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A Power Outage In Silicon Valley Was Caused By A Drone Crash (mercurynews.com) 218

An anonymous reader quotes the San Jose Mercury News: A drone crashed into a high-voltage wire Thursday night, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage and knocking out power to roughly 1,600 people for about two hours, police said... "The FAA has rules and regulations in place to prevent this exact type of incident from happening," said Mountain View police spokeswoman Katie Nelson. "We simply ask that people comply with the rules and that they operate drones safely and sensibly."
The town's city hall was without power -- along with the rest of the 1,600 homes -- prompting a Google software engineer to tweet that "drones are fun until someone flies one into high-voltage power lines." They added later that "apparently the owner 'fled in a white hatchback', which is the least dignified way that someone can flee, I think."
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A Power Outage In Silicon Valley Was Caused By A Drone Crash

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 10, 2017 @04:45PM (#54593429)

    I thought I'd shed some details I witnessed as it happened. I live on Hope St, which is about 1.5 miles from from Polaris Ave. This is what I saw:

    1. Incident happened at 20:14 PDT (UTC-0700),

    2. Effects were: immediate loss of power, ~0.5 second delay, restoration of power, ~0.5 second delay, restoration of power, ~1-2 second delay, brown-out (as in incandescent lights at half brightness) for ~2-3 full seconds, restoration of power. My UPSes kicked on during this event. Black-outs are one thing, but a brown-out is serious and dangerous. I wonder what the input AC voltage was at the time, same with the waveform. Probably not pretty,

    3. For many in Mountain View, this impacted Comcast service for about 1.5 hours. Comcast's nodes have in-line equipment (on utility poles or underground (varies per block/area)) which are powered directly off of PG&E wiring on the same utility pole (or underground). Some of the equipment is battery-backed, some is not; and those which *are*, many of the batteries do not hold a charge any longer (i.e. have been neglected). No idea if power conditioning equipment is used. In this case, I have a feeling a piece of equipment fried/failed due to item #2,

    4. Restoration of Comcast service was at 21:34 PDT. Comcast appears to have routed around the failed equipment (at the cable network level); my signal levels were substantially different after the workaround was put in place,

    5. Further Comcast repair was done the following day (2017/06/09) at roughly 04:58 PDT and lasted until 05:04. Signal loss was seen during this time; my guess is network/maintenance reverted the workaround from several hours prior. Signal levels were restored to normal values after this.

    About drones in general: in the past 3-4 weeks, I've seen several of these being operated *at night* within my local area. There's no way to easily identify who or where the operator is, but noticing the drone is easiest due to sound -- the best analogy is to that of a swarm of bees, except slightly higher in octave. The first time I heard this, I thought "why are bees swarming at night? Wait a minute, what's that thing with blinking red LEDs in the sky? Drones, sigh. Why at night?!?!"

    • From your article looks like a loss of power for a few seconds.

      Here down under we have possums that use the power lines as highways. Every so often one gets fried, trips the breakers for a few seconds. But no way a possum could shut down the high voltage transmission lines, it would just be vaporized.

      And I reckon the story is a beat up, because a possum is much heavier than a plastic drone with maybe a few grams of metal in it.

      I did once hit transmission lines with a Glider cable. I was driving the winch

      • by Max_W ( 812974 )
        First of all it is not a drone on a photo in the article (unless it was one powered by gaz, what is uncommon).

        Secondly the powerlines can be hidden underground. There is a reliable technology already to transfer electricity via underground cables. It is still 1.5 times more expensive, but only because it is not widely used yet.

        If they build the powerlines underground it would be a good news not only for migratory birds, home owneres, but also for helicopter pilots http://aviationweek.com/busine... [aviationweek.com]
        • LV transmission is 1.5x more expensive underground.
          HV transmission is closer to an order of magnitude more expensive.

  • Unless there is a way to track the owners of these things when - not if - they do serious damage, we're pretty much fucked in terms of holding anyone truly accountable.
    • We don't need drone registration. Someone who wanted to do deliberate damage would work around that, e.g. by stealing a drone.

      We already have ground-level fences to stops idiots and vandals from accessing high voltage equipment. We just need overhead fencing as well, to stop drones. The overhead fencing would also block roofing and other wind debris.

  • Drone insurance (Score:5, Informative)

    by Leuf ( 918654 ) on Saturday June 10, 2017 @05:06PM (#54593497)
    Flying these things around other people and their property without liability insurance is pretty foolish. It leads you to doing things like running away when an accident occurs and making everything much worse for yourself.
    • by nnull ( 1148259 )

      You sound like the morons in the city that forcibly removed my favorite sailplane airport. The community and city couldn't understand how an aircraft could stay in the air without an engine and thus the place had to be shut down because it was deemed to risky to have sailplanes flying over houses.

      What made it worse, they were flabbergasted how 10-14 yearold kids were allowed to fly these death contraptions by themselves! The horror! The long term affect of this now we don't have natural pilots.

  • "The FAA has rules and regulations in place to prevent this exact type of incident from happening,"
    Really? How did the FAA rules and regulations prevent this from happening?
  • by alzoron ( 210577 )

    "The FAA has rules and regulations in place to prevent this exact type of incident from happening,"

    Whiles technically true this is ultimately a meaningless statement. From what I gather from the article the only regulation not being followed was flying within 5 miles of an airport and that had absolutely no impact on the crash at all. The drone could just have easily been far enough away from an airport following all the regulations and still crashed into a power line due to any number of reasons. It's true that breaking that regulation can cause accidents to happen but it didn't cause this accident.

    T

  • by mejustme ( 900516 ) on Saturday June 10, 2017 @05:55PM (#54593701)

    I was too young at the time to notice, but anyone know if there was this kind of "lets-ban-all-evil-things!" reaction when remote control cars first became available to average consumers?

    Is this a natural reaction to something new, or is there really a never before seen level of danger with tiny unmanned drones in the skies above us?

    • I was too young at the time to notice, but anyone know if there was this kind of "lets-ban-all-evil-things!" reaction when remote control cars first became available to average consumers?

      Is this a natural reaction to something new, or is there really a never before seen level of danger with tiny unmanned drones in the skies above us?

      The difference is that RC airplanes used to be fairly expensive and required enough talent to build and fly them. I was at a store last week and there was a quad-copter with controller for sale for $70. It had auto landing, auto-leveling and a setting to set it to maintain a specified altitude.

      The first time I flew an RC airplane, around 40 years ago, you couldn't by the controller for that little. You might have been able to buy a very low powered gas engine for a glider/trainer type plane. but you'd stil

  • That "operate" some of these gadgets, need to be hauled off. They attempt to fly these things, without knowing one little bit of flying skill, safety or anything else. Just plug them in, charge them up and VOLLA! I'm a pilot! Morons. Been flying R/C for 30 years. You never catch R/C people flying their stuff around power lines, people or other places like that. Bunch of lDIOTS.
    • Re:These lDIOTS (Score:5, Insightful)

      by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Saturday June 10, 2017 @06:50PM (#54593905)

      Been flying R/C for 30 years

      So you've been flying since a time where drones were very different to what they are now. Let me catch you up with what has happened in the last 29 years: Drones are now up down left right forward backwards controls with no skill required.

      You never catch R/C people flying their stuff around power lines

      Sorry but horseshit. Drones hitting power lines are nothing new. The R/C crowd has had idiots since the R/C crowd existed. The only difference is there's more people in total now that the price and the required skillset has come down.

  • Of course the culprit fled: who wants to be hit with thousands of dollars damages that insurance will not cover?
  • I would be more concern if it was a sniper shooting at power transformers.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metcalf_sniper_attack [wikipedia.org]

  • What kind of drone it is, what model? Was it that hard to make a good HD photo with a smartphone camera where one can see something?

    Drones (RPAS) can deliver urgent parcels with documents, cash for banks, etc. and by this realistically free roads from traffic jams, significantly reduce fossil fuel consumption, so naturally the automobile lobby and their clients are concerned.

    That is why the FAA issues 700 pages prohibiting regulations for RPASs. But it is hard to do not having a single photo of a docu
    • by sl3xd ( 111641 )

      Why did it burn?

      Because lithium batteries carry a lot of energy, and when enough abuse happens (running into power lines will definitely do it) they go into a runaway thermal reaction, and that energy is released.

      There was even a Tesla Model S burst into flames in a wreck.

      I've seen my share of lithium batteries bursting into flame in electric model aircraft.

      Just because it's electric doesn't mean it can't cause a fire.

  • "The FAA has rules and regulations in place to prevent this exact type of incident from happening,"

    Well, it looks like they work great.

    Good job, FAA! Keep up the good work on those regulations! Glad they prevented this mishap!

    We should regulate against heart attacks next! Think of the lives that it will save!

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