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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