Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Communications Government Networking Security Transportation Technology Your Rights Online

Drones Still Face Major Hurdles In US Airspace 166

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the drone-vs-drone dept.
coondoggie writes "Communications and effective system control are still big challenges unmanned aircraft developers are facing if they want unfettered access to U.S. airspace. Those were just a couple of the conclusions described in a recent Government Accountability Office report on the status of unmanned aircraft (PDF) and the national airspace. The bottom line for now seems to be that while research and development efforts are under way to mitigate obstacles to safe and routine integration of unmanned aircraft into the national airspace, these efforts cannot be completed and validated without safety, reliability, and performance standards, which have not yet been developed because of data limitations." The FAA and others seem mostly concerned about the drones hitting things if their GPS and ground communications are both disrupted.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Drones Still Face Major Hurdles In US Airspace

Comments Filter:
  • How about no? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ZorinLynx (31751) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @01:53PM (#42957007) Homepage

    We don't need thousands of unmanned vehicles zipping around in the skies malfunctioning and crashing into things and people.

    And this is not even considering privacy and security implications. At least manned vehicles have a sufficient barrier to entry (expensive) and a motivation to be extremely reliable (because the occupants will die if not).

    • Re:How about no? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @02:28PM (#42957275) Homepage

      And this is not even considering privacy and security implications

      You seem to be forgetting the War on Terror, Copyright Infringement and Human Rights, citizen.

      Please report to your nearest re-education center.

      We have always been at war with Eastasia.

    • We don't need thousands of unmanned vehicles zipping around in the skies malfunctioning and crashing into things and people.

      And this is not even considering privacy and security implications. At least manned vehicles have a sufficient barrier to entry (expensive) and a motivation to be extremely reliable (because the occupants will die if not).

      "We don't need" is hardly a reason to make something illegal in itself. The phrase is a lazy rhetorical device.

      Further, what makes you think such machines wouldn't be orders of magnitude more reliable than human drivers (who can get drunk, old, preoccupied, poisoned by testosterone, or succumb to idiocy), who operate much heavier equipment, and in closer proximity to potential victims? You seem to be presuming no one can come up with an effectual means to prevent a malfunctioning device from causing damage,

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        You'd do better to focus on why the privacy and security issues cannot be similarly resolved, instead of merely mentioning them whilst waving your hands wildly about.

        Because drone aircraft is wildly incompatible with the 4th amendment?

        It's blanket surveillance of the citizenry without any judicial oversight, lacking any probably cause, and generally not the kind of thing a free society does.

        The idea that people should become accustomed to constant surveillance is a sure sign that the terrorists are winning,

        • by bitt3n (941736)
          That seems like a reason for regulation, not prohibition. As an example, let's say you limit drone use to fire and ambulance services. If someone's having a heart attack, you could send out a defibrillator that could be available within a couple of minutes. (Israel employs private motorbike riders for this very purpose, since ambulances often arrive to late to do anything.) This would be an easy way to save lives, and the cost would likely be covered by the reduced cost of caring for the victims. Of course
          • by gstoddart (321705)

            As an example, let's say you limit drone use to fire and ambulance services. If someone's having a heart attack,

            Except of course, they aren't being introduced for those reasons.

            So now we're working backwards to find uses for drones which we might be okay with, so that we can justify the use of drones for the purposes we disagree with -- all the while glossing over the fact that by all rights, this should be illegal and unconstitutional.

            Sorry, but your argument boils down to "think of the children", and has

            • by bitt3n (941736)

              Except of course, they aren't being introduced for those reasons.

              yet.

              Sorry, but your argument boils down to "think of the children", and has nothing at all to do with how and why they're deploying drones.

              "think of the children" is an argument used to justify regulation.

              Now you're suggesting we should allow drone surveillance on the chance that while they're up there spying they could use it to call an ambulance. There's reasons why the police are prohibited from doing certain things.

              are you sure you read the right post?

        • by Ksevio (865461) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @03:52PM (#42958173) Homepage
          A commercial drone carrying cargo across the country isn't compatible with the 4th amendment? This is a much broader issue than simple surveillance drones used by the police.
          • by gstoddart (321705)

            A commercial drone carrying cargo across the country isn't compatible with the 4th amendment?

            Well, since I'm pretty sure I've yet to hear anybody talking about deploying these drones for cargo purposes, you might as well as me about how this impacts the Easter Bunny.

            So far it's just law enforcement.

      • by icebike (68054)

        You'd do better to focus on why the privacy and security issues cannot be similarly resolved,

        No addition to police capabilities has led to better security or better privacy in well over a thousand years. Why should we expect this tool be any different?

        • by bitt3n (941736)

          You'd do better to focus on why the privacy and security issues cannot be similarly resolved,

          No addition to police capabilities has led to better security or better privacy in well over a thousand years. Why should we expect this tool be any different?

          Setting aside the veracity of that statement, law enforcement applications are surely a small fraction of possible uses for drones. Imagine, for example, a fire department sending drones into a burning building in order to assess damage and locate victims before sending personnel to locations where they can do the most good, or an ambulance drone ferrying medication and supplies to accident victims within minutes.

          • by icebike (68054)

            Imagine, for example, a fire department sending drones into a burning building in order to assess damage and locate victims before sending personnel to locations where they can do the most good, or an ambulance drone ferrying medication and supplies to accident victims within minutes.

            This story is not about radio controlled (RC) toy surveillance drones that might fit in a building. Its about fixed wing Reaper/Predator/Global Hawk sized craft [airforce-technology.com] that fly high over cities used for spying. Good luck flying that into a burning building. Firefigters will laugh you out of the skys.

            Further, if you are going to deliver medication via drone, you better be able to land the drone anywhere, and have someone there ready to receive the payload. Its a lot cheaper to to send the Paramedics on the chop

            • by bitt3n (941736)
              I'm not sure why you'd assume drone tech won't proceed like most other tech: faster, cheaper, smaller. Furthermore sending a chopper full of paramedics is not something you're going to be able to do in many situations. You can't send one out each time someone needs an epi-pen, but sending one on a drone could save someone's life.
              • by icebike (68054)

                Right, fly a drone out, land it somewhere, and deliver an epi-pen somehow, to someone.
                Because we all know every possible epi-pen is stashed on drones that are on orbit around a city 24/7.

                Sending a chopper (or ambulance) full of Paramedics is PRECISELY what you are going to be able to do in almost ALL situations.

                In what situation could you not do the same with a simple ambulance dispatched from the nearest fire department, or by sending a helicopter? And when that ambulance or helicopter arrives it will not

                • by bitt3n (941736)

                  And when that ambulance or helicopter arrives it will not only have the epi-pen, but oxygen, a defibrillator, a, trache kit, plasma, bandages, most drugs you would ever need in the field, back board, stretcher, and, let me see, there was something else, what was it, OH YEAH, I remember now, TRAINED PARAMEDICS, and TRANSPORT.

                  those will certainly useful if the patient's still alive when you get there.

                  • by icebike (68054)

                    It works this way today. Surprisingly well, in fact.
                    Waiting for a drone to be dispatched from the nearest airport? Not so much.

                    • by bitt3n (941736)

                      It works this way today. Surprisingly well, in fact. Waiting for a drone to be dispatched from the nearest airport? Not so much.

                      who says they'd need to be dispatched from an airport? use the helicopter pad on top of the hospital, or dispatch from the roof of the local police station. you're simply not going to be able to send paramedics in a helicopter to every medical emergency where they could be useful, because of the expense, whereas sending a drone in lieu of, or in advance of, an ambulance could be cost effective for more cases. Who knows how many more? I don't claim to.

      • We don't need thousands of unmanned vehicles zipping around in the skies malfunctioning and crashing into things and people.

        And this is not even considering privacy and security implications. At least manned vehicles have a sufficient barrier to entry (expensive) and a motivation to be extremely reliable (because the occupants will die if not).

        "We don't need" is hardly a reason to make something illegal in itself. The phrase is a lazy rhetorical device.

        "We don't need" is not the reason; "malfunctioning and crashing into things and people" is.

        I take it this misunderstanding is a result of the fact that schools don't require students to do sentence diagramming anymore? That's sad.

        Further, what makes you think such machines wouldn't be orders of magnitude more reliable than human drivers (who can get drunk, old, preoccupied, poisoned by testosterone, or succumb to idiocy), who operate much heavier equipment, and in closer proximity to potential victims?

        Uh, you do realize that "unmanned" does not equal "un-piloted," right? Those drones have the exact same shortcomings as the manned aircraft you mentioned (i.e., chance for pilot error); the difference is, in a manned aircraft, if the pilot doesn't correct or compensate for a malfun

        • by bitt3n (941736)

          Uh, you do realize that "unmanned" does not equal "un-piloted," right?

          presumably drones will use autopilot for the most part, rather than the manual piloting on which cars presently depend. there isn't much to steer around up there.

          Again, this is not a mutually exclusive concept - if one can come up with an "effectual means" to keep drones from crashing, those same measures should be applicable to manned aircraft.

          there are plenty of applications for which a drone aircraft is suitable but for which a manned aircraft is not, generally on account of the cost of their operation. applying the same safety measures to manned aircraft will not help.

          "We don't need" is not the reason; "malfunctioning and crashing into things and people" is.

          I take it this misunderstanding is a result of the fact that schools don't require students to do sentence diagramming anymore? That's sad.

          "We don't need" is a rhetorical device employed to justify forbidding something on the basis of its being unnecessary,

          • Uh, you do realize that "unmanned" does not equal "un-piloted," right?

            presumably drones will use autopilot for the most part, rather than the manual piloting on which cars presently depend. there isn't much to steer around up there.

            Hmm, something tells me that won't fly with the FAA, lol. Just like with the autonomous cars, there will be a requirement for a human 'controller' at all times, if for no reason other than legal liability.

            Again, this is not a mutually exclusive concept - if one can come up with an "effectual means" to keep drones from crashing, those same measures should be applicable to manned aircraft.

            there are plenty of applications for which a drone aircraft is suitable but for which a manned aircraft is not, generally on account of the cost of their operation.

            "Plenty of applications" is hyperbolic nonsense that tells me precisely shit. Name some, specifically.

            "We don't need" is not the reason; "malfunctioning and crashing into things and people" is.

            I take it this misunderstanding is a result of the fact that schools don't require students to do sentence diagramming anymore? That's sad.

            "We don't need" is a rhetorical device employed to justify forbidding something on the basis of its being unnecessary...

            Oh, my ass.

            See, there's this little thing called 'context,' and it's absolutely important to successful understanding of a sentence. In this case, you've chosen to ignore the context of the sentence, and f

            • by bitt3n (941736)

              focus on unnecessary phrasing to justify your position

              That's the point. The phrasing "we don't need" is unnecessary to the argument. It is a rhetorical device implying that the decision to outlaw drones depends on whether we need them crashing out of the sky. A lack of things crashing out of the sky is not a need drones are intended to fulfill. To say "there would be a negative effect if drones crash out of the sky" avoids this rhetoric, as it does not pretend to address the possible benefits drones are intended to provide.

              Agree with the former, disagree with the latter.

              given that weapons are generally dang

    • Yup, I can't see anything bad coming out of this. No sir-ree.

    • Add $15 worth of proximity detecting radar to the design, with software interrupt, and that shouldn't be that big of a problem.

      OTOH, if my solution is taken seriously, just wait until the local police try to catch a UAV with fouled up communications programmed to play keep-away.

  • drones shmones (Score:2, Insightful)

    by xevioso (598654)

    My suspicion is that once drones start to become more ubiquitous in US Airspace, pecople here will come up with ways to interfere with them. In other countries directly targeted by the drones, they haven't been very successful, but in the US all it will take will be a few backyard hobbyists who really really really have issues with drones, and they will come up with an easy way to interfere/take over/destroy/ shoot down said drones...and this technology, whatever it is, will be then used by people in other

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      but in the US all it will take will be a few backyard hobbyists who really really really have issues with drones, and they will come up with an easy way to interfere/take over/destroy/ shoot down said drones

      Which will unleash the full fury of the machine to track down these 'terrorists', because, as Bush said, "You're either with us, or you're with the terrorists".

      And clearly objecting to this kind of thing is something only a terrorist would do.

      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        And clearly objecting to this kind of thing is something only a terrorist would do.

        No, but working out a method to cause crashes of drones being used to survey power lines or railroads or interstate highways or dams or bridges is probably something a terrorist would do.

        Did we consider that there is a significant difference between objecting to something and actively causing it to fail, thus creating the problem that you hypothesized?

    • Good grief, have you HEARD of the DMCA? The part about circumventing copy protection? And that's for SONGS fer chrissake. How do you suppose the government is going to react to people hacking into surveillance drones using encrypted commands flying over schools and hospitals (THINK OF THE CHILDREN!). I'll give you a two-word hint: "Guantanamo Bay".
    • by TheSpoom (715771)

      a few backyard hobbyists who really really really have issues with drones, and they will come up with an easy way to interfere/take over/destroy/ shoot down said drones

      Those people will disappear very, very quickly.

    • by rcamans (252182)

      No, it is very productive. It will lead to new generations of EMP cannons and other cool stuff.

    • I want to see an electronics box which:

        - scans for the unencrypted video feed on the frequencies drones use
        - sounds an audio alarm when it finds one
        - displays the video feed on a local screen
        - immediately begins streaming the video off-site (for record-keeping)

      Anyone have an idea on how affordable / expensive / reliable such a thing could / would be?

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      will come up with an easy way to interfere/take over/destroy/ shoot down said drones...and this technology, whatever it is, will be then used by people in other countries to take out OUR drones

      You mean... the drones taken out by the hobbyists on US soil will be foreign drones (as opposed to OUR drones flying overseas)?

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      My suspicion is that once drones start to become more ubiquitous in US Airspace, pecople here will come up with ways to interfere with them. In other countries directly targeted by the drones, they haven't been very successful, but in the US all it will take will be a few backyard hobbyists who really really really have issues with drones, and they will come up with an easy way to interfere/take over/destroy/ shoot down said drones...and this technology, whatever it is, will be then used by people in other countries to take out OUR drones.

      So putting drones in US airspace is actually a stupid counterproductive thing, on many fronts.

      This [wickedlasers.com.hk], for instance?

    • by Grayhand (2610049)
      It just shows how desperate some of our leaders are to spy on average citizens. I've yet to hear a compelling reason to do it other than spying on average Americans. Do they really expect to find an Al Qaeda training camp in some one's backyard? What they'll find is some one's pot plants and that new garage you failed to get a permit for. This has always been about spying on average citizens. It's like back boxes in all our cars "for our own good". You know the ones they don't need a court order to access?
    • by Khith (608295)
      There are already people working on this.

      How To Kill A Drone [beforeitsnews.com]
  • banning drones in their air space is going to be a major hurdle.

    Seems like systematic reduction in rights and progressively more 1984 and Brave New World type policies have caused a reaction. Just in time too, Houston got caught trying to sneak drones into service with absolutely no public input. Texas responded recently with a state-wide ban. Last thing we need is a president checking his smile for food particles in his reflection on his Nobel Peace Prize right before ordering U.S. citizens murdered lik

    • Last thing we need is a president checking his smile for food particles in his reflection on his Nobel Peace Prize right before ordering U.S. citizens murdered like he does Middle Eastern ones.

      Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't he already order a U.S. citizen to be murdered? Anwar al-Awlaki?

      For that matter, didn't he do in al-Awlaki's kid as well in another strike? Though that one may have been collateral damage (which apparently makes it okay)....

      • by pecosdave (536896)

        The difference being Anwar al-Awlaki was not on U.S. soil at the time - it makes a difference when you're in this deep.

        • The difference being Anwar al-Awlaki was not on U.S. soil at the time - it makes a difference when you're in this deep.

          So, you're saying that if you were to go on vacation in the UK, say, that the President could then declare "open season" on you legally?

          Or if you were to cross into Canada? Or Mexico?

          And how close to shore would you have to be to be deemed "safe"? Three Mile Limit? Twelve Mile Limit? 200 Mile Limit?

          • by pecosdave (536896)

            I'm not saying that - he is.

            He's pushed that boundary and gotten away with it, on home soil is the next pushing ground. As far as I'm concerned we need to stop all overseas police activities and bring all of our troops home. I'm open to a well placed spy here and there for obvious reasons, to intercept aggression, but not to better place it.

  • I am a UAV pilot... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @02:03PM (#42957041)

    The only UAV that's close to airworthy is Northrop's billion dollar disaster of the Global Hawk. Of course, airworthiness is a big part of the reason that they cost $50M apiece. None of the rest of the UAVs are airworthy. Not even remotely. They all have severe design flaws that render them reasonable only for overwater, over the ocean, or combat zones. None of them are designed with the rigour or safety focus that's required for a small airplane, much less something that's in commercial service. All of them have software single point of failure problems that will cause them to crash in an unpredictable place.Triton and the Global Hawk will, at least, crash in a pre-planned, surveyed spot. None of the rest.

    I see no reason to allow anything over 55 lbs to fly unless it's designed to the same level of safety and airworthiness as "real airplanes", because the physics works the same way when it hits you. I'm not saying "no" to UAV's, but start over and do it right.

    • by Githaron (2462596)
      I am curious why did you pick 55 lbs?
      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        I am curious why did you pick 55 lbs?

        I believe that's the lower weight limit set by the FAA. If your aircraft is lighter than 55 lbs, then it's not classified as an aircraft and merely a hobby aircraft that doesn't need or regulation (e.g., RC aircraft). If it's heavier, then it falls under FAA experimental aircraft rules and is regulated.

        And yes, there have been model aircraft heavier than 55lbs which have undergone such testing.

        As for privacy and security? Well, I think the bigger implication right now is

    • by JeanCroix (99825)
      Well, I used to work for General Atomics, and I say you're full of shit.
    • All of them have software single point of failure problems that will cause them to crash in an unpredictable place.Triton and the Global Hawk will, at least, crash in a pre-planned, surveyed spot.

      Hmm... billion dollars for crashing into a planned spot you say. Northrop may be interested in my paper airplane design...

    • by jon3k (691256)
      Not sure why the Reaper doesn't get a mention? Basically, unless you post some proof, you're full of shit and I'll ignore you.
  • by mk1004 (2488060) on Wednesday February 20, 2013 @02:05PM (#42957047)
    So if there's a mid-air collision between a private or commercial aircraft and a drone flown by a government agency, the usual legal protections will probably shield the drone operators from liability. The thought of that kinda sucks.
    • by Sarten-X (1102295)

      My understanding is that the rules for model aircraft would apply, which pretty much make the model aircraft operator liable for a large portion of the damage.

      Disclaimer: I got a little involved in the model aircraft community for a while, but never deep enough to personally deal with liability. Input from those more knowledgeable is appreciated.

      • Model aircraft aren't run by the state and federal governments. Thus, those rules would not apply.

    • by rcamans (252182)

      Drones MUST have the standard radio transponders commercial planes have. Also, they will need gyro guidance systems so if external guidance (radio, gps, etc) goes out, they will be able to fly, and should auto-return to launch site.
      But flying weaponized drones over US air-space, outside of military bases, is unconstitutional, unless marshal law is declared.
      And military flying of drones without weapons is also restricted to flying between bases or on training flights, where use of any spy abilities (cameras,

      • It's not unconstitutional. Or even illegal if there is an insurrection.

        Posse Comitatus doesn't apply to the National Guard, Coast Guard or police forces.

        It would only be illegal under PCA for Federal Armed Forces.

        National Guard has it's own set of regulations, but surveillance is one of the things they are permitted to do in support of state and local police.

      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        But flying weaponized drones over US air-space, outside of military bases, is unconstitutional, unless marshal law is declared.

        I see nothing in the US Constitution that says that. Perhaps you are thinking of Libya or some other country? Citation required.

        I'd then question why a "militarized drone" would be different than a "militarized jet fighter", or how the Founders would have known they needed to differentiate between the two when they wrote the Constitution. And yes, "militarized jet fighters" fly over US airspace outside of military bases ALL THE TIME. And I don't think marshal law has been declared, has it?

        But that is just the opinion of a fol who believes the constitution means something...

        Something more

  • How many have considered purposefully interfering with surveillance drones?

    Since Britain is considering turning off active airport radar [slashdot.org], and using TV signals, one would think that hobbyists could do similar things to track surveillance drones.

    And then actively interfering with their ability to surveil by using maybe high powered IR lasers, carefully aimed microwave transmitters, or similar aimed at them.

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      > How many have considered purposefully interfering with surveillance drones?

      Oh, pretty much everyone here.

  • This is why I have been working on a practical "sense and avoid" (SAA) system for UAVs and FPV RC models.

    So far so good (very good in fact) and I expect to start the airborne testing of a prototype very shortly.

    The goal was to have the reliable detection of full-sized aircraft at a minimum range of 1.5Km and not rely on transponders or other equipment in those aircraft and it appears that this objective is attainable.

    It's been a lot of fun developing this thing and it's something that has really only become

    • This is why I have been working on a practical "sense and avoid" (SAA) system for UAVs and FPV RC models.

      So, how does it feel to be part of the problem, you bastard? LOL, just kidding... kinda...

      odds are that I'll be releasing this as an open-source, copyleft project so hobbyists can use it instead of it becoming the sole domain of the "drone" companies.

      Well, alright... I suppose that's a good enough reason to let you live...

      (seriously, no offense meant, I'm just messing with you)

  • >> these efforts cannot be completed and validated without safety, reliability, and performance standards

    Translation: We know that drones falling out of the sky will kill and main a lot of our citizens. However, we need someone to make a call on how many deaths-per-million-flights (or other metric) is an acceptable number.

  • So glad that my fellow Americans are baying sheep and happy to allow these to watch them.

    I have lost ALL respect for my fellow Americans. They all love the PATRIOT act, they all love being fondled at the airport, and they all WANT to be watched.

    • by jon3k (691256)
      When everyone around you is parroting the same conspiracy theory garbage, doesn't that make YOU the sheep?
  • If they can make small, lightweight drones, why not large ones? It would be an interesting take on delivering the mail.

    Large drones, distribute to smaller drones, distribute to single mail delivery sized drones dropping little packages off on your door step. Maybe not today, but a potential future application? Sets the imagination a'buzz...

  • Send a few drones over my city and see how long it takes some bored hacker to gain control of one and smash int into a police cruiser or something. Bonus points if they're armed with missiles.

One picture is worth 128K words.

Working...