3D Robotics

Finally, a good article on "drone journalism"


ABC News Australia has a thorough piece on the state of "drone journalism", which gives some good examples and cuts through the sort of silliness that characterized some earlier reports, such as those featuring Occupy Wall Street types flying a Parrot AR.Drone inside.

It includes an important quote from Matt Waite, who runs the Drone Journalism Lab at the University of Nebraska

Despite America's love affair with new technology, Professor Waite says the rate of take-up of drone journalism is still very slow - for one single reason.

"Here in the US the law doesn't allow it - plain and simple," he said.

"The rules right now in the US are basically this: nothing over 400 feet, nothing out of sight, nothing near people and no commercial purposes.

"If it were (just) the first three, drone journalism would have a fighting chance. The commercial restrictions are the hardest to overcome."

Sounds like Professor Waite, at least, is taking a realistic and responsible approach. 

[Thanks to Gary Mortimer/sUAS News for the link]

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  • Wow, that looks reasonable.

    I wonder if the 20kg "without fuel" limit would be the same for electric propulsion "without batteries"?

  • Check out the application form. This could save the FAA some work surely ;)


  • Yep, thankfully the people that legislate stuff are usually fairly sensible and reasonable boundaries are set. It's the press freak show that annoys me. Why the hell is this modern day nostradamus fella (no offence meant, its as you are know) getting in the pages of newspapers around the world scare mongering about nothing more dangerous or invasive than a stick, a chain and a chunk of iron, in the wrong hands...


    As if we've not got more important things to worry about, but i suppose the big issues are boring.....

    Anyway I'm pretty impressed by the system we have here in the UK (although not the press coverage). 

    Thanks to Peter Seddon for digging this up a year of two ago..

    Small unmanned aircraft
    166.—(1) A person must not cause or permit any article or animal (whether or not attached to a parachute) to be dropped from a small unmanned aircraft so as to endanger persons or property.
    (2) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft may only fly the aircraft if reasonably satisfied that the flight can safely be made.
    (3) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft must maintain direct, unaided visual contact with the aircraft sufficient to monitor its flight path in relation to other aircraft, persons, vehicles, vessels and structures for the purpose of avoiding collisions.
    (4) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft which has a mass of more than 7kg excluding its fuel but including any articles or equipment installed in or attached to the aircraft at the commencement of its flight, must not fly the aircraft—
    (a)in Class A, C, D or E airspace unless the permission of the appropriate air traffic control unit has been obtained;
    (b)within an aerodrome traffic zone during the notified hours of watch of the air traffic control unit (if any) at that aerodrome unless the permission of any such air traffic control unit has been obtained; or
    (c)at a height of more than 400 feet above the surface unless it is flying in airspace described in sub-paragraph (a) or (b) and in accordance with the requirements for that airspace.
    (5) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft must not fly the aircraft for the purposes of aerial work except in accordance with a permission granted by the CAA.

    Small unmanned surveillance aircraft
    167.—(1) The person in charge of a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not fly the aircraft in any of the circumstances described in paragraph (2) except in accordance with a permission issued by the CAA.
    (2) The circumstances referred to in paragraph (1) are—
    (a)over or within 150 metres of any congested area;
    (b)over or within 150 metres of an organised open-air assembly of more than 1,000 persons;
    (c)within 50 metres of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft; or
    (d)subject to paragraphs (3) and (4), within 50 metres of any person.
    (3) Subject to paragraph (4), during take-off or landing, a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not be flown within 30 metres of any person.
    (4) Paragraphs (2)(d) and (3) do not apply to the person in charge of the small unmanned surveillance aircraft or a person under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft.
    (5) In this article ‘a small unmanned surveillance aircraft’ means a small unmanned aircraft which is equipped to undertake any form of surveillance or data acquisition.

    The full text can be viewed at http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2009/uksi_200

  • The whole "terrorists will get it banned" thing is pretty stupid.

    Are white vans illegal since a few were used for car-bombs?  No.  You can't outlaw delivery devices.  You have to outlaw the explosives, which they already have done.

    It kind of reminds me... I like medieval stuff (had a medieval themed wedding, etc.) and on a business trip to Austria, I picked up a real morning-star.  Just in case, I declared it when I came back.  Turns out it's a prohibited weapon in Canada?!  I can go to the hardware store and buy a hammer, or an axe, or a chainsaw, and even a bow and arrow. I already have a sword.  But a morning-star?  "Oh, now that's dangerous!"  How silly.  I can even get a gun legally, with a small amount of effort.

    The worst part is that not only the weapon is banned, but "or any components thereof".  So a stick, a chain, and a chunk of iron are illegal to posses.  Really?

  • oh oh, its seems we are getting famous / infamous... most of the UK papers ran an article this week about drones. The one in the Sunday times even mentioned your name Chris! They vary in content and integrity... the one in the daily mail was unsurprisingly 'rubbish'! The one in the Sunday times is better but I'm not signing up for £2 a week just for one article, I'll scan it in when I get the chance. General theme is, it just takes one idiot to spy on the girl next door, or one drone related terrorist type activity to ruin it for us all. 

    Here are some others for your enjoyment...



    And all this from the man who's prediction that the world would end, has past.

  • Perhaps I should go into sales... :)

    Ellison posted the link twice a few comment pages back.

  • @Stephen, you make it all sound great.  I assumed that the SFOC thing was basically set up to prevent anybody from doing anything, just stonewalling.  Sounds like it's a real process to make this safe yet still making it doable.

    Do you have a link to the SFOC documents that you mention?

  • I would agree with regards to not applying until an SFOC is necessary for your application. I still think preparing and following your own SOPs etc. and doing your homework prior to application would definitely go a long ways towards successful commercial use later. In addition, it may reduce any mishaps or accidents you have doing things recreationally.

  • I would discourage applying for an SFOC, when it's for recreational purposes.  They probably don't want every Tom, Dick and Harry to be applying for one, generating paper work for them unnecessarily.  I've worked around government bureaucrats for a few years, if there's one thing they don't like is unnecessary work.  If you apply for the SFOC, when you have a good case for having one, they would probably take you more seriously, and will be more than likely to issue one.  

    I suspect, as Stephen mentioned, just like getting a drivers license, they are more interested about the safety of your drone and what you are proposing to do with the SFOC.

  • @Robert, if you still fall under recreational rules, I would stick with that out of convenience. If you want to move towards other uses, I would first start by putting together and documenting things like operating procedures, emergency procedures, maybe exploring a bit of risk assessment. In my opinion nothing really intense, but at least the exercise is good and could be used to show you have mitigated risk in an application. Then, once you actually need an SFOC for something, try to go through the application process, but don't get discouraged with rejection (we got rejected once, but a few quick changes and it was approved). As you mentioned, it might not be a bad idea to start with something simple, maybe not actually getting paid, but say getting an SFOC to practice and further develop SOPs and practice emergency recoveries or something. The online guidelines are pretty good at explaining what you need to show, and are used by TC as well. Starting a dialog with officials in the area around usage and steps might be good. As you mentioned, there is definitely some judgement used in the applications, and depending on the experience of the officials, this may vary a bit. Hopefully they are friendly in your area!

    Remember, the rules are there to keep people safe, not to prevent progress. Also, I am by no means an expert! Just my thoughts on the subject.

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