Drone News: A Controversial Thrill Ride, and a New Flying Ban that Starts Today

By David Schonauer   Wednesday October 4, 2017

You may have already gone on Paul Nurkkala’s thrill ride.

Nurkkala, a very skilled drone pilot, used a custom-built drone equipped with a GoPro Hero5 Session camera to create a viral video that takes viewers around, inside, onto, and under a moving train. There are also a few barrel rolls, in case you need extra visual stimulation.

The video, noted DP Review recently, “has split the internet into two predictably conflicted camps. The first thinks it's just the coolest footage to ever come out of a drone, because Nurkkala is clearly such a talented pilot. The second is infuriated that he would do something so obviously illegal, post the results online, and receive so much praise and adulation.”

Today we feature the video, along with other recent drone news that you should be aware of. That includes a new ban on flying drones over the Statue of Liberty and nine other U.S. landmarks and a new legal ruling determining that Federal Aviation Administration drone rules take precedence over state and local laws. There’s also an interactive map that will show you drone laws around the world. And there is DJI’s new “privacy mode” for flying drones offline. We also include a new drone journalism ethics policy from the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.

A Controversial "Flight of the Year"

If you’re plugged into the dronester world, notes DP Review, you’ve probably already seen Paul Nurkkala’s Flight of the Year  video. Nurkkala captured the video using a custom-built drone equipped with a GoPro Hero5 Session and piloted from afar using special FPV goggles. Comments from viewers have ranged from the very positive — this is a cool thrill ride, no doubt about that — to the infuriated: Should we really be devoting adulation to a dronescapade  that is so obviously illegal, and potentially dangerous? Or can we feel both feelings at the same time? Your opinion?

Judge Rules FAA Rules Take Precedence Over Local Regulations

A court has ruled that federal drone laws take precedence over local drone regulations in instances where the two are in conflict, notes DP Review, adding that the decision sets a new and “very important” precedent for commercial and recreational drone pilots alike. According to The Wall Street Journal, the ruling was passed down by U.S. District Judge William G. Young in a legal case involving the city of Newton, Massachusetts.  It was brought by Newton resident Michael Singer, who challenged four Newton provisions including a requirement to get permission before flying a drone over private property. The city had argued that the FAA allows for the local co-regulation of civilian drones, but Judge Young ruled otherwise, in part because the local regulations were sometimes in direct conflict with the FAA’s.

FAA Restricts UAV Use Over the Statue of Liberty and Other Landmarks

The Federal Aviation Administration FAA has announced  that it is restricting drone flights over 10 major landmarks in the U.S., notes PetaPixel: Starting today, Oct. 5, drone operators will not be able to fly their aircraft over 10 Department of the Interior sites, including the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore, and Hoover Dam in Nevada, Grand Coulee Dam in Washington, Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona, as well as Folsom Dam and Shasta Dam in California. The FAA has created an interactive map; see its B4UFLY  mobile app.

The flights over these sites are forbidden up to 400 feet. “But, keep in mind that flying above this altitude is also against the FAA rules,” notes DIY Photography. Drone operators who violate these restrictions may face civil penalties and even criminal charges.

A Map Showing Drone Laws Around the World

Speaking of maps: Blogger and frequent traveler Anil Polat has created a useful map of the world detailing the laws of each country; even better, notes PetaPixel, the map is is updated frequently. Polat has also included links to registration forms and contact information you might need to request permission to fly in each country. And he has included separate laws for U.S. states, along with any area-specific laws found in other countries. The full map is hosted on Google My Maps.

DJI Launches Privacy Mode for Flying Drones Offline

Two months after the US Army ended its use of DJI drones due to “cybersecurity” reasons, DJI has launched a new privacy mode that allows operators to fly completely offline, reports PetaPixel. DJI says the goal is to provide “enhanced data privacy assurances for sensitive government and enterprise customers.” The new “Local Data Mode,” as it’s called, stops all internet traffic to and from the DJI Pilot app. “This adds an additional layer of security for operators of flights involving critical infrastructure, governmental projects or other sensitive missions,” says DJI.

Poynter's Drone Journalism Ethics Policy

Over the past year, the Poynter Institute for Media Studies has conducted a series of workshops training 325 journalists and journalism educators how to safely and ethically fly drones. Poynter has now released a new drone journalism ethics policy. Leading the lists of dos and don’ts: Do not endanger people, animals or property. Another takeaway: Respect the integrity of the photographic moment. “Drones have the potential to interrupt events, especially when hovering low. While photographing subjects, drone journalists should not intentionally contribute to, alter, or seek to alter or influence events,” notes Poynter.



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