TIME Drones

This Guy Caught a Fish With His Drone

Screenshot from YouTube

It could be a fishing first

A Kansas farmer appeared to make fishing history recently by catching a fish with nothing but the help of his trusty drone.

Derek Klingenberg piloted his DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter—armed with a fishing line and a camera—toward a lake, and promptly caught a fish with no rod. His elation is undeniable, and Klingenberg then demonstrated he might be the most tech-savvy farmer in the Midwest by posting his catch on Snapchat.

However, as Wired points out, Klingenberg isn’t necessarily the first to do this, since there was a similar video of a drone-powered fishing trip in 2013.

Klingenberg is also known for serenading cows with a trombone playing Lorde’s “Royals.”

Those who want to use a drone to fish, take a video selfie, propose marriage, or deliver sushi might want to check out Hong Kong-based DJI’s newest quadcopter, which was released in April.

TIME Innovation

Your Future Co-Worker Will Be a Robot

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

These are today's best ideas

1. The robots don’t want our jobs. They want to be our co-workers.

By Ben Schiller in Fast Co.Exist

2. Scientists found the secret to better drone cameras: swans.

By Bjorn Carey in Stanford News

3. Colleges are admitting students based on data mined from social media accounts.

By Emmanuel Felton in Hechinger Report

4. Can legalizing bribery — and taxing it — curb corruption?

By Leonid Bershidsky in Bloomberg View

5. See how Kenya is using empty TV spectrum to get the rural countryside online.

By Jacob Kushner in Ozy

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 Aviation

This New App Shows Drone Pilots Where it’s Safe to Fly

Inside The Robo Universe Conference And Expo
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images An attendee flies a Phantom 2 drone developed by SZ DJI Technology Co. at the RoboUniverse Conference & Expo in Goyang, South Korea, on Wednesday, June 24, 2015.

As full-size aircraft pilots report more drone incidents

Drones flying in unsafe places are becoming a real problem for pilots, who by August already reported double the number of close calls than they experienced throughout all of last year. That’s in part why the Federal Aviation Administration is rolling out a new app designed to help drone hobbyists check if their planned outings are safe.

Called “B4UFLY,” the iOS version is out in beta Friday. The app lets drone flyers quickly check the status of local airspace, taking into account any special restrictions, nearby airports and other aviation rules. It’s similar to, though much simpler than, the process pilots of full-size aircraft undergo when planning a flight.


The FAA’s B4UFLY beta is open to drone flyers who previously registered to be a part of the test. The agency expects the iOS app as well as an Android version to be available to the general public in “several months.”

The app could also be seen as a move on the FAA’s part to better ensure hobbyist drone pilots operate their aircraft in a safe manner. While the agency has broad powers to regulate the commercial use of drones, it has far less authority over recreational activity. Making sure such hobbyist pilots know where is safe to fly — and where isn’t — could help the FAA prevent a would-be disaster.


TIME Drones

This Drone Caught a Guy Chilling on Top of a Wind Turbine

How he got up there is a mystery

With public cameras growing ever-more-ubiquitous, there’s seemingly no such thing as privacy anymore—not even atop a 200-foot-tall wind turbine.

A drone pilot named Kevin Miller was flying his unmanned aircraft in Rhode Island when it spotted a man sunbathing on top of a wind turbine. It’s unclear who the man is or how he got up there, though an open hatch next to him implies that he climbed up a ladder to reach the top. Perhaps he’s an engineer, or just a daredevil who gets his kicks climbing incredibly tall structures.

The discovery begs the question: just how many people are chilling on top of turbines, windmills, water towers and other large infrastructure edifices as we speak?

Check out the video of the sunbather below:

[Daily Mirror]

TIME Drones

Construction Workers Are Now Being Monitored By Drones

Getty Images

Drones fly over the construction site to monitor progress

Constructions workers building the stadium for the Sacramento Kings in California have a boss watching over them in a very literal way. Their work is being monitored by drones.

Drones periodically fly over the construction site and take videos that are converted into 3D images, which can then be compared to construction plans to highlight areas of structure that are falling behind schedule, MIT Technology review reports.

Some concerns have been raised about worker privacy or incentivizing construction workers to work longer hours. But Mani Golparvar-Fard, who helped develop this drone software, says the drones aren’t so different than normal bosses.“It’s not new to the construction industry that there would either be people standing and observing operations, or that there would be fixed cameras,” he told MIT.

Chris McFadden from Turner Construction Company, which is overseeing the project, told TIME that drones are only flown when the workers are offsite. “To be clear, we are not using drones to monitor workers or their activities,” he said. “Drones are actually flown once a week during off-hours when few people are on site, typically on Sunday, and they follow strict safety protocols such as not flying above people.”

The stadium is set to open in October 2016, if the drones keep construction on schedule.

TIME Crime

These Guys Tried to Use a Drone to Fly Porn, Tobacco and Drugs Into Prison

Prison Contraband Drone maryland
David Dishneau—AP A Yuneec Typhoon drone and controller that Maryland State Police and prison officials say two men planned to use to smuggle drugs, tobacco and pornography videos into the maximum-security Western Correctional Institution near Cumberland on Aug. 24, 2015, in Jessup, Md.

Using drones in smuggling attempts is a growing problem for prison operators

(JESSUP, Md.) — Police arrested two men with a drone near a Maryland state prison as the men prepared to fly drugs, tobacco and pornography into the maximum-security institution, state police and prison officials said Monday.

The arrests on Saturday near Cumberland highlight a growing problem for prison operators nationwide as they struggle to get ahead of the mini-helicopter technology. Officials have also reported prison contraband smuggling attempts involving drones in South Carolina and Ohio.

The Yuneec Typhoon model seized from the men’s vehicle has a cargo capacity of 6 to 8 ounces, police said. That’s enough to carry the packages of tobacco, synthetic marijuana, prescription narcotics and pornographic DVDs seized in the arrest, but not enough to hoist the pistol that police said was also found with the men.

Larger drones exist that could carry a gun, said Stephen T. Moyer, secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

“That’s my biggest fear,” he told a news conference. “The use of these drones to bring this type of contraband into a facility is very, very troubling, and we’re going to address it.”

Moyer said he will ask the General Assembly to fund the installation of drone-detection technology at state prisons. He said the radar-like technology would cost $350,000 to $400,000 for each of the department’s 27 institutions, a potential total cost of $9.5 to $10.8 million.

Moyer said the investigation began several weeks ago, enabling authorities to arrest the men near the Western Correctional Institution, a nearly 1,700-bed institution in the Appalachian Mountains about 120 miles west of Baltimore.

Officers found the two men inside a vehicle with a drone, contraband and a handgun. They displayed the drone and photos of the contraband at a news conference. Officials say these are the first arrests on charges of attempting to use a drone to deliver contraband to a Maryland prison.

The investigation also involved an inmate suspected of collaborating with the men, Moyer said. Investigators found contraband in the inmate’s cell and were preparing to charge him, he said.

The men arrested outside the prison are Thaddeus Casimir Shortz, 25, of Knoxville, and Keith Brian Russell, 29, of Silver Spring. Both have served prison time for assault. Russell was convicted on a narcotics charge in 2014, according to online court records.

No defense attorneys are listed for the men in court records. Private attorneys who represented them in the past said they had not been retained for this case.

Shortz was released on bail Sunday. Russell was being held at the Allegany County jail Monday with bail set at $100,000.

TIME technology

We Don’t Need More Laws Protecting Our Privacy From Drones

Getty Images

Drones are used as scapegoats as their visible presence makes our privacy fears manifest

When a Kentucky man shot his neighbor’s drone out of the sky over his house this July, the story hit a nerve. What’s a guy to do when there’s a drone snooping in his backyard, scaring his kids? It seemed every talking head, from Kentucky state representatives to local news anchors to Fox & Friends, had come to a consensus: There oughta be a law.

What are current drone laws?

Drones hover at an uneasy intersection of state laws and FAA regulations, civil claims for nuisance and trespass, and new state legislation. As a criminal procedure scholar, I’m used to considering the ramifications of domestic drone surveillance by the government, but drones manned by nosy neighbors are something else. The question is, do we really need more laws specific to drones?

Media lawyers Michael Berry and Nabiha Syed would argue not. These laws “either fail to meaningfully address any perceived harm or sweep too broadly,” they write.

Worse, the laws seem unnecessary. Much of the discomfort with drones stems from their ability to spy on people. But there already are laws against unwanted photography or recording of private individuals, and these apply whether the camera is mounted to a drone or to a creepy guy in a stained raincoat.

Additionally, some of the new drone-specific laws seem to conflict with what few FAA regulations we have. For example, Oregon has enacted a law enabling people to sue drone operators who fly over their houses at altitudes of less than 400 feet, after being notified that the residents don’t want them there. Only one problem: FAA guidelines state that drones should not be flown at altitudes over 400 feet. That means any drone operator in Oregon – as long as he’s on notice that his activities are unwelcome –will be in violation of something.

Tennessee has amended its definition of trespass to include anyone flying a drone into “that portion of the airspace above the owner’s land not regulated as navigable airspace by the federal aviation administration.” But the FAA says that they regulate every cubic inch of airspace “from the ground up.”

The virtue of drone-specific laws, if any, might simply be an expressive one: We can all agree that we’re not OK with aerial snooping, we pass a law, and everyone feels better. But if we are serious about protecting privacy, maybe our time and political capital could be better spent.

Drones as scapegoats

Domestic drones provide an easy focus for our anxiety. Even if they are not as genuinely frightening as their weaponized cousins, they are visible, right there, outside your window, buzzing around your head or ogling your sunbathing daughter. They make our privacy fears manifest.

A few years ago, a privacy scholar wondered whether the advent of drone technology might shock us into revitalizing our outdated privacy laws, crystallizing our ambient concerns about big data and the surveillance state into one handy package.

That didn’t happen. Instead, public concern remains target-locked on drones, blithely ignoring the inexorable accumulation of billions of bytes of information about everything we do online or over the phone.

Drones remain privacy’s whipping boy both because their applications seem limitless – from dealing sudden death from the sky to “quickly flying flotation devices to people adrift in the ocean” – and because their useful applications are often overshadowed by inconsiderate amateur operators. Under current guidelines, only hobbyist drone operators can fly their devices without an FAA waiver.

New rules expected later this year will allow businesses to fly small drones, but only if they keep them where they can be seen without binoculars. This means that any commercial applications where drones fly beyond the operator’s line of sight, like deliveries from UPS, are still at least a few years in the future.

But as soon as drones start making our lives more convenient, we will probably make peace with them.

The lure of instant gratification

There is little reason, for example, to believe that our current indignation about drones over our homes will withstand the siren song of Amazon offering to deposit our latest order on our doorsteps in 30 minutes. We want our cars, our houses, even our fridges to be “smart,” even though Nissan or Nest or GE will then know everything about our movements and our shopping habits.

We carry our phones everywhere, in full knowledge that they can transmit our locations to anyone with a Stingray tracking device, and monitor everything about our fitness, food and friends. We have willingly handed our privacy over to the companies that make our lives more convenient and more fun, because it’s too hard to fight the joined forces of industry lobbyists and our own desires.

My guess is the market will speak, as it always does, bearing us into the brave new drone-friendly world we have made for ourselves.

This article originally appeared on The ConversationThe Conversation

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 Military

The Pentagon Will Increase Drone Flights By 50%

american unmanned reaper drone
Dominique Faget—AFP/Getty Images A US made Reaper drone flies over the Nigerian military airport Diori Hamani in Niamey, Niger on Jan. 2, 2015.

The use of the Army and contractor drone aircrafts will give the Air Force time to recover and rebuild its drone staffing

(JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va.) — Faced with escalating aggression from Russia and China, the Pentagon is planning to increase its use of drones by about 50 percent over the next several years, using the Army and civilian contractors to put more of the unmanned aircraft in the air.

The decision to add Army and civilian-operated missions to the mix was triggered because the Air Force — which had been running about 65 combat air patrol missions a day — asked to decrease that number to 60 because of stress on the force. But 60 patrols don’t come close to meeting the demands of top military commanders facing growing security threats around the world.

Senior U.S. officials said that while drones have been used largely to target terrorists and collect intelligence over combat zones, those needs may shift in the coming years.

Top military leaders, including the incoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, have named Russia as the nation’s most serious security threat. And China’s rising military power and island-building program in the South China Sea have increased tensions and prompted a greater demand for U.S. surveillance and intelligence across the Pacific.

One senior defense official said Pentagon leaders are taking those security challenges into account as they decide how armed and unarmed drones will be used across Europe and the Pacific. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the issue publicly.

Pentagon leaders have been wrestling with the problem for some time, as the need for more airstrikes and surveillance by drones over Iraq and Syria to battle the Islamic State group offsets a decline in unmanned flights over Afghanistan as the war there winds down. Under the plans laid out by senior defense officials, the Air Force would continue to provide 60 daily drone missions, while the Army would conduct about 16, and U.S. Special Operations Command and civilian contractors would do up to 10 each.

“It’s the combatant commanders, they need more. They’re tasked to do our nation’s business overseas so they feel that stress on them, and it’s not getting better,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. J.D. Harris, Jr., vice commander of Air Combat Command at Joint Base Langley-Eustis. “There’s just not enough of the Air Force to go around.”

The civilian contractors would fly surveillance drones, not the armed aircraft. But senior defense officials said they need at least a small contractor contribution in order to reach the total of 90 combat air patrols per day.

The key unanswered questions, however, are how the Pentagon will pay for the additional patrols and how the military will sort out and analyze the growing torrent of data pouring in.

Officials said some of the costs could be borne by war funding — the overseas contingency operations in a separate account approved by Congress. The account funded some of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as some counterterrorism operations in the Middle East and Africa.

The use of the Army and contractor flights will give the Air Force time to recover and rebuild its drone staffing. Over the past decade, the Air Force had to very quickly expand the number of unmanned flights over Iraq and Afghanistan. To do that, it made fighter pilots switch to unmanned Predator and Reaper drones, and moved trainers into operations missions.

“Five, six years ago, we overmatched our system and we said we could provide more than what we were capable of providing on a sustained basis,” Harris told The Associated Press in an interview at his Langley office. “We actually decimated our training units. We pulled crews that were instructors that should be training the next round of students, and we put them on the operational lines flying missions overseas just to provide everything we could to the combatant commanders.”

As a result, the Air Force has trained about 180 air crew members per year, far short of the goal of 300.

Harris and other military leaders thought that the demand for drones would dip as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan waned. But the renewed conflict in Iraq, the fighting in Syria, the terror threat in North Africa, the Russian invasion of Ukraine’s Crimea region and the simmering tensions in the Pacific have only increased commanders’ appetite for drones.

To relieve the burden on the Air Force, the military has already begun using Army Gray Eagle drones in Afghanistan and could expand to other regions as required.

But, as the missions increase, the amount of video and other data being funneled to analysts will also spike.

Officials said they are working on ways to filter the data more efficiently so that key intelligence is identified and gets to the right people.

“The intelligence analysts who process the information coming from these flights are a critical part of this,” said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. “So, as we talk about expanding the number of UAV (drone) flights, we also have to look at the workload of the analysts who process that. We have to have the supporting backbone to be able to process that information and turn it into actionable intelligence.”

TIME Drones

Capt. ‘Sully’ Warns of Drone vs. Plane Collisions

Chesley Sully Sullenberger
Chuck Burton—Associated Press Former Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger talks with the media at the Carolina Aviation Museum on June 2011, in Charlotte, N.C.

"It is not a matter of if it will happen. It is a matter of when it will happen"

The use of drones—both recreationally and commercially—is on the rise, offering a boost to a booming drone industry expected to create billions of dollars worth of economic activity in the U.S. over the next decade. But significant uptick in close encounters between drones and manned aircraft—a quadrupling, in fact—is pushing many to call for increased regulation and better enforcement of the regulations that are in place.

One of the more prominent voices bringing attention to the heightened risk of a drone-on-aircraft collision is Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. Sullenberger, most readers will recall, is the now-retired US Airways pilot that in 2009 managed to safely land his Airbus A320 passenger jet in the Hudson River, saving all 155 persons aboard.

On a recent appearance on Face the Nation, Sullenberger—now an aviation safety expert—told host John Dickerson in no uncertain terms just how bad a collision between a passenger aircraft and a drone could get. “We have seen what a six-pound or an eight- pound bird can do to bring down an airplane,” Sullenberger said. “Imagine what a device containing hard parts like batteries and motors can do that might weigh 25 or possibly up to 55 pounds to bring down an airplane. It is not a matter of if it will happen. It is a matter of when it will happen.”

Data on drone sightings by pilots released this week by the FAA would seem to support that assessment. In all of 2014 the FAA logged 238 drone sightings by manned aircraft. As of last week the FAA had tallied 650 drone sightings reported in 2015. That puts 2015 on pace to quadruple the number of drones spotted by pilots last year—an alarming trend given the potentially catastrophic consequences.

In a conversation with Fortune, Sullenberger emphasizes that he’s not making an alarmist prediction, nor does he want to see regulation stifle innovation in the emerging unmanned aircraft industry. What he does want to see is better risk management, better regulation of the recreational drone industry, and more enforcement of those regulations when drone operators do what he describes as “stupid, reckless, dangerous things.”

“It’s important to address this inherent tension between getting it fast and getting it right,” Sullenberger says. “How do we balance between undue delay and forcing people who fly to accept risk that they really shouldn’t have to accept? We do need to have a way for people to address business opportunities. We do need a way for people to use emerging technologies. But it should not be and need not be at the expense of having people who fly accept a level or risk that they should not have to accept. It is much more important to get it right than to get it fast.”

The ongoing debate over how exactly how to strike a balance between public safety and freedom to innovate escalated in June when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) put forth a piece of draft legislation known as the Consumer Drone Safety Act. The proposed legislation would dictate when, where, and how recreational drones could be operated and require makers of drones to pre-install certain tamper-proof safety failsafes on recreational drones. “If we don’t act now, it’s only a matter of time before we have a tragedy on our hands,” Senator Feinstein said in a statement, echoing a growing refrain among advocates of increased drone regulation.

Some in the drone industry called the act legislative overkill, arguing that innovation in the industry comes from the kind of freedom to tinker that the Consumer Drone Safety Act would restrict. But Sullenberger says he supports the kinds of measures outlined in the proposed bill. “The version I saw when it was introduced, I support,” he says of the bill. “I think it goes a long way toward codifying certain requirements that could mitigate at least the risks that are known, the ones that we’ve identified. It goes a long way toward protecting the traveling public from the downside of this new technology as it’s being used currently.”

Currently, the technology is mostly being used recreationally in the United States. The FAA only recently handed out its 1,000th permit for commercial drone operation. Meanwhile, the Consumer Electronics Association estimates that 700,000 hobbyists will purchase drones this year, up 63% from 2014. These recreational users are largely unregulated and difficult to identify and prosecute when they do break the limited regulations that exist. That makes for an environment in which dangerous behavior can flourish, Sullenberger says.

In response to the uptick in drone sightings, two leading drone groups—the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International and the Academy of Model Aeronautics—issued statements last week urging the FAA to step up enforcement of recreational drone rules. They also urged the agency to quickly finalize a set of small unmanned aircraft systems regulations that have been in the works for years.

The finalizing of those rules—which would largely apply to commercial drone operators—will likely bring even more drones into the sky, but Sullenberger says he worries somewhat less about commercial operators. “In many cases you have licensed pilots who have the knowledge—they understand airspace requirements and the rules of flying,” he says. “I think that’s much less of a concern than the recreational side.”

Even so, he says, if we’re truly going to integrate drones—both commercial and recreational—into the national airspace alongside manned aircraft, even small drones are going to have to meet some of the same requirements as manned aircraft. Those include a means to electronically identify themselves to air traffic controllers and other aircraft and some way to see and avoid other objects in the sky. That’s going to require some leaps forward in technology and it’s going to take some time.

“Making safety a core business function is really what we’re working toward in aviation, and it’s an approach that’s paid dividends,” he says. “That’s the approach we must take with this issue as well. We have a responsibility to do this right.”

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Aviation

Drone Sightings by Pilots More Than Doubled This Year

Drone in Sky
Getty Images

Pilots have spotted more than 650 drones so far

Pilot sightings of drones have more than doubled so far this year, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The FAA found that more than 650 drones have been spotted by pilots as of Aug. 9, 2015, whereas only 238 were seen in all of 2014. The proximity of drones to planes is worrisome because of the potential for a collision; a drone could disable the engine or mar the surface of a plane, the Associated Press reports.

Flying a drone near an airplane can incur criminal charges or a fine up to $25,000.

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