TIME legal

Why Keeping Drones Out of No-Fly Zones Is Harder Than You Think

Preview Of The 2014 Consumer Electronics Show
A DJI Innovations Phantom remote-controlled drone hovers above attendees during the CES Unveiled press event prior to the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

One drone maker is taking new steps after a White House incursion

Two days after a small drone crash-landed on the White House lawn Monday, its manufacturer, DJI, vowed to erect an electronic fence around downtown Washington, D.C. Any DJI drone that gets a new software update, the company says, won’t be able to enter this new no-fly zone.

But DJI’s so-called “geofencing” technology isn’t new. The company began developing the feature as early as 2012, when drone fever flared out from hardcore hobbyists to a growing number of more casual users. Market research firm CEA Research estimates shoppers will purchase 400,000 small drones this year. That means there are lots of new flyers out there unfamiliar with the rules of the sky.

“It’s moving from a more niche space to a consumer product where you have a lot of people who may not necessarily know what the rules are,” says DJI spokesman Michael Perry.

So rather than send drone hobbyists a packet of federal aviation regulations, DJI set off to build a few basic rules into its software. Airports, for instance, have a 5-mile Federal Aviation Administration flight restriction, so DJI nabbed a list of more than 10,000 of them and began building digital fences around their coordinates. When DJI erects its fence around Washington, D.C. in the coming days, it will roll out similar barriers around those airports, too.

For DJI, the move might help prevent one of its drones from being involved in something unsafe or outright catastrophic. “We are pushing this out a bit earlier to lead in encouraging responsible flight,” Perry said.

But that still leaves a raft of aviation regulations out of the picture. Flights over military bases, national parks, international borders and crowded stadiums are all verboten. Then there’s the FAA’s constantly-changing list of temporary no-fly zones around stuff like passing presidential motorcades. Drone flyers in Corpus Christi, Texas, for instance, may not have gotten Wednesday’s memo about a flight-restricted swath of their city. And even outside of these FAA rules, there are tort laws governing privacy and personal injury issues. A flight by a camera-equipped drone outside a neighbor’s bedroom window could be legally murky airspace, for instance. This list of moving and abstract targets makes it nearly impossible for drone makers to hard-wire a fool-proof flight path for their customers.

“There really is not a good comprehensive source of places where the FAA is saying not to fly,” says Brendan M. Schulman, a special counsel who specializes in drone casework for law firm Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel.

That’s problematic for drone pilots, too. Getting acquainted with all the dos and don’ts of flying, Schulman says, “is really asking a lot of people who are really just flying toys in their backyard.”

Even an obvious rule, such as steering clear of airports, may not be so apparent to amateur flyers. “You can just go on YouTube and see that they’re flying into areas where there’d be a restriction,” says Colin Snow, CEO of trade blog Drone Analyst. One enthusiast flying a drone through downtown San Jose, Snow says, clearly didn’t realize the San Jose airport was less than a 3-mile cruise away.

In other words, there’s no quick, technological fix for wayward drones, short of education and common sense. Schulman is quick to point out that for the most part, the recreational drone community seems to be a responsible lot, a few headline grabbing cases notwithstanding. He says among hundreds of thousands of flyers, he’s aware of only a handful of pending cases by the FAA.

Aviation enthusiast groups, such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics, are also working to teach their swelling ranks how to fly their new drones safely. Richard Hanson, the AMA’s government and regulatory affairs director, praises geofencing, but he also worries too many flyers might think they’re just fine sticking to autopilot: “[Geofencing] sets a mindset within the user that says, ‘I don’t have to worry about that because the manufacturer has taken care of that.”

TIME Security

Feds Want Super Bowl to Be a ‘No Drone Zone’

"Don't spoil the game, leave your drone at home."

The Federal Aviation Administration ordering this Sunday’s Super Bowl game a “no drone zone” in a YouTube video that urges recreational drone users within flying distance of the Glendale, Arizona stadium to “leave your drone at home.”

The FAA posted the public service announcement on YouTube Wednesday, kicking off a social media campaign under the Twitter handle #NoDroneZone

The FAA highlighted an existing ban on flying drones over professional and college level sporting events that take place in stadiums with more than 30,000 seats.

“Besides possibly landing a violator in jail, flying an unmanned aircraft over a crowded stadium could result in an FAA civil penalty for ‘careless and reckless’ operation of an aircraft,” the FAA warned in a public statement.

The announcement comes only two days after a wayward drone crashed in a secure area outside of the White House, raising questions about the government’s preparedness to prevent drones from trespassing over sensitive areas.

TIME Drones

Drone Maker Disables Flights Over Washington DC After White House Crash

US-TECHNOLOGY-DRONE
Staff from aerial imaging company DJI, demonstrate a remote control aircraft during a press conference by the Small UAV Coalition January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images

DJI will disable all of its devices within a 15.5-mile radius of the capital's downtown area

Drone manufacturer DJI will disable all of its devices within a 15.5-mile radius of downtown Washington D.C., following the crash landing of one its drones in the White House compound on Monday.

The company said it would release what it called a mandatory update for its drone operating system in the coming days. The update would automatically disable drone flights over Washington D.C. and fence off no-fly zones around than 10,000 airports across the country. However, owners of most DJI drones won’t be forced to download the update — those who choose not to install it would just miss out on new features down the road.

“We are pushing this out a bit earlier to lead in encouraging responsible flight,” said DJI spokesperson Michael Perry. “With the unmanned aerial systems community growing on a daily basis, we feel it is important to provide pilots additional tools to help them fly safely and responsibly.”

A Secret Service officer “heard and observed” a drone believed to be a DJI Phantom flying at a low altitude early Monday morning, before it crashed on the southeast side of the White House. The pilot, a government employee, had reportedly been drinking.

TIME White House

Man Who Crashed Drone at White House Had Reportedly Been Drinking

US-WHITE HOUSE-SECURITY-DRONE
The south side of the White House is seen January 26, 2015 in Washington, D.C. Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images

Turned himself in after seeing news reports about the crash

The pilot of a small unmanned drone that crashed on the White House lawn early Monday had been drinking before the incident took place, law enforcement officials told the New York Times.

The still-unidentified government employee turned himself in to authorities after seeing news reports about the crash, which triggered a lockdown at the White House and nearby government buildings.

The Times reported the man had a feeling the drone might have touched down on the White House grounds, but he went home to sleep regardless.

While this particular remote-controlled aircraft posed little risk to the President or others, the event caused concern that similar drones could represent a national security threat.

President Obama himself used the incident to call for a new regulatory framework around small unmanned aircraft. Some Federal Aviation Administration rules apply to small, hobbyist-piloted drones, but the agency lacks an effective enforcement mechanism to punish offenders, largely leaving local law enforcement to sanction pilots who put the public’s safety at risk.

Judging by a Secret Service photo released Monday, the drone was a DJI Phantom, which are about two pounds and just over a foot across and retail for $479 and up:

United States Secret Service

Many Phantom models are capable of carrying a video camera, but it wasn’t clear from the image if the unit in question was equipped with one.

[NYT]

 

TIME Drones

Obama Calls for Drone Regulation After White House Crash

The FAA is currently drafting drone rules

President Barack Obama has used the crash-landing of a drone at the White House Monday as an opportunity to reemphasize the importance of regulating unmanned aircraft.

In an interview with CNN, Obama said the remote-controlled quadcopter that caused a brief security scare on Monday was the kind “you buy in Radio Shack,” calling for a regulatory framework for drones that will “get the good and minimize the bad.”

“There are incredibly useful functions that these drones can play in terms of farmers who are managing crops and conservationists who want to take stock of wildlife,” Obama said. “But we don’t really have any kind of regulatory structure at all for it.”

Drones are currently restricted from most airspace, except at low heights and at designated testing sites. The capital has stricter regulations than most on flying unmanned aerial vehicles.

The Federal Aviation Administration is currently drafting regulations that will allow for wider use of the devices. However, the process has been fraught with delays.

[CNN]

TIME Drugs

Drone Carrying Meth Crashes Near Mexico Border

A drone loaded with packages containing methamphetamine lies on the ground after it crashed into a supermarket parking lot in the city of Tijuana on Jan. 20, 2015.
A drone loaded with packages containing methamphetamine lies on the ground after it crashed into a supermarket parking lot in the Mexican city of Tijuana on Jan. 20, 2015 AP

The craft was carrying six pounds of drugs

A drone loaded with methamphetamine crashed in a Mexican parking lot near the California border on Tuesday.

The craft was carrying close to 6 pounds of meth, and officials say it may have crashed because it was overloaded, according to the LA Times. It fell in the parking lot of a supermarket in Zona Rio, near the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

Drones that are used to carry drugs over the border are called “blind mules,” says the Tijuana Public Safety Secretariat. This recent incident is under investigation.

[LA Times]

TIME Japan

Japan Cabinet Okays Record Military Budget With Eye on China

Shinzo Abe
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, stands in front of a mock-up of the F-35 fighter jet during the annual Self-Defense Forces Commencement of Air Review at Hyakuri Air Base, north of Tokyo, on Oct. 26, 2014 Eugene Hoshiko—AP

Some $42 billion will be spent on defense

(TOKYO) — Japan’s Cabinet approved the country’s largest ever defense budget on Wednesday, including plans to buy surveillance aircraft, drones and F-35 fighter jets to help counter China’s rising assertiveness in the region.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet endorsed a nearly 5 trillion yen ($42 billion) defense budget for the year beginning in April as part of a record 96.3 trillion yen ($814 billion) total budget.

The budget must still be approved by parliament, but Abe’s coalition holds majorities in both houses.

The 2 percent rise in defense spending is the third annual increase under Abe, who took office in December 2012 and ended 11 straight years of defense budget cuts.

The increase mainly covers new equipment, including P-1 surveillance aircraft, F-35 fighter jets and amphibious vehicles for a new unit similar to the U.S. Marine Corps. The aim is to boost Japan’s capacity to defend uninhabited islands in the East China Sea that it controls but which are also claimed by China.

The 2015 budget also covers the cost of purchasing parts of “Global Hawk” drones, planned for deployment in 2019, two Aegis radar-equipped destroyers and missile defense system development with Washington.

Abe favors a stronger role for Japan’s military, despite a commitment to pacifism enshrined in the U.S.-inspired constitution drawn up after the country’s defeat in World War II. Japan’s defense guidelines were revised in December 2013 as tensions rose over the East China Sea islands.

Chinese patrol boats often visit waters near the islands, which are known as the Senkakus in Japan and as the Diaoyu islands in China.

The defense budget is designed to achieve “seamless and mobile” defense capability that can respond to various contingencies, the ministry said in the Cabinet-approved budget plan. It will provide effective deterrence and contribute to stability in the Asia-Pacific region and improvement of the global security environment, the ministry said.

Abe’s government must tread a fine line between spending enough to support economic growth and defense and slowing the rise in Japan’s debt, which is the highest, proportionately, among industrialized countries.

As Japan’s population quickly ages, welfare costs are soaring. Social security spending will account for about a third of the budget. The economy is in recession but the government has forecast growth at 1.5 percent this year, after an estimated 0.5 percent contraction in 2014.

To balance his conflicting priorities, Abe is increasing outlays targeting families and other households that are struggling as wages lag behind price increases. But he also intends to cut corporate income taxes by 2.5 percentage points in the fiscal year that begins April 1, to 32.11 percent. Further cuts are planned.

The government is also tweaking tax rules to encourage elderly Japanese, who hold about 60 percent of the country’s 1.6 quadrillion yen ($13.6 trillion) in private savings, to spend more on their children and grandchildren.

TIME Innovation

CNN Just Got Permission to Experiment With Drones

FRANCE-WINE-SCIENCE-TECHNOLOGY
A photo taken on September 9, 2014 shows a drone flying over vineyards of the Pape Clement castle in the soutwestern French town of Pessac. Jean Pierre Muller—AFP/Getty Images

The news network will use drones to get aerial footage

CNN and the Federal Aviation Administration signed a research agreement Monday paving the way for the network to experiment with capturing news footage in the field.

“Our aim is to get beyond hobby-grade equipment and to establish what options are available and workable to produce high quality video journalism using various types of UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] and camera setups,” CNN Senior Vice President David Vigilante said in a public statement.

CNN previously partnered with Georgia Tech Research Institute to develop drones for aerial footage. The new FAA agreement will ensure data from CNN’s experiments will be shared with regulators.

The announcement comes as a growing number of industries have urged the FAA to relax its restrictions on commercial drone flights. The agency last week granted new commercial drone permits to two companies: one in agriculture, the other in real estate.

“We hope this agreement with CNN and the work we are doing with other news organizations and associations will help safely integrate unmanned newsgathering technology and operating procedures into the National Airspace System,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: January 6

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. China is the key to solving the problem of North Korea.

By Christopher Hill in Project Syndicate

2. Squeezing cells to make their walls temporarily permeable could open the door to new cancer and HIV treatments.

By Kevin Bullis at MIT Technology Review

3. Survivors of domestic violence are getting immediate protection from their abusers via videoconference with a court officer from their hospital beds.

By Laura Starecheski at National Public Radio

4. Japan is testing underwater turbines to harness the power of ocean currents for clean energy.

By Brian Merchant in Motherboard from Vice

5. Drones are the new tool of choice for biologists and ecologists studying endangered species.

By Aviva Rutkin in New Scientist

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Behind the Photos

Ways of Seeing: From Stills to Motion

As 2014 draws to a close, we take a look back at the photographic trends that defined 2014

 

Whether through digital channels, print or on exhibit, the impact, influence and reach of the still image has never been greater. But with so many images fighting for our attention, how do photographers make work that most effectively stands out and connects with an audience. In this seven-part series, TIME looks back over the past 12 months to identify some of the ways of seeing—whether conceptually, aesthetically or through dissemination—that have grabbed our attention and been influential in maintaining photography’s relevance in an ever shifting environment, media landscape, and culture now ruled by images.

From Stills to Motion

The moving image has become a defacto aspect of today’s photography landscape, with B-roll, behind-the-scenes videos of photo shoots and requests for photographers to shoot video as well as stills.

But this year some photographers found a way to preserve the conceit of the still image while extending its form to video, in a poetic and absorbing manner by shooting slow motion video—at a thousand frames a second. Magnum’s Jonas Bendiksen made short sequences of celebrating fans at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil and Ross McDonnell created vignettes (effectively photos that came to life) amidst the fire and ice of the protests in Kiev, Ukraine. The images (see Bendiksen’s video above) have a mesmerizing quality extrapolating and magnifying the frozen incidental moment to a absorbing sequence.

Elsewhere Gifs and memes evolved to the more subtle, and sophisticated Cinemagraph to bring the still photo to life in other ways and Instagram embraced the short form video amongst its square format photo stream. But one of the simplest and most effective of executions of still photography to video was realized on The New York Times‘ website coverage of the Indian elections which utilized seven-second clips by Daniel Berehulak shot with a locked off camera of people moving through the frame to bring the photo to life.

Drones

Aerial photography has a rich history and holds an innate fascination—from Margaret Bourke White’s mid-twentieth century forays to the skies for LIFE magazine to more recent practitioners in the art of photography from the skies above, notably George Steinmetz and Edward Burtynsky, to the satellite imagery that maps our planet and images by astronaut photographers which shows our beautiful planet from space.

This year, drones—which have been used for surveillance, in war zones and to cover public and sporting events—fully embraced their creative and journalistic potential. We saw drone videos proliferate online but one of the most effective creative uses of drones was done by photographer Tomas van Houtyre. His black-and-white drone photographs of America addressed issues of privacy, drought, inner city plight and farming. Van Houtyre’s Blue Skies series became the longest photo essay to be published in Harper’s magazine, while a new chapter was featured in TIME’s Futures Issue.

A New York Times story which utilized drones (amongst other technologies) to give a new perspective on baseball, and the first drone photography contest organized this year both suggest that this art has more potential. But whether the use of drones becomes a viable everyday option for photographers will depend on the government’s decision to legislate their use or not.

Read Part 1 – Direct to Audience.

Read Part 2 – Documentary Still Life.

Read Part 3 – The Portrait Series.

Read Part 4 – The Contemporary Photo Essay.

Phil Bicker is a Senior Photo Editor at TIME

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