more info: http://photographyforrealestate.net/2012/01/24/warning-faa-s...
This is just another little taster of the wild ride we're in for.
You'd be talking custom made machines, because you just know some idiot is going to hook a box of chow mien noodles onto the skid of a robocopter and it'll get dive-bombed by a pigeon and land on someone's wind shield in the middle of rush hour traffic.
The problem that robotic helicopters, and other flying devices, are going to face is that they're legally liable for anything they damage below them if something falls. When you're 50' up, you don't want to be dropping a single thing over a roadway or side walk. It also brings up the questions of insurance, registration (to ensure all UAV's flying are insured and maintained) and more, because any accidents have the potential to be equal to a motor vehicle accident in terms of personal injury claim.
Operators literally have to have no choice to make sure there's the ability for them to get sued for accidents/drops, otherwise municipalities will quickly outlaw them and once that happens it's going to be decades before those municipalities change their minds.
so what? there are thousands of car accidents and deaths every year that doesnt stop majority from riding. What OP did is open my eyes on something I didnt think of before. Imagine a crowded city, like NY where 5 feet above your head there are hundreds of drones like bees flying everywhere and delivering goods: food, small mail, lighweight groceries, etc. That would be great win for problems with traffic in big cities. Mother Earth would appreciate that too. Awesome idea OP.
EDIT: you could also have personal delivery done this way, something like "electronic mail pigeon". You attach your lighweight package and you send it across the city. Of course we would need to minimum probability of accidents. Most likely software used would have to be governmet-approved/tested and you would have to have a license to be a part of "lightweight transportation channel" that flows above the city. But this is totally doable!
Excellent visualization. You've nailed the kind of socio-infrastructural change this shift could lead to.
Licensure, state registration, federally-mandated commercial drone manufacturing standards, and liability insurance may sound like a damper on the future, but by ensuring a baseline of safety and reliability, it will ultimately open up the market to all sorts of innovation.
The film: http://vimeo.com/36341233
As of today, the only legal way to fly a UAS in the U.S. requires case-by-case authorization.
Should we start testing UAVs for commercial applications? Yes. Should we allow 13 years old kids to code on them and build their new cool pizza delivery service? Not yet, I think. Just my $0.02.
At the moment, a 13 yr old could fly a radio controlled F-15 legally, so long as it was for recreation and not for commercial usage.
I'm talking, of course, of the 'killer' app - assassination!
Realize here that we're not talking about software running on a server in a nice temperature controlled room. This is software controlling hardware that is under constant vibration, will get sticky, or bend, or break, or ice up under variable conditions - hot, dry, rainy, wind gusts as it goes from behind a building to crossing an intersection. There is a mind boggling number of things that can go wrong when you're controlling a device in the 'real world.'
Even if the software is perfect there is still a large number of variables to account for and most of them can't be controlled. There's a case for UAVs and I would love to get involved with them, but building a reliable UAV and properly maintaining it would almost certainly cost too much to have it deliver tacos. Unless you're willing to spend $250 to avoid walking a few blocks.
No one argues this is not true, it's the premise that's unlikely.
Can you offer more details?
Also, Zerocater could be all over this :)
(I wish it were that easy... tacocopter clearly qualifies as something I absolutely never knew that I really really need right now)
1) Have you ever flown an RC plane? Do you know a) How difficult it is? b) How little control you have? c) How dangerous it is if not controlled? That's why (sane) people fly their planes in big fields away from people, trees, power lines, clotheslines, satellite dishes, etc.
2) More broadly, we are only beginning to have good algorithms for awareness of automobile traffic conditions. (Google's work with driverless cars, for example.) This is basically 2-D work on roads, which are specifically designed to avoid interference from external sources. None of these apply to drone aircraft. In addition to the obstacles above, how do avoid all the potential objects (other drones, birds, party balloons, etc) in proximity? We're nowhere near close to solving these problems.
3) Yes, there are accidents by delivery drivers every day. But it's clear who's responsible for any damage: the human driver(s) who are presumed to be carefully monitoring the entire process. Are mom and pop taco houses (or any other sized business) prepared to take the full liability of an autonomous flying thing? I doubt it.
All the videos we've seen (and I admit some are breathtaking) have been created by people firmly at the controls, whose full attention is focused on the task, and who are prepared to take the responsibility for any problems they cause.
Many people have enjoyed the quadrotor videos from labs such as UPenn's GRASP lab. No one at the controls. Though the miniature flyers at Penn do use external localization and pre-computed trajectories, others are completely autonomous and react in real time.
It sounds like a cool project.
[Edit]: Which is not to say that there are hurtling objects on these things, but that this is talking about What Happens Least, and there is just as much risk of something falling from a balcony or second+ story area as there is a drone falling mid-flight.
To drop something really dangerous off of a balcony usually requires malice or gross negligence, and that generally goes straight down. The operator of a drone with crappy safety systems might simply have to leave it flying for too long without noticing the fuel gauge is nearing empty.
Once the FCC hashes out things like how drones should act automatically in safe ways such that untrained pilots can't easily kill multiple people with them by being slightly negligent or stupid, then I'm all for civilian drone flight.
Isn't that effectively the same as regulating the machine specifically, but without all of the overhead, corruption, and limitations on creativity, and wouldn't the law actually have the same effect if persons found to operate drones in an unsafe manner were actually prosecuted? Wouldn't the market only accept safe drones due to the possibility of jail time?
Just curious. Been kicking that line of thought around a lot as I've been in some creaky elevators recently.
Unfortunately, modern markets are empirically fairly poor at optimizing for long-term outcomes with all externalities accounted for (example off the top of my head: the Deepwater Horizon oil spill).
When a major malfunction or accident does happen, no penalty or fine is really sufficient to bring about any meaningful sense of justice. (Think again the oil spill, or a tainted staple food poisoning tens of thousands of people, or to use a really cliché example, a malfunctioning UAV crashing into a group of kids playing at recess.) As the accidents are often due to incompetence or attempts at cost-cutting rather than outright malice, the deterrence factor of the penalty doesn't really apply – to those guilty, it just looks like they're taking the good kind of risk optimizing their systems until it's too late. The guilty corporation simply can go bankrupt and out of business, and finding and then charging personally responsible employees isn't always easy.
While government regulations might not be the most efficient, they do not cloud a picture of exactly how safe a plant is and will remain that would otherwise be perfectly clear. Short of each investor evaluating safety of each plant, oil rig, and factory themselves, the situation with government regulation removed would boil down to an analogy to the S&P credit rating business. We've seen how for-profit independent third-party rating business has worked out.
If you'd like an example from a market with little regulation, look no further than Bhopal.
I'm not going to argue that the current regulations we have in place are amazing. They're not and they can certainly be improved. I will, however, argue that they do a better job keeping us safer than the free market, as it has been implemented worldwide over the last century, would.
Having a law in place is a start, but it has little effect against those who would cut corners. I believe the saying is that "laws only keep the lawful honest." There will be a lot of manufacturers building TacoCopters who will cut corners because it's cheaper, and others who simply don't care because the don't expect to get caught.
However, if the FAA mandates (e.g.,) complete engine teardown and rebuild every 200 operating hours along with an annual FAA inspection, they can actually verify that those procedures are being followed. The law will still be in effect, but verifying that it is being followed happens well before someone is killed and will take the vehicles most likely to kill someone out of the air.
That's what they're trying to accomplish.
This is why we have building codes and regulations. Since the FAA did not have these regulations in place, it was disallowed (commercially.) Congress recently said "make the regulations" because it seems like there is enough demand to justify the increased burden on the taxpayer.
v(h) ~ sqrt(h)
Ek(h) ~ v^2 (h) ~ h
Which means, the higher something starts, the more it will hurt when it hits your head.
Police in Mesa County, Colorado received the first authorization ever for police to fly UAS. That was last year. Since then, a county in Florida received authorization. Police in Texas toyed with the idea, but decided it wasn't in the budget. So i know of precisely two police precincts with legal authorization. It's possible there's a couple others I haven't heard about, but the total number is still very small. Even the Utah Highway Patrol got slapped down by the FAA for flying without authorization.
M. Wilson at the FAA has denied applications for certificates of authorization (COAs). Without his signature, the popo doesn't get to fly.
There is, and that's to get "everyone" to do it. I recall the recent HN-linked article , which called for a large number of people to demand a trial, rather than take a plea deal, because that would collapse the system. Or, if everyone carried a gun, openly, and without a permit, the government couldn't stop the practice because it wouldn't have the resources to disarm an entire, determined population. The same is true for these tiny flying machines. The main problem, though, is the expense, as it would be a lot easier for any given person to acquire a gun than to acquire one of these, but the principle is the same. That leads to the observation that the expense is there because of lack of innovation in the field, and said lack exists due to laws restricting the use of anything which could be built. The answer is to simply ignore the laws, while pursuing the best technical answers, such as, for example, applying the recently-developed techniques of self-assembly, from the creators of the Harvard Monolithic Bee , in an effort to drive down costs and democratize the process of construction and ownership of tiny copters, so that, in fact, pretty much everyone who wanted to could possess one.