Category Archives: My Thoughts & Reviews

Problems With Proposed Drone Registration

Registration of Drones is a Far Less Effective Than Geofencing.

 

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The U.S. Government will soon require drone enthusiasts to register their drones with the FAA. The Department of Transportation (DOT) which oversees the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) wants to have a plan in place by Christmas 2015. The specifics of proposed legislation is largely speculation as details have not been fully explained. Will the rules cover new sales? What about the estimated 700,000 already on the market? Will the rules cover all unmanned aircraft or be limited to drones made of specific materials and weight?

Lets Dive Into Those Issues

  • The shear number of drones being sold would be an enormous task for the government to manage. For example Amazon is selling more than 10,000 units per month. 3DR with sales of around $40 Million in sales for 2015 alone translates into some 53,000 drones. DJI, perhaps one of the most profitable companies in the drone market have filled some 400,000 orders. Many of these units were its signature Phantom series drones.
  • What happens to drone owners that no longer own drones. Individuals are selling them on eBay, Craigslist, garage sales, flea markets, ect…. Are they going to be required to forward paperwork to the authorities as to who these buyers are? Would they even do that? I think not.
  • What will the FAA be regulating exactly. What I mean is will they regulate the batteries, the motors, the transmitter, the flight controller? Is it only a whole aircraft? Are drone kits regulated or just fully assembled drones? Currently the rules say “Aircraft means a device that is used or intended to be used for flight in the air.” Logically, only a complete airworthy drone could fit into this criteria. This means that parts sold individually could be put together to gain airworthiness. But sold separately one could bypass legislation.
  • How would a drone sucked into an aircraft engine be identified? It would be obliterated and unidentifiable.
  • What is registration going to do to prevent reckless operators from doing stupid things?
  • What would be considered a drone thus requiring registration? Drones can be as small as to fit in the palm of your hand. Would this be regulated?
  • How would the FAA justify regulating drones that are on the ground?
  • The budget question asks where the funds to undertake a task like this comes from? Registration fees are certainly going to have to be high enough cover costs. Some would call this another TAX. That very word leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. How about yours?

Geofencing, as I understand it, would prevent drone launches in restricted areas. DJI currently accomplishes this through firmware updates. Drones could even be equipped with transponders that could relay owner information in its transmissions. That measure alone could prevent operators from doing things they shouldn’t be doing. I’m no longer against regulating drones because some operators have made this necessary by their actions. I see some legislation as inevitable because the media has chosen to sensationalize this industry. When privacy concerns failed in the news safety took a front seat. New rules are also likely because politicians, trying to make a name for themselves, also sensationalize these crafts. I just hope and pray that the new rules, however they may evolve, make sense. The rules whatever they are will NOT do anything to address those that make drones in their home workshops and believe me it’s being done everyday! I hope they don’t stifle a new and rapidly growing industry. Time will the story… Make it a good one.

 

Public Exhibition for Photographers Forum (Chicago)

If you’re like most folks with a camera, you’ve probably got some killer images that belong in the Museum of Fine Art. I sure feel that way about a lot of my images. I’ve lived in the Chicagoland area for about three years now. I’m looking to collaborate with other local photographers with similar ambitions. My idea would be to rent a space somewhere in the city to publicly display what we’re about as artists. A chance to let others into your eyes, if only for a moment, to see what you saw. What would a venture like this would look like? I don’t know yet but I’d like to hear your thoughts and ideas. I’m wanting people that are passionate about their photography. A passion that makes the viewers’ minds wonder and wander. Yes… I’m looking for photographers interested in going in on the setup / rental of a space to show the city what you’ve got. I think that this kind of exposure, especially in a big city like Chicago, can only help to get yours and my name out there.

Morning Glory
Morning Glory

Experience spoke to me one day and said “hey… it doesn’t make a difference what kinda camera you got. they all take great photos.”.

This photo was taken using my GoPro HERO4 Black. Though only a 12MP camera I think it did a pretty decent job considering.

If you’re in the Chicagoland Area and would like to rent a space to exhibit your work, leave a comment below.

 

Illinois Railway Museum

The Illinois Railway Museum is located at 7000 Olson Rd Union, IL 60180-9628. That’s roughly 60 miles North West of downtown Chicago.

Friso 1630
Friso 1630

 

The museum is dedicated to preserving American Railroad artifacts. The railroad was the largest private employer supporting many American families.

The above address will get you into the museum. But if you go a short distance down the road to 8107–8617 Seeman Rd Union, IL 60180 you get a free look at these beautifully restored machines as they chug down the tracks.

Brink of Day

For this post I thought it would be interesting to examine what I call the edge of the day. The edge being that part of the day when the sun, whether rising or setting, still remains below the visible horizon. Others consider this part of the “blue hour”. Whatever you call it, there’s magic about the skies during this special time of day. I decided to embark on this for a little while. Here you will not find the sun visible in any of the photographs, thus the word “BRINK“. Check back weekly as I will try and add to this post weather permitting of course. Drop me a line in the comment section and let me know what you think. Give me other suggestions. I’d love to hear your ideas.


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Lazy Morning

Coloring Book

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HDR1

All That Glitters

Spring Morning IMG_1917

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HDR2

Drone Use Becoming a National Problem

 

Drone And Plane In Near Miss Close To Heathrow

Senator Feinstein Now Using Safety Concerns To Target The Drone Industry

FAA List Of Reported Drone Incidents Indicates A Problem. But It’s Not What You Think.

Drones From Santa Could Bring Penalties If Misused

 

 

Do you see a problem in these headlines? Do you see how the media uses these stories to sensationalize an otherwise mute story? With the advent of smart phone technology you would think that someone in the world would have video of that near miss with that reported passenger plain encounter. Someone would have certainly got a photo of that drone pausing as it flew by Emily’s bedroom window.

Yes there’s good and bad across all spectrums of life and drone enthusiasts are not immune to this sort of thing. I admit that some legislation is needed only because I know it’s inevitable. The media has made it so. After all they are in the business of selling news. And when they do that well, advertisers will come. Motive is strong. Politicians looking to increase their notoriety make issue of drone technology to keep their name out there. Visibility means that they can spend another four or so years doing nothing at tax payer expense. An even stronger motive.

Aerial Photography Origins & Future

Brooklyn_Museum_-_Nadar_Élevant_la_Photographie_à_la_Hauteur_de_l'Art_-_Honoré_Daumier

 

Americans’ fascination with aerial photography began more than 150 years ago when Gaspard-Félix Tournachon aka Nadar took the first aerial photos of France from a tethered baloon flying some 1600 feet above the ground.

Aerial photography came to the United States thanks to the work of James Wallace Black a couple of years later. His technique of using hot air balloons provided America with its first looks of Boston from above.

As technology progressed through the film era, the techniques evolved to include things like kites. Kites were being sent up with cameras and fuses to set them off. After World War II the CIA used carrier pigeons with cameras to determine enemy positions.

 

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Well we’ve certainly come a long way in a short period of time. Pictured here is the DJI Phantom 2 Vision +. This and other drones like this have meant that an average person can now take aerial photos that up to now have required an aircraft to obtain. Large scale companies like Amazon want to use devices like these to make deliveries. Hollywood wants to use them for its filmmaking. Government wants in on the act as Fire and Police contemplate these devices for search & rescue missions.

The future of drones remain questionable however. Drone use aka “Radio Controlled” or “Unmanned Aircraft” is facing ever increasing restrictions in the name of the law” and not.

Drone (Unmanned Aerial Devices) are currently banned in all 84 million acres of National Parks. Law enforcement seem to react to these aerial devices in a negative way towards hobbyist like myself even though no laws exists at this time.

On October 27, 2014 the FAA drafted this Notice to Airmen; 4/3621 NOTAM Details. In this they’ve cautioned us drone users against flying too close to stadiums and other sporting events. Specifically the announcement says in part that “…THE FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION (FAA) CLASSIFIES THE AIRSPACE DEFINED IN THIS NOTAM AS ‘NATIONAL DEFENSE AIRSPACE’. ANY PERSON WHO KNOWINGLY OR WILLFULLY VIOLATES THE RULES PERTAINING TO OPERATIONS IN THIS AIRSPACE MAY BE SUBJECT TO CERTAIN CRIMINAL PENALTIES UNDER 49 USC 46307. PILOTS WHO DO NOT ADHERE TO THE FOLLOWING PROCEDURES MAY BE INTERCEPTED, DETAINED AND INTERVIEWED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT/SECURITY PERSONNEL.” An article written by  David Kravets, Navigate a drone too close to a stadium, go to jail can be found at

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/10/navigate-a-drone-too-close-to-a-stadium-go-to-jail/.

My thoughts???

  • It’s too bad for responsible drone owners that idiots have the devices too.
  • Privacy concerns are largely over-blown by folks that over estimate the drone capabilities.
  • Police are people too. To them I’d like to say that it’s okay to be curious about what a drone pilot is doing. Don’t make up rules that don’t exists to discourage this currently lawful activity.
  • The FAA says that legislation is coming in 2015. I hope they make sense and that whatever they come up with, they make it known to the general public. Had a friend not sent me the article mentioned above, I wouldn’t have known about the Stadium restrictions. Not that I would have flown my drone over a crowded stadium anyway.
  • American skies are about to get a little more crowded in the future as drone flight become more common place.

 

 

 

Time Lapse Series

Windy City River Rides

(click image to see YouTube time lapse video)

Windy City River Rides

 

Equipment Used:

  • Canon 70D with Sigma’s 18 – 250mm lens
  • Manfrotto Tripod
  • Intervalometer

The Process:

  • I found a spot in the Chicago area that I thought would have a fair amount of movement. In this case the Chicago River just off of Michigan Ave.
  • I composed my shot and fired off a test shot. A review on the LCD screen would have my making some slight composition adjustments. I noticed some movement on the left side of the frame coming from building window washers. They had to be included. Few clouds in the skies meant that I would not give the sky much of the frame as that movement would be minimal.
  • I checked my focus by using the camera’s “Live View” mode enlarged to its maximum.
  • I turned off the camera’s Auto Focus.
  • I set my camera to take small RAW files just in case I wanted to change white balance in post processing.
  • I set the lens’ Optical Stabilization to on because of my being setup on a bridge that vibrated under heavy traffic.
  • I would also hang a heavy camera bag on the tripod hook for added stability.
  • I set my Intervalometer to begin shooting in 5 seconds. Subsequent shots would occur every 4 seconds.
  • 855 shots later and I’m ready for that digital darkroom.

In the Digital Darkroom

  • Once downloaded to the computer, shots can be imported into Lightroom.
  • Edit one image and “sync” other other shots to the recipe.
  • Export finished shots into iMovie or some other movie making software.
  • Save your finished movie and export to your favorite site or to your computer.

 

Illinois Drone Regulation

On August 28, 2013 Governor Pat Quinn signed into law the Illinois Drone Regulation Bill amidth privacy concerns.

Sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss and  backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the new law requires law enforcement to get a search warrant before they can legally collect information using unmanned drones. This law does not apply to the Department of Homeland Security as they use drone surveillance to deal with terrorist threats.

In the coming years , tens of thousands civilian drones are expected in U.S. skies. Future laws are all but inevitable amidth privacy concerns. One can only hope that future legislation takes a common sense approach.

I have had personal interaction with Chicago law enforcement. They have prohibited me from launching my drone in the downtown area. No mention of law, just that they would not permit me to fly. I did abide by their wishes out of convenience. Though I did feel they were just pushing their weight around rather than enforcing a law. I wondered if they might attach my flight to some other law. Seems to me like Chicago has got much bigger fish to fry. If you’re in the Chicagoland area simply turn on the 10:00 news and you’ll know what I mean.

Lets face it. Legislation is inevitable. For me, a photographer, it could spell doom. I have no interests in spying on people. I have no desire to endanger public safety. I only set out to take photos from a perspective that until now was only available from high platforms or planes. I look for photos of wildlife over water. You get my drift. I’m not a fan of Washington nor any of the other “fund-sucking” municipalities. I would prefer they stay out of of lives and out of our pockets.

 

DJI Phantom 2 Vision +

Having owned DJI’s Phantom 2 Vision + drone for a few months now I must admit that I am pleased. I will refer to it as the Vision + going forward. I got mine by shopping on B&H Photo & Video; keywords “Aerial Imaging Platforms”.

Straight out of the box this drone is just about ready to fly. Simply charge the batteries and install propellers. Through the use of GPS the Vision + is able to hover and return home when in “fail-safe mode”. These guys have flying down and thankfully so. So when I want to concentrate on my photography, the GPS feature allows me to forget about flying long enough to capture the moment. I can’t imagine how they might improve that going forward.

The camera is stabilized during flight using the installed 3-axis gimbal. This will ensure smooth videos even in mildly windy conditions.

A download to your iPhone or Android is required in order to operate the camera over the drone’s built in wifi. Most important about this app is that it allows you to fly in “first person view”. The app will provide you with important information such as altitude, speed, battery life, and the number of satellites it sees to name a few. When you’re done flying the app can be used to view and share video footage or stills.

The Vision + also has it’s own integrated camera capable of taking stills or HD video. Video quality is as good as many of the digital SLR’s on the market today. You might say that the Vision + has an advantage over handheld DSLR’s in that you can avoid camera shake. The 14 mega pixel camera leaves a void with DSLR owners looking for high resolution. Perhaps you get what you pay for is in order. My hope is that as DJI comes out with future models, they remember affordability.

Be sure to check out my aerial photos for some exciting looks through the Vision +!