Legal History

Random drone history and legal stuff

Preamble

I was having a last night google session and found these odd snippets. I had been wondering why drones, or rather quadcopters, in particular, are so popular now, when did they start to become so and who made the first one. After all, I only remember seeing toy and semi professional helicopters up until about two or three years ago. I think the first quadcopter that I noticed was in BKK in 2014, in Pantip Plaza, Pratunam market.

The issue that I had was that most articles deal with the drones, as used by the military. However, I was more interested in the history of ‘copters.

Drone milestones

Amazon stated that it was looking into the use of Drones as early as 2013, Amazon testing drones for deliveries.

The doomed kickstarter project, ZANO – Autonomous. Intelligent. Swarming. Nano Drone, launched on 24 November 2014, died in November 2015.

Latecomers, Facebook, announced that it wants to use, and has built, drones to supply internet access, in July 2015. However, these are not ‘copters but huge 737 sized efforts.

History of drones

On Wikipedia I found this interesting snippet in the introduction of the entry on quadrotors:

In the late 2000s, advances in electronics allowed the production of cheap lightweight flight controllers, accelerometers (IMU), global positioning system and cameras. This resulted in a rapid proliferation of small, cheap consumer quadcopters along with other multi rotor designs. Quadcopter designs also became popular in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV or drone) research. With their small size and maneuverability, these quadcopters can be flown indoors as well as outdoors.[1][5]

Here is an entertaining short video on the history of drones:

A good read is Drones: a history of flying robots – A collection of links, videos and recommended reading on the subject of drones. From that link there is this interesting video:

Also, from Quora, How did ‘drones’ suddenly become so popular?, the answer by Tom Farrier, Chair, ISASI Unmanned Aircraft Systems Working Group:

The best theory I can offer is that Congress passed and the President signed a law in February 2012 that contained a whole section directing the FAA to pick up the pace on finding ways to allow unmanned aircraft to operate more freely than they can today.  This legislation was followed soon after by a flurry of challenges — in the media and through lawsuits — to the effect that everyone should think twice about letting them do so on the basis of privacy concerns.

At the same time, new questions were raised in the press regarding U.S. policies associated with waging war on terrorists through weapons delivered from unmanned aircraft.  In combination, I think all of these policy and popular issues came bubbling up in such a way as to make “drones” (a really dumbed-down but snappy-sounding term) one of the topics in the spotlight.  That’s probably a good thing, though, because the public really needs to be clear about how complicated the subject really is.

A lot of smart people have been working for a number of years on how to do “unmanned aircraft integration” right.  There’s money to be made, and whole business models are springing up with unmanned aircraft at their core.  However, prior to 2012, quite a few unresolved issues — like how unmanned aircraft might avoid manned aircraft, manned aircraft pilots might even see smaller UAs, how to make the electronic links between the pilot and the aircraft more stable, and so forth — were keeping things moving at a cautious pace on the regulatory front.

There’s also been a sense in some advocates’ circles that it’s not fair that government agencies and publicly run universities are the only ones who get to fly them today, even though strictly speaking that’s not true.  Anyone is free to apply to the FAA for a “special airworthiness certificate” for a UA with which to do research, training or marketing — they just can’t be flown for “commercial” purposes yet.  (See http://www.faa.gov/regulations_p….)  While there are a lot of people flying radio-controlled model aircraft to conduct business, the 2012 law explicitly forbids that. (See https://www.faa.gov/about/office… — go to Section 336, where it states model aircraft must be flown “strictly for hobby or recreational use.”)

There just isn’t yet a rule-based structure in place to support the safe, simultaneous operation of manned and unmanned aircraft in the same place.  There will be – of that I’m confident.  The extent to which such mixing will be allowed probably will depend on quite a few arguments being settled regarding aircraft equipage, the relative risks posed by different sizes and types of UAs, and other “integration” issues.  Until new, more accommodating rules are in place, though, people who either don’t know the existing rules or who decide to ignore them have the potential to put other people in danger, at no real risk to themselves.

Bottom line:  Congress and the President said, “Go faster.”  A lot of issues that had been handled without fanfare up to that point then came bubbling to the surface, to the consternation of UA advocates.  Go figure.  It’s a healthy conversation to have, and eventually UAs will be in pretty wide use, at least in certain applications… unless there’s a really ugly, public accident involving one that slams the brakes on the whole sector.  That’d be a real shame, but it seems like a distinct possibility if people keep trying to de-rail the FAA and strip its Administrator of his legal authority for “controlling the use of the navigable airspace and regulating civil and military operations in that airspace in the interest of the safety and efficiency of both of those operations” just to advance the interests of a currently very narrow sector of aviation. (49 USC 40101(d)(4), available athttp://www.law.cornell.edu/uscod…).

Also the answer from Lee Laster, CAAI LIcensed UAV pilot, Former owner of a UAV company, 30 year RC modeler, describes the perfect storm:

The reason drones became so popular in such a short period of time is due to the convergence of three technological advancements that happened somewhat in parallel that significantly lowered production costs:

  1. The LiPo battery. This type of battery was able to store large capacities in small sized packs, and in contrast to other types of batteries, release the stored energy relatively fast without damage.
  2. The brushless motor. This type of motor reached a far higher electric conversion efficiency than its brushed predecessors.
  3. Stabilization and GPS technology. Only recently the technology for aircraft orientation has become compact and miniaturized enough to be used in small sized aircraft.

All three advancments were coupled with a significant reduction of manufacturing costs which meant that manufactures could offer technologies that only a decade ago were reserved for military purposes due to high price – for commercial and private use.

So the answer to your question is –  the essential technology for drone flight became cheap over a short period of time – resulting in a “gold rush” of drone toys that were unbelievably easy to operate.

Legislation

From FAA requiring registration of drones beginning Monday, by Jennifer Martinez. Posted: Dec 22, 2015 6:05 AM ICT Updated: Feb 02, 2016 6:05 AM ICT

AMHERST, MA (WGGB/WSHM) –

The FAA is cracking down on drone users.  Drones have caused so much of a frenzy in the air that the federal government is mandating drone users register their craft.

Starting Monday, you will have to provide the government with personal information.

The FAA is cracking down on drone users.  Drones have caused so much of a frenzy in the air that the federal government is mandating drone users register their craft.

Starting Monday, you will have to provide the government with personal information.

“I use it to basically see better when I’m at the scene of something that is interesting,” said Larry Kelley of Amherst.

Kelley is for the use of his flying drones and gave us a look at what the town of Amherst looks like from a birdseye view.

In a matter of minutes. the drone was up 400 feet, but these flying machines have stirred up quite a frenzy – so much so that the FAA is mandating registrations for every drone weighing more than half a pound starting today.

“This is about having national registry of folks who are owners of drones and users of drones,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

Kelley , who has had his drone for two years, said he’s in favor of the new regulations.

“I’m absolutely in favor of it.  It’s the nitwits that spoil it for the vast majority. If you’re not doing anything wrong with your drone, you shouldn’t fear registering it,” Kelley explained.

Registration will be free for the first 30 days, but will cost you $5 after those days are up.

Users will have to provide personal information including names, address, email, and credit card info.

Once your drone is registered, you will be provided a tracking number.  In case your drone gets into a situation, authorities will be able to track you down.

If a minor is getting a drone as a gift from Santa, parents will have to register them.

Copyright 2015 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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