Question of the week
This week Atlanta, Georgia, banned the use of drones within city limits. They cited the helipad at the governor’s mansion as one reason: Since per the FAA all airspace within five miles of airports is off limits, the airspace within five miles of this helipad would also theoretically be off limits. Drone enthusiasts claim the citywide ban will restrict egregiously the commercial potential drones hold for the city — delivery being one obvious example.
However, the law might also set a precedent for blanket bans elsewhere. Other municipalities might be able to extend this logic, if the law is upheld, to any area where there’s an officially recognized helipad. If so, such a ban could theoretically cover huge swaths of urban and suburban areas; for instance, wherever there’s a medevac pad on a hospital roof.
The Atlanta law comes on the heels of the passage of prohibitive anti-privacy drone legislation in Florida, signed into law last month by governor Rick Scott. (It’s likely the Florida law will be challenged in court, as journalists claim it infringes on First Amendment rights.) Other municipalities around the country have passed similar laws regarding drones and privacy.
I wonder what your thoughts are about the rise of these laws. Do you foresee a legal creep — could they block airspace, at least temporarily, in practically every American city? Does the FAA have a place and an interest to intervene — if so, will they? Or are these simply more growing pains for a technology just entering its adolescence?
Leave your comments below!
And now, the links that mattered this week:
The city of Atlanta issued a blanket ban on drones, citing in part the airspace around the helipad on the governor’s mansion. (CBS 46)
In Maine, a drone helped firefighters rescue two boys stranded in the middle of a river. The boys were tubing when the water proved too much; the drone delivered a lifejacket while firefighters executed the rescue. (ABC)
The Chinese Air Force used a drone to survey an earthquake-damaged rural area in Xinjiang province, where reportedly six people were killed. It’s the first time the Chinese Air Force has publicly used a drone on such a mission. Xinjiang is a politically sensitive region in China, home to the Muslim Uighur population. (Reuters)
A Rhode Island search and rescue team has been using a drone to aid in their search for a missing boater. (WPRI)
Culture and commentary
The Verge partnered with the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College to publish a comprehensive database detailing the first 500 companies to receive a commercial exemption from the FAA. It’s an informative look at the lay of the land as it is today. The rise has been truly exponential — at the beginning of this year, only a dozen companies had been granted exemptions. (The Verge)
The tech sector is traditionally dominated by men. Perhaps it won’t be so in the drone world: Fortune profiles four women who are helping to shape the drone industry.
The PBS Newsblog mulls how drones could replace workers on American farms. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, a trade group, says agriculture could account for 80 percent of all commercial drone use. The FAA has approved 50 exemptions for farm use since January.
Thanks to the low costs of labor and production, and a workforce that’s becoming increasingly skilled in engineering, Mexico is poised to become the drone capital of Central America. We have manufacturing facilities in Tijuana, and can attest that the country is certainly on the bleeding edge. Additionally, the Mexican government is using drones to monitor high-crime neighborhoods as well as some of their state-owned pipelines. (Fusion)
Ghana is set to deploy the largest number of drones ever mustered for a humanitarian effort. The mission — a delivery system for medical supplies — is being led by the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association and Ausley Associates Inc. (MAMA), an engineering and consulting firm based in Maryland. The drones could do a lot of good in densely populated Ghana: The country is the size of Oregon, with a population close to that of California. (UAS Magazine)
This week NASA revealed a fixed-wing prototype drone for use in collecting high-resolution photos of the Martian surface. The drone is scheduled to be included in the 2022 Mars mission. (GeekWire)
Drone burgers: A man is reportedly trying to help the homeless by attaching hamburgers to his drone and dropping them on people around San Francisco. In his video he flies around the city, “looking for people who might be hungry.” Would you like flies with that? … (The Telegraph)
But in the interest of fairness, here’s another take on that story. In addition to a pointed sociological critique, this article points out that the video might just be a misguided viral ad for Burger King. (The Independent)
Camera technology and drone technology are on converging courses. This week GoPro made headlines with the release of the GoPro Hero 4 “Session” — a smaller and lighter version of their popular line of action cameras. The company reports it’s pursuing the production of a quadcopter, though its stock has taken a hit this year, dropping 18%. Here’s a half hour-long interview with CEO Nick Woodman about the future of GoPro. (USA Today)
Drone on the Fourth of July
A man in New York was served with a summons after flying a drone over the annual Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog-Eating Contest on Coney Island. The contest made history — the reigning champion 6 years running lost to a newbie, Matt Stonie, who weighs all of 130 pounds. Not that I watch that stuff or anything… (NY Daily News)
Tennessee has passed a law making it illegal to fly a drone through a public fireworks display. Interestingly, the same law also makes it “illegal to use an unmanned aircraft to intentionally capture an image of an individual or event at an open-air event venue ‘wherein more than one hundred individuals are gathered for a ticketed event.’” (WKRN)
Public Service Announcement: Strapping fireworks to your drone is a bad idea. (Wired)
Photo and video
Here’s an extremely well-curated collection of drone videos from around the world, showcasing the amazing versatility of this technology: From London’s underground tunnels to an underground jungle to the underside of the world — Antarctica. (Wired)