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Question of the week
Shotguns. Snoops. Surveillance. So many stories in recent weeks have been calling attention to the public’s growing skepticism of drone technology. As a company on the advancing edge, we understand and anticipate this kind of resistance to new technology as part of the natural ebb and flow of things. We also see it as our mission to help relieve the stress of this skepticism with the massage of messaging.
So I’d like to know: As you read through the stories this week, which seem to strike you as raising particularly pertinent worries, or as patently ridiculous ones? What would you say in response to these stories, and to the legitimate concerns that many of them address?
I’m interested in your commentary on this week’s collection. Leave your remarks below!
And now, the links that matter:
“When you fly...we CAN’T!” So went a tweet from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection after a consumer drone grounded firefighting helicopters preparing to execute water drops on a wildfire. A drone in the vicinity “Puts our pilots lives at risk,” they continued. (LA Times)
In New York, Dave Beesmer (aka “Front Row Dave”) was acquitted of using his drone to “spy” on a hospital. He was taking pictures of the structure to give to the hospital for promotional materials. The ruling is significant in that existing privacy laws were brought to bear on drone technology, resulting not in the conviction but the acquittal of the accused. (Daily Freeman)
Wimbledrone: Authorities noticed a drone flying over the Wimbledon grounds last week and seized it for “flying within 50m of a structure.” They tracked the operator down, who was piloting from a nearby golf course. Wimbledon begins this week. (BBC)
A drone was reported in a near-miss at London’s Heathrow Airport. The UK Airprox Board said they never found the pilot of the device—which they say could have been a balloon, but was most likely a drone. The device was reportedly sighted at 1,700 feet, well above the UK’s 400-foot limit. (The Standard)
Boston will ban drones for its 4th of July events—not even the police will be allowed to fly. (Fortune)
Analysis and culture
I regret that the best details don’t fit here, but trust that this full story won’t let you down. Last November a man in rural California used a shotgun to take down his neighbor’s drone, saying he thought it was a “CIA surveillance device.” The drone owner sued for damages—the drone was over his own property—and this week was rewarded in full. (Ars Technica)
In Australia, news broke earlier this year about the horrific and rampant “live-baiting” of greyhounds in the dog racing business. Racing Queensland—the state’s racing authority—will use drones to help monitor the properties where greyhounds are raised and trained. Racing Queensland already uses drones to film some races, and so have discovered this second valuable use. (Business Insider)
Dronegate? In a confluence of everybody’s favorite American organizations, the FAA is looking into three NFL teams—the Cowboys, Giants and Patriots—for using drones to film their practices without obtaining the official exemptions necessary. (NBC)
The Washington Post asks, “Do drones make sense for farming?” “It’s been very hard for farmers to conceptualize savings and an increase in their production from UAV technology,” said PrecisionHawk communications director Lia Reich. “We really wanted to help give a deep dive into understanding that return that farmers have for a UAV investment that a lot of farmers see as a large investment at this point.” Some claim that drones can reduce farming inputs by 20% and increase output by 20%.
Drones might finally silence those awful blueberry cannons once and for all. Blueberry farmers in Vancouver want to use drones to keep the birds at bay during harvest: “We want it to fly around, scare the daylights out of the birds—especially the starlings—and keep them nervous enough to stay away during harvest,” said Baumann. Currently the cheapest way to keep birds out of the berries is by firing loud blasts from propane cannons. Nearby towns have protested the cannons, which can be quite loud, but the ministry of agriculture allows them to be fired about every five minutes from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. during harvest season, which can last more than three months. (Vancouver Sun)
A robotics team at Harvard is trying to make robo-bees. These double-entendre drones will be programmed to cooperate in swarms, with possible applications in automatic pollination, search and rescue, climate mapping and more. (Harvard.edu)
This surging anti-drone privacy movement means that drone detection—using audio, radio, thermal and video tracking—could be big business. (Tech.Co)
But all you expert pilots out there might soon also be hearing that old “ka-ching,” yourselves: Fly4Me, an “Uber for drones,” got the nod from the FAA earlier this year and launched in beta this past week. Fly4Me pairs experienced drone pilots with people who need drone services. (Popular Science)
A drone that can survive the arctic. Laval University’s “Argo” drone can survive the extreme conditions of the Arctic Ocean, diving to depths of almost 2,000 m to collect data about marine life. Scientists believe that Argo will improve our understanding of the Arctic marine ecosystem and help us track the effects of climate change. (Phys.org)
May the open source be with you: Now you can 3D print your own Millennium Falcon drone. (3Dprint.com)
Here’s a drone flythrough of an enormous Japanese solar power plant. (RT)
Remember that viral video from last week, the one with a drone ripping the wingtip off of a commercial airliner? Well, it was fake—essentially an ad for a VFX studio—and this is how they did it. (YouTube)
And I don’t know where else to put this. Doesn’t really fit under “culture.” But here: Tom Cruise will apparently reprise his role as “Maverick” in the Top Gun sequel, which pits the aging pilot (in aging planes) against drones. The script is currently in the hands of Justin Marks, whom you probably remember as the writer of Street Fighter II: The Legend of Chun-Li. You can be my wingunmanned-aerial-vehicle anytime. (Rolling Stone)