Wednesday, 19 February 2014

5 Amazing Ways That Drones Are Helping The Environment


Drones are rapidly becoming a growing positive presence in the areas of conservation, wildlife protection and environmental monitoring.
Whether autonomously controlled by on-board computers or under remote guidance of a navigator, these eco-drones are finding uses that are often too dangerous or too expensive for manned craft to fulfil.
Let's jump straight into a selection of ways they are already helping the environment around the world.


1. Tracking Hurricanes and Tropical Storms 


A pair of converted military drones are the US Space Agency's newest tools for tracking hurricanes and tropical storms, with the aim of improving forecasters' ability to predict them.

Originally built for military reconnaissance missions around the world, they are the size of large commercial jets and are flown remotely from a NASA base on the Virginia coast.

The drones are capable of flying for 30 hours at an altitude of 21,000 meters (69,000 feet), or twice the height of a passenger plane.




 
Better hurricane forecasts through the use of these (and other similar) drones can help authorities to make life and death decisions more swiftly and accurately - like whether and when to evacuate people in a storm's path.

  
2. Protecting Endangered Wildlife
 

Drones are already protecting rhinos in Nepal, flying over Indonesia's jungle canopy to photograph orangutans, and studying invasive aquatic plants in Florida.

 



To combat the sophisticated and expanding illegal traffic in wildlife, conservationists have found it necessary to turn to new technologies in an effort to shift the balance. Drones fit this requirement perfectly as they are cheap to purchase and operate, and are an effective deterrent to poachers.

Government park rangers, community eco-guards, and conservation groups are already using drones for wildlife tracking and protection, and it is inevitable that the usage of drones will spread into other areas, such as patrolling coastal fisheries.
  

3. Measuring Environmental Pollutants


Drones can be deployed to monitor hard to reach areas where the level of contamination is unknown, and establish whether you can actually send in people safely to the affected area.
 




One dramatic illustration of this 'detector technology' are the drones used to measure dangerous radioactivity levels at the damaged nuclear power plant at Fukushima.

These drones were developed by the Japanese Atomic Energy Agency and the Japanese Space Exploration Agency and can be operated by remote control. They were used to fly around the Fukushima plant and measure radiation levels. While flying for up to thirty minutes, the drones were able to collect radiation levels in real-time which were then transmitted back to scientists for data analysis.



4. Monitoring Wildfires

 
Fighting wildfires can be a risky and potentially fatal operation, since the direction and intensity of the massive blazes can change in seconds.
Drones can help in two ways: They can safely gather more information about fire conditions than is currently available, and they can send that information to fire-fighters on the ground quickly.
 


  
Information available to firefighters is often out-of-date because manned airplanes and helicopter flights that take pictures and infrared images to map the fire perimeter are costly and risky, so they only fly over a fire once or twice a day. Drones on the other hand are comparatively cheaper, and more than one can be launched at once. A drone can cost as little as $2,000 for an eight-hour flight - the same price for just one hour of a manned flight.
Drones could be a tool that gives fire-fighters a vital edge in the battle against wildfires.


5. Surveying and Spraying Crops 


Experts point to agriculture as the most promising commercial market for drones because the technology is a perfect fit for large-scale farms and vast rural areas where privacy and safety issues are less of a concern than in an urban environment.
Already, farmers, researchers and companies are developing unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAVs) equipped with cameras and other sensors to survey crops, monitor for disease, or precision-spray pesticides and fertilizers.




The technology could revolutionize agriculture by boosting crop health, improving field management practices, reducing costs and increasing yields. And the possibilities are endless: drones could be used to ward off birds from fields, pollinate trees, do snow surveys to forecast water supply, monitor irrigation, or plant and harvest crops.
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In a world struggling with environmental issues, drones could prove to be a very welcome friend.


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Monday, 3 February 2014

A Lawyer's Advice on Drones and UAVs


The ability to remotely observe areas otherwise inaccessible due to cost, noise, or physical dangers makes drones - also called unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs - a remarkable technology. However, privacy concerns as well as the possible danger of uncontrolled UAVs causing personal injury or property damage due to loss of signal make this a new area for the application of existing laws as well as the opportunity for new laws to be crafted. Both manufacturers and users of drones/UAVs/UASs should be aware of the legal issues applicable to their operations, and plan for uncertain application of laws with insurance, legal compliance, and risk reduction policies.


What Laws and Regulations Apply to Drone/UAV Use?


Traditional laws of tort such as invasion of privacy likely apply to drone use, but the forthcoming FAA regulations on commercial use of drones may trigger the doctrine of federal preemption. Basically, if the FAA regulation is specific enough the FAA regulation may displace traditional law, possibly including local ordinances and state law. This will probably produce legal uncertainty among both lawyers and judges for a while. While every venture entails risk, in a new frontier such as in drone law there can be unexpected legal applications of law that will be surprising.

For example, assume the Chicago Police Department decides to use a drone to scan the lakefront area for gang activity. Does this violate the privacy rights of the sunbathers? It may depend on the coming FAA regulations, not just Illinois' law on drones or on traditional tort law principles. What about the use of drones in mining or agriculture, for instance? Perhaps a local zoning ordinance bans the use of drones. But if the FAA commercial use regulations expressly allow such a use, a federal court may invalidate the application of that local ordinance, and allow drone use in the mine or on the farm.
 

Finally, the product of your use of the drone may be an issue for which you need legal advice. For one example, filmmakers using drones need copyright protection for the visual images, and may need work-for-hire documents to be signed by the drone operator to clarify who owns the copyright. Another example might be an architect using a drone to filming aerial views of their work product. What if a competitor tries to use that film (perhaps stolen from a website) and pretends they designed the building? Better call a lawyer.


What Laws and Regulations Apply to Drone/UAV Manufacturing and Distribution?
 

In addition to learning the latest local and FAA regulations on their use, manufacturers and distributors need the same legal guidance that any commercial enterprise needs. If a company wants to recruit talent, a lawyer with employment law experience can help draft and enforce employment agreements, non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), and non-compete agreements to protect your trade secrets. If the products require the use of components from suppliers, a lawyer can help draft and enforce commercial contracts, possibly with arbitration agreements to avoid the cost and public glare of a court lawsuit. And to be especially smart, it would be wise to be proactive and protect your business's intellectual property after expending significant sums of money, time, and effort developing technology, products, and a recognized brand through the use of patents, trademarks, and possibly copyright protections such as with computer code.
 

A Word About Insurance Coverage

Finally, whether you are making or using drones, there is the risk of personal injury and property damage. It would be wise to obtain insurance coverage that specifically applies to your operations, use, or product. It also seems likely that there will be disputes about what is, and what is not, covered under a particular insurance policy. If an incident and/or claim occurs and the insurance company balks at protecting you or paying the claim, you will need to obtain legal help to defend the lawsuit, and also to file a lawsuit to try to force the insurance company to pay for the legal costs and the liability exposure through a special kind of lawsuit called a declaratory judgment.
Jeffrey Antonelli
For further information and advice related to drone/UAV law please contact: 
Antonelli Law Ltd.
100 North La Salle Street
Suite 2400
Chicago, IL 60602
Tel: (312) 201-8310
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© Copyright 2014 Friendly Drones Limited