A few years ago, Amazon announced its plan to use delivery drones for package drop offs in as little as 30 minutes after purchase. A key part of completing the vision is developing a patented drone that satisfies Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations. Amazon’s Prime Air is currently under patent review to ensure comprehensive safety and legal compliance.
Amazon is undoubtedly taking bold steps to increase its reliance on mechanical systems for daily operations. Many corporations are challenged to advance themselves through innovative concepts. Materializing such ideas requires meeting specific guidelines outlined by national and state regulations.
Acquiring FAA approval
Acquiring FAA approval for the use of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) is a tedious process. Many factors are taken into consideration before approval is granted. The process of having a commercial drone approved by FAA includes satisfying proper registration and licensure requirements. Thorough testing is conducted on current state and national regulations for commercial drone use.
Possible legal issues for drone deliveries
Drone delivery propositions made to the FAA may result in legal conflict in areas of privacy and safety. Part 107 of the FAA has outlined a summary of drone regulations. Some of the obstacles corporations like Amazon and other businesses face include the prohibition of drones flying over the heads of individuals and traffic. Businesses and corporations have the option of requesting a waiver regarding the stipulations imposed.
The overall role of the FAA is to implement a framework of safety boundaries for aerial operations without blocking the advancement of futuristic innovation. It is a feat to balance advancement while satisfying tight regulations. However, many corporations and businesses are working within the legal framework to diversify the uses of drones for commercial use. As technology and the law work together, drone deliveries may become a reality.
California is home to 110 state parks, 8 national parks, 5 state historic parks and 1 state nature preserve. As you explore the state’s natural beauty this summer, you may want your drone to take photos of the landscape and wildlife.
However, drone use is carefully regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and California’s individual park districts. Before you pack your drone, make sure you can answer a few questions: Can you legally operate your drone within the park? In what section of the park can you use your drone? Have you received confirmation that drone use is acceptable within park boundaries?
Know the rules specific to the park in question
Generally speaking, drones are allowed in California state parks. However, you should check with the local park district before you fly your drone. Individual District Attendants may decide to ban drone use within a park’s boundaries, or within a specific section of the park. Also, any area that is designated as a wilderness area, cultural preserve or natural preserve bans the use of drones.
Additionally, you must adhere to all standard FAA drone regulations within the park. Park-specific regulations are in addition to the FAA’s national regulations; they do not replace FAA regulations.
Understanding drone bans within parks
Drone use may be limited or banned within a state park for many reasons, including:
- Protecting native wildlife
- Preventing accidents, injuries to pedestrians, fires and damage to facilities
- Negatively impacting other visitors’ enjoyment of the park
- Endangering privacy
- Threatening historically and culturally important areas
Drone use in public places is a highly controversial topic that is still under scrutiny. If you are unsure whether you can fly your drone in a specific area, check before you fly. Failing to do so can result in fines and even jail time. For example, if you were to accidentally fly your drone in one of California’s national parks, you could face over a $1,000 fine and even jail time. A simple phone call to the local park district before you go can prevent unnecessary problems
Drones have been criticized for causing accidents and injuries since their introduction in California. However, Palo Alto is evaluating whether they can harness this technology to save lives.
According to CBS News, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) is evaluating the city’s proposal to use drones to transport blood to a hospital during emergencies. Is this a step forward for health care, or could this proposal increase the risk of accidents in the city?
Understanding the benefits
With traffic, the hospital reports that an emergency blood delivery by courier can take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes. In contrast, a drone can accomplish the same task in approximately 10 minutes. Blood can be delivered to patients in a fraction of the time, significantly benefiting injured persons.
Understanding the risks
While some are excited about the possible benefits that drones may bring to the health care industry, others remained concerned about safety. Currently, the FAA requires that all drones remain within the operator’s line of sight. To test this proposal, they would wave this regulation, allowing drones to complete their trip without direct operator visibility. Some concerns include:
- Any technological glitches could cause the drone to hit homes or pedestrians in the path of travel.
- Without an operator watching the drone throughout travel, there is no one to anticipate, identify and quickly correct any issues during flight.
- Drones pose a risk to airplanes and are forbidden to fly near airports. Could this plan endanger helicopters taking emergency patients to hospitals and other planes in the area?
- Can we trust drones to safely transport blood and other valuable medical supplies?
A relatively new concept, it will require much testing and debate before authorities determine whether drones can and should transport health care materials. While there are possible benefits, it is impossible to ignore the potential dangers.
More and more Californians are embracing drones as hobbyists. They have become a favorite activity for children and parents alike. Unfortunately, along with the increase of technological zeal has been a significant increase in drone accidents and injuries.
While they may look harmless, drones can easily cause significant injuries if they hit a pedestrian. But what is causing drones to hit humans?
Factors causing serious accidents
While a number of unique factors can cause a drone to hit a pedestrian, some of the most common include:
- The drone runs out of battery and falls
- Inexperienced operators struggling to control its flight path
- The drone crashes into a tree, building or other object and falls
- Flying drones in no-fly zones and populated areas
- The drone leaves the operator’s line of sight
Many people purchase drones for amusement and think of them as a toy. Unfortunately, they are more difficult to control than many purchasers anticipate. New operators can quickly lose control of the drone due to wind, inexperience navigating the controls and other unexpected events. If they lose control of the drone for even a few seconds, it can easily hit and damage surrounding property or people in the area.
What can new operators do to increase safety?
Fortunately, there are ways to safely prepare for your new drone. Do not try to figure out how to handle your drone by immediately taking it out to fly. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) created an app for smartphones called B4UFly, and offers safety tips on a website of the same name. Take the necessary time to acquaint yourself with the technology and safety tips before you take the drone outside to prevent serious pedestrian accidents.
Drones have been in existence for years, but only more recently has their use become so widespread and varied. As commercial drone use grows, we will see more unique ways of employing drones, which right now we perhaps can’t even imagine.
Concerns arose because Union Pacific Railroad began aerial drone surveillance in December of 2017, to ensure its many safety guidelines were being followed. Debate between the railroad and its union started thereafter, with the union arguing that workers were more unsafe with the drone distraction ever present.
Multiple railroad employers are already using drones commercially in several ways, including these:
- Inspect bridges –– Since 2014, drones have been used for jobs such as bridge inspection. Drones allow for human beings to not be put in harm’s way. A drone can travel obscure places effortlessly where sending a human being could be difficult. Drones can also accomplish much more without a team and technology that was previously required to do the same job.
- Check railroad tracks –– In 2015, BNSF Railroad became the first commercial operation to use of drones out of sight. The railroad obtained a waiver to fly an unmanned drone out of the operator’s site, which bypasses one of the FAA’s main drone safety regulations. Now, BNSF Railroad says it’s using drones to inspect 2,000 miles of track.
- Oversee workers — Drones can observe from a better vantage point than traditionally used surveillance cameras. The Union Pacific Railroad started watching workers from above with drones in December of 2017. The workers had been monitored previously by cameras; however, the railroad workers union stated that drone surveillance is a different type of oversight than stationary camera surveillance. Drones, the union stated, create new concerns such as distracting workers while they are performing dangerous procedures rather than helping keep workers safe.
Would you want to be watched from afar while you are at work? What kinds of safety or privacy issues do you think these actions raise?
Drones interfering with other aircraft in the sky is becoming an increasing problem. Though no fatalities have occurred yet, it may only be a matter of time.
Drones can create risky flying conditions for other aircraft. Drones can weigh up to 50 pounds, they can disrupt the flight pattern enough to cause pilots to veer off course or they can create the need for pilots to make emergency landings. It may only be a matter of time before more serious incidents occur.
The following are just some of the drone incidents or crashes have been reported in the United States and elsewhere in the world:
- As recently as April 16, 2018, Heathrow Airport in London reported a drone flying within 20 feet above a 160-passenger commercial flight that was already 4,800 feet in the air. The United Kingdom, though not held to the FAA rules in the United States, has its own safety rules for flying drones in the UK skies. The UK rules overlap with US rules and state that the drone must be flown in line of sight and no higher than 400 feet.
- In February of 2018, a crash in South Carolina was linked to a drone flying near a helicopter. The helicopter pilot swerved to avoid hitting the drone and struck a tree. This was the first report of an aviation accident involving a drone in the United States. The crash occurred when a pilot in training was flying low to the ground to practice that low-flying maneuver, and the drone flew right into the line of the pilot’s sight, according to the report.
- On Feb 9, 2018, a drone struck a helicopter in on the island of Kauai in Hawaii, resulting in scratches to the helicopter. No injuries were reported.
- On October 12, 2017, a Canadian incident occurred in Quebec City last year when a drone struck a small, 8-seater passenger plane, causing minor damage to a wing.
- On September 21, 2017, a New York City drone incident involved an Army helicopter that was struck by a privately-owned drone. The FAA requires drones to be flown in the line of sight of the operator, but in this case the drone operator let the drone get out of the line of sight and the collision occurred. The Army pilot landed the helicopter safely.
Fortunately, in all cases reported above, the pilots managed to land their aircraft safely and incurred typically only minor damage to their planes or helicopters.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has clear guidelines for drone operators. Following the FAA rules could have prevented any one of these crashes. Many drone owners do follow the rules, but as noted by a leader from a hobbyist group, other drone operators are rebellious and will not follow the rules no matter what the rules are.
In April of 2018, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a new report on human collisions with drones. Although the FAA admits the figures on drone crashes with humans may be too early to fully predict, they did find data on how much damage a drone may cause when colliding with someone on the ground.
What follows are their findings. These are not the only injuries found, but they were the most common.
Most common injuries
The study narrowed down the injuries to three of the most common:
- Cuts or lacerations, which include any impact that breaks the skin such as a propeller blade strike.
- “Blunt force trauma,” which could mean any physical injury where a person is struck by a drone, but there isn’t necessarily a break in the skin. These injuries can include bruising, internal bleeding, head wounds or other injuries that may be serious or result in death.
- Deep wounds that break the skin (penetrating wounds), also referred to as penetrating because of the nature of the entry site. Drones are prone to these such as when a rudder or wing strikes someone, which could cause the drone part to lodge itself into the skin or at least create a deep incision.
A prior study found different results
In 2017, an article in Fortune Magazine reported on a drone injuries study using crash test dummies. In that report released only a year ago, the FAA concluded that drones which flew above people were not a serious threat, according to the article.
Both studies included tests done in conjunction with multiple universities participating in the studies. Many factors are involved in testing such as wind resistance, material from which the drones are made, speed at which the drones are flown, cargo being flown, weight of the drone and any safety measures put in place such as blade guards.
Remember the rules
The FAA has specifically forbidden drone owners to fly these small unmanned aircraft systems over people. As drone ownership and use continue to grow in popularity, more information will become known about injuries and damage caused by these unmanned flying machines. In the meantime, following the rules and laws put in place by the FAA could keep your drones intact and bystanders unharmed.
An ongoing argument exists between drone hobbyists and commercial companies that use drones in their businesses. The businesses argue that hobbyists should have to abide by rules just as the commercial companies must. Rules create fairness and safety for those operating unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the skies.
The companies are looking increasingly at drones to deliver goods faster and cheaper, but the companies are also subject to regulations to send drones on these delivery missions.
The hobbyists may see this registration as unnecessary or as an invasion of privacy because once a drone is registered, it is assigned an ID number which will be recognizable when the drone is in the air.
However, registration would assist police is solving crimes faster such as the Southern California couple who last December was arrested for selling drugs using drones to drop the product then having customers throw payment on their nearby lawn. Drone registration could allow police to solve these types of crimes faster or prevent them from occurring in the first place.
When is registration required for hobbyists?
Since December 17, 2017, drone owners have been required to register their drones. If your drone weighs at least .5 pounds and is less than or equal to 55 pounds, you must register it. The FAA states on their website that anyone not registering a drone that meets this weight is subject to civil and criminal penalties.
What is needed for hobbyists to register?
To complete your registration, you need to provide the following:
- Your name, email and address
- Model number
- Serial number
- Where you purchased the drone
You also must read several laws and check that you understand and will abide by them, which include:
- Follow the line of sight rule.
- Agree to stay away from others in the air, including drones, airplanes and other vehicles using the airspace.
- Contact any airport the hobbyist flies 5 miles or closer to.
- Promise not to interfere with first responder rescue efforts.
Registration requirements for commercial drones are the same. However, the list of questions you must agree to are different and includes:
- Flying during daytime hours
- Only flying in Class G airspace
- Staying under 400 feet
- Not flying over people
- Keeping speeds less than 100 mph
See FAA registration page for most current flight restrictions and registration guidelines.
Every year drones are getting more and more technically advanced. Their uses expand and so do their possibilities in artificial intelligence and crime. The newest crime being brought to the forefront of drone use is ID theft through hacking.
Hacking is a when someone gains unauthorized access to a system to steal data. If someone guessed your password to your computer and logged in to steal data, that would be considered hacking.
What is at stake?
Data traveling over the airways may be easy pickings for flying identity thieves. Radio signals are one example of data traveling over airwaves. Other examples are anything sent over a Blue tooth device, WIFI and radio-frequency identification systems (RFID). An RFID is included on credit cards, passports and other forms of ID.
What can you do?
- People can guard their data. These suggestions have been around, but with new threats, it becomes even more important to employ strategies and safeguards against identity thieves.
- Use strong passwords
- Be diligent about avoiding risky online behavior that leave your personal information vulnerable to attacks.
Don’t allow online stores to keep your credit card information stored in their databases using cookies. You should be allowed an opt out option or continue as guest when making purchases online.
Old school identity thieves
In the past, identity thieves stole physical credit cards, paper bill statements containing personal information, driver’s licenses, social security card numbers and other tangible personal records and identification. We could fight these attackers by shredding documents and cutting up old credit cards.
Identity thieves of the future
But what about the new technology thieves? Drone thieves will be able fly by someone’s home or business or land on a building and sit undetected, waiting for their next unsuspecting victim.
Most drone enthusiasts follow the rules. They generally know what the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and California state laws say about using drones. Whether using the technology for profit or for fun, running afoul of the law isn’t usually a concern for responsible drone owners.
That hasn’t stopped some California municipalities from implementing measures to control drone activity, however. The Oceanside police department recently received an anti-drone “gun” that can be used to shoot down unauthorized drones. It may not be long before other jurisdictions follow suit.
Anti-drone technology keeping pace with drone technology
As this most recent development exemplifies, some leaders view widespread drone use with skepticism. Concerns over privacy and safety remain top of mind for many citizens and public officials alike, despite California’s strict laws and FAA regulations regarding drone use. As such, some companies like IXI Technology, which donated its anti-drone gun to the Oceanside PD, are poised to take their share of the market by developing anti-drone solutions.
This particular device disrupts drone control systems by jamming radio frequencies. Doing so will force the drone to hover where it is, land, or return to its home base, thereby leading law enforcement to the drone operator for possible arrest. It therefore offers law enforcement a more sophisticated option for neutralizing potential drone threats, particularly because it can be aimed like a shotgun.
Is it legal?
This is the perennial question asked by the public, the industry and local governments as drone technology advances. The laws governing drone use for commercial and personal purposes are constantly playing catch-up to the technology. Compounding this problem are the facts of any particular situation where police shoot down what they believe to be an unauthorized drone, which will naturally differ on a case-by-case basis.
For its part, the Oceanside police department indicates their new anti-drone gun will be used primarily in emergency situations where lives are at stake. It specifically cited disruptions caused by unauthorized drone use during the California wildfires last year as the main reason for seeking an anti-drone solution.
Only time will tell when and how often such technology may be used, for good or bad. Shooting down drones that interfere with rescue efforts or violate no-fly zones is one thing. What happens when the target is a responsible, law-abiding drone owner?