Martha Stewart: Why I Love My Drone

Because it’s a useful tool. And imagine what Louis XIV could have accomplished at Versailles if he’d had one

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There’s been a lot of discussion and a tremendous amount of speculation lately about the nature of drones and their role in our society as useful tools and hobbyist toys.
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Last year, while celebrating my birthday in Maine, I was given a drone fitted with a high-definition camera. After a quick introduction to the mechanics of operating the contraption and a few words about its idiosyncrasies, I loaded the appropriate app on my iPad and went down to the beach.
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In just a few minutes I was hooked. In near silence, the drone rose, hovered, and dove, silently and surreptitiously photographing us and the landscape around us. The photos and video were stunning. By assuming unusual vantage points, the drone allowed me to “see” so much more of my surroundings than usual. The view I was “seeing” on my iPad with the help of the drone would have otherwise been impossible without the use of a private plane, helicopter, or balloon. With any of those vehicles, I would have needed a telephoto lens, and all of them would have made an unacceptable commotion on the beach. What’s more, I would not have been in the photos!

So much has been done in the past without drones, airplanes, hot air balloons, or even extension ladders. It is hard to imagine André Le Nôtre laying out the exquisite landscape designs for Vaux-le-Vicomte, and later the magnificent Château de Versailles, with no high hill to stand on, no helicopter to fly in, and no drone to show him the complexities of the terrain. Yet he did, and with extreme precision, accuracy, and high style.

Earlier, Henri IV drew up complicated plans for the immense and elegant redesign of Paris, capital of France. In England, Capability Brown somehow had the innate vision and perspicacity to reconfigure thousands of acres into country estates fit for royalty. He and Sir Humphry Repton invented an entirely new style of landscape design that had little to do with the grand châteaux of France. It became all about the “axis of vision” — relaxed, looming views of the distance that, without an aerial view, required the utmost in fertile imagination.

In the late 1800s, more people wanted the bird’s eye view of city and country and went to extreme lengths to rig up guy-wired telescoping towers, build extension ladders of dangerous lengths, and man hot air balloons, from which intrepid photographers could capture remarkable images—such as those of the Chicago Union Stock Yards and the U.S. Steel Corporation—from heights of 2,000 feet.

What about the Great Wall of China, or the Nazca Lines in southern Peru? I began reflecting on how the engineers and architects of the past accomplished so much without the modern tools we have at our disposal.

My mind started racing and I imagined all the different applications for my drone. I knew that every type of use had already been thought of by others (governmental agencies, businesses, Amazon.com, Google Maps), and I knew I could not even begin to fathom even a fraction of the social, ethical, and political challenges the widespread use of drones would create.

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McPherson, KS: Drones may soon take flight for commercial uses

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By Teri L. Hansen, Staff Writer, McPherson Sentinel, KS
Posted Jul. 21, 2014 @ 2:54 pm 

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or the more common term, drones, are no longer just for the military.

Today drones have a multitude of functions in the civilian world from cinematography to agriculture.

In June, D.D. Studios, an arts and entertainment company, acquired a photography and videography drone that they are using in their studio. DJ1 Phantom 2 Vision Drone carries a 4GB secure digital card and can shoot video in high definition 1080p 30/60i, and photos with a 46mm lens at 14 megapixels. Diana Rose, owner of D.D. Studios, has affectionately named the drone “Mobius.”

“Until the [Federal Aviation Administration] releases its stipulations for the use of drone commercially, we are only using it as a type of hobby,” Rose said. “Farmers have asked for footage of the crops for harvest time, which we did, but we didn’t charge for them.”

Mobius is capable of flying for 25 minutes and can be programmed via GPS auto pilot that has a “come home” function that will send the drone home automatically when the battery gets low. Mobius’ tilt control and zoom functions can be remotely accessed through a smart phone or iPad. It can fly up to 900 feet high, but the FAA has regulation dictates drones can only go up to 400 feet.

Many people have inquired about hiring the company for use of its drone for sporting events, aerial shots of homesteads and weddings, and they can’t wait to be able to use Mobius to make money, Rose said.

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UAV Enthusiasts: Drone Photography Is Not A Crime

Drone Lawsuit

For several drone photography enthusiasts, their own footage has been their best defense against spurious charges.

David Beesmer was arrested by a New York state trooper on Tuesday and charged with a felony — unlawful surveillance in the second degree — for recording aerial video footage of the Mid Hudson Medical Group building in Ulster, New York, which just opened last Monday.

Beesmer was in the area because he had taken his mother to a doctor’s appointment at the hospital. He posted on Facebook that he wanted to fly his aerial drone in the area because he was “so very proud of this facility and that someone has done something positive with the property that has been abandoned for many years.”

But since Beesmer was reportedly flying his $1,300 drone between 10 and 15 feet from the windows of examination rooms at the medical facility — close enough for patients and medical staff to notice it — his use of the equipment became an issue.

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FAA screens ideas about allowing drones for movies

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WASHINGTON – The Federal Aviation Administration received scores of comments about allowing moviemaking companies to fly drones, and the bulk urged safe rules to avoid midair collisions with passenger planes.

Peter Newfield, a technician and location manager for film and video from Soquel, Calif., said drones would be safer than occupied helicopters while flying with less noise, smaller crews and less fire danger while filming, for example around Monterey Bay.

“It is my recommendation to license the professional radio-controlled aircraft companies that are able to pass FAA guidelines,” Newfield said.

Jerry Gardner of Fort Smith, Ark., said the FAA should make some initial rules, such as setting height, speed and weight limits for drones, and “get this show on the road.”

But Nick McMahon, a commercial helicopter pilot with experience in film and television, said a remote pilot should hold a commercial pilot’s license to ensure they are following FAA regulations, which would be prohibitive for many operators.

“So far, it’s clear that no commercial drone operators are complying with any laws,” McMahon said.

Wednesday was the final day for comments. The FAA hasn’t said how fast it will make a decision, but industry lawyers expect an answer within months.

The moviemaking exception is being considered as the FAA develops comprehensive rules for all drones under a congressional deadline of September 2015.

In setting up six experimental ranges to test how drones fly, the FAA focused on safety issues such as avoiding collisions between drones and planes, and ensuring they land safely if they lose connection to their remote pilots.

Commercial drones attract attention because the industry is expected to grow significantly once rules are adopted. The Aerospace Industries Association said the moviemaking proposal is focused on safe operations with licensed airmen at the controls.

In contrast to the much more prolific and emotional outpouring over cellular service aboard passenger planes, the 71 drone submissions tended to offer detailed comments about how FAA could craft rules – or the dangers that drones represent.

For example, several people suggested specific altitude limits for drones such as 250 to 1,000 feet off the ground. While the moviemakers proposed a 400-foot ceiling, McMahon said he routinely flies lower than that and would be endangered.

Richard Mock, a search-and-rescue pilot, voiced concern about seeing and avoiding drones below 1,000 feet.

“It is difficult enough to see and thus avoid larger aircraft,” Mock said. “When you start mixing very small aircraft into the system it will be virtually impossible to see tiny aircraft during daylight hours.”

Several people suggested that drones broadcast signals so that occupied planes would be aware of where they are flying, but that could be a hurdle for many drones that don’t carry such equipment.

“‘See and avoid’ has been for decades the primary rule in safe operation of flights,” Javier Abalo said. “We need to make sure that ‘see and avoid’ is the No. 1 priority for” drone operators.

But several people were deeply skeptical of allowing drones in the same airspace with passenger planes. While the FAA considered the moviemaker proposal, the National Park Service banned drones June 20 above its properties because of concerns about disturbing park visitors or wildlife.

“Just say ‘no,'” Jeffrey Aryan of Corona, Calif., told the FAA. “There is just too much room for abuse from all sides.”

The seven applicants are independent aerial cinematography companies that sought exemptions with the help of the Motion Picture Association of America.

The companies are: Aerial MOB, Asraeus, Flying-Cam, HeliVideo Productions, Pictorvision, Snaproll Media and Vortex.

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Unmanned systems a ‘game changer’ for Dayton photographer

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Andy Snow has always liked new technology. His first copy of Photoshop came on a 3 1/2-inch floppy disk long before it was refined to today’s use.

From his downtown apartment, Snow’s photography business has captured images from around Dayton for over 30 years. And now Snow, who focuses on business photography, says the unmanned aerial system business is going to transform the photography world in a way few other technologies have.

“This is an amazing convergence of technology,” Snow said. “The 14 megapixel camera, the lithium-ion battery, and the constant updates to the firmware.”

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Farm Science Review Offers Farmers First-Time UAS View

DECATUR — Matt Hughes doesn’t mind being one of the first to use an unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, in his farming operation.

The industry is still considered in its infancy, but Hughes and other farmers have started seeing the benefits of using such a system. The UAV Hughes began using this year is a starting point.

“You can’t wait for a perfect system,” said Hughes, a farmer from Shirley. “It is new. This time last year probably only a handful of farmers knew what to do.”

Hughes sees the industry changing as more information becomes available.

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Public Comment Period for Controversial FAA Rules for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (Model Aircraft) Closes Soon

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The Federal Aviation Administration (the FAA) has already received more than 3,000 comments on a controversial Notice of Interpretation (the Notice) regarding the special rule for model aircraft in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (the Act).

The Act directs the Department of Transportation to develop a comprehensive plan to accelerate the integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system and provide guidance regarding the operation of unmanned aircraft systems. The Act defines unmanned aircraft as “an aircraft that is operated without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft.” Unmanned aircraft are more commonly referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones.

Section 336(a) of the Act prohibits the FAA from promulgating any rule or regulation regarding model aircraft if:

  1. the aircraft is flown strictly for hobby or recreational use;
  2. the aircraft is operated in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines;
  3. the aircraft is limited to not more than 55 pounds;
  4. the aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft; and
  5. when flown within five miles of an airport, the operator provides the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (if applicable) with prior notice of the operation.

Section 336(c) defines a “model aircraft” as an unmanned aircraft that:

  • is capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere;
  • is flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft; and
  • is flown for hobby or recreational purposes.

On June 16, the FAA issued the Notice, which provides additional guidance interpreting the special rule in the Act. First, the Notice sets forth the FAA’s position that model aircraft that meet the exception are not necessarily excepted from all rulemaking having an effect on model aircraft, including rulemakings that apply to all aircraft. Second, the Notice interprets the “visual line of sight” requirement to exclude the use of first-person view/remote-person view technology. Third, the Notice interprets the “hobby or recreational purpose” requirement to exclude commercial operations and flights in furtherance of business, or incidental to business. According to the examples provided in the Notice, an operator may fly a model aircraft at the local model aircraft club, but may not receive money for demonstrating aerobatics. Similarly, an operator may take photographs for personal use, but a realtor may not photograph property he or she is trying to sell. An operator of a model aircraft may move a box from point to point without compensation, but may not deliver packages for a fee. Finally, an operator may use model aircraft to view a field to determine if crops grown for personal enjoyment need water, but may not if the crops are grown as part of a commercial farming operation.

The Notice also sets forth the FAA’s position regarding its enforcement authority. Section 336(b) provides that the FAA may pursue enforcement action against persons operating model aircraft who endanger the safety of the national airspace system. In the Notice, the FAA concludes that Congress intended for the FAA to rely on its existing regulations to protect the safety of the national airspace system and sets forth a non-exhaustive list of regulations that apply to model aircraft.

The comment period for the Notice ends on July 25. Comments received to date indicate strong opposition to the rules prohibiting the use of first-person view technology as well as the restrictive interpretation of the phrase “hobby and recreational purpose.”

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Wash State to use unmanned aerial vehicle to monitor wildfires

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UAV will provide information to firefighters

As unusually hot and dry weather increases wildfire danger across the state, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources has received authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration to use an unmanned aerial vehicle in monitoring wildfires that pose an urgent threat, DNR announced today.

 

 “Use of a UAV can help get real-time information to firefighters on the ground,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark. “Just over the last few days we’ve seen more than a hundred fire starts in Washington. Additional information can provide a safer operating environment for firefighters.”

DNR regularly uses airplanes and helicopters to monitor and control wildfires. Wind and smoke can ground these aircraft. A UAV can fly in conditions where manned aircraft cannot, and relay video information that helps fire suppression efforts.

In 2014, the Washington state legislature granted authority to DNR to use UAVs for the specific purpose of wildland fire monitoring and suppression.

Any decision on whether to use a UAV will be made in real time and depend on emergency conditions around a particular wildfire. If a UAV is warranted, the agency will use a “ScanEagle,” which is built by Insitu, a subsidiary of Boeing. The aircraft is about four feet long, has a 10-foot wingspan, weighs about 40 pounds and is equipped with cameras.

Despite the statewide burn ban on DNR-protected lands, weather conditions indicate a tough fire season ahead.

“At a time when resources are stretched, using a UAV can save money and help us accomplish our mission,” said Commissioner Goldmark. “I appreciate the leadership of the legislature, and especially the vision of State Senator Jim Hargrove, in helping us apply this technology to fighting fires, protecting communities and preserving habitat.”

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Dutch fire department announces purchase of Altura UAV

Altura

The Dutch fire department of Twente have  announced their purchase of an Altura unmanned aircraft system from Aerial. Following their purchase the fire department have completed training, obtained all the required permits and attained the necessary certificates in the last couple of months.

The Twente fire department will now start with an initial trial phase, the results of which will be used to determine the added value of unmanned systems for fire departments in the Netherlands. Based on these findings the Minister of Security and Justice, Mr Ivo Opstelten, will decide whether other fire departments in the Netherlands could follow suit.

The Twente fire department expect to improve their operations by employing the Altura to explore fire grounds from above, assessing the origin of the fire with thermal imagery and composing an action plan based on aerial overviews. Additionally, the unmanned system could be used pro-actively by mapping hazardous sites to set an emergency plan in place. Furthermore, the Altura can also carry other sensors like a sniffer, which enables unmanned evaluation of toxin levels in the sky.

The fire department have purchased a basic Altura ATX8 set, consisting of an 8 motor system with a standard 868 Mhz- 2.4 Ghz diversity receiver, which was supplemented by a camera control premium upgrade and an Altura Dupla Vista camera box equipped with a daylight as well as thermal core.

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