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

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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  • Re:Drone vs. RC (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @08:30PM (#36979878)

    It's not really different from an RC plane or helicopter. There's currently no legal way to use any of them for commercial purposes. RC aircraft may be used only for recreational purposes, as spelled out in FAA Advisory Circular 91-57. A UAV for commercial purposes would have to be certified, and the pilot would have to have a commercial certificate and whatever ratings the UAV required.

  • Re:Drone vs. RC (Score:5, Informative)

    by icebike ( 68054 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @09:06PM (#36980200)

    Drones can fly significantly higher than RC planes or helicopters, and have a greater likelihood of interfering with air traffic.

    Drones ARE RC planes.
    Don't confuse military drones with those used by newscorp. They used the md4-1000.
    http://www.microdrones.com/produkt-md4-1000-industrie-en.php [microdrones.com]

    climb rate 7,5m/s *
    cruising speed 15.0m/s *
    Peak thrust 118N
    empty weight 2650g
    recommended payload 800g
    maximum payload 1200g
    maximum take-off weight 5550g
    portability arms foldable
    dimensions 1030 mm from rotor shaft to rotor shaft
    flight time up to 70 minutes (dep. on load/wind/battery) *
    battery 22.2V, 6S2P 12.2Ah or 6S3P 18.3Ah LiPo

  • Re:Drone vs. RC (Score:4, Informative)

    by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @09:18PM (#36980288)

    How is it different from an RC plane or helicopter? Those are used all the time for commercial arial photography and videography.

    Using an RC plane or helicopter for commercial purposes requires a license to do so, its in a subsection for experimental aircraft in the FARs (Federal Aviation Regulations).

    If you're not doing it commercially, its not illegal to do in certain areas. Pretty much anywhere thats populated is not one of those areas unless you get a waiver, which is what flying clubs do, with the assistance of the AMA who provides the club insurance, and thus has it in their best interest to make sure the club follows the rules. Its an actual functional self policing system.

    Any serious RC pilot is an AMA member. Its cheap ($60 bucks this year for an individual, a little more for an entire family) and comes with a couple million in insurance for when you put your tricked out heli through some beamers front windshield ... which I've done. You won't find too many RC pilots that will even talk to you about RC without an AMA membership as its one of the few organizations that fight for RC pilots (Think of them as the EFF for RC pilots, though they are a for-profit organization).

    With that said, the AMA will help you get waivers, and they'll help you get the permits to do commercial work, but that requires a massive amount of FAA ass kissing cause frankly, its far too easy to do bad things or hurt someone fucking around with an RC aircraft, for instance:

    My all electric seaplane weighs about 1.5 pounds, and will do roughly 70mph before it becomes dangerous for the aircraft. That'll take your head off if it hits you at full speed, and if the motor is throttled back, you won't even hear it happen, which is generally how it sounds when its out of control on its way towards the ground.

    My Raptor 50 heli, which has a camera attachment of my own making weighs about 7 pounds when fully loaded, will do somewhere between 45-60mph, haven't clocked it to be sure. It doesn't even have to hit you to kill you, I've seen a rotor strike the ground, break off and hospitalize a guy standing 10 feet away. Fortunatly the blade 'flew' into him like a wing in stable flight rather than end on like a knife. The bruise left behind stretched from his crotch to his nipples. Internal bruising of organs, but nothing permanent. He got lucky. Those blade tips when the rotor is at speed like its supposed to be (1800-2100 RPMs depending on your setup), the blade tips are moving at well over 300mph. When they break off, you don't want to be close by.

    The real killer is the bird I'll never finish.

    Its a turbine powered F-16. Will weigh about 29 pounds dry with no extra equipment when completed, between 33-35 will fully equipped and fueled. While I don't know how fast it will go once completed, others flying the same bird have broken 170 and there are some unofficial speeds of over 200mph reported. I'll never finish this aircraft because the turbine is about 3 times the price of everything else combined, and to be honest, my vision isn't good enough to see this plane at the distances you have to deal with when the aircraft is doing 150+ miles an hour, and well, why the hell build it if you're not going to fly it like its meant! This aircraft requires a special AMA waiver to be legal, which I probably couldn't qualify for due to the vision problems either.

    The point to that however is that 29 pounds at 150-200 mph is enough energy to total a small house, and as such, it gets treated specially.

    If you want to fly a little airplane away from people, its legal.

    Flying that same aircraft in a populated area, or an area without a waiver is illegal.

    Flying commercially is possible with a waiver, which is rather difficult to get especially if you're trying to do some shit thats not kosher. Its almost as difficult as getting a pilots license for commercial flight (which isn't really hard, but does take time and money and requires certification). Its almost easier and cheaper to just fly a small plane to do this as a non-government entity.

    I highly doubt News Corp got a waiver, otherwise this wouldn't even be a story.

  • Re:Drone vs. RC (Score:4, Informative)

    by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @09:26PM (#36980352)

    That aircraft requires a special waiver to be legally flown anywhere in the US. Both the pilot and the aircraft have to be certified. It is not allowed to be flown anywhere near a populated area without special exception waivers for things like air shows at airports too close to a city.

    'Giant Scale' aircraft have a different set of rules specifically because of things like size and energy they contain in flight. They require all sorts of special features of the radio (which aren't really all that non-standard anymore, all my radios have the features even though I have no flyable aircraft that large) to ensure that if something goes wrong the aircraft becomes the least dangerous flying object it can be.

    Its not a toy, its an experimental aircraft, and is regulated as such.

    Its easier to fly an ultralight class aircraft carrying yourself than it is to fly that aircraft, and could actually be cheaper. I've got a a turbine powered F-16 that'll be a little larger than that when completed that will cost upwards of 7k USD (The turbine itself costs roughly 5k and will probably be the reason it never gets finished) to finish it and fit it out properly. You can buy a used ultralight for 6500, if you're crazy enough to do so.

  • 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.
  • Re:Drone vs. RC (Score:3, Informative)

    by iamhassi ( 659463 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @09:51PM (#36980524) Journal
    I hope someone rates you up. This is not a "drone". The 49 foot, 2,250 lbs Predator is a drone [wikipedia.org]. This is a 5 lbs, 3 foot wide R/C quad-rotor toy helicopter with a video camera attached. [microdrones.com]

    This isn't even newsworthy, in fact I think this article is a lie. The title is "FAA Looks Into News Corp’s Daily Drone, Raising Questions About Who Gets To Fly Drones in The U.S.", but there is no mention of the FAA proactively going after News Corp, in fact the only mention of the FAA doing anything is an email after the reporter asked if they heard of this "drone": “We are examining The Daily’s use of a small unmanned aircraft to see if it was in accordance with FAA policies.” and the Daily didn't even reply to emails.

    Sounds like the FAA weren't all that concerned until this reporter started sending out emails asking questions.
  • Re:FAA Shutdown (Score:3, Informative)

    by utkonos ( 2104836 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @11:30PM (#36981318)

    You're all really funny people! Obviously you have only worked in the US or in the west. Go to Russia or Ukraine or anywhere in the former soviet bloc. You won't find any employers who pay on time every time. You only option is to go to a different employer who will also be iffy on paying on time. The problem is that most of your salary is "chyorny" meaning black: not taxed and not reported in the company's clean books (every company in Russia has two sets of books, one for the government and the other with the true numbers in it). Often because of the nature of black salary it is handed to you in an envelope filled with cash. So, therefore there is not always enough cold hard cash to pay everyone on time. It is not uncommon for the accountant to go to the local Sberbank and even though her account has more than enough money, the bank does not have the cash for the withdrawal.

    Americans are spoiled by being paid on time more times than not.

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

    by Chibi Merrow ( 226057 ) <mrmerrow@moHORSE ... minus herbivore> 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.

  • 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.

The road to ruin is always in good repair, and the travellers pay the expense of it. -- Josh Billings