An article today on Fortune’s website brings up a valid point. Even if you follow all of the FAA regulations in regards to flying your drone, you could end up getting fined or even arrested. Why you ask? Well the answer is simple. Because certain States and municipalities have taken it upon themselves to make their own drone laws apart from FAA regulations that carry separate punishments.
So before you fly, you might want to double check the local laws. Bard College has an excellent online resource that tracks local laws. So far the have registered 135 laws across 31 States. They also highlight 24 local areas where jail time is even possible for illegal drone use.
Another great source to is the Drone Law Today blog. They offer a comprehensive book of State laws available for free. They also have an excellent YouTube course that explains the basics of drone law.
Every month more such laws are being introduced so it’s important to keep up to date. It is also important to note that the FAA is against these local laws because it will create a patchwork of regulations that could created useful standards difficult.
In the “State and Local Regulation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Fact Sheet” written by the Federal Aviation Administration Office of the Chief Counsel in December of 2015 it states: “Substantial air safety issues are raised when state or local governments attempt to regulate the operation or flight of aircraft. If one or two municipalities enacted ordinances regulating UAS in the navigable airspace and a significant number of municipalities followed suit, fractionalized control of the navigable airspace could result. In turn, this ‘patchwork quilt’ of differing restrictions could severely limit the flexibility of FAA in controlling the airspace and flight patterns, and ensuring safety and an efficient air traffic flow. A navigable airspace free from inconsistent state and local restrictions is essential to the maintenance of a safe and sound air transportation system.”
Earlier this week the New York City Fire Department used a drone for the first time to help fight a fire. The FDNY has an $85,000 drone that is equipped with high-definition cameras and a FLIR infrared camera.
The drone hovered above a four-alarm fire in the Bronx and was able to use its infrared camera to keep eyes on a troublesome roof that firefighters feared would collapse. The real-time infrared monitoring helped direct firefighters to safe spaces on the roof and offered authorities in charge a view they aren’t often afforded.
A video from the FDNY shows what the drone saw during the fire. While it might seem like a boring video, it shows the power of drones mounted with infrared cameras. If you skip forward to the 1:55 mark you can see the FLIR camera view displayed in the top right corner and at the 4:23 mark this view becomes full screen. The image shows in ‘white hot’ which means the brightest areas are the hottest. The infrared camera mounted on the drone clearly shows the ‘white hot’ areas of the roof and how firefighters are avoiding these areas.
Deputy Assistant Fire Chief Dan Donoghue was quoted in the USA Today saying, “The roof started to fail and we had a lot of great radio reports, but that’s only verbal, so with the drone we had good visual pictures and it really helped us make decisions to put this fire out and keep our members safe. Seeing it is helpful”
Chinese eCommerce Giant JD.com is at it again. Drone Dossier has previously reported on JD’s efforts to widen drone deliveries in China by working with local government entities. This time JD has partnered with the northern Chinese province of Shaanxi to set up a low altitude drone (UAV) logistics network covering the whole province.
It is reported that JD plans on using this network to operate large and medium sized UAVs that can carry tonnes of weight and travel up to 300 kilometers. If JD and Shaanxi officials can get things running as planned, it will be the first operating drone logistics network for package delivery in the world. Given JD’s efforts so far, it’s the opinion of Drone Dossier that JD will pull it off.
Right now reports out of China are not specific on exactly how the network is being set up. As more info comes in we will be sure to share it.
Back in the States, drone software company AirMap—whose software package helps manage drone traffic by providing uses with up-to-date data on airspace usage and restrictions around them—just raised $26 million in series B funding.
The AirMap app, available for free, helps drone uses plan flights and operate safely. On the back end, AirMap is working to make its platform a go-to choice for drone manufacturers, regulators (like the FAA), and airports to monitor and manage drone operations.
AirMap CTO Daniel Rubio recently said on AirMap’s blog that they are working to build a “new kind of map…a map for ‘things’ in addition to people, is a critical part of our vision for AirMap. We imagine a flexible, self-healing platform, capable of processing a tremendous amount of data about the current state of the airspace, and delivering a response that is computed and tailored to each specific flight in real time. We call this concept computational airspace, and we think it represents an important part of the future of the entire drone ecosystem.”
A drone that will let you fly a drone with a wearable control device is coming to the market soon. At the New York Toy Fair 2017, KD Interactive revealed its Aura quadcopter prototype that can be flown by a wave of your hand.
The prototype on display is controlled by a glove, but KD Interactive is working to make the end product able to be controlled by a wearable device that resembles a watch.
While this drone is technically a ‘toy drone’ it offers a glimpse into different flight control methods that are out there. And while it might be pretty cool to fly a drone with the wave of a hand, it is, in the end, more of a gimmick that probably won’t see much practical use. After all, drone technology is moving toward more autonomous flight, rather than moving your hands around like a crazy person. Although, hand movements could be used to signal a drone to perform certain predetermined operations.
If you are interested the Aura drone is scheduled to go on sale this fall for around $100.
Yes, the photos above are of a real flame throwing drone, but don’t worry its doing something good! In fact electric company maintenance workers in China are using the drone to burn away debris like plastic bags that are getting caught on high-voltage power lines.
Supposedly, this is safer than sending up a human, but we are not 100% sure about that because it is spewing fire. Regardless of how useful this kind of drone application ends up being used, at least it gives us all a few cool photos to enjoy.
One final thought…if it can spew fire, then it makes sense the drone could also be used to spew a fire retardant, which to the team here at Drone Dossier seems a lot more useful.
A few weeks ago Intel drones made the news with their participation in Lady Gaga’s Halftime show at the Super Bowl. This week they are in the news because Intel has lunch its first ever quadcopter. The Aero ready to fly drone is next logical advancement of Intel’s Aero drone platform (basically a build at home drone kit) which went on sale in October.
Intel launched its first ever commercial drone back in November, a monstrous 8 rotor Falcon 8+ drone. The New Aero system has a price tag of $1,099 and is available on Intel’s website. The drones boasts a Aero compute board with Intel RealSense. It also has a Atom x7-Z8750 processor, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and a USB 3.0 port.
Its a pretty robust system similar to the Phantom 4, however, it doesn’t come with a battery pack, so you will have to get one on your own. But remember this is not a drone aimed at the average drone consumer, it is more for those interested in using it as a testing platform to develop. Still it shows that Intel is serious about their future in the drone space.
The Kenyan Civil Aviation Authority has drafted legislation that would make operating drones in Kenya legal. The new rules have been approved and will be implemented soon. Kenya is the second African country (Its neighbor Rwanda was the first) to open up their airspace to the legal use of drones.
The possibility of drones in areas like aid relief, film, agricultural surveys, infrastructure monitoring, e-commerce, etc. have excited Kenyans. Authorities said over 1,000 applications are already awaiting approval.
In order to operate drones in Kenya you will still need to register with the Ministry of Defense and have the drones operated by a trained pilot, but like FAA regulations here in America the new legislation create a clear legal space for drones to grow with the backing of the legal system.
Chinese drone manufacturer Ehang has set the Guinness World Record for the most drones airborne simultaneously. On February 11th the drone maker sent 1,000 drones up into the sky in the city of Guangzhou, easily breaking the the previous record of 500 held by Intel.
The show was in celebration of the end of Chinese New Year celebrations known as the Lantern Festival. The drones mimicked the look of traditional lanterns that are put up to mark the holiday. Only these lanterns moved around the night sky creating messages, pictures and even a map of China.
If you take a look at a video of the performance on YouTube it is impressive at how so many drones are flying in a tight space avoiding each other and make the shapes in the sky.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation is currently looking into the viability to use drones to inspect bridges. With over 20,000 bridges throughout the State this is a pressing safety concern.
Drones could possibility save Minnesota a lot of time and money. In particular the current specialized trucks they use to inspect bridges cost $675,000 while the drones system would cost only $4,000. Drones can also inspect bridges faster, provide closeup shots of hard to reach areas under the bridge, and provide new data, like thermal imaging.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation will finish they testing this Spring and could start using the drones next year, if they are approved. However, even if approved Minnesota could be hamstrung by the FAA which still does not allow drone operations above traffic.
Every week there are news stories about near collisions of planes (usually coming in to land) and drones. A few days ago there was a near miss as a plane from Paris came in to land at Dulles Airport in Virginia. In that case the drone came within 100 feet of colliding with the plane.
Also this week, the Minister of Defense in Taiwan said the security officers can shoot down any drones that are found violating airspace above airports in response to the growing number of unauthorized drones incursions.
In the USA, the FAA reports that in 2016 there was a 50% increase of pilots spotting drones compared to the year before. The reason is simple, there is a lot more drones out there. FAA estimates that 4.8 million drones will be sold in 2017 (2.3 million consumer and 2.5 million commercial). This works out for 21% growth in sales of consumer drones and a 317% growth in commercial drones.
But the problem just isn’t the increase of drones, it is also a problem with drone operators. Some are not careful and do not consider airspace restrictions of the areas they are flying in. If you are new drone owner, please put safety first. Here is a great website to start at.