionary defines it as any remote control aircraft.

If you want to complain about the use of the word drone maybe you should work on getting the dictionary definitions changed. I am interested to know where you got your 12minute figure from.

Re:drone = autopilot. 2,300 feet probably not mode (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about 4 months ago | (#46972445)

> all the major dictionaries

Oxford is probably the most respected dictionary of English and it doesn't use that definition.

> providing they can be flown out of line of sight

A paper airplane can fly around the corner beyond line of site, so by "flown" you must mean "controlled". Control beyond line of site requires the telemetry mentioned in my working definition.

I think you'd also agree that an object that includes a full programmable autopilot, that can be programmed to fly past certain GPS waypoints, is a drone. So at this point we have "it's a drone if it can either be controlled beyond line of site via telemetry or follow a preprogrammed flight path".

A $6 foam glider can have its elevators set to either fly straight or perform a loop. That meets the condition of "follow a preprogrammed flight path", so we need to distinguish between that 30 foot flight and an actual drone. In practice, considering flight time effectively distinguishes drones vs children's toys. That's not a theoretical distinction, but a practical guideline.

Re:drone = autopilot. 2,300 feet probably not mode (1)

mpe (36238) | about 4 months ago | (#46972705)

In this particular case, the actual object has not been identified.

In which case it might better be described as a "UFO". But then many people, who don't know what the term actually means, would jump wrong, and silly, conclusions.

Re:Drone? (3, Informative)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 4 months ago | (#46970693)

Why is it that everything that flies now and doesn't have a pilot is called a drone and is a major new concern, even if it's been around for decades?

a) Because things that fly remote control that don't have a pilot ARE "drones" according to both the Oxford and Cambridge dictionaries

b) Because they have been around for decades in the hands of dedicated enthusiasts, and not in the hands of every idiot with a spare $200 that can't think it may not be a good idea to fly this right next to an airport.

Re:Drone? (2)

cshotton (46965) | about 4 months ago | (#46971433)

The problem is that for a long time, radio controlled aircraft have been somewhat of an esoteric hobby and the people involved formed much more of a community, with self-policing through organizations like the Academy of Model Aeronautics. You used to have to spend weeks or months, carefully crafting the aircraft, installing engines, controls, adjusting, tweaking, and then hopefully flying and not crashing in front of your friends on a Saturday afternoon. The AMA provided strict guidelines for operations near aircraft, structures, and people, etc.

Now any moron with a few hundred dollars can go get something off the shelf that performs perfectly well and is capable of ending up splashed across the Internet headlines because they AREN'T part of a self-policing community anymore. But it still begs the question of why the mainstream media is so glaringly stupid when it comes to anything to do with aviation. A "drone" has a very specific definition, though apparently to the uneducated journalists of the world, anything that leaves the surface of the earth now without a human onboard is considered a drone.

IAA "Drone" pilot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46971609)

I fly military UAVs for a living. As a responsible pilot, I'm certified and follow airspace rules, flying a "fly by wire" aircvaft that has triple-string redundancy, and computers and software designed to the same standards as Airbus and Boeing fly by wire airplanes.

What the nascent drone industry wants to do is to throw away 50 years of safety improvements to save money for commercial operations. Do any of these "Commercial drones" have redundant datalinks, redundant flight control computers, commercially licensed pilots or flight controls and engines qualified for flight? Nope. None of those. They've deliberately thrown away safety to make a bottom line.

Re:Drone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46972327)

It's already happened. Had a jetliner suck a fucking drone into an engine during landing (regulated drone to chase birds away from runways) that damn near caused a crash. Thankfully the pilots were able to recover due to quad engines and avoided crashing as the potential lost lives would have exceeded 400 souls. Not bad for a cheap attack. Even better for Al Queda as they don't have to be close to the damn airport to not only kill lots of people but shut it down for a day or two.

captcha = deflate

Re:Drone? (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about 4 months ago | (#46972437)

Even better for Al Queda as they don't have to be close to the damn airport to not only kill lots of people but shut it down for a day or two.

Don't be ridiculous. Grannies carrying tubes of toothpaste through airport security (along with their husbands' penknives on their key rings) are a MUCH bigger threat to which billions of dollars of security largesse must be directed.

Re:Drone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46972609)

It's culture, or social confusion. By purposefully keeping terminology muttled and confusing, it is easier to put regulations and laws into place so that the vast majority of the public doesn't quite know what exactly you're talking about. This isn't knew, and often times, the media is the worst offender when it comes to the transgression, as there is no conformity, or standards, to fix it, or get it right from the start.

For purposes of discussion, this article isn't even about a drone. This was a remote controlled aircraft. Unless I'm mistaken, a drone is a semi-autonomous vehicle that is programmed to take a specific travel path, capable of reconaissance, delivering weapons payloads, or comm's support. The majority of drones are military use, but with swarm tech. recently coming onto the stage, we see it in a few university and private labs now and again, doing interesting coordinated maneuvers.

there should be liability requirements for commerc (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 4 months ago | (#46970349)

there should be liability requirements for commercial use and rules so you can't hide from it with all kinds of subcontractors

Re:there should be liability requirements for comm (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46970411)

And that's related to this... how?
The "drone" in question was a plain old R/C model plane. Flown by a plain old idiot. In plain old restricted airspace. Which is already all sorts of plain old illegal.

Re:there should be liability requirements for comm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46970465)

No amount of legal shenanigans can protect a company from recklessly flying drones in commercial airspace.

It's a myth that the law is so dumbed down that any company can employ wizard-lawyers to avoid consequences.

Any consequences you see companies avoid is usually a direct result of laws (usually passed by the GOP) which protects them. Courts prefer putting the cost of accidents at the footsteps of the perpetrator or the least-cost-avoider; it's political decisions which limit their ability to do so.

But even most of those laws have their limits. Did BP avoid consequences from the Deepwater Horizon spill? No, even though it had carefully constructed a network of subsidiaries and contractors in attempts to limit their exposure.

So don't use this supposed incident as an excuse for why the FAA should limit commercial drones. The bigger the risk, the less likely companies will be able to avoid the consequences. So the system is mostly self-limiting in that respect. It's only at the margins that the FAA might need to regulate. But the FAA wants control over the whole pie, and we should oppose that.

Re:there should be liability requirements for comm (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 4 months ago | (#46970529)

You, um, don't interact with the financial sector much, do you?

Re:there should be liability requirements for comm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46970581)

Examples, please? Because I gave you one, and you just reply with some idiotic pundit talking point.

First, let's not forget that it was conservatives that pushed through rules which allowed instability in the speculative investment markets to take down the banking industry.

Second, last time I checked all the usual suspects have been paying out tens of billions of dollars in fines.

Third, nowhere has there been substantial evidence of out-and-out fraud. Quite a few very rich people and entities took a bath in the downfall, no doubt burnt by some of the investment banks suspect business practices. You'd think if they had a case they'd have filed a suit and won. Some no doubt settled out of court, which means they got a pay out.

Fourth, the big banks that you're implicating don't have complex structures which limit their risk. All their subsidiaries are fully funded with billions of dollars. If you sue them, they'll lose money commensurate with the harm. So your example is entirely irrelevant.

Fifth, the real issue isn't well endowed commercial entities. If there's an issue, it's with small businesses or with hobbyists who wreck havoc, but who don't have any significant assets whatsoever. But there is such a thing as criminal negligence. That means courts can reach the same result in egregious cases as they could with stiffer FAA regulations.

The FAA regulating drones is like the FDA regulating 23andMe--it's the government sticking its nose where it doesn't belong. The threat is overblown, and alternative avenues for redress of any actual harm are sufficient to manage the risk.

Re:there should be liability requirements for comm (1)

firex726 (1188453) | about 4 months ago | (#46970653)

Most RC enthusiasts know not to fly such a craft anywhere near an airport. General rule of thumb is 1000ft of clearance in each direction.

Re:there should be liability requirements for comm (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 4 months ago | (#46971121)

Most RC enthusiasts know not to fly such a craft anywhere near an airport. General rule of thumb is 1000ft of clearance in each direction.

The problem is these things are getting much better and much cheaper and much more accessible.

1000' horizontal clearance isn't much use if you thing has a service ceiling of 8000'.

The thing is in the past anything in that range would be so specialised that the sort of person to buy it would be deeply versed in all the rules and knowledge operations. These days, they're so cheap, any yahoo can get one.

Re:there should be liability requirements for comm (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 4 months ago | (#46973007)

1000' horizontal clearance isn't much use if you thing has a service ceiling of 8000'.

I think when he said "in each direction" the other one was up.

Enforce the laws already on the books. (4, Insightful)

SeaFox (739806) | about 4 months ago | (#46970395)

While there are certainly some people who will hold this up as an example why hobbyist drone flying should be banned, it just looks like a case of existing laws being broken. Am I believe there is not already rules governing the airspace immediately around airports? I'm sure there is, and I'm sure this person was violating those rules as they stand. So new laws against drone flying aren't going to have any effect on the outcome.

Secondly: The idea this drone could be pulled into the engine of a commercial aircraft with "catastrophic" results... and how is this any different than a large bird being pulled into the engine of an aircraft? If the sudden loss of a single engine from what should be an accidental interaction with a drone is all it takes to cause something "catastrophic" from happen, maybe the airplane needs to be designed better. If it's not accidental, but intentional (terrorism) then all the laws in the books aren't going to prevent it.

Re:Enforce the laws already on the books. (2)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 4 months ago | (#46970499)

So new laws against drone flying aren't going to have any effect on the outcome.

One new law could be a requiremet to register and display aircraft numbers on all non-line of site controlled aircraft. That way the owner can be identified if the aircraft is photographed of found after a collision. They may also be required to carry a small transponder. It is not about banning them but regulating them. Right now the regulations are very weak.

how is this any different than a large bird being pulled into the engine of an aircraft?

Birds generally don't carry lithium ion batteries that can act like a small bomb going off inside the engine. Also the body of the bird is generally softer than the metal that is used in the engines of drones.

Re:Enforce the laws already on the books. (1)

sjames (1099) | about 4 months ago | (#46973253)

It doesn't matter. A bird is all it takes to take the engine out. The rest is just overkill.

Re:Enforce the laws already on the books. (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 4 months ago | (#46973547)

There is a huge difference between a bird which stops and engine and a drone with a lithium battery which can explode in the engine causing much more damage. That damage could break turbine fins which could take out fuel lines and puncture fuel tanks which could cause a major explosion or fire and take off the wing. In the case of the bird, no engine. In the case of the drone, no wing. Most aircraft can land with one engine out. Most aircraft fall out of the sky if they only have one wing. See the difference?

Re:Enforce the laws already on the books. (1)

sjames (1099) | about 4 months ago | (#46973637)

Lithium batteries pack a punch, but not nearly as much as you seem to believe.

Re:Enforce the laws already on the books. (3, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 4 months ago | (#46970535)

If the sudden loss of a single engine from what should be an accidental interaction with a drone is all it takes to cause something "catastrophic" from happen, maybe the airplane needs to be designed better.

"Catastrophic" refers to the failure mode of the engine, not necessarily to the consequences for the airplane.
More specifically, it refers to any type of failure which prevents the engine from running or being restarted.

Re:Enforce the laws already on the books. (1, Interesting)

sumdumass (711423) | about 4 months ago | (#46970557)

Knowing what the government is capable of (Gulf of Tonkin incident and others), I'm wondering how unlikely it would be for the FAA to have sent one of their own or someone from another 3 letter agency in the government out with an RC plane and purposely flew it in a manner to create this situation just for the purpose of justifying their stance on drones.

I mean it's an RC plane being called a drone, it's breaking the law that already exists, and the article is talking about regulations the FCC is working on as well as the "need" for new regulations and after an investigation, the pilot of the drone couldn't be found. It's just ripe for a justification to be heavy handed and entwined with them from a regulatory position. Now think of the children and all that.

Re:Enforce the laws already on the books. (1)

guises (2423402) | about 4 months ago | (#46970721)

Knowing what the government is capable of (Gulf of Tonkin incident and others), I'm wondering how unlikely it would be for the FAA to have sent one of their own or someone from another 3 letter agency in the government out with an RC plane and purposely flew it in a manner to create this situation just for the purpose of justifying their stance on drones.

Pretty dang unlikely. We're not talking about anything that really has much at all to do with national security, or anything that will make a politician look good, or anything that will make some rich person or large company a little more money, so concocting a conspiracy theory for this seems a little far fetched.

Or rather it's not.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46971207)

Did you miss the part a couple days ago where it was declared by a judge that the FAA has ZERO jurisdiction over drones? It's AWFULLY convenient timing......

Re:Enforce the laws already on the books. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46970617)

Am I believe there is not already rules governing the airspace immediately around airports?

Yes, among others, and people (model pilots, those giant super-detailed/accurate model pilots, weather/space balloon crazies, model rocket hobbyists) ignore laws all the time. Granted, most of them aren't stupid enough to pull this shit literally next to an airport, in the descent path of actual planes.

Enforcing the law, of course, will not stop risk. A few high profile instances might mitigate it a great deal, but humans are humans, and humans gonna stupid. Nobody wants to hear that, though. They want a magical, impossible, 100% safe world, where nothing bad ever happens through negligence, incompetence, or idiocy.

So we'll get more laws. Laws by the bushel. Laws by the pound. Until we're all sitting around in beige pajamas, drinking banana-broccoli shakes and singing, "I'm an Oscar Meyer weiner".

Re:Enforce the laws already on the books. (5, Insightful)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 4 months ago | (#46970725)

Secondly: The idea this drone could be pulled into the engine of a commercial aircraft with "catastrophic" results... and how is this any different than a large bird being pulled into the engine of an aircraft? If the sudden loss of a single engine from what should be an accidental interaction with a drone is all it takes to cause something "catastrophic" from happen, maybe the airplane needs to be designed better. If it's not accidental, but intentional (terrorism) then all the laws in the books aren't going to prevent it.

Large birds crunch up quite well when hit with a sharp blade. Bird strikes are quite common and there's a few good videos on youtube showing bird ingestion tests on turbines with partially frozen birds, so something quite a bit harder than a typical pigeon. Throwing a piece of aluminium with a few weighted magnets into an engine on the other hand is quite a different problem to deal with.

Secondly you seem to be under the assumption that bird strikes are just shrugged off, the reality is airports employ a lot of resources to do wildlife control in like training predators (dogs, cats, falcons etc), or using sirens, or knocking down nests, etc to reduce the number of potential bird-strikes around airports, and it really only is a problem close to the ground as birds don't fly at 30000ft.

Thirdly "catastrophic" does not mean loss of plane. An emergency landing and a passenger jet out of action due to a downed engine is considered "catastrophic" failure. It doesn't need to kill someone.

airports employ a lot of resources..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46971213)

Yes.....like trained monkeys who are used to destroy bird nests at a Chinese military airbase.

Re:Enforce the laws already on the books. (3, Informative)

mpe (36238) | about 4 months ago | (#46973009)

Large birds crunch up quite well when hit with a sharp blade. Bird strikes are quite common and there's a few good videos on youtube showing bird ingestion tests on turbines with partially frozen birds, so something quite a bit harder than a typical pigeon. Throwing a piece of aluminium with a few weighted magnets into an engine on the other hand is quite a different problem to deal with.

The size of the "bird" is not always the important factor in how much damage can be done to a jet engine. Trying to run with an unbalanced fan and ingesting broken pieces of fan blades can often be what actually destroys the engine. Note that minced bird is just as incompressable as metal fragments if gets into the compressor stage.
Even birds much smaller than pigeons can be a serious problem. Especially since birds, especially small ones, tend to occur in flocks. A flock bigger than aircraft means the potential loss of all engines.

Secondly you seem to be under the assumption that bird strikes are just shrugged off, the reality is airports employ a lot of resources to do wildlife control in like training predators (dogs, cats, falcons etc), or using sirens, or knocking down nests, etc to reduce the number of potential bird-strikes around airports

They can't do much outside the airport though. Also predators need to be trained/handled not to become a problem themselves. (Even some humans appear to have problems with "Don't stand in front of a jet engine when big flashing lights are on,)

and it really only is a problem close to the ground as birds don't fly at 30000ft.

The highest recorded bird strike was at FL379. Migrating birds have also been found at quite high altitudes. The rule is that bird strikes can happen at any altitude.

Thirdly "catastrophic" does not mean loss of plane. An emergency landing and a passenger jet out of action due to a downed engine is considered "catastrophic" failure. It doesn't need to kill someone.

Most recent would be N828AW this Friday. Even N106US, same airline, same departure airport, similar aircraft, disn't kill anyone.

Re:Enforce the laws already on the books. (1)

sjames (1099) | about 4 months ago | (#46973293)

So the real problem is terrorists with trained pigeons.

Re:Enforce the laws already on the books. (1)

aberglas (991072) | about 4 months ago | (#46970825)

I would suggest that being ingested by an engine would be pretty catastrophic for the drone.

Re:Enforce the laws already on the books. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46971591)

Secondly: The idea this drone could be pulled into the engine of a commercial aircraft with "catastrophic" results... and how is this any different than a large bird being pulled into the engine of an aircraft?

Because there are already best practices that have been used (fairly successfully) for decades to manage birds.

Large airports have teams (often with flying predators like peregrines) to take out any that may happen to nest. Municipalities tend to have by-laws for the lands around airports making sure owners don't have food sources that could attract gulls and such, and there's often a higher standard of garbage lock down and cleaning. Birds are fairly deterministic when it comes to behaviour, and you can change the local environment to make it uninviting to them.

Drone owners however can be highly non-deterministic in their behaviour. If said owner is on the left-hand side of the proverbial Bell Curve then there may be no rational or logical thinking involved and their actions would be basically dictated by reading from /dev/urandom. How do you protect against that?

See also the jackasses that shine lasers at planes and helicopters.

Interesting wording. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46970459)

"a small, remote-controlled aircraft was nearly struck by an American Airlines passenger jet "

You appear to be subtly implying that the jet was at fault. Why is that?

Re:Interesting wording. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46970489)

Yeah really man! It's like saying my fist was struck by your face.

Backwards (1)

radarskiy (2874255) | about 4 months ago | (#46970481)

"a small, remote-controlled aircraft was nearly struck by an American Airlines passenger jet "

In what way is it correct to say the AA jet nearly struck the RC aircraft and not the other way around? The jet was where it was supposed to be, doing what it was supposed to do. The RC aircraft was the one out of place so it should be considered the offending craft.

Re:Backwards (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46970633)

In much the same way that a deer in the middle of the road can be struck by a car. Sure the deer wasn't supposed to be there, but the car is considered to have struck the deer nonetheless.

I've noticed as a general rule that the faster moving of the objects tends to strike the slower one no matter which one caused the collision.

Re:Backwards (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46971193)

That just depends on your frame of reference.
From the jet the drone was moving and the jet standing still.

RC plane near airport (0)

citizenr (871508) | about 4 months ago | (#46970541)

NOT A DRONE

Re:RC plane near airport (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 4 months ago | (#46970559)

Drone= Non line of site remotely controlled aircraft. Yes it is a drone. What would you define it as?

Implicit ownership of the air? (1, Interesting)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 4 months ago | (#46970569)

Why do commercial airliners have implicit ownership of the airspace? Until recently there's been no practical obstacle to this, but with cheap RC planes becoming available, the democratization of the lower few thousand feet is inevitable.

Re:Implicit ownership of the air? (3, Informative)

tompaulco (629533) | about 4 months ago | (#46970607)

Why do commercial airliners have implicit ownership of the airspace?

They don't. In the U.S., the people own the air and the FAA makes sure that it is used safely.

airports, airspace classes (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46971571)

Why do commercial airliners have implicit ownership of the airspace?

They don't. In the U.S., the people own the air and the FAA makes sure that it is used safely.

To expand on this: there are rules governing where planes can fly and when. The people that have to follow these rules are both commercial planes and "non-commercial" planes (i.e., 'general aviation' folks that fly (e.g.) Cesnas).

Around an airport, the use of the airspace for a radius of 5-20 nautical miles, from ground to about 5000 feet, is 'owned' by the air traffic controller and any aeroplanes operating in that area need to contact ATC for authorization to go into the area. Depending on the size of the airport, the class of airspace could B, C, or D:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airspace_classes

Drone operators tend not to contact ATC to get clearance, and so they can potentially fly into other aircraft.

However, if the drone operator does not want to go through with the "hassle" of radioing ATC, there are 'uncontrolled' airspaces available. In the US, one can go to the FAA's web site and get airspace charts for free, and simply go to the location/s where ATC clearance is not required.

We've had a decent system for preventing flying vehicles from colliding for a few decades now. Perhaps the drone operators should leverage it for their hobby.

Re:Implicit ownership of the air? (1)

firex726 (1188453) | about 4 months ago | (#46970667)

Planes can't just stop, and with RC aircraft becoming bigger and bigger they can cause serious damage of a liner if they get sucked into an engine. It's why pretty much every responsible club has strict rules on where they can hold flights; one of the biggest being not anywhere near an airport.

Just like with cars, the users are the ones responsible for their craft; a pilot wouldn't be able to see an RC craft, and if he did it'd be too late.

Re:Implicit ownership of the air? (1)

Calydor (739835) | about 4 months ago | (#46971053)

Because they carry several hundred people at any given time, probably.

Re:Implicit ownership of the air? (2)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | about 4 months ago | (#46971091)

They dont. You can get your own private plane and use the airspace if you want to. The pilot has to be licensed to fly and the plane certified, apart from that nothing is preventing you from sharing the air space. Pilot-less RC planes on the other hand are a different topic.

Re:Implicit ownership of the air? (3, Interesting)

w_dragon (1802458) | about 4 months ago | (#46971391)

Actually, if you want to fly an ultralight aircraft and keep it below 1000ft you may not even need the license or certification, depending on where you are.

Re:Implicit ownership of the air? (1)

w_dragon (1802458) | about 4 months ago | (#46971383)

They don't. If you're away from populated centers there is still plenty of uncontrolled airspace around. But if you're near an airport then the massive jet carrying hundreds of passengers performing the most dangerous part of the flight with proper clearance damn well has right of way over anything else.

FAA Owns the Airspace (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46971629)

The FAA owns it and regulates it to allow the SAFE operation of the NAS. It's the drone pilots, in particular those lobbying for commercial operations, who feel entitled to do whatever the fuck they want, to the danger of everyone around and below them.

We don't have unregulated drone use (1)

bugnuts (94678) | about 4 months ago | (#46970651)

"Jim Williams, head of the FAA's drone office, said the incident highlights the risk of ubiquitous, unregulated drone use."

Flying that close to an airport is already against FAA rules. Regulations, which already exist on that, won't change the fact that it might occasionally happen that (as another poster said) some fucktard will fly in restricted airspace.

As it stands now, we have overregulated drone rules.

Re:We don't have unregulated drone use (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46970757)

Failing to follow a regulation, even as simple a one as that, is unregulated in the sense it is often meant.

How close? (1)

freeze128 (544774) | about 4 months ago | (#46970931)

How close to the airport was it?

The summary says "As the plane was PREPARING to land."

Well, what the hell does THAT mean? Was the landing gear down and locked, or did the flight attendants just tell everyone to put their seatbacks in the full upright position? That could be a difference of 100 miles. How far away from the airport do you have to be in order to fly a drone?

Re:How close? (1)

w_dragon (1802458) | about 4 months ago | (#46971399)

You need to be out of the controlled airspace for the airport. Or you need to have ATC approval for where you are. Same as every other plane in controlled airspace.

Re:How close? (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 4 months ago | (#46971957)

It was at 2,300 feet and about five miles from the airport when it encountered the remote controlled jet. The FAA investigated but could not identify the pilot of the drone.

Typo (1)

Fimeg (2843237) | about 4 months ago | (#46970683)

I doubt it "stuck" the plane.

more FUD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46970769)

This is more anti-drone FUD to increase regulation such that only big players like google and amazon can make/use UAS. Slashdot is continually playing into it. The model aircraft in question already violated (several) laws and regulations, no new ones are necessary. Jim Williams knows that, but is trying to justify his upcoming usurp of power. If we are to get the help of Joe Low-Information Voter to stop this landrush of corporate entitlement, we must speak loudly and clearly against such articles. In this case, I'd say it's probably best to bring up articles like this, and have handy in your quiver reasons why they are bullshit and clearly tactics to trick voters/consumers.
Captcha: matrix

birds (1)

SharpFang (651121) | about 4 months ago | (#46970879)

Considering the size and mass of these drones, comparing to toughness of other airborne objects, and comparing the amount of emotions they arouse...

why is existence of birds still legal?

Ban old ladies (2)

KruiserX (1008455) | about 4 months ago | (#46970933)

When I parked my car the other day, I briefly saw an old lady - it was close enough that I was sure it stuck to the car, but no damage was found upon inspection. I propose a ban on old ladies.

Re:Ban old ladies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46970973)

Did hitting your car nearly cause 300 people to die you raving idiot?

Re:Ban old ladies (1)

KruiserX (1008455) | about 4 months ago | (#46971051)

The remark was to point out that there numerous ubiquitous dangers out there and accidents happen. Basing policy on singular/low percentage/hearsay events to prevent public participation is the wrong way to go. Yes, consider safety, but don't enforce a ban for broader use, inform people. I will be spreading flyers to educate old ladies about the dangers of walking around designated parking areas.

Re:Ban old ladies (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 4 months ago | (#46971251)

Did you see anywhere in the article to word "ban"? They are talking about regulations. Many things are regulated and not banned.

Re:Ban old ladies (1)

PPH (736903) | about 4 months ago | (#46972949)

RC aircraft and drones are already regulated. Pending a better description of this incident I'm guessing that this 'drone' was operating outside those regulations. So now the next problem is: How do we enforce or even inform drone operators of these regulations? To date, there are few processes in place to keep any member of the general public from dropping $500 and walking away with an RC airplane and the right to use it.

I might be a good idea to define some RC air parks available to the general (unlicensed) public and restrict operation of airplanes anywhere else to those posessing a pilot's license. And to follow that up with a publicity campaign to inform the public of their responsibility. Drones and RC aircraft are becoming mush more capable than equipment available in the past. It was assumed that line of sight operation (of simple RC aircraft) was sufficient to keep them confined to smal areas. But with the advent of autonomous modes of navigation and longer ranges, these things are getting into places previously not thought to be accessible to them. If drones are going to be operating in GA [wikipedia.org] or controled airspaces, then they should comply with the same regulations that other uses do already and be educated to the same extent.

Re:Ban old ladies (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 4 months ago | (#46973667)

RC aircraft and drones are already regulated.

The biggest problem with drones is identifying who owns the aircraft. If a drone is photographed or found after a crash there is no way to find the owner. Perhaps one of the new regulations should be registration of drones and display of registration number much like regular aircraft. This should be a requirement for any non line of site drones.

I think requiring a regular pilot's license as going overboard. Pilot's licenses are very expensive and would put an excellent hobby out of reach of most people. That would be like requiring a vehicle license to ride a bicycle. Perhaps a drone license which has more emphasis on rules and regulations rather than piloting skill might be sufficient. I think that LOS flying should not require licensing.

Re:Ban old ladies (1)

mpe (36238) | about 4 months ago | (#46973241)

Basing policy on singular/low percentage/hearsay events to prevent public participation is the wrong way to go.

Even if it does actually do something to mitigate a very rare risk it can still be pointless. Anti-terrorism being a classic example of huge resources being applied in a most likely futile attempt to stop something which is extremely unlikely to happen in the first place.

Yes, consider safety, but don't enforce a ban for broader use, inform people. I will be spreading flyers to educate old ladies about the dangers of walking around designated parking areas.

The risks associated with anywhere pedestrians and vehicles are in close proximity are several orders of magnitide than anything related to aviation.

Re:Ban old ladies (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 4 months ago | (#46971961)

Where in the article was it mentioned that anything would be banned?

Bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46971037)

The story claims that all "drones" are unregulated. The "drone" in this story was an R/C airplane. Flying an R/C airplane anywhere near the flight path of an airport is a SERIOUS FEDERAL CRIME.

So again, the story is BULLSHIT.

Re:Bullshit (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 4 months ago | (#46971265)

Actually it's not [modelaircraft.org] ..

(5) when flown within 5 miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft provides the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport) with prior notice of the operation (model aircraft operators flying from a permanent location within 5 miles of an airport should establish a mutually-agreed upon operating procedure with the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport)).

I demand to fly anything anywhere I want! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46972045)

I do not want gov't control over these things bu the sub-human mongrels! Free American from the FAA, FDA, and FCC and let rich people frolic in its trickling down wake.

Everyone must become Snowden and reveal the truth about the govt's evil plans to become the Federal government!!!

Drone air pockets? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46972597)

Why not just pass rules that say hobbyists can only fly in certain areas? "Drone pockets". Until further legislation is passed.

Hobbysits will fly them. Why not strike a compromise till things can be ironed out.

The 'Challenger Disaster' Of Drones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46972605)

Just a matter of months before a Boing 737 or Airbus A320 with its passenger load will be downed by a $400 to $500 Drone.

When that happens it will be the 'Challenger Disaster' moment for Drones in the U.S.

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