The Tampa Bay Times highlights a new report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine that states safety regulators are hindering the spread of commericial drones by being too cautious about the risks. "The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine said in a report Monday that federal safety regulators need to balance the overall benefits of drones instead of treating them the same way that they oversee airliners. Academy experts said in a strongly worded report that the Federal Aviation Administration tilts against proposals for commercial uses of unmanned aircraft without considering their potential to reduce other risks and save lives. For example, they said, when drones are used to inspect cell-phone towers, it reduces the risk of making workers climb up the towers. The study on the FAA's work on integrating drones into the nation's airspace was requested by Congress last year."
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is hosting a summer webinar series to help drone operators submit waiver requests for an operational waiver. "During the webinars, FAA experts will address the waiver application process, when to apply for a waiver, common waiver requests, common waiver application mistakes, as well as risk management, hazard recognition, risk analysis and assessment. Each webinar is live – ask FAA experts your most pressing waiver questions!"
The Local Denmark details how a drone played a "decisive" role in combating a violent fire. "Without the drone, firefighters would have been unable to spot the heat coming from the area until smoke and fire began to escape, Hansen explained. 80 firefighters and 20 fire engines were involved in the response to the fire, Ritzau reports. The drone, which has specialist optical and thermal cameras, is put to use around once every month, according to the fire chief. As well as in firefighting, it is also used in police searches as well as at sea, for example if an oil leak is suspected."
TIME has published a special report on the impact of drone technology. "These consumer drones can fly vertically, like helicopters, and are similar to remote-controlled airplanes but with more sophisticated technology such as GPS, wi-fi and obstacle-avoidance sensors. They’re being used by tech-savvy farmers to monitor and spray crops, by researchers to measure environmental pollution and by Hollywood studios to capture action-packed footage for blockbuster movies. Drones are even saving lives, as first responders in places like Menlo Park, Calif., use them to coordinate operations and search for missing hikers. (Sixty-five people have been rescued by drones, by one estimate.) And of course, drones are being flown by hundreds of thousands of amateurs, who use them for everything from taking vacation photos to buzzing around their local park."
Discover Magazine published a story on a drone rescue near the Kilauea lava flows in Hawaii. "The USGS team was able to find the resident with the drone and have them follow it out of the lava flows and vegetation to safety. Think about that: A drone used to map the flows then used that data to help guide a resident from the hazard zone! Not only that, but the drone was able to send real-time images and video of the lava flows to emergency responders to help them more efficiently help residents and know where to send people as the evacuation progressed."
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a new report calling on the Federal Aviation Administration to improve its safety risk management protocols for small UAS. "Although FAA collects data on several types of safety events involving small UAS, the accuracy and completeness of the data are questionable. For example, since 2014, pilots and others have reported to FAA over 6,000 sightings of UAS, often flying near manned aircraft or airports, but FAA officials told GAO that FAA cannot verify that small UAS were involved in most of the sightings. Officials explained that small UAS are often difficult for pilots to identify definitively and typically are not picked up by radar. Such data limitations impede the agency's ability to effectively assess the safety of small UAS operations. FAA is taking steps to improve its data. For example, it is developing a web-based system for the public to report any sightings of UAS that are perceived to be a safety concern and a survey of UAS users on their UAS operational activity. FAA did not have time frames for completing these efforts, but according to FAA, each of the efforts is underway and at varying stages of development. FAA is also evaluating technologies for detecting and remotely identifying UAS, and that could improve data on unsafe use."
Unmanned Aerial Online reports on a new bill introduced in Congress that would give the federal government authority to take action against UAS that pose an "unacceptable security risk" to public safety. "The text of the bill states that DHS and DOJ personnel would be authorized to take action against drones for the 'safety, security or protection' of a 'covered facility or asset.' The legislation would allow them to 'detect, identify, monitor and track the [UAS] without prior consent, including by means of intercept or other access of a wire communication, an oral communication or an electronic communication used to control the [UAS].' Moreover, they would be able to warn the UAS operator through 'passive or active and direct or indirect physical, electronic, radio and electromagnetic means'; 'disrupt control' of the drone; 'seize or exercise control,' as well as confiscate, the drone; and 'use reasonable force to disable, damage or destroy' the drone."
Bloomberg reports that U.S. aviation regulators are planning on requiring drone owners to place a government-assigned ID number on the outside of their drones. "Current rules require drone owners to register with the Federal Aviation Administration and more than 1 million people have done so. They must identify their drones, but the marker can be placed inside battery compartments or other internal areas where it can’t been readily seen. The FAA’s move is the latest step taken by the agency and U.S. security agencies to bring greater control over the new frontier in flight that has been plagued by rule violations, a handful of collisions with other aircraft and growing concerns about their potential use by terrorists."
The Drive notes that a firefighter in New Mexico used his personal camera drone in a search-an-rescure mission that ended up saving lives. "Fortunately, one member had taken his personal drone along, as he was coincidentally showing it off earlier to a commander. 'That was forward thinking by our guys,' said Lujan. This is where teamwork, strategy, and drone tech came into play, and resulted in every person involved getting to live another day. The drone whirred off, provided a bird’s-eye view for command, who then in turn directed the search party and the located hikers how to navigate out of their situation. The dog was reportedly the biggest hurdle to overcome, as the 14-year-old animal weighted a hearty 60 pounds. He had become immobile during the hike, presumably due to dehydration and general exhaustion."
KOAT Action News reports on the use of drone technology in a rescue situation. The Bernalillo County Fire Department was dispatched to the area of Otero and Tunnel Canyons around 5 p.m. Saturday, May 12, 2018 to rescue two stranded hikers. Crews were able to pinpoint the hikers’ location using a ping from their cell phone call to 911, a spokesperson for BCFD says. The rescue team hiked about a mile-and-a-half into the woods to find the hikers and their injured dog who couldn’t walk. But the team got disoriented as well. 'Because of the terrain, it makes it that much more difficult so you can potentially just be doing circles if you're trying to find that trail again,' said Lt. David Lujan, a spokesperson for the department. A firefighter used his personal drone to help find the hikers and rescue team and lead them back to the command post."