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FAA Program Tests Drones Flying Beyond Pilot's Line-of-Sight 37

itwbennett writes: FAA administrator Michael P. Huerta announced Wednesday a new Pathfinder Program under which the agency has partnered with three U.S. companies to explore three key types of unmanned operations, possibly paving the way for operations such as the aerial delivery of packages as proposed by companies like Amazon.com. One of the companies the FAA has partnered with is drone manufacturer PrecisionHawk, which will be surveying crops in rural areas using unmanned aircraft flying outside of the pilot's direct vision.
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FAA Program Tests Drones Flying Beyond Pilot's Line-of-Sight

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  • IAADP (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 07, 2015 @01:50PM (#49641187)

    I am a UAV pilot, and routinely fly beyond line of sight. It works poorly, at best, and routinely has small issues that leave me convinced that it should not be allowed in civil airspace in the foreseeable future. People continue to think that these are harmless toys, but micro-UAVs are just as lethal as a fastball thrown by a professional. Think about 55 lbs, a large part battery, falling 500' on you. Not a pleasant thought. Not a toy.

    • Works poorly because of operator limitations?

      There's a band of error to all operations; I would expect a suitable band could be chosen for automated flight. For non-automated flight, a list of requirements to provide an experienced pilot a reasonable chance of success. And fail safes for problems - such as automatic recovery deployment in the event of an critical flight sustainability error. There are no perfect methods, but there are acceptable risks.

      • Works poorly because of operator limitations?

        I'm going to go out on a limb here and say it may very well be technological limitations, not operator limitations. I'm thinking that there is probably some lag in the feedback. Whether or not this can be fixed is, at least partially, going to be dependent on how far out of site the drone will be.

        • by Agripa ( 139780 )

          I'm going to go out on a limb here and say it may very well be technological limitations, not operator limitations. I'm thinking that there is probably some lag in the feedback. Whether or not this can be fixed is, at least partially, going to be dependent on how far out of site the drone will be.

          While lag in feedback is problematical if latency is high, this is completely solvable and more of a problem with digital video and digital control systems if they are not optimized for low latency. Lag in simple

    • If they were required to have an auto-deploy parachute that might reduce some categories of problems
      • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

        If they were required to have an auto-deploy parachute that might reduce some categories of problems

        Why would any commercial enterprise in their right mind fly a big, expensive drone that would smash to pieces if it hit the ground from normal operating altitude, and not have some device to prevent it from doing so?

        All that's really needed is insurance and common sense. All the FAA can do is cripple the US drone industry with pointless regulations.

      • The CQ10A weighs 1400 lbs wet, and uses a parafoil for lift, the parachute's baked into the design.
        It's only those dumbass quadcopter designs that like burning battery fighting gravity. hint, you're never gonna win...
        • If you need a craft that can hover with precision, that's really the only way to go. Planes can't drop a package into a container.

          • Bomb sights are pretty good. But they can't gently place a package into a container.

            Planes also don't need approximately 3x weight in thrust. (3x is a quad rule of thumb.)

        • They don't need to win they just need to not lose which is possible.

    • 55lbs is micro? On Jupiter perhaps.

    • Think about 55 lbs, a large part battery, falling 500' on you.

      I'm thinking blue ice [urbandictionary.com].

  • Delivery?? (Score:4, Informative)

    by jklovanc ( 1603149 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @02:18PM (#49641433)

    Nowhere in the FAA release [faa.gov] does it mention package delivery. It only covers the following;

    CNN will be researching how visual line-of-sight operations might be used for newsgathering in urban areas.
    PrecisionHawk, a manufacturer, will be surveying crops in rural areas using unmanned aircraft flying outside of the pilot’s direct vision.
    BNSF Railroad will explore the challenges of using these vehicles to inspect their rail infrastructure beyond visual line-of-sight in isolated areas.

  • Whenever a Nerf dart landed in my coworker's cube, he would keep the dart and tell the person who lost the dart to go pound sound. I can see the same thing happening to drones that crash into his backyard. That's a nice drone you lost, too bad you're not getting it back.
    • I'm pretty sure lawyers would rapidly get involved in that scenario.
      • Possession is nine-tenths of the law.
        • A classic cliche... but really not true outside of the wild west. You simply can't keep anything that happens to enter your land, especially when that thing is legally registered to another owner.
          • Most drones aren't legally registered. You buy a drone at the store, fly it around for a while, watch it slide out of RC range, and crash into a fenced-in backyard with a big "NO TRESPASSING - WATCH OUT FOR GOD" sign. Unless you have a sales receipt with a serial number that matches a serial number on the drone, you're so out of luck if you call the cops.

            BTW, The cliche [wikipedia.org] goes back to the 16th century.

    • by Agripa ( 139780 )

      Whenever a Nerf dart landed in my coworker's cube, he would keep the dart and tell the person who lost the dart to go pound sound. I can see the same thing happening to drones that crash into his backyard. That's a nice drone you lost, too bad you're not getting it back.

      Shoot, shovel, shut up.

  • I think the idea of not going beyond line of sight is that you'll still be able to recover from FPV equipment failure, and also so you can be more aware of what's around the craft in the area you're flying (e.g. visually inspect what it's flying above).

    You can simply look up, or take off your goggles (if you're using them instead of an LCD). In addition, some countries require a second person as a "spotter" to keep an eye out, visually, for things the pilot can't see.

    Go beyond line of sight and you don't k

  • by rossdee ( 243626 )

    Predator drones fly beyond the line of sight of the pilot all the time

  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @04:49PM (#49642657)

    The thing that annoys me most about this issue is all the government regulators that jumped on them like they were anything new.

    We've had remote controlled helicopters and airplanes for ages. Most drones are basically exactly that. There is a dude that stands there with a controller, and he moves it around and the "drone" which is just a remote controlled helicopter moves around in response.

    Fucking shocking.

    But so many fuckwits have these notions of defense industry military assault drones in their tiny little heads that they think some 500 dollar toy some dude assembled in his backyard is somehow in anyway analogous.

    Here is the first thing you need for a real drone - Autonomous flight. Practically none of the things we call "drones" can do that.

    Even in this case they laughably are trialing a "drone" that leaves the line of sight of the operator as if that would somehow be an innovation for a fucking drone.

    Not only should a REAL drone be able to do that but I should be able to OD on cocaine and die and the drone should still follow its programmed flight plan largely unaffected by my twitching corpse with blood foaming out of my nostrils.

    Look, I'm cool with the government regulating stuff because they're after all the warlords that have claimed our asses. But can they at least be competent warlords?

    I have this feeling when I read government actions... It sounds like some old lady that just misheard something her grandson told her and is massively overreacting and misunderstanding everything in the most disastrous way possible. That is the government is sounding batty, senile, reactionary, and generally out of touch with things not Matlock related.

    Here is what I want with drones:

    1. If the drone is operating over private property, is not rising more than 500 feet above the ground, and the relevant airspace is not being used by commercial or military aircraft then let me do whatever the fuck I want. Obviously I shouldn't fly a giant glowing blow up doll airship over my property to annoy my neighbor, Ned Flanders... But if I'm being reasonable then leave me alone. I don't even want to fill out a form. Leave me alone.

    2. If the drone is relatively light then I don't want to hear a lot of bitching about health and safety. Fucking birds crash into stuff all the time and children throw balls over fences... in either case you could be hit my a confused sparrow or some out of no where ball... and we don't expect health and safety to get involved with any of that. Little remote controlled or even autonomous flying craft aren't going to hurt anyone. Most of them could drop right out of the sky right onto your head and they wouldn't do anything. They're as light as possible by design because the little shitty motors and the little crappy batteries can't handle anything heavier. Now, for bigger craft... fine. But for the little stuff, give me a break.

    3. If forms are to be filled out, then they need to work something like a pilot's license or a driver's license. That is... you fill out some forms, maybe take a test, pay some fee to the relevant warlord, and then you're good to go. This means amongst other things that Amazon etc get to fly their fuck planes if they can fill out a form and pay a fee. To those that say "what happens if their drone falls out of the sky and damages my rose bushes!'... same thing that would happen if UPS hit your rose bushes with their truck. Why is complicated all of a sudden?

    4. Assuming we can master steps 1-3, I'd like to see drones used throughout our society. For delivery, for surveillance, for crop dusting, for real estate photography, for police chases, for forest fire surveillance AND actually going to the relevant lake/water source, grabbing X hundred gallons, and dumping all that on the forest fire... and really an endless number of cool shit.

    Now someone is going to say "but the warlords scare me and I don't really like the idea of the warlords having stuff that makes them scarier"... well my overripe

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