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Technology

Drone Crashes, Missing Champion Skier By Inches (cnn.com) 148

HughPickens.com writes: NBC reports that defending World Cup champion Marcel Hirscher, who won silver in the slalom at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, had a lucky escape after he narrowly avoided being hit by a falling drone. Hirscher was on his second run in a World Cup slalom race at Madonna di Campiglio in Italy when a remote-controlled drone with a mounted camera slammed down on the piste inches behind him. "This is horrible," Hirscher said after the event. "This can never happen again. This can be a serious injury." The International Ski Federation (FIS) released a statement on its website apologizing for the "unfortunate accident." But some saw the lighter side announcing that the drone wars had shifted to the ski slopes. "Man, I'd watch a lot more winter sports if this was a standard part of the game," tweeted Marc Andreessen. The company responsible for the drone, sports marketing agency Infront, said its initial investigation "indicates a malfunction of the drone." "The most likely reason is a strong and unforeseen interference on the operating frequency, leading to limited operability," Infront said in a statement. "The pilot followed the official security procedure, purposely flying the drone as close as possible to the ground before releasing it. The aim was to destroy the drone, in order to prevent it from losing control."
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Drone Crashes, Missing Champion Skier By Inches

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  • Grammar please (Score:2, Interesting)

    I first read the headline like: Missing champion skier inches near crashed drone, as if it was a search and rescue drone that crashed while looking for him.

    • Re:Grammar please (Score:5, Informative)

      by shione ( 666388 ) on Wednesday December 23, 2015 @11:20PM (#51176589) Journal

      Agreed, "Out of control drone narrowly misses chamion skier" would have been a much better title.

      And the "inches" is just sensationalism. In the video you can see the drone missed him by at least a few feet.

      • The drone was running windows 10
      • by ls671 ( 1122017 )

        Agreed, "Out of control drone narrowly misses chamion skier" would have been a much better title.

        Or maybe: "Hacked drone narrowly misses champion skier"

        TFS:

        The most likely reason is a strong and unforeseen interference on the operating frequency, leading to limited operability...

        1) hack grandma computer
        2) hack nuclear plant
        3) hack drones

        Not saying it is the case here but we should be made aware of real cases eventually...

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Missing comma, sez I.

      • by drpimp ( 900837 )
        To me it looks let it feel straight out of the sky with the help of good ol' gravity. So "Out of control", while still true, it's probably more likely that the thing ran out of batteries or the pilot forgot to set his fail safe properly. Also there were other headlines that said it nearly killed him.
    • I first read the headline like: Missing champion skier inches near crashed drone,

      All it takes is a comma: Drone Crashes, Missing Champion Skier By Inches. Or a slightly large change: Drone Crashes; Misses Champion Skier By Inches

      • All it takes is a comma:

        Yup. "Lets eat, Grandma" vs "lets eat Grandma".

        • by njnnja ( 2833511 )

          Or the classic comma joke: [corsinet.com]

          A panda walks into a restaurant, sits down and orders a sandwich. After he finishes eating the sandwich, the panda pulls out a gun and shoots the waiter, and then stands up to go. "Hey!" shouts the manager. "Where are you going? You just shot my waiter and you didn't pay for your sandwich!"

          The panda yells back at the manager, "Hey man, I am a PANDA! Look it up!"

          The manager opens his dictionary and sees the following definition for panda: "A tree-dwelling marsupial of Asian origin, characterised by distinct black and white colouring. Eats shoots and leaves."

          Oblig. xkcd [xkcd.com]

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      Simple fix: "Drone Crash Misses Champion Skier By Inches"

      Or

      "Crashing Drone Misses Champion Skier By Inches"

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It probably crashed into a tree or pole.

    > "The most likely reason is a strong and unforeseen interference on the operating frequency, leading to limited operability," Infront said in a statement."

    If they have interference Drones just hover, if the interference lasts too long, they move back to the home point and land. They're automomous, they don't need signal from the ground to fly!

    So that bit sounds like total drivel:

    >"The pilot followed the official security procedure, purposely flying the drone as

  • Bah (Score:5, Funny)

    by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Wednesday December 23, 2015 @11:18PM (#51176579) Homepage Journal

    That champion skier was headed downhill anyways.

  • ..."Man, I'd watch a lot more winter sports if this was a standard part of the game," tweeted Marc Andreessen.

    Netscape or not, he sounds like an idiot with that comment. He wants more possible accidents and injury in winter sports?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    how friggin hard is it to rig cameras on tall stands and use blimps.. ya know.. like they USED TO? technology isn't always the answer... and in many cases it's a bad idea. they've been broadcasting downhill skiing for decades without them... i see no added value to a broadcast using drone-mounted cameras vs traditional fixed cameras at known venues that can be planned-for ahead of time.

    at least the american broadcasters use cables over football stadiums, not drones.. imagine a quad--copter complete with hd

  • "a strong and unforeseen interference on the operating frequency"

    Then from what I understand it wasn't a drone but a simple remote controlled aircraft, and not a very good one at that. Even the DJ Phantom drones from what I've heard are rigged with safety fallback so that when the signal from the remote is lost they will us GPS to return to their liftoff point.

    • Re:"Drone"? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by fred911 ( 83970 ) on Wednesday December 23, 2015 @11:34PM (#51176645)

      Did you look at the picture? What crashed was nothing close to con/prosumer equipment. What crashed was significantly more expensive, had significantly more lift and better optics than the DJI Inspire. I'd have to call BS if there weren't as advanced flight control systems as well as GLONASS/GPS/IR guidance. In the event of no RF control, the copter usually toggles a return to home, dependent upon how it's programmed. It doesn't just stop flying!

        That wasn't a controlled landing, my guess is a power failure or motor issue.

      • by zmooc ( 33175 )

        It was a controlled landing. Protocol is: in case of imminent trouble, destroy drone by crash landing it.

        • Expensive protocol. Especially when autonomous operation is what makes something a drone, so it should have been able to land properly on its own if it wasn't a catastrophic failure.

        • Actually, it's clear that the drone pilot was aiming for something "soft" to cushion the impact of his expensive craft and thus keep damage to it and its expensive camera payload to a minimum. It's just a rumor but someone said they heard him say "damn, missed" in a soto voice just seconds after the impact :-)

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        There is always a kill switch on the controller, intended for those cases where the drone is out of control and at the risk of doing something really stupid. Of course this will cause it to fall out of the sky like a brick, so that has to be better than the alternative. It sounds like it was activated, but the reasons they give why are dubious.

        The company responsible for the drone, sports marketing agency Infront, said its initial investigation "indicates a malfunction of the drone." "The most likely reason is a strong and unforeseen interference on the operating frequency, leading to limited operability," Infront said in a statement. "The pilot followed the official security procedure, purposely flying the drone as close as possible to the ground before releasing it. The aim was to destroy the drone, in order to prevent it from losing control."

        If there was interference, then the return to home option would be the sanest assuming they had set it up properly. But assuming the drone started at the top and foll

        • "There is always a kill switch on the controller, intended for those cases where the drone is out of control and at the risk of doing something really stupid. Of course this will cause it to fall out of the sky like a brick, so that has to be better than the alternative. It sounds like it was activated, but the reasons they give why are dubious."

          What utter twaddle! Written by someone who clearly operates on the basis that "I don't need on steenken facts! I'll just make up some to suit my argument".

          And yes

  • by Anonymous Coward

    That thing fell like a rock and missed the skiier by what 0.25 seconds.

    And people wonder why the FAA wants to register drones.
    If a sports company operating (what is likely) a professional drone almost mames someone at the world cup, what do you Jim Bob will do at the county fair.

    And man, those pro drones are really expensive.

    • I agree, they way it crashed, it wasn't flying low when the propellors stopped, it was more like someone just dropped the whole drone from a height without even having it on..
      • I agree, they way it crashed, it wasn't flying low when the propellors stopped, it was more like someone just dropped the whole drone from a height without even having it on..

        More likely a LiPo battery failure in the cold weather (not uncommon). But it could also be as simple as operator error, since it's perfectly possible - through pilot action - to kill the motors while in flight. Just like a professional camera crane operator might accidentally dip the camera down to lobotomy height while shooting at a marathon. Or like the Segway-mounted camera platform that plowed into a world champion sprinter a few months ago. Shit happens, both mechanical and human.

    • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Thursday December 24, 2015 @11:55AM (#51178431)

      And people wonder why the FAA wants to register drones.

      You have no idea what you're talking about.

      The FAA has already banned all commercial use (as seen in the event in question). They then are willing to hand out some waivers, provided the person operating the RC aircraft is an actual certified pilot (as in, legally allowed to climb in a Cessna and fly it around), and many other very severe restrictions.

      The "registration" program is aimed solely at hobby users. As in, people who've just bought their 13 year old daughter a 9-ounce pink plastic toy copter from a mall kiosk. As in those old guys who build balsa-wood scale model airplanes and fly them around in circles at their model airplane club. That's what the FAA you're praising is now requiring. If grandpa doesn't register his 50-year-old balsa wood model, he faces a $20,000 civil fine, an even larger criminal fine, and years in prison.

      If a sports company operating (what is likely) a professional drone almost mames someone at the world cup, what do you Jim Bob will do at the county fair.

      If a professional baker runs into a pedestrian while operating his delivery truck, just THINK what you personally might do with your own truck at the county fair, right? Yeah.

      Regardless, the Obama administration's new toy RC registration scheme is being implemented directly in conflict with the 2012 FMRA law which forbids the FAA from placing any regulatory burden on hobbyists. The administration is getting around this by doing it under the auspices of the Department Of Transportation, instead. You know, because 13 year old Suzy's 9-ounce plastic toy copter is definitely a form of transportation.

      And man, those pro drones are really expensive.

      Yeah, and so is a BMW motorcycle and the $25,000 broadcast camera it's rear-facing passenger is using when getting video of the Tour de France when

      that

      camera platform crashes in and around competitors. No different than the skiing example in the OP.

    • by caseih ( 160668 )

      What a silly comment. How would FAA regulation do anything in a case like this? The quadcopter was owned and operated by a commerical agency. So we already know who the operator is so they could already be fined for reckless behavior or otherwise sanctioned by the sporting organization. As you say, "pro drones" are really expensive so they aren't likely to be used by rank amateur idiots next to the white house or by an airport. How would FAA registration do anything helpful here?

    • Oh yes, if this drone had been registered then it would have floated gently to the ground like an autumn leaf.

      Sigh... what do you *really* think that registration does? Do you think it's a silver bullet that ensures these things fly safely, never crash and are 100% reliable?

      Step right up son, there's a job waiting for you at the FAA!

      The reality is that this was a professional-quality rig that suffered a catastrophic failure and whether it had been registered or not (which probably isn't even a requiremen

  • Jeff Bezos is not able to understand the obvious problems with drones. He thinks Amazon can make deliveries using drones. He didn't think of these problems:

    1) Dog runs from bushes and attacks drone, does damage. Who pays?

    2) Child runs to drone, is hurt. Whose fault?

    3) Drone fails in flight, crashes, kills people, destroys property. Amazon pays more than all profits from drone delivery.

    4) Teenager is in a field trying a BB gun, shoots at drone. Drone crashes. What then?

    5) Someone is testing a
    • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

      Or perhaps he has thought of them, and doesn't think they are unavoidable or unresolvable problems.

      Given that he runs as successful multibillion dollar company, I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    • by Mal-2 ( 675116 )

      4) Teenager is in a field trying a BB gun, shoots at drone. Drone crashes. What then?

      Same as when a teenager drops a rock from an overpass onto someone's windshield, causing them to crash when they can no longer see. The one doing the malicious damage is to blame.

      5) Someone is testing a Tesla coil [google.com] in his garage. The huge sparks emit electromagnetic interference, making communication with the drone impossible. Drone cannot be controlled, destroys property. Who pays?

      The drone should head back toward some pre-defined point, and at a certain distance from the interference it will re-establish communications. I'd be more worried about it colliding with birds than crashing because of welders.

      6) Drone noise and danger reduces the value of houses in a neighborhood. An adjoining county has restrictions against drones; the value of the property there goes up.

      At least in the U.S., it's not within their power to do that. Aviation is a Federal matter, and there is li

      • 4) Teenager is in a field trying a BB gun, shoots at drone. Drone crashes. What then?

        "Same as when a teenager drops a rock from an overpass onto someone's windshield, causing them to crash when they can no longer see. The one doing the malicious damage is to blame."

        I find that, with this subject, I make the mistake of thinking that other people will see the same overall picture that is in my mind.

        One problem with malicious damage to a drone will be proving that there is malicious damage. A BB gun sho

        • by Mal-2 ( 675116 )

          One problem with malicious damage to a drone will be proving that there is malicious damage. A BB gun shot may cause a crash, but will it be obvious that the crash didn't cause a particular small hole?

          I would hope the drone will have multiple cameras pointing in all (downward at least) directions and be constantly transmitting back to the truck that dispatched it for all sorts of good reasons. It doesn't even require a failure of the drone itself, it could just fail to locate the house specified (say someone is using a dead drop to collect items ordered with stolen credit card info, and there isn't even a house on that lot any longer – but it's still a mail-deliverable address), or maybe there's a

    • by whopis ( 465819 ) on Thursday December 24, 2015 @10:36AM (#51178089)

      1) The dog. It will have to come out of his daily allowance of kibbles and bits. I am not sure what the current value of kibble is but as I understand it is 8 bits to the dollar.

      2) The child. The smart ones will not run into spinning propellers. The strong ones may survive. Basically this will serve to weed out the weak and stupid children, leading to a golden age for mankind.

      3) Such an event will cause Amazon to lose money instead of make a profit. Jeff Bezos will point out that during the dot com boom, many people were investing in companies that were losing money because that is a sign they are growing. Amazon then receives record investment money and their stock price soars.

      4) I would imagine that the teenager would then high five his friends, repeatedly say "that was awesome" and eventually find some other distraction.

      5) Who cares? Tesla coils are awesome!

      6) Allowing Amazon to come into the low value area, buy up all the homes to build a new distribution center and begin offering "Amazon Super Prime" services to the rich people in the next county, including 1 hour delivery by person. They will use the newly homeless people in the poor county as their labor supply.

      7) Hopefully he is welding a Tesla Coil because that would be awesome.

        8) Now I have a drone and a Tesla Coil! How awesome is that?

    • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Thursday December 24, 2015 @11:04AM (#51178209)

      1) Dog runs from bushes and attacks drone, does damage. Who pays?

      Dog owner.

      2) Child runs to drone, is hurt. Whose fault?

      Child

      3) Drone fails in flight, crashes, kills people, destroys property. Amazon pays more than all profits from drone delivery.

      Not a question but amazon's fault

      4) Teenager is in a field trying a BB gun, shoots at drone. Drone crashes. What then?

      Teenager at fault.

      5) Someone is testing a Tesla coil [google.com] in his garage. The huge sparks emit electromagnetic interference, making communication with the drone impossible. Drone cannot be controlled, destroys property. Who pays?

      Amazon pays. Failsafe control is part of even the cheapest drones, expect it to be standard.

      6) Drone noise and danger reduces the value of houses in a neighborhood. An adjoining county has restrictions against drones; the value of the property there goes up.

      No one's at fault. Property values are fungible. I highly doubt the value of land would be lower for a several second drone delivery than a delivery truck driving down the road constantly. You can never buy a house and expect stable property value, and if you do then I have a ... house to sell you. It's in a good location, I promise. *wink*

      7) RFI, Radio Frequency Interference: Someone is outside on the street welding something using an electric welder. Electric welding generates interference on ALL frequencies. The drone might receive nothing except noise.

      See #5

      8) Drone is stolen.

      Thief is at fault.

      Look drones are not magical. They are not new or unique. None of what you question is even remotely a legal grey area. If you replace the word drone with person, delivery van, or any other word than the mythical "drone" you find so confusing then all cases are very clear cut. But I'm sure you know the risks better than a multi-national megacorproation which armies of R&D teams, rooms full of bored lawyers and lots of money to throw at the problem

    • This drone delivery thing is just PR to make Amazon look like a futuristic, forward-thinking company. It's not actually going to be used.

      • That's how it seems to me. Jeff Bezos has done that before. He said his company, B.O., Blue Origin, would take tourists into the edge of space, but not into orbit. He has apparently abandoned that idea. Now he is pretending to compete with Elon Musk and SpaceX.

        Quote from an NBC News story about B.O. [nbcnews.com]:

        SpaceX is working to reuse rockets that are returning from the higher altitudes and faster speeds of orbital missions. "It is ... important to clear up the difference between 'space' and 'orbit'," Musk pos
  • Drone indeed (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Jiro ( 131519 )

    Given the circumstances of the apology, it seems obvious that this drone was put there by the FIS and went awry. While a drone that was officially put there by the ski federation is still a drone, the subtext is that the accident proves we must regulate the use of drones by private individuals. If the drone didn't come from a private individual, this subtext is false.

  • 2A (Score:3, Funny)

    by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Wednesday December 23, 2015 @11:42PM (#51176681) Journal

    The only way to stop a bad guy with skis and spandex pants is a good guy with a drone.

  • Those guys likely wouldn't have thought anything of it, as it is the only event with a minimum THC level required to compete.
  • Why are the blades exposed? Shouldn't they be covered with a ring shroud at the edge perimeter of the blades, or a mesh of some sort? In two separate incidences, one toddler was insured [ktla.com] while another lost an eye [dailymail.co.uk].

    • It's not just blades that are the problem. Typical World Cup speeds in racing disciplines are:
      Slalom: 25 mph
      GS: 50 mph
      Super G: 80 mph
      Downhill: 90+ mph

      You tell me if you want to hit a drone or ski over a drone at those speeds, never mind the blades. Drones need to be kept farther away from the racers and should never be directly overhead.

  • I hope you all had a happy solstice! We're continuing the celebration by watching yet more science documentaries! Merry Christmas, everyone, and a happy Gregorian new year!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Sales of Crosman .22 air rifles increase as people get fed up of drones!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      There are no conceivable circumstances where it would be OK or legal to shoot at a drone. Just because you don't like the things or disagree with them flying over or around your property, you have absolutely no right to shoot at any more than you can shoot at cars passing on adjacent roads.

      If you don't like what a drone is doing, your recourse is to call the police and complain. That's all.

      • Re:In other news (Score:4, Informative)

        by sshir ( 623215 ) on Thursday December 24, 2015 @10:33AM (#51178081)
        You are wrong.

        Courts are siding with shooters who were on their private property in cases of privacy violation. Case dismissed [wsj.com]
        • Re:In other news (Score:4, Insightful)

          by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Thursday December 24, 2015 @12:09PM (#51178529)

          Courts are siding with shooters who were on their private property in cases of privacy violation.

          "Courts?"

          You mean one judge in Kentucky who couldn't be bothered to take the time to understand the telemetry and video from the quad that showed it not only wasn't "hovering" over the property in question, but it was actually moving past at 200' up. There was no invasion of privacy, no more than there is when someone drives past on the street. The case will likely be appealed, as the guy not only illegally discharged his firearm, he shot at an aircraft (which the FAA says you cannot do under any circumstances, ever).

          Should you be able to shoot at a kid who climbs over your fence to cut through to the next yard? Because that's actual trespassing, unlike flying at a couple hundred feet in the public airspace. Glad I'm not your neighbor.

  • So was this a military type drone on a mission to do whatever military drone do? e.g. spying on whomever as it had a camera and not a missile.

    Or was this a quadcopter that was used for the event and that was it and there is actually nothing really newsworthy?

    This is why they do not want to make a difference between the two. So you think military when it is not.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    No more drones! Ordinary citizens do not need them! Ban them! Ban! Ban! Ban! Ban! Ban! Ban! Ban! Ban! Ban! Ban! Ban! Ban! Ban! EUROPE!!!

  • by Max_W ( 812974 ) on Thursday December 24, 2015 @06:50AM (#51177559)
    I pilot multi-rotor and fixed-wing UAVs (RPAS) myself. The UAV, which has crashed, weighs at least 3 - 5 kg. In my opinion, to fly such a heavy aircraft above a gathering of people is reckless.

    The problem is that UAV operators are to lift in the air the cameras which are not designed for a light aircraft. A camera on a drone in the air does not need a display, as there is nobody up there to look at it.

    For example, the GoPro4Session camera weighs just 74 grams. It is better already. It could be lifted into the air by a drone which weighs just 500-600 grams. But still this camera is waterproof down to 10 meters water depth. No need for it in the air. So the camera could be still lighter. It has a WiFi. Again, it is not used in the air, as WiFi may jam control radio-signal. It has a built-in battery for filming for hours. But the flights last just 15 minutes. So light replaceable batteries of different capacity could be used. The mount is from a molded solid plastic, but could be much lighter from aluminum or a composite plastic.

    If such camera producers as GoPro, Panasonic, Sony, etc. started to produce cameras designed specially for UAVs, it could make flying much safer. Each gram counts for a flight, and camera producers just do not think about it at all. It is so sad.

    One more point, the camera should be frangible, if it comes to a collision with the speed more than 200 km/h (manned aircraft's speed or crash).

    Instead of introducing buracratic obstacles and "windmills" databses, the agencies could concentrate of making flying safer. And a good starting point could be the design of airborn cameras.
    • For example, the GoPro4Session camera weighs just 74 grams. It is better already. It could be lifted into the air by a drone which weighs just 500-600 grams. But still this camera is waterproof down to 10 meters water depth. No need for it in the air.

      Not only can you fly quads in the rain, and people do it all the time, but your camera platform returns to earth eventually. It may, in fact, wind up in water.

      It has a built-in battery for filming for hours.

      This is a bigger problem. A camera for a quad shouldn't have its own battery. There's no real benefit to that.

      • by Max_W ( 812974 )

        Not only can you fly quads in the rain, and people do it all the time, but your camera platform returns to earth eventually. It may, in fact, wind up in water.

        I usually make aerial images only in calm sunny weather, from 10 to 12 o'clock, magic hours, when the light is soft. Some water resistance against a light rain or 3-5 meters depth is OK, but probably not up to 10 meters.

        GoPro4Session also has a microphone. But during a flight it can register only engines' humming. So no need for a mike and its electronics either. It is designed for skis and bikes mostly, not for UAVs.

        My point is that there should be a special design of cameras to make them airworthy.

        • by Cederic ( 9623 )

          My point is that there should be a special design of cameras to make them airworthy.

          What, like the DJI X5?

          To be fair, you do have a point. Sure, if you're a hobbyist on a budget, stick your GH4 in the air and risk losing your only camera, or cope with the lower quality from a GoPro. But professionals, television companies, filmmakers.. there should be a reasonable cost option available that's optimised for flight use.

        • My point is that there should be a special design of cameras to make them airworthy

          This already exists. You're not paying attention.

        • My point is that there should be a special design of cameras to make them airworthy. But bike, ski, studio cameras shall not fly, especially above people.

          here's one [hackhd.com], they say they are sold out though and it's $200. I would very much like something like this, but will not spend more than $100, especially given how much GoPros have come down. A HackHD would be ideal because it can shoot 1080p to a memory card and output composite video to your FPV transmitter at the same time, just like a fancy gopro, but it has absolutely nothing wasted. No screen or ports or bullshit.

          If someone wants to hook me up with a used one for a bill, I want it, otherwise I'll just w

      • > A camera for a quad shouldn't have its own battery. There's no real benefit to that.

        Unless connected to the UAV so the camera battery increases the drone's flight time.

  • And you goddamn nerds wanted flying cars. Imagine those crashes.
  • Clearly this type of thing would never have happened if the drone had been registered.

  • "strong and unforeseen interference on the operating frequency"

    Really. Who could have foreseen that. Strong and unforeseen interference is the problem with gadgets that roll or fly around actual human beings; it WILL happen, and the drone (winged or wheeled on a highway) will go gaga. The real world will defeat every clever gadget that tries to outwit it. Chaos finds a way.

    Redesign the drones to be a bouncy ball, at least a shell that emulates one. Duct and cover them rotors. Too many cuisinarts flying arou

  • Failsafe mechanism: Our drone has a failsafe mechanism in that:

    1. If there is a loss of lift, the system is guaranteed to automatically fall to the ground under the force of gravity. No special maintenance or procedures are required to ensure that this mechanism is activated.

    2. If the drone should encounter an large obstacle while traveling horizontally, it will automatically come to a stop and come under the rule of #1.

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