Sunday, September 20, 2015 | comments

Love the title?? Hey if the everyday media jagoffs can get away with, so can I. Read this article and try not to laugh.

CBS2 Exclusive: Linden, N.J. Family Shocked When Drone Crashes Into House

Any of us in the UAV community are so used to this, we typically brush it off now, but we really can't afford to. There are people out there - News media journalists - who have the power to mass distribute HIGHLY BIASED information to those without firsthand knowledge of what this technology can and can't do. The anti-drone propagandists are doing a pretty good job of amplifying the fear and hatred towards these sophisticated but simple camera platforms.

Any of you who are frustrated at the unfair representation by the media of what is basically a still & video camera on a flying jib, should consider accepting a new challenge. We need to do everything we can to NOT stand silent for the bad press that we all know amounts to sensationalist horseshit. 

In a decent and intelligent way, we should embarrass and shame these propagandists for every letter of misinformation they spew out to the world. You can do this by sharing these articles in blogs or forums and with good information, dissect them to expose their absurdity. Use Photoshop to create MEME images,  YouTube, Facebook and any other platform to pass around video clips..etc

Keep in mind if you attack someone with your words, you're bound to be ignored. But if it's done in a smart or funny way, people will get the message without being turned off by some angry vile screed. Let the empty headed anti-drone brainiacs have that as their calling card.

In the meantime, here is a short clip with some interesting info that puts it all into perspective.

Side note:
I love TWiT.tv. It's all geek related and they have audio and video versions of all their shows. You can watch on your Roku, Computer or any internet connected device that you can watch podcasts on. PadreSJ is a big UAV proponent and he has a few shows on TWiT.tv as well you can watch. 

I'll even give you another link for the show the day before the one above to check out.


This Week in Law - ALL About Drones

Saturday, December 6, 2014 | comments

This Week in Law - Game of Drones
One of their great weekly shows is -This Week in Law, which speaks on all kinds of Tech Law. This Friday 12/05/2014 was an ALL Drone special. They had some really great guests and it gave a lot of great info.

http://www.TWiT.tv is a great tech Television Station that is completely internet streamed - providing either audio or video casts. You can watch (listen to) it on your computer, ROKU, smartphone, tablet...etc

Here are the links to access the show.

On ROKU, look for TWIT (This Week in Tech) in the app store.

Youtube - This Week in Law - Game of Drones

You can install the TWiT app on Roku, your phone or tablet.

Installing the TWiT.tv app on your android device.

Twit.tv and TWIT Pro are my favorites on android. You can also access the station and this show through podcast apps like BeyondPod.

It's 10PM - Do you know where your drone is???

Saturday, August 2, 2014 | comments

I'm getting a little tired of hearing the sky is falling - chicken little media putting such a bad spin on UAVs. Unmanned aerial vehicles are the simple consumer grade flying cameras that every thinks are so dang cool. Feel free to decide that my commentary is subjective or biased. All I know is at this point I have piloted no less than 300 flights since Nov 2013. With that being said, I have come across many people who are fascinated by them. Most have no first hand experience and some rare few even a little fear because of their exposure to the media that controls the flow of information they get on any topic including this one.

Once I explain some of the main technical points of what they can do & what they cannot do, I can then show them in person how it flies. They get a firsthand view of the quad in flight plus I can show them what the camera sees. Without fail, the usual response is how cool it is. Then they get to watch the display that shows exactly what I can see. Immediately, everything they learned from truly biased media outlets goes out the window because they can walk away with actual facts.

Enough with the hype. Time to watch for yourself some of the positive spin.

I shot this in downtown Myrtle Beach, SC. July 30, 2014.

FAA flight rules for UAVs... aka 'Drones'

Sunday, July 13, 2014 | comments

As of now July 13, 2014, I am only familiar with these rules when it comes to UAV's or multi-rotor RC cameras (model airplanes - aka Drones).

The rules from the FAA so far say:
- No Commercial Use - except those the FAA has exempted. (as of July 13, 2014)
- Only for use by hobbyists
- No flying over 400 ft (period). Although class G flight rules say 600ft and under.
- NO Flying near airports without prior clearance. (5 miles from large airports - 1/4 mile from smaller ones)?
- No flying in National Parks
Must be within visual range (ie you can see it from the ground)
- Must be flown in a safe manner in all conditions for aircraft, vehicles & pedestrians on the ground.
Remember that the FAA is not the only government entity that can enforce rules against your activity. Local Police can certainly enforce laws based on the fact that you may be endangering people on the ground or causing a disturbance.
My rule of thumb is to not push the envelope when it comes to risking someone getting hurt. UAVs have a lot of tech in a small vehicle and it's easy to get a little overly sure of it's capabilities and then have a crash. UAVs are susceptible to pilot error and even erratic behavior when the pilots isn't at fault. If your UAV comes down and goes through someone's windshield or hits and hurts a pedestrian - the pilot is at fault regardless of why it happened.
I myself fly my quadcopters in the clear without any worry of being interfered with by local police. In fact, I have flown demos for them to show them the capabilities and everyone who has seen them are pretty fascinated. Again, if you handle yourself in a respectful way, minding the rules - law enforcement and local shop owners as well as pedestrians typically think it's the coolest thing they have seen.

Erik vonBartheld

written july 13, 2014

See this FAA page for guidance on the Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft
This is an excerpt defining what is considered a model aircraft Section 336 also prohibits the FAA from promulgating “any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft, or an aircraft being developed as a model aircraft” if the following statutory requirements are met:
    - The aircraft is flown strictly for hobby or recreational use;
    - The aircraft is operated in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization;
    - The aircraft is limited to not more than 55 pounds unless otherwise certified through a design, construction, inspection, flight test, and operational safety program administered by a community-based organization;
    - The aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft; and
    - When flown within 5 miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft provides the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower . . . with prior notice of the operation. . . .

NYPD Chopper "near miss" with UAVs near George Washington in NYC

Tuesday, July 8, 2014 | comments

To start with, my first inclination is to trust and support the Police account of this event. Their job is pretty tough patrolling a city of over 8 million people in a 20 mile radius. Not just everyday criminal activity, but after 911, terrorism has to be forefront in their minds, so I think the benefit of the doubt should always be given. Consideration to allow them to do their job safely is paramount.

With that being said, reading this story, I can understand how these UAV pilots could have easily gotten themselves into this mess. Full disclosure, I am a UAV pilot and I own 2 of the quad-copters that those two men were reported to have. I know the capabilities of them and I know the pitfalls of flying them in areas such as this. 

Here is the original article in forbes. Two men arrested for 'near miss' with NYPD Helicopter near GWB

Let's say for the sake of argument that these men were flying around the GWB. The cameras that can be mounted on these flying craft are among the best, so gathering footage of such a beautiful landmark - especially at night - would be so tempting to any of us who love photography stills and video and it's easy to see why they would want to fly there. I don't even disagree with anyone flying near and around it to get some beautiful night time shots. 

I honestly do not know if there are any laws restricting flights around, under, over or near the bridge. I also don't know exactly where these guys were flying, but that isn't even the point here. The real point is, could those men have been flying near the GWB? The answer is Yes. My DJI Phantom 2 with first person view (FPV) can fly away OVER 1 mile from the place where it took off. Watch the following video to see. The drone (DJI Phantom 1) that took this footage is made by the same company and has less capability than the 2nd version Phantom 2 that these men supposedly have.

Now, I know from experience, that if you fly a drone that small away from you - after about 1,500ft (450m) - you can lose visual site of it. Heck, I've even had it closer to me and lost sight for a few minutes because of the daylight and clouds. At night, you can keep sight of it further away because if has bright LED lights on all 4 rotor booms, but again, you can fly it further than you can actually see it. I don't see this as a problem in an open air setting in general, but in a place where other aircraft could be flying, this could be dangerous and deadly if one aircraft (or both) are not aware of each other's presence and position.

Another realization I've found from flying some 300+ flights is when you send out your UAV, you lose all depth perception. In this example we'll use the GWB and if I launched at a location on the land say 3,000ft away from the bridge, the trouble is, once I get my drone 1,500 to 2,000 feet away from me, it is very hard to judge how close your UAV is from any structure using only your sight from land. I can still see my aircraft with my own eyes from the ground, but the scene becomes very 2 dimensional. I have no idea whether my drone is 1,000 ft or 3,000 ft from the bridge. That's where forward looking FPV comes into play. If your wireless camera view is working well, you can see what's in front of your aircraft. I can rotate it 360 deg to get a pano-view of my surroundings, but you're always looking out the front of the aircraft.

If you've lost visual and only rely on FPV for flying, there's a chance that could cut out from wifi interference or some other disruption.  That's when you now have no idea where the drone is, or how to fly it back to yourself. There are failsafes built in to these aircraft and it is possible to have your drone fly itself 'home' (the position the GPS marked as its starting point), but most pilots would not think of this and the drone does not have any anti-collision features. It could be on a path to fly back to where it took off, but inevitably fly straight into a building, aircraft or anything that was in the way.

The other dilemma drone pilots face is that when they are flying a distance away and only relying on FPV to see where they are going, they have no idea what is around them - outside the FOV (field of view) of the camera. So, getting back to the the original news story, if the men were flying around the GWB for capturing great video and even flying within the constraints of the law, it is very possible they were looking at the bridge - flying it in a way to get panning shots of the bridge and the NYPD chopper approached from an angle where it could not be seen by the drone pilots. Even if they could see their drone from the ground, it would be very hard to know if their vehicle was 1,000 ft or half a mile away from the chopper. Is it possible that they were approached by the chopper, then accidentally flew in it's direction because they disoriented on it's position in relation to the chopper? Again, the answer is Yes. 

Nobody can say yet if this was the case, but from first hand experience, I know it's highly possible.

According to the video the men posted on YouTube, they were flying only 6 stories high.

I'd like to know if they were filming and if they were, the video ought to be pretty compelling evidence of their behavior and easy to see whether they were doing anything dangerous. 

At this point, I do not believe the men were doing anything malicious. Assuming they were filming the GWB - they were probably at a distance of a 1,000 or more feet away from them (not high) and 400 ft altitude (within the law) is usually more than enough to get beautiful vistas you want. If they did fly too close to the NYPD chopper, it was likely a matter of not knowing where they were in relation to the chopper.

With all that said, my personal opinion is drone pilots (commercial or hobbyists), should have to register their drone. They should be required to complete training and even possibly licensing so they can be familiar with the rules that aircraft pilots have to follow. I don't see any problem with creating a system where drone pilots can log their intended flight paths. This app could allow low flying airplane pilots and drone pilots to have some means of communicating their existence to each other. I am worried that leaving it completely open means it will turn into a free-for-all. Where I live there are low flying planes, tour helicopter rides and military aircraft that fly along the coast. Do I worry that one of my drones could inadvertently collide with a manned aircraft and cause property damage, injury or death? You bet I do. 

I definitely advocate the use of drones, but it has to be done with education and training because it literally can be a matter of life and death.

Erik vonBartheld
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