Panoramic drone-flight over Prague


#1

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#2

Could we combine aerial drones and high resolution three dimensional scanning technology to create virtual reconstructions of famous cities and landmarks?

I imagine there could be a huge market for software that allows people to take virtual tours of famous sites. I’d love to explore Venice, personally, and if I never get the chance to do so in person, it’d be nice to do so virtually instead.


#3

There is already Oculus Rift interface for Google Street View. A little early vanguard of virtual tourism.


#4

I hope nobody else gets the idea to reproduce this type of stunt. I am not sure they had the proper permits, even though they are mentioning the Czech Aviation Authority in the article.

Most European countries prohibit flying drones over any populated areas without special permit and any sort of commercial operation requires a licensed pilot (ticket similar to ultralight license) and a spotter (at least). Often the drone (whether it is an omnicopter, heli, whatever is irrelevant) needs to be certified as well.

Violating this, whether out of ignorance or intentionally, can cost you dearly - heavy fines and even significant jail time. Several people have landed in jail for flying toy drones over cities like this already.


#5


#6

Oh, man, I’m concerned about Concern Troll now; should he/she/it be wearing something?


#7

Spotscale is a company that builds 3D models from images captured by drones. I do not think they need any other scanning technology to build the models. So the technology exists, though not yet in the form of a user friendly software you can buy.


#8

http://www.travelbydrone.com/

You are a bit too late. It’s EVERYWHERE!
(And it’s good. This is one of my favorite sites. I love virtual travels, I love virtual flying, and I hope there will be more and more people with the tech and the balls. Even if it makes concern trolls fume and bubble about permits and other Holy Paperwork.)


#9

Dismissing it and calling people trolls doesn’t make it any more legal.

Here in France a 18 years old student who flew a toy quadrocopter over Nantes and posted the video on Youtube got a several hundreds euro fine + suspended sentence. Another guy (Foreign legion member!) who flew a similar toy over Paris is in jail.

In Czech republic there are several administrative actions against people doing these video recordings ongoing.

So yeah, fuck the rules, the views on Youtube are really worth the possible criminal record. What an idiot …


#10

Yes, what we need more of is amateur armchair law enforcers.

Possible but pretty unlikely. Compare the number of flights vs the number of problems and you get that it’s well worth the risk. A criminal record isn’t the end of the world, too; you can get one for way too many way less fun things. You probably violate three or four laws just by breathing.

If I’d have an advice for you, smoke something green and chill out, dude.


#11

A longer version with more time on each moment would be nice. Those quick cuts got annoying quickly.


#12

That doesn’t sound at all vague or alarmist… But sarcasm aside, I think people would have a much easier time taking you seriously if you provided a few links to back up your fear mongering.


#13

Very easy. This guy has a good summary of what you need to be able to do this sort of work legally in Czech republic, including the relevant links to the administration websites (such as the Czech Aviation Authority).

If you can’t reach Czech, use Google to translate it, it is quite readable.

One of the cases in France:
http://www.lefigaro.fr/flash-actu/2014/02/21/97001-20140221FILWWW00280-drone-a-la-tour-eiffel-un-legionnaire-condamne.php (arrested, 1000 euro fine for flying around Eiffel tower, drone seized).

There is the link to the case of the Nantes student in the article too, can’t post a direct link because of the forum limit. I believe he has also got a hefty fine and warning.

If you think you won’t get caught or that police/government agencies don’t use internet, you are really mistaken.


#14

Sociological question. What motivates a Frenchman to bother about Czech flight regulation?

And why do you think the police will bother with something at such bottom ladder of the dangers? They have enough paperwork of their own, without actively adding to it.

Unless you are bothering grown-up aircraft or doing similar real trouble, you have pretty high chance nobody will bother you. The amount of online videos and the lack of corresponding newspaper articles is an indirect evidence of the low risk; drones are so unusual that such trouble would, at least in slow news season, make the news (unlike e.g. speeding or drunk driving). And with the availability of the drones going up (I just saw one for some sub-$300 incl. the VAT quad in some general-electronics catalog, including a 5GHz video for FPV flight), it will get only more common.


#15

Sociological question. What motivates a Frenchman to bother about Czech flight regulation?

Because I am not French?

And why do you think the police will bother with something at such
bottom ladder of the dangers? They have enough paperwork of their own,
without actively adding to it.

That is a moot question - they evidently do bother. Along with the aviation authorities. I agree that it is often a knee-jerk reaction, but the laws are what they are and until they get changed and saner regulations are written, people will get in trouble because of attitudes like this.

I assume you are from the US, this may interest you as well - FAA is actually actively searching the Internet for videos and websites and sending out cease & desists:
http://www.governmentattic.org/12docs/FAA-UASwarnings_2012-2013.pdf

It is not only about doing “real trouble” (whatever that is) or bothering aircraft - if your drone goes out of control and crashes on someone’s head or damages property, then what? And yes, such thing did happen and people got injured. The larger, camera equipped ones can weigh several kilograms. Imagine that falling from 20-30 meters altitude (or more), often spinning wildly out of control.

That is why the French cases were actually prosecuted - not for flying without a license (that’s illegal only if you are doing it for profit/hire, e.g. to tape a wedding) but for public endangerment in a populated area. The rules governing model aircraft are quite clear here. Whether you are flying a model heli, classic RC plane or a quadrocopter with a camera is completely irrelevant.


#16

I’m sorry, how exactly does pointing out an act is illegal make someone an “armchair law enforcer”?

It seems absurd to me that the person who is advocating people being cautious, responsible, and not breaking the law is being called a “concern troll”, and then that people like you are happy to snidely dismiss them and their opinions wholesale with snarky bullshit “advice” about needing to take drugs to be happy, and to not care about things like laws.

Seriously people, a person makes a single post about drone laws and everyone leaps at the opportunity to accuse them of “fearmongering” and the like? This is absurd.

Drones are cool, but people reminding you that drones aren’t exactly cleanly integrated into society and law yet (and - horror of horrors! - might never be) doesn’t mean they’re actually just “concern trolls” faking interest in a topic purely to get people to waste time arguing over it.

So when I see someone post a rational, polite, factually accurate, mildly dissenting comment and the first response is a -moderator- mockingly calling them a “concern troll” via memetic imagery? On their very first post in a thread with only two others? I call bullshit.

That’s enforcing conformity and punishing dissent, not removing any sort of genuinely toxic behavior. It’s mocking a differing opinion and dismissing it with a badge of authority, and inviting likeminded individuals within the group to glibly join the mocking. “Shun the non-believer!”, as it were.


#17

This guy has a good summary of what you need to be able to do this sort of work legally in Czech republic

Fair enough, but the photographer made something beautiful out of flying that drone, which to me justifies the harmless violation of law, and the risk on their part. For a much more extreme example of the same phenomenon, see the movie Man on Wire, where someone tightropes between the Twin Towers. Sure it was illegal, but ultimately no one was hurt, and something beautiful became of it.

Again, not saying they’re not taking a risk, just that the risk may be worth it to them, and personally I’m glad they took it.


#18

The name should be a suggestion, I got misled by “here in France” statement. Still, the question remains; why damping other people’s enthusiasm unnecessarily?

You are reading a bit more into the letters. All except the journalists ones were for advertising of commercial services and the exception was a for-profit school.

That happens all the time, with a soccer ball through a window being the most common example. Golf balls kill fairly often and there is still nobody to require golfers to get expensive paperwork.

Accidents happen, and drone ones aren’t even that bad - check out the “blooper reel” footages on youtube, even a rotor loss often does not result in full hull loss. (Thought… would a sudden power loss get the craft to autorotation?) Some control boards can even maintain stability in that case, though the thing will be spinning - but the descent rate stays controlled. The probability of a person hit, unless above dense crowd (which is a bad idea), is also rather low. I saw them flying, I did even some smaller-scale servicing on the camera-scale quads and the cam gimbals, and it is nothing I felt scared of (with the exception of powering the props by accident during a maintenance operation and that was my own fault). Todo: learn the flying, experiment with quads as sensor platforms carrying more than just an optical camera (visible spectrum is rather boring), experiment with lower angle lenses on the camera so it can be used for e.g. detailed building/roof survey.

The tech is new, therefore scarier than other more established risks. More a perception issue than a real problem. As long as accidents and prosecutions make headlines, they are not frequent enough to worry about; the worrying ones are the ones that are too common to be reported only as statistics.

It’s illegal only when you get caught, e.g. advertising the service. See the C&D letters above. If you work cash-only (or, better, barter) and operate on friends-referrals, as occasional casual gigs additional to your day job, you will get away with pretty much everything if you won’t mess up badly - you are outside the law so you have to be extra careful.

The future will be even better. The batteries will get higher power density, cameras will get smaller and lighter, the size and weight (and therefore the hazard factor) will decrease further together with decrease of cost. So the birds are poised to become way more plentiful, safer, and so difficult to regulate the bureaucrats will have to adjust. Like they did with crypto use and many other things.


#19

Fair enough, but the photographer made something beautiful out of flying
that drone, which to me justifies the harmless violation of law, and
the risk on their part.

Agreed, but unfortunately the administration rarely makes this distinction, as the French student has discovered. His very cool and professionally made video was extremely popular on Youtube (over million views) - that’s when the city caught wind of it and sent the gendarmes after him. Apart from public safety grounds, issuing filming permits is a significant source of income for the municipalities, so they are cracking down on the unauthorized stuff. E.g. in Paris you aren’t allowed to take and publish photos of the lit Eiffel tower at night without permit (and significant payment) - the lighting design is copyrighted and the town hall vigorously enforces it.

The point of my original post was to bring attention to these issues. If you are aware of the risks (arrest, fine, equipment seizure, possible criminal record) and still want to do it, more power to you. People do all kinds of stunts. However, many are completely unaware that there are rules about flying over cities or that flying these toys can be actually regulated. Then they go buy an AR Parrot or some chinese toy - and get caught with their pants down.


#20

My point was not about “damping other people’s enthusiasm”. By all means, go fly your drone, model heli or whatever. Just do it responsibly and be aware of the rules. Many people are ignorant of them and then they wonder when police knocks on their door. Or, in the commercial case, the aviation authorities. Or both. Ignoring the law because you don’t like it is not a good strategy long term.

My point was to show that the authorities are actually actively looking into these sort of things, because you were wondering why would they bother. There are plenty of articles about private users getting fined and/or prosecuted too, just google. Drones got shot down, people called police on drone operators for suspected snooping/voyeurism, drones crashed (e.g. the one in the Yellowstone park), etc. It is not rare at all.

Soccer or golf balls are not regulated. Airplanes and helis, whether manned, unmanned or model ones are. Your point is?

I know well how the stuff works, no need to explain me that. I also know that the larger kit, weighing several kilos has about the same kinetic energy as a thrown brick coming down from several floors high up, not to mention the spinning props.

Not all crashes are controllable, failure of a motor, prop or a power supply typically results in an out-of-control spinning crash, especially on the simpler quads. Autorotation won’t help you at all - there isn’t anything to keep a quad stable if one prop is dead, it will flip over and crash. The very large hexa-/octocopters used for professional work perhaps could deal with a failure of one motor, as there is some redundancy. These point is that these things aren’t designed to be failsafe by default and someone thought it is a good idea to ensure that they don’t fall out of the sky on the heads of unsuspecting people below. You may not like that fact, but that won’t make it go away.

Anyway, no matter how good pilot you are or how good your gear is, it still doesn’t justify breaking the law nor will it help you should you get in trouble with police or aviation authorities. Better spend time lobbying the administration to get the regulations changed instead.

I can only wish you luck. Others thought this too, but weren’t this lucky to not get caught. I think I have provided enough evidence already.