The good and the ugly about drones

Both facets of the technology were on display over the weekend

Langley’s SR-22 unmanned aircraft system

Langley’s SR-22 unmanned aircraft system

Both the good and bad sides of drones were on display over the weekend in the US, with a drone delivering medical supplies to a remote area in Wise, Virginia, even as some other drones were obstructing the fighting of a wildfire in far away California to apparently shoot videos.

The delivery drone from Australian startup Flirtey made the first authorized delivery in the country on Friday, transporting 24 medical packages to patients in Wise County. The Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership at the Virginia Tech Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science, which is an approved drone test location of the Federal Aviation Administration, oversaw the research flight. See video.

Earlier, a fixed-wing aircraft, operated remotely by pilots from NASA Langley Research Center, was to deliver medical supplies to Lonesome Pine Airport in Wise, which would then be transferred in small packages by the Flirtey drone.

In startling contrast, InciWeb, an interagency all-risk incident information management system, reported Sunday that a drone had obstructed fire fighting work after a fire over the weekend in San Bernardino County.

A drone, also referred to as an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), halted tanker operations for about 25 minutes on Friday afternoon, according to an update on InciWeb. It added that incident commanders have no choice but to suspend air operations and ground aircraft until a hobby drone that flies into a fire area is removed, to avoid damage to aircraft, and injuries to crew and ground fighters from collisions.

As hobby drones have become more popular, firefighters have seen an increase in drones interfering with firefighting operations, InciWeb said. Drone operators, flying in the area, could face criminal charges as a temporary flight restriction of the FAA kicks in for most wildfires.

The "North Fire" destroyed 20 vehicles and damaged 10 more on Interstate 15, after the fire jumped over the highway.

There were five drones in the area, presumably taking close-up videos of the fire, CNN reported.

The San Bernardino County Fire Department tweeted at one point that firefighting aircraft had been grounded due to drone activity in the area.

The FAA has previously issued guidelines for people flying UAS as hobbyists and for recreational purposes, including the requirement that the drone should not be flown recklessly and endanger people or other aircraft. The rules on model aircraft also require that the UAS, weighing 55 pounds (25 kilograms) at the maximum, should be flown below 400 feet (about 122 meters), within visual sight of the operator, and 5 miles (8 kilometers) away from airports.

The FAA launched a "Know Before You Fly" campaign to advise users on the safe and responsible use of drones, in tandem with the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), and the Small UAV Coalition.

The agency is also approaching the issue of commercial use of drones with some trepidation because of safety and other issues involved. It has proposed rules, which would possibly allow programs like those of Amazon.com for the commercial delivery of packages by drones to take off. But the drones would operate under restrictions such as a maximum weight of 55 pounds, and rules that limit flights to daylight and visual line-of-sight operations. For now, the agency has provided exemptions, including for research, under strict conditions to some companies.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags popular scienceVirginia TechFederal Aviation AdministrationFlirtey

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?