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Aerial Video Footage of New York Taken By RC Plane 208

Posted by timothy
from the make-friends-in-law-enforcement dept.
kkleiner writes with this fun bit from Singularity Hub: "Expert remote control pilot Raphael 'Trappy' Pirker recently took his 54 inch Zephyr model plane on a harrowing tour of Manhattan and the surrounding area. The best part: his RC vehicle was fitted with a camera that wirelessly transmitted an amazing recording of everything it saw – Pirker was piloting his craft with this visual feed. As you can see in the video, the results were spectacular. The plane looks to be flying within a few feet of buildings and whizzing past bridges with ease. You have to check out around 2:01 when he starts to buzz right by the Statute of Liberty."
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Aerial Video Footage of New York Taken By RC Plane

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  • Scary? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AaxelB (1034884) on Friday December 24, 2010 @12:43AM (#34657754)
    Quite honestly, I'm surprised this didn't cause some sort of panic...
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by DamienRBlack (1165691)
      He notified authorities and had their permission. In fact, I believe they were on site during the fly.
      • Re:Scary? (Score:5, Informative)

        by DamienRBlack (1165691) on Friday December 24, 2010 @12:59AM (#34657818)

        He notified authorities and had their permission. In fact, I believe they were on site during the fly.

        I am wrong about that. Apparently he did not inform the authorities before hand, but they did show up while he was flying, which is why there is some video of authorities on site when the plane landed, leading to my confusion.

        It seems they were alright with everything, apparently no laws were broken.

        • No laws were broken but they thought the'd show up anyway? What is wrong with this country.

          • Re:Scary? (Score:4, Interesting)

            by nospam007 (722110) * on Friday December 24, 2010 @01:55AM (#34658004)

            A pound of Semtex and the fun begins. Cheap missiles to kill politicians always gets the cops running.

          • Re:Scary? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Anubis350 (772791) on Friday December 24, 2010 @02:24AM (#34658086)
            Heh, he apparently was flying from ~3 blocks from my house. The city's emergency command center is only a few blocks away too, on the site of the old red cross building, and of course there's the bridges and lots of traffic on them and the BQE and FDR, plus pedestrians and boats... so it's not surprising that an long range aerial display like this would at least be checked up on. They didn't stop them though, so I'm not really worried about authorities overstepping their boundaries in this case....
          • Re:Scary? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Hognoxious (631665) on Friday December 24, 2010 @02:43AM (#34658152) Homepage Journal

            No laws were broken but they thought the'd show up anyway? What is wrong with this country.

            Cops having a look and checking things out! Where will it end!

            • Re:Scary? (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Kevin108 (760520) on Friday December 24, 2010 @06:57AM (#34658904) Homepage

              Where I live, everybody feels safe because the cops park in front of a statue next to a local college in the middle of downtown. What the cops are actually doing is getting on the school's wi-fi and checking out the college girls coming and going.

              Cops are people too and often they're looking for a way to fuck off and make it look like they're working. They probably just thought the RC plane was cool and talked to the guy about it because of that.

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            The cops show up when something strange is going on because their ostensible job is to keep things running smoothly and when something out of the ordinary is happening it is difficult to estimate its impact. They were probably mainly just looking for turbans.

        • by Mordie (1943326) on Friday December 24, 2010 @01:53AM (#34658000)
          is it just me or has just about everyone glaized over the fact that for the time when these guys were doing this, they were probably having the time of their lives, fuck the authorities, do cool shit with your time.
          • by serbanp (139486) on Friday December 24, 2010 @03:35AM (#34658298)

            I don't mind them doing it, but this is insane, especially when doing it in an area highly sensitized to flying missiles/planes.

            It only takes a few assholes in the government or the legislative to imagine such a plane flying with a dangerous payload (explosives, dirty rad material etc) to ban R/C flying planes, forcing me and so many others who enjoy this hobby to simply stop.

            Think it can't happen? They did it already once with a whole class of model rockets...

            • by bigstrat2003 (1058574) on Friday December 24, 2010 @03:40AM (#34658314)
              That doesn't make this activity insane. That makes the governmental idiots insane.
            • No, it's not insane, it's clever, as it further helps to prove that the gov'ment can't protect Mr. and Mrs. Citizen from every potential 'threat' everywhere, all the time and that you as a citizen need to keep calm and carry on - That plane you see buzzing around the Statue of LIBERTY is probably just a little plane, not some terrorist weapon.
            • Think it can't happen? They did it already once with a whole class of model rockets...

              What class of model rockets might this be? If you are referring to the ATF trying to regulate high power rocket motors as explosives, we took them to court over that, AND WON.

              Sprawling land development, the proliferation of lawyers, and suburban soccer moms are doing a lot more to curb model rocketry than the government these days. It's getting harder to find a large enough open field to fly even A-C motor Estes-type rockets anymore. The days of being allowed to launch at town parks and school football fiel

            • by Triv (181010) on Friday December 24, 2010 @01:51PM (#34660894) Journal

              "I don't mind them doing it, but this is insane, especially when doing it in an area highly sensitized to flying missiles/planes."

              As a New Yorker, can I just say: stop assuming shit about how we feel about 9/11 and 9/11 related things. As a community, we got over the terrorist attack years and years and fucking YEARS ago; it's people from not-here who keep this crap up.

              We're fine with RC geeks. We don't cringe every time a plane flies overhead. We're totally, completely fine with Muslims. Stop, please, just stop making assumptions and taking actions based on how you think we think about something that happened a decade ago, and let it GO, already. Find somebody else's banner to carry.

        • Re:Scary? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Mr. Freeman (933986) on Friday December 24, 2010 @01:59AM (#34658018)
          The sad thing is that I'm not surprised they showed up. People can't even fly an RC plane around without someone calling the cops. The terrorists have won, we're all terrified of everything now.
          • Dear Sirs;

            I am most interested in flying RC planes as a hobby. Please send details, including maximum payload.

            Sincerely

            Mr. O. B. Lada of Chicago

          • by zmollusc (763634)

            We are not 'all terrified of everything now', it is just that a lot of people have got lucrative contracts in security theatre. We *should be* terrified of the slide into a police state.

            • We are not 'all terrified of everything now'

              I've seen quite a few people (but not everyone, of course) that basically stated that they'd be willing to give up their freedoms for a false sense of security. They support things such as the Patriot Act, and also what is happening at airports. I find it truly frightening how many people aren't afraid of a police state and will willingly give up their freedoms to the government in exchange for such petty things.

          • Re:Scary? (Score:5, Informative)

            by clarkkent09 (1104833) on Friday December 24, 2010 @05:20AM (#34658576)

            Umm, a 10 sec google search of some NYC RC hobby message boards tells me that flying RC planes in NYC is actually illegal, as in most cities, except in some specific designated areas. Nothing to do with fear of terrorists, and everything to do with crashing into people, breaking windows, causing car accidents and such.

            • Re:Scary? (Score:5, Informative)

              by minkie (814488) on Friday December 24, 2010 @11:14AM (#34659940)

              The "Advisory Circular" mentioned briefly in the interview video is FAA AC 91-57, "Model Aircraft Operating Standards". You can download a copy of it from http://tinyurl.com/28wko9o [tinyurl.com] . As the "A" in the name implies, ACs are advisory in nature. They do not carry the force of law, but generally if you can show that you've complied with an AC, the FAA is happy.

              It's pretty clear, however, that he didn't comply with several points of the AC. The Verrazano bridge towers are 690 feet tall, and clearly he was above that, so he obviously didn't stay below 400 feet. The reason for the 400 foot limit is because "real" planes are supposed to stay above 500 feet, per 14 CFR 91.119(c). If you stay below 400 and they stay above 500, nobody swaps paint.

              Given the areas and altitudes he flew in, it's unlikely he caused any hazard to jet traffic flying in or out of the three big NYC airports, but there's a lot of low-level seaplane (East River below the 59th street bridge), and helicopter traffic (numerous busy heliports all over the place) in and out of there. A plane like this is essentially invisible to the pilots of those aircraft. "Big sky, small plane" works in your favor here, even more so than usual.

              It looks to me like he stayed mostly over water, so I'd guess the hazard to people on the ground was minimal. Although, I don't know what would happen if he had lost radio control. Do these things have some kind of dead man switch which cuts power to the prop if radio signal is lost? If so, then it's hard to imagine doing any kind of major damage.

          • Re:Scary? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Gordonjcp (186804) on Friday December 24, 2010 @05:42AM (#34658634) Homepage

            How do you know that they didn't show up because one of them is into RC models?

            An over-reaction would have been arresting the guy and throwing him in the clink until they could figure out a way to interpret a law in such a way as to say he'd broken it. Simply going and having a look isn't an over-reaction. There are a lot of risks involved in flying model aircraft around a city, and even without "security theatre" it's probably worth checking out what's going on and making sure it's not some twat who's just bought a gigantic model aircraft off eBay and is trying to learn how to fly it in a crowded park ;-)

            • by BLKMGK (34057)

              Yes, they showed up and he let them view the video through the goggles as he buzzed them. Seriously, they were actually cool about it.

              • by Gordonjcp (186804)

                Yes, they showed up and he let them view the video through the goggles as he buzzed them. Seriously, they were actually cool about it.

                Now, if they were smart they'd take a note of his phone number, just in case...

                "Hey, you know that radio-controlled plane you have with the camera? Want to make a contribution to public safety, and a few dollars?"

                Sounds like an awfully handy thing to be able to get your hands on, when you absolutely have to see over that wall *right now*...

          • Of course they showed up, because this is _awesome_. I would have shown up no matter what my job was to check out the cool stuff he was doing.

        • by baKanale (830108)

          ...apparently no laws were broken.

          Since when has that ever stopped the cops?

      • by slick7 (1703596)

        He notified authorities and had their permission. In fact, I believe they were on site during the fly.

        Was DHS invited.

    • by reboot246 (623534)
      Yep, Big Sis (Janet Napolitano) is going to have a cow when she sees this. The Feds will use any excuse nowadays to clamp down on us more and more.
    • by DrXym (126579)
      I expect the panic would be so much greater if you did this on New Year's eve and dropped a flour bomb or two over Times Square. Probably dozens of people would be killed in the stampede that resulted from your "anthrax" attack.
      • You wouldn't even need a RC plane. Just drop some bags of flour (or any other suitably legal fine white powder)from a building. Put a lit firecracker or something else that will cause the bag to burst well over the heads of the partiers. Someone is bound to panic and start the mob running away from the flour. At the very least you will get the police involved and have a lot of explaining to do (if you are caught.)
    • by Urkki (668283)

      Quite honestly, I'm surprised this didn't cause some sort of panic...

      It's only matter of time before terrorists get their hands on miniature false vacuum destabilizer bomb [wikipedia.org], attach one to an RC plane, fly it to the Wall Street, and destroy our universe.

      Time to panic is now, because when they eventually pull that off, you'll just cease to exist with no time to panic.

    • Re:Scary? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by N Monkey (313423) on Friday December 24, 2010 @07:01AM (#34658916)

      Quite honestly, I'm surprised this didn't cause some sort of panic...

      Well, if it had been done with this RC plane [youtube.com], I think it certainly would have!

    • You mean, your surprised CNN/FOX/MSNBC didn't exaggerate/misrepresent the situation and concoct a panic to increase ratings.
    • by cheekyboy (598084)

      jeez, how much left over LCD have americans consumed? Are they that clinicly insane and paranoid ? Seriously!!!

      Is America full of insane zombies?

      Btw, their plane and tech behind it is really cool, im sure a lot of scientists would love to use it for documentaries.

  • by ZDRuX (1010435)
    Who wants to bet the DHS will is already at his house taking him into custody as a potential terrorrist suspect of at least some made up charge of "engaging in terrorist-like activies that may help promote terrorism" or some other shit like that?
    • I think the phrase you're looking for is "weapons of mass destruction related program activities."

    • Re:DHS (Score:4, Interesting)

      by plopez (54068) on Friday December 24, 2010 @01:47AM (#34657978) Journal

      How about "engaging in activities which might someday possibly give someone an idea about engaging in an activity which could lead to someone imagining they could use the information to sort of create a rumor of potential terrorist activity". Let me translate, it means "we have to do something to show that the obscene budget of our department and the pork we shovel to the security companies we contract with is justified in the face of budget cuts." HTH HAND.

    • Actually with his piloting skills, they should be hiring him to train soldiers on drone flight.

  • Ars Technica (Score:4, Informative)

    by adamdoyle (1665063) on Friday December 24, 2010 @12:51AM (#34657792)
  • More Details here... (Score:5, Informative)

    by stockard (1431131) on Friday December 24, 2010 @12:54AM (#34657798)
    According to this earlier article [avweb.com], the police and TSA talked to him, but surprisingly didn't charge him with anything. He said they were "more curious than confrontational."
    • by nanospook (521118) on Friday December 24, 2010 @01:27AM (#34657892)
      Watching the footage, it appeared he stayed out of downtown Manhattan and stuck to the surrounding water front and buildings. He might have received a different response if he was buzzing Time Square..
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jack2000 (1178961)
        What are you people? MAD? It's an RC plane, It's a toy, it's a remote controlled piece of plastic and foam.
        Terrorism? I'd be more scared of the loonies living in America right now than the damn terrorists.
        • by Adrian Lopez (2615) on Friday December 24, 2010 @02:06AM (#34658040) Homepage

          Actually, people have been killed by RC planes and helicopters. They may look like toys, but except for the ones that are literally sold as children's toys they should always be flown with caution.

        • It's an RC plane, It's a toy, it's a remote controlled piece of plastic and foam.

          It all depends: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmKdA6L_MWk [youtube.com]

        • How many stories have there been where photographers have been arrested because they have a DSL camera taking pictures of landmarks.

          The RC doesn't have to be a weapon, it could just be about large scale surveillance either before an attack or during one of those armed gang rampage attacks which seem to be becoming more popular compared to just a suicide bomb.

          It doesn't even have to be terrorist, good old fashioned bank robbers would kill (hopefully not literaly) to get that sort of intel during a robbery.
        • by daid303 (843777)

          No large amounts of plastic to be found in real RC planes.

          Cheaper ones are made of balsa wood, expensive ones of carbon fiber.

          Look at this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0zpvckToZ0 [youtube.com]
          The distance they fly is 150 meter, 4 times, speed at which they fly, well over 100km/h. Weight of the plane, around a kilo. If you would get hit by these on it's final run you would end up in the hospital, if you are lucky. There are strict rules during these competitions, and getting to close to the crowd during these runs is

    • Let me guess, they are just as scared of you as you are of them?
    • I'm glad they didn't stop him, but I'm also surprised. This has more terrorist potential than a lot of things that are being stopped (like photographing in some locations).

      Don't get me wrong, I really want people to be able to do this sort of cool stuff, provided that some reasonable safety rules are followed. I'm just (pleasantly) surprised that he wasn't stopped by a knee-jerk security response.

      This does point the way to some potentially quite dangerous technologies. OTOH if we banned doing things because

  • by bronney (638318) on Friday December 24, 2010 @01:10AM (#34657844) Homepage

    There is a danger to it, as this video illustrate but that's before I got my 2.4GHz Tx.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtN1AtShkk0 [youtube.com]

    Here's one closer to buildings :)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrWyOJmEvY4 [youtube.com]

    I don't do FPV either, too scary not seeing the plane :) I fly it until it's a pixel in the sky, and before I do that I made sure I master orientation of a pixel object in the simulator first.

  • Nice... but (Score:4, Insightful)

    by countertrolling (1585477) on Friday December 24, 2010 @01:16AM (#34657864) Journal

    Way to many edits. Destroyed the flow

  • ...there was a perfectly timed Estes model rocket. My money's on the rocket.

  • LOL What's a...

    "Statute of Liberty"

    Is that a statute about liberty?

    How does one buzz it?

    Did he just print it out, and fly his plane over it? If so, that seems like something anyone could do.

    • by srussia (884021)

      Is that a statute about liberty?

      How does one buzz it?

      Did he just print it out, and fly his plane over it? If so, that seems like something anyone could do.

      Yes, something about "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". Judging from the concerns voiced in the comments, he definitely buzzed it.

    • How does one buzz it?

      You post it to Google Buzz?

  • ...for infringing people's privacy, a la Google Street View.
  • Guess he'll be getting a DARPA contract soon. Amazing that he was able to do that with all the lag involved (assuming that there was lag).

  • ...in Ramadi in 2005-2006.

    You have to get airspace clearance just like every other aircraft, I don't think this guy did.

    • by Sparr0 (451780)

      You don't need airspace clearance to fly a model in most classifications of airspace. General rule of thumb is don't fly over any airports or military bases. I've gotten visits for flying inside an army base's radar coverage, but they were just curious.

  • Argh! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Phoenix666 (184391) on Friday December 24, 2010 @02:24AM (#34658084)

    What sheep Americans have become! A guy does a cool, harmless thing like fly a model airplane over the East River and suddenly everybody on this board is biting their fingernails about whether the government will *allow* us to do such a thing. The government does not *allow* us to do anything; in this country, it's what we, the People, allow the government to do that's important. We allow them do very specific, limited things at our sufferance. Everything else we do at our pleasure and the government can fuck off if it doesn't like it.

    • Re:Argh! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Friday December 24, 2010 @02:38AM (#34658128)

      I like your version of reality better than the one I live in. I'd sign up in a heartbeat if I felt you could deliver. :(

      -FL

    • by imidan (559239)

      Okay, so I'm looking at this article with 39 responses, including those beyond my threshold. I can assure you that 'everyone on this board' is not fretting about the government allowing us to fly model airplanes. We seem to be responding pretty normally, really. A lot of people are saying how cool it is, some people are saying 'how could he do that?', and the rest are saying 'that's dumb'. It actually looks like a pretty good bell curve, to me.

      It seems that you're the sheep: the guy who insists that eve

  • Cool, however... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by virgnarus (1949790) on Friday December 24, 2010 @02:33AM (#34658120)
    FPV (First Person View) RC flying has been starting to become trendy in the past few years and this isn't very different from what has been done in the past. There have been flights that have extended at further ranges with more daring stunts in public areas. Though, what is special about this is particular video is it was shot in the US, which makes FPV practically illegal with the amount of restrictions they place on it. It's the equivalent of permitting one to carry a firearm as long as long as it's bright orange, muzzle-loaded. has "REAL GUN" printed on the sides, shoots blanks and can only be aimed at certified targets in licensed shooting ranges. Anyways, I'd highly recommend anyone to go and take a gander at certain videos on youtube with the name "FPV" and discover a lot on what this awesome hobby has to deliver.
  • "Harrowing?" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AxeTheMax (1163705) on Friday December 24, 2010 @03:44AM (#34658326)
    How was this incident "harrowing"? Was the land surface of Manhattan torn up to several inches deep? Were people's feelings deeply and permanently hurt by this flight? Or is this another journalist using a long word that he/she does not actually have any idea of the meaning of but thinks it makes them sound good?

    See http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/harrow [reference.com]
  • by bytesex (112972) on Friday December 24, 2010 @03:51AM (#34658370) Homepage

    The guy may understand flying, but he sure as hell doesn't understand cutting footage into a comprehensive, watchable piece of film

  • to make sure the plane would not fall on innocent people in the case of failure

    Huh. How could he possibly tell who's innocent at that distance?

  • I'm going to go against the general concensus and say that I wasn't at all impressed. The idea itself is cool, and has a huge amount of potential, but the execution was poor. The choice of lens is too wide (don't use wide angle when you're going to be panning / tilting), the camera has part of the plane in shot (again due to the lens being too wide), and apparently there was nothing done to avoid rain drops on the lens (would have been easier to avoid with a less-wide lens). Honestly, nearly everything that

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