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FAA Taking a Look At News Corp's Use of Drone 252

Posted by samzenpus
from the they-have-a-drone? dept.
nonprofiteer writes "The News Corp iPad newspaper has a drone they've been using for news gathering — mainly flying it over disaster zones in N. Dakota and Alabama. However, FAA regulations on drones are very restrictive at the moment, and they're not supposed to be used for commercial purposes (law enforcement is free to use them). The FAA is now examining The Daily's use of its drone. Could this set a precedent for how private businesses can use drones?"
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FAA Taking a Look At News Corp's Use of Drone

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  • Hold on, I thought News Corp has effectively shut down the FAA and they were running just essential safety services.

    • by faedle (114018)

      Yes. And what do you think investigating the safety of unlicensed aircraft falls under?

      • Re:FAA Shutdown (Score:5, Insightful)

        by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @08:58PM (#36980144) Homepage Journal

        Yes. And what do you think investigating the safety of unlicensed aircraft falls under?

        Not only that, but the FAA employees who are still on the job keeping the public safe in the air, are doing so at their own expense. As in, "not getting paid".

        Interesting how public employees are often characterized as "mooches" and "leeches". I wonder how many members of the Tea Party (at least the few who are not on Social Security or disability) would ever put in a day's work for free.

        These FAA employees are what's known as "public servants" and they are apparently more honorable than the Republican senators who ran out of town on vacation rather than fund the agency whose job is regulating air traffic and air safety.

        • Re:FAA Shutdown (Score:5, Insightful)

          by OverkillTASF (670675) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @09:17PM (#36980286)
          I'm a fan of the Tea Party (I won't go so far as to call myself a member, since it's kind of like Anonymous in that regard... It is what you want it to be) and I've done more free work at my current job than I care to think about. I've also volunteered quite a bit of my time to causes slightly more important than my job. I have a feeling that if I thought my job was keeping planes from falling out of the sky, I'd probably keep doing it through a "blip" in my paycheck. Also, if I thought I would be potentially fired on the resumption of my pay. Would you really be comfortable walking away from your job just because the pay stopped temporarily? Don't pretend that wouldn't be held against you...
          • Re:FAA Shutdown (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @10:19PM (#36980772)

            I have a feeling that if I thought my job was keeping planes from falling out of the sky, I'd probably keep doing it through a "blip" in my paycheck.

            And this is where people get you.

            "Your job is important and saves lives. We're gonna cut your pay."
            "Well I'll quit then."
            "You don't consider saving lives more important than money?"
            "I do. I guess I'll keep working for lower pay."
            "Alright, we'll see you in a few months when we cut your pay again."

            If a job is so important that it would cost lives if people went on strike or quit, why are you messing with their pay in the first place? Why aren't they being paid an INCREDIBLE amount, equivalent to at least, I dunno, an entertainer?

            I'm pretty sure the work that any competent FAA employee is worth more than a vast majority of sports stars, popular movie/television stars, popular musicians, and other celebrity figures. And yet they get paid a pittance in comparison.

          • Re:FAA Shutdown (Score:5, Insightful)

            by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @10:48PM (#36981008) Journal

            Would you really be comfortable walking away from your job just because the pay stopped temporarily?

            Yes. I can't speak for other industries, but as a programmer, if a company can't pay me, I take it as a bad sign and immediately start looking for another job. Employers like that just abuse you and take advantage.

          • Re:FAA Shutdown (Score:4, Insightful)

            by jhoegl (638955) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @11:08PM (#36981162)
            Ah, so you like it when the employer has so much power over you that you wouldnt chance being fired. Instead, working long late night hours at the expense of your sanity, your family, and your friends?
            While they get to go home, enjoy their friends, family, and insanity of having a fully stocked fridge of Grey Goose.
            GG sir, you have been sold the "american dream", except you arent living it, you are just dreaming it...
          • Re:FAA Shutdown (Score:5, Insightful)

            by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @11:21PM (#36981258) Homepage Journal

            'm a fan of the Tea Party

            That's fine, but could you please try not to fuck things up for the majority of the country while you're at it?

            Would you really be comfortable walking away from your job just because the pay stopped temporarily?

            You might feel differently if you had a family to support.

            And you might feel differently if you were ever asked to work without a paycheck for a month or more, as the employees of the FAA are doing. I'm not talking about going into the office a few weekends to finish a project and still getting you check every two weeks on schedule, I'm talking about "You're not getting paid at all, and by the way, you no longer have the right to bargain collectively, which is the very thing that made the United States into a 20th century superpower and created a growing (at the time) middle class and brought prosperity and upward mobility to hundreds of millions of people in the last 75 years of the twentieth century before Ronald Reagan decided to treat air traffic controllers the same way he later treated his diapers.

            By the way, this was only 18 months after Ronald Reagan had asked for the support of the air traffic controller union, promising to fight for their rights to collectively bargain and to give them what they were fighting for in their contract dispute. He told them that in writing, too. Not surprisingly, the letter to PATCO (the air traffic controller union) did not make it into the Reagan Library, though a copy exists (or maybe the original) at the Labor & Industry Museum.

            • Re:FAA Shutdown (Score:5, Informative)

              by Chibi Merrow (226057) <mrmerrowNO@SPAMmonkeyinfinity.net> on Thursday August 04, 2011 @12:51AM (#36981892) Homepage Journal

              And you might feel differently if you were ever asked to work without a paycheck for a month or more, as the employees of the FAA are doing.

              Just to be clear, only 40 FAA employees have been asked to work without pay. The rest (who weren't involved in critical safety ops) weren't even given the option and were sent home. Those 40 will be paid once this is all worked out, and they will not under any circumstances walk off the job because they fought tooth and nail to get that position. We've lost a few of our best pilots in the past because they immediately jumped at the chance to work as a safety inspector, and if any of these guys walked off the job there is a line a mile long of people waiting to take their place and work for free on the hope they'd get repaid when things go back to normal.

              Yes, I am serious, this is how hard people actually fight for those particular jobs.

              • And you might feel differently if you were ever asked to work without a paycheck for a month or more, as the employees of the FAA are doing.

                Just to be clear, only 40 FAA employees have been asked to work without pay. The rest (who weren't involved in critical safety ops) .

                I think its pretty horrifying that the US federal Government is going to operate with volunteer safety inspectors. Surely the only safe way to proceed would be to shut down aviation, or pay their people.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Serpents (1831432)
                Not to troll but if it goes on like this the safest option to travel across the US will be by car or train. And if other countries become concerned with degrading safety of US airlines it'll be ships for you if you want to go to Europe... Seriously guys, why don't you just vote all those idiots from their offices? You're a democracy, aren't you?
          • by hedwards (940851)

            It's illegal to work off the clock around here, and with good reason. If they don't pay you file a complaint with the relevant agency and get your money, or at least a lien or some other guarantee of being paid. Working for free is really, really bad and it shows a certain lack of respect for your time and the well being of workers in general.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward
            a) The tea party isn't like anonymous. First if all it is a registered, organized political party that claims their platform is based on reduction of government spending. In reality the tea party is more like lulzsec: a bunch of teenage 'anarchists' that are 'doing it for the lulz' b) This isn't the same as doing your job through a blip, this is paying to do your job despite your employer being incredibly negligent and incapable of doing their own jobs. These FAA folks aren't just taking one for the team, t
          • Re:FAA Shutdown (Score:4, Insightful)

            by KeensMustard (655606) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @09:09AM (#36984614)

            I'm a fan of the Tea Party (I won't go so far as to call myself a member, since it's kind of like Anonymous in that regard... It is what you want it to be)

            Well, it isn't "what you want it to be". What it is is a PR campaign, conceived by a PR company, and funded and some very rich and powerful people, for the purposes of ensuring that their agenda steers America. And that agenda is to keep grinding the poor and middle classes into the dust while ensuring that cooperations pay no taxes and get access to lucrative government work - funded by the poor and middle classes. Reverse wealth re-distribution. When the Tea Party says "we want the government out of our pockets" by our they mean cooperations - and when they say "we want the government out of our lives" they mean they want private cooperations to provide the services that would otherwise provided by the government - they want those contracts. They cherry pick from US history (and whose history could not be cherry picked to tell whatever story you wanted?) to create the illusion that this was the society envisioned by Americas founding fathers. And they carefully construct an illusion that makes the Tea Party seem like a party of scrappers, of ordinary folk espousing the ideals of ordinary folk, when really, those people are just unpaid advertisers of big business and continuing the status quo, while America sinks.

          • by geekoid (135745)

            A blip? you mean 2-3 months worth of pay. I guarantee you they don't make enough money the rest of the year to consider that a 'blip'. how rude.

            " I've done more free work at my current job t"
            liar.

            " I've also volunteered quite a bit of my time to causes slightly more important than my job"
            irrelevant to the topic.

            If your boss said you won't get paid for 3 months, would you continue to work your 8-16 hours a day?

            Would any of the pilot? attendants?

            " Don't pretend that wouldn't be held against you..."

            So your arg

          • I have a feeling that if I thought my job was keeping planes from falling out of the sky, I'd probably keep doing it through a "blip" in my paycheck. Also, if I thought I would be potentially fired on the resumption of my pay. Would you really be comfortable walking away from your job just because the pay stopped temporarily? Don't pretend that wouldn't be held against you...

            I agree, you are correct. But this is really one-sided. At any job, I trade my labor for money. From the employers' point of view, no labor, no money. I don't get paid if I don't work! But then you have situations in which the employer expects labor for no money. It's not just this one, I have heard of many. And like you say, if you refuse, once things are back to normal you're fired; for not working for free!

        • Re:FAA Shutdown (Score:5, Informative)

          by Ceiynt (993620) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @09:33PM (#36980416)
          I'm an air traffic controller in the US. We're getting paid. It's our support and design engineer people that got hosed, as they are paid out of the unfunded trust fund thing, not controllers. Controllers and admin are paid under the regular payroll budget. About 7000 or so FAA employees are on unpaid furlough, and about 10000 contractors are without contract. It basically affects projects to expand or renovate airports. As to the "not getting paid" part, when the federal government almost went on furlough earlier this year, we(controllers) would have been working without pay.
          • Thanks for mentioning us contractors, most of the news stories don't seem to care much about us...

          • by hedwards (940851)

            To be honest, when I started reading about that I became quite happy that I no longer fly. I'm not concerned with controllers purposely doing a half assed job, I just know what it's like to work the same job even as the resources to do it get cut and mistakes are more or less inevitable when that happens.

            The amount of work and the standards don't necessarily decrease just because the funding does.

        • See the FAA ATC below that says, yes, they are getting paid.

          As for this part:

          "the Republican senators who ran out of town on vacation rather than fund the agency"

          Strange that this is what's drawing your ire when the Senate... which as been controlled by Democrats since 2007... hasn't submitted a budget in 2 years.

          • by Mercano (826132)

            Strange that this is what's drawing your ire when the Senate... which as been controlled by Democrats since 2007... hasn't submitted a budget in 2 years.

            The Senate can't submit a budget. All appropriation bills must originate in the House. Senators can advise House leaders what would and wouldn't make it's way through the Senate, but in the end, it's the House's job to get the budget ball rolling.

    • by Larryish (1215510)

      Drone?

      As in, Glen Beck?

  • by Penguinoflight (517245) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @08:23PM (#36979808) Homepage Journal

    Get Johnny 5 to drive it.

  • scary (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sunfly (1248694) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @08:28PM (#36979854)
    As a private pilot, drones scare the #$%@ out of me. Planes are hard enough to see at over 200mph closing speed.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      As a private pilot, drones scare the #$%@ out of me. Planes are hard enough to see at over 200mph closing speed.

      It was worse in Iraq. More than one A-10 flying ground attack missions struck loitering drones. Thankfully the Warthog is a lot tougher than a drone. I'd hate to think of a 737 engine swallowing a small commercial drone and shelling a turbine. Very scary.

    • by mcrbids (148650)

      The only problem with drones is knowing that they're there. They're inevitable, and why I watch the rollout of ADS-B with interest.

      That's why I ALWAYS am on approach control in Echo airspace and up. Here in North Cali, Beale AFB has "temporary" flight restrictions going at least half the time for UAVs in the area, and the only real restriction is that you have to have a VFR flight following or be under IFR.

      Having learned on the "steam guage panel" and now flying with a Garmin 496, I can declare with confide

    • As a private pilot, drones scare the #$%@ out of me. Planes are hard enough to see at over 200mph closing speed.

      And as a hobbyist RC/drone guy, private pilots that think they have the rights to the sky just because they got there first annoy the *** out of me. I place them in credibility right next to those guys at the turn of the century that tried to ban cars from the road because they spooked the horses.

      Drones and planes can coexist under some reasonable rules. I stay under 500' and way away from airports and their approaches. I'd even throw and ADS-B on my drone if the hardware was made light enough. Most of the

      • by sunfly (1248694)

        I'm not worried about RC's below 500', in fact would not mind playing with some with my daughter. If struck an R/C would not likely do enough damage to bring me down.

        I'm worried about the inevitable larger drones flying around with GA aircraft that could cause serious damage from a mid air collision.

        Most of us just fly for fun under visual flight rules, and it is incredible how fast a tiny dot turns into a huge plane in your face.

      • Re:scary (Score:4, Informative)

        by Fastolfe (1470) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @01:36AM (#36982098)

        Drones and planes can coexist under some reasonable rules.

        So this I'm fine with and I agree.

        private pilots that think they have the rights to the sky just because they got there first annoy the *** out of me.

        But this I'm not. The difference between a hobbyist RC/drone guy and an actual pilot is that if a collision occurs, the hobbyist will lose their RC plane while the pilot and his or her passengers (family?) will die. IMO, pilots are quite justified in being frightened of drones/RC planes appearing anywhere other than where they are expected (e.g. parks, below 500'). If we want drones or autonomous aircraft sharing "real" airspace, we need lots more rules/regulations/enforcement, and I think it's reasonable for the bulk of that burden to be on the hobbyist, sorry. But like you say, new technologies like ADS-B might be the bulk of that.

      • Re:scary (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Thursday August 04, 2011 @05:21AM (#36983208) Journal

        I am *both* an RC pilot (helicopters and fixed wing) and a full scale pilot (glider, single and multiengine plus instrument rating), so for me it's not a "them and us" (like it appears to be for you), because I'm counted in "us" for both sides.

        I *have* been buzzed in a full scale by RC aircraft, which was extremely dangerous (it wasn't someone I knew, it was out over the boonies in Texas halfway between Victoria and Houston). For good reasons, you don't go flying either drones or RC aircraft near full scale (we were at 1500 feet, far higher than RC aircraft ever should go, and a largeish yellow RC aircraft passed between our two aircraft - we were in a formation of 2 aircraft). For VFR, see-and-avoid is extremely important, it's extremely difficult to see-and-avoid an RC plane which is perhaps 1/8th the size of something small like a C150. The RC pilot couldn't have possibly had a reasonable idea where exactly his aircraft was relative to ours due to the aircraft being at a minimum 1500 feet away from him (and in controlled airspace). Had we collided, the RC pilot would have been without a few hundred bucks. At best, the repairs would cost me several thousand (or even the loss of the entire airframe if the damage were bad enough) or at worst I could have ended up dead. The stakes are much higher if you're in a full scale aircraft so it's only right that full scale wants anything unmanned to have adequate systems to prevent collisions!

        Private pilots don't have an entitlement complex - it's that if the air has a lot of drones in it the stakes are pretty damned high - a collision can easily kill you. For the drone owner the stakes are very very low. They lose a bit of hardware, big deal. Therefore do you think it's surprising that full scale pilots don't like it? Especially when to accomodate the drone pilots, full scale pilots will have to fit their aircraft with extremely expensive hardware, probably costing a lot more than the entire cost of your drone. Anything that goes into a full scale aircraft has to be certified and have a paper trail a mile long, and therefore tends to be extremely expensive. Full scale pilots therefore feel that to pursue your hobby, you are imposing some serious costs onto them.

        Generally with my full scale hat on I have no problems with RC, generally RC is pretty self-limiting, you can't fly too far away without the aircraft becoming a dot you can't really control, and an RC pilot watching their model can do an adequate job of see and avoid (and collisions between RC and full scale are rare enough that I've only ever heard of one). However, this isn't the case with FPV and drones where the aircraft can easily be beyond visual range of the owner.

        Drones in particular I think by regulation will need some kind of safety systems to prevent them from wandering where they shouldn't be. It's all very well having ADS-B, but systems fail, and drones need adequate failsafes to prevent them entering airspace where they shouldn't be, and it should be put in the regulations that the drones have this kind of thing. Failsafes like monitoring the ADS-B out and shutting down the engine as soon as a problem is detected. RAIM equipped GPS, etc. Unlike RC they don't really have the "self limiting" feature of needing to be seen adequately enough to be able to control the aircraft, they can easily operate at beyond visual range of the owner or any spotter he may have. Being in the RC world I do know that quite a few RC pilots don't have exactly the approach to safety that full scale pilots have, after all their butt isn't in the plane. (Personally all my models have a failsafe, and I test the failsafe. The last thing I want is my 12 cell T-Rex 600 flying off into the distance and colliding with something, there is a *lot* of energy in those rotor blades and they can do a great deal of damage. People have been killed by similar sized RC helicopters).

        If you want to operate in the same airspace as full scale, you'll need to follow the same regulations as full scale, that means you ne

  • If you read the story they simply responded and said they would investigate the use of drones based upon what was basically a complaint about the situation. This could have just as easily been their brush off move, making this at this stage, a non story. The company that sells the relevant Microdrone markets it as for use by real estate and many other purposes which I am sure is the case. The drone in question was: http://www.microdrones.com/produkt-md4-1000-behoerden-en.php [microdrones.com]
    • by plover (150551) *

      And Microdrones is safely in Deutschland, far away from the rules of the FAA. They can market them for whatever purposes are allowable in Germany. So I can only assume commercial use by real estate agents is legal there.

  • The "News Corp iPad newspaper" is The Daily - http://www.thedaily.com/ [thedaily.com]

    • Terrible, but not unexpected; N.I. are the bad guy of the moment. The sad part is that it will only be for the moment.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Wyatt Earp (1029)

        They are jackasses, but the summary could have at least used the title of the magazine rather than "News Corp iPad Newspaper", when further down in the bit taken from the Forbes blog named the Daily, but didn't have a URL to it.

        That said, the Daily is pretty good, not much News Corp bias in it, a far-left coworker who hates everything Fox News/NI turned me onto the Daily after trying it out when it launched in March.

        • by hedwards (940851)

          They did, but the mention was near the end of the summary which probably wasn't the wisest choice of placement.

  • by waddgodd (34934)

    I'd like to know how the FAA is investigating this, they've been closed down the last month because their funding bill's become a political football and they ran out of budget the first week in July

  • As a drone pilot, I feel the scare factor of drones are way over rated. Yes, there are issues, but nothing that can't be handled with the proper procedures. People don't bat an eye at flying in clouds with other planes, but put a plane without a person on it in the sky and all of a sudden we have a flight risk. But scary is what sells on the news (and in APOA).

    This little thing is the same thing as a hobby RC plane. I doubt any pilot out there is seriously concerned about RC planes, and this fits in tha

    • by Fastolfe (1470)

      I'm not seriously concerned about RC planes, but only because they stick to parks and you don't see them above 500' (you won't see me below 500' unless it's near an airport). Commercial RC planes are probably not going to be doing orbits around a public park at 500', so by their very nature their behavior is going to differ from what's been demonstrated to be fairly safe.

      The reason flying through clouds is a non-issue is because (a) there exists equipment to make that safe; (b) ATC is there to ensure safet

    • by Alioth (221270)

      When people are flying in the clouds they:

      - have an instrument rating, which means they have been tested on their knowledge of "the system" with a practical, a written and an oral test.
      - are talking to air traffic control
      - are following certain navigational procedures (altitudes to fly)
      - it's their butt on the line so they are careful to do it well because generally they want to still be alive at the end of the flight.

      RC and drones on the other hand are flown by people who don't know the rules of the air. F

  • Sure, it has the word "drone" in its name, but a Parrot AR.Drone is not a drone. The "Daily Drone" is a Parrot AR.Drone [observer.com], a remote-controlled quadricopter that has no drone capability. It has to be flown by a real person from an iThingy.
  • Could this set a precedent for how private businesses can use drones? I know we've all said it, but thank god I am alive to see a news story where that sentence was appropriate commentary

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