FAST LANE TO PART 107 CERTIFICATION (Breaking the DroneCode part 5)

With the FAA’s announcement of the new FAR Part 107, there seems to be a tremendous confusion about obtaining a 107 certification. Drones Plus is happy to assist in this, as truly, it’s not very difficult. Here’s a quick-start guide to receiving your very own Part 107 certification from the FAA (when it becomes available, and assuming you’re not currently a rated Airman,who are able to take the test now, see below image). ).

SO YOU WANT TO OBTAIN A 107 CERTIFICATION!

  • First step; download and fill in the 8710-1 application from the FAA website, for a student pilot certificate. Fill it out, but DO NOT submit it online. Plan on going to the local FSDO with it (maybe take a blank second copy, just in case of an error).
  • Set up an appointment with an inspector at your local FSDO office.  They’ll check the application. This will start the currently no-cost Homeland Security background check process. Alternatively, you can wait until the 8710-13 form becomes available in July/August and take the test before or after the application. Some would prefer to get their security check out of the way.
  • Study for the Airmen’s test that will be administered at one of over 600 flight schools across the country.  The test is not currently available, so now is the time to start studying. I highly recommend purchasing the Study Buddy application from your Google Play or Itunes App store. Study hard. You can study it with the FAA course too, although it’s quite sparse.
  • Take the test when it’s available in August.
  • Receive a 17 digit code, use IACRA (Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application) to file FAA Form 8710-13 (which doesn’t exist yet)
  • BAM! 107 Certified!

There are a few other caveats to the Part 107 conversation; you must meet the following criteria.

  • The minimum age for a Remote Pilot in Command is 16-years-old;
  • The maximum altitude has been changed to 400 feet AGL (above ground level);
  • There is a read, speak, write and understand English requirement; and
  • Current Part 61 manned aircraft certificate holders will only have to take and pass an online test .

SO, DOES THIS MEAN THERE IS NO REASON FOR A 333 EXEMPTION?

NO! The 333 Exemption still carries specific privileges and abilities to request special types of flights.If you want to do more than what’s in the rules, you’ll need to work with the FAA and a 333 makes this a bit easier.

HAPPY FLYING!

If you like this series, please share and “like?” It’s the one thing that inspires me to continue authoring them.

Breaking The Drone-Code: 336, 333, 107 (Part 1)

An understanding of the Drone Code may help clarify the lines the FAA and UAS/UAV/drone owners have drawn in the sand for each other, and like sand on a beach, the Drone-Code may seem to shift at the whims of legislation, lobbyists, manufacturer organizations, government agencies, and UAS users.  It doesn’t. However, like a beach, sometimes it’s difficult distinguishing shifting sands vs the underlying large rocks.

UAS/UAV/Drone users define the lines through intentional ignorance of the framework setup by the FAA and hobby associations and herein is the focus.

333 Exemption

The reason for the FAA 333 Exemption is to allow drone owners/pilots to commercially fly UAS/UAV for a variety of purposes such as cinema, corporate video, aerial inspections, surveying, mining, law enforcement, orthomosaics, mapping, monitoring construction, and other professional purposes. Currently the FAA views and classifies UAS as “Civil Aircraft.” This means that until Part 107 is executed, the legal perspective classifies UAS with the same classification as manned aircraft. Currently the focus is on manned vs unmanned vehicles, although this is shifting as the two industries continue to cross over and blur the lines. At the time of this writing, there are just over 5,000 exemptions that have been granted.

If a lawyer or organization is asking anything over $1000.00 for a 333 Exemption service, it’s a rip-off. Fly away.

336 Exemption

The FAA has instituted what is known as a 336 Exemption that allows drone owners to fly their drones recreationally, for purposes of fun and personal use. Specifically, it states that 336 defines model aircraft as aircraft. Commercial UAS operations are prohibited without FAA authorization. The 336 statute requires model aircraft to be flown strictly for hobby or recreational purposesand within the operator’s Visual Line of Sight (VLOS).

Many “recreational users” want to consider themselves skilled professionals at taking imagery of homes for their buddy who is a real-estate salesperson, or film a marathon for the race participants so they’ll have an event video, or even just taking great shots to ‘give’ to a stock footage company. The web is full of posts suggesting “just wing it” and “take the risk, the FAA isn’t going to hassle you.” The web is equally filled with drone owners completely ignorant of aviation standards such as those found in the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) not to mention the operators who struggle and out-right deny to understand that a remote-controlled device (RC) can be in any way, construed a danger to manned aircraft. While many of them consider themselves “informed,”

This is where the greatest communication challenges seem to arise.

A recent example is demonstrated by a non-333 Exemption holder being invited to film a marathon race in Brooklyn, NY. As this chart shows, the Brooklyn area is virtually entirely a Special Flight Rules area, and not only would 336 flight be a challenge, but a 333/Commercial Flight would likely not be covered without separate permissions.

However, the members of the drone community indicated that the non-333 Exempt drone owner should “go ahead and fly the gig, no one will care” and “The FAA would have to prove you’re not doing it for fun” even though the non-exempt operator himself, was questioning the legality of his intentions.

Not the best plan in any circumstance, but contacting the local Flight Standards District Office/FSDO might be a good idea.

The FAA is at some point in time going to execute a new FAR section, Part 107. This was originally scheduled to occur on April 1, 2016. It wasn’t implemented on time due to language revisions, but is expected to execute in June or September of 2016. This addition to the current FARs puts drones into their own category rather than the current Frankenstein amalgam of Part 55, Part 61, Part 91, Part 101, Part 103, and Part 105 with bits and bytes cobbled from other FARs.

Part 107 offers a better separation of UAS from manned aircraft, and requires a knowledge exam to be passed by potential operators (note the use of the word “operator” vs “pilot.” Pilots fly aircraft, operators fly UAS).

Proposed Part 107 Operator requirements

  • Pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center. This would likely be your local flight school location or through an agency like Drones Plus.
  • Be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration.
  • Obtain an unmanned aircraft operator certificate with a small UAS rating (like existing pilot airman certificates, never expires).
  • Pass a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test every 24 months.
  • Be at least 17 years old.
  • Make available to the FAA, upon request, the small UAS for inspection or testing, and any associated documents/records required to be kept under the proposed rule. Flight and maintenance logs are expected to be required, just as manned aircraft require.
  • Report an accident to the FAA within 10 days of any operation that results in injury or property damage.
  • Conduct a preflight inspection, to include specific aircraft and control station systems checks, to ensure the small UAS is safe for operation.

The Benefits:

No need for previously licensed FAA pilot as operator. The Part 107 aeronautical knowledge test contains only segments from the Private Pilot test that are relevant to sUAS operations and nothing more.

An extra VO (Visual Observer) is not required for flights. One operator is the only individual responsible for the flight and the location of the sUAS. This relieves the burden of having to employ a two man team but it does require a much more observant operator who is both watching the computer and the sUAS at all times. As a risk-assessment professional, it will continue to be my recommendation that all commercial operations consist of a minimum of two individuals.

No need for Air Traffic Control clearance in class G airspace.  In summary it means that uncontrolled airspace up to 500 feet is available to operators. This would negate the need for a COA (certificate of authorization) unless flights near airports (A,B,C,D airspace) or in otherwise restricted spaces are the intention.

Part Two of this discussion will delve into understanding airspace for UAV operations, whether 336 or 333.

HUFFINGTON POST IS WRONG and here’s the proof…

Yesterday the Huffington Post authored a story about a drone breaking through a window, hitting an interface designer in the head, and giving him a headache.

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Mr. David Perel may be an interface designer, but he is also something more, something nefarious in the eyes of the UAV/Drone community.

He’s unbelievable in his claims of being a victim.

And the Huffington Post is helping to elevate his prevarication to the detriment of UAV operators/pilots.

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The mere shape of this “break” is the first clue to the hoax. It’s obvious the impact point to the window came from inside the window and not outside. Next, the shape is too “cartoon-like” and contrived.  For example, notice the two “fang” shapes hanging down. How did the drone pass through that section without either scratching the heck out of the drone, and more importantly, without breaking any props? Anyone who has tipped a DJI Phantom on its side knows the stock plastic props will break with only the motor velocity, yet we’re expected to believe that static glass didn’t break the props?

Note the round patttern of the break. The battery on the Phantom would have had to have been the primary impact point in order to create this sort of patterning, and it is physically impossible for the battery to have struck the window. The arms, props, and landing gear all would have hit first, and these are all extremely fragile (Ask any DJI owner; there are thousands of photos of broken props/landing gear.)

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This DJI Phantom crashed into the ground at slow speed, yet suffered more damage than the alleged Perel incident being spread across the news.
Additionally, the size of the window provides a tensile strength, one that there simply is no way a  2lb piece of fragile plastic could have broken. Small surfaces are stronger than large suspended surfaces.

The glass pattern on the floor also indicates a hoax. Notice that the photos and video don’t show the shatter pattern? Shattered glass patterning is well-researched, well documented, and this doesnt fit.

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Objects on the desk provide clues; they’ve moved between photos being taken. Admittedly, this is a less obvious clue, as objects may have been moved around when taking stills.

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This is the view just prior to impact. Somehow, the camera shifts from a forward face with a landing gear/leg in the shot, to a rear-ward face with the same landing gear in the shot, but manages to somehow capture an arm/prop, too. None of the movement is consistent with an out-of-control drone. Why do we never see Mr. Perel, the alleged victim, in any of the rotating video shots? After all, it did strike him hard enough in the head that he’d experienced “a headache” that was needed significant recovery time. Where are the pictures of the cuts or bruises? These are flying Cuisinarts, after all.

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None of these points add up. At 00:13 into the video, there is an obvious edit point. Watch the video at quarter speed. Why would there be an edit point in a “this is the whole story” video, particularly at the point of impact?

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The article quotes Perel as saying there was a GoPro camera on the drone, and he removed the memory card before looking for the owner (this was later changed both on Huffington Post and on the victim’s Instagram page).

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Mr. Perel certainly knows what a GoPro camera looks like. His YouTube page is filled with GoPro videos, so he apparently has one or access to one.
Yet this Phantom has no GoPro on it. It has a factory-built Vision camera that looks nothing like a GoPro. He says in his instagram post that “he removed the card from the GoPro.”

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DJI Phantom 2 Vision Camera, as seen in this photo.
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The GoPro looks quite different than the DJI camera

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note that the Phantom has no damage other than a half-broken prop. The hoax would be more believable had the very fragile landing gear, and equally fragile gimbal been at least damaged. Every hobby store that sells DJI has at least a few replacement landing sets around, as these thin bits of plastic frequently break or crack during normal landings. One company, PolarPro, even makes a landing gear/gimbal protector, due to the fragility.

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PolarPro Gimbal Guard/landing support

Mr. Perel is likely also desperate for web views to please his sponsors (most of us are). Until this video hit, his videos have suffered from low numbers of views that don’t quite support the claim to being the great advertiser his buiness webpage suggests. He claims to have millions of eyeballs on him every month. From where? What evidence supports this claim?

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Mr. Perel claims on his business page that he is a good advertising partner.

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I believe Mr. Perel has other motivations to gain eyeballs on his site; a couple of clicks on his website demonstrate he’s looking for money to achieve a dream. he needs money for his endeavors and doesn’t mind reaching out to get it from others. What better way to draw eyeballs to his cause than a pathetic plea for attention?
Poor guy.
He has a headache.
Perhaps he was up all night creating the hoax with friends?
His twitter account demonstrates that he knows how to edit and process video, supposedly like a pro.

For a would-be sports star that has “millions of viewers” it’s surprising that only 28 people gave $4K in a month. Apparently these millions of eyeballs aren’t people with money?
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Mr. Perel’s own Twitter account demonstrates that on-line views are his source of income. The 8,800 followers compared to his 31,000 tweets suggest his marketing schemes aren’t so effecDroneFake15tive and are a far cry from the “millions” he claims to be able to deliver to advertisers.

My speculation is that Mr. Perel is needful of attention and created a very well-done hoax that Huffington Post (and other publications) didn’t research prior to publishing an article that on the surface appears to be a real story. This disappoints me because I’ve generally considered Huffington Post to be a higher-grade, more truthful and accurate publication that digs into stories prior to publishing. From my chair, their credibility took a huge hit with this story and HP should take a huge hit with anyone reading this blog post. It’s difficult to blame anyone for trying something new to draw page views.

Congrats Mr. Perel, you’ve gained your Warhol-ian 15 minutes of fame. I only hope it’s not at the expense of South African UAV regulations becoming more restrictive.

Shame on you Huffington Post; you’ve deeply disappointed me, and I’m sure many others in publishing/perpetuating this clever, but easily dismantled hoax that may prove harmful to the UAV/Drone industry worldwide.

 

[edit] Mr. Perel deleted his Instagram pictures and claims of injury after I chatted a link to this blog.  I have emailed the constabulary, CAA, and other authorities in South Africa to alert them to the fraud/hoax, in hopes that no authority misunderstands this situation and takes no action against drones due to Mr. Perel’s publicity stunt.

 

 

 

 

WITNESS TO HISTORY

1908 was a big year for the world; the automobile found its way to the masses through the invention of the assembly line, created by Henry Ford. Not only did the mass-production line bring affordable prices, it also created the middle class. up

We’re in much the same birthspace; UAV/Drones are just beginning to grow into toddler-hood and millions of individuals (88% male, by some polls) are rapidly acquiring the skills and technology required to foster and grow this new industry.

Some view drones as mere toys, sideshows for businesses and leisure users.

Nothing could be further from accurate.

Drones (Some hate the word, yet it has rapidly become accepted in non-military circles) are being used in many industries already. Oil fields, solar fields, search and rescue, law enforcement, fire control, delivery of life-saving or retail goods, terrain mapping, agriculture, artists, wildlife management, mining, land management, fishing, cable/telecommunications inspection, real estate, and so many other industries are already using aerial technology. There are even underwater drones to inspect hulls of boats, ships, docks, etc.

What many may not immediately realize is the growth industry behind drones. Manufacturers aside, there are parts providers, technicians, sales people, support people, pilots, operators, and vendors of services. Colleges all across the globe are scrambling to develop programs similar to those that Humber College in Toronto, Ontario have had for a while now. Open source software drives commercially-focused drones such as those from 3DRobotics company, and computer-aided design plays a role in developing commercial custom drones.

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Angelo builds a custom multirotor for surveillance work

Just as the automobile delivered the middle class to America and other parts of the world, the drone/UAV industry is poised to continue that weave in modern society whether in medicine, delivery, cinematography, transportation, or whatever else may come forward.

Whether it’s designing a custom solution for corporate or commercial work, or small-format cinematography, my team and I are here to assist you in taking full advantage of the shift in world progress.  We are committed to providing the most up-to-date information, advice, technology development, and resources to assuring our clients are presented with the most cost-effective, performance-balanced product possible.

DRONE PRIVACY CONCERNS? What you need to know NOW!

Communities, states, and even the Fed are discussing potential breach of personal privacy from sUAVs in the skies of today and more importantly, skies of tomorrow.

First and foremost, let’s dispel the thought that privacy in the modern world actually exists at all. Somewhere, some how, some system is monitoring, reporting, storing, and targeting each of us as we browse the web, use our mobile devices, or drive from place to place. The amount of personal information collected by Google, Amazon, and Apple is simply overwhelming and astounding. Because of these “snoops,” Apple and Google can accurately predict our buying cycles, clothing preferences, what sort of partner would be best, and how we’ll vote.

We’re monitored by traffic and security cameras 24/7. At a recent security conference, it was revealed that in the average mid-sized city, each person is photographed an average of (at least) 300 times per day. Security cameras live in our offices, on our roads, and even our laptops can be compromised to us the built-in camera to surveil us.

However, this article is about privacy from sUAV, typically in our homes. What about those situations?

DRONE PRIVACY

A friend recently contracted a roofer to do a roof inspection and provide advice on what may or may not be needed to bring his roof up to standard. The roofer had just purchased an sUAV to aid in roof inspections. He’s a new drone operator and technically operating outside of legal bounds (without a 333 commercial exemption).

Roof Inspection-UAV

In the process of this flight, a neighbor became very concerned about his privacy, enough so that he climbed out of his swimming pool to view the drone pilot, initially remaining hidden behind vines in the alley way before becoming confrontational.

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During the drone flight, the pilot hadn’t noticed the neighbor in his swimming pool, without doing a slow-motion look at the footage from the roofing inspection.

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Can you spot the neighbor? On a small tablet, the person in the image is all but impossible to see, particularly in the very few seconds he’s in the frame during the “return to home and landing” process.

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For those concerned with the pilot being able to “zoom in” on the subject (or the person concerned about their privacy) it’s important to note that UAV/drone cameras aren’t able to zoom. Zooming makes the already-moving image even more unstable, and therefore unusable for purposes of inspection. Currently, UAV/drones must be flown very close to the subject to obtain a clear image. However, I’ve taken a still from this video and blown it up more than 4X, which demonstrates the lack of quality when zooming during post-video/photo processes.

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Overall, the image is useless for purposes of privacy. The image doesn’t meet any media standard for printing, cannot be used for creating even a half-useful online image. Imagine someone using this quality for virtually any nefarious abuse of individual privacy.

There isn’t much there. EVen with a very high resolution 4K camera, the post-process zoom is effectively useless.

Persons such as the self-proclaimed “DroneSlayer” who shot a drone out of the sky for “taking pictures of his daughter” from an altitude of 200′ above the ground are severely misguided. In the case of the “DroneSlayer,” the shotgun-happy shooter claimed the drone was “10 feet above my fence” when GPS and flight logs demonstrate the drone was not lower than 200′ at any point in time of flight. In other words, it’s apparently difficult for some folks (likely most people) to ascertain altitude. As a skydiver intimately familiar with absolute height over ground, it is indeed, very difficult to ascertain altitude from the ground to the sky without references.

For those that feel some sort of safe harbor from drones “because our community passed laws recently,” know that most of the recently-passed laws are superceded by federal laws. The FAA controls the airspace above your home, not the local mayor or city council.

At this point in time, there is little to be concerned about with regards to privacy. Drones are noisy, the ability of a camera on a drone is very limited, and one will always know when a drone is “that close.”

If a UAV/Drone is flying close to your home, business, or person, look around. The operator/pilot is likely very close by and one can talk to the operator/pilot and learn about what they’re doing with the device.

But know this for certain; drone pilots are not out to surreptitiously take photos of you through your bedroom window, take video of your children playing in their backyard, or spy on your behaviors. The vast majority of UAV/drones out there simply lack the requisite technology to do so with a stealth signature.

 

 

Drone Rules Suck (and Here’s Why You Want Them…)

Everything in life has rules and most everyone complains about them from time to time. “Traffic is bad today, why can’t I just drive on the sidewalk?” “I just need a quick snack, no one will notice that I swiped a bag of peanuts from the store...”

Drones are no different. Each morning I get up to read my news streams and sure enough, there’s some guy who broke the rules and/or some person complaining about the recommendations or rules for UAV/drones.  One can’t blame some of the complainers; the people that are breaking the rules make it more difficult for those of us that try to follow them. And to be fair, some of the UAV/drone rules and laws are not only unreasonable but downright ineffective. Some of them are a knee-jerk reaction from local politicians who are for the most part, ignorant of the FAA and existing laws.

But, why do we need to have these rules in the first place? Why can’t common sense prevail?

Let’s tackle the last one first.

“Common Sense” isn’t common at all.

The Dunning Kruger effect plays a significant role in the UAV/drone community, and if you don’t know what it is, follow the link. You will likely appreciate the reference. We’ve all been “that person” at least once in our lifetimes.

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.

Many drone owners purchase drones, drive to the park, drop in the battery, and fly. Some may visit webpages, join communities, and at the least gain a basic knowledge of survival skills with their drone. A fraction seek training, read books, or take a course at a local drone instructional.  As a result, a small percentage of drone operators fly their vehicles into Ferris wheels, joggers, infants, windows, over ski race courses, etc.

WHY A MAXIMUM OF 400′ AGL?

With limited exception, general aviation is not permitted to fly below 500′ AGL (above Ground Level) in uncongested areas (FAR 91.119). Helicopters have some specific exclusions. This minimum altitude coupled with the UAV maximum of 400′ provides for a 100′ buffer between general aviation and UAV operations. In theory this should work well towards keeping UAV out of the flight path of any general aviation aircraft.

WHY MORE THAN 5 MILES FROM AN AIRPORT/AERODROME?

When aircraft are landing, they fly a “cone” that may have them at various altitudes. This airspace is understandably, highly controlled. The rule does not mean you absolutely cannot fly within these areas; it means operators must contact the control tower before flight. My experience has been that they’re very willing, polite, and appreciative of the contact. Be prepared to tell them exactly where you’ll be flying (Lat/Long are nice, but I’ve never been asked for those), altitude you’ll be flying (I’ve never asked for more than 400′, but one certainly can ask), time of day you wish to fly, and for how long you’ll be flying. They’ll likely ask for a phone number, and on two occasions, I’ve received a call-back from the tower verifying that my mission is complete.

WHY ARE DRONES VLOS?

This should be fairly self-evident. Visual Line Of Sight means the operator or a spotter can always see the UAV/drone. Currently, FPV without a spotter is not permitted in North America. Using an FPV device does not align with “VLOS.” However, using a spotter is permissible. Someone with control must always have a visual fix on the UAV. This is one of the reasons that UAV flight beyond one mile is generally not a good plan.

NO FLIGHT NEAR PEOPLE OR STADIUMS

Persons not involved/aware of your flight have a right to a reasonable expectation of safety. This includes not being concerned about what might fall on their heads while enjoying a football game. There have already been several instances of UAV/drones falling into stadiums and in at least one case, injuring a spectator. In most cases of stadium flight, the operator was also violating VLOS rules.

WHY IS “MORE THAN 25′ AWAY FROM PERSONS” REQUIRED?

Similar to the above explanation, UAS can harm people. There have been multiple instances of bystanders being injured, including two infants, during the landing operation of UAV/drones. Aside from it being a rule, it’s simply sensible to take off and land far away from people in the event of an unruly drone. Remember, blades can be very sharp.

HERE’S A LONG RULE:  

Do not fly near or over sensitive infrastructure or property such as power stations, water treatment facilities, correctional facilities, heavily traveled roadways, government facilities, etc.

Why? It should be fairly self-explanatory. In one recent drone incident, the pilot flew his DJI Inspire into a power line. The utility company is currently suing him for the $40,000.00 in damages incurred from the UAV cutting lines, manpower to repair/restore electricity, etc. Not flying over prisons seems self explanatory, no? Avoiding government facilities, such as the recent flyover a nuclear submarine base is likely a good idea, given that if one is caught, jail time and heavy fines are to be expected.

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RESPECT THE PRIVACY OF OTHERS

If you fly a typical UAV, you already know that the cameras on these devices is fairly wide-angled, and incapable of taking detailed pictures of the general public without the UAV being very, very close to the subject. The general public doesn’t know this, and one shouldn’t expect them to. They don’t know what you know. All they know is that a drone with a camera is pointed their way and like most rational people, they’ll be upset. If you’re going to be shooting photos or video of a landmark or people, be courteous and let them know. Talk to the people around, put up signs, notify authorities; take responsible action to prevent problems for yourself or others that might want to fly in that area in the future.

BE RESPECTFUL OF ANIMALS AND WILDLIFE

This isn’t in the FAA or Transport Canada guidelines; it’s one of my own. Dogs love to chase drones. Dog’s noses are very tender and soft and when a flying Cuisinart blade hits the dog’s nose, blood is likely to ensue. The same goes for filming wildlife. There are many videos of irresponsible (albeit understandable) drone operators wanting to fly near wildlife who have found their drone being attacked by cheetahs, mountain goats, antelope, monkeys, and other wild animals. While it’s understandable to want to get close to them in their habitat, be sure to keep a distance where the animal isn’t going to be able to reach the UAV and possibly be harmed by it. Taking a dog to a vet to get a nose stitched up is one thing; capturing and taking an antelope in to get an eye treated is entirely another thing.

All in all, the “rules” are quite simple, if one applies logic and some minimal form of self-evaluation regarding skill. One does not buy a drone and within 10-12 flights become “proficient.” It takes at least 40 hours of flight time to become reasonably proficient. This equals approximately 120 flights of an average battery time of 20 minutes per flight. Sound familiar? It requires 40 hours of flight to earn a beginner’s private pilot license, too.9.10.15-Drones-for-Hyperactive-Dogs1-590x385

Applied knowledge goes a long way to better practices and as the old saying goes, Perfect Practice makes perfect.

 

IRRESPONSIBLE DRONE-RSHIP

The media are all about small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (sUAV) these days, perhaps better known as “drones.” Drones add significant value to our lives and will become more important as we move forward into the future. However, with all technologies come great responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is how we operate our personal UAV/drones.

Last week in Clarendon, Texas, a newbie drone owner/operator decided to check out an antelope. The “pilot” is a self-admitted newbie, claiming he only has “20 or so flights” on his newly acquired device and perhaps that’s the reason for his short-sighted approach in flying his device close to a wild animal.

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There certainly is nothing wrong with wanting to capture the antelope in a natural setting. In fact, some would be a little jealous of such terrific subjects to film. Where this endeavor went wrong is when the drone owner decided to try to film the animal at eye-level and up close.

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The antelope makes an attempt to run away and the drone operator chose to chase the animal at high speed. The antelope turns and wants to check out the drone. Due to the erratic flight of the drone/poor piloting, the antelope perceives a threat and attacked the drone before running off.

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The drone doesn’t suffer much damage, but what about the antelope?

Veterinarians all over the world have made comment about the dangers propellers bring to dogs-noses. There have been a few cases of eye-loss, at least three of them infants who have been injured by propellers. In this article, several prop injuries can be seen.

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It’s not as though these flying Cuisinarts are entirely face-friendly. The face shown here was cut with the same model drone as used in the antelope video. With this in mind, I approached the owner of the drone. He felt strongly that an animal’s face is tough enough to handle this sort of incident and that it couldn’t possibly harm the animal in any way.

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Regardless of the drone operator’s opinion, it stands to reason that even small drones like the popular white DJI Phantom can do damage to eyes and other soft tissues whether human or beast, as evidenced by hundreds of photographs around the web.

The particular drone I was using wouldn’t break the skin on my hand…” Travis Higgins, drone pilot

This little guy has permanently lost his eye to a DJI Phantom propeller, the same model drone seen in this antelope video.

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I can’t particularly fault the drone owner for being defensive; he truly doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, but hopefully the many posts on his YouTube account have informed him that he made a mistake and it won’t be repeated. YouTube certainly provides some good learning opportunities. There are many websites, pages, and community groups where new drone operators can gain knowledge and awareness of how to best manage their drone use.

But what about other drone owners? Do they “get it?” 

If recent news articles ranging from flying a drone into the side of the Empire State Building, to a drone owner attempting to get close to presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (just before he crashed it into a building as well), it would seem many drone owners aren’t understanding the impact and risk that the excitement of drones bring to the community. In this particular case, the operator continually referred to himself as a “licensed pilot who knows the FAA rules.” There are no FAA rules that apply here; common sense should prevail. Yet he’s convinced that “since he’s an FAA-licensed pilot, what he’s doing is OK.

What might have the drone operator done to not endanger the antelope while still getting great footage?

  • Learn to fly more gracefully/skillfully before putting the drone into the personal space of people or animals. The FAA recommendations are that drones are never closer than 100′ to “non-involved individuals.”

  • Never fly at an altitude or distance that is in close proximity of living beings. In this case, 10′ up would have sufficed; the image could have been post-processed in editing to crop/zoom in on the subject). Again, a topic related to learning more about the device, its camera system, and the technology.

  • Be respectful of the animal. If it runs off it likely is scared and it’s possible the drone could induce the animal to self-injury. Keep your distance. Every year, Yellowstone Park has a percentage of visitors injured or killed because they can’t recognize this rule. They, like the drone pilot in this video, think the animals are like pets and can be gotten close to.

Higgins-Pet

A final comment; the owner of this drone and video claimed his flight was not commercial as he wasn’t being paid to shoot it, but does claim the video is intended for a wildlife conservation video. Money does not need to exchange hands to be considered “commercial” by the FAA. Indeed, if this video is anything more than a couple of buddies having some fun and capturing some hobby footage, it becomes “commercial.” Given that this particular video has received attention from CBS and ABC requesting use for remuneration, and that it’s receiving coins from YouTube for play, it falls into the category of “commercial.” Any commercial video requires a 333 exemption from the FAA, and without it, it is subject to very expensive fines. Be very aware of this, as the FAA and Transport Canada are watching YouTube and social media sites, and several individuals have been charged with using drones for commercial use, although that may not have been the drone operator’s original intent.

Drone owners are very concerned about potential rules, regulations, and controls placed by the government on our technology. Unfortunately, these sorts of videos cause enough uproar that the government truly has little choice but to try to protect us from ourselves.

Be responsible. Fly within the recommendations of the FAA or your local authorities. Understand that not everyone wants to be part of your drone video.  Be considerate, be safe.

[the owner of the video has now disabled comments after receiving many negative comments about the flight]