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The Military United States Technology

When Drones Fall From the Sky 97

Posted by Soulskill
from the gods-must-be-crazy dept.
schwit1 sends this report on the perils of imperfect drone technology: "More than 400 large U.S. military drones have crashed in major accidents around the world since 2001, a record of calamity that exposes the potential dangers of throwing open American skies to drone traffic, according to a year-long Washington Post investigation. Since the outbreak of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, military drones have malfunctioned in myriad ways, plummeting from the sky because of mechanical breakdowns, human error, bad weather and other reasons, according to more than 50,000 pages of accident investigation reports and other records obtained by The Post under the Freedom of Information Act.

Commercial drone flights are set to become a widespread reality in the United States, starting next year, under a 2012 law passed by Congress. Drone flights by law enforcement agencies and the military, which already occur on a limited basis, are projected to surge. The documents obtained by The Post detail scores of previously unreported crashes involving remotely controlled aircraft, challenging the federal government’s assurances that drones will be able to fly safely over populated areas and in the same airspace as passenger planes."
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When Drones Fall From the Sky

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  • Nonsense. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 21, 2014 @09:43AM (#47288453)

    More BS from people against the emerging corporate police state. They are just desperate to go back to the days of freedom and privacy. Those days are OVER and are never coming back.

    • Hiel Hitler! Ironic that Germany has the functioning democracy now days huh?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It is important to regulate drones, not stop them. From what I'm reading drone related problems are being misdiagnosed as an issue with the hardware. It seems obvious that it's more due to the irresponsible nature of how they are deployed.

    Drone related problems that are mechanical in nature is related to carelessness of the producers and owners based on the conditions which they are deployed. Without humans aboard, drones are being deployed without thorough safety regulations being enforced since there is n

    • Yeah, 'cause when only police state approved personnel pilots them it's going to get much safer. After all they are flawless, not prone to human error and have a private agreement with God concerning the weather.

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        After all they are flawless, not prone to human error and have a private agreement with God concerning the weather.

        Well, they are raised in vats, and specifically bred for blind obedience and ruthlessness, not to mention enhanced human reflexes.

        Should be no problem.

    • Oh blow some more smoke up my ass with these naive "safety measures", "regulating drones", "areas such as Afganistan." Drones are used today, in areas such as US of A, against citizens who have been declared witches.

      By the way next time you feel there is a worm chewing your brain, don't hit the hospital ER, cuz they'll laugh you in the face and tell you to lay off the crack, cuz you're hallucinating. You go there more than once, they take you to the nuthouse and, like good samaritans, help you out by hol
  • by SpankiMonki (3493987) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @10:07AM (#47288551)
    Big deal. I'm sure the ones soon to be used by businesses and local law enforcement will be much more safe & reliable, because they will be produced in a competitive market environment (instead of by government contract) by 3D printers.
    • Big deal. I'm sure the ones soon to be used by businesses and local law enforcement will be much more safe & reliable, because they will be produced in a competitive market environment (instead of by government contract) by 3D printers.

      Oh gosh, it took me a second to detect the sarcasm in that statement. At first I thought, "no way - local law enforcement and safe. - LAPD drones???" But then there was that bold marker for pure sarcasm: competitive market environment hehehehe

  • A 50,000 page report packs a whallop. Whether it is read or not. Keep these people away from hadoop, they might crash the cluster.
    I feel a little embarrassed by being shocked by this. Did anyone else have a wtf moment? Or should i go back to my lawn chair?
  • by MindPrison (864299) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @10:13AM (#47288587) Journal
    ...THEY'RE MINE!

    Those drones cost a lot more than my cheap vanilla toy drones from the local hobby store, so if they dare enter MY territory, and they fall down on my property - they become MY property! Bring'em on!
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Those drones cost a lot more than my cheap vanilla toy drones from the local hobby store, so if they dare enter MY territory, and they fall down on my property - they become MY property! Bring'em on!

      You raise an interesting point. Who owns a 787 that crash lands on your property? What if it's a coastal town's... coast? Can you claim marine salvage rights to it by being the first/last person on the then emptied vessel?

      Back on topic, why not ask for rules under which we, as private citizens, are allowed to film, say, a police officer's funeral or parade march? I don't particularly care if we have harsh laws, as long as they are reciprocal and symmetrical. The problem with power is when it is one sided.

    • by Deadstick (535032)

      That vibration you feel is your lawyer trembling with anticipation of a paycheck.

  • Terminology? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @10:17AM (#47288601)
    The problem I have with 'drone' is there isn't a clear definition of what a 'drone' is.

    A thousand-kilogram General Atomics MQ-1 Predator raining freedom (via Hellfire missiles) down upon terrorists is a 'drone' as is one-kilo quadcopter taking webcam pictures of some housing development.

    Back in my day, the former was a 'drone' and the latter was a 'remote controlled plane.'
    • by Trepidity (597)

      The latter is still really a remote-controlled plane. I think the "maker culture" people have taken to using grandiose names in order to make it look like they have more advanced tech than they do. "I 3d-printed a remote-control plane" doesn't have the same ring to it as "I 3d-printed a drone".

      • by Rei (128717)

        I'd say that the latter deserves the term "drone" more, and the former deserves the term "remote controlled airplane". Drone, to me, invokes "flying craft that does some mindless task repetitively, largely on its own, typically involving both free flight between locations and hover or slow movements at the destination.". "Remote controlled airplane" invokes... well, first, *airplane* (which a quadcopter is not), and beyond that, "with continual operation by an operator, with continuous motion (no hovering)"

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          I'd say that the latter deserves the term "drone" more, and the former deserves the term "remote controlled airplane".

          they're both drones. the predator can accomplish some mission objectives autonomously.

          • by ScentCone (795499)

            they're both drones. the predator can accomplish some mission objectives autonomously

            As can cheap retail multi-rotors. Complex ground-side mission planning and completely autonomous flights from take to landing.

            They're all drones, and no matter what we all think, that's the media term now and there's no escape. So, we just need to run with it.

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        The latter is still really a remote-controlled plane. I think the "maker culture" people have taken to using grandiose names in order to make it look like they have more advanced tech than they do. "I 3d-printed a remote-control plane" doesn't have the same ring to it as "I 3d-printed a drone".

        The problem is, the drones that are available to the military are widely varied - from 1-2 lb tiny surveillance ones that are tossed like a paper plane (and they go smaller, too, think toy helicopter, but they're pack

    • by westlake (615356)

      Back in my day, the former was a 'drone' and the latter was a 'remote controlled plane.'

      Back in day, the R/C plane was a flyweight model aircraft, with very little range or endurance in the air, flown over open ground and only within direct line-of-sight of the operator.

  • by NatZi (119253) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @10:22AM (#47288613)

    While drone activists and commercial drone aircraft operators/manufacturers have tried to downplay the numerous problems with drone aircraft use, the facts remain:
    --most of today's drone aircraft are hobbyist-grade devices without significant, controlled testing;
    --major issues remain unresolved (and will worsen if usage increases) related to radio interference;
    --many "hobbist" drones use crowded, common radio spectrum for control (some drones are semi-autonomous or may have basic loss-of-signal processors but again these are largely untested in controlled envionments);
    --it is unclear whether insurers (especially in commercial uses as an insurer defines commercial) will cover the damages from drone aircraft, damages which can be significant including death or property destruction (fires from overheated motors hot enough to melt solder, etc.);
    --with no licensing or registration of drones, it is hard to hold the drone aircraft operator accountable when problems that arise (after all, it's your kid who lost an eye from a drone strike over a playground but hey, the drone operator got away the police say); and
    --the willful violation of the long-standing R/C model aircraft guidelines places R/C model aircraft operator privileges in jeopardy (which is a shame because these hobbyists have decades of responsible operation AWAY from populated areas, AWAY from noise sensitive areas, and AWAY from other aircraft).

    This does not even account for the numerous privacy issues which are equally pressing.

    Thus, looking at the issues posed by drone aircraft (and especially for commercial uses) and failure of the drone aircraft industry / drone aircraft activists) to take a meaningful lead on these issues, fair and practical regulations of drones are needed from both the FAA and the FCC such as testing of drone aircraft and components, radio spectrum limits, licensing of pilots, required training, mandatory liability coverage, drone aircraft inspections and certifications, and drone aircraft registration. No one says drones cannot be operated at all; but if operated, people need adequate protections and assurances just as with any other aircraft. That is common sense.

    • by PPH (736903)

      most of today's drone aircraft are hobbyist-grade devices without significant, controlled testing;

      Right. But thisis due in large part to the FAA's regulations against commercial use. So there is no money in drone development, safety testing and certification, allocation of dedicated control frequencies, etc. If you want drone manufacturers to make the sorts of investments in technology, there will have to be demand that goes beyond the hobby budget user base.

      Perhaps it would have been better to allow some commercial uses in non-controlled airspaces in rural areas. For applications like utility corridor

    • by Virtucon (127420)

      Back in the CB Radio [wikipedia.org] days we had linear amplifiers. Of course amps weren't "legal" but then I guess having a 50 foot tower with a Moonraker 4 [palcoelectronics.com] wasn't too kosher either. I had a 2KW boomer in my truck and it could make fluorescent lights at gas stations light up. I think for these little pests it's time to dig out the old Cobra Base Station, the D104 and the old boomer with the appropriate dead load and make a few gnats fall out of the skies. 10-4 good buddy.

      • by Deadstick (535032)

        Ummm, you're aware you're talking about a 27MHz SSB-AM system interfering with a 2.4 GHz spread-spectrum PCM system, right?

        • by Virtucon (127420)

          Dude, this was in the 70s fuck the 2.4Ghz spectrum, bleeding all over all frequencies was awesome.

          • You do realize that the newer systems simply autoland when they lose control, and that new thing with GPS will simply move to dead hover until the RF interference passes.

            Meanwhile, as you obliterate parts of the cellband nearby, the FCC is going to be pretty highly motivated to find you.

            • by Virtucon (127420)

              Sophisticated ones yes, probably do that. The run of the mill annoy everybody buzz whigmagig will fall like a dove during hunting season. If you pump enough RF power at something it'll loose control signal or fry, it's easy enough to do just like peeps in a microwave.

              Also, this was the 70s and despite what we think about the FCC they're not the brightest bunch out there. You can still buy linear amps for Ham Radio configuration it's just that the guy selling them doesn't know if it's going on a Ham or CB

      • by Nethead (1563)

        Yeah, we had a yahoo like that drive by our computer shop each day. Would crash all the systems including the phones. Until one of our service techs, Ken, 6'10, 350 lbs caught the yahoo at the stop light and yanked that lin-e-ar right out of his pick-um-up truck, put it under his tire and said, "drive." Last problem we had with said yahoo.

        Oh, and the FCC doesn't really like them yahoos either, and will fine the fuck out of them, given the chance.

        73s, good buddy.

  • and when a drones crashes into an airplane the FAA will come down so hard and then the airlines will sue all party's who owned and controlled that drone and if they any thing left other people hurt / killed in the crash will have people sue as well.

  • by Urkki (668283)

    This story proves how "Skynet" is wise to wait until there are enough robust robotic vehicles to take out all humans, before taking over the world. Another prerequisite is sufficiently autonomous repair systems for energy production etc. So I think the humans still have a few decades to enjoy life, before the inevitable robot apocalypse, and being strafed by military aerial drones, crushed by their own Google cars, electrocuted by their own Google glasses with neural interface, and strangled by their own Go

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      This story proves how "Skynet" is wise to wait until there are enough robust robotic vehicles to take out all humans, before taking over the world. Another prerequisite is sufficiently autonomous repair systems for energy production etc.

      Skynet needs not just self-repair, but also construction automation (grinding up rubble and building walls, fully automated mining, etc) as well as fully automated design, ostensibly with genetic algorithms. Without all that it can't maintain a supply line for its extremely complicated equipment, and will break down or run out in short order. Can't exterminate all the humans while it still needs 'em. I mean, us.

  • One of the things that keeps traditional aircraft pretty safe is that the pilot is inside the plane and is highly motivated not to crash. Perhaps to keep drones safe as well, we should keep the risk with the pilot -- if you crash a drone, the penalty is the same as if you were inside the plane you were remotely piloting (penalty up to and including death).

    The range of penalties would of course need to be scaled to the size of the drone -- a toy quad-copter is not the same as a Predator, but the point is th
    • by Wycliffe (116160)

      Perhaps to keep drones safe as well, we should keep the risk with the pilot -- if you crash a drone, the penalty is the same as if you were inside the plane you were remotely piloting (penalty up to and including death).

      The pilot needs to be on the hook, not the company employing the pilot, the manufacturer of the drone, or anyone else.

      Yeah, that'll work for about a year until amazon runs out of minimum wage employees to pilot their drones because they've all been sentenced to death.

  • "a record of calamity that exposes the potential dangers of throwing open American skies to drone traffic,"

    And not a calamity in other countries?

  • Weapons of war are not operated nor expected to have the same safety features as drones for civilian uses. There is also no mention of the size or weight of drones that have crashed. Many of these four hundred might have been a few ounces and fallen at very low speeds or fallen while being under heavy fire. I'll bet that in the US people flying hobby drones inside their homes have suffered some minor injuries as it is a common hobby. But is there even a single incident within the US of any dr
    • by Virtucon (127420)

      Drones for Military purposes = good Drones flying over my house because of some nosy fucking neighbor or the local police are sniffing around for something going on = bad.

      There's very few vestiges of privacy anymore and all these fucking drones overhead are another way to fuck with you.

  • I just want to see a video from a drone that got too close to a tornado.

  • by Virtucon (127420) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @11:40AM (#47288921)

    I can go buy that old Soviet era S-75 system [wikipedia.org] and put it in my front yard. The only question is can I attach it to my garden hose? Wait, I wonder if I have to get my HOA to approve that first?

  • I wonder if the rate of crashes has changed since 2001. I'll betcha the technology and pilot skills have increased significantly since then. For sure, there are different models of UAVs flying now than there were in 2001.
  • by clovis (4684) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @12:28PM (#47289123)

    I read the article, and I don't see any mention of how many drones were shot down or hit by gunfire. I don't know for sure, but I bet the drones in Afghanistan get shot at a lot, and I admit that will continue to be a problem in the United States.

    The article says the US military has about 10,000 drones and 400 from 2001 through 2013 means about 40 or less a year are lost. And that's while being shot at. What would be the failure rate of a Lexus if they were shot at every day while driving around?

    It said about a quarter of these are lost in the USA, but it doesn't mention if these are lost in product testing or training - situations known to cause high losses.

    • "Since the outbreak of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, military drones have malfunctioned in myriad ways, plummeting from the sky because of mechanical breakdowns, human error, bad weather and other reasons"

      Adding the non-descript "and other reasons" means they have covered their based, but somehow I doubt that mechanical breakdowns, human error, and bad weather account for the causes of most military drone failures in an active combat zone. This is a variant of the age old "statistics don't lie, but l
    • by avgapon (1851536)
      I don't think that they get shot down a lot.
    • by not5150 (732114) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @04:22PM (#47289897)

      "What would be the failure rate of a Lexus if they were shot at every day while driving around?" - We could probably ask the people in Detroit.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Your missing the emerging press spin of the wealth of production, wealth of working with new crews, wealth of keeping the systems flying, upgrades. Diverse sales to cities, states and federal agencies. The rush from prototypes to profitable production line sales. A lot of political and private sector interests in seeing drones flying and been worked on as an ongoing pubic/private boondoggle.
      Deep in local or tech news you can find 'events'
      How a Large U.S. Navy UAV Crashed in Maryland, From 18,000 Feet
    • I am unsure if you have ever seen footage from a military drone in Afghanistan. I have, and I can guarantee you that there is zero chance of a bullet being fired at one and it getting hit. The missiles and such are fired from a mile or more away usually. The targets have absolutely no idea at all what is about to hit them. One second, the target is driving around thinking about how to murder people in the next village and the next second, they are pieces of meat. Occasionally, a missile will not hit close e

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