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Question of the week

Apologies for the recent gap in Downloads. Took a vacation and have just now returned. Just in time, too, because last week the California state legislature passed SB 142, a bill that would ban all drone flights under 350 feet over private property. Again, that’s all drone flights — whether you have a camera attached or not; whether you intended to trespass or not; whether you took images that violated privacy or not. The bill is a clear example of legislative overreach that not only could negatively affect well-meaning hobbyists, but would also impinge on journalists’ ability to gather and report the news, as well as limiting companies’ ability to innovate and other legal commercial applications, such as delivery.

On September 12 the bill will go before Governor Jerry Brown for final approval.

So the question of the week isn’t a question (the real question of the week is actually embedded one of the stories below), it’s a call to action: Please do what you can to let the governor know that this bill isn’t in the best interest of the state, and should be vetoed in favor of more responsible action. You can contact Jerry Brown directly here, and read the full bill here.

Thanks for standing with us. And Amazon. And Google. And GoPro. And now: The drone news from last week…


The California state legislature actually passed not one but three separate bills to limit drone flights in the state — the other two restrict flights near prisons and over schools. (PC World)

A group of media organizations and journalists are pressing California’s Governor Jerry Brown to veto the drone privacy bill, pointing out that it limits their ability to gather news and will tread on First Amendment rights. Breaking news never occurs at prisons and schools, right? (The Hill)

Baby steps: The FAA has updated some of their UAV regulations. Nothing major here, just some clarification: Users need to observe Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs); observe Notices to Airmen that restrict flight over stadiums and other public facilities; and curb all flights in restricted airspace without permission. (Aviation Today)

The FAA also hired two new drone chiefs: Marke “Hoot” Gibson, Senior Advisor on UAS Integration; and Earl Lawrence, Director of the UAS Integration Office within the FAA’s Aviation Safety organization. (

According to a new report, the global UAV market is projected to be worth $2.2 B in 2015. (Market Watch)

Even though the North Dakota state legislature gave the okay for law enforcement to use weaponized drones (the first state to do so; the weapons must be non-lethal), the Fargo Police Department isn’t going to be arming drones any time soon. In fact, the police are saying they’re “perplexed, because [they] don’t see many reasons why [they] would use such technology.” (

Nigeria plans to use drones to curb oil theft. The drones will surveil creeks of the Niger delta and other national waters to monitor the movement of illegal oil bunkering networks. The government hopes to stop oil theft within a year. (IHS Maritime)


Finland’s Posti postal service is testing drone delivery between Helsinki and a small offshore island. The exercise will last four days, and the drones will carry packages weighing up to 6.6 pounds. (JOC)

Someone in the UK, who has dubbed himself as the vaguely oxymoronic “Swarm Man,” built his own flying chair out of dozens of drones. It can fly up to about eight feet high. (Popular Science)

A group of pilots opened a new drone training school in the UK, called UAV Air, to help people learn how to fly safely and legally. The school will offer a series of £1,150 — £1,500 courses this autumn, all approved by the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority. (TechWorld)

Motherboard, apparently without irony, suggests that real-world drone surveillance of convicts could one day take the place of incarceration.

Culture and commentary

Our CEO Chris Anderson on how the drone industry will handle the “mass jackassery” concomitant with the proliferation of consumer drones. Software, software, software. (Sydney Morning Herald)

A drone hobbyist accidentally caught a man — a monk, actually — sunbathing on top of a 200-foot wind turbine outside an abbey in Rhode Island. He was just up there catching some prays. Also, note the butter-smooth Orbit shot — could it be Solo’s first viral video? (Channel 10)

The New York Times examines the rise of selfie-drone culture.

A great profile of the duo who designed and choreographed a popular performance pairing human dancers with drones: “Manabe and Mizuno don’t think we have to fear technology. They believe it can be used to explore and create without eliminating human touch. Says Mizuno: ‘I think the human form, together with technology, may become more of a warm thing than a cold thing.’” (Good)

Baboom: Remember the chimp who used a stick to knock a drone out of the sky? It wasn’t just a reflexive response to a perceived intruder; researchers have determined it was a calculated act: “Tushi and the other chimps actually noticed and reacted to the drones during the initial test run. Once they saw the drones, they began collecting willow tree branches. After Tushi and her friend Raimee collected the long sticks, they climbed to higher ground where they could wait for the drone to return. When it did, they were ready. Tushi took her six foot long pole and in two swings managed to get the drone out of the air.” Note: Some adult human beings — who, it can’t be stressed enough, are closely related to chimpanzees — have also recently tried to knock drones out of the sky with fire sticks. (Youth Independent)

A drone flew over the location where Game of Thrones is shooting, revealing a possible spoiler for next season. And as promised, here’s the real question of the week: Who else is going to puke the next time they come across the phrase “Game of Drones”? (Business Insider)

CNN: Is it legal to shoot down drones?

All together now: No. (CNN)


Aerial footage of Apple’s new Cupertino Campus 2 as construction progresses. (Business Insider)

Some incredible accidental video of a dramatic flash flood rescue in Hawaii. (Telegraph)