Drones News - Page 5
Consumer Watchdog recently asked NASA to stop a special deal the US space agency has with Google, testing unmanned drones over private land. The NASA-Google deal gives Google an unfair advantage over competitors, and taxpayers are left out in the dark, according to the watchdog group.
The Google X Lab and the company's other subsidiaries benefit as Google is testing if cell phone signals can be used for drone air traffic control services. Under current US federal laws, domestic commercial operation of drones isn't allowed - and all drones must be operated by licensed pilots, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) dictates.
"NASA should suspend this special arrangement with Google immediately - before new test runs start over Merced, California, pending an explanation about how this technology benefits taxpayers and the federal government itself," said Liza Tucker, a Consumer Advocate, in a statement to NASA Inspector General Paul Martin.
It looks like the US government and police agencies are looking for some type of counter-drone system, able to protect vulnerable sites from rogue drones.
One test conducted by the New York Police Department relied on a microwave-based system designed to send the drone back to its operator. There were problems with the test, such as interference from local media broadcasts. Even though trying to shoot down drones would be fairly simplistic, it leads to public safety hazards - and there is more interesting in finding ways to send drones directly back to the operator.
"We can't shoot it out of the sky," said a source speaking to Reuters. "We have to come up with something that's kind of basic technology so that if something happens, the drone or device will just go right back to the operators. It won't crash."
The number of drones interfering with air crews and firefighters continues to frustrate officials, and trying to stop the chaos is proving difficult. Some pilots are just regular people getting a unique angle of the action, while others are interested in selling footage to news stations.
"The most immediate and critical issue we face is the serious threat that these drones pose with the irresponsible use of them," said Ken Pimlott, chief of the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, in a recent legislative committee meeting. "It is placing our air crews, our pilots, in immediate danger."
Recently, firefighters were forced to temporarily halt operations in Cajon Pass due to five drones flying in the general vicinity. In addition, there were other problems when a drone flew within 25 feet of a helicopter, causing a rightful panic among the aircraft's pilot.
The US government plans to expand UAV flights over the next few years, expanding daily drone sortie operations away from just the Air Force, according to officials.
The number of UAV flights will increase from around 60 every day up to 90 by 2019, though there are significant manpower and financial budget issues that must be addressed.
The global demand for UAV flights must expand, as the Air Force fleet continues to face trained pilot shortages. As the US combat mission in Afghanistan finally came to an end, the US military planned on reducing the number of combat drone flights by its Air Force staff. However, the rapid rise of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq has caused an uptick in reconnaissance and targeted strikes.
Researchers from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) plan to demonstrate an anti-drone system that uses sound to disrupt drone flights.
If implemented, the system is able to target the Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) gyroscopes, which are used by drones to stay level. Blasting sound towards the drone, however, is able to disrupt the gyroscope, so the drone will lose balance, and its tilt, orientation and rotation can be disrupted.
Of course, researchers tested several different gyroscopes and drones by attaching a wireless speaker to the aircraft. That would be impossible for a real-world anti-drone scenario, with KAIST researchers noting they don't have the tools in place to develop the "weapons in our lab."
A drone dropped a bundle of narcotics and tobacco into the Mansfield Correctional Institution, located southwest of Cleveland, Ohio. The incident left nine people in solitary confinement for fighting over control of the contraband.
The delivery included more than five ounces of tobacco, over two ounces of marijuana, and about one-quarter ounce of heroin, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. The package was dropped on the north recreation yard, and was thrown into the south recreation yard as inmates fought.
All inmates in both the north recreation and south recreation yards underwent mandatory strip searches and clinic checks.
Supervisors from San Bernardino County are offering up to $75,000 in rewards to identify drone operators responsible for interfering with firefighting operations.
The board members hope $25,000 for each drone interruption will entice people to come forward and report those responsible. In one incident, as aircraft tried to drop fire retardant over the wildfire, a drone up to four feet in diameter made a dangerous pass between both aircraft. Due to safety precautions, both aircraft were grounded.
"This type of activity is not going to be tolerated when first responders are trying to put out fires that drastically affect the constituents of San Bernardino County," said James Ramos, Board of Supervisors Chairman.
Drones and FPV flight can be all fun and games, however, for one Kentucky man it was a major breach of his personal privacy that saw him take action against one of these contraptions - shooting it out of the sky with his shotgun as it, and the man behind it, were allegedly spying on his 16-year-old daughter in broad daylight.
"When he came down with a video camera right over my back deck, that's not going to work" proclaimed the man to Ars Technica. He further clarified that the drone was stationary and hovering and that he "would never have shot it if it was flying."
This disgruntled man goes by the name of William Merideth and says that the main reason he shot the drone out of the sky isn't a general invasion of privacy or an irrational hatred for drones, it's that his teenage daughter was lounging by the pool at the time this drone was capturing footage.
The California National Guard is using an MQ-9 Reaper drone in the search for Edward Kavanaugh, a person missing since July 17 riding a motorcycle in Northern California.
The drone can collect real-time images, so ground units have a better idea on where to search while looking for Kavanaugh. So far, the hunt in El Dorado County has not turned up anything, even with the drone's assistance.
The California National Guard previously used a drone to help fight the Rim Fire in 2013 - as it has special abilities, including infrared sensors, image-intensified cameras, and the ability to stay in the air longer than helicopters and traditional aircraft.
In its effort to one day make deliveries using drones, Amazon is quite vocal in helping create drone airspace to get the job done. Amazon hopes to be able to deliver packages within 30 minutes, a noble goal that has some people excited - and others worried about clogged airspace full of drones.
Airspace up to 200 feet above the ground would be designed for "low speed localized traffic," meaning video drones and survey and inspection aircraft.
Amazon would like to keep 200-feet of air space - between 200 feet and 400 feet above the ground - for drones in the "high-speed transit" lane designed for "well-equipped vehicles." The airspace 400 feet to 500 feet would be considered a "no fly zone," unless there is an emergency.