All-out media blitz on the drone industry this week following the long-awaited release of the FAA’s proposed regulations for integrating drones into the national airspace — which, it should be noted, was only made public this early because of an accidentally leaked document that the agency didn’t take down fast enough. We’re obviously still a long way from stone tablet time (the actual laws will take well over a year to go into effect), so most of this week’s Download considers different opinions and analysis from some expert organizations. Had your fill of the FAA? You’re not alone — other goodies at the bottom.
Reactions to the rules
The FAA’s proposed rules are more lax than first feared. Seems they’re poised to open the sky to commercial drones — but not so fast: The actual implementation is likely to take over a year. (TechCrunch)
Here are five things you need to know about the proposed regs. Of particular note: Nothing changes for the everyday consumer, but as many as 7,000 drone-related companies might take off in the next three years. (The Verge)
Gizmodo, however, says the regs might actually be a job-killer.
A view that Amazon shares, and this week voiced vociferously. (CNBC)
To wit, Gizmodo posits in an earlier article featuring our CEO Chris Anderson that the DIY drone movement could “launch a billion-dollar industry.”
The Washington Post also thinks the rules are too little too late. “The most disruptive — and potentially the most valuable — applications of drone technology will not be legal any time soon.” They have a point: What about MicroUAS?
And in a conspicuously well-timed release, the White House publicized this memorandum on safeguarding privacy and safety in the domestic drone era. (whitehouse.gov)
But how concerned are we really? A recent and quite interesting Reuters poll shows that a remarkable 42 percent of Americans support a private drone ban. However: “68 percent felt that the police should be permitted to use drones to solve crimes, while 62 percent favored their usage as a deterrent. Use by news agencies proved more controversial, with 41 percent in favor and 46 percent opposed — but curiously, 49 percent felt it was fine for parents to monitor their children with the assistance of flying robots.” (Slate)
But here’s another and reliably more fresh take on privacy from the New York Times: What all of this paranoia really says about us. The thesis: “Our privacy is far more vulnerable in the face of surreptitious phone photography or recording than it is to a noisy conspicuous device hovering in plain sight. The problem is not technology. It is, as it always was, us.”
And just to round it all out: This pilot says the FAA regs are actually too lenient.
And now for some coolness
Drones will dance, fly and race in the world’s first drone circus — to be held this year in (where else) Amsterdam. The trailer looks nuts, by the way.
Drones will scan the Amazon forest, looking for evidence of occupation by ancient civilizations: “The UK-led project is trying to determine how big these communities were, and to what degree they altered the landscape. The data is likely to inform policies on sustainable forest use today.” (BBC)
“But they’ll just keep making bigger drones, with bigger nets…” This drone will purportedly trap smaller drones in a net — a quaint collision of new and ancient technology. (Popular Mechanics)
The FAA has cleared a company to use drones to inspect flare stacks: “Typically, chemical plants and refineries are no fly zones, so making these visual inspections is only possible from a distance,” said Lawrence Crynes, general manager of Total Safety Flare Services. “But distance and other factors can compromise the effectiveness of an inspection and they are sometimes impossible to do because of weather, trees, wires, fencing and other restrictions.” (UAS Magazine)
Kick this dog. Google-owned Boston Dynamics developed a spill-proof robot dog named Spot and dared people to knock it over. (Gizmag)
Here’s a very cool series of nadir aerials that offer a new way of looking at daily social life in China. (World Press)
For us geeks: A rad-looking new VTOL drone design. (Hackaday)
A high note: This one-person ambulance drone, modeled on a traditional quadcopter design, could reduce an estimated 1,000 “savable” lives lost due to slow accident response times. “This would enable a single pilot to control a whole fleet remotely, and to take over the manual controls for difficult takeoffs and landings. The drone would be able to land almost anywhere at the scene, thanks to a footprint the size of a compact car.” (Designboom.com)
And the truly big news this week: Battlebots returns. Presumably with drones. (Deadline)