The Orange County Register has just published a slide show of  50 aerial shots taken over Orange County, California from an unspecified quadcopter. While they are beautiful and very nicely done, quite a few are counter to FAA guidelines. Some are just downright boneheaded (Flying over freeways? Really??).

There are a number of shots taken over crowds and dense urban areas. The images of the Orange County Fair are all less than a mile from the very busy John Wayne Airport and appear to be directly under the airport's traffic pattern for the westerly runway. The night time image of Angel Stadium in Anaheim is a violation of the 3 nautical mile radius Temporary Flight Restriction that would have been in effect during that night game.

It could be argued that expecting a major (?) newspaper to know these constraints is asking a bit much. However the text accompanying the slide show states the photojournalist who did all the shots is a licensed private pilot!

Link to the OC Register slideshow.

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  • Being a embedded systems engineer in the aeronautic,
    A model plane builder and enthusiast since 15 years,
    Single engine private airplane and glider pilot,
    Having worked on MALE-sized UAV project,
    Being a daily commuter on motorcycle,
    I can just agree on how more dangerous is a small phantom-like drone and how much more likely an accident is to occur with it compared to an inhabited aircraft, being an helicopter or a fixed-wing airplane.
    Yes the technology on a Cessna 172 looks old (and actually is) but if you look closely at it one will notice that all of this technology is old, proven and reliable technology.
    Being the mechanical linkage from your hands or feets to the control surfaces or the century-old internal combustion engine with no electronics, or even the aerodynamical shape of the aircraft, everything was proven to be safe.
    It is now a bit early to tell the same about the thousands of electronical connexions that are routed through the battery, the connectors, the voltage regulation, the autopilot microcontroller, the sensors, the electronid speed controller mcu and mosfet to decide several hundreds times a second whicht speed to apply to the quadcopter's propellers only to keep it stable.

  • 100KM

    @Alasdair,    It sounds like you have more of a bird strike problem and not a drone problem.  :-)

    I too have flown model aircraft now for decades.   The reliability of my autopilot enhanced model aircraft has been a pleasant surprise to me.    Compared to straight up RC aircraft without an autopilot,  my drones are remarkably reliable.   GPS, altimeter, magnetometer, telemetry, independent RC and ground station RF links, electric fencing,  fly by wire, glass cockpit on the groundstation, using these features makes for a pretty reliable drone.

    Recently I had my first flying lesson in a Cessna 172.    I was shocked at how primitive the aircraft was.   No glass cockpit,  no stability enhancement, or flight stabilization, no RTL, loiter, cruise or any of the enhanced modes we take for granted in our drones.   

    It was just like flying one of my model aircraft in manual.    It required my full attention, without distraction.   I flew over freeways and over the city of Long Beach.     Even with the instructor that 2400 lb Cessna 172 was far more of a risk to the city than one of my 5 lb foam drones has ever been.

    Commercial autopilot enhanced drones like the 3DR IRIS, DJI Phantom are quite reliable and at those weights really not a significant risk.   We do ourselves and the drone community a disservice by not defending  what is actually a very safe hobby.

  • 100KM

    @Darrell,    I was comparing flying a consumer drone over a freeway, to flying a hot air balloon over a freeway.   If flying a hot air balloon with a 2000 lb basket floating over a freeway is not a significant risk, how can flying a small drone over a freeway be a significant risk. 

    These small drones, a Parrot, DJI Phantom, or 3DR IRIS, just do not weigh enough to be a significant danger to an adult.    My Parrot AR-Drone flying over a freeway is no more dangerous that a duck flying over the freeway.

  • @David - Comparing a consumer multi rotor being flown by a hobbyist to a commercial airliner being flown by a highly trained crew of professionals is a bit silly. Anyone who has flown a multirotor probably has also seen it fall from the sky at one point or another. They are dangerous and in no way certified as flight worthy. That's why you don't fly them over people or built up infrastructure of any kind.  

  • 100KM

    Looks like a lot of good photos.     The fairground shot at night is spectacular.   It appears to be a well set up shot with the quadcopter outside the fair, over the parking lot.

    Not sure what the problem is with aircraft flying over freeways.  Aircraft fly over freeways all the time.    What is unsafe about it?    Just flew over a freeway and several highways in a hot air balloon.    Seemed pretty safe to me and I weigh a whole lot more than a quadcopter.

    I fly at an RC airfield a short distance away from that fairground and I am familiar with the John Wayne airport.   The flight paths into and out of that airport do not go over the fairground.   In addition there is a flight curfew at John Wayne after 10pm.   There are no commercial flights leaving after 10pm and no arrivals after 11pm.    Lots of time to safely get aerial photos with a quadcopter.

  • Orange County Register photographer Jeff Gritchen attached a camera to an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or “quadcopter” and during his two-month project sent it flying over freeways, bulldozers, beaches, the Big A, a train station and the Orange Circle. Gritchen, who has a private pilot's license, has been a photojournalist for more than 20 years.

    You would have hoped he would know the rules with these credentials - maybe he has the necessary permissions - anyone asked him/the newspaper?


  • these guidelines are meant for powerless individuals, not "major newspapers". If you want to embrace the rule-cuckholdry of this system, you will have to learn your place in it.

  • Click on the link, then click on the first picture to start going though the pics. Not sure why it's not working for you.

  • Where are the pictures?  It's hard to make your case without showing the pictures.  Maybe I just got Windowed, but none showed up on my browser.

  • I think that this picture makin via much more dangerous maner - through poorly maintained heli under control of low qualifies amateur pilot w the badly hold camera in hand =)

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