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Commercial Drones Taking To the Skies 148

Posted by Soulskill
from the crowdsourced-erosion-of-privacy dept.
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from the NY Times: "A new federal law, signed by the president on Tuesday, compels the Federal Aviation Administration to allow drones to be used for all sorts of commercial endeavors — from selling real estate and dusting crops, to monitoring oil spills and wildlife, even shooting Hollywood films. Local police and emergency services will also be freer to send up their own drones. But while businesses, and drone manufacturers especially, are celebrating the opening of the skies to these unmanned aerial vehicles, the law raises new worries about how much detail the drones will capture about lives down below — and what will be done with that information. Safety concerns like midair collisions and property damage on the ground are also an issue."
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Commercial Drones Taking To the Skies

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  • The government can spy on you without all those drones. They have planes
    • by EdIII (1114411)

      How many? Enough to cover everywhere at the same time?

      My concern is that a private corporation might mass produce drones to take pictures and identify objects and build a huge search engine for it. Or perhaps just add the data to a massive database they have already.

      Government could just access that as well as a ton of other people that don't really have your best interests at heart.

      • My concern is that a private corporation might mass produce drones to take pictures and identify objects and build a huge search engine for it. Or perhaps just add the data to a massive database they have already.

        Google Earth Street view 2.0? (not just restricted to ground level)

      • by artor3 (1344997)

        A huge searchable database of images from all over the world? That would be awesome!

        What exactly are you worried about, specifically? What are these drones going to see you doing that you're so afraid of them? Can you come up with a realistic example?

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Yeah, it would be super awesome! Just imagine all the possibilities for stalking ex-girlfriends! And if women don't want to be watched everywhere they go then they shouldn't break up with me, so it's really their own fault.

        • by anagama (611277)

          Privacy is a self-validating principal.

          The "if you have nothing to hide, why do you care" line of reasoning, is the primary tool of tyrants, and how can you be sure you have nothing to hide from that type? Depending on their whims, the time of day you go to bed may be a black mark.

          • by Sulphur (1548251)

            Privacy is a self-validating principal.

            The "if you have nothing to hide, why do you care" line of reasoning, is the primary tool of tyrants, and how can you be sure you have nothing to hide from that type? Depending on their whims, the time of day you go to bed may be a black mark.

            Principals tend to be self validating. Principles OTOH not so much.

          • I've been able to see my last two years of 'medicine gardens' mature on Google earth (Just south of the tomatoes, next to the garage). That is still a federal crime, but nobody cares.

            The only thing this will change is real time monitoring.

          • by anubi (640541)

            The "if you have nothing to hide, why do you care" line of reasoning, is the primary tool of tyrants

            But they sure want their secrets kept secret, no?

        • Why does this argument keep showing up? I thought we debunked this already.

          You don't do anything wrong when you sleep, use the toilet, or make love to your significant other and yet these things are still private and I think we would all agree that the government has no right to monitor them.
    • by erroneus (253617)

      They don't need government spies... just "commercial contractors" who act on the government's behalf. If we learned anything from the wars in the middle east, it's that contractors can do and get away with things that "soldiers" can't. And what we learned from the warrantless wiretapping crap is that data collection by contractors doesn't need a warrant and will be given retroactive immunity if they are sued for their activities.

    • by memnock (466995)

      I'm looking forward to commercial SAMs [wikipedia.org].

  • Directions please... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cornwallis (1188489) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @03:35PM (#39087085)

    Can anyone point me to a good EMP-type device that might work agains these things? I know the cops were experimenting with such a device to stop automobiles in their tracks.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by spire3661 (1038968)
      Given the current political climate, do you REALLY think that is a wise avenue to be pursuing in 'public'?. O i see by your username that you have no common sense, continue
      • Very good!

        Of course if I get tossed in the slammer for asking a rhetorical question* I don't get to pay off student loans, my mortgage, my property taxes and I'll get three squares and free healthcare for life. Sounds like I win.

        * EVERY question I ask is a rhetorical question. I Love Big Brother.

    • Just need a Shotgun (Score:4, Informative)

      by sycodon (149926) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @03:42PM (#39087147)

      Really... it's already been done. [telepresenceoptions.com]

      ROFLMAO!

      • Talk about a bad fucking shot. If I were the man behind the trigger I would never show my face again. The copter was several times the size of a clay pigeon, moving very slowly, and it took - what - 6 shots to nick the thing. Now it sounded like he was using a rifle, not a shotgun, which makes it a bit more challenging (why did you bring a rifle to a shotgun fight anyway?). Piss poor marksmanship, imho.

        • by sycodon (149926)

          Funny none-the-less. :-)

          • What's funny is that a group of animal rights activists got a bunch of gun wielding hunters to tuck their tail and run away.
      • by artor3 (1344997)

        On the one hand, extreme animal rights groups like this one tend to be really obnoxious and a tad crazy. On the other, shooting at an elevated target in the direction of a populated area? That is extremely dangerous, and the people who would be at an event like that surely knew it. They risked harming or killing another human being because they were angry.

        Gun owners always claim that guns are safe as long as the people using them know what they're doing and follow best practices. These guys should be as

      • Regardless what you think about the group who were launching the drone, I think we can all agree that our first reaction to seeing the ugly thing would be to shoot first and ask questions later. Years of first person shooter games with enemies that fly around have permanently implanted the reaction into my brain.

        And then the drone shooters "fled scene on small motorized vehicles". Weird, but awesome.

        • > Years of first person shooter games with enemies that fly around have permanently implanted the reaction into my brain.

          The fact the current resolution is a lot higher than what you're used to, should clue your inhibition engine to kick in ;-)

    • by artor3 (1344997)

      Ah, Slashdot. The world's only technology site populated by Luddites.

      Newsflash, buddy... The people you're so terrified of already have helicopters. What's wrong with making flight cheaper and more accessible?

      • by gmuslera (3436) *
        I am not afrad of machines, but are very afraid of the (layers of) humans behind them. A noisy, isolated, with visible identification and visible helicopter is no match for a swarm of drones, remotely controlled by who knows how much people, and with "requisites".
        • by artor3 (1344997)

          Why?

          The people controlling these things are just people. They are no different from your friends, your relatives, your neighbors, or any random joe you meet on the street. They aren't out to get you.

          If there are particular government policies that bother you (e.g. the war on drugs), then that's a valid concern and something that you should fight against through votes, activism, etc. But saying that technology shouldn't advance because you think that there's some shadowy conspiracy the members of which ar

          • by Knuckles (8964)

            Why?

            The people controlling these things are just people. They are no different from your friends, your relatives, your neighbors, or any random joe you meet on the street. They aren't out to get you.

            Poor argument IMHO, because groups of people exhibit emergent behaviors - behaviors which any single member on their own would not show. Take any large-scale abomination committed in human history, and the people involved were always no different to friends, neighbors, relatives, etc. This is no guarantee that they won't do terrible and stupid things.

          • They aren't your friends, they are members of a privileged unit that obeys a handful of people up the command pyramid who might as well be aliens from another planet. Yes, technology progresses, but when government starts developing mass pacification equipment or researches formulations for large-scale gas chambers the goal should be blocking acquisition, suggesting make-believe legal limitations on deployment.
          • by gmuslera (3436) *

            Weapons don't kill people, the people handling them does. Sometimes could be one friend, or relative, or random joe, that ends kill someone because is not aware of the full consequences (is just pressing a trigger, not actually hitting with their fist to someone), or because the people that picked him to handle that weapon did it because is not someone afraid to use it against other people, or just by mistake.

            Now replace weapons with drones, and kill with whatever you could do with one of those drones, inc

          • Putting layers of disconnect between people has strange consequences to rational and moral behaviour. For example, people tend to be more crass and 'jerkish' on the Internet to perfect strangers than they might be in public to the same person due to the disconnect caused by technology. Using a drone to spy on someone doesn't feel the same as sneaking into their yard to do it, and results in a totally different resulting behaviour.

            Letting the person doing their 'job' get more and more distant from their ta

      • by icebike (68054) *

        Ah, Slashdot. The world's only technology site populated by Luddites.

        Newsflash, buddy... The people you're so terrified of already have helicopters. What's wrong with making flight cheaper and more accessible?

        Might not the availability of private drones lead to a business of providing service to those pestered by drones?
        Celebrity weddings and events might become plagued by Paparazzi drones, but some company will also rush in to provide blocker drones to block the shots or accidentally dangle "antennas" into rotors, or just take them out via collision.

        A cloud of security drones around a site would probably discourage other drones as well.

        I'm not sure the whole idea here is "making flight cheaper and more accessib

        • by artor3 (1344997)

          I know reading it hard, but try to at least get through the first sentence of the summary.

          A new federal law, signed by the president on Tuesday, compels the Federal Aviation Administration to allow drones to be used for all sorts of commercial endeavors

          They are required, by law, to allow drone use by commercial endeavors. So no, it's not just "accessible for the police" as you claim. This law does the exact opposite of what you claim, by making it so that the drones aren't just "accessible for the police".

        • Try to RTFA. The first thing they mention is a small business owner that was using a drone to take pictures of property for a real estate agent... He can now do his job legally.
          • by icebike (68054) *

            As well as case the joint for anyone else that pays them.

            Have you noticed any problem Real Estate agents encounter when getting pictures for a building they want to sell? Seems the sellers are only too happy to provide inside and outside shots.

            This is a totally bogus use case, drummed up to make the whole thing look innocuous.

        • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

          Joe RC Enthusiast? Not really. Too expensive, and already goverened.

          Friends have been doing this for years. On cheap little RC planes with cheap RF cameras. Also, it has long been the case that anything that you do in public that can be seen, can be prosecuted if it is illegal, and will stand up. Interestingly, if you're running around in the yard naked, (or nearly so) and someone takes exception, you're just fine. http://www.statecollegelaw.com/you-have-the-right-to-remain-nude/ [statecollegelaw.com]

          All I can figure is that all the fearful folks didn't know that planes have a long history

      • Ah, Slashdot. The world's only technology site populated by Luddites.

        Newsflash, buddy... The people you're so terrified of already have helicopters. What's wrong with making flight cheaper and more accessible?

        Cheaper and more accessible makes all the difference. What's the difference between a world where handguns cost $50,000 each and a world where handguns cost $25 & up? Both worlds will have handguns, but the distribution and usage patterns will be very different.

        You can buy a whole drone system for the cost of operating a small helicopter for a few weeks.

      • Oh that's a very bad line of thinking. When tech makes something cheaper and easier you definitely should re-examine the rules.

    • nah... just start a company that makes killer-drones. "drones to kill their drones" ...drone-wars!
    • EMP is the wrong way to go - bulky power supplies, collateral damage and the fact that you're gonna look stupid pointing that thing all around the neighborhood. People might talk.

      I'm thinking more along the lines of a combination new age rocketry and some easy electronics. I should think it possible to actually control an Estes type rocket with tiny piezoelectric motors controlling minature flaps, enough to guide the rocket to a target. Use thermal or ultrasonic guidance and you have yourself a tiny litt

      • Ten years federal time for putting a guidance system on an Estes rocket. Same as owning an unregistered machine gun.

    • no But I can point to the prisons you can end up in just for thinning that way.

    • by bugnuts (94678)

      RF emissions like that are illegal... the FCC will be happy to confiscate your equipment, especially when the last thing seen is you aiming an EMP cannon at them. They'd probably somehow pin a terrorist plot on you for protecting privacy, too. Where I live, I could legally use the shotgun suggestion, however.

      But actually, it's not that difficult to blind a camera. A high power laser would also do it but would be obvious where it originated. While visible light cameras have IR/UV shields, an IR laser could p

    • Why make it complicated? A good rifle should take it out just fine....

    • I figure hacking their wireless frequency and redirecting them would be a lot more fun personally.

  • by MindPrison (864299) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @03:39PM (#39087115) Journal

    I really don't want to go trough that old SD cliche...I for once, welcome...blahblah ;)

    Anyway, I'm actually for these drones, especially since I'm an avid hobbyist builder of all things robotic, so it's natural that it'd be okay to manufacture these as well and allow them to be used for useful purposes.

    Maybe this will be spearheading our future with flying vehicles, Müeller and his infamous sky-car didn't get off the ground due to technical issues, maybe due to MAKERS everywhere, we'll now get rid of the final safety bugs in the designs, and make headway for the very real thing.

    • by icebike (68054) *

      Define useful purposes.
      Do so in such a way that your neighbor's rights to privacy, peace and quiet, and safety are not violated by your selfish definition of useful.

    • Ron was good with tools. It would not surprise me a bit if he knew enough about copseyes to knock out the whole system.

      Maybe someone ought to stop him.

      But knocking down copseyes wasn't illegal. It happened all the time. It was part of the freedom of the Park. If Ron could knock them all down at once, well . . .

      Maybe someone ought to stop him.

      - Cloak of Anarchy, Larry Niven, 1972

    • I for one welcome our blah blah overlords.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Does the regulation allow for personal private use? Or are the rules tied under recreational RC planes?

    • by 3dr (169908)

      There are rules for RC aircraft that boil down to keeping within line of sight, and under 400ft agl. The article mentions the 400ft altitude limit.

      The growing disagreements between drone enthusiasts and entities such as the FAA and LA's motion picture unions stem from the commercial use of hobby-grade drones to film real estate, agricultural lands, etc. LA's movie unions don't want small operations filming real estate because they believe that if there's any filming around Hollywood, they better damn well g

  • by Sgs-Cruz (526085) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @03:40PM (#39087127) Homepage Journal

    While the commercial uses of these UAVs are cool (hunting feral pigs tearing up your crops using an IR camera on a drone and then radioing the location to your brother with a shotgun! That would be something that only a few militaries in the world could do a decade ago...) the real impact is going to be on the complete loss of privacy for just being anywhere outside in public.

    I've long thought that the ease by which something can be obtained really does matter. I mean, things like divorce records have always been "public", but for most of history, that meant going to the city offices and having some surly clerk find the records for you in a basement filing cabinet. Which meant that strictly speaking, they were public, but in practice most people would never go to that trouble. With online records, finding out juicy details about your neighbour's divorce can be as easy as clicking a link. So the change in ease of obtaining records really does change the meaning of "public", even if it doesn't change the definition in a strictly legal sense.

    It's the same thing with being outside. The advent of huge networks of computerized cameras on the street, on business fronts, and now perhaps on ubiquitous flying unmanned vehicles... it means that while you had no expectation of privacy in public before, in practice it meant that you could generally go places without anybody knowing about it, as long as you didn't just happen to run into somebody that knows you. Before long, an unblinking computer eye will see you everywhere. The idea of going somewhere without anybody knowing about it will be a thing of the past.

    Now, is this, overall, a good thing? That I'm not sure about. Good and bad sides to it, I guess. (I'll be very interested to see its impact on strip clubs and massage parlours, though! Especially if divorce lawyers can subpoena the records.)

    • you are asking questions and taking the time to wonder, a bit, before taking steps.

      BRAVO.

      I wish those in control would do the same.

      but we don't. we see that something is *possible* and without any serious thought about implications short and long term, we plow ahead.

      I wish more people were a bit more like you and they'd test these new privacy invading technologies before just assuming that the gains outweighs the downsides.

      when it comes to privacy, I'm usually in favor of NOT proceeding ahead with some new

    • by mrmeval (662166)

      Several states have sealed driving records to the point it's near impossible to get a name and address from a license plate. Other records will eventually be sealed in such a way as to protect the name and address of people for such life changes as birth, divorce, accident etal.

      Eventually those drones will come under such restrictions. I will support prohibitions against non government use of those and strong prohibitions against use of those without a warrant.

    • You'd think they'd be better shots - that thing wasn't moving nearly as fast as a clay pigeon.

      Of course, I was quite disappointed in the video - they really needed to keep a better zoom/focus on the copter. Also, with the camera on board, I would have expected some video of the shooter's position. Overall a lackluster confrontation.

      • It doesn't take a marksman to hunt pigeons that were raised in a cage, which is what this event was. Those types of guys aren't good enough to hit a clay pigeon.
      • You'd think they'd be better shots - that thing wasn't moving nearly as fast as a clay pigeon.

        I think it was shot down with a rifle not a shotgun. You don't shoot clay pigeons with a rifle.

  • If one lands in my backyard, can I keep it? Can I play the grumpy old man, with the fenced-in yard, who tells the neighborhood children: "No, no ball went over the fence into my yard!" . . . "and their ain't no drone here, neither. Now, scram!"

    Are the Iranians selling the plans for their catcher? Or do I have to trade them weapons-grade plutonium for them?

    How can you know if drones are circling overhead? Do they have a special air traffic control frequency? Do the drone pilots back at the base commu

    • Go get some clue [diydrones.com].

  • That the Muzzies don't get one and crop-spray New York with anthrax or radioactive waste?
    • It must suck to live in a perpetual state of fear.
    • by Threni (635302)

      That's not their style - too indiscriminate.

      • by Chrisq (894406)

        That's not their style - too indiscriminate.

        Oh, you mean targeted attacks like the 9/11 planes and all the car bombs they set off in syria

        • by Threni (635302)

          9/11 was clearly intended to be symbolic, and not cause the deaths of more than a few hundred people. There's no way you're telling me they expected both towers to collapse.

          They considered much more indiscriminate killings but Bin Laden warned them off. Sure, I'm sure he had propaganda rather than human interest in mind, but it makes no difference. He was the boss. It's not clear what the new boss thinks.

          Not sure it's them at work in Syria. When countries are that fucked, who's to say.

  • You can buy a $80 radio controlled helicopter that has a video camera and broadcasts over wifi. Check it out http://www.spycameracctv.com/productimages/SPY/2650_xl.jpg [spycameracctv.com] http://lenny.com/ [lenny.com] Were free speach is FREE!!!!!
    • lovely link to a PICTURE of a helicopter,
      here is the product listing
      "http://www.spycameracctv.com/spycamera/the-first-spy-camera-helicopter-built-in-gyro-high-definition-mini-sd-card-usb-connection-"

      wifi? broadcast? NEITHER!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm imagining the sonorous whine of a quadrotor buzzing in with a delicious deep dish supreme in 12 minutes or less (bakes on the way).

  • and fighting this fact is really stupid. Eventually everyone will know everything they want to know, no one can stop this.
  • I wager 5 quatloos the first drone related death or injury happens within 6 months from the date of this post.

  • To try daily one into White House or Congress House invading its aerial space and then to be triggered the alarm!.

    It's the question, to be fined or not? The cause of all is its broooken federal law!.

    JCPM: i told them many times that the lawmakers (politicians) that did break themselves their laws (written by themshelves) must be punished or condemned or fined! It's the thing of a wise mankind.

  • This could revive a long dormant industry.

    • by BlueStrat (756137)

      This could revive a long dormant industry. (barrage balloons)

      Too easy for zoning and the FAA to make illegal.

      I was thinking more along the lines of laser gun sighting systems that automatically compute proper sighting "lead" (the amount of distance one must aim ahead of a moving target for the round to meet the target as it travels) that could be fitted to most shotguns or rifles.

      Center the target, activate the electronic sight, and an aiming "pip" will appear in the sight picture at the proper distance ahead of the direction of the target's travel, indicating where

  • These are the drones looking for you

  • I think a moments thought will make someone realize that the possibilities for using these for terrorist (or assassination also known as "targeted killing") is real.

    How hard would it be to attach a simple grenade to one of these things? Or a lightweight gun? Combined this a cell phone or GPS trigger (gives a new application for Geo-fencing) and you've got a device that can be triggered at distance.

    I know that the "rules" will prohibit them fom being used out of sight of the controller but I imagine many s

  • by bugnuts (94678) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @06:36PM (#39088389) Journal

    I see worries in the comments about "the police using them to spy on civilians". They already can.

    The only thing a new law like this does is to fix a loophole. UAS and UAV systems can already be used by cops and state govs, by universities (limited), by companies developing experimental aircraft (limited), and for hobby purposes (unregulated, but there are some clear limitations such as flying within range of an airport or above buildings). But you cannot be legally paid to do aerial photography from a UAV/UAS! In other words, you have to pay a pilot to fly a photographer around to legally get aerial pictures. The only other option was using blimps (tethered) and cranes. An entire industry has evolved for erecting collapsible poles to attach cameras because of this rule.

    Here are the rules. [faa.gov] In it you'll find a letter with the common sense approach for hobbyists, and statements that the FAA will not grant companies any licenses to fly UAS except for experimental aircraft.

    Lastly, SHAME ON THE NYT for that last sentence. They just had to jump on the idiot bandwagon and imply a connection between terrorists and photography. [schneier.com]

  • How long before we have these things peeking in our windows and scooting for "legal" airspace if noticed. Might even start a new forms of abusive kiddie pictures.
  • And they drive around our neighborhoods, and they look at license plates. My grandfather warned us about this, but did anyone listen? Now they can see things from the sky, too.
  • I have been wondering for a while now whether it might be practical to equip trains with little automated drones, which fly ahead of the train. The idea is to spot dangerous obstructions before the train gets too close to stop.

    My original idea was some sort of little train car that ran on ahead of the train. You would have to make it able to carry enough fuel to run for a long-enough length of time, yet not be so massive that it has too much momentum to stop itself in time before its cameras see an obstru

    • I have been wondering for a while now whether it might be practical to equip trains with little automated drones, which fly ahead of the train. The idea is to spot dangerous obstructions before the train gets too close to stop.

      This line of thinking -- giving trains a lot of advance warning about potential problems -- is currently being addressed by fixed wayside sensors. Mostly it is of the "there is another train ahead of you, stop!" variety, but some progress has been made on the "there is something other than a train ahead of you, stop!" front. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TGV#Separation [wikipedia.org] for one example

      It would be interesting to see how well a drone aircraft/mini-train can work in formation with a high speed train, but bec

  • Our nation is in sad shape when we have to receive permission from our government in order push technology into new areas. Engineers will not drive our future...lobbyists will, because that's what truly limits our potential.

    Flying cars are technologically possible, just not politically possible. There's no license plate category for them, and until there is, they won't exist. Innovation stifled by bureaucracy.

    Small aircraft to this day use ancient Rotax engines with magnetos--decades-old design--just becaus
  • NRA files suit to allow an armed drone body-guard for self-defense. I can imagine a flock (is that the correct term?) of drones following me everywhere I go, circling overhead, ready to respond to any threat against me with deadly force. ... One day it will be orbital charged particle beam weapons or rail guns, all clearly within the intent of the 2nd amendment.

  • by dbc (135354) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @10:04PM (#39089853)

    Crop dusting is inherently dangerous to the pilot. It is by definition done only in low population areas. There are no privacy concerns. That is one application where drones are pure win.

  • Pilot license required for operation.

  • Use ham radio to take them down. Not by using RF, but by hanging a lot of wire!

    http://www.hamuniverse.com/multidipole.html [hamuniverse.com]

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