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Ask Slashdot: Time To Regulate Domestic Drones? 190

Posted by Soulskill
from the or-time-to-domesticate-regulator-drones? dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Earlier this week, a small helicopter drone tumbled out of the sky over midtown Manhattan, crashing to the sidewalk near Grand Central Station. On the way down it almost hit a businessman, who plucked out the video card from the wreckage and handed it over to a local television-news station. In the video, the drone (a Phantom Quadcopter) lifts off from what looks like an apartment terrace and buzzes its merry way toward some nearby skyscrapers, pausing for a few panoramic surveys of the Manhattan skyline. But the operator is clearly inexperienced, crashing the vehicle against the side of a building, and the flight lasts a mere three minutes before a final collision sends it to the street. Drone enthusiasts and engineers blamed the Quadcopter's poor performance on the pilot's possible reliance on GPS mode; when flying in an area crowded with tall buildings (and they don't get much taller or more crowded than in Manhattan) that block GPS signals, a vehicle can quickly think it's off-target and attempt to correct, leading to crashes. In theory, the FAA forbids the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles over crowded areas such as Manhattan, but that hasn't stopped any number of hobbyists from launching drones. And hobbyists aside, the industry for commercial drones is picking up: over the summer, the FAA approved a pair of small, unmanned aircraft systems for flight, and Airware (which builds autopilot computers for drones) recently accepted funding from Google Ventures. That's led legislators to begin exploring ways to regulate domestic drone use (particularly with regard to use by law enforcement), and it begs the question: should drones be regulated? And if so, how?" A similar incident just happened in Australia, where a small drone operated by an unknown owner crashed into the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Counter-terrorism officials felt they had to investigate, of course.
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Ask Slashdot: Time To Regulate Domestic Drones?

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  • Video card? (Score:4, Informative)

    by ArcadeMan (2766669) on Friday October 04, 2013 @05:21PM (#45039581)

    Why would drones have videocards? Oh wait, the guy doing the reporting is stupid and was talking about an SD card that had a video file of the flight on it.

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      Oh wait, the guy doing the reporting is stupid and was talking about an SD card ...

      Stupid and ignorant are two different things. We have an old guy at work with 2 PhDs under his belt yet he calls the computer case the CPU. Is he stupid? No. He's probably the smartest person in the building. He just has no clue about computers.

      Reporters are expected to report on an incredibly wide array of subjects using accounts and statements from witnesses who often have even less of a clue. You can't expect them to get everything right every time.

    • by mysidia (191772)

      Why would drones have videocards? Oh wait, the guy doing the reporting is stupid and was talking about an SD card that had a video file of the flight on it.

      It's a memory card that contains stored video, therefore a "Video Card"

      It makes perfect sense.

      It's not a graphics processing unit, BUT the computer hardware industry doesn't have a monopoly over the use of the phrase "Video card"

      Any device that is shaped like a card and does something with video data can be called a 'video card'.

      • BUT the computer hardware industry doesn't have a monopoly over the use of the phrase "Video card"

        Who said it did?

        Any device that is shaped like a card and does something with video data can be called a 'video card'.

        In aspie world it can, because it's populated with tediously literal asshats. On planet normal it's considered retarded to use an existing phrase to mean something else.

        Like if I go sit on the lawn to eat and call the implement I'm using a "garden fork".

        Whoever posted it to this site should hav

        • by mysidia (191772)

          On planet normal it's considered retarded to use an existing phrase to mean something else.

          Good thing we live on a planetary body named planet Earth, and not planet normal. This "planet normal" place sounds very strange indeed.

          So if you do move to planet normal, you have to stop using the phrase -- "Video Card" to refer to a piece of electronics; In planet normal, a card looks like this [google.com]

          On planet Earth, it's pretty common to use words to refer to what they literally mean; even if there might be a c

    • by multisync (218450)

      Why would drones have videocards? Oh wait, the guy doing the reporting is stupid and was talking about an SD card that had a video file of the flight on it

      Yeah, apparently the businessman handed the "video card" over to a local TV station, who presumably put it in their "hard drive" so they could "download" it.

  • Double regulation? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 04, 2013 @05:22PM (#45039597)

    The article states the FAA already has regulations, so WHY the call for more? Just enforce what is there and stop making it harder to actually follow laws and regulations.

    • The article states the FAA already has regulations, so WHY the call for more? Just enforce what is there and stop making it harder to actually follow laws and regulations.

      You got to my comment before me. The title of the piece is misleading, since it is already regulated. It is already enforced too, but you just have to catch a violator to inflict a penalty on them.

    • by CODiNE (27417)

      Perhaps their thinking is...

      If there is already a law, and yet these things still happen.

      Then the existing law isn't "good" enough.

      (Replace "good" with your choice of punitive, threatening, scary, etc)

  • Drones? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oldmac31310 (1845668) on Friday October 04, 2013 @05:24PM (#45039611) Homepage
    So, basically, any machine that flies and is remotely operated is a drone nowadays? This 'drone' word is being way overused.
    • Probably just an issue of vernacular: 'drone' rolls of the tongue much more readily than 'remote controlled quadcopter.'

      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        Probably just an issue of vernacular: 'drone' rolls of the tongue much more readily than 'remote controlled quadcopter.'

        But "toy" is even easier to roll off the tongue, and more appropriate when the devices they're calling "drones" are $50 (or even $500) toys.

        • But "toy" is even easier to roll off the tongue, and more appropriate when the devices they're calling "drones" are $50 (or even $500) toys.

          How much it costs doesn't matter much if it weighs a few pounds and falls on your head from 100m up, or flies into your windscreen while you're driving through a residential neighbourhood, or sits outside your home with its cameras pointing through a gap in your daughter's curtains while she gets changed.

    • by Lumpio- (986581)
      Let me blow your mind: there are also bees called "drones". They are neither machines nor remotely operated, all they do is fly!
      • by gmuslera (3436)
        Please, don't blow his mind with drones. Terrorists is another overused word.
    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      drone
      Pronunciation: /slashdot sucks at funny looking characters/
      n.
      A remote-controlled pilotless aircraft

      A quad-copter relying on GPS control with a minimal amount of remote pilot interaction sounds like a drone to me.

      Mind you the other definition is a continuous low humming sound which if you've ever played with a quad-copter is also correct.

    • So, basically, any machine that flies and is remotely operated is a drone nowadays? This 'drone' word is being way overused.

      Right, I propose we adopt the Japanese term: Salaryman.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's even improper use of the vernacular. Within the circles of people who actually deal with these things (which I am) they are called Unmanned Aircraft (UA) Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAV) Unmanned Air System (UAS which includes the launcher and GCS), sometimes RPV (Remotely Piloted Vehicle) or RPA (Remotely Piloted Aircraft). What they are NEVER called is drones, and that is simply because a drone is something else, specifically a target like a BQM-74 or QF-4 or the newly minted QF-16. Even UAVs, when conver

    • So, basically, any machine that flies and is remotely operated is a drone nowadays? This 'drone' word is being way overused.

      It does actually fit the definition:
      1
      : a stingless male bee (as of the honeybee) that has the role of mating with the queen and does not gather nectar or pollen
      2
      : one that lives on the labors of others : parasite
      3
      : an unmanned aircraft or ship guided by remote control

      Source: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/drone [merriam-webster.com]

    • by antdude (79039)

      I am not a drone either, but you are. :)

  • by a.d.trick (894813) on Friday October 04, 2013 @05:25PM (#45039617) Homepage
    A 3 pound object falling 15 could easily kill someone without a helmet. Even with a helmet your chances aren't that stellar.
    • by stenvar (2789879) on Friday October 04, 2013 @05:42PM (#45039755)

      Yeah, a 3 pound object like a flower pot, a window pane, a coke bottle, a chunk of rock, a purse, a model airplane, or any of many other kinds of objects that tumble off buildings. Are you going to make new, separate laws for each class of object? Why???

    • public opinion... Drones are bad, ban drones.... blah blah b.s.

      But really, the continued use of these things by inexperienced pilots is going to cause newsworth injury or death sooner or later, just like bucky balls...

    • A 3 pound object falling 15 could easily kill someone

      Very unlikely with a flying device of any kind, because the weight is distributed over a large area with many parts that will crumple on impact, and terminal velocity is greatly reduced by the amount of resistance it would have falling through the air - a quad-rotor free-falling would probably act more like a leaf than a rock.

      • by Hentes (2461350)

        True, but if the rotors start spinning, they can cause serious injury. Drones should use ducted fans, they are much safer.

    • A 3 pound object falling 15 could easily kill someone without a helmet. Even with a helmet your chances aren't that stellar.

      Foolish person does stupid inconsiderate thing. Rocks are dangerous too. By the time that object is 15 it should know better.
      I have a 20 meter tall walnut tree and that scares me too as that is high enough for a walnut to reach near terminal velocity (v=sqrt(2ad). I think that squirrels should be imprisoned because they chew them off and them fumble them with out any consideration that I have to get the lawn mowed.
      If stupid was an enforceable crime then congress would have to hold session in the prison la

  • "Begs The Question" (Score:5, Informative)

    by getto man d (619850) on Friday October 04, 2013 @05:26PM (#45039623)
    "..and it begs the question: should drones be regulated?"

    No it does not beg the question [begthequestion.info].
    • First of all, stop being pedantic. Second, the statement "FAA forbids the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles over crowded areas" is begging the question. It is basically saying "X should be regulated, because X is forbidden." If that isn't assuming the initial point (petitio principii), I don't know what is.
    • by dfsmith (960400)
      I especially liked the web site's reasoning that "beg does not mean 'beg' and question does not mean 'question'" in the original translation. I think the begthequestion.info web site is a dumb terminal; where dumb does not mean 'mute' and terminal does not mean 'point of departure'.
    • "..and it begs the question: should drones be regulated?"

      No it does not beg the question [begthequestion.info].

      I also used to attempt to point out the misunderstanding of this phrase. Then I grew up and realized that since at least 95% of the population now uses it the "modern" way and since the original meaning makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, it is utterly pointless to continue trying to correct this modern usage. English may not be evolving as quickly as it used to but it nevertheless is still a living language that changes over time, and there is absolutely nothing you or I can do about it. The original mea

  • by Lendrick (314723) on Friday October 04, 2013 @05:29PM (#45039651) Homepage Journal

    So you're going to make the drones go away by adding more government?

    So you're going to make the government go away by adding more government?

    So you're governmenting to make the government go government by governmenting government government?

    Government government government government government government government government government government government government government?

    I'm an anarchocapitalist!

    • The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy.

      • ... and we must sacrifice our freedoms to protect our freedoms.

        Doubleplusgood!

        • by Lendrick (314723)

          "Someone who wants rule of law deserves neither rule nor law. Also, warlords who come to your house, murder you, and take all your stuff are the same as the IRS."

          - Benjamin Einstein Lincoln

    • on your own Reaper or Predator Drone

      I'm sure we can get the NRA and the Military/Industrial complex behind this!

      the next logical step would then be drone-killer drones, killer drone killer drones, etc

      -I'm just sayin'
      • by durrr (1316311)

        We need to invent the NSAMA, that would take care of the drone problem.

        I'll let you figure out the acronym.

    • by Obfuscant (592200)

      I'm an anarchocapitalist!

      No, if you were a true anarchocapitalist, you'd have written:

      GOVERNMENT ...

      And thank God /. has a "lameness" filter to stop lame jokes:

      Lameness filter encountered. Post aborted! Filter error: Don't use so many caps. It's like YELLING.

      /. has apparently never heard of true anarchocapitalists.

    • Because a few 'criminals' (that is, someone who breaks the law) cause problems, why do we need to make the people who follow the laws suffer with more regulation???

      I got it!!! Register all drones. Create a bunch of rules that will keep people what shouldn't have drones from having them. Create obstacles so that those the follow the law already and don't cause problems bear the brunt of the new regulations.

      Outlaw drones .. and only outlaws will have drones.....

      If the existing laws are being ignored,
    • So you're going to make the drones go away by adding more government?

      So you're going to make the government go away by adding more government?

      So you're governmenting to make the government go government by governmenting government government?

      Government government government government government government government government government government government government government?

      I'm an anarchocapitalist!

      Damn I should have thought of that when I chose my pseudo...

  • and they get messed up in an area crowded with tall buildings

    • This is the exact reason autonomous cars do not rely on GPS for navigation. Typical sensor suites for an autonomous car in addition to GPS include: Inertial Navigation System, high resolution odometry encoders, 2D lasers, 3D lasers, and 3D stereo vision. The data from all these sensors are fused together to create a high accurate (to within 10 centimeters in my experience) localization of the robot car.
      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        Typical sensor suites for an autonomous car in addition to GPS include: Inertial Navigation System, high resolution odometry encoders, 2D lasers, 3D lasers,

        Give me a million dollars or I'll turn my autonomous car loose upon your streets...

      • But it still get lost it may be able to see the road but don't know where it's going.

        • If it knows your position at some point it should still be able to extrapolate your position at a later point, think accelerometer, compass, or even cameras/lasers to build a 3D model of the environment around you and compare it to the map.

  • (particularly with regard to use by law enforcement)

    If they are concerned about use by law enforcement, this this will do no good. Law enforcement doesn't obey the law, they are above the law. Anyone paying attention knows that they just do whatever they want. If they are ever caught the only "punishment" is to give some tax payer money to someone.

  • That's no drone... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PNutts (199112) on Friday October 04, 2013 @05:38PM (#45039725)

    / force

    It's a frickin' toy. And what's up with taking the SD card and giving it away? If a car crashes in front of him will he start picking up items and handing them out?

    • The summary says he is a 'businessman', so clearly he is devoid of scruples.
    • If a car tried to run me down and kill me but crashed, and I noticed that it had a dash board camera, I might certainly take the memory card from the camera, particularly if there was no one trying to stop me. Who it is given to, cops, news media or a lawyer depends on the details of the case. But in this example I think it was better to give it to the news media than to give it to cops who are likely to be too stupid, too lazy, or too corrupt to do anything proper with it.

      Your supposedly moral position of

      • by PNutts (199112)

        Fine, be disgusted. Your assumptions about my opinion are incorrect and your analogy isn't applicable. The SD card is property.

  • by stenvar (2789879) on Friday October 04, 2013 @05:41PM (#45039737)

    In theory, the FAA forbids the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles over crowded areas such as Manhattan, but that hasn't stopped any number of hobbyists from launching drones.

    How is this different from any other model aircraft? Quadcopters are probably a lot less dangerous than all the other kinds of model aircraft people have been flying for decades.

    It's simple: if you hurt or kill someone with a "drone", you're going to be held responsible just when you do the same with any other kind of object, vehicle, weapon, or model aircraft. And if you fly model aircraft where you shouldn't, you can be held responsible for that already.

    Now, stop making new stupid laws that simply duplicate already existing, perfectly good laws.

  • Before you scream "Think of the children!" shouldn't you at least wait until one gets bruised?

    As it stands now, I'd prefer the drones stay unregulated - I'm planning a trip to Manhattan to collect free quad-copter parts and memory cards.

  • by DRAGONWEEZEL (125809) on Friday October 04, 2013 @05:56PM (#45039873) Homepage

    There are FAA safety rules for flight, and AMA rules for hobyists. Even small toy helicopters & planes can be quite dangerous.
    AMA = Academy for Model Aeronautics (SP?) (This is the group that oversees most model aircraft clubs)

    AMA clearly states thou shalt not fly over people, in crowded areas, or in a manner that might end up w/ your aircraft in a situation where it could cause harm.
    This is no differnt than driving an RC car on a busy road. NOT BRILLIANT. (Though to be 100% honest, I'm all for cul de sacs, and the occasional county freeway...)

    The guy clearly broke AMA rules, and if a member should have his status revoked. Also, I'm sure he broke the law, but befor we go TOO crazy, what if someone hit a softball in downtown NYC? a baseball? a rock... I'm pretty sure aimlessly throwing rocks isn't itself explicitly illegal yet.
    IMHO a quadcopter is a rock w/ four props and a helluva battery...

    I just can't believe the dumb a$$ lost a decent craft trying to fly near buildings which create crazy vertical wind sheer using GPS at that.
    My biggest problem is dicks like this are going to make it harder for guys like me because the public will cry outrage, and think of the children. It won't be long before one of these DO hurt or kill someone.

    I'm sure many /.. readers are interested in this kinda stuff. It's a great hobby btw. I suggest reading up on Wattflyer.com, DIYDrones.com, and RCPlanet.com. A bucketload of information abounds for those interested in doing heli's,quads, fixed wing, FPV & Drone flight. Learn to fly on a simulator, then learn again w/ an AMA chartered club. There everywhere, and you'll save tons of $ in broken planes.

  • Already regulated (Score:4, Informative)

    by PPH (736903) on Friday October 04, 2013 @05:57PM (#45039879)

    the FAA forbids the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles over crowded areas such as Manhattan,

    Looks like an applicable regulation to me. And it looks like the operator was in clear violation. No news here.

  • "the FAA forbids the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles over crowded areas such as Manhattan" It's already a UAV free zone. What's the plan for further regulation? No uavs over 16oz?
  • Regulations as such. (Score:4, Informative)

    by bmo (77928) on Friday October 04, 2013 @06:12PM (#45040013)

    the FAA forbids the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles over crowded areas such as Manhattan

    If it's for hobbyist reasons, no, it doesn't.

    From the FAQ:

    Do I need to get approval from the FAA to fly a model aircraft for recreation?

    No. FAA guidance does not address size of the model aircraft. FAA guidance says that model aircraft flights should be kept below 400 feet above ground level (AGL), should be flown a sufficient distance from populated areas and full scale aircraft, and are not for business purposes. 1, 2

    http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/uas/uas_faq/#Qn2 [faa.gov]

    pdf1: http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/uas/reg/media/frnotice_uas.pdf [faa.gov]

    pdf 2: http://rgl.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guidance_Library/rgAdvisoryCircular.nsf/0/1acfc3f689769a56862569e70077c9cc/$FILE/ATTBJMAC/ac91-57.pdf [faa.gov]

    The second PDF applies to model aircraft. The first to SRS BZNS "money making" UAVs. It's when you start getting into SRS BZNS that the FAA says you need a waiver.

    These quadcopters that are less than two feet across (even though the FAA in the second PDF says they don't define by size) that aren't SRS BZNS are obviously "model aircraft" and have never been needed to be regulated

    The second PDF cited above has "guidelines" for "good neighborliness." They are good ideas if you don't want to injure anyone (where the real risk lies) and get sued in civil court for negligence. But they are not hard and fast administrative laws

    --
    BMO

  • As with many activities, people who break the already existing rules mess things up for everyone.

    I was at the exciting finale of the America's Cup out on the pier with something like 10,000+ people watching the boats race to the finish line shadowed by three helicopters providing video coverage. So what does some dope do? Launches his quadcopter from the middle of an outdoor crowd and flys it out over the finish area. What part of "away from populated areas" and "away from aircraft operations" did this idio

  • by Lumpy (12016)

    Time to regulate government drones. They need to be required to notify citizens of their use and their location at any time they are in use above american soil.

  • You can't legally fly so much as a toy helicopter anywhere outside in New York City except in a few designated parks which require membership to certain clubs. None are in Manhattan. So what are you going to do, make it even MORE illegal?

    • by kwbauer (1677400)

      That is the general plan of the "more government is the answer to everything" crowd. Somebody misuses something, regulate it more. Somebody misuses it again, restrict its purchase. Somebody misuses it again after having bought it illegally, make it illegal to own. Somebody still misuses it, make it illegal to own anything similar.

  • A similar incident just happened in Australia, where a small drone operated by an unknown owner crashed into the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Counter-terrorism officials felt they had to investigate, of course.

    Well perhaps if the person who wrote the summery bothered to do some basic research they would know that Sydney is current at a high alert level and for a good reason.

    http://www.navy.gov.au/ifr/ [navy.gov.au]

  • by b4upoo (166390) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @06:23AM (#45043063)

    Like so many other situations only one side of the issue is being weighed. The nay sayers will point to all the supposed negatives that just might happen. But no notice is taken of the good these drones can do. Drones are so new that we haven't even imagined what can be done with drones. Obviously drones can stop a lot of crime. Drones can also save lives and do so already. Maybe soon we will see drones delivering pizza. But all we will hear about are the supposed negatives of allowing drones. We can not allow the extreme conservatives to constantly inhibit new technologies. Human activity has risks. Usually we can not calculate the benefits but that in no way implies that the benefits do not far outweigh the negatives. And as adults we do need to understand that we simply can not measure the good results from many activities. It is time to change our usual modes of behavior and thoughts.

  • According to the summary ("the FAA forbids the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles over crowded areas such as Manhattan") there are already regulations in place that are being ignored. The solution to ignored regulations is not more regulations; it is more enforcement of existing regulations.

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