Hobby drone blamed for grounding firefighting fleet in California


#1

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#2

This is why we can’t have nice things.


#3

The existence of idiots is why we can’t have nice things.


#4

Question: being too poor to own one of these toys, do they regularly come equipped with altimeters? Because if they don’t, I can easily see why they regularly fly too high. People suck at estimating distance by sight.


#5

Somebody should check youtube to see if anyone was dumb enough to upload the drone footage.
The only recent vids I could see are these ones.


#6

Considering the logistics of aerial firefighting I think altitude is less of a concern than being anywhere in the area.


#7

I think that there’s a difference between there being a danger to the drone and a danger to the plane. A drone at tree-top level isn’t going to do anything but get soaked. Planes don’t like crashing into trees as a general rule. Four hundred feet is not that high in forest terms.


#8

So you’re saying several feet of recreational space between the flames, ground crews, and firefighting aircraft is a totally legitimate expectation?


#9

I’m saying that if your drone gets trashed its your problem, and flying above FAA limits should get you fined at a minimum. But it’s supremely unproductive to have discussions where hazards are overstated. Drone flies too high? Obviously bad, dangerous, and an impedance. Drone watches people work? Annoying, possibly distracting, but let’s keep the credibility meter at a reasonable level by not saying it will kill someone.


#10

It is a problem when a drone with a lithium polymer battery (a small bomb) goes through the jet engine or propeller blade of a fire fighting aircraft? A engine failure IS life threatening.


#12

A lithium battery is not really a bomb. A small fuel package, maybe. The airplane-grade ones are Li-poly, in principle sealed plastic bags. They pack a fraction of energy of the same amount of gasoline, which is not too big. The mechanical damage from the other parts of the aircraft is more of a hazard, and that depends on its size; and the carbon fiber tubing usually employed for the higher-end quads shatters annoyingly easily, and the styrofoam for large wings is so soft it is not much of a problem. Comparable to a bird, I’d guess; I’d say less bad in the styrofoam case, even.


#13

(idiots + money) / (economy of scale) = more affordable nice things

It’s a conundrum.


#14

Let me see, did you suggest that earlier? Hmm, okay no. Did I suggest that earlier? No as well. We seem to be good on the not saying it will kill someone front.

Moving on, it’s a lot simpler to make the area over a fire restricted airspace than to deal with the consequences of an unlicensed hobby drone operator feeling welcome and then screwing up. It’s also a good way to keep hobbyists in peoples good graces and not get laws enacted that would further restrict drone use or require licensing.


#15

Then let’s do that. Honestly, the law should set the bar here, not hand-wringing about what is or is not a good decision. I think it’s stupid to expect people, especially laypeople, to know what is and is not interfering. The law should also specify that makers of drones or kits should include information about said laws in the packaging.


#16

What is the effect of molten lithium on turbine blades? (I don’t know, it might be insignificant, but does anyone actually know?) The latest article I can find is in 2014 when the FAA wasn’t mandating any kind of drone collision tests, but at the time it wasn’t seen as a serious problem and since then drone usage seems to have exploded.
The assumption seems to be that bird strike may destroy an engine and the object of preventive design is, basically, to stop loose blades slicing into the fuselage and the passengers; not to make the engine bird proof.


#17

We need a system for creating desirable but expensive and safe things to remove money from the less intelligent, and funnel it into interesting projects.
Perhaps the answer is a pipeline with Apple at one end, and a hose that sprays money on people like Elon Musk at the other.


#18

My guess is that there’s not enough of it to matter. In the Li-poly batteries, there is no metallic lithium, all is safely locked in the lattice of either the cathode or the anode. Which itself may burn, and the carbonate electrolyte is also flammable, but neither is especially dangerous. Check out various videos of intentional failures of Li-poly (and Li-ion, the metal housings give a little better visuals for the rapid spontaneous disassembly) cells and it is not the thermite-and-napalm-death that their reputation would suggest.

I’d guess that there are two concerns. The no-turbine-disintegration (or at least catching the torn-off blades) is the must, a degree of resilience against loss of functionality on ingestion of a bird of small to mid size is also desired.


#19

I don’t imagine the average hobbyist’s drone would do much harm to a large gas turbine, but the perspex canopy of a small aeroplane or helicopter (also used for fire fighting) is another matter.
Having a drone blasted through the canopy into your face is probably going to spoil your day.


#21

#22

How about ones in which they are understated. How do those turn out?