The Week In Drones: Cameras Over Kiev, The Future Of Air Combat, And More
Kelsey D. Atherton
at 08:00 AM Feb 21 2014
Hawaiian Police Officer And Patrol Boat
If a new bill passes, soon Hawaiian police could be the only people on the islands allowed to fly drones.
Tech // 

Here's a roundup of the week's top drone news, designed to capture the military, commercial, non-profit, and recreational applications of unmanned aircraft.

Drone Repairmen

Santa Fe Aero Services, a northern New Mexico-based aircraft maintenence shop, recently partnered with Robotic Skies, a newly launched Albuquerque-based drone repair network. By making a network of repair sites, Robot Skies wants to making sharing drone schematics and technical information, so mechanics can quickly learn how to fix the machine someone just brought in for healing. The end goal? Find aircraft mechanics who are already working, and prepare them for a future of repairing robots

Demonstrations Filmed

For several months, protesters gathered in city squares in Ukraine, specifically in the capital of Kyiv (or Kiev, if you favor the Russian). The origins of the protest, and its evolution toward the fiery scene below, are complicated. This footage, captured by a drone, shows a wall of fire on one side of the protester's camp in Maidan Nezalezhnosti, or Kyiv's central square.

In another video from the protests, a green laser is pointed at a media drone, trying to blind its camera.

Baseball Documentarian

The Washington Nationals have a drone. Or at least, they're using one to film promotional images of the team from overhead. This is technically a commercial use of drones, which the FAA still hasn't approved of, but maybe a lovable baseball team will have more legal luck than journalists.

Dubai Delivery

This week's gimmick drone is an identification card-delivering robot from Dubai. Here we have all the hallmarks of a gimmick drone video: smartphone ordering, laptop control, inflight cameras, frequent jump cuts, and a view on the ground. This robot does have the benefit of realistic cargo; ID cards are small, and the drone could easily carry one in an internal compartment. Which is great, until a strong gust of wind lets someone steal your identity.

Hawaii Debates Drone Law

This week, the Hawaiian Senate advanced a bill to regulate unmanned aircraft. Here are some of SB 2608's key provisions:

  • Except as provided under this part, it shall be unlawful for any law enforcement agency, state or local public agency, person, or entity to use an unmanned aircraft to gather information, including but not limited to images, photographs, or recordings.
  • the law enforcement agency shall destroy all information collected by the unmanned aircraft no later than thirty days after such information is collected unless the information is necessary for and relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation or pending criminal trial
  • any court that has issued a search warrant permitting the use of an unmanned aircraft, an extension or modification of such warrant, or denied an application for such warrant during the previous calendar year shall report to the judiciary the number, kind, and duration of search warrants or search warrant extensions applied for, granted, modified, or denied

This bill is really great at restricting drone use by law enforcement: stored information can only be kept for 30 days unless it's related to a trial; for most uses police need a warrant to fly a drone (exceptions are missing persons, disaster relief, and counter terrorism); and all police drone warrants are reviewed at the end of the year. The problem is that, as good as this bill is about restricting drone use for police, it's stricter for everyone else. As written, law enforcement are the only ones allowed to fly a drone that takes pictures or record film. Everyone else, be it a company, journalist, or a kid playing with a flying camera, is out of luck.

Dogfights? More like Dronefights

Next week, DARPA is holding a conference in northern Virginia to start tackling the problems of future air-to-air battles. DARPA wants the military and industry to figure out "Distributed Battle Management," or how to organize a sky with both manned and unmanned aircraft fighting alongside one another. 

Did I miss any drone news? Email me at [email protected].

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