Good New York Times round-up of recent examples and some of the policy issues presented by "drone journalism". Excerpt:

The best way to film the destruction wrought by Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban, the Philippines, said Lewis Whyld, a British photographer, was from the air.
But Mr. Whyld did not want to beg for a ride on a military helicopter, taking the space of much-needed aid. So he launched a drone into the skies above the city. In addition to shots that showed the scale of the damage, broadcast by CNN recently, his drone discovered two bodies that were later recovered by the authorities, he said in an interview.
“The newspaper was for still images,” said Mr. Whyld, who builds his own drones, “but the Internet is for this.”
Mr. Whyld, and CNN, are not alone in exploring the potential of drones. The Associated Press and News Corporation have used them to show the scale of large disasters. News Corporation has also used them to shoot sports in Australia. Sophisticated nature documentaries use them to get intimate shots of wildlife. Paparazzi use them to chase celebrities in Europe, and reports suggest they have been used to pursue celebrities in the United States, too.

...

Journalism programs, including those at the University of Missouri and the University of Nebraska, and the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, have started drone journalism courses. Columbia does not teach hands-on skills, but students at Missouri have used drones over the Missouri River for a report about hydraulic fracturing and over the prairie for a story about controlled burns. But in August, the F.A.A. ordered journalism schools to stop flights unless they obtained permission from the agency.

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T3
Comment by Krzysztof Bosak on November 25, 2013 at 3:09am

"But Mr. Whyld did not want to beg for a ride on a military helicopter, taking the space of much-needed aid"

The problem is he did just that, except he made it unlawfully. From the point of view of the laws, the pilots, and the machines, any airship is taking airspace All other justifications are valid, but instead of looking up basic rules and spotting the real clash between common sense and the laws, they introduced one more argument for paranoid approach.Also they have teaken the example when the use of UAV is the most doubtful given the presence and type of the remaining air traffic.
The question is what do you encounter in such zones among big airships. The answer is helicopter, there are plenty of them in disaster zones, they come out of nowhere and fly low at 100-200ft AGL easily.

The problem is that quadcopter might acutally be sucked into the helicopter propwash, and due to its density (metal parts, many engines compared to winged UAV), damage one of its engines, while the latter flies over practically aviation-hostile environment with little ATC help and no spare rescue resources. Disaster zone is the most dangerous place to fly and UAV without strict and direct control with ATC: there is plenty of random traffic, flight plans are changed every minute, lots of low flying helicopters looking down not sideways and the ATC itself is usually 50km away listening to the radio with very little situational awareness.

Comment by Gerard Toonstra on November 25, 2013 at 5:22am

I've seen an event like this with only an R/C heli. A hexa was 5m altitude at 3-5m horizontally away from an R/C heli 450 or 650 model (it was on an autonomous test mission). Before the hexa was cleared the heli already took off. Then things happened really fast within 1-2 seconds. The hexa tipped over slowly first on one side and started riding the funnel-shaped air column heading straight for the blades. The heli blades got destroyed, flybar bent and the hexa lost two alu arms including the motors which got torn off and propelled 20m away.

Comment by BluSky1 on November 25, 2013 at 6:15am

Good article.

Big agencies like the FAA sit on it hands because its an outdated giant of the 20th century.

While other countries are quickly beating us to the punch on this tech. Sure the military of our country had this tech first but its clear the government is not to interested in Americans and the private sector having these devices. Its not about saftey its about control the car you drive everyday is more unsafe than a quadcopter.

in other countries the integration of these devices has already started with a few start-ups that have approval process to fly them. In other areas like Canada they are welcomed at Niagara Falls on USA side you might get dragged away by home land security for flying over the falls. Its only in America that people are uptight and ignorant about this topic and mostly those who are in power.

The footage in Haiyan from a quadcopter show us just how not free America is. Think if someone flew a quad in America over a disaster like that how many Tyrants would be trying to arrest him. I remember FEMA saying anyone caught flying in Colorado would go to jail.

I always hear the saftey issues called out for reasoning for banning them. Can anyone sight any accident that included a quadcopter or FPV plane used by a hobbyist that killed people ?

Comment by Euan Ramsay on November 25, 2013 at 6:39am

The problem is he did just that, except he made it unlawfully

Did he? This was in the Philippes, not the US. No stupid commercial use clause there.

Comment by Euan Ramsay on November 25, 2013 at 6:47am

Prt 2...

The question is what do you encounter in such zones among big airships. The answer is helicopter, there are plenty of them in disaster zones, they come out of nowhere and fly low at 100-200ft AGL easily.

But not at 10-30ft, which is where he flew most of it. And none of it looked even remotely safe for a 1:1 landing zone, so no conflict in airspace. Even 100ft is low, given the "unsecured" (ie it's all debris) nature of the terrain.

Seriously, we should accept this for what it is - some good quad footage of a DZ, and the provision of "closure" for 1-2 families. Show this film to *anyone* outside the community, and it will be universally praised. I know - I did a sample at work, and *everyone* thought how cool it was, and for the discovery of the two lost souls.


Developer
Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on November 25, 2013 at 9:27am

The problem is that quadcopter might acutally be sucked into the helicopter propwash, and due to its density (metal parts, many engines compared to winged UAV), damage one of its engines, while the latter flies over practically aviation-hostile environment with little ATC help and no spare rescue resources. Disaster zone is the most dangerous place to fly and UAV without strict and direct control with ATC: there is plenty of random traffic, flight plans are changed every minute, lots of low flying helicopters looking down not sideways and the ATC itself is usually 50km away listening to the radio with very little situational awareness.

I'm SO tired of this argument.  

How do people cross the street every day without getting run over by cars?  They look both ways first...

Helicopters may fly low, but they are also SLOW and incredibly LOUD.  You can typically hear them coming 1 minute before you can see them.  If the operator is flying VLOS, and has a spotter, I'd say the chances of a collision are about the same as getting hit by lightning.  On a clear day.

Now, if a supersonic fighter jet come over at <400 feet well... he had it coming.

Comment by John Moore on November 25, 2013 at 9:48am

@R_Lefebvre Exactly.

 

I live near a tourist beach where there is a 3 mile wide area where its pretty much "anything goes" airspace. You have full size helo tour copters, parasails, paragliders, kites, and even military aircraft all withing 400' AGL shaing the same space and they all seem to be able to stay out of each others way.


Admin
Comment by Thomas J Coyle III on November 25, 2013 at 10:05am

@Rob,

A couple of years ago a couple of idiots were flying a medium size electric helo in a crowded Miami, FL park and managed to hit a young girl when the helo came out of nowhere. She was lucky as all she suffered were scalp lacerations from the blades. Obviously it could have been much worse. The idiots dropped their equipment and ran off. Sometimes even being in what is thought to be a reasonably benign environment you can get surprised.

Regards,

TCIII ArduRover2 Developer 

Comment by BluSky1 on November 25, 2013 at 11:01am

Looks like more of an argument focused on the media use of drones. I am totally for this as its a viable career path for FPV pilots like me. I have an interview with 88.5 wamu about FPV will post article link in my blog when it goes live.


Moderator
Comment by Sgt Ric on November 25, 2013 at 11:18am

A dozen years ago my son's squadron was full scale gliding at a seldom used provincial airstrip with our cable winch and a DND 2 seater when a Bell jet ranger helicopter flew over at about 200', (lower than the airborne glider) on its way to the regional airport about 30 miles away.  It was obviously using the OBI as a way-point.

I don't know if they issue a NOTAM because of a day of air-cadet training, but still the regional airport had approved our activities, and the helicopter pilot should have been aware.

My point is that I agree with TCIII about multi-use environments and surprises.

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