Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Drone On

Downtown Amherst from 396 feet

The long awaited FAA rules for professional use of small unmanned aircraft systems aka drones will go into effect in late August.  The major concession that created a collective sigh of relief among us responsible users is loosening the silly requirement that operators have a commercial pilots license.

But additional training and certification in aeronautics is required, which is probably not a bad thing depending on cost of certification and degree of difficulty with the syllabus.

The other rules are pretty much the same as announced last year when registration was first required:  keep it under 400 feet, in visual sight and do not fly directly over large crowds.

Maybe when drones go mainstream -- if indeed they haven't already -- people will relax and realize what wonderful tools they can be.

My Facebook page threw up one of those "memories from last year" this morning as I was working on this article that showed me hand catching my baby after a photo shoot in North Amherst center done at the request of outgoing Planner Jeff Bagg (who took the photo).

Drone shoot for Planning Dept public hearing on North Amherst center realignment

A couple of weeks ago I covered the spectacular fire at Alpine Commons and specifically asked Assistant Chief Stromgren if it was okay to put my eye in the sky.

He not only gave me permission but brought it to the attention of Chief Nelson who came over and requested I get a better view of the roof, which was then belching smoke and flames from a fire that had too big a head start.

 Engine 2 (top) has high capacity water cannon at end of 75' ladder

Demonstrating his vast experience Chief Nelson almost instantly ascertained "the roof is gone" and pulled his firefighters out of the building.  Not much later a section of the roof collapsed.

He then sent me over to Engine 2 to show my live feed from above to better direct the 1,000 gallon per minute water attack.

Like any tool they can be misused.  When an irresponsible user crashed a Phantom 2 on the White House lawn the company upgraded their firmware to geofence Washington D.C. as they previously had done will all commercial airports so their drones will not even fly.

And their drones have a built in fail safe so if the battery gets too low or the transmitter control signal is lost it will use GPS to return to the original take off point, land and shut off.  Sort of like an intelligent boomerang.

So when you see someone controlling a drone on public property covering a public event do not come up to them and challenge them about a license or registration.  Chances are they have one.

I often wonder if those same people go up to a person who just parked their car at a public meter and ask them if they have a license to drive?

 Sweetser Park Amherst Community Band concert shot from APD front lawn

Last week I had two gentlemen challenge me while covering two different public events in the downtown, one of which I used the front lawn of the police station as my launch pad/control space.

"Are you registered to use that thing", he snarled.  "Yes", I responded.  "Do the police know you use that damn thing?"  "Yes" I responded.  He stormed off, obviously disappointed.

 Interim Chamber Director Jerry Guidera caught me covering The Taste of Amherst

Although I have to admit negative interactions with the general public are probably only one-in-ten, but those other nine enthusiastically asking questions while my bird is in the air are equally distracting. 


Anonymous said...

Any info on the bicyclist hit and run by a car during the pedal for pints in Sunderland on Saturday?

Anonymous said...

Privacy, RIP.

Imagine the fun a half dozen high school kids could have harassing a teacher should they be so inclined.

Larry Kelley said...

No, sorry. Not my beat.

Larry Kelley said...

Nonsense. There are already laws on the books concerning harassment.

Anonymous said...

Privacy? ...I generally avoid being naked in my backyard for lots of reasons. And harassing anyone has lots of methods and you wouldn't outlaw phones, email or sharp instruments (to puncture tires)!

Ralph Reed said...

Anonymous remote surveillance isn't necessarily pleasant.

Anonymous said...

Of course, those sale new FAA rules you point to make it clear that flying over people is not allowed - common sense dictates this also and responsible pilots don't fly over crowds, roads, etc. due to the danger(s).

Dr. Ed said...

It used to be that you owned at least to the top of your trees, and in general to 1000 feet, and the FAA above that.

This now says that you don't even own an inch above your lawn. Biggest invasion of private property in history. I'm waiting for the drone collisions, intentional &7\ otherwise, as well as non-firearms removal of drones. Say seinging at it with a baseball bat, or any variety of prop fouling. Airplane law is clear, the pilot is at fault in any collision with anything on private property.

Larry Kelley said...

My drone hits back.

(Well, actually, I do.)

Dr. Ed said...

Hitting others "back" is called A&B, Larry.

Read _Romeo $ Juilet_ sometime....

Larry Kelley said...

I prefer to think of it as self defense (even possibly invoking the Israeli "hit back first" ideology.)