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Comment: Re:Not a rule (Score 1) 188

You're misreading the regulations. Over a sparsely populated area there is no altitude restriction, there's a distance to "person, vessel, vehicle, or structure" requirement. You can fly as low as you want over e.g., a cornfield (say, for crop dusting) or the desert or ocean so long as you don't compromise the "emergency landing without undue hazard" rule. I'd argue that it's not reasonable to expect everyone who buys a drone to become intimately familiar with 14 CFR 91's requirements, so some general rules are warranted. For instance: what if someone wants to operate a drone within a Class E surface area (which is within several miles of many airports, and explicitly goes all the way to the ground because it's for the purposes of taking off or landing) - should they be subject to visibility and cloud clearance requirements? The reason they exist is because instrument traffic coming in to land may be coming out of the clouds and VFR traffic needs to stay clear enough to see-and-avoid them. Seems fairly reasonable, right? But a drone might be below 500 feet and still kill someone if they don't follow these rules.

But that's not really the point. Something makes an aircraft subject to these regulations, right? You can't just get a plane and say you're not an airplane and as long as you fly it below "navigable airspace" you're fine - in fact that's the exact opposite of the rules. The FAA certainly doesn't assert authority over hovercraft or other "ground effect vehicles" - it seems reasonable to assume that the FAA considers its authority over aircraft to begin when they can and/or are designed to be flown into the "navigable airspace". Many drones can fly over 500 feet just fine. I suspect the FAA would be less concerned about a drone with a GPS map magically kept up to date that prevented it from flying into any airport's approach path, and kept it below the minimum altitude for manned flight (including refusing to take off from a field or other "sparsely populated area").

I think the regulation just hasn't caught up with drones, but they're working on it. It won't be the free-for-all some people want it to be, but the FAA isn't some antagonistic supervillain of a government agency. They just want to make sure these things don't get sucked into someone's jet engine or going through a windshield, and they also don't want commercial operations without a higher standard of safety. I'm a private pilot and there's all sorts of rules about money changing hands in regards to my flight, and while it's occasionally obnoxious the intent to prevent a bunch of "Billy Bob's Charter" services from popping up everywhere. If you're in a manned aircraft and you want to be compensated for flight, you need to be a commercial pilot, which has higher standards. I don't see why the same basic principle of having higher standards shouldn't apply to commercial drone operations - and neither does the FAA, which is why they're going through the rulemaking process as we speak.

Comment: Re:Not a rule (Score 1) 188

Go nuts. Their policy notice (basically "we interpret the already-existing regulations in this way") was struck down as insufficiently supported, so they're going through the official rulemaking process to make an actual regulation out of it. I suggest you keep an eye on that (there is a public comment period), because that will not be struck down and I guarantee that getting hit with it will hurt. Oh, and it'll probably be something like "be a model aircraft (with all the restrictions, including noncommercial use) or the drone and person have to be certified like aircraft and pilots" - not exactly "do whatever you want"

Comment: Re:Not a rule (Score 5, Informative) 188

FAA has no authority below the mandated altitudes for air travel.

Wrong. FAA's authority applies to any flying vehicle in the airspace of this country. Don't believe me? Here's the quote from the law that established the FAA:

The Administrator is authorized and directed to develop plans for and formulate policy with respect to the use of the navigable airspace; and assign by rule, regulation, or order the use of the navigable airspace under such terms, conditions, and limitations as he may deem necessary in order to insure the safety of aircraft and the efficient utilization of such airspace. He may modify or revoke such assignment when required in the public interest.

Property owners have air rights above their property up to the FAA's mandated altitudes or as locally mandated by code.

Nope. Another common misconception, but "he United States Government has exclusive sovereignty of airspace of the United States." (source).

Consider reading the Wikipedia page for some interpretation. Basically the idea is that you have airspace rights to the extent that you can use the space to have useful stuff on it (i.e., you can't build a 600 foot pole just to keep planes away, it has to be for some useful purpose). It's not at all clear that using drones grants you these rights, since they're definitely more aircraft than building.

So, the FAA should kindly go fuck itself. It does not tell us what we can do in the immediate vicinity around our homes or property.

If I want to hire a drone to do a fly through of my home, or my realtor offers to do it themselves, I will do it and the feds can shove their rules as far up their ass as they please.

Nobody's talking about flying a drone inside your house, they're talking about flying one over your house. You know, airspace. As far as thumbing your nose at the FAA - go nuts, but be prepared to win in court, suffer the consequences, or start a (successful) revolution. You could say the same thing about any other law or regulation - it's basically a question if whether you accept the rule of law or not.

Just so we're all clear on the sequence of events: the law creates the FAA and says "you regulate our airspace". The FAA, in the course of performing its legal mandate, creates a number of regulations (such as how pilots and aircraft are certified, standards for airports and navigation, etc) through a process called "rulemaking". They also issue more specific interpretations of the rules they've already enacted. (None of this is unusual; all federal agencies work the same way.) One such opinion decides that drones are basically model aircraft and that's OK so long as they follow the rules - one of which is no commercial use. The court decided that an opinion wasn't good enough here, so the FAA is going through the rulemaking process like they're supposed to. The end result will not be "yeah do whatever the hell you want", it'll probably be "be a hobbyist model aircraft (and comply with the rules, including noncommercial use) or get certified like an aircraft/pilot".

Comment: Re:that's not the FAA's job (Score 1) 188

"The United States Government has exclusive sovereignty of airspace of the United States." And they've delegated the administration of it to the FAA. The only air rights you have over your property are those you can reasonably use in connection with the property, e.g. adding another storey to your house. It's not at all clear that drones are more "stuff related to your use of the property" than aircraft - that's the question, right? (IANAL)

And it's 500 feet, unless you're in a "congested area" like a city (where it is 1000 feet). Even then, it doesn't apply if the aircraft is that low for the purposes of takeoff or landing, so everyone within a few miles of any runway threshold will have planes closer than 500 feet.

Comment: Re:Everyone here is embarassing themselves (Score 1) 303

Alright then. Let's see the video and cut all this other bullshit. We're all wasting our time listening to this he-said-she-said.

I will say that it's hard to believe that the drone was below 300'. Those things can go much higher than 300' (citation) so their lawyer is wrong when he says it's impossible. And if you believe the chopper pilot at all (you don't, I know - see below) it's hard to conclude that this guy wasn't at least above 1000 feet.

People are extremely quick to conclude that this guy is deliberately lying out of malice (because... you know, how could the police do otherwise?), when the much simpler explanation is that he's suffering from a sensory illusion and/or telling the truth (probably a combination). This chopper pilot may be a sworn officer, but probably hasn't ever arrested anyone in their life. Lots of cops (not the majority) are basically bullies who wanted to find a way to beat people up after high school, and fancy themselves the "thin blue line" and so on. This guy spends his days flying around, watching cars trying to flee and pointing lights at people trying to flee and so on and trying to direct units on the ground. What, precisely, is his motive for this malicious and planned setup? Honestly I think he was pissed about someone interfering with his safety and wanted them stopped before they hurt someone. I would be too - and in fact, I was last week when I was trying to land while backyard fireworks were coming up into the approach path. (The tower sent the police over to have a chat with them.)

I'm going to harp on this. What's the logic? As far as I can tell, it's:
a) Pilot says some stuff and his numbers are wrong in ways that are at least mostly explainable as an illusion
b) The accused say "no, that's not true" and their lawyer lies about the whole thing being impossible anyway (the 300' nonsense)
c) Therefore, the pilot deliberately fabricated things to get them arrested.

I don't see how that follows. Even if you forego the malice and say that he was arrested because the guy got the numbers wrong, that doesn't appear to be what happened (please, citations if I'm wrong - I may be). The arrest appears to be for doing something dangerous - I don't see how the specific altitude was relevant to the charge.

But you're right, there's a lot of questions about what exactly happened here... if only we had a system for discovering the truth about criminal incidents and deciding what to do...

Comment: Re:Jurisdiction (Score 3, Interesting) 303

I'm sorry, I'm not usually so harsh, but this is all completely wrong. I'm choosing to believe that you are just completely ignorant of aviation (most people are, I don't hold it against you). But please know the limitations of your knowledge especially when it comes to highly specialized fields with its own rules, customs, language, procedures, etc.

1) 1/2 mile line of sight is no problem for virtually any radio, not even for you cheap-ass blister pack FRS radios. Hell WiFi would probably work alright.
2) Nobody said the GWB was 2000 feet in the air. Listen to the radio recording, the guy was cleared for an altitude of 2000 feet (well, at or above, but for his purposes he wanted to be low). The GWB is how he's identifying his position to ATC - it's a VFR waypoint and mandatory reporting point for that part of the river. You're interpreting the "near" thing in the strangest way possible, at least in an aviation sense. Later on he mentions being at 800-1000 feet but that was much later.
3) They said nothing about Mach numbers. The guy thought he was looking at some military aircraft that was rather further away (and larger) than a tiny drone within tens of feet. The perspective information told him that the thing was basically coming from the ground, but it was probably just a few hundred feet below his altitude or less. Such a climb would certainly appear to be extremely fast if you were interpreting it as being some distance away. You know that commercial jets are going like 500 knots at 30,000 feet but they don't look that fast from the ground? Same phenomenon. This is one of a number of sensory illusions in aviation, most of which are more prevalent at night (this was midnight local time). People just aren't very good at dealing with large expanses of 3D in which things can be (almost) arbitrarily positioned - we do better with 2D and ballistics, which makes sense given our background, but isn't particularly useful for flight.
4) His "measurements" don't seem to be relevant to the arrest so I don't know why them being suspect matters very much. Knowing something is above, below, or at the horizon isn't a measurement - it's looking out the window. And if you're at 2000 feet, that's how you decide something is at 2000 feet. I'll admit that his relative measures are more suspect, as I'd expect them to be at night - but again they don't seem relevant. It's certainly far from evidence that they're deliberately trying to lie to arrest this guy. People fly into mountains because of these kinds of sensory illusions, you think they're just screwing with people when they do so? People really are eviscerating this pilot assuming he's their worst impression of a corrupt cop - if he's even a sworn officer, it's probably name only. I'd be surprised if he'd ever cuffed someone in his life.
5) Everyone seems to be repeating that the police approached the drone. Sorry, where is this coming from? That terrible Vice "article"? It has no citation for this, aside from the accused, and the transcript doesn't support it. Sorry to call you out specifically, since everybody's doing it, but I've seen no evidence of this particular statement. (Aside: it's pretty sad when the NY Post is far more informative than something at least trying to be legitimate.)
6) Every pilot knows everything is recorded, always. Everything. Always. The radios are recorded. All radar everywhere is recorded. The phones are recorded. If I call to get a damn weather briefing, it's recorded. The idea that they'd be surprised that there's a recording is beyond laughable.

I agree that this is more a FAA matter than a police matter. The police have no jurisdiction in the air, but that said the perpetrators were not in the air. This is, funnily enough, an area that the FAA is working on clarifying. That said, these guys should be happy that the city cops are the ones they're dealing with - the FAA would be substantially more unpleasant.

Comment: Re:Jurisdiction (Score 1) 303

The pilot was almost certainly at 2000 feet. The transcript doesn't show it, but if you listen to the recording (it's near the beginning) he was cleared down to that altitude. And for whatever he took off to look for in the first place, he probably didn't want to be much higher than 2000. So it would've been at his altitude, which is what I was saying it's much easier to estimate regardless of distance. He didn't say "it was at 2000 feet (and I'm somewhere else)", he said "it was (at my altitude, and I'm) at 2000 feet". It's like - it might be hard to tell the height difference between two buildings from the ground, but from the top of one it becomes much easier. Look out, and does it go above the horizon or not? That's what you do in an aircraft.

Comment: Everyone here is embarassing themselves (Score 1) 303

I thought folks around here were supposed to be smart, not knee-jerk paranoids. I've seen very few comments from anyone with anything substantive to add - for the most part, just a bunch of people scoring points with the crowd by talking about "cops are all fuckin' pigs, man".

Has anybody actually listened to the linked recording? Or read the transcript on the Vice thing (the article is a crock of shit but the transcript seems accurate)? It doesn't indicate much of anything regarding the physical movement of the chopper, much less that the police helicopter chased them. The only reference to the position of the helicopter is "We are going to stay here and figure out where he puts it." and directing ground units (you know, police cars) to the place it landed. Much has been made of the "0 to 2000" thing too, which is pretty stupid of the pilot to say - but realize that that's before he thinks it's a drone, he thinks it's some military aircraft much further away. Within 50 feet, a small drone would absolutely look like it came from nowhere and climbed extremely quickly, if you were looking miles out for other aircraft. And if you're flying an aircraft mantaining visual separation, that's exactly what you're doing.

I mean honestly. I know this site's gone downhill recently but this is worse than Reddit. I know there's a lot of people here who are really hot for drones, but I fly in this country's airspace along with about 350,000 other people and I really don't want one of these things blasting through my window, or fucking up my prop, or denting a wing. Birds scare me enough - and I do know people who've had birds come through their windshield and knock them out while flying (both OK, thankfully - they regained consciousness a few seconds later in a slow spiraling descent). These drones are like birds with more metal. I, and every other certificated pilot, spent about 60 hours learning how to fly and a big part of that is all the rules and airspace classifications and so on - how much do you want to bet that these guys knew they'd busted a Bravo airspace and what that means in terms of safety? (Hint: you can't be in a Bravo without a clearance, so there's no surprise encounters at hundreds of knots closing speed - unless some drone shows up in front of you!) Do you think all these guys are mantaining at least 3 mile visibility, and staying 500' below, 1000' above, and 2000' horizontally clear of clouds (Class E VFR minimums)? Do you think they care, or are even curious if there's a cloud clearance requirement, or know anything about the difference between class E and class G airspace and when it starts?

Seriously. I see the same shit on here whenever there's a story about laser pointers and planes. All of you, go to your nearby airport, find a flight school, and do an intro flight. It's like $70, they'll let you fly the plane, it's really cool. But notice that these planes aren't tanks, and there's no failsafe like in your car. You can't just hit the brakes and have a good chance of everything working out alright. If something comes through the window of your car and knocks you out, you'll probably be basically OK - but it's a guaranteed fatality in an airplane. If some idiot blinds you with a laser pointer in your car and you can't see, same thing - just hit the brakes in a car, but also a guaranteed fatality in an airplane.

I mean really. Sorry for the rant but this is just out of hand.

Comment: Re:Jurisdiction (Score 1) 303

It's much easier to estimate altitude. Speed and distance, sure, but if it's at your level (i.e., the horizon - which is what you spend your days looking at if you're flying VFR) it must be approximately at your altitude. Even 100 feet of altitude is enough to make something visibly below or above you. So if the chopper was at 2000 (plausible clearance for that part of the river) and he saw something at his altitude, I'm willing to believe the drone was at 2000. The illusion may be responsible for the "rapid" climb - it's possible it was only a few hundred feet.

I concur with the GP. These idiots were lucky their toy didn't get sucked into a heavy's turbine on approach to LGA. I fly in this area with my Cessna 172 and it wouldn't do my plane any good to hit this thing at 110 knots. Probably go right through the windshield and into my head, or dent a wing or wreck a prop. I'd be pretty pissed if I was in the bravo and some traffic nobody knew about ran into me - that's why I got the Bravo clearance, to avoid that crap!

If I bust a Bravo, I'm in some deep shit. Wonder what the FAA will do to these guys? They don't have any cert to revoke, but I believe the FAA can levy fines...

Comment: Re:Does anyone here REMEMBER K-12 computer science (Score 1) 63

by slimjim8094 (#47386645) Attached to: Does Google Have Too Much Influence Over K-12 CS Education?

Are you sure that was intended to be computer science? Lots of schools basically have a "play with Excel/Word" class, but most don't pretend it's CS. There is such a thing as real HS computer science - such as the AP class listed in the TFS. APCS A was basically "learn Java" with a few sorts (insertion/selection to motivate, and merge to actually use) and (simple) data structures thrown in like a binary search tree - but APCS AB, which is now discontinued unfortunately, had real stuff - heaps, binary trees, maps and sets, some complexity theory, several additional sorts (heap and quick) and if I remember correctly even a few balanced binary trees. Pretty much what I did in my freshman spring "intro to data structures" class.

There's definitely real CS available for those who want it, though if the school doesn't have APCS or has a shitty version of it you may be better off doing your own thing or taking a class at a local college - most HS are actually perfectly happy to accept that for credit (and let you miss part of school to do it), by the way.

Comment: Re:why? (Score 1) 346

by slimjim8094 (#47379065) Attached to: Goldman Sachs Demands Google Unsend One of Its E-mails

FYI, the US post office considers itself the owner of your mailbox. That's why it's a felony to steal somebody's mail - you're stealing from their property. The analogy is actually pretty accurate - the "post office" owns the mailbox and only the recipient can remove stuff from it without a court order.

Citations:;f=107;t=000617;p=0 and Both have a lot of people complaining about it but it seems to be true.

Comment: Re:They where acting like the cable co / CATV (Score 1) 93

by slimjim8094 (#47342127) Attached to: Bye Bye Aereo, For Now

Why don't you try putting up an antenna and reselling the signal to your neighbors for profit. Do you think such behavior would be regarded as legal or acceptable?

It wouldn't be legal, but only because the law that's at issue here was written in order to make that behavior illegal after somebody did precisely that and it was ruled legal by the SCOTUS (in other words, "so we fixed the glitch"). It's all in the decision.

Whether it should be illegal is another question. The law as written leads to absurdities like this Aereo case, but you can think of others. Let's remove the motive of profit here (the law doesn't distinguish anyway). My neighbors were going to put up their own antennas, but we all pooled our money and got a nice one up on the hill behind our lots. Is that illegal? Let's reduce the scope - surely I can put my own antenna on the hill, but I can't put a splitter in it for the one guy next door? I'd do it in my own house for multiple TVs, what makes the property line so different? (The law doesn't have a "households" exception.) Or am I breaking the law by splitting my rooftop antenna among 3 TVs? Are the splitters what makes it illegal? Apparently as they just ruled that Aereo's multiple antenna trick (with no splitters) didn't work.

Basically the law says that putting it on a cable constitutes the creation of a derivative work, but that's just stupid. That's what an antenna *does*.

In any case, Aereo was trying to profit off the work of others

Actually I think they're trying to profit on their own work (transcoding, DVR, storage, streaming, client) but let's move on.

without offering them any sort of consideration in return.

Except further advertising eyeballs? Keep in mind this is stuff the networks are putting a lot of energy into casting as widely as possible, and can be received for free. They're paying for it with advertising, so I'd think more watchers would help them - no? I mean it certainly couldn't hurt; each person using Aereo or whatever could instead just use an antenna and get the same thing, just less convenient. But I'm pretty sure the broadcasters don't call that particular behavior "illegal copyright violation", they call it "marketshare". (Of course without some kind of an agreement, a cableco shouldn't be allowed to substitute their own ads - that would rightly constitute a derivative work)

Comment: Re:They where acting like the cable co / CATV (Score 5, Informative) 93

by slimjim8094 (#47340857) Attached to: Bye Bye Aereo, For Now

Because there's a law that explicitly says "you need a license to retransmit free-to-air TV signals". I think it's bullshit too and it leads to absurdities like this, but the law is extremely clear. In fact, they wrote the damn thing because there was a company with a centrally-located antenna and a lot of people paid to access its signal over wires. Sound familiar?

Comment: Re:Banning Knowledge next? (Score 2) 188

by slimjim8094 (#47277299) Attached to: Chinese Vendor Could Pay $34.9M FCC Fine In Signal-Jammer Sting

It's even easier than that - a spark gap radio transmitter will jam most things.

But you should expect to get your ass handed to you for using them regardless of how you got one. They're an unlicensed radio transmitter transmitting on licensed spectrum. If you piss off the FCC enough to come find you, they won't fuck around - I'd post a citation, but funnily enough there's one at the top of the article.

I put up my thumb... and it blotted out the planet Earth. -- Neil Armstrong