North American drone meet takes place in Stephentown


By: Asa Stackel

In Stephentown around noontime Friday, they weren’t the drones you’re used to.  Flying in a park field of NY-22 were fixed wing FPVs or First Person View drones. With the goggles, it’s like you’re actually on the aircraft.

“We fly it FPV, through this little camera here. The video transmits through this little antenna here,” said Josh Noone, drone pilot.

Josh, along with almost a hundred pilots from across North America are in Stephentown flying all kinds of FPV drones. Most build those foam “spec wings” themselves and most do it just for fun.  But that doesn’t mean they aren’t concerned with the controversy surrounding drones.

“Drones get a bad rep, unfortunately, I think there’s a lot of paranoia with the cameras that are attached,” said Thomas McCullough, NEFVP.

Adam Sloan of Birds Eye View Aerobotics sells a drone that can lift vertically like a helicopter and fly forward like a plane. Hobbyists use it, but it’s used in mapping, power line inspection, and agriculture.

“I just think the FAA has been dragging their feet on this technology for over ten years,” said Sloan.

Right now, each person interested in flying to make money has to get specific permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly. Sloan wants the FAA to relax the rules.

“I would like to see some common sense guidelines. We never have any need to go above 400 feet, manned aircraft have no need to come below 500 feet. There’s already natural stratification there,” said Sloan.

Unlike Adam, Most drone pilots are in Stephentown for fun.

“When they rip through the finish line, it’s like wah, wah, wah. It sounds awesome,” said Noone.

They just everyone to know how fun it is.


Drone racing takes off

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Benson Ang

It is not the Clone Wars in Star Wars, but it is close.

Drawn to the adrenaline rush, speed and thrill of piloting drones, groups of men mostly in their 30s and 40s are spending their weekends at open fields in Punggol, Old Holland Road and Tuas to see who can fly the fastest and most skilfully.

In drone racing, a CCTV camera installed on each drone transmits video via radio signals to a mounted monitor or special video goggles.

Racers watch this video and see the world from the drone’s perspective.

They also control the drones, which can fly over obstacles and do stunts such as turns, somersaults, dips, flips and barrel rolls.

The drones can go up to 120km an hour – faster than a speeding car.

Says an enthusiast, PhD researcher Ervine Lin, 33: “When you are darting under obstacles and flying close to the ground, it gets the adrenaline pumping.”

Adds another racer, sports consultant Mohammed Zacky, 35: “It’s an immersive experience, like you’re strapped in the machine yourself. You can go anywhere, in any direction.”

A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) says those seeking to race drones in Singapore have to apply for permits.

She says: “There are significant safety risks from drone racing, such as the speed at which the unmanned aircraft is operated and the proximity to spectators of the unmanned aircraft during the race.

“CAAS will issue the necessary permits only if we are satisfied that safety risks will be adequately addressed.”

Typically weighing about 500g each and measuring 30cm in diameter, racing drones are smaller and lighter than those used for photography.

They are available at some hobby shops here, and racing drones are also cheaper and can cost from $300 to $1,000. The pricier models are generally lighter or have more powerful engines.

Mr Garry Huang, 34, owner of Drone Matters, a local company which customises and sells racing drones, says: “It’s common for drones to crash to the ground or into a tree.

“The drone’s body – typically made of carbon fibre – can withstand such crashes. You usually need to replace only the propellers, which cost $1 or $2 each.”

In recent years, the sport has caught on in countries such as New Zealand, Australia, Germany, the United States, China and Japan.

Enthusiasts say the informal weekend races here started last year. According to estimates, there are more than 500 drone racers here – all of them amateurs. Some drone interest groups organise meet-ups through their Facebook pages or WhatsApp group chats.

Official drone races have also been held here.

One, organised by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, took place at Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre in April this year and drew about 80 participants.

Another, organised by Singapore Polytechnic’s aviation club, took place on the institution’s premises two months ago. It had 24 participants.

Those in the open category had to race around a track, flying over obstacles and under airgates. They also had to perform tight, 270-degree turns with precision and speed.

University student Wong Wen Jie, 23, emerged champion in the category, winning $2,000 worth of drone parts.

He says: “To win, you need not only speed, but also skill. If you go fast but cannot corner well, you will fly off the course and get disqualified.”

Every weekend, he races with a group of friends. About 10 of them usually show up, although only four can race at any one time without radio-frequency interference, he says.

Under the Unmanned Aircraft (Public Safety and Security) Act, which came into force two months ago, drone operators need an operator and an activity permit from CAAS to fly an unmanned aircraft that weighs more than 7kg, or for any business purpose, or if the operation is not recreational in nature or for research.

Says the CAAS spokesman: “The definition of recreation excludes organised group sporting activities such as drone racing.”

The drone racers Life spoke to say they intend to abide by the rules. There have been no instances of damage to property, they say, even when their drones crash.

Says Mr Wong: “We are very particular about safety and generally hold our races in places that are deserted anyway.

“We don’t want our drones to interfere with other people or want others to interfere with our race.”

Catch the thrills of drone racing in this video

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Spain to acquire four Reaper surveillance drones from General Atomics

MQ-9 Reaper

Spain is reportedly set to acquire four Reaper surveillance drones from General Atomics, a move that will make the country the fifth European nation to benefit from the US-made unmanned aircraft vehicle (UAV).

Agence France Presse cited Spain’s Defence Ministry as saying that its defence budget for the next year has included €25m ($27m) for the acquisition of four reconnaissance drones and two ground stations.

Spain has announced a total budget of €171m for a five-year drone programme.

A ministry spokesman was quoted by the news agency as saying: “This type of equipment is necessary in operations today.”

For this project, General Atomics will collaborate with Spanish engineering firm Sener, the ministry official added.

The Reaper surveillance drones are designed to perform strike, coordination, and reconnaissance against high-value, fleeting, and time-sensitive targets.

Currently, in addition to the US, the countries using the Reaper system include the UK, France and Italy. Moreover, the Netherlands has recently placed orders for this UAV system.

“The Reaper surveillance drones are designed to perform strike, coordination, and reconnaissance against high-value, fleeting, and time-sensitive targets.”

The weaponised drones have been used extensively by the US for counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.

However, Spain is expected to purchase an unarmed version of the UAV, AFP reported.

Meanwhile, Germany, France and Italy recently signed a declaration of intent (DoI) to carry out a definition study worth up to €1bn into the European developed medium altitude/long endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial system.

This new development is part of a proposed European drone programme planned in 2013 to minimise dependence on the US and Israeli military technology.

Image: General Atomics’ MQ-9 Reaper. Photo: courtesy of Gerald L Nino.


Fisherman hooks a flying drone in San Diego


By Ben Hooper

A man flying his camera drone over a pier at a San Diego beach recorded the moment a skilled fisherman cast his line and hooked the device.


The video, uploaded to YouTube by Tice Ledbetter, begins with the drone flying near a pier on San Diego’s Pacific Beach Thursday when the aircraft catches the attention of a fisherman.The fisherman watches the drone for a moment before casting his line, which becomes tangled in the drone’s propeller.Ledbetter said in a Facebook post he was baffled as to how the fishing line became tangled in his propeller until he reviewed the video footage. He said the drone was still able to fly with the line attached and it traveled about a half mile before landing.

“What a jerk! Gotta admit though, that cast was spot on!” Ledbetter wrote in the video’s description.

DRONES: What are the rules of flying?



Sweeping aerial views, descents into rugged canyons and swift yet steady movements across landscapes – these are just some of the sights captured by camera drones.

The unmanned aircraft have produced captivating video and provided hours of fun for operators. In the process, they have swelled into a niche market, becoming one of the hottest-selling tech items in the country.

But they also have created headaches.

They have been a serious issue for pilots, who have had close calls during firefighting aerial drops and airport landings. Social media posts about privacy invasions – real and perceived – plus news stories about vigilantes destroying bothersome drones have highlighted other problem areas for the aircraft.

Harry Horlock, a 93-year-old drone enthusiast, said he can understand the pull and fun of flying a drone. Yet people need to take a commonsense approach when operating them, he said.

“It’s up to each individual,” he said. “They’ve got to use their own head.”

A member of the Temecula Valley Flyers, Horlock flies drones because he said they are easier to use than fixed-wing model aircraft. He said he flies them in a field near Temecula Valley Wine Country and even keeps his flight limited to certain areas of the field that are away from parking lots and other traffic.

The rapid growth of drones has outstripped the rules and etiquette governing them. But hobbyist organizations and government agencies are catching up.

One thing appears certain: Drones are here to stay.

Scot Demmer, a partner in Corona-based drone company PMG Multi-Rotors, said his company has seen at least a 1,000 percent sales growth in the last year.

“In the past two years, it’s been a significant increase in awareness and purchases,” Demmer said.

With their proliferation, legislators in both Sacramento and Washington are trying to adopt laws and rules to govern activities. A number of bills have been introduced already.

Some would determine how closely drones can hover near homes and other structures. Some call for penalties for flying into active police and fire scenes. Others would allow first responders to knock drones out of the sky.

One includes a call for “geofencing” technology – software that would program drones to turn around when approaching restricted flying areas.

“I truly believe the recreational people are not trying to stop us from firefighting,” said Lucas Spelman, a fire captain for the Riverside County Fire Department. “I think they just don’t realize they’re inhibiting one of our best tools.”

Those tools include aerial tankers, which were grounded in the recent North and Lake fires when drones were spotted in the area.

Spelman said drone users need to use one rule of thumb when there’s a fire: Keep the drones grounded.

“If any of our aircraft come in contact with one of those, they could be damaged or actually brought down,” Spelman said.

He added that he hopes as time goes forward, the need to keep drones away from fire will become more clear and there will be fewer instances of grounded planes.

The Best Response To Negative UAS Press

Reports in the news media about close calls between drones and airliners draw an interesting reaction from UAS enthusiasts on social media.
By Patrick C. Miller | August 06, 2015

Reports in the news media about close calls between drones and airliners draw an interesting reaction from UAS enthusiasts on social media. The reactions range from:

A)   The airline pilots aren’t actually seeing what they think they’re seeing

B)   The media is hyping and sensationalizing these accounts

C)   UAS operators are being unfairly targeted and persecuted

D)   Nobody can tell me where I can fly my UAV

There are probably some elements of truth to A and B.

It’s possible that not everything airline pilots are reporting as close encounters with drones are really drones. However, I tend to believe that given the level of training and professionalism among airline pilots—not to mention the sheer number of hours they spend in the air—a large majority of their reports are accurate.

I’ve seen videos posted on YouTube of drone operators who admit that they’re flying too close to an airport, flying far above 500 feet, allowing their UAV to fly beyond line of sight or flying in unsafe conditions. They’ll often rationalize their actions by saying that they know what they’re doing is safe.

But that’s like me saying I can safely drive my car the wrong way down the Interstate. It is safe until I encounter traffic traveling the opposite direction. When it becomes unsafe, it’s suddenly too late to correct my bad decision.

Complaining about the media hyping or sensationalizing the reports of near-misses between manned and unmanned aircraft does little good because it’s what the media does. You might as well complain about the color of the sky.

That’s not to say that the UAS world should ignore sensationalized or inaccurate reporting. Setting the record straight is always a good move. Most reporters don’t like making mistakes—much less repeating them. Many will welcome the opportunity to become better educated.

I salute those in the UAS community who take the proactive approach of educating and informing government officials and the public about the uses and great potential of the technology. People often fear or distrust new technology, especially when they don’t understand how it works or its practical limits.

There will be a day when UAS become a common sight and play such a major role in our everyday lives that we’ll become indifferent to their presence. Until then, the best approach is to keep reminding the public that the benefits and advantages of UAS far outweigh the harm caused by a few irresponsible users.

That brings me to points C and D. Let’s acknowledge the reality that not everyone flying a UAV is doing so in a safe and responsible manner. You don’t need to do much investigating to know that this is true. Just because someone is a member of the UAS community doesn’t mean that he or she is worth defendeding if they’re flying carelessly, recklessly or simply using poor judgement.

It is those who are ignoring or bending the rules and displaying a disdain for common sense that are doing the most to harm the future of UAS. They are the ones most likely to cause an incident that triggers an overreaction in the form of unnecessary laws and unneeded regulations.

Because some of the rules and regulations of the UAS road are uncertain or unclear at the moment doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do our best to police ourselves.