3D Robotics

Time Magazine makes a good point about why the new generation of drone pilots are getting in trouble in a way the previous RC hobbyists didn't:

Learning to build and fly R/C aircraft was once a time-consuming, arduous process, factors that kept the hobby from spreading. Now, new technology like user-friendly quadcopter designs, equipped with smaller, high-powered motors and batteries, means that pilots can have their aircraft ready to go in minutes instead of days, greatly enhancing the appeal of the hobby. And while the old-school pilots often met in clubs, which enforced flight rules as a social norm, the newbies are buying their gear off Amazon and heading out solo.

But the real issue here is that many of the new designs come with cameras attached, a feature that has fundamentally changed why people fly model aircraft. Though some old-school R/C aircraft hobbyists experimented with DIY digital camera hookups, they mostly viewed building and flying their aircraft as the endgame of their project. They generally avoided risky flying, as that could cost their club permission to use the local park, or could damage their expensive, intricate model aircraft that took hours to build.

The new wave of hobbyists see their GoPro-equipped drones less as remote-controlled aircraft and more as flying cameras, set to embark on a cinematic adventure. Flying for the sake of flying is no longer the point — the point is getting awesome YouTube footage, which leads to riskier behavior.

E-mail me when people leave their comments –

You need to be a member of diydrones to add comments!

Join diydrones


  • I've been doing for more than 40 years of RC - flight.
    earlier we have built nearly 1/2 years on a model. Today, you buy as a model for very little money. a servo Futaba cost 30 years ago 120, - DM. Today very cheap 2, - EUR.
    People have absolutely no respect for the devices.
    As can be flown in the city about people in the middle, FPV over large cities and in Youtube, it can then be seen.
    There is no more responsibility. the people know not what they do there.
    I fear we in Europe get major restrictions for the entire RC flight.,

    DJI phantom, no thanks,

  • To the public and Time and the rest of the media a Phantom Quadcopter is a "drone".

    And we are stuck with it.

    And I totally agree the proliferation of larger and more dangerous consumer (illiterati?) quadcopters (eg: Phantom) is a really big and growing problem.

  • I think that there is a big issue with this characterization - these guys are flying multi-rotors not really autonomous drones per se...  I fly a lot in the bay area so I see quite a few drone pilots around - they tend to be extremely cautious and considerate.  I see them being more conservative than their RC counterparts (albeit less skilled) possibly because they are flying around $1000 in electronics along.  I would suggest that the rise of consumer multirotors is a bigger cause of the issues that Time calls out.  Not quite as catchy as blaming it on drones though.

  • "Something can always go wrong. I don't care if it is a military grade auto-pilot. Computers and electronics in general fail and will at some point. It's only a matter of time. However if the people operating them fly them in a safe fashion, when they fail, they hopefully won't hurt anyone"

    Yep. This was my point. They are NOT military grade electronics. Expect them to fail. Fly somewhere where you're not going to hurt anyone or anything when they do fail. i.e., Understand the technology and use common sense. i.e., the path to safety has little to do with being a top gun RC pilot.

  • I could be wrong, but I don't think the RC community wants to take owner ship of who should and should not fly drones. I know my fellow models who have zero interest in any of this stuff could care less about this unmanned autonomous stuff and aerial video rigs other than the fact that it is causing problems for them because the public is mistaken about what is a drone and what is RC. That's why they care in my opinion. The RC community is freaking out because they are worried about losing their freedom to enjoy the hobby as they used to due to reckless "drone" flying and the FAA's response to it. As for myself and a few others I know, RC was the path we took to get to amateur unmanned aircraft so we have a vested interest in it ourselves. Not an attempt to control other people. 

    As for nothing can go wrong... Something can always go wrong. I don't care if it is a military grade auto-pilot. Computers and electronics in general fail and will at some point. It's only a matter of time. However if the people operating them fly them in a safe fashion, when they fail, they hopefully won't hurt anyone. That's all I'm advocating.

    P.S. I'm not sure what you're getting at with the whole 2.4Ghz thing. I recall the first spread Spektrum radio set-ups being around long before the auto-pilot thing became a big deal and I personally know people that used to set up FPV on models long, long, long before the whole personal drone movement happened. As I remember it, the RC community quickly adapted the 2.4Ghz radio because it was safer than FM and I remember seeing the original informational videos that Spektrum sent out to AMA clubs to inform them of the technology and how it works as to avoid and confusion as to its safety. I thought that was a very good approach and I never heard anyone from the RC community say that it would end the world? Not sure where you got that bit from. 

  • Ha Ha...The old Chestnut. Tell me I'm wrong, but the following categories would capture the overwhelming majority of UAS mishaps;

    1) Not programming the UAS correctly (failsafes, home position, mag calibration, channel assignment/reverse, trim, not tuning, incorrect parameters) i.e., fly aways / loss of control.

    2) Flying too close to people / things / windows/ other peoples back yards - i.e. not following safe practices - "He's spying on me"

    3) No Checklists

    None of the above can be fixed by having 14 years of RC experience. None of the above can be fixed by having built 200 RC aircraft from papier mache, fairy wings and beeswax. Until people are trained (and understand how) to fly robots, this will continue to happen. I object to the RC community (who took years to work out that 2.4gig would not end the world) attempting to take ownership of who should and who should not fly drones and how they should be trained.

    The DJI phantom has opened up a new world. Provided that;

    1) It is setup properly (home position / failsafe) 

    2) It is competently inspected prior to flight (checklists) 

    3) The user accepts that the thing does not have a military grade autopilot in it and flies in an appropriate area (away from things / people)

    Nothing can go wrong!

  • I've recently had a number of kids from my high school (graduated in '12, but I visit the electronics lab often) ask me about getting into mulitrotors. None of them have flight experience. Some want to jump to the top and get fancy carbon frames and gimbals because they see these smooth YouTube videos with sleek rigs. I almost always get a disappointed reaction when I tell them to start with a micro quad and graduate to a KK2 to learn to fly rate/acro. Most end up getting an AR Drone or something because they don't want to take the time to figure things out. 

    One kid went and got a Phantom a few months ago and had it taken by the cops not too long after. His neighbor reported him for "spying." He was hovering in his back yard.

    Only two kids did what I suggested. They grabbed a micro quad and worked on getting the hang of things. I recently helped one of them build a tricopter and we've been going to the field every evening for the past week working tuning and  flying rate/acro. I can see he has a better understanding of his rig's capabilities and limitations than the kids with RTF multirotors. He isn't concerned with how high and far out he can go like the other kids. 

    +1 Alex. Indeed it isn't only the amateurs. I see EE/CE/AE students flying multirotors around the engineering building on campus quite often now, presumably for research. Flying in a space this constricted with cars and people is reckless in my opinion. 

  • Yep, I've been saying this for years already.

  • +1 Alex

  • I work in unmanned aircraft research at a university in Arizona and have been an avid RC enthusiast for 14+ years now and I find myself feeling physically unsafe a lot these days when there is a "drone" in the near vicinity. I love unmanned aircraft and I think they are an untapped potential source for a lot of good to come, but the way the general public perceives them and the way a vast majority of "amateur" UAV operators use them is unnerving. They have no respect for the inherent safety concerns you need to take into consideration every time you fly one of these systems.

    An example. I was recently at a 4th of July event in the town where I live. As evening fell and the fire works show began I noticed three lights off to the side of the crowd and a very apparent buzzing sound. It took me a little bit, but I located the pilots and talked to them after they landed. They were hired to take aerial video of the fire work display and I would say they did their job both professionally and safely. They operated off to the side and away from the people and there was always three of them, so someone was watching for people that might have wandered up to them and presented a potential safety concern. 

    Later that same night however as I walked back to my car I saw another multi-rotor. This one was obviously not a professional setup, and it took me a really long time to find the person flying it. This person was not operating it safely. He was running it up and down the crowd at a high rate of speed. I don't know if he was taking video or what he was doing, but just being near this situation made me feel unsafe. I got in my car and left. Looking back on it, I wish I had confronted the pilot and told him to be more safe, however I have observed through my work at the university that you can tell these people how to operate them safely and they still will not because they don't believe you about the safety risks. They are so convinced that it is just a harmless toy. 

    It is not simply amateurs either though that have this attitude. In the past year, at the university I work at in the unmanned aircraft department we have had a number of injuries as well close calls with technical failures and inexperienced pilots. Back in the spring of this year I was supervising a class of unmanned aircraft system minors and I was struck in the back of the legs by a small 3DR quad copter. I had to go to the emergency room and received 7 stitches in my knee. This happened in a "safe" environment. There were two instructors, myself and the professor and while I was keeping a student from crashing their quad another hit me. Before this incident I had pleaded with the university to buy me buddy boxes and only allow one to fly at a time so that I could monitor their flying. They said that was unnecessary and I was over ruled. Look what happened. As if that wasn't enough, following that incident we recently had it happen again, however this time it was a high school student at a summer camp. Once again they ignored my advice to fly one at a time and or get buddy boxes as a safety precaution, saying it was unnecessary and would waste too much time and it results in a high schooler going to the ER with severe cuts on his hand. It amazes me really. The people making these calls are engineers and have PhD's and the way they talk about ethics in engineering you would think they should know better than to run up a large mutl-rotor inside a class room(yes, they do that to even after I refuse saying that's reckless). I was even at an RC event recently(club fun fly) and someone was flying a DJI Phatom right next to peoples faces trying to get video of everyone at the event and I cringed every time it came by, just waiting for there to be an electronics failure. And that was a pilot I knew knew what he was doing and would never try that with an RC plane, but he had abandoned his safe flying practices as soon as there was a camera on it and it was called drone. 

    While these are just a few examples from my personal experience, I know the problem is universal. It needs to be addressed, but unfortunately it is a very delicate subject and needs to approached correctly. I think the public needs to know more about this, but all they ever hear about is the invasion of privacy(I was manning a stand at a STEM festival in my local town and every other person I talked to was accusing me of spying on them) which I personally think is ridiculous. If your neighbor is spying on you with one of these that is a problem and you should deal with that as that is not okay. As for the rest of us(hopefully), I know I for sure have better things to do with unmanned aircraft than check up on my neighbors with a GoPro. 

This reply was deleted.