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The Feds Accidentally Mailed Part of A $350K Drone To Some College Kid

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  • wait... what??? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Virtucon (127420) on Monday May 05, 2014 @08:21PM (#46924261)

    $350,000 for a drone!?!?! I realize that this is durable and has good RF systems in it, but still that strikes me as a bit pricey for what it is. I mean for a few bucks more they could just buy Predators right?

    • Perhaps he got two or three AGM-114 Hellfires gratis with it. ;-)
    • by mfh (56)

      $2500 hammers.

    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      According to this [over-blog.com] the $350K is for a complete system and not a single aircraft.

      A complete system (controller, spare parts, and three UAVs) costs $250,000 for the Raven and over $400,000 for Puma.

      The price for a single aircraft is much closer to $100k.
      Take a look at the capabilities [avinc.com] of the Puma. The optics, communications, and autonomous navigation features are not cheap.

      • Re:wait... what??? (Score:5, Informative)

        by BitZtream (692029) on Monday May 05, 2014 @10:47PM (#46925211)

        automous navigation features cost you less than $500 for a fully working system controller including required accelerometers, gyros, GPS, compass and a short range telemetry system (only short range due to low output power). The flight controller doesn't have to be any different on a tiny little RC model all the way up to the the largest aircraft in service. The OSS software doesn't yet support orbiting but I suspect it will soon. The only hardware difference is the servos to drive the control surfaces and power output of the engines.

        Oh, and its open source ... and it probably does more than anything the UAVs you mention do as far as flight control.

        If you want the cheap asian knock off, its less than $200 from hobby king.

        UAV controllers are an essentially solved problem, its just refinement at this stage, and the hardware to do the actual flight management is dirty cheap.

        Communications are also a solved problem, the hardware is available already and is available to anyone, though it requires a operator license ... which doesn't come with the UAV, you have to get it yourself from the FCC.

        Optics are a little tricker, but nothing to justify the cost of these systems unless you're ordering optics like used in the U-2 spy plane, which your drone isn't going to be capable of taking advantage of anyway. For anything other than what the NSA wants, a gimble to deal with pan/tilt/stabilization and vibration dampening isn't that expensive either, though gimble and camera are likely to be the most expensive bits if you want high quality but that may just be my misperception as thats the area I know least about. Low end stuff that works as well as anything you've actually seen footage from (i.e. not secret stuff) is less than 5k and it will shoot as good as most movie cameras ... from thousands of feet up where you can't hear it at all.

        $100k is a ridiculous price. The communications/control system is a freaking PC with a high power transmitter, nothing special.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          It isn't just the cost of the base hardware that could theoretically function in that capacity, it's fitting it all together, custom designing and building components where necessary then going through the necessary testing (range, quality, flight control, durability, etc) and refinement processes. You could build Google Glass for $100 too if you don't care about having a horribly clunky, heavy, unreliable device with a cumbersome user experience.

          Just because you can come up with a cheap parts list to theor

          • by thegarbz (1787294)

            It isn't just the cost of the base hardware that could theoretically function in that capacity, it's fitting it all together, custom designing and building components where necessary then going through the necessary testing (range, quality, flight control, durability, etc) and refinement processes.

            You are doing it wrong. Nearly all of what is listed in the feature list can be made from off the shelf components using interoperable (read analogue voltage) signals. Even the flight controllers and RF systems use standard protocols (again typically analogue signalling). If you're blowing money on proprietary crap when off the shelf components already exist and work then you're doing it wrong. You want telemetry? Autonomy? Long range? How about 3D control of gimbals and camera control? Yeah my drone does

            • by TheCarp (96830)

              > You are doing it wrong

              No they are doing it right. Their customer has a nearly unlimited budget which needs to be spent and which they prefer to overspend because it gives them a way to expand their budget in the next cycle.

              If they want to pay $20,000 for a hammer that is individually serial numbered, and wrapped, then you are an idiot for not stamping serial numbers on each one, bagging them up, and charging them 20k.

              • by thegarbz (1787294)

                My point is you're doing it wrong if it actually costs you $20k to put that serial number on it.

                The point was not that this is expensive, the point was that there's a HUGE markup. Frankly I'm amazed that people think otherwise given this was a government order.

        • by jittles (1613415)

          automous navigation features cost you less than $500 for a fully working system controller including required accelerometers, gyros, GPS, compass and a short range telemetry system (only short range due to low output power).

          Just stop right there and think about it. NOAA and the USG are not hobbyists. Perhaps this platform does leverage open source but they probably need FAA certified equipment so that they can fly above the limits placed on hobbyists. Not to mention the potential liability to the government if they rolled out a $1000 drone and it crashed and killed someone. If they tried to explain that one away then some enterprise would leverage that to say that the USG should have dropped $2M on a predator (whatever its

    • by pete6677 (681676)

      It's military pricing. Nothing costs less than $100k. Hell, it costs the vendor $10k just to process the required government paperwork.

    • How else do you think the SS pays for all their hookers and blow? ;-)

    • Its FAA certified parts - essentially take a normal part, multiply the price times 10 or 20 = FAA certified part.

      Don't believe me? Look up how much a rubber tire for landing costs.

    • How do you know how big that drone is?
      It could be a Cessna with built-in autonomous navigation systems.
      etc.

      • by Virtucon (127420)

        you're kidding right? RTFA and you'll see that it's about the size of the average weekend hobbyist's RC airplane. [noaa.gov]

        I need to get into the drone business because the profit margins appear to be staggering.

        • I need to get into the drone business because the profit margins appear to be staggering.

          Think twice. It will take only one terrorist to have all non-government drones completely banned.

          • by Virtucon (127420)

            Well, we'll have already designed anti-drone drones which of course will cost extra.

            • Perhaps you can start a drone lobby. Americans have the right to protect themselves using drones!

        • you're kidding right? RTFA and you'll see that it's about the size of the average weekend hobbyist's RC airplane. [noaa.gov]

          I need to get into the drone business because the profit margins appear to be staggering.

          You need to get into the "selling things to the government on a no bid contract buisness". The profit margins are staggering once you have greased the right palms.

  • Stupid headline (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jklovanc (1603149) on Monday May 05, 2014 @08:23PM (#46924275)

    The Feds Accidentally Mailed Part of A $350K Drone To Some College Kid

    More like "UPS Unloads Extra Box containing Drone Parts at Some College Kid's House". The box was not addressed to him by the Feds. They do enough stupid things without ascribing UPS mistakes to them.

    • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Monday May 05, 2014 @08:27PM (#46924303)

      I hope the feds paid for insurance. Otherwise all they're getting is $100. No exceptions, no matter what, I was told.

      • I love that: you have to pay for insurance in case they screw up. It should be them paying for that.
        • The fact they don't guarantee/insure it by default is the reason most people can afford them in the first place. If they wrapped that into their default price, the price of every package sent would go up.

          • It also is important for assigning a value to a package. Without a way to establish value that has an associated cost, everyone could just say the value is $1 million and UPS would be stuck with the bill. Even with this I think you still have to have some way of demonstrating the real value - you can't just pay for $1000 insurance on a bag of old confetti.

          • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdotNO@SPAMhackish.org> on Monday May 05, 2014 @09:54PM (#46924891)

            Isn't "performing the service you accepted money to perform" a pretty basic level of liability? Can I accept a contract to write some C++ code for you, but if you don't buy insurance from me, sometimes I just deliver your code to some other guy instead, and fuck you if you want redress?

            • by maliqua (1316471)

              they basically do the same as you would, they would refund the shipping cost if anything and nothing more.

              As you would be expected to return the fee you received for the service you provide but would not assume liability for potential losses the client my assume because you didn't deliver the C++ code

      • Re:Stupid headline (Score:5, Informative)

        by digitalhermit (113459) on Monday May 05, 2014 @09:43PM (#46924817) Homepage

        Yes, that is true. Except for the insurance part. UPS doesn't really provide "insurance", per se.

        Don't be fooled by the optional 'high value' stamp, which allows you to declare a higher value. Rightfully so, it's not "insurance" but just allows you to claim the proper value if it is lost or damaged.

        If it's really important, ship it via a UPS customer counter or Mailboxes facility.

        I used to work there a couple decades ago. One of my roles was to process computer claims. Considering that many items can fall from belts and "Fragile" means "Throw me hard, please!" in UPS-ese, I'd make sure to ship any critical items through their desk with a proper declared value.

        Not that FedEx is much better. I think at one point they were but if you've seen what goes on behind the scenes it's a wonder that anything gets to its destination in one piece.

        Might as well talk about the USPS too. (BTW, UPS is not USPS; some are not aware.) I shipped a display stand once. It was a fairly sturdy unit, cube shaped, of some expensive teak wood with brass corners. It could easily bear my weight (and I am not a slender dude). When the first piece arrived, my aunt asked what it was. "It's a stand," I said.

            "How do you put it together?" she said.

        Eh?

        Apparently they'd shipped a piece of my broken stand with a piece of someone else's broken furniture. The label from my box cut out and taped to this other box. I still don't know what happened to the rest of my display stand, but presumably someone is wondering what the heck happened to the rest of their chair.

        • by cdrudge (68377)

          Yes, that is true. Except for the insurance part. UPS doesn't really provide "insurance", per se.

          Don't be fooled by the optional 'high value' stamp, which allows you to declare a higher value. Rightfully so, it's not "insurance" but just allows you to claim the proper value if it is lost or damaged. ...

          Huh? It man not legally be called insurance, but you have the option of declaring the value of the merchandise being shipped and for $.90 per $100 (current book rate), paying a fee to cover the loss beyond th

          • "$100 (current book rate), paying a fee to cover the loss beyond the initial $100 should the package become lost, stolen, or damaged. That sounds a lot like the lay definition for insurance to me."

            The devil's in the details...
            http://www.pressroom.ups.com/F... [ups.com]

            Just because the lay definition of declared value sounds like insurance, it isn't. With insurance, if you are at fault the insured item may still be covered. E.g., if you crash your car it will often be covered even if you are at fault. With declared va

    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      By the way, the label on the box may not have been put on by the Feds. From the article;

      “I can tell you that it didn’t come from us addressed to him,” he said.

      It could have been done by UPS when they damaged the original label beyond recognition and just picked the closest package label to duplicate. I also doubt the presence of the label considering there are no pictures of it. The recipient's statements are very like made to make the Feds look bad.

      • by Garfong (1815272)

        He probably didn't show the label because posting personally identifying information on the Internet is generally a bad idea, especially if you're in temporary possession of a $100K+ item.

        And I'm not sure where you're coming from about trying to make the Feds look bad. Having a package mis-delivered by UPS or a call ring through to voicemail are hardly scandalous.

        • by jklovanc (1603149)

          He probably didn't show the label because posting personally identifying information on the Internet is generally a bad idea,

          He didn't have to post the whole label, just the sender's address. I don't think the label exists.

          Having a package mis-delivered by UPS or a call ring through to voicemail are hardly scandalous.

          Exactly, but the government putting the wrong address on a package worth about $100K is scandalous. The kid is trying to turn a UPS mistake into a scandal.

    • Good Grief (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Monday May 05, 2014 @09:08PM (#46924605)

      This is a non-story: UPS mis-delivers a non-classified package from to government to some college student who decided to whore for 15 minutes of fame.

      Done.

      Next...

      • Posting something odd on reddit is "whoring for 15 minutes of fame" now? What's posting on slashdot then?
        • Posting something odd on reddit is "whoring for 15 minutes of fame" now? What's posting on slashdot then?

          Karma Whoring

    • This time it was the fault of some stupid fuck at Vice, rather than some stupid fuck at Dice, because the headline is a direct copy.

      Doesn't make it any better that the headline doesn't at all match the summary even, but I prefer to point fingers at the right stupid fuck.

      • by jklovanc (1603149)

        Vice is stupid for starting it Dice is stupid for following along. Lets point fingers at both of them.

    • Now if it was sent via USPS, then you could conceivably say "the feds", though it would be willfully obtuse to do so.

  • If he doesn't return it, odds are he'll get other drone parts for free! [patdollard.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    According to postal inspector rules, he gets to keep it:

    If you open the package and like what you find, you may keep it for free. In this instance, "finders-keepers" applies unconditionally.

    https://postalinspectors.uspis... [uspis.gov]

    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      Only if it was actually sent to him and not just miss delivered by UPS. He says there was a label addressed to him but no pictures of the label. There are for other picture but none of the label. Also the USPS article is about unsolicited merchandise and the NOA is not a merchant. The paper inside also states ownership of the package. So yeah, he will get a visit to get the package back.

      • by Firethorn (177587)

        So yeah, he will get a visit to get the package back.

        They do have to make it very easy for him to return it though. Like him saying 'I'll be there at 1515-1530 to hand it over' and UPS being there at 1515, even if they have to send a supervisor.

        I once donated a package to charity after it was delivered to my house with a supremely messed up address and the business didn't want to pick up their phone. 90 days later* when I noticed the package still hanging around I donated it.

    • by Obfuscant (592200)

      According to postal inspector rules, he gets to keep it:

      UPS is not USPS. And it wasn't sent to him, it was misdelivered. Stop trusting the headlines of /. articles. They're intended to fan flames and not to inform. If a certain cable news network did the same kind of thing they'd be accused of being inept and corrupt. When /. does it, it's just fine.

    • by bloodhawk (813939)
      No he doesn't, that would see him charged with theft. Accidental deliveries don't count as unsolicited gifts, though the responsibility and cost is on the delivery company and/or the sender to arrange for collection and potentially compensation if the collection of said package has any costs for the unintended recipient.
    • by BitZtream (692029)

      That applies ONLY to unsolicited mail ... i.e. spam. It does not apply to misdirected, mislabeled, or packages delivered to the wrong address.

  • At least it's easy to return: just make it fly back on it's own.

  • A Redditor got more than he bargained for in the mail today.

    Possibly a key that might start a new truck down to the local Ford House?

  • by freak0fnature (1838248) on Monday May 05, 2014 @09:23PM (#46924709)
    The last time UPS messed up a delivery for me, their automated phone system told me where it was. When I talked to a real person and explained that my package was not delivered, he had the address where it was delivered on the computer, and the address of where it was supposed to go as well. (It was a mile away on a completely different street...I'm assuming his next stop. I just went and got it myself, just asked about a package that wasn't theirs.)

    The real question is, if they have the capability to know where it was really delivered, why would they not program the handhelds to make all sorts of noise when the delivery guy screws up?
    • by Obfuscant (592200)

      The real question is, if they have the capability to know where it was really delivered, why would they not program the handhelds to make all sorts of noise when the delivery guy screws up?

      I've had both UPS and FedEx actually change the customer-supplied delivery address because they ... thought they knew better? The last time, the hand-written FedEx form was still on the outside of the box, but the computer-printed one said something different. They're deliberately delivering things to the wrong place. Why would the handheld scanner complain about that?

    • Correct me if I'm wrong, but if you receive something addressed to you that was sent by accident, you are under no obligation to return it and it legally belongs to you. I'm pretty sure this is US Postal Law.

      IANAL so anyone more familiar with this, feel free to chime in. But AFAIK the parts now legally belong to the kid.

      • by jittles (1613415)

        Correct me if I'm wrong, but if you receive something addressed to you that was sent by accident, you are under no obligation to return it and it legally belongs to you. I'm pretty sure this is US Postal Law.

        IANAL so anyone more familiar with this, feel free to chime in. But AFAIK the parts now legally belong to the kid.

        Go ahead and try that with the federal government and see where that gets you! Not to mention the law covers mail that is addressed to you. IT was to prevent people from sending you "gifts" and trying to invoice you for that item later. It wasn't addressed to him. He shouldn't have even opened it to begin with.

      • It wasn't addressed to him is the key point here.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    You see they meant to do a drone strike but accidental instead.ly mailed it to him

  • so if you sent about eight boxes of stuff.. is that 7.8 boxes and maybe next time 8.2 boxes? and how do you know you are missing one if you get 7 which is quite close to about 8?

  • Somewhere between $350,000 and $1-2 billion (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/national/black-budget/ - see the NRO bit) is the government's Give-a-fuck-threshold for assured delivery. SpaceX may have a point.

  • The best post on the reddit thread:

    [–]LoveExists 392 points 3 hours ago
    NSA Agent: "Sir, we have reports that u/Seventy_Seven may be working with a terrorist cell, what should we do?"
    NSA Officer: "Send a drone over there, let me know what happens." walks away...
    NSA Agent: mutters to himself "its not like anyone ever sends them back.."
    permalinkparent

  • it hand delivered or why not get a army guy to drop it off. But then then can get a gomer pyle to mess up.

    • Not all drones are military. This is a science drone for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It has nothing to do with the army.
  • Years ago, before my time, Columbia House or BMG might mail you some records (equivalent to CDs). Later, they would send you a bill for the goods that arrived un-ordered and un-asked-for. Then, mail fraud law caught up, and those scams went away.

    This is not that case, but really, I wonder if those laws are applicable to the delivery of packages to the "wrong" person by UPS in such a case. If so, the mis-delivered or un-asked-for delivery is his/hers to keep — no strings.

    Or, alternatively, why w
    • by jonnythan (79727)

      For one thing, this isn't USPS. It's UPS. I expect the laws are different for that.

      For another, the part apparently wasn't addressed to him. It was misdelivered. If someone else's mail ends up in your mailbox, you don't get to open it and keep whatever's inside. If it's not addressed to you, you're not allowed to open it at all.

      • Apparently, by the time it got to the guy it was addressed to him. I rather assume this was not placed by the sender, but put on by UPS.

  • Someone thought that the "drone target" or surveillance list ment he should get spare parts.

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