Friday, September 23, 2016

The Curious Case Of The Drone That Made A Big Bang

Or...   How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Drone

The appearance of Airship 800U at the Coach Groves Spiked Shoe Cross Country Invitational 2 weeks ago brought more than wonderment and joy.  It actually brought apprehension and disdain to the Officials in charge of the whole thing.  In fact, the reaction was overwrought and accusatory if the rumors are true.  I am here to set the record straight.  For once, I was correct and followed all the rules in place to bring you the first ever aerial footage of a Penn State Cross Country race.  In the mean-time, all future drone flights have been banned.  I will, of course, abide by the decision, but it should be changed quickly. The interns will see what they can do.

Artist's Conception of Official's reaction.
First up, they stated that laws were broken by flying within 5 miles of the State College Airport. And while the take-off and landing point of the drone was 4 1/2 miles from the airport, there is no law governing use of a hobbyist drone within 5 miles of an airport if all other rules are followed. Those rules are mostly common-sense about safety issues and the notification of the airport of when and where the flight will be flown (permission is neither given or required. Only notification). As a State College airport employee related to me, any aircraft flying below 400 feet at the Penn State Golf Course is an emergency situation. It never happens otherwise. I also had a $1,000,000 insurance policy on each of the 4 flights I took. The insurance issuer does not insure flights within a dangerous radius of airport activity or flight paths.

Officials also questioned whether the drone was flown out of sight of the operator, and said that it was, as they did not see it when the pack was on the other side of the course.  Needless to say, they didn't see it because I had already landed back at the start, and had only followed it for the first fairway of the race and returned to an empty area after each flight.  I flew well within sight at all times.  My flight logs are available for anyone to check.

They also related that drones should not be flown above groups of people.  And I whole heartedly agree.  Logs will also prove that it was never flown above groups of people.  It was above the starter for a brief second after the race started, but otherwise the only people under it were those that walked or ran under it on their own, and these people were alerted to it. Drones should also not be flown OVER stadiums or sporting events.  This rule was also followed, as I was always away from the competition and not directly over it. Videos and flight logs leave no doubt.

Other questions were raised about the NCAA regulations of the drone.  There are rules governing drones in use by NCAA representatives concerning fair play and spying etc.  The possibility of gaining an unfair advantage using a drone had been raised.  But real-time video of the drone footage was blocked and only filming for later viewing was done.  The NCAA has no jurisdiction over anything I do with the drone, as I do not represent PSU T&FXC in any official capacity. The NCAA is updating its rules about drone at the end of the year.

Coaches, athletes, competitors and officials shall not use video or audio devices, radio transmitters or receivers, mobile phones, computers, unmanned aerial systems (i.e., drones)or any similar devices in the competition area, except as authorized by the games committee for meet administration
To provide control regarding the use of unmanned aerial systemsas they may interfere with competition. In
addition, to allow for competitive equity and enhance student athlete safety. Eliminating “for meet administration”
authorizes the games committee to allow use of these devices even if not for meet administration, such as within an
infield coaches’ box (general prohibition remains).

There ARE rules (laws) governing commercial use of drones exceeding 0.55 pounds, but these do not apply to me.  As a hobbyist using Creative Commons 4.0 licensing for all of my content, I have no commercial ties or aspirations.



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