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Question of the week

Last week the Secret Service arrested a man for flying a personal drone over the White House. Again. I covered it on our blog, and pointed out some tough questions the incident raised — technologically, legally, ethically. All three at once, really.

The gist of the story is that a tourist from California flew his Parrot Bebop near the White House. The Secret Service responded quickly and the man landed the drone and was arrested on the spot, charged with violating a federal (FAA) order that prohibits flying drones in the District.

Ironically, the day before the incident the FAA launched a public outreach campaign called “No Drone Zone” to make sure everyone is aware that the FAA has declared Washington DC (“all airspace within 15 miles of Reagan National Airport”) off-limits for all drone flights, commercial or recreational. The timing of the FAA’s PSA was an unfortunate coincidence — more situational irony than anything else — but it does raise the question of how best to raise awareness.

Now my question to you is: How would you like to see drone companies react?

What do you expect of 3DR’s messaging and technology when it comes to scenarios like this one? Where do you think our responsibility lies (if you think it lies anywhere), and what would you like to see from us? Or, do we — like so much of the new technology in this week’s Download — just practice sense and avoid?

Let’s have that thoughtful discussion here — leave your comments below!

And now, the links that matter.


Man arrested and charged for flying his personal drone by the White House. It’s the second such incident this year. (Washington Post)

The day before that man was arrested for flying a personal drone by the White House, the FAA launched a PSA campaign called “No Drone Zone” to let people know that they’d get arrested for flying a personal drone by the White House.

An NBC News crew was briefly detained for using a drone to cover the earthquake in Nepal. They were eventually released, their drone returned, and reported live on the Today show — without drone footage. (AdWeek)

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson admits he’s a little worried about drones on the 2016 campaign trail. No refuge for bald spots. (The Hill)

A new Florida law signed last week by governor Rick Scott prohibits drone photos and videos on private property. No criminal penalties are attached to the law, but violators can be sued. (Don’t we already have privacy laws that cover this?) (

But the Wall Street Journal asks if anyone owns your airspace: “17 states have passed laws to restrict use of craft, but where does private property begin?”

A US district court judge orders Greenpeace protesters to keep drones away from two Shell Arctic drilling ships, bound for a Seattle port. But: Isn’t this the FAA’s call? (Christian Science Monitor)

Drones for good

Drone captures dramatic footage of the California drought at Lake Oroville, with a water level currently 147 feet below normal. (NBC)

Together at last: Dogs and drones team up to stop an avocado fungus that threatens Florida’s multimillion-dollar avocado industry. Makes me think of South Park’s take on Family Guy’s writing process. (MSN)

“Dances with Drones.” A European artist-scientist team called CollMot Robotics has developed a system that links human movements with a flock of flying drones. “The dancer is basically one of the drones,” they said. The dancers sport a wearable device on their hand, which lets them lead the flock. As the dancer moves, the beacon generates commands that instruct the flock to self-organize and move accordingly. Check out the article — the visuals are striking. (Motherboard)

As drones become commoditized, the real money will be in services and applications. “So really what it is is not a drone delivery platform, it’s actually an information services architecture.” (CNBC)

It’s no breaking news that drones will one day be big for agriculture. But the promise is so big that many farmers are willing to break the law today. Here’s why. (NY Times)

Drones used in tornado research at the University of Oklahoma. “Some experts predict drone technology could increase tornado warnings from 20 to 60 minutes.” (News9)

Drone tech

What creature flies like a bird, but walks like a gecko? Researchers at UPenn have developed a quadcopter that can stick a landing at any angle, even on a slippery surface, without any kind of suction or sticky force. (And bring pizza to your high-rise, this article speculates.) The technology is modeled after gecko feet: “The reason a gecko does not fall off a wall is because each climbing pad contains hundreds of ridges that have millions of thin hairs. Each of these hairs has bundles of split ends, which create molecular attraction, sticking when pulled in one direction and releasing in the opposite.” You can watch how this works in an included video. (NY Times)

Director James Cameron (Avatar, Titanic, Terminator) is backing a cinema drone competition. He wants drones that are quieter, more stable and better at tracking. Can we get this man a Solo?! Note: He’s not worried about drones, and he knows more about Skynet than anyone. (Engadget)

At the Intel Future Showcase, Intel and Ascending Technologies showed off a drone that uses six Intel RealSense cameras that allow it to fly by itself. The onboard cameras create a real-time 360-degree map, supporting depth and distance analysis and self-navigation (sense and avoid). (TweakTown)

XactSense is also developing drones that will one day require no pilots at all, using LiDAR technology. (Quartz)

Meet Lily — a self-proclaimed selfie drone. (Quartz)

Then again, purely in the interest of objective reporting… (The Guardian)


Watch these drones totally eating it! ROFLOL! Oh, Yahoo. You yahoos. Seriously, though: Can you spy any 3DR models? I couldn’t. Maybe quickly at the end there.