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Old March 9th, 2013, 10:31 AM   #61
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Re: RC aerials illegal says FAA

This is pretty cool...if it can be legalized in the U.S. someday soon.
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Old March 9th, 2013, 11:31 AM   #62
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Re: RC aerials illegal says FAA

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This is pretty cool...if it can be legalized in the U.S. someday soon.
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Probably won't see that model on Amazon anytime soon.
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Old March 9th, 2013, 12:36 PM   #63
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Re: RC aerials illegal says FAA

Yeah, I think you have to "sign up" to play with that "toy"!

Interesting "repurposing" of a existing airframe into a RPV, this will more and more become an issue that will need to be dealt with - unmanned or remotely piloted aircraft of ALL sizes have so many uses, but raise quite a few logistical and privacy questions!
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Old March 10th, 2013, 01:37 PM   #64
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Re: RC aerials illegal says FAA

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Originally Posted by David Heath View Post
I'd say the big difference between hobby flying of model aircraft, and flying such with a camera on board, is that it doesn't really matter where you do the former - once you put a camera on board, it obviously has to be near whatever you want to film/photograph!

Hence, hobbyists who flew model aircraft in the past would CHOOSE to go somewhere quiet with few people around. Talk about cameras on board and it's a different matter - first choice becomes somewhere with interesting things to film! Then think about it being done commercially, and you start to get motivation for people to fly these things in locations that model aircraft enthusiasts themselves may consider madness. Likewise, if such as weather conditions were poor, a hobbyist wouldn't have too much of an issue with just saying "I'll try it tomorrow". But if you're worried about not being paid, maybe alienating a pushy client, it can lead to maybe risking making the flight in conditions that make it even less safe. That's before we even start thinking about operators concentrating on the images being recorded, to the negligence of flight safety.

There's a lot of precedence (at least in the UK) for having fairly light legislation on activities done "not for profit", compared to the same things done for "commercial" purposes, and that can happen either directly via legislation or indirectly via insurance considerations. As example, I am qualified (and consequently insured) to Scuba dive to a depth limit of 50metres, doing a dive requiring decompression stops, film or photograph to my hearts content - as long as I'm not being paid to do it. But I couldn't legally be paid to use Scuba and a camera in even a swimming pool, even in a depth I could stand up in! At first sight such as that may seem silly, but if you were in charge of making the rules, what would you do? At least with the current amateur/commercial distinction, everybody knows exactly where things stand.

I suspect the people who may be most concerned are the current "true hobbyists" who have been flying model aircraft for some time (presumably without serious incident). In the absence of any legislation at all, and unrestricted use of aerial drones for commercial photography and filming, it can only be a matter of time before a serious accident - and that is likely to lead to knee jerk (and draconian) blanket restrictions all round. Far better to get some more sensible legislation in well of advance of any accident, and a commercial/amateur distinction seems to me a pretty good idea in that respect.
I've been following this thread off and on over the past few years with interest. I wanted to quote David's post because he makes a lot of good points. I am one of the first to say keep the government's nose out of our business, but there needs to be something set in place to keep it from becoming a free for all. This is one of those things where the price of commercial quality technology puts it within reach of some who can go buy a turnkey package without any training or knowledge and just 'go for it'. That's eventually a recipe for disaster. I like the idea of a self regulating industry, with a collective voice that can administer and certify operators of commercial operations.

One thing that hasn't been addressed much in this discussion is how the advances in technology have made this type of operation much more safe than in years past. Like the folks at Filmtools, many have on board GPS that can insure safety of flight operations by 'auto pilot' in three dimensions. Perhaps that's one area that could be beefed up like it is for full sized aircraft, requiring GPS units with RAIM capability, etc.

I am sure that one other angle of government interest comes from the possibility of using this new technology for nefarious purposes. In a post 9/11 world, that type of risk always needs to be measured and planned for.

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Old March 10th, 2013, 04:01 PM   #65
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Re: RC aerials illegal says FAA

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Originally Posted by Greg Boston View Post

One thing that hasn't been addressed much in this discussion is how the advances in technology have made this type of operation much more safe than in years past. Like the folks at Filmtools, many have on board GPS that can insure safety of flight operations by 'auto pilot' in three dimensions. Perhaps that's one area that could be beefed up like it is for full sized aircraft, requiring GPS units with RAIM capability, etc.
Completely ignoring the use of technology for bad - here are my thoughts.

The technology making the UAVs easier to fly is a double edged sword. When UAVs are hard to fly and expensive to own it is a natural barrier to entry. The number of people using them stays low. I know this doesn't sound fair but it does prevent many with a casual interest from doing it. Only those that are very determined willing to spend the time and resources will do it. They will in most cases be better operators since it requires a good bit of dedication to the effort.

Now that they technology has advanced to the point where it takes no more effort to fly a UAV than operating a video game AND the price of that technology has dropped till it it has become affordable to a relatively large population...

That begs the question - Should just anyone with enough money to buy one be allowed to fly a UAV (for hire)?

Personally I think that a reasonable barrier of entry should remain for UAV operators for hire.

Since price and complexity have been pretty much eliminated the barrier has to be regulatory in nature. That is why the FAA issued a flight directive to stop all UAV flights for hire without a special permit.

I favor having a basic airman's certificate as a minimum to operate a UAV for hire. Yes, I mean a real pilots license and not a token license specifically for UAVs. I'm not saying that because I already have a pilots license. I am saying it because I have a pilots license AND I understand things about the hazards of aviation that going through the process of getting a license and having 19 more years of flight experience provides. I also fly RC as a hobby (helicopters).

The reason behind my opinion - There is much more going on in an aircraft than its physical operation. When you conduct a flight you have to take into account weather, flight regulations/restrictions for areas of operation, safety checks of the aircraft, and situation awareness during the flight itself. These all come together to mitigate risk and provide an acceptable level of safety for the operation.

UAV pilots that don't have aviation experience will not be as aware of these aspects of operation and with that the risk of a negative outcome associated with those flights will be higher. Understanding basic flight operations for both UAV and non UAV vehicles in my opinion is mandatory for UAV operators since these new vehicles have the capability to easily mix in space with manned aircraft. Standing on the ground you have little to loose personally other than a few thousand dollars of hardware. The cost to those impacted by a negligent operator can be catastrophically high. I want to know that the UAV operator knows enough to not put me at undue risk when we are working in the same area. Whether I'm standing on the ground on the set or flying per the regs overhead.

In my opinion the advancements in technology have increased the risk of these vehicles causing problems and not reduced it. That is strictly an opinion on my part.
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Old March 10th, 2013, 04:13 PM   #66
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Re: RC aerials illegal says FAA

I pretty much agree with everything Chris said. For those who aren't into aviation, you basically have a course of instruction commonly referred to as 'ground school' where you learn about regulations, flight dynamics, weather, etc., then you have education actually flying the aircraft. The flight portion is in dual control aircraft until you solo, after which you can venture out on your own. I'm sure any commercial applications of RC aircraft will end up requiring both phases of instruction, only using RC aircraft and simulators. Registration of aircraft will be required since FAA is going to want to be able to hunt down the owner of any aircraft that enters airspace illegally or crashes and hurts people or property.

And yes, there will be tests, including some with word problems.
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Old March 10th, 2013, 10:50 PM   #67
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Re: RC aerials illegal says FAA

Chris and Jim, I understand what you're saying. Like some others here, I too am a licensed pilot. What I meant in my comments above is that it is much safer for someone to fly RC camera vehicles in closer quarters to buildings, etc than would have been the case in years past. I've flown RC airplanes some years ago but have never done helicopters (yet).

The quad rotor stuff with GPS and now FPV while wearing video glasses is just astonishing to witness from a perspective of what could be done a decade ago.

There are many places where an RC vehicle can operate safely where a full size aircraft can't. Those are the applications for RC AP that I am thinking about. IOW, there shouldn't be any chance of sharing the sky in those scenarios with full sized birds. I think that's where the regulatory stuff should focus its efforts. On the 'where and how' RC can operate.

On a side note, I do recall post 9/11 of some talk about banning model rocketry. Thankfully, common sense kicked in somewhere along the line and that didn't come to pass. Let's hope similar common sense regulation will happen in RC AP with these lowered barriers to entry.

There's always upside and downside with any technology.

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Old March 11th, 2013, 06:05 AM   #68
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Re: RC aerials illegal says FAA

Greg, I could see some classifications of vehicles being made, for instance high flying longer distance vs. very low altitude short range. FAA has a difficult time keeping up with technology and tends to throw a book of regulations at everything.
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Old March 11th, 2013, 07:50 AM   #69
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Re: RC aerials illegal says FAA

There is a world of difference from a safety point of view between a small quadricopter like a Parrot AR.Drone or DJI Phantom with GoPro and a gasoline powered T-Rex 500 carrying a DSLR which is about as safe as an aerial rotary mower.
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Old March 11th, 2013, 09:03 AM   #70
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Re: RC aerials illegal says FAA

The challenge is to draft a comprehensive policy that accounts for multiple operational scenarios AND do it in a timely manner. I know this is going to sound cynical but when has any government agency been able to accomplish both comprehensive and timely for anything?

The FAA has been dragging its feet on issuing policy for a couple of years. We may have to put up with a relatively high bar being set so we get at least something workable while any of us are still around to utilize the privilege.

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Originally Posted by Nigel Barker View Post
There is a world of difference from a safety point of view between a small quadricopter like a Parrot AR.Drone or DJI Phantom with GoPro and a gasoline powered T-Rex 500 carrying a DSLR which is about as safe as an aerial rotary mower.
You are right to a point but where that falls short from my view is knowing that even a small drone will cause much more damage to a light aircraft than you might imagine. Just the battery pack itself even though LiON and relatively light will go through a windshield if the difference in speed between the windshield and the battery is +100mph. Small drones can make it to an altitude to be a hazard. There will be aircraft well under 2000' within 10 miles of an airport. Grab a sectional map and you will see that small airports are everywhere.

UAV operators must understand more than just how to fly the drone. They must understand where they are relative to other hazards. There must be something in place to provide traceability back to the owner/operator. There must be enough "skin in the game" to encourage compliance with the regulations. That is why I personally think the idea to have a full private ticket isn't too much to ask. Do you want to put your $5000 license in jeopardy with a risky flight? If there is no penalty then the behavior will be more risky. That is a human nature thing. When there is no risk there is nothing to limit our actions.
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Old March 11th, 2013, 09:12 AM   #71
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Re: RC aerials illegal says FAA

I'll add here that it is the technology that is making them more of a danger.

With normal RC flying you have practical limits that become obvious when you try to control a vehicle you are not sitting in. They quickly become small enough that maintaining spatial orientation and therefore control is difficult. A drone with a GPS and a flight camera can be flown much further from the operator than a vehicle solely operated by sight. That is at the core of the issue. Having a UAV that is capable of being in conflict with other vehicles is the root of the problem. It is the technology that has made this more likely to happen.

I also want to be clear that my thoughts are only related for the "For Hire" flights.
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Last edited by Chris Medico; March 11th, 2013 at 01:23 PM.
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Old March 11th, 2013, 07:03 PM   #72
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Re: RC aerials illegal says FAA

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Originally Posted by Nigel Barker View Post
There is a world of difference from a safety point of view between a small quadricopter like a Parrot AR.Drone or DJI Phantom with GoPro and a gasoline powered T-Rex 500 carrying a DSLR which is about as safe as an aerial rotary mower.
Don't disagree with that in principle - but put yourself in the shoes of a body tasked with writing legislation - where do you draw the line, and how do you draw it so that new developments don't make it obsolete almost before the ink dries?

That's why (as with my diving example) there is a lot to be said for saying "one rule for private use, another for commercial". Yes, it may throw up anomalies, but......?

As regards safety and GPS, then would I be right in thinking that if a loss of signal, the GPS just takes it in a straight line back to the starting co-ordinates? Because if so, then great in free space, but what if the job is doing aerial sweeps round a building - and it goes round the side, signal drops out, so it flies straight back towards the start point without realising there is a building in the way......? Or has that been thought of?
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Old March 11th, 2013, 07:15 PM   #73
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Re: RC aerials illegal says FAA

Differential GPS and the ability to memorize a route would mitigate that risk.
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Old March 11th, 2013, 07:23 PM   #74
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Re: RC aerials illegal says FAA

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Differential GPS and the ability to memorize a route would mitigate that risk.
Yes, but does that exist in any current devices? Because without it, a lot of the safety-through-technology arguments aren't valid. (At least at the moment.)
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Old March 11th, 2013, 07:48 PM   #75
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Re: RC aerials illegal says FAA

Well there is the question of how one might mitigate a risk such as you described vs. implementation of regulations covering a broad spectrum of aircraft types that would be possible to deploy as remotely piloted vehicles. FAA is going to do the latter. Just saying if you had a production where you had complex movement in 3-space then differential GPS might be a solution.
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