unmanned aerial vehicles

Europe publishes common drone rules, giving operators a year to prepare

Posted by | drone, drone regulations, Emerging-Technologies, eu, Europe, european union, Gadgets, Gatwick Airport, robotics, Transportation, unmanned aerial vehicles | No Comments

Europe has today published common rules for the use of drones. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) says the regulations, which will apply universally across the region, are intended to help drone operators of all stripes have a clear understanding of what is and is not allowed.

Having a common set of rules will also means drones can be operated across European borders without worrying about differences in regulations.

“Once drone operators have received an authorisation in the state of registration, they are allowed to freely circulate in the European Union. This means that they can operate their drones seamlessly when travelling across the EU or when developing a business involving drones around Europe,” writes EASA in a blog post.

Although published today and due to come into force within 20 days, the common rules won’t yet apply — with Member States getting another year, until June 2020, to prepare to implement the requirements.

Key among them is that starting from June 2020 the majority of drone operators will need to register themselves before using a drone, either where they reside or have their main place of business.

Some additional requirements have later deadlines as countries gradually switch over to the new regime.

The pan-EU framework creates three categories of operation for drones — open’ (for low-risk craft of up to 25kg), ‘specific’ (where drones will require authorization to be flown) or ‘certified’ (the highest risk category, such as operating delivery or passenger drones, or flying over large bodies of people) — each with their own set of regulations.

The rules also include privacy provisions, such as a requirement that owners of drones with sensors that could capture personal data should be registered to operate the craft (with an exception for toy drones).

The common rules will replace national regulations that may have already been implemented by individual EU countries. Although member states will retain the ability to set their own no-fly zones — such as covering sensitive installations/facilities and/or gatherings of people, with the regulation setting out the “possibility for Member States to lay down national rules to make subject to certain conditions the operations of unmanned aircraft for reasons falling outside the scope of this Regulation, including environmental protection, public security or protection of privacy and personal data in accordance with the Union law”.

The harmonization of drone rules is likely to be welcomed by operators in Europe who currently face having to do a lot of due diligence ahead of deciding whether or not to pack a drone in their suitcase before heading to another EU country.

EASA also suggests the common rules will reduce the likelihood of another major disruption — such as the unidentified drone sightings that ground flights at Gatwick Airport just before Christmas which stranded thousands of travellers — given the registration requirement, and a stipulation that new drones must be individually identifiable to make it easier to trace their owner.

“The new rules include technical as well as operational requirements for drones,” it writes. “On one hand they define the capabilities a drone must have to be flown safely. For instance, new drones will have to be individually identifiable, allowing the authorities to trace a particular drone if necessary. This will help to better prevent events similar to the ones which happened in 2018 at Gatwick and Heathrow airports. On the other hand the rules cover each operation type, from those not requiring prior authorisation, to those involving certified aircraft and operators, as well as minimum remote pilot training requirements.

“Europe will be the first region in the world to have a comprehensive set of rules ensuring safe, secure and sustainable operations of drones both, for commercial and leisure activities. Common rules will help foster investment, innovation and growth in this promising sector,” adds Patrick Ky, EASA’s executive director, in a statement.

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Despite objection, Congress passes bill that lets U.S. authorities shoot down private drones

Posted by | american civil liberties union, automotive, Department of Homeland Security, Federal Aviation Administration, Gadgets, hardware, law enforcement, privacy, Security, senate, technology, unmanned aerial vehicles | No Comments

U.S. authorities will soon have the authority to shoot down private drones if they are considered a threat — a move decried by civil liberties and rights groups.

The Senate passed the FAA Reauthorization Act on Wednesday, months after an earlier House vote in April. The bill renews funding for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) until 2023, and includes several provisions designed to modernize U.S aviation rule — from making commercial flights more comfortable for passengers to including new provisions to act against privately owned drones.

But critics say the new authority that gives the government the right to “disrupt,” “exercise control,” or “seize or otherwise confiscate” drones that’s deemed a “credible threat” is dangerous and doesn’t include enough safeguards.

Federal authorities would not need to first obtain a warrant, which rights groups say that authority could be easily abused, making it possible for Homeland Security and the Justice Department and its various law enforcement and immigration agencies to shoot down anyone’s drone for any justifiable reason.

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, have rocketed in popularity, by amateur pilots and explorers to journalists using drones to report from the skies. But there’s also been a growing threat from hapless hobbyists accidentally crashing a drone on the grounds of the White House to so-called Islamic State terrorists using drones on the battlefield.

Both the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have denounced the bill.

“These provisions give the government virtually carte blanche to surveil, seize, or even shoot a drone out of the sky — whether owned by journalists or commercial entities — with no oversight or due process,” an ACLU spokesperson told TechCrunch. “They grant new powers to the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security to spy on Americans without a warrant,” and they “undermine the use of drones by journalists, which have enabled reporting on critical issues like hurricane damage and protests at Standing Rock.”

“Flying of drones can raise security and privacy concerns, and there may be situations where government action is needed to mitigate these threats,” the ACLU said in a previous blog post. “But this bill is the wrong approach.”

The EFF agreed, arguing the bill endangers the First and Fourth Amendment rights of freedom of speech and the protection from warrantless device seizures.

“If lawmakers want to give the government the power to hack or destroy private drones, then Congress and the public should have the opportunity to debate how best to provide adequate oversight and limit those powers to protect our right to use drones for journalism, activism, and recreation,” the EFF said.

Other privacy groups, including the Electronic Privacy Information Center, denounced the passing of the bill without “baseline privacy safeguards.”

The bill will go to the president’s desk, where it’s expected to be signed into law.

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PSA: Drone flight restrictions are in force in the UK from today

Posted by | Civil Aviation Authority, drone, drones, Europe, Gadgets, Government, hardware, regulations, robotics, United Kingdom, unmanned aerial vehicles | No Comments

Consumers using drones in the UK have new safety restrictions they must obey starting today, with a change to the law prohibiting drones from being flown above 400ft or within 1km of an airport boundary.

Anyone caught flouting the new restrictions could be charged with recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or a person in an aircraft — which carries a penalty of up to five years in prison or an unlimited fine, or both.

The safety restrictions were announced by the government in May, and have been brought in via an amendment the 2016 Air Navigation Order.

They’re a stop-gap because the government has also been working on a full drone bill — which was originally slated for Spring but has been delayed.

However the height and airport flight restrictions for drones were pushed forward, given the clear safety risks — after a year-on-year increase in reports of drone incidents involving aircraft.

The Civil Aviation Authority has today published research to coincide with the new laws, saying it’s found widespread support among the public for safety regulations for drones.

Commenting in a statement, the regulator’s assistant director Jonathan Nicholson said: “Drones are here to stay, not only as a recreational pastime, but as a vital tool in many industries — from agriculture to blue-light services — so increasing public trust through safe drone flying is crucial.”

“As recreational drone use becomes increasingly widespread across the UK it is heartening to see that awareness of the Dronecode has also continued to rise — a clear sign that most drone users take their responsibility seriously and are a credit to the community,” he added, referring to the (informal) set of rules developed by the body to promote safe use of consumer drones — ahead of the government legislating.

Additional measures the government has confirmed it will legislate for — announced last summer — include a requirement for owners of drones weighing 250 grams or more to register with the CAA, and for drone pilots to take an online safety test. The CAA says these additional requirements will be enforced from November 30, 2019 — with more information on the registration scheme set to follow next year.

For now, though, UK drone owners just need to make sure they’re not flying too high or too close to airports.

Earlier this month it emerged the government is considering age restrictions on drone use too. Though it remains to be seen whether or not those proposals will make it into the future drone bill.

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Airobotics makes autonomous drones in a box

Posted by | Aircraft, aviation, drone, Emerging-Technologies, Flirtey, Gadgets, Startups, surveillance, TC, unmanned aerial vehicles | No Comments

Not far from Tel Aviv a drone flies low over a gritty landscape of warehouses and broken pavement. It slowly approaches its home — a refrigerator-sized box inside a mesh fence, and hovers, preparing to dock. It descends like some giant bug, whining all the way, and disappears into its base where it will be cleaned, recharged and sent back out into the air. This drone is doing the nearly impossible: it’s flying and landing autonomously and can fly again and again without human intervention — and it’s doing it all inside a self-contained unit that is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a long time.

The company that makes the drone, Airobotics, invited us into their headquarters to see their products in action. In this video we talk with the company about how the drones work, how their clients use the drones for mapping and surveillance in hard-to-reach parts of the world and the future of drone autonomy. It’s a fascinating look into technology that will soon be appearing in jungles, deserts and war zones near you.

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UK puts legal limits on drone flight heights and airport no-fly zones

Posted by | Civil Aviation Authority, drone, drones, Europe, Gadgets, robotics, UK government, United Kingdom, unmanned aerial vehicles | No Comments

The UK has announced new stop-gap laws for drone operators restricting how high they can fly their craft — 400ft — and prohibiting the devices from being flown within 1km of an airport boundary. The measures will come into effect on July 30.

The government says the new rules are intended to enhance safety, including the safety of passengers of aircraft — given a year-on-year increase in reports of drone incidents involving aircraft. It says there were 93 such incidents reported in the country last year, up from 71 the year before.

And while the UK’s existing Drone Code (which was issued in 2016) already warns operators to restrict drone flights to 400ft — and to stay “well away” from airports and aircraft — those measures are now being baked into law, via an amendment to the 2016 Air Navigation Order (ahead of a full drone bill which was promised for Spring but still hasn’t materialized yet).

UK drone users who flout the new height and airport boundary restrictions face being charged with recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or any person in an aircraft — which carries a penalty of up to five years in prison or an unlimited fine, or both.

Additional measures are also being legislated for, as announced last summer — with a requirement for owners of drones weighing 250 grams or more to register with the Civil Aviation Authority and for drone pilots to take an online safety test.

Users who fail to register or sit the competency tests could face fines of up to £1,000. Though those requirements will come into force later, on November 30 2019.

Commenting in a statement, aviation minister Baroness Sugg said: “We are seeing fast growth in the numbers of drones being used, both commercially and for fun. Whilst we want this industry to innovate and grow, we need to protect planes, helicopters and their passengers from the increasing numbers of drones in our skies. These new laws will help ensure drones are used safely and responsibly.”

In a supporting statement, Chris Woodroofe, Gatwick Airport’s COO, added: “We welcome the clarity that today’s announcement provides as it leaves no doubt that anyone flying a drone must stay well away from aircraft, airports and airfields. Drones open up some exciting possibilities but must be used responsibly. These clear regulations, combined with new surveillance technology, will help the police apprehend and prosecute anyone endangering the traveling public.”

Drone maker DJI also welcomed what it couched as a measured approach to regulation. “The Department for Transport’s updates to the regulatory framework strike a sensible balance between protecting public safety and bringing the benefits of drone technology to British businesses and the public at large,” said Christian Struwe, head of public policy Europe at DJI.

“The vast majority of drone pilots fly safely and responsibly, and governments, aviation authorities and drone manufacturers agree we need to work together to ensure all drone pilots know basic safety rules. We are therefore particularly pleased about the Department for Transport’s commitment to accessible online testing as a way of helping drone users to comply with the law.”

Last fall the UK government also announced it plans to legislate to give police more powers to ground drones to prevent unsafe or criminal usage — measures it also said it would include in the forthcoming drone bill.

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This sensor stops your quadcopter before it can cut you

Posted by | Australia, Gadgets, Helicopter, quadcopter, TC, unmanned aerial vehicles | No Comments

The folks at Spectrum have found a truly cool project for quadcopter pilots. It’s a spinning sensor that will stop the rotors if your finger gets too close to the blades, thereby preventing you – or your kids – from getting cut.

Researchers at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia created so-called Safety Rotor to help prevent accidents with more powerful quadrotor drones. The system constantly senses for a “finger” – in this case a hot dog – and then slams the rotor to a stop within 0.077 seconds. A cage around the propellers spins more slowly than the propellers and is constantly on the lookout for biological material approaching the blades.

The measured latency [of the Safety Rotor’s braking response] was 0.0118 seconds from the triggering event to start of rotor deceleration. The rotor required a further 0.0474 s to come to a complete stop. Ninety percent of the rotational kinetic energy of the rotor (as computed from angular velocity) was dissipated within 0.0216 s of triggering, and 99 percent of the rotational kinetic energy of the rotor was dissipated within 0.032 s.

The safety functionality of the safety system was tested on the bench using a processed meat “finger” proxy to trigger the hoop, and also applied to an open rotor (without hoop) for comparison. The rotor was spun at hover speed (1100 rads−1) and the finger proxy was introduced into the hoop at 0.36 ms−1 … The rotor and finger motion were captured using a shutter speed of 480 Hz. The rotor came to a stop within 0.077 s, with only light marks on the finger proxy from the impact of the hoop. The rotor was completely stopped by the time the finger reached the rotor plane. In contrast, the tip of the finger proxy introduced to an open rotor was completely destroyed.

The kit adds $20 and about 22 grams to the drone so it’s not particularly expensive or difficult to implement. It could be, as they note, a real lifesaver if you tend to put your juicy, blood-filled digits into copter blades.

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Parrot releases drones for firefighters and farmers

Posted by | drone, embedded systems, Emerging-Technologies, Gadgets, Home Automation, Music, Parrot, Software, technology, unmanned aerial vehicles | No Comments

 Parrot is continuing its push into the commercial drone space with two new drones. The Bebop-Pro Thermo and Bluegrass are aimed at specific targets namely firefighters and farmers. Both join Parrot’s Professional range of drones that include the Disco-Pro AG and Bebop-Pro 3D Modeling. At this point, if there’s an industry that could use a drone, Parrot seems to be building one… Read More

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The SpiderMAV does whatever a spider can, spins a web, any size

Posted by | drone, electronics, embedded systems, Emerging-Technologies, Gadgets, quadcopter, TC, technology, unmanned aerial vehicles | No Comments

 Researchers at the Imperial College London’s Aerial Robotics Laboratory have created the SpiderMAV – a robot that stabilizes itself by shooting out multiple strands of rope that can stick to magnetic surfaces. The drone, which is a standard quadcopter, has a built-in rope gun that blasts out little connectors. The drone then pulls against the ropes, stabilizing itself in flight.… Read More

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A defense company put a machine gun on a drone

Posted by | Aircraft, aviation, dji, drone, drone racing, Emerging-Technologies, Fundings & Exits, Gadgets, TC, unmanned aerial vehicles | No Comments

 Duke Robotics, a military contractor, has produced a video for their unique and uniquely dangerous new tool, TIKAD. This drone platform looks fairly basic – a custom multi-rotor drone with a chassis on the bottom to hold what looks like a stripped down machine gun, sniper rifle, or grenade launcher – but what it suggests about the future of warfare is pretty scary. A gimbal at… Read More

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