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Category - Security,Safety,Legal
Posted - 02/02/2017 04:02pm
FAA: Keep your drone far, far away from the Super Bowl

by @stshank

The government doesn't just want to avoid an errant drone falling on the crowd at the football championship. It's grounding the aircraft for miles around.

To nobody's surprise, Super Bowl 2017 is off limits to drones. But it's not just the stadium where your quadcopter will be grounded. (Tough luck if you had hopes of an aerial video of crowds swarming through the parking lot.)

The Federal Aviation Administration, which sets rules for aircraft, has barred drones for a 34.5-mile radius around NRG Stadium in Houston, the agency said Wednesday. Breaking the rules could land you in jail for up to a year and $100,000 poorer if fined.

Most folks who got a drone for kicks over the holidays won't be too perturbed, but drones are are big in business now, too. They offer an eye in the sky for lots of photo and video needs, including real estate agents selling property, builders monitoring construction products and oil companies checking their refineries. If you might be affected, the FAA's B4UFLY app offers details about where drones are and aren't allowed.

A circular area of more than 3,700 square miles is pretty hard to police, but local law enforcement officials are aware of the ban, and NORAD -- the North American Aerospace Defense command -- is enforcing the ban, FAA spokeswoman Laura J. Brown said. Yes, those are the same folks who intercept unauthorized fighter jets and keep an eye out for nuclear missile attacks.

The temporary flight restrictions, which also prohibit some more conventional aircraft, are in effect 4 p.m. to 11:59 p.m. local time on Sunday, Feb. 5.

Category - Safety,Security
Posted - 01/19/2017 04:15pm
Modern warfare: Death-dealing drones and ... illegal parking?

Military drones may not be the only autonomous weapons we have to fear in the future: Hacked self-driving cars could hurt us, too

Paris Bureau Chief, IDG News Service | Jan 18, 2017 12:40 PM PT

Credit: World Economic Forum/IDG News Service

A cloud of 3D-printed drones big enough to bring down the latest U.S. stealth fighter, the F35, was just one of the combat scenarios evoked in a discussion of the future of warfare at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday.

Much of the discussion focused on the changes computers are bringing to the battlefield, including artificial intelligence and autonomous systems—but also the way the battlefield is coming to computing, with cyberwar, and social media psyops an ever more real prospect.

Former U.S. Navy fighter pilot Mary Cummings, now director of the Humans and Autonomy Lab at Duke University, delivered the first strike.

"The barrier to entry to drone technology is so low that everyone can have one, and if the Chinese go out and print a million copies of a drone, a very small drone, and put those up against an F35 and they go into the engine, you basically obviate what is a very expensive platform," she said.

Read the full text of the article here

Category - Security,Legal
Posted - 01/18/2017 03:49pm
Using a drone during the inauguration could get you fined $1,414

Drone footage from Friday's inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump would be pretty cool to see for a lot of folks who won't be there. But it's not happening, unless some drone pilot out there is willing to risk a fat fine.

The nation's capital is legally closed to drones, as the Secret Service has ever-so-gently reminded the public in the days leading up to the inauguration. 

Piloting a drone in D.C., during the inauguration or otherwise, could earn you a very specific fine of $1,414. If it's a company drone, the drone's corporate owner could be subjected to a slightly less specific-sounding fine of $32,140. 

Presidential inaugurations take place on the National Mall, a national park, which means drone operators could be subject to an additional fine. Flying a drone in a national park in D.C. will cost you $85, which we're assuming would be tacked onto the possible $1,414 federal violation. 

The airspace around the nation's capital has been on lockdown since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Only aircraft, including drones, with clearance from the TSA and the Federal Aviation Administration are allowed to fly over and around D.C.

If you're caught with a drone in the sky, the Secret Service has said "violators will have all equipment confiscated as evidence." That means phones and laptops, too.

Category - Safety,Security,Legal
Posted - 01/18/2017 03:40pm
US regulators hammer down on unauthorized drone use

The Federal Aviation Administration and SkyPan International in Chicago have settled a civil suit that was closely watched by the nascent commercial drone industry. The government agency said the privately held company flew its drones over New York City and Chicago from 2012 to 2014, violating its rules which barred drone operators from flying over densely populated areas without special government permission to do so. At the time, the FAA did not allow for commercial drone flights and didn't offer an exemption process yet.

The FAA originally sought a $1.9 million penalty from SkyPan in October 2015, representing the largest fine ever sought by the agency against a domestic drone operator. SkyPan, which was founded in 1988, provides aerial photography and data to real estate developers to help them with planning, sales presentations, and more.

The settlement has SkyPan agreeing to pay a much lower penalty of $200,000 to the FAA over three years, and creating public service announcements that promote safe use of drones and cooperation with the FAA within the industry this year. If SkyPan commits any violation of current FAA rules in the next year, it will pay $150,000 more. And if it fails to deliver those PSAs or adhere to other terms of the settlement, it will also pay $150,000 more.

SkyPan In a press statement, Skypan International did not admit to guilt but said it wanted to settle in order to avoid delays in other areas of its business. The company statement says SkyPan attained a so-called "333 exemption" from the FAA to fly drones for commercial purposes as soon as it could, in 2015.

The FAA-SkyPan settlement follows a case in Seattle  last week where the city charged and a jury convicted a man, Paul M. Skinner, of reckless endangerment after he crashed a 2 lb. drone into a building during the June 2015 Pride Parade there. The drone hit a woman in the head, and she suffered a concussion. Skinner is facing up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine with sentencing scheduled for Feb. 24th.

Category - Safety,Security,Drone Guns
Posted - 01/18/2017 03:38pm
In Davos, the Police Will Disarm Your Drone in a Heartbeat

The World Economic Forum event is policed with drone-jamming devices to stop would-be terror threats and the paparazzi.

Every January, Earth's wealthy business leaders, influential politicians, and forward-thinking academics convene at the ski resort of Davos in Switzerland. There, they discuss how the planet can be made a better place. It's the perfect opening scene for a disaster movie in which the world's elite die a fiery death.

Luckily, Swiss police are on hand with a drone gun.

Actually, as Bloomberg points out, that's not a gun as such, but a drone jammer—the HP 47 Counter UAV Jammer, to be precise. It doesn't shoot the aircraft out of the sky: instead, it prevents it from being controlled remotely, leaving it hovering in midair, and stops images or video being sent back to its owner.

The police could, of course, then level a gunshot if required. Or a net. Maybe a drone security guard. Perhaps even an eagle. And if all else fails, the battery should run out at some point.

It's obvious that security needs to be tight in Davos. And tight it is: as USA Today reported yesterday, a double fence of barbed wire, army presence, and a 25-nautical mile no-fly zone around the site are put in place to protect it from the outside world.

So it's perhaps no surprise that drones are now considered to be a major concern, too. Paparazzi could use the devices to monitor the movements of the great-and-good on the ground, or terrorists could do far worse. Popular Science recently reported, for instance, that ISIS has been retrofitting regular consumer drones with tiny bombs.

Two years ago, a team of BBC journalists was questioned after it used a drone in the no-fly zone around Davos. Since then, the event's security team has clearly doubled down on ensuring they don't pose a problem. Let's hope no drone swarms rear their heads, though—otherwise some backup might be required.

(Read more: BloombergUSA Today, "Drone Security Guard Scolds Intruders from the Sky," "A 100-Drone Swarm, Dropped from Jets, Plans Its Own Moves")

Category - Security,FAA,Safety
Posted - 01/17/2017 04:35pm
Illegal Drone FPV Transmitters Could Interfere with Air Traffic Control
By sUAS News

In what it calls an “extremely urgent complaint” to the FCC, ARRL has targeted the interference potential of a series of audio/video transmitters used on unmanned aircraft and marketed as Amateur Radio equipment. In a January 10 letter to the FCC Spectrum Enforcement Division, ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay, W3KD, said the transmitters use frequencies intended for navigational aids, air traffic control radar, air route surveillance radars, and global positioning systems.

“This is, in ARRL’s view, a potentially very serious interference problem, and it is respectfully requested that the products referenced…be investigated and removed from the marketplace immediately and that the importers be subjected to normal sanctions,” ARRL’s letter said. Some of the transmitters operate on frequencies between 1,010 and 1,280 MHz. “These video transmitters are being marketed ostensibly as Amateur Radio equipment,” the League said, “but of the listed frequencies on which the devices operate, only one, 1280 MHz, would be within the Amateur Radio allocation at 1240-1300 MHz.” Even then, ARRL said, operation there would conflict with a channel used for radio location.

ARRL said the use of 1,040 and 1,080 MHz, which would directly conflict with air traffic control transponder frequencies, represented the greatest threat to the safety of flight. The use of 1,010 MHz, employed for aeronautical guidance, could also be problematic.

ARRL cited the Lawmate transmitter and companion 6 W amplifier as examples of problematic devices being marketed in the US. Each costs less than $100 via the Internet. The device carries no FCC identification number.

“The target market for these devices is the drone hobbyist, not licensed radio amateurs. The device, due to the channel configuration, has no valid Amateur Radio application,” ARRL told the FCC. “While these transmitters are marked as appropriate for amateur use, they cannot be used legally for Amateur Radio communications.” In the hands of unlicensed individuals, the transmitters could also cause interference to Amateur Radio communication in the 1.2 GHz band, ARRL contended.

The League said it’s obvious that the devices at issue lack proper FCC equipment authorization under FCC Part 15 rules, which require such low-power intentional radiators to be certified.

“Of most concern is the capability of the devices to cripple the operation of the [air traffic control] secondary target/transponder systems,” ARRL said. “These illegal transmitters represent a significant hazard to public safety in general and the safety of flight specifically.”

The surge in sales of drones has been dramatic. The FAA has predicted that combined commercial and hobby sales will increase from 2.5 million in 2016 to 7 million by 2020.

In Exhibit A of the January 10 letter, “Illegal Drones Threaten Public Safety,” the League noted that some of the drones and associated equipment it has come across “are blatantly illegal at multiple levels,” with some drone TV transmitters described as “particularly alarming.”

“Rated at six times over the legal power limit, and on critical air navigation transponder frequencies, these devices represent a real and dangerous threat to the safety of flight, especially when operated from a drone platform that can be hundreds of feet in the air,” the exhibit narrative asserted.