Yesterday the Huffington Post authored a story about a drone breaking through a window, hitting an “interface designer” in the head, and giving him a headache. Mr. David Perel may be an “interface designer,” but he is also something more, something nefarious in the eyes of someone professionally involved in UAV/Drones. He’s a liar. And the … Continue reading HUFFINGTON POST LIED and here’s the proof…
1908 was a big year for the world; the automobile found its way to the masses through the invention of the assembly line, created by Henry Ford. Not only did the mass-production line bring affordable prices, it also created the middle class. We’re in much the same birthspace; UAV/Drones are just beginning to grow into … Continue reading WITNESS TO HISTORY
Communities, states, and even the Fed are discussing potential breach of personal privacy from sUAVs in the skies of today and more importantly, skies of tomorrow.
First and foremost, let’s dispel the thought that privacy in the modern world actually exists at all. Somewhere, some how, some system is monitoring, reporting, storing, and targeting each of us as we browse the web, use our mobile devices, or drive from place to place. The amount of personal information collected by Google, Amazon, and Apple is simply overwhelming and astounding. Because of these “snoops,” Apple and Google can accurately predict our buying cycles, clothing preferences, what sort of partner would be best, and how we’ll vote.
We’re monitored by traffic and security cameras 24/7. At a recent security conference, it was revealed that in the average mid-sized city, each person is photographed an average of (at least) 300 times per day. Security cameras live in our offices, on our roads, and even our laptops can be compromised to us the built-in camera to surveil us.
However, this article is about privacy from sUAV, typically in our homes. What about those situations?
A friend recently contracted a roofer to do a roof inspection and provide advice on what may or may not be needed to bring his roof up to standard. The roofer had just purchased an sUAV to aid in roof inspections. He’s a new drone operator and technically operating outside of legal bounds (without a 333 commercial exemption).
In the process of this flight, a neighbor became very concerned about his privacy, enough so that he climbed out of his swimming pool to view the drone pilot, initially remaining hidden behind vines in the alley way before becoming confrontational.
During the drone flight, the pilot hadn’t noticed the neighbor in his swimming pool, without doing a slow-motion look at the footage from the roofing inspection.
Can you spot the neighbor? On a small tablet, the person in the image is all but impossible to see, particularly in the very few seconds he’s in the frame during the “return to home and landing” process.
For those concerned with the pilot being able to “zoom in” on the subject (or the person concerned about their privacy) it’s important to note that UAV/drone cameras aren’t able to zoom. Zooming makes the already-moving image even more unstable, and therefore unusable for purposes of inspection. Currently, UAV/drones must be flown very close to the subject to obtain a clear image. However, I’ve taken a still from this video and blown it up more than 4X, which demonstrates the lack of quality when zooming during post-video/photo processes.
Overall, the image is useless for purposes of privacy. The image doesn’t meet any media standard for printing, cannot be used for creating even a half-useful online image. Imagine someone using this quality for virtually any nefarious abuse of individual privacy.
There isn’t much there. Even with a very high resolution 4K camera, the post-process zoom is effectively useless.
Persons such as the self-proclaimed “DroneSlayer” who shot a drone out of the sky for “taking pictures of his daughter” from an altitude of 200′ above the ground are severely misguided. In the case of the “DroneSlayer,” the shotgun-happy shooter claimed the drone was “10 feet above my fence” when GPS and flight logs demonstrate the drone was not lower than 200′ at any point in time of flight. In other words, it’s apparently difficult for some folks (likely most people) to ascertain altitude. As a skydiver intimately familiar with absolute height over ground, it is indeed, very difficult to ascertain altitude from the ground to the sky without references.
For those that feel some sort of safe harbor from drones “because our community passed laws recently,” know that most of the recently-passed laws are superceded by federal laws. The FAA controls the airspace above your home, not the local mayor or city council.
At this point in time, there is little to be concerned about with regards to privacy. Drones are noisy, the ability of a camera on a drone is very limited, and one will always know when a drone is “that close.”
If a UAV/Drone is flying close to your home, business, or person, look around. The operator/pilot is likely very close by and one can talk to the operator/pilot and learn about what they’re doing with the device.
But know this for certain; drone pilots are not out to surreptitiously take photos of you through your bedroom window, take video of your children playing in their backyard, or spy on your behaviors. The vast majority of UAV/drones out there simply lack the requisite technology to do so with a stealth signature.
Everything in life has rules and most everyone complains about them from time to time. “Traffic is bad today, why can’t I just drive on the sidewalk?” “I just need a quick snack, no one will notice that I swiped a bag of peanuts from the store...”
Drones are no different. Each morning I get up to read my news streams and sure enough, there’s some guy who broke the rules and/or some person complaining about the recommendations or rules for UAV/drones. One can’t blame some of the complainers; the people that are breaking the rules make it more difficult for those of us that try to follow them. And to be fair, some of the UAV/drone rules and laws are not only unreasonable but downright ineffective. Some of them are a knee-jerk reaction from local politicians who are for the most part, ignorant of the FAA and existing laws.
But, why do we need to have these rules in the first place? Why can’t common sense prevail?
Let’s tackle the last one first.
“Common Sense” isn’t common at all.
The Dunning Kruger effect plays a significant role in the UAV/drone community, and if you don’t know what it is, follow the link. You will likely appreciate the reference. We’ve all been “that person” at least once in our lifetimes.
The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.
Many drone owners purchase drones, drive to the park, drop in the battery, and fly. Some may visit webpages, join communities, and at the least gain a basic knowledge of survival skills with their drone. A fraction seek training, read books, or take a course at a local drone instructional. As a result, a small percentage of drone operators fly their vehicles into Ferris wheels, joggers, infants, windows, over ski race courses, etc.
WHY A MAXIMUM OF 400′ AGL?
With limited exception, general aviation is not permitted to fly below 500′ AGL (above Ground Level) in uncongested areas (FAR 91.119). Helicopters have some specific exclusions. This minimum altitude coupled with the UAV maximum of 400′ provides for a 100′ buffer between general aviation and UAV operations. In theory this should work well towards keeping UAV out of the flight path of any general aviation aircraft.
WHY MORE THAN 5 MILES FROM AN AIRPORT/AERODROME?
When aircraft are landing, they fly a “cone” that may have them at various altitudes. This airspace is understandably, highly controlled. The rule does not mean you absolutely cannot fly within these areas; it means operators must contact the control tower before flight.
My experience has been that they’re very willing, polite, and appreciative of the contact. Be prepared to tell them exactly where you’ll be flying (Lat/Long are nice, but I’ve never been asked for those), altitude you’ll be flying (I’ve never asked for more than 400′, but one certainly can ask), time of day you wish to fly, and for how long you’ll be flying. They’ll likely ask for a phone number, and on two occasions, I’ve received a call-back from the tower verifying that my mission is complete.
WHY ARE DRONES VLOS?
This should be fairly self-evident. Visual Line Of Sight means the operator or a spotter can always see the UAV/drone. Currently, FPV without a spotter is not permitted in North America. Using an FPV device does not align with “VLOS.” However, using a spotter is permissible. Someone with control must always have a visual fix on the UAV. This is one of the reasons that UAV flight beyond one mile is generally not a good plan.
NO FLIGHT NEAR PEOPLE OR STADIUMS
Persons not involved/aware of your flight have a right to a reasonable expectation of safety. This includes not being concerned about what might fall on their heads while enjoying a football game. There have already been several instances of UAV/drones falling into stadiums and in at least one case, injuring a spectator. In most cases of stadium flight, the operator was also violating VLOS rules.
WHY IS “MORE THAN 25′ AWAY FROM PERSONS” REQUIRED?
Similar to the above explanation, UAVS can harm people. There have been multiple instances of bystanders being injured, including two infants, during the landing operation of UAV/drones. Aside from it being a rule, it’s simply sensible to take off and land far away from people in the event of an unruly drone. Remember, blades can be very sharp.
HERE’S A LONG RULE:
Do not fly near or over sensitive infrastructure or property such as power stations, water treatment facilities, correctional facilities, heavily traveled roadways, government facilities, etc.
Why? It should be fairly self-explanatory. In one recent drone incident, the pilot flew his DJI Inspire into a power line. The utility company is currently suing him for the $40,000.00 in damages incurred from the UAV cutting lines, manpower to repair/restore electricity, etc.
Not flying over prisons seems self explanatory, no? Avoiding government facilities, such as the recent flyover a nuclear submarine base is likely a good idea, given that if one is caught, jail time and heavy fines are to be expected.
RESPECT THE PRIVACY OF OTHERS
If you fly a typical UAV, you already know that the cameras on these devices is fairly wide-angled, and incapable of taking detailed pictures of the general public without the UAV being very, very close to the subject.
The general public doesn’t know this, and one shouldn’t expect them to.
They don’t know what you know. All they know is that a drone with a camera is pointed their way and like most rational people, they’ll be upset. If you’re going to be shooting photos or video of a landmark or people, be courteous and let them know. Talk to the people around, put up signs, notify authorities; take responsible action to prevent problems for yourself or others that might want to fly in that area in the future.
BE RESPECTFUL OF ANIMALS AND WILDLIFE
This isn’t in the FAA or Transport Canada guidelines; it’s one of my own. Dogs love to chase drones. Dog’s noses are very tender and soft and when a flying Cuisinart blade hits the dog’s nose, blood is likely to ensue.
The same goes for filming wildlife. There are many videos of irresponsible (albeit understandable) drone operators wanting to fly near wildlife who have found their drone being attacked by cheetahs, mountain goats, antelope, monkeys, and other wild animals.
While it’s understandable to want to get close to them in their habitat, be sure to keep a distance where the animal isn’t going to be able to reach the UAV and possibly be harmed by it. Taking a dog to a vet to get a nose stitched up is one thing; capturing and taking an antelope in to get an eye treated is entirely another thing.
All in all, the “rules” are quite simple, if one applies logic and some minimal form of self-evaluation regarding skill. One does not buy a drone and within 10-12 flights become “proficient.”
It takes at least 40 hours of flight time to become reasonably proficient. This equals approximately 120 flights of an average battery time of 20 minutes per flight.
Sound familiar? It requires 40 hours of flight to earn a beginner’s private pilot license, too.
The media are all about small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (sUAV) these days, perhaps better known as “drones.” Drones add significant value to our lives and will become more important as we move forward into the future. However, with all technologies come great responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is how we operate our personal UAV/drones. Last … Continue reading IRRESPONSIBLE DRONE-RSHIP
Recently I was asked “When do you choose to catch your drone vs landing your drone?” Catching a drone in midflight seems to be a badge of honor amongst some drone pilots and the reasoning behind it is baffling. It’s “so easy to do” there are even videos that teach drone operators how to catch … Continue reading Why *I* Don’t Catch my Drone
(also known as lee waves, rotors, and cross-winds) As sUAV/drones become more and more popular, it seems that more and more of them are striking the sides of buildings without the operator understanding why. “It was flying fine and all of a sudden it zipped up and into the side of the building.” … Continue reading UNDERSTANDING TURBULENCE
Millennials this, millennials that, “we’re strategizing how we’ll reach millennials this year; they’re vital to our growth. “We’re holding millennial focus groups to better understand ‘these people’ for the future success of our company…” “They are just so hard to reach because they’re fickle, lazy, ignorant, flip-flopping, narcissistic, undependable people.” Blah blah blah. Google “Millennials … Continue reading DECODING MILLENNIALS
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky Whenever we’re working with a customer, it’s easy to fall into a habit of merely talking about the product, but never actually “trialing” a close, asking a customer their opinion of the feature/benefit you’ve just shown or explained to them. Trial Closes are … Continue reading Keep Trying; TRIAL CLOSES!