The joke was that we both daydreamed about being able to go to school there, and building a drone that could go across the country would be cool enough to get their attention. They'd have to admit us!
This was the type of thing that we would probably never, ever do, but sitting around drinking beer and talking about how you could do it was still a fun time.
Then the joke got smaller. My mom makes the best chocolate chip cookies in the world. Trouble is that she lives an hour away. How cool would it be to have a cookie delivery robot? Build a plane that can fly across Phoenix to my Mom's house, pick up some cookies, then fly back? Cookie robot sounds almost feasible.
The most discouraging thing was to learn that if we even tried this, we would probably end up in jail. Flying an unmanned model plane like that is very, very, very, very illegal.
There are safety concerns, you see. It's possible to get drones certified as legal by the FAA, but it requires either sponsorship by a University (Roomate graduated, I dropped out, so that is out of the question), or sponsorship by a defense-contractor.
I understand the safety concerns. The reason that the FAA calls this illegal is because they don't want unmanned model planes wandering into controlled airspace, or crashing and starting a fire or something. I get that.
But I understand the safety concerns. Over half of the beers were consumed while having conversations about failsafe mechanisms to SCRAM the thing if it lost radio contact. This is very immature of me, I know, but it's still frustrating.
It's frustrating that this [TFA] is newsworthy because the person who built it wasn't arrested. Arrested? How did we get to this point where, if you tell me a story about somebody flying a model plane around the statue of liberty, my first reaction is that he is probably locked in an interrogation room somewhere being "questioned"?
Does stuff like this put people at danger? Yes. Having a 10-20 pound chunk of couregated plastic and balsa wood crash into the street is dangerous.
Should the person be thrown in jail? I don't know, should the people who drive 4000 guided hunks of steel around populated areas while texting and adjusting their radio knobs be thrown in jail? Is my cookie robot really more dangerous than my 4200 low-speed, guided battering-ram called "Jeep"?
I think so. This cookie robot would have to fly at least 500 ft AGL, and other aircraft do fly at that altitude-- crop dusters, traffic helicopters, aircraft landing or taking off, etc. If your cookie drone were sucked into an aircraft engine or hit a helicopter rotor, it could be catastrophic for those aboard that aircraft not to mention those on the ground near the crash, which could include hundreds of people. So I'd say yes, the cookie drone is more dangerous than your Jeep, especially if the cookie drone were as popular and numerous as automobiles.
...conversations about failsafe mechanisms...
Personally, I think we'll eventually be able to build your cookie drone. And I think it has a chance of being very popular. But I think it will require a lot of coordination with the existing (legacy?) flying community, including things like new flight rules (maybe AFR for automated flight rules, to go along with the existing VFR and IFR?), standard and well-tested automated guidance systems that are good enough for this use case but not able to be weaponized (existing GPS + accelerometers w/ Kalman filters don't meet this criteria), and new ground systems for takeoff and recovery.
Yup, I've had the same thought experiment. ;)
FAA should ground all the avians...then we'd be safe!
And is it because they have some incredibly efficient TCAS module installed?
Nature really, really is amazing. Part of the motivation for "The MIT drone" as it was lovingly called among my friends was trying to beat nature :).
There is a bird called the Arctic Tern which performs a polar migration (44k Miles/yr). The fact that there is an autonomous flying machine capable of refueling itself using its surroundings, and flying that far is really daunting.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2664343/ has all the details.
This was an F-16 that ingested a bird after takeoff, engine relight failed and pilots ejected after pointing the plane into a field.
While I agree with the sentiment, I'm pretty sure the last WikiLeak clarified that we had the consent of the Pakistani military brass, who took credit for the attacks, and who were lying to the elected officials/citizens.
The fact that it's possible to make that kind of statement with that kind of confidence really just sent home what Wikileaks might mean at the end of the day. The only fuzz phrase you used was "pretty sure". No more CYA madlibs?
"According to (news network of dubious perspective) (shaky adjective) reports from (unknown, likely irrelevant person) suggest parties in (vague but suggestive geographical region) might be doing (questionable activity)."
Perhaps they changed their mind and no longer wish them to act there? I want to read more into the issue, but all I can think is that if they withdraw their consent, then we should leave immediately.
When who withdraws their consent? The Pakistani people, or the (unelected) Pakistani military officials?
I'm sure it wouldn't be news if they were flying around a field, but the alternate reaction could have been "Oh my god! a plane! around the statue of liberty! terrorists are trying to blow it up!, ARREST THEM!" and thankfully here nobody over reacted.
I'm of the mind that they should have no fly zones (around airports) and a ceiling (a few hundred feet so as not to interfere with airplanes) and a floor (a hundreed feet so as not to interfere with powerlines) and then allow people to fly their own UAVs, but thats just me. There are probably too many reasons why it is a bad idea.
Also, your radio won't be able to communicate with the plane for more than a hundred meters legally and a few miles illegally.
There was an R/C plane that flew trans-atlantic; it wasn't much larger than a hobby store plane. Cross country is much, much farther (about twice as far as the transatlantic flight), but this is what makes the problem so much fun.
(Picture of the plane: http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/39393000/jpg/_39393283...)
>Also, your radio won't be able to communicate with the plane for more than a hundred meters legally and a few miles illegally.
The point is to make these things happen autonomously. Beyond that, yes, it is absolutely possible to control the thing all over the world (albeit this would be illegal). While it absolutely wouldn't work for doing real-time controls, HAMs have been bouncing radio waves around the planet for longer than I've been alive.
There's a whole thriving community of hobbyists building and flying autonomous aircraft, publishing information and code, and selling custom designed hardware.
Here's _their_ take on the legality of autonomous aircraft
You can only do it so long as you could take control of the aircraft any time. This means you need LoS, and you need a radio.
I guess my point is that it's no more "definitely illegal" than driving a car. There are rules and regulations, but there are many people working within those rules, and legally flying autonomous drones. Nobody says driving a car is "definitely illegal" because you need to have a license, a registered roadworthy car, stop at red lights and drive on the correct side of the road. The regulations do allow for autonomous rc aircraft. They don't allow for them to do 60 mile round trips to collect cookies from your Mom, but saying "thats definitely illegal" needs at least qualifying with something like "except under certain constraints and conditions" or it's at least misleading, if not outright wrong.
Here is where they are talking about drones:
This is recreational use, and I consistently see people deferring to this "Advisory" circular which specifically states it merely "encourages voluntary compliance"
They are not built to the same standards as real aircraft. Single failure modes abound and they are, in most cases, catastrophic.
I have seen model airplanes loose a horizontal stabilizer in flight for no apparent good reason. Or simply fall out of the sky like a brick when one of the cheap electronic parts inside fails. Figure out the kinetic energy of a 8 to 10 pound object travelling at 100+ miles per hour to understand the lethality potential.
The airspace he covered is flown by full-scale aircraft. Imagine being a tourist taking one of those NYC helicopter flights (done that) only to plummet to your death because some a-hole decided it was OK to take his $300 toy on a joy flight.
Beyond, that, imagine if this was, in fact, legal. Would you like to see 100 of these things flying without control around an airspace such as NYC? Bad idea.
They need to get into a LOT of trouble. This is definitely not something anyone should emulate or replicate. It will ruin the model aircraft hobby in the US forever.
As far as him having checked for flights before launching: What a lame joke! I have flown in a full scale helicopter in that airspace, around the Statute of Liberty, etc.. The pilots are in constant communication and visually scan the airspace for potential danger. They can't and don't do whatever the heck they want.
I am one of those people who doesn't need a law to understand that something should not be done just 'cause you can. It is dumb, stupid, moronic and dangerous to fly an RC plane over, around, close to people, buildings, bridges and small farm animals. You could kill people. No law needed in order to understand the reasons this is so. But they are there for those who lack common sense.
This guy is a moron. Certifiable. Sorry, no other way to put it.
He did check if any full-scale aircraft was going to be flying at that time before hand so that wouldn't be an issue.
If you're going to watch one:
In the downhill sections he is turning off the motor and gliding at about 150 km/h.
These guys do the same close-proximity flying in Alps, but in wingsuits. If you only watch a bit of it, skip to 3:05 and compare to the vimeo video!
He wrote all the software (avionics, telemetry, and ground support) himself. It maintained a telemetry link during most of each flight, and landed successfully five [edit: four] times, I think most of them on autopilot.
Around that time, Jef Raskin wrote a thought-provoking piece on the security implications of UAVs such as Laima. I can't find it on Raskin's site anymore, but here's a mirror: http://allnurses-central.com/world-news-current/next-time-ca...
There's a site about building amateur autonomous UAVs run by a Wired editor, which nevertheless seems to have relatively reliable information. Disturbingly, it has a diagram of a Predator on the front page: http://diydrones.com/
These guys are doing a bunch of stuff with kites and balloons as well, specifically to make maps available. Although some jurisdictions (like China) place restrictions on such activities, they seem to be doing a lot of good, and so far nobody's ended up in jail: http://grassrootsmapping.org/
In 2008, someone used a small flying dildo helicopter to make a political statement against Garry Kasparov (warning, includes photos of a flying dildo): http://hackaday.com/2008/05/19/flying-rc-penis-violates-ches...
The first writing I recall reading about this issue was "Danny Dunn, Invisible Boy", published in 1974; it mostly discussed the use of teleoperated UAVs for spying, not violence: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danny_Dunn,_Invisible_Boy
I think the concerns about terrorism are overblown. The world will never be perfectly safe, and people will keep on using violence against each other for quite a while yet, but fragile UAVs don't seem like they'll be a particularly big force multiplier as weapons. The concerns about privacy are probably much more significant.
You might be underestimating the difference between this type of R/C plane and a military-class drone like a Predator. One of the more difficult challenges to overcome is the range of the communication link between the pilot and the plane. This guy demonstrated a range of mile or so. For many of the kinds of military uses that would have the "big impact" you're talking about, the plane would need over-the-horizon range-- which as a practical matter would mean satellite-based comm. So basically you need satellite launch capability to support this kind of project. The cost of that would be a limiting factor.
But then the plane would have to have obstable avoidance, auto-pilot, and it must return back to within radio range if it flies too far.
You don't need a very quickly-responding plane to have a large impact on military tactics.
Or in the city one could deploy a bunch of radio relay stations and create a mesh.
Then I guess it all depends on how automated the plane is.
If it is able to track terrain, can stabilize itself and can be programmed to fly a round-trip mission, there might not be a need for a constant realtime radio link to it.
I can see configuring a flight & surveilance plan, launching it and just waiting for it to complete its mission then return, in a complete radio silence mode.
I used to know this guy that did something very very naughty back when he was a budding teen (late 1960s). He ordered a weather balloon from Edmund Scientific, filled it with helium, then attached an entire roll of heavy duty institutional grade aluminum foil to it. He then let it go... off the west coast of Florida. MacDill saw something on the radar, and sent a few fighters up to see what it was.
Somehow they tracked it back to him (possibly via Edmund) and he got a serious talking too, and then some.
Or because people will use them to remove military security?
The easy part is making the plane, I'm sure you could rig up a cessna like Hollywood rigs up stunt cars for remote control and you'd have a "UAV" (didn't Iran do that already?).
The guided missiles, the communications, the optics and sensors, those are the hard parts.
I honestly think a bunch of boots on the ground with rifles is the scariest way to do ethnic cleansing, if you just want to level houses you have artillery and tanks too. The predator is good for surgical strikes and intelligence, which a lot of enemies really don't care about.
... or that just means you are in Pakistan.
Other ways to do it could be by wireless internet.
I would be more concerned with battery life or dangers of mechanical failure on something large enough to use liquid fuel.
"What if a baseball hits a car or a building?
I mean, those things aren't even under the operators control after they've left the hand (or bat). And my god, think about it! They could fill one with high explosives!
Quick, we need to regulate this. Every baseball needs a registration number so we can identify it's owner, and every baseball bat and throwing arm needs to be licensed!"
When a model airplane smashes into a car, person, building, etc. the owner could be thousands of feet (or miles as we see in this video) away. It's extremely difficult to trace the plane back to the owner.
If your going to be flying something though the air that has a large range and can seriously hurt someone or damage property, it's not to much to ask that it be registered somewhere. Simple registration number so we know who the owner is.
Edit: The remote can also lose contact and the owner wouldn't know where the plane crashed to cover property damages.
Makes perfect sense, right?
Even if everybody only used them with the best intentions, someday someone's gonna get seriously hurt by getting clobbered on the head by one of these things.
Still, for now: awesome video!
Yes, someone will get hurt. Someone may even die. It will be terrible, but it will be an accident. We can't prevent all accidents, nor should we try.
Someone phones in to 911 an RC Plane buzzing buildings, etc... but with the tools at the police's disposal, how would they have found where he was?
I say asking, not freaking out over, because there is an important difference.
Of course they could have also used a radio direction finder.
I'm wondering if they used radio direction finder - but a) would they have that equipment to hand and b) how would they know what frequency to be looking on?
Now I know.
Thought #2: it's only a matter of time before someone tries to use such a setup to kill someone using a small anti-personnel explosive delivered by such a device.