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Sochi Drones Are Shooting the Olympics, Not Terrorists 108

Posted by samzenpus
from the target-aquired dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Rachel Feltman reports that drones are being used to film ski and snowboarding events at the Winter Olympics in Sochi and unlike military drones, which often look like a remote-controlled airplane, the creature floating around Sochi resembles a huge flying spider. The legs of the flying spider hold the rotors that spin around to keep it airborne. The drone then has a flight deck that holds the flight control system with GPS for navigation, sensors and receivers. The camera can be mounted in the middle or suspended below the flight deck. A drone with mounted camera can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to $37,000 for a top-of-the-line Ikarus from Britain's Heliguy, which is advising broadcast clients in Sochi on using drones. That compares with the cost of a few thousand dollars an hour to rent a helicopter with pilot, not including the camera crew and equipment. Cameraman Remo Masina says he can fly a drone at up to 40 mph while transmitting a high-definition, live image and says the chances of drone crashes are close to zero when a drone is handled by an experienced pilot, because the drones are programmed to return to base at the slightest problem — such as a low battery, rough winds or a malfunction. 'There have been mishaps, however. In one case last year, a drone filming an imitation version of Spain's running of the bulls in Virginia crashed and injured a few spectators.'"
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Sochi Drones Are Shooting the Olympics, Not Terrorists

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  • by darkain (749283) on Friday February 21, 2014 @06:07AM (#46302809) Homepage

    So the cost of PURCHASING a drone is about the same as RENTING a helicopter for the same time? With the drone, of course, being re-usable, and creating significantly less impact when comparing the results of a potential crash, and can get much MUCH closer to the action.

    This is seriously the best of all worlds. Now if only we can get away from the mainstream stigma of the term "Drone", such as going back to the term UAV instead? Really, the only down-side is ignorant media perception of these devices.

    • Re:No Brainer (Score:5, Interesting)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday February 21, 2014 @06:34AM (#46302879) Journal
      I find the use of the term 'drone' rather irksome because the vast majority aren't actually very automated(quadcopters and similar obviously have automated stability control, and some of the fancy ones can be handed a set of waypoints and told to make it so; but 'autonomy' is presently the realm of short-term, safety-enclosed lab environments).

      That said, I'm not sure rebranding is going to save them. This isn't a situation like NMR/MRI, where 'nuclear' is a scary word; but basically everyone is 100% onboard with better diagnostic imaging. This is a situation where the capabilities that used to require the budget for a helicopter or fixed wing aircraft and crew are falling rapidly in cost, and increasing rapidly in bang-per-buck. If somebody has preexisting suspicions of any aircraft user, or would-be aircraft user, they aren't going to be entirely pleased to hear that the people they don't trust can now do whatever it is they wish to do for less money, and thus more often and in more places, along with groups that previously didn't have access to aircraft getting in on the action.

      Precisely because the value proposition is so compelling, drones don't really need the PR boost, they'll be adopted one way or another just because they are so useful; but it's simply a fact, independent of their name, that they are so, so, very useful to a variety of groups that just don't have a warm and fuzzy reputation.
      • Re:No Brainer (Score:4, Informative)

        by Sockatume (732728) on Friday February 21, 2014 @06:48AM (#46302903)

        I'm pretty sure that "drone" to mean "remote-controlled military aircraft" predates the sense of "autonomous military aircraft". That was the usage in my old flight sim manuals in the '90s at any rate. The terminology is correct here, the issue is that public perception that drones are autonomous has built up a second meaning in direct conflict with the first.

        • I'm definitely no military historian; but my understanding is that the desire for practice targets somewhat less dangerous than sending up a manned aircraft to drag a target at a (hopefull) safe distance existed at least in theory back to the dawn of the 20th century, and practical models were being built and shot at somewhere in the late '40s/early '50s at the latest(just on general principle, I'm going to assume that the Nazis came up with a scary-advanced one; but had resources enough to only build a pro
          • by Sockatume (732728)

            I found an about.com article that attributes it to the stripe patterning of those early training aircraft, but obviously that's not much to go on.

          • If you think that a drone is an unproductive parasite, I invite you to remove all the drones from a bee colony and see how long you get honey.

            I don't know if the OED would be as much help on where the military adoption comes from as a good military history would, but I can hazard a crude guess. Here goes:

            The roots of the word "drone" seem to be more about making a continuous monotonous noise rather than specifically about the alleged productivity of male bees. In that sense, an automated noise-making vehicl

            • by Sockatume (732728)

              You're confusing drones with worker bees; their purpose is to breed, not to make honey. Hence its usage in English as a term for a slacker.

              • You're confusing drones with worker bees; their purpose is to breed, not to make honey. Hence its usage in English as a term for a slacker.

                Which says something about human perceptions, when the quantity of the work you do is more important than whether or not it's essential to the survival of the species.

                • by Sockatume (732728)

                  I think you're reading too much into a flippant figure of speech that likens an unproductive (to the beekeper) bee to an unproductive (to his boss) worker.

            • The drone is obviously vital to bees in the long term; but aside from mating, it takes no part in the productive activities of the hive (and, if memory serves, a queen bee needs mate only very infrequently, so each drone won't even be required to do prodigious... service along these lines.)
            • by expatriot (903070)

              The roots of drone are the male bee, then to unproductive parasite (not making honey), then to the sound that these bees made.

              there are two paths to the modern usage: drone as parasite, and the drone sound of a plane.

              A target drone would be a mix of the two being non-productive as a war ship and sounding like a plane.

              As the drone targets were at least partially on auto pilot, the drones that were "productive" as war ships kept the same name.

              • The roots of drone are the male bee, then to unproductive parasite (not making honey), then to the sound that these bees made.

                there are two paths to the modern usage: drone as parasite, and the drone sound of a plane.

                A target drone would be a mix of the two being non-productive as a war ship and sounding like a plane.

                As the drone targets were at least partially on auto pilot, the drones that were "productive" as war ships kept the same name.

                You found a different dictionary than I did, then, because the predecessor words listed for "drone" in mine were all relating to sound. Implying that the bee got its appellation from the noise it made (perhaps all buzz, no honey).

      • by rvw (755107)

        That said, I'm not sure rebranding is going to save them. This isn't a situation like NMR/MRI, where 'nuclear' is a scary word; but basically everyone is 100% onboard with better diagnostic imaging.

        Totally offtopic: Reading your comment, along the lines of the medical branding. They should rebrand AIDS (Auto Immune Disease Syndrome) to Autoimmune Disease Syndrome: ADS! See how that would fit the situation a lot better?

      • by thegarbz (1787294)

        I find the use of the term 'drone' rather irksome because the vast majority aren't actually very automated(quadcopters and similar obviously have automated stability control, and some of the fancy ones can be handed a set of waypoints and told to make it so; but 'autonomy' is presently the realm of short-term, safety-enclosed lab environments).

        Actually some of the BASIC ones have waypoint control including directional control and guiding for cameras and gimbals, automatic return to home functions, and event driven missions such as "fly in this circle taking pictures in this direction here, here, here and here until the battery gets to 10%". Short of loading on a copy of skynet what makes these drones any less autonomous than any other proper use of the word drone?

        Oh and I really mean basic ones. TFS says drones start at several thousand, but all

        • by tsqr (808554)

          TFS says drones start at several thousand, but all the above features can be had in a single pre-packaged unit that can be had for $600.

          Can that $600 model dead-reckon back to home and autoland if it loses both GPS and its control link?

          As to the use of the word "drone", I think we can thank the media for using it to describe anything from a micro-UAV that looks like a hummingbird [wikipedia.org], to a huge stratospheric flier [airforce-technology.com]. Also, has anyone else noticed that an article about a hobby quadcopter is likely to be accompanied by a picture of a Reaper launching a Hellfire missile? That really helps with the public's perception of small UAVs.

          • by thegarbz (1787294)

            Yes. Next question?

            This deserves a longer answer. In the past 2 years every time a commercial company has released a product the DIY community have been quick to adopt the features and merge them into home made devices. Nearly any quadrocopter powered by an Arduino (so the cheapest / most of the flight controllers), with GPS functionality ($25 for the receiver), which can get a loss of signal indication from the receiver (the cheapest receiver I have bought has this but the most expensive doesn't so YMMV),

        • by Chelloveck (14643)

          Actually some of the BASIC ones have waypoint control

          The way you capitalize that makes me think the drones are programmed like...

          10 REM WAYPOINTS IN LAT/LONG ORDER
          20 DATA 43.36,39.43
          30 DATA 43.37,37.44
          40 DATA 43.40,37.39
          50 RESTORE
          60 READ LA,LO
          70 GOSUB 200
          80 READ LA,LO
          90 GOSUB 200
          100 READ LA,LO
          110 GOSUB 200
          120 GOTO 50
          200 REM FLY TO LAT/LONG
          ...

    • by gbjbaanb (229885)

      all it needs is for someone to mount Google Glass on a drone and then all hell will break loose in the media.

      They'd probably ban all drones at that point.

    • They used it mainly to get closer to the action and rolling/panning shots.

      A large copter would blow away snow at anything under 500ft and be too loud and distracting to the athletes.

      It was a great application of multis...

  • The use of helicams is not really new for television. I know that Survivor (a guilty pleasure, flame on) has been using them for years to get sweeping overhead shots that you may believe are from a helicopter. Also, most of the Korean shows that I watch that have outdoor scenes make extensive - perhaps to the point of overdoing it - use of these things.

    I agree they're a great way to get impressive footage for relatively low cost, and it makes sense to use them for sport. Just thought I'd point out this is n

  • by X10 (186866)

    A heading with "shooting", "drones", and "terrorists". That should put /. on the NSA's radar.

  • ... there's always a chance of it coming down in the wrong place no matter how sophisticated. But I'll take being hit by a 10kg electric drone any day over a 1000kg chopper filled with kerosene.

  • Look at that story. It's obviously not the product of an open-minded person. It's just that in today's media-saturated society, in some circles, the word "drone" doesn't mean "aircraft that flies without a pilot". It has a political meaning, and these people just can't see past that. They see the word drone and immediately they think military, because their minds are small. "Wow, look, one that carries a camera, instead! Remarkable! And it's a quadrotor and not a fixed-wing aircraft! I've got to wri

    • by Mikkeles (698461)

      Well, in the military sense, a drone was just a towed (unmanned) target to be blasted away for practice.

      The current actions are just the drone` revenge!

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      I'm not sure I follow. If a remote controlled pilotless aircraft that can be set on a predetermined path and complete it's mission automatically (like the one in the article) isn't a drone, then I don't know what is.

      • The one who wrote it sees the word "drone" and immediately thinks of "Afghanistan" and is shocked to find that the word has another use. Said person considers herself educated and worldly, but in fact lives in a tiny world and has a small mind. Meanwhile the rest of us have this in our daily vocabularies.
    • by Sockatume (732728)

      You obviously didn't read the article, which is a short puff piece about how great and soon-to-be-ubiquitous drones are:

      There are limitations: In many countries, drone regulations are still lagging behind the times, and it might not be clear to a broadcaster that they can be used legally. Then there are concerns about crashes. But with the risks low and potential benefits high, it could be that sports photography will be one of the first uses of drones to go mainstream.

      If you want to complain about the summ

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      Or assuming you refer to the other article, the following is the only part that isn't a bunch of interview answers:

      That drone you might have spotted hovering and zipping around the Sochi Olympic slopes isn't searching for terrorists or protesters hiding behind the fir trees. It's being used to transmit live video of snowboard and ski jump competitions to a screen near you. Unlike military drones, which often look like a remote-controlled airplane, the creature floating around Sochi resembles a huge flying

    • by PPH (736903)

      Yes, but think of the culture. Thanks to FAA regulations, Americans are completely unfamiliar with the commercial versions of these. See a little quad-copter and camera flying around and we must be under attack. Meanwhile, the rest of the world pulls ahead of us technologically developing these for crop monitoring, search and rescue, utility line inspection and a bunch of other applications.

      We are still behaving much like some Amazon tribe seeing its first airplane pass overhead. Shaking our talismans and

  • Huge flying spider eh? That's me on the next train to Nope.

  • A drone with mounted camera can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to $37,000

    This sounds like an article from 5 years ago. I just assembled a quadrocopter with HD video recording on a brushless DC gimbal + GPS + advanced flight controller for about $800. Entry level video ones start from around $350.

    • by azaana (1444353)
      Digital media giant cameras still cost a dam site more than your consumer HD video cam then theres the survive X windspeed, X amount of snow, etc stability of shot with only X shake dont forget the other costs which go with building something then add the mark up so the company makes a proffit and $37000 sounds quite cheap.
      • by thegarbz (1787294)

        I was not questioning the upper bounds. It's the lower bounds which are way off the mark. I also didn't try to imply that you will get ESPN quality production with a $500 drone.

  • RC Helicopter or Multicopter but not Drone! If you talk to just about anyone that builds flys or develops small flying RC aircraft we don't use the word 'drone'.
    They do resemble drones to the general public but they are not militarized hardware and that is were the term drone came from. We have never used the term drone on our normal biplanes, piper cubs or swizzle sticks, helicopters, etc in the RC clubs. The only time the word drone come up is when someone was someone had a model military plane that some
  • In Soviet Russia Drone Shoots You!

  • "That compares with the cost of a few thousand dollars an hour to rent a helicopter with pilot"

    Bell LongRanger with pilot $1300/hr
    Bell JetRanger with pilot $980/hr
    Robinson R44 with pilot $650/hr
    Robinson R22 with pilot $300/hr

    A few thousand an hour? PUHLEAZE.

    E (a real live helicopter pilot)

    • by Nidi62 (1525137)
      Yeah, but this is in Russia. How much does it cost to rent a Hind?(And how much extra for the weapons pod?)
  • I hope they don't build one called "Challenger."
  • It makes me feel better knowing it's not terrorists who are shooting the Olympics.

    • That headline confused the fuck out of me for a while. A pun on the word shooting? Cameras shoot film. Terrorists shoot people. Or drones are shooting people instead of terrorists. Or the drones are the ones responsible for shooting people, and the terrorists did nothing of the sort. Finally I realized that it's saying "Drones are not terrorists. They're filming the olympics."

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not "Eureka!" (I found it!) but "That's funny ..." -- Isaac Asimov

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