Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Drones: the pursuit of anti-drone technologies and a bit more!

Last week as I was finishing up a window-cleaning job, I was startled by what I first thought was a swarm of bees heading directly for me. But since this was the last week of February and the temperature was barely 30 degrees, I shook it off; a quick glance in the general direction of the sound failed to reveal its source. But then I thought: maybe it was a bicycle sporting one of those wheel-powered generators? I used to have a bicycle like that. No, it wasn't a bicycle, I realized as I finally looked up instead of from side-to-side.

It was a quadcopter ... one of those UAVs that I've been reading and writing about! 

It was hovering about 100' above the street. Then after a few seconds it flew off behind the office building on the other side of the street. But I could still hear it. After a few more seconds it came back, hovered over the street again and then flew off behind the building like before. I looked around to see who was controlling the contraption but saw no one. After waiting a minute for it to return, I quickly decided to finish that last window and hustled into the store to collect payment for the cleaning.

When I came back outside, the quadcopter was now hovering above the east side of that building across the street. I watched it quickly fly up, then down, then back up again. Suddenly, as if a strong wind caught it by surprise, it slammed into the fourth floor of that office building and immediately cascaded to the ground.

Like a petulant schoolboy, I couldn't resist the temptation. 

I scooted across the street, fuel by the excitement of finally seeing one of these remote-controlled vehicles up-close and personal. But before I could reach the wreckage, two well-dressed young men came out the front door of the office building. I asked them if they knew about the UAV and they said it was theirs. I then added that it hit the side of the building pretty hard and one of them said he hoped it wasn't damaged too badly. I thought about following them to the crash site, but decided it was best to move along to my next window-cleaning job.

A sign in front of the office building read something like "State Retirement Fund Administration."

So what were two state employees doing with a fairly-sophisticated quadcopter during office hours? I wonder ...

Witnessing this event inspired me to update my research into UAVs so what follows is another nifty digest of "Drone News from Around the World"

The US Army appears to be playing Peter against Paul according to this article:

"The military is trying to account for that by not only expanding its use of unmanned aerial vehicles, but looking for technologies to defend against them. The Army has issued a sources sought notice for information that can help in developing an affordable Counter Unmanned Aerial System (CUAS). It wants to assess current capabilities and possible alternatives, as well as get an idea about what a CUAS might cost."

As governments around the world continue to build their arsenals of mass destruction, the addition of UAVs may now be considered a way to save money.

"The falling cost of acquiring drones will see them increasingly used in warfare and surveillance, a leading think tank said Wednesday, although it believes citizens are unlikely to accept fully autonomous deadly attacks."

Now on the topic of government control (specifically here in the US) of the private use of UAVs, one writer believes there are a few loopholes in the FAA's UAV rule book:

"One could argue that it’s voluntary to listen to the FAA about drones. In its literature discussing its governance of UAVs, the FAA often refers to Advisory Circular 91-57, which addresses model airplanes. However, AC 91-57 merely 'outlines, and encourages voluntary compliance with' the model airplane standards it states."

For those who ooo-ed and ah-ed at the fantastic aerial photography/videography of the Sochi Olympics, it must be said that UAVs played a vital role in capturing those thrilling images:

"After all the ridiculous talk (or PR stunts) of drones delivering Amazon parcels and Dominoes Pizza’s (technically possible YES, viable anytime soon with Air Law and safety NO), it was great to see a UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) being employed at the Sochi Winter Olympics."

To go along with the Sochi stuff, here's a DIY mini-quadcopter ... and it doesn't appear to be that expensive!

Yeah ... this critter makes my little RC-copter look like a paper airplane!


  1. The interesting fight in the near future lies in Amazon's definite plans to begin using drone for delivery of product. It is especially tied to selling groceries online through Amazon. They've done some testing already, but the government is ramping up against it. It'll be an interesting fight.

  2. Hey there David!

    I too have been following Jeff Bezo's drone adventures. Funny how some people believe it's just his way of showing his dry sense of humor :)