Another Charming NRA Initiative: “Bear Arms Against Drones”

Screen-Shot-2014-12-28-at-8.55.39-AMreprinted from here: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/opinion/commentary/fl-jvcol-oped1228-20141227-column.html
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Right to shoot drones would be perfect NRA cause

The National Rifle Association lately has been having its way with the Florida Legislature — think Docs & Glocks, which forbade doctors from asking patients about gun ownership. And despite the furor over Stand Your Ground, no significant rollback in that doctrine is coming.

In case the NRA is running out of things to ask for, here’s a new doctrine: Bear Arms Against Drones. The doctrine is simple. It would enshrine in law the right of people whose property or personal space is invaded by drones to shoot the things down. Here’s the argument for it:

We’re in the midst of a drone invasion. Some of the snooping, dangerous craft will be operated by individuals and businesses. Some will be operated by crooks. Some will be operated by terrorists. In all cases, individuals should have the right to protect themselves.

In 2013, Gov. Rick Scott signed a law that limited police use of drones. Cops can use them only if they have a warrant or their use is justified by “imminent danger.” It’s a safe bet that “imminent danger” will be an elastic standard.

The Federal Aviation Administration also has rules covering the use of drones, or as they call them, “Unmanned Aircraft Systems.” But those are inadequate. The FAA and drone makers, noting that the craft were hugely popular Christmas gifts, just announced an attempt to better educate the public – including the web site knowbeforeyoufly.com.

Drones are becoming too readily available and affordable. And too many people and businesses either won’t know about the FAA rules and/or won’t care about the FAA rules — or anybody’s rules.

What will this drone invasion look like? Camera-equipped drones are perfect for surveillance. They’re in use at ports and along U.S. borders and to monitor traffic jams. Police can use drones for the same purpose. Firefighters can use them to see what they face during conflagrations engulfing buildings and forests.

But other uses are not so pressing for the public good. Real estate agents want to use drones to take pictures of properties and neighborhoods. Entrepreneurs are offering high-flying videos of weddings. Private detectives surely see drones as an opportunity to capture pictures of cheating spouses. Amazon is exploring the idea of delivering packages using drones.

But lots of people are going to obtain and operate drones just for the novelty of it. And this will turn into a hazard. Imagine Jerry from next door, a little buzzed on Bud, dispatching his drone to buzz his neighbors for a joke. Then imagine his wayward drone smashing into you, your spouse, your kids, your car, your house. In short, it will be a menace.

Then there are the thieves who will use drones to spy on your house, see what’s inside, note when you’re away and then use drones to watch for the cops while they loot your home.

Then there are the pervs who will send drones to hover outside your kids’ windows.

And then there are the elements who will see drones as more than Unmanned Aircraft Systems. They will see them as Unmanned Weapons Systems. Gangs could use bullet-firing drones to attack rivals, with innocents caught in the crossfire.

Drones can be modified to drop explosives or spray toxins. It is a certainty that terrorists eager to retaliate for the U.S. military’s effective use of drones abroad are plotting ways to use drones against civilian and military targets within the United States.

The possibility that drones can be turned into radio-controlled guns raises an interesting question: Does the Second Amendment guarantee individuals the right to keep and bear pistol-packing drones?

Regardless of the answer, a drone that enters personal space or property without permission should be subject to shoot-down. Just as Stand Your Ground abolished the duty to retreat in the face of attack, there should be no duty to retreat from drones. And note that blasting a drone — which is not alive — is less drastic that Stand Your Ground, which allows homicide.

Yes, there is the possibility that people shooting at drones could unleash stray shots. But that’s a possibility with every exchange of gunfire. The drones are coming, and Floridians should be empowered to Bear Arms Against Drones.

Hmmm. Maybe the case for Bear Arms Against Drones is better than the arguments for many things the NRA and Legislature have done. Is this BAAD idea a bad idea?

Jac Wilder VerSteeg has covered state, regional and national issues for three decades. Contact him at jwvcolumn@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2014, Sun Sentinel

Dancing in the fog

I am flying a second copter these days, a big quad that I assembled out of leftover parts (including a chinese clone Cinestar frame) and a NAZA-M V2. I recently added a DragonLink V2 UHF system, which is a real game changer. This copter is mainly a toy, but like all my toys, it serves a higher purpose. Right now it just has a cheap Tarot 2-axis gimbal and flies with a GoPro. Here’s a video I shot on the coastline near where I live. I think you will enjoy it.

DragonLink powered!

My big quad is now DragonLink V2 powered! I’ve been waiting for some time to get all the pieces together to allow me to increase this copter’s range. The previous 2.4 TX/RX I had barely made it to 500-600 meters before encountering dropouts and other issues. But the DragonLink has no such issues. I have seen many other drone guys push these to ridiculous distances. At the speed this quad flies and considering its battery capacity, I figure I’ve got 3km+ of range now. Today, I flew it on a tour of our local beaches. I went about 1.6km north then back to where I started, and then another 1km to the south.

Another cool thing is the GoPro HD Hero3+ footage is super smooth, thanks to the Snake River Prototyping BlurFix Air with ND8/CP Filter. As you can see, it was a super bright, sunny day today, and normally you’d see a lot of rolling shutter in GoPro footage. There’s none! I also have one of their ND8 filters, but I needed the CP, too, because it was so bright today. The video is not stabilized BTW. Just removed a bit of the GoPro fisheye effect in Premiere with Red Giant Looks.

Lastly, some info about my copter:
– Cinestar center hub with 400mm booms and custom battery tray in the bomb bay
– NAZA-M V2 with iOSD mini
– KDE 35A ESCs
– Avroto 3515 motors
– 14″ CF props
– DragonLink V2 12 channel UHF receiver
– Tarot 2-axis gimbal
– Generic CCD flight cam with video switcher

Aerial Mapping with Software Magic

I just did an aerial survey of 10 acres of land with a friend using my supercopter. I processed dozens of high-resolution photos using some very sophisticated and specialized mapping software that gives me a completely browsable 3D view of the resulting area. The applications for this are amazing. I can’t wait to apply this in other projects, too.

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ALS Ice Bucket Challenge with my X8 copter!

I did the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge with my X8 copter today. 10 pounds of ice water dumped from the air on my head. It wasn’t easy, but it sure was fun! Hopefully I can whip together a “Making Of…” if I have some time this week. It was quite the adventure!

My challenges were my own personal safety, protecting the copter from damage from an admittedly inappropriate UAV application, finding a way to adequately capture this on film in a way that would tell the right story. I also didn’t want to waste any water, as we’re suffering from a serious drought here in Northern California. I was fortunate that my friends Colin Snow and Charlotte Ziems (newlyweds!) were generous enough to come out and help me. Colin’s an experienced UAV pilot, and was one of my mentors when I got started. And Charlotte is a newly-minted enthusiast and helped film the whole thing from the air with her Phantom Vision 2.

We nearly lost the daylight after an electrical issue grounded us for a half hour after some water got inside the copter and caused some anomalous behavior. But I got it sorted out and when it came time to do this, all systems worked perfectly. It was actually quite thrilling. I love it when something works as well in real life as it did in my imagination!

Here are a few photos showing what my day looked like as I prepared for this.

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