back to article Drones must be constantly connected to the internet to give Feds real-time location data – new US govt proposal

Drone enthusiasts are up in arms over rules proposed by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that would require their flying gizmos to provide real-time location data to the government via an internet connection. The requirement, for drones weighing 0.55lb (0.25kg) or more, would ground an estimated 80 per cent of …

  1. AndrueC Silver badge
    Meh

    But what if instead of just a license plate, your car was also legally required to be connected via the internet to a privately run car-tracking service

    https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/automotive-and-assembly/our-insights/telematics-poised-for-strong-global-growth

    A lot (possibly most) new cars sold in the EU have this. It's not (yet) a requirement but eCall is and once you're forced to sell cars with GPS and telephony connections as standard, continuous data collection during operation is a logical step.

    My Corolla has this, my previous Jazz had it.

    I don't know if it will become as common in the USA but I have a feeling it will.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You missed a bit

      The bit about landing if there’s no cellular connectivity.

      For cars it’d be great. Not spots world be so easy to identify; they’d be graveyards for unconnected cars.

      1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

        Re: You missed a bit

        https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/feb/18/smart-car-gig-rental-app-trapped

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: You missed a bit

        "Not spots world be so easy to identify; they’d be graveyards for unconnected cars.'

        That would be the mountains all around Silly Con Valley. Where most of the nouveaux riche Silly Con Valley multi-millionaires live. I assume other states have similar nests of the wealthy that are full of not-spots. As a result, this kind of legislation for cars isn't going to happen in the US any time soon.

        (Yes, kiddies, there are many, many places not an hour's drive from Cupertino that have no connectivity. I can show you a few not ten minutes from Cupertino. And the locals LIKE it that way. Cell service won't be coming to those locations anytime soon. There are plenty more up here in Sonoma & Napa counties, to say nothing of Mendocino and Lake ... )

      3. Adelio

        Re: You missed a bit

        And what if there is no or limited celular connection?, or the cell goes down.

        T.B.H a lot of drone owners probably should NOT be allowed to use one. But I see it as a fad that will eventually die out (exept for the few).

      4. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: You missed a bit

        internet connectivity should not have to be "just cellular". A remote control within range of a wifi hotspot should be sufficient, with connectivity via the remote control's channels. that way the remote control does all of the extra work, doesn't add weight to the drone, etc..

        Similarly, remote control wifi connect to a cell phone hotspot. No extra cost.

        SANE solutions are available, I'm sure. I think FAA just wants you to stay out of 'no drone' zones, and to be able to see who it was that was invading their space.

        Autonomous drones would be a different situation entirely [but we're headed there, too]

        But you know, if drone operators in general had been "good boys and girls" and NOT invaded controlled airspace, apparently "a thing", this most likely wouldn't be discussed.

        And I expect that drone-mounted transponders would weigh more...

    2. BillG
      WTF?

      LTE Data Plans

      Those that did buy new drones would need to buy a monthly data plan for their flying machines: something that would likely cost $35 or more a month, given extortionate US mobile rates.

      I'm paying $10/month for a 1GB 4G LTE data plan (no voice). You can buy a 10MB data plan for only $5/month which should be more than enough for GPS data polled every five seconds.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: LTE Data Plans

        "You can buy a 10MB data plan for only $5/month which should be more than enough for GPS data polled every five seconds."

        Let's assume that the data is neatly compartmentalized and compressed so that it can fit into a single 512-byte UDP packet, and that there will be a 128-byte response packet to indicate that the data has been received. If you think the protocol would end up being this light, you are quite the optimist, but let's go with it.

        (512 bytes + 128 bytes)/ 5 seconds * 1 minute / 60 seconds = 7680 bytes / minute of flight time

        10 megabytes * 1024 kilobytes / 1 megabyte * 1024 bytes / 1 kilobyte = 10485760 bytes per month

        10485760 bytes / 1 month / (7680 bytes / 1 minute) = 1365.333 minutes of flight time (maximum) per month

        In other words, a maximum flight time per month of about twenty two hours. Sure, the very casual hobbyist might not be up for longer than that. If someone's using their drone for aerial photography, data collection, or simply really likes the hobby, they won't be happy with that limitation. And this limit only applies if no data is sent, at all, other than the GPS check-in. And it relies on the provider using binary megabytes rather than decimal ones. And still costs $60 per year per drone.

        In addition, this fails to solve any of the other problems noted in the article, such as requiring decommissioning or costly retrofitting of all the drones in existence today and the problems making this requirement work where cellular coverage is less than perfect.

    3. Andy 73

      Hmmm..

      Not only would FAA regulation require your car to stop driving if you got too close to Buckingham Palace, Heathrow or any other sensitive site (including the hundreds of grass airstrips throughout the countryside) in the UK, but it would also be a legal requirement that any existing car must be retrofitted with the tech, or removed from the roads.

      In addition, you wouldn't be able to race your cars (not permitted) or drive them off roads, or build go-karts.

      And, before you drove anywhere, you'd have to file a request to drive with the DVLA.

      And, all of your journeys would be publicly available for people to examine.

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
        Stop

        Re: Hmmm..

        You just described a Whitehall data fetishist's wet dream. Stop giving them ideas, damnit!

    4. HildyJ Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Useless

      My Hyundai and my wife's Toyota both connect to the internet and broadcast to a tracking service run by Hyundai and Toyota, respectively. I have no monthly cost because the tracking service pays for it (presumably to increase customer service and customer loyalty).

      If the FAA had declared that they would pay the cost of connectivity, the proposal would be more reasonable.

      Note that it would still be costly to add the equipment to drones and the end result would be practically useless.

      Now requiring all guns to have an internet tracking device, that would make sense.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Useless

        Up Next: How to Get a Free Car

        Step 1. Located connected car

        Step 2. Intercept signal and start car remotely

        Step 3. ????

        Step 4. Profit

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Useless

          People are already doing this. Automotive computers aren't secure. Never have been.

          1. James 139

            Re: Useless

            Indeed, because security costs and, somehow, the car makers arent held liable for the insecurity.

            At least not until it becomes a serious problem, class action lawsuit or government chew out.

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: Useless

        "Now requiring all guns to have an internet tracking device, that would make sense."

        Would it? How do you propose to do it? Who pays to add the device to existing guns? Can it be done without destroying their investment value? Who keeps the battery charged? How? Can you keep them charged indefinitely? Who pays for inevitable battery replacement? How often? Who checks? If Grandpa forgets to recharge the tracker on his 1849 12 gauge double, does he go to jail? Even when said gun is locked up securely? Come to think of it, my gun safes are Faraday cages, so how is the .fed going to keep an eye on the location of my firearms? Am I supposed to keep them in plastic boxes? How about when I transport them?

        And of course, compliance by criminals will be enforced how, exactly?

        ::crickets::

        That's what I thought. So what good does it do, other than generate a brand new class of criminal who isn't actually doing anything illegal? Any answer that boils down to "it makes me feel better because I have a fear of the unknown" doesn't count.

        And that's just off the top of my head.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Useless

          ok mister negative-pants!

          it'd be nice though wouldnt it

          1. ArrZarr Silver badge

            Re: Useless

            The solution for guns is, and always has been to enforce a maximum gun quality which is so low that whenever you pull the trigger, there is a 50% chance of the gun backfiring.

            This way, you have to be in a worse than coinflip scenario before using the gun becomes worthwhile.

            1. Is It Me

              Re: Useless

              That assumes that there aren't any legitimate uses for guns.

              So no target sports, no hunting to manage populations of animals (e.g. deer), no pest control, etc.

              I think in the UK our gun control is close to being right, although it is a bit odd that the Olympic pistol shooting is effectively banned in the UK (apart from oddities like Northern Ireland).

              1. ArrZarr Silver badge

                Re: Useless

                That's why the guns should have a 50% chance of working - it gives a chance to improve your odds if everything has gone really TITSUP (Technical Incentive To Shoot Under Pressure)

            2. John 104

              Re: Useless

              @ArrZarr

              You've obviously never actually fired a gun. Or, if you have, you are using absolute garbage off the street with crap ammo.

              1. ArrZarr Silver badge
                FAIL

                Re: Useless

                Maybe I should have used the joke icon, I mean come on, the suggestion is obviously terrible.

                And yes, I have fired a gun - an L85 Rifle at a target range on an RAF base. My aim was indeed garbage but I was thinking about going to uni to sign up as an engineer so that wasn't my biggest concern.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Useless

        It has nothing to do with customer service and everything to do with making money selling information about the activities of the car's owner/driver.

        The last estimate I saw was that the data from a connected car could be sold for ten times the cost of the vehicle, presumably over the period owned by the first buyer.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Useless

        It's nice that there are some people in the world who want neither privacy nor security.

        It will divert attention from the rest of us.

    5. LDS Silver badge

      Insurance companies are pushing people to install "black boxes" recording car position and speed in exchange for lower fees. And there is a push to make that mandatory in some countries.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yes. I suspect that has something to do with the increase in bad/timid driving where some people drive at 2/3 of the speed limit in excellent driving conditions and taking about a minute to accelerate to that speed, creating a dangerously slow moving obstacle for the cars being driven correctly.

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "given extortionate US mobile rates"

    Well that's what it is when you're a third-world Internet country. Instead of crying over how much the mobile rates cost you, get some balls and force the providers to provide you with rates that are cheaper.

    I mean, isn't the USA the "land of the brave" ? The EU has done away with roaming charges. Can't you do any better ?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: "given extortionate US mobile rates"

      No, no, no ... The US is "the land of the fee". Ask anyone who lives here.

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

        Re: "given extortionate US mobile rates"

        The Republican attitude is that "Taxes" are evil, so they are being replaced by fees, reducing costs for everyone ... except the people having to pay the fees.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "given extortionate US mobile rates"

          Fascism is the political system in which corporations rather than individuals choose the government. So replacing taxes with fees is exactly what would be expected of a fascist state.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "given extortionate US mobile rates"

            "Fascism is the political system in which corporations rather than individuals choose the government"

            Absolutely and completely incorrect and mostly the opposite of the truth.

            A core tenet of fascism was control of the economy, and by extension corporations, by the government, rather than the other way round.

    2. Alumoi

      Re: "given extortionate US mobile rates"

      It was the land of the brave. Until the colonists arrieved. Then it was the land of the free. Now it's just USA.

      1. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: "given extortionate US mobile rates"

        From what I've read, the 'U' part is also something of a misnomer.

    3. iron Silver badge

      Re: "given extortionate US mobile rates"

      Land of the fee.

      Home of the slave. (to Apple, Google, Facebook, etc)

  3. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    not subect

    Also, faa might not like it, but below a minimum flight level, you are NOT subject to faa rules!

    1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

      Re: not subect

      Also, FAA might not like it, but below a minimum flight level, you are NOT subject to FAA rules

      That depends on where you are in any country.

      In the UK class G airspace starts at 400 ft AGL, which is also the maximum permitted height for UAS, i.e. RC models and drones, operation. However, a UAS cannot be flown within an ATZ (a circle of normally 2 nautical miles radius from the midpoint of the runway of a licensed airfield) or in Control Zones, such as the London CTR. Both ATZ and CTR airspace starts at ground level. CTR airspace is typically class A - D airspace as well, which means no entry except when you're following directions from ground control.

      So, no you CAN'T fly a drone in Hyde Park or on Clapham Common because both are inside the London CTR. You can, however, fly a control-line model if the landowner allows it because these models are tethered to the pilot by the lines used to control the model.

      In the USA things differ in detail, but the general rules are the same. I just dug out my copy of the FAA regulations from 2001. FARs part 71 defines the airspace classes and what can be done inside each of them. Only classes E and G have a lower limit - 1500 ft AGL for class E and 1200 ft AGLfor class G airspace. Since that is the bottom limit for aircraft ops, it would appear, unless the FARs have changed since 2001, that you can legally operate a drone or RC model up to 1200 ft in class G, up to 1500 ft in class E and not at all in class A,B,C or D airspace in the USA.

      Disclaimer: the FARs are written in an obtuse, legalistic fashion where later statements can and do amend or override earlier statements. They are hard to understand because of this. This means that I could have easily have misinterpreted them. They also jabber on: the FARs applicable to glider pilots occupy 101 pages of A4 paper, while the much more readable UK "Laws and Rules for Glider Pilots" fit comfortably onto 69 pages of A5 paper.

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: not subect

      I'm no expert on FAA rules, but their drone rules look more stringent than their light aircraft rules.

      You could fly a Cessna with less red-tape than a drone.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: not subect

        That might be because if you are piloting the Cessna, you can kill yourself.

        1. Orv

          Re: not subect

          Also, if you're piloting a Cessna and bust a flight restriction, it's easy to punish you for it -- just watch where you land and arrest you. There's a big problem with drones flying in restricted areas without any way to identify the pilot.

  4. IGotOut Silver badge

    No problem.

    Just say you certified the connection yourself and if the FBI can't pick it up, it's clearly their fault.

    1. hplasm
      Happy

      Re: No problem.

      You can clearly see the ass (arse) of the FBI agents - the fact they can't find it with both hands is not your fault.

      FTFY

    2. Claptrap314 Silver badge

      Re: No problem.

      You might want to check with Randy Weaver before going down that route.

  5. RojCowles

    I, for one, welcome our new FAA overlords

    So the proposal would turn every hobby model aircraft into a centrally managed and controlled IoT device that would be rendered unusable if the network signal sucks, or the primary firewall for the reporting server cluster running in some lowest bidder data center in who knows where is mis-configured or the whole shebang is DDOS'd by a few million compromised "smart" lightbulbs, or if the president of the day just feels like grounding all remote controlled aircraft on a whim, or the company running the Remote ID service goes bust/gets hit by a malware infection/is destroyed by rising sea levels and shuts down then that sounds like the plot for a dystopian sci-fi story by Corey Doctrow, oh wait, that is the plot of a dystopian Sci Fi story by Corey Doctrow

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "... destroy privacy ...", they wrote, unironically.

    Since they're drawing comparisons to cars, the government's free to track you on the roads with CCTV / ANPR.

    It's been suggested here that the location data for drones and/or pilots would be made public. Sounds like FUD, surely this data is just for ATC/LEOs.

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: "... destroy privacy ...", they wrote, unironically.

      Totally not the same as a blanket requirement that your car be permanently connected to the internet, reporting constant position information, and stopping / unable to start if no network signal is available.

    2. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Sounds like FUD, surely this data is just for ATC/LEOs.

      Yeah, just like cellphone user location data is privileged private infomation, only availble to the cops. And to anyone with $100 in their pocket (see the long and inglorious history reported in these hallow'd pages e.g. bounty hunters, anyone pretending to be a cop, etc.)

    3. tekHedd

      Re: "... destroy privacy ...", they wrote, unironically.

      Yes, this is exactly the point. "...and stored six months of your driving data for government scrutiny?" This is currently being done by private corporations with traffic flow cameras and, well, google.

      But I guess since people don't care, that makes it OK somehow. Don't know really why I bother to even comment on it.

  7. ma1010
    Flame

    Business as usual for government

    Instead, the rules are punishing the most responsible drone flyers in an effort to target the least responsible.

    Of course! That's EXACTLY what government mostly does, punish the law-abiding in some misguided attempt to stop criminals from doing criminal things. It works so well, too. Not. So then we need MORE of the same sort of laws. Lather, rinse, repeat. Freedom? You must be joking!

    1. John 104

      Re: Business as usual for government

      I had the same thoughts, and then some. Replace drone pilots with firearms owners and the argument stands. Laws to prevent bad behavior of a few typically hurt the responsible majority. "But look! We're doing something!"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Business as usual for government

        Just like the recurring calls to ban legally owned guns to deter gang members from killing one another. If they are professionals involved in a dozen or more criminal activities, including murder, they really won't care.

  8. Drone Pilot

    I'm doomed

    Well, I am :(

    Seriously though, this is a good idea. It'll stop the nefarious drone users in their tracks. Or, it won't.

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: I'm doomed

      I see someone is hearing "Wooosh" as they press the downvote.

      Maybe their sarcasm detector is unable to recieve a network signal, or they failed to pay their monthly sarcasm detection subs, so it has shut down to prevent illegal operation.

      Have an upvote to balance.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why do I envision teenage suburban drone pirates?

    1. See Amazon delivery drone

    2. Jam frequency

    3. Wait for drone to land

    4. Take package, release drone

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why do I envision teenage suburban drone pirates?

      Around here, the numpties will just shoot the drone down with BB Guns. They won't bother with the jamming bit. Besides, shooting them down is a lot more fun. Depending on the time of day, the aforesaid numpties could have consumed 6 or more can of Tennants 'Extra Strong' by mid afternoon so their aim might shall we say be a wee bit awry. That gives the drones a fighting chance to escape.

      Life is like that when you live next to the sort of place depicted in Trainspotting. At least the rent is affordable and the fish suppers are cheap.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Why do I envision teenage suburban drone pirates?

        Around here, the miscreants are using Wrist Rockets and firing ice cubes at about 75 foot pounds (100 joules, give or take). They are surprisingly accurate.

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

          Re: Why do I envision teenage suburban drone pirates?

          pictures or it didn't happen

  10. Tromos
    Facepalm

    "...illegal to operate a drone with a dangerous weapon attached.”

    Do fast spinning blades count?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: "...illegal to operate a drone with a dangerous weapon attached.”

      What about a quarter kilo at 70MPH ... that's what, a hair over 120J? It's certainly enough to give you more than just a headache ...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "...illegal to operate a drone with a dangerous weapon attached.”

        Are there any rules about how sharp the leading edges can be?

  11. Mark 85 Silver badge

    So it basically needs a cell tower to connect to. Last I checked, if you get away from the high population areas, cell towers are far and few.

    <snark>Given the way this is proposed, are we sure that the FCC didn't have a hand in this to help the profits of all those telecoms? </snark>

    1. Kevin Johnston Silver badge

      It does seem a little perverse, the better the internet connection, the more likely you are to be in an area where drones are banned (heavily populated, has an airport etc)

      Almost as if the whole idea was to make it impossible to operate a drone (unless you held an excemption from the law, such as TLA agency employees possibly)

      1. John 104

        You guys aren't seeing the bigger picture! Once Starlink is up, these issues of connectivity will go away

        1. Swiss Anton

          There are already services that use geostationary satellites to provide internet services, though the weight of the comms kit to connect to them would make the whole thing moot, as the drone would be too heavy to fly.

  12. SteveK

    Turn it round

    Just curious. How would people react if it was turned around and applied to other hobbies?

    Guns come to mind as ownership seems polarized. Sure, you can own a gun. But it must be connected to the Internet, constantly report where it is, whether it is loaded, whether safety is on and whether it is being fired. And if it can also be blocked from operating in certain areas, that would be grand.

    I suspect some rather strong views would emerge.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Turn it round

      Just curious. How would people react if it was turned around and applied to other hobbies?

      Actually it could be quite useful for golf. Many's the time (well, once or twice anyway, ahem) that I've wished there was a tracking device fitted to the ball.

      1. SteveK

        Re: Turn it round

        Actually it could be quite useful for golf. Many's the time (well, once or twice anyway, ahem) that I've wished there was a tracking device fitted to the ball.

        They appear to exist (whether they have yet come to market is another thing):

        https://chip-ing.com/

        https://www.golfpunkhq.com/equipment/article/the-genius-ball--golfers-dreams-come-true

        There was another one on Amazon, but that turned out not to use GPS but a direction finder, and had to buy a dedicated handheld device to track it.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Turn it round

      My guns are locked up, secure in my gun safes. Which are also Faraday cages. Am I now a criminal under your legislation? Or do I need to leave my firearms out where any lout can access them?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Turn it round

        Of course you are. We are all criminals - that's the whole point.

      2. Spasticus Autisticus

        Re: Turn it around

        That's good Jake, you are a responsible gun owner.

        Maybe our gun cases should have a tracker on them too? That way it is possible to 'see' the weapon(s) being moved from safe to case, 'see' case as it travels, then 'see' guns being used at gun club or other shooting locations. The guns 'disappear' back in to case with tracker that then travels back to safe at the registered location, guns or case disappear in to safe - all beautifully logged by the powers that regulates guns.

        So easy with today's technology :-)

        I fly model aircraft and the new drone laws are threatening my hobby. I also shoot at a local gun club.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Turn it around

          Does the local gun club shoot back?

      3. DuncanLarge Silver badge

        Re: Turn it round

        > My guns

        A question that most gun owners fail to answer adequately: Why do you need a gun?

        I can understand someone needing a hammer, but not a gun. Unless one of these are true:

        - You shoot competitively as a sport

        - You are a farmer and need to shoot to scare away vermin and ramblers (thats a joke btw)

        - You live in an area that are infested by invading aliens or Triffids

        Otherwise, you simply have totally no need for one. It's like having a boat when landlocked.

    3. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Turn it round

      Such devices are easily obtainable from the Weapon Shops of Isher.

  13. steviebuk Silver badge

    And wait for the "Our customer data security is very important to us"

    When the 3rd party leaks their database that WILL happen.

    "There are also additional costs of running what would need to be new location databases of drones, which the FAA expects will be run by private companies but doesn’t exist yet, which drones owners would have to pay for through subscriptions. The cost of all this is prohibitive, for little real benefit, they argue."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And wait for the "Our customer data security is very important to us"

      25kg+ drones are expensive beasties. For the computer-savvy it'll provide a handy list of who's worth burgling.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    buy a monthly data plan

    so now you know which marketing department was responsible for this idea that's going to SAVE AMERICA FROM TERRRORISM AGAIN!!!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another perspective

    Everyone seems so negative about this. As we can, of course, assume that this applies to all drones, this has got to be good for evil doers in their desert cave hideouts. No more Reapers sneaking up on you and blowing you to 72 virgins, all you need to do is turn off the cellular tower and you are safe. Even better, block the cellphone signal over the aerodrome and watch as the infidel's weapons plunge from the sky. Plus it will deter wars of foreign aggression, because have you seen the cost of roaming abroad?

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: Another perspective

      Ahh.. modern trust in in technology... thinking that this plan will work and never be disabDE%^Y(I... NO CARRIER

      Ops sorry, my cell phone just loaded a new update.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    About those General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper drones.....

    Yup....those drones operated by the armed services. I'd love to see the unredacted Freedom of Information response to a request for full disclosure of the locations of all the Reaper drones over the last couple of years.

    *

    And the military can't say the drones "were not connected".......since they are all piloted remotely OVER A WORLDWIDE WIRELESS NETWORK!

    *

    Ah.....but it's likely exactly like GDPR......government entities are specifically excluded from the legal requirements!

    *

    Sigh.....one law for the great unwashed......and complete privacy, no accountability at all, for the bad actors who we are told are "keeping us safe".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: About those General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper drones.....

      Let me put it this way, if *you* were an 'overlord' sunk up to the nuts in skullduggery and you had the power to stop anyone from holding you to account, what would *you* do?

      Answers on a manifesto..

    2. Orv

      Re: About those General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper drones.....

      You'll love this, then: In the US *all* government aircraft are exempt from FAA oversight. I've heard some pretty amazing stories, including aircraft designed for two crew members being modified to be flown solo.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just add an ADS-B transponder to every drone, then the FAA can sit at home watching flightradar24

    1. Orv

      People have suggested it. The problem is the ADS-B system is easily overwhelmed by too many aircraft in one spot. Also a typical aircraft ADS-B transmitter costs thousands of dollars, which might be a problem for drones that cost a few hundred.

  18. Cuddles Silver badge

    Kind of surprising

    "The world’s largest drone maker, DJI, is among those fighting the rule change, unsurprisingly enough."

    One of the big problems with this idea is that it would completely destroy the hobby builder market, along with small companies that can't afford the cost of compliance. So it is sort of surprising that DJI is opposed, as they'd likely end up close to a monopoly as one of the only drone makers left in business. Presumably they see it as so draconian that it could kill off the drone market entirely, but it will be interesting to see how their stance evolves when the proposal is inevitably watered down. I suspect DJI would be very happy to see legislation that forces additional costs on the smaller competition.

    1. Jess--

      Re: Kind of surprising

      DJI will be against it as it will deter people from flying drones due to ongoing costs even when the drone is gathering dust on a shelf.

      With the added costs if people buy less drones DJI as (seemingly) the largest well known maker will be the hardest hit.

      The cost to DJI to add the capability would be under $10 (probably nearer $5) per new drone, for them it's a one time cost.

      for the consumer they have the cost of registration (presumably renewed annually per drone) and the cost of maintaining the data connection.

    2. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Kind of surprising

      > it would completely destroy the hobby builder market

      No it wouldn't. The majority of people building their own drones will ignore this.

  19. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Of course criminals, terrorist, or miscreants wont simply disable the internet tracking on the drone, just as they don't remove the geofencing that is supposed to stop them flying in restricted airspace already. As that would be illegal

    Just as every gun in America is registered and no one ever uses them for criminal activity, because everyone who owns a gun is a law abiding upstanding citizen.

  20. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

    One of the larger problems with the FAA proposal

    ...is that it lumps all remotely piloted vehicles (RPV) together under the generic term "drone" which is decidedly ambiguous. There are enormous differences in size/usage/modes of flying between, for example, a professional multirotor used for aerial inspection/photography and a consumer-grade DJI quadcopter and a 2m wingspan scale model of a DeHavilland Mosquito and a 50cm wingspan child's toy Cessna 172. The ONLY thing those examples have in common is a pilot on the ground rather than onboard the aircraft. The consumer quadcopter and child's toy are generally more accessible to a casual user and more likely to be used in an unsafe or cavalier manner. The scale Mossie significantly less so, if for no other reason than cost. The DJI and professional multirotor can be flown virtually anywhere, including BVR (beyond visual range), whereas the Mossie and (to lesser extent) the child's toy Cessna require significantly more open space and are nearly always flown within Line Of Sight. These distinctions are important because:

    1) None of the reported safety/security incidents I'm aware of involving remotely piloted vehicles were fixed wing hobbyist airplanes - they were all camera-equipped multirotors flying in a manner that is already prohibited (near airports/other controlled airspace).

    2) there have been zero downed "traditional" aircraft or on-the-ground fatalities in any reported incidents - even though those persons were flying unsafely and/or outside existing regulations.

    I have no problem with putting the proposed regulations on the professional multirotors because those, by design and intended use, will be employed in more potentially sensitive locations for legitimate purposes (inspecting crops or industrial equipment, filmmaking, news reporting, etc). The hobbyist quadcopters COULD be lumped in with the professional ones but probably shouldn't be. The hobbyist fixed wing aircraft, by nature of their different mode of operation and "theater of operation" should be exempted. And yes, there are idiots who disregard the rules and common sense and fly in unsafe/illegal manner - and those persons should be caught and punished accordingly. However, the FAA proposal as currently written clearly "throws the baby out with the bathwater".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One of the larger problems with the FAA proposal

      You possibly missed the weight limit. Any flying thing of 25kg+ isn't really a child's toy.

      1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

        Re: One of the larger problems with the FAA proposal

        No, I didn't miss that - I was merely trying to keep my post from becoming too long. Neither did I miss that <250g craft are (for now, at least) exempted. About half of my RC aircraft are under 250g and, if this goes forward, that percentage will increase to at or near 100%.

        Most hobbyist RC aircraft fall between 250g and 25kg. They are neither children's toys nor used for professional purposes. These are the aircraft which I believe should, for the most part, be exempted from the proposed FAA rules under discussion or at the very least differentiated from professional gear. The Part 107 rules were intended for professional gear but then the agency decided to paint with too broad a brush.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: One of the larger problems with the FAA proposal

          Heh. It was me that wasn't paying attention....I read 0.25kg as 25kg which makes a smidgeon of difference. Not that difficult to get up to 250g with batteries. 250g-worth of whirling blades falling on you isn't ideal; but is a completely different proposition to 25kg falling on you. That's, like, a whole box of plasters.

      2. englishr

        Re: One of the larger problems with the FAA proposal

        The article may have been updated since your post, but it currently says "for drones weighing 0.55lb (0.25kg) or more". 250g is definitely in the "toy" range.

        1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

          Re: One of the larger problems with the FAA proposal

          understood. This is why I noted that most hobbyist RC aircraft and specifically the ones about which I am speaking fall between 250g and 25kg. I could argue that many of the <250g aircraft are not toys either but that would divert from the primary point so I'll leave it alone and continue focus on those between 250g and 25kg. I think the confusion was an earlier respondent wrote "25kg" when perhaps meaning to write "0.25kg". The reason this was confusing for me is because any craft over 50 pounds (22.7kg) are already subject to further regulation and I have no issue with that.

      3. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

        Re: One of the larger problems with the FAA proposal

        oh, wait. I now see what may be the point of confusion. You wrote "any flying thing of 25kg+ isn't...". Did you perhaps mean to say "any flying thing of 0.25kg..."? If so, then I withdraw my further remarks because I agree with you. Feel free to mutter something about we former colonists and our antiquated measurement standards... ;-)

  21. JohnFen Silver badge

    I guess the FAA

    I guess the FAA suffers the same delusion as many tech companies do -- thinking that internet access is ubiquitous and can always be counted on being available. It's not, and it can't.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Childcatcher

    Next on the list

    Those little balsa wood gliders and Mylar birthday balloons

  23. Mike 16 Silver badge

    Weighing?

    Or massing?

    Not sure I can tell because the limit is stated in pounds (unit of weight), but "translated" to grams (mass).

    I'm sure if .55 Slug was mentioned, a few more gun enthusiasts would "weigh in".

    If the requirement specifies weight, who's up for a 1/10th scale Zeppelin?

    (A friend's father flew in coastal defense blimps. Spot a sub? Motor on over while they spot you and frantically dive, drop the two depth charges you carry while radioing for the fixed-wing bombers to come drop their loads, probably leading to German sub crews believing the subs were very well armed)

  24. Orv

    It's become a ritual at every major wildfire for water bombers to start trying to fight the fire, only to be grounded because some asshole is flying a drone. This doesn't seem like the right solution, but I'm not sure what is. "Letting the fire burn people's houses down while drone operators get viral videos of it" doesn't seem acceptable either.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hobbies of the well heeled Trump Public Safety

    RC and Drone flying is a hobby of the well heeled. These snowflakes think their beloved pastime is more important than preventing terrorists from blowing up city blocks and packed sports arenas, killing thousands of innocent people.

    Expensive, oh really part of the hobby is lusting after and then showing off the lastest expensive gee-gaw added to their toys.

    Complicated, come on, RC and Dronies have been stuffing smart chips, geo-location, wifi and video into their toys now for years, this is no longer your balsa wood, simple transistor radio generation of toys, but they are all high tech wonders now , from ultra light materials to smart chips and brushless electric motors.

    Intrusive, yea, getting that license plate for your pickup really is the man stomping on you, even if it does make it faster to catch crooks and speeders and other various public health and safety offenders.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good

    Track them

    Find them

    Bind them (with handcuffs)

    Shoot the things out of the sky. Adult, child whatever, make them think twice about flying these spy cams. If kids want to do radio control stuff let them do it with a little car.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BS

    “Model aviation is the natural precursor to careers in aviation, including commercial pilots and engineers and more jobs which the US desperately needs to fill. Model aviation supports a $1 billion hobby industry responsible for thousands of existing US jobs. We simply cannot afford to further harm the model aviation hobby with overly burdensome requirements.”

    Total BS.

    Kids want to ply planes because they see them at airshows, not because they are given control of a flying weapon/spy camera.

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