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Drone strikes commercial jet in Canada

A drone had a direct hit with a commercial plane as it came in to land at Quebec’s Jean Lesage International Airport, Canada’s transport minister Marc Garneau said.

There were no injuries and the small Skyjet plane landed safely shortly after.

The UAV collision took place about 3km from the airport and at a height of about 450km, which is within the exclusion zones surrounding the nation’s airports.

Under Canadian law, drones are forbidden to fly within 5.5km of an airport or landing strip.

“Although the vast majority of drone operators fly responsibly, it was our concern for incidents like this that prompted me to take action and issue interim safety measures restricting where recreational drones could be flown,” Garneau said.

“This is the first time a drone has hit a commercial aircraft in Canada and I am extremely relieved that the aircraft only sustained minor damage and was able to land safely.”

The small plane was carrying six passengers and two crew and was struck on one of its wings.

“This should not have happened, that drone should not have been there,” Garneau said, adding it could have been ‘catastrophic’ if it had hit the cockpit or an engine.

Although this is the first direct hit, Garneau said there have been 131 drone incidents so far this year ‘of aviation safety concern.’

The first autonomous drone delivery network will fly above Switzerland next month

Logistics company Matternet has announced a permanent autonomous drone network in Switzerland that will now see lab samples like blood tests and other diagnostics flown between hospital facilities, clinics, and labs. The first delivery network will be operational from next month, with several more to be introduced in the next year. Matternet says medical items can be delivered to hospitals within 30 minutes.
Matternet, based in Menlo Park, California, was granted authorization to operate its drones over densely populated areas in Switzerland in March and says that approval was a world first. Today, the company unveiled a Matternet Station; a kind of white, futuristic looking postbox with a footprint measuring about two square meters, that can be installed on rooftops or on the ground to send and receive packages by drone.
The drone network is part of a partnership with Swiss Post, and is significant because it’s the first operational drone network flying in dense urban areas that’s not a pilot run or in testing. Last month, Zipline announced plans to operate its blood delivering service by drone in Tanzania by early next year as well. A pair of hospitals in Lugano in Switzerland had previously tested Matternet drone flights to deliver lab samples. Matternet plans to establish a regular service starting in early 2018.
“These types of diagnostics that need to be transported are urgent in nature and they are on demand,” Andreas Raptopoulos co-founder and CEO of Matternet told The Verge. “They have to wait for a courier, sometimes they get taxis to do this type of thing — and when you have a system like this, that is autonomous and reliable, it completely transforms operations.”
Users operate the system via an app to create shipment details. Items are placed into a compartment box in the station before being loaded into a drone for delivery. Currently the drones can hold up to 2kg (4.4 pounds). Packages are then flown to another Matternet station, where receivers can obtain their package by scanning a QR code.

Anti-Drone Systems ; challenges and solutions

In 2013, a small quadcopter flew close to German Chancellor Angela Merkel who was attending an outdoor political meeting. A year later an inebriated federal agent crashed his Phantom in the White House perimeter. Fortunately, the drone did not damage Michelle Obama’s vegetable garden, but following this event DJI implemented the no-fly zone feature on its entry-level drones. However, this measure is not completely effective to prevent rogue flights and authorities are looking for solutions to counter drones from flying in restricted areas. Let’s review the current anti-drone solutions and challenges associated with neutralizing a small UAVs.
According to the FAA, in 2016 people have registered 670,000 drones in the USA and the federal administration forecasts that the hobbyist fleet will likely more than triple in size over the next 5 years, from 1.1 million units in 2016 to over 3.5 million units by 2021. The high scenario may reach 4.5 million units. Drones make headlines every week for flying near airports, dropping packages over prisons, smuggling drugs across the borders, or disrupting the flights of emergency service helicopters. There are several technologies to counter drones but each have strengths and weaknesses.

Detection and Identification
The first challenge is to detect and identify the threat. The difference between detection and identification is related to the level of accuracy and certainty. Detection is the ability to find and alert the presence of a threat. Identification is the capacity to classify the nature of the threat. For instance, the motion detection sensor of a home security system can detect a movement coming from a pet, a flapping window, or a person. Beyond that initial detection phase, the owner will need to check the security camera to identify the nature of the alarm: is this a cat or an intruder?

Below are the main detection and identification technologies.

Optical and Infrared
A camera scans the area to detect and identify a potential drone. The monitoring can be done on the visible or infrared spectrum. The issue is that drones are small and difficult to see. They also have a limited heat signature compared to traditional aircraft with combustion engines. These type of sensors are not very suitable for the detection phase. Imagine having to scan the sky around you with a 600mm lens to find a tiny drone. But the main limitation with the optical solution is the impossibility to see at night or through clouds and fog. The infrared thermal imaging performs better but cannot completely punch through a dense layer of clouds.

Drones emit a distinctive buzzing sound that can be picked up by sensitive microphones in order to give an estimated direction and distance of the drone. Military forces already use acoustic detection systems to locate snipers. However, acoustic sensors are not able to precisely identify threats and only work at a limited range of a few hundred feet. Moreover, noisy backgrounds (e.g., airport, city downtown), or drone tuning (changing the stock propellers) will limit the detection capability.

Electronic Support Measures
This technology consists of scanning and “listening” to the frequencies used by drones to calculate their position. These systems are usually complex and not suitable for direct identification even though the radio signature of most consumer drones such as DJI can be entered in the system library for classification. Moreover, as a passive detection system they can only detect the radio signal emitted by a target but some drones are programed to fly autonomously by following GPS coordinates without sending any signal back to the operator. If the drone does not emit signals, there is nothing to detect.

A variant of this technology consists of simply receiving the signal sent from the most popular consumer drones (mostly DJI) to warn the operator that a drone is flying in the area. The telemetry data can be intercepted to give additional information (GPS location, etc.). But these solutions do not work with homemade and pre-programed drones.

The Radio Detection and Ranging technology is the best candidate for drone detection. Most current systems are based on this technology. It’s been proven on the field for decades and can be adapted to detect drones. Contrary to common belief, drones can be seen on radars, but not the traditional ones. The key is to select the right frequency, gain, and sensitivity to detect the drone. For instance, the armed forces use radar to detect objects as small as mortar shells.

However, drones are made out of low reflectivity materials such as the plastic frame of the DJI Phantom. The challenge of radar drone detection lies in selectivity and sensitivity. Lower the sensitivity of a radar and the operator will pick up birds as well. Fortunately, computer algorithms can discriminate the threats by analyzing the patterns of the flight trajectory. A pigeon and a Mavic do not fly the same way.

Usually these different technologies are combined to offer detection and identification capabilities. Radar is well suited for detection while optical and infrared imaging give the operator a direct view of the object in order to confirm or dismiss the threat.

Mini drones such as the DJI Spark represent a challenge for the detection and identification systems due to their small size.

Neutralization: Destruction Versus Jamming
Once a drone has been identified, the authority can decide to intercept and destroy the drone or jam its radio signal. The drone’s destruction can be performed via firearms over short range from the ground or inflight from a helicopter. Longer reach requires missile and laser but both solutions are expensive and not ideal in the vicinity of an airport. New technologies are currently being developed such as ultrasound waves that could disrupt the onboard gyroscopes. Electromagnetic pulse and high-energy microwaves constitute potential candidates to the anti-drone race. However, all these solutions can be problematic in urban environments because intercepted drones tend fall out of the sky. Some police forces have conducted tests with birds of prey and anti-drone nets to capture drones in flight.

Jamming or hacking is an elegant solution because most consumer drones rely on GPS and radio links for navigation. Their communication protocols are relatively simple and not encrypted. Cut the link and the drone will automatically initiate a landing procedure as a safety measure. That is the principle of operation of so-called “anti-drone guns”: point the gun at a drone and blast a powerful signal over the most common frequencies such as 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz. Blinded by the gun, the drone will assume that it lost connection from the pilot and initiate the return to home procedure. Add a GPS jammer to the mix and the drone will lose track of its position, drift away, or land immediately depending on its emergency protocol. Simply put, the anti-drone guns are just (overpriced) multi-band radio transmitters equipped with high gain directional antennas.

Unfortunately, jamming is not operative against autonomous drones which follow pre-programmed routes via GPS waypoints (e.g., Pixhawk). Moreover, many custom-made drones can be fitted with different radio frequencies (72 Mhz, 433 MHz, 800/900 MHz, 1.2/1.3 GHz, etc.) to escape the scope of the drone guns. Jamming the GPS can be effective unless the drone is equipped with an inertial navigation system which allows the aircraft to navigate autonomously without the help external signals.

The Legal Issues
The jamming procedure is not exempt of problems due to its poor selectivity. Jamming also affects legitimate systems in the area as the FAA noted on October 2016 in a letter sent to airports:

Unauthorized UAS detection and counter measure deployments can create a host of problems, such as electromagnetic and Radio Frequency (RF) interference affecting safety of flight and air traffic management issues.

Indeed the airports rely on a complex suite of navigation instruments (ILS, DME, VOR, GPS), weather radar, traffic monitoring systems (Transponder, TCAS, ADB-S), and communication systems to function properly. The FAA letter also said: “Additionally, current law may impose barriers to the evaluation and deployment of certain unmanned aircraft detection and mitigation technical capabilities by most federal agencies, as well as state and local entities and private individuals.”

On this matter, I invite the readers to consult the excellent blog of Attorney Jonathan Rupprecht who provides a constant source of valuable information regarding the legal aspects of the drone world. In summary, Rupprecht describes the existence of a whole boby of regulations at the federal and local level that prevent or strictly regulate the jamming operation.

For instance:

The Communications Act of 1934 “requires persons operating or using radio transmitters to be licensed or authorized under the Commission’s rules.” (47 U.S.C. § 301)
The 47 C.F.R. Section 2.803 of the FCC “prohibits the manufacture, importation, marketing, sale or operation of these devices within the United States.”
The U.S. criminal code (18 U.S.C. Section 1362) also “prohibits willful or malicious interference to U.S. government communications; subjects the operator to possible fines, imprisonment, or both.” This section could be applied to the GPS jammers.
Conclusion: The Level of Threat Versus Fear-Mongering
Most anti-drone systems combine several technologies such as radar for detection and optical camera for identification. Furthermore, many systems only work on the mainstream consumer drones and are totally ineffective against homemade platforms that fall out the range of traditional radio frequency (2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz) and guidance systems (direct link versus autonomous flight). Unfortunately, building a custom drone is relatively easy and does not require advanced technical knowledge. Legally, the Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 (NDAA) in December 2016 which gives authority to the Secretary of Defense to implement anti-drone measures to protect strategic military locations.

But let’s take a break and look at the big picture. So far, there’s been only minor incidents despite the millions of machines flying all over the world. With their limited payload and battery endurance, drones are not a good vector for terrorist attacks. Sadly, as we recently saw in Europe, trucks or assault rifles are much more effective tools for mass killing. Of course, statistics dictate that one day a drone will collide with a plane and one day a delivery drone will crash on a house. But is that the main concern here? Does the drone industry deserve this constant level of bashing fueled by cynical politicians and fear-mongering media always prone to launch “breaking news” out of a non-event? How many articles have I read about a supposed collision between a drone and an airplane when in the end nothing happened?

Every year in the USA, 32,000 people die in car accidents and millions more get injured for a cost to the nation of $200-$300 billion. The Center for Disease Control estimates of hospital-acquired infections shows that between 50,000 to 100,000 people die every year because of pathogens transmitted in U.S. hospitals. Similarly, as many as 20,000 people die of home-related accidents every year in the country. On a funnier note, since 1990 FAA data recorded 198 airplane-to-turtle collisions on the ground (against zero for drones). And the list goes on.

I’m not trying to minimize the risk of drones but let’s take a deep breath here and prioritize the risks. The emerging drone industry has positive and negative aspects. Some measures must be taken to ensure a certain a level of security but they must be based on actual facts, not fueled by fear and ignorance in the shadow of defense groups and K Street lobbyists seeking to sell their expensive systems. Recently, the United Kingdom Department of Transport launched an interesting initiative to study the effects of mid-air collisions against airplanes and helicopters in order to “improve our knowledge of the potential dangers of drones.” No fear-mongering nonsense here, perhaps it could be a source of inspiration?

Police issue safety advice for flying drones

Northumbria Police say we all need to be aware that if they identify them as flying in restricted areas, then there could be a prosecution.
Northumbria police say you should always keep your drone within your line of sight and always fly your drone away from helicopters, aircrafts, airports and airfields.
Flying these types of aircraft within 150 metres of a crowded area is a criminal offence and may infringe air safety legislation.
Superintendent Sarah Pitt, Northumbria Police’s Operations Department, said:
“The public need to be aware that if we identify them as flying in restricted areas then they could be prosecuted.

“Some users don’t realise these types of aircraft are subject to rules and legislation. We need to ensure we do our part to keep the public safe and informed.

“You should always keep your drone within your line of sight and always fly your drone away from helicopters, aircrafts, airports and airfields; those found violating these rules could face prosecution.

“Flying these types of aircraft within 150 metres of a crowded area is a criminal offence and may infringe air safety legislation.

“Not only could flying drones in the flight paths of aircrafts cause major delays, some of which come at a great cost, but it could also put members of the public at risk and it will not be tolerated.”

Training courses for the PfCO qualification ( Permission to fly for Commercial Operations ) cover the safety aspects of flying a drone and the legal requirements in great detail . The Government has announced new safety awareness courses for owners of drones.

DJI drone lands on Britain’s new £3 billion aircraft carrier

Despite being a multi-billion-dollar, state-of-the-art warship, the HMS Queen Elizabeth was recently visited by a visitor that went completely undetected by those aboard: a consumer drone.
The drone pilot said he was “amazed” that he was able to fly the drone past armed patrol boats (he noted police on the smaller crafts did wave at the drone) and land it on the deck of the carrier, where it went undetected. The pilot, who is currently unnamed, said he landed on the carrier after receiving a high wind warning from his controller while flying over the ship. When he attempted to mention the security issue to crew members later on, he was told the ship was mostly empty as most of its crew was on shore, but that his message would be passed along appropriately. The pilot also mentioned that he felt the only law he broke was flying over a ship of which he not in control and that he had no intention of raising alarm. Nonetheless, the incident has caused serious apprehension among experts, as it demonstrates that those with ill intent could use normal consumer drones to attack such ships in similar fashion. As such, security has been increased and talks of increased punishment for such infractions have begun.

Amazon plans a fleet of drones with maintenance facilities on trains, in vehicles, and on boats.

Amazon is heavily investing in drones, and one day hopes to use the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to revolutionise deliveries.

Right now, it’s all still early stages — but public patent filings can offer us tantalising glimpses of what Amazon’s engineers are thinking about and experimenting as they develop the tech.

For example, a key problem facing any drone deliveries is batteries and maintenance. When your drones are in the shop getting fixed, they’re not helping you make any money — so how do you keep them charged and in the air for as long as possible?

One possible answer: An ambitious fleet of mobile maintenance facilities based on trains, in vehicles, and on boats.

In a patent filing published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office earlier this week, Amazon reveals it is thinking about exactly this (emphasis ours):

“Intermodal vehicles may be loaded with items and an aerial vehicle, and directed to travel to areas where demand for the items is known or anticipated. The intermodal vehicles may be coupled to locomotives, container ships, road tractors or other vehicles, and equipped with systems for loading one or more items onto the aerial vehicle, and for launching or retrieving the aerial vehicle while the intermodal vehicles are in motion. The areas where the demand is known or anticipated may be identified on any basis, including but not limited to past histories of purchases or deliveries to such areas, or events that are scheduled to occur in such areas. Additionally, intermodal vehicles may be loaded with replacement parts and/or inspection equipment, and configured to conduct repairs, servicing operations or inspections on aerial vehicles within the intermodal vehicles, while the intermodal vehicles are in motion.”
In plain English? Amazon is exploring the idea of building special facilities that can store, repair, and deploy drones, and pre-emptively moving products and drones to areas of anticipated demand (based on seasonal trends, say, or a special event in the area) before launching them.

These facilities could also be transported and based on boats.
Some caveats apply to all this. For a start: There’s no guarantee Amazon ultimately builds this. Big tech companies file thousands of patents a year, and not all of them make it into finished products.

And Amazon’s drone ambitions are still in their infancy. It has carried out a few carefully stage-managed trials in Cambridge, but it still seems a long way off commercial deliveries — much less building a sophisticated network of mobile infrastructure to support those deliveries.

Read more at https://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-patents-mobile-drone-stations-on-trains-vans-boats-2017-8#OpfMCZLXAxj88Jcf.99

A drone gets too close for comfort to a jet landing at Newark Airport , New Jersey

The Federal Aviation Authority in America is investigating after air traffic controllers saw a drone near a jet that was landing at Newark Liberty International Airport.

United Airlines Flight 135 was descending near the airport Sunday when air traffic control alerted the crew about a drone “in the vicinity of the runway,” United said in a statement. The crew of the jet, arriving from Zurich, Switzerland, monitored the drone and landed safely, United said.

The FAA said the incident occurred two miles southwest of the airport at 11:55 a.m. Sunday. The FAA is investigating and that local authorities had been notified, the agency said in a statement.

A month ago, a 54-year-old Arizona man was arrested on charges of endangerment and unlawful operation of an unmanned aircraft after a drone grounded aerial efforts to combat a massive wildfire about 100 miles north of Phoenix.

Last week the FAA tweeted: “Flying your #drone this weekend but not sure how high to fly? FAA’s resources can help: http://faa.gov/uas #DosAndDonts#DroneQuestion” The primary piece of advice was not to fly a drone above 400 feet. The CAA requires drones to fly no higher than 400 feet as light aircraft fly to a minimum height of 500 feet .

Drones are falling out of the sky

The DJI Spark, the smallest and most affordable consumer drone that the Chinese manufacturer has released, seems to be having flight problems that could have dangerous side-effects.
On DJI’s support forum, multiple users—Quartz counted at least 14 separate complaints across two forum posts—have reported that while they were flying, their Spark drones have switched off and fallen like rocks out of the sky. In some cases, the drones were close to the ground and were easy for their owners to retrieve and send diagnostic information to DJI, but in others, the drones crash landed in thick woods, or, in a couple of instances, in lakes.
One forum member posted a video of their drone losing connection while they were still flying:

Quartz gave the Spark a very favorable review after it was released in May for its portability, and how simple it was to fly and take photos. But in testing, Quartz had issues where the wifi connection between the $499 device and the cellphone controlling it was cut, causing the drone to wander listlessly in the air. Thankfully, DJI’s drones come equipped with technology that allows them to remember where they took off from, and, after they lose connection to their controller, they will eventually return.

It’s not clear what caused these crashes—some forum posters suggest some could’ve been user error, but others shared their drones’ flight logs and showed nothing out of the ordinary had been happening before the crash. Some posited that the sensors that detect how close the Spark is to the ground, and what direction the drone is facing—the drone’s engines will shut off when the Spark is on the ground or when it’s titled 90 degrees lengthwise—might have misinterpreted where the drone was, and thought it was time to power down.
DJI told Quartz it was looking into the issues on the forums we uncovered. “DJI is aware of these reports and we are investigating to determine the causes,” a spokesperson added.
The Spark weighs about 300g (0.6 pounds), and is roughly 5.5 inches wide. If it were flying near 400 feet up, the maximum altitude US regulators allow drones to fly, when it fell, it would likely do a fair bit of damage if it hit you on its way down.
The issue feels similar to a problem that action-camera company GoPro had with the launch of its first drone, the Karma, last summer. After shipping roughly 2,500 drones in the month of October, it issued a recall on the night of the US presidential election, as the drones were falling out of the sky due to a loose connection between the drones and their batteries. Unlike GoPro, however, DJI has been building well-respected consumer drones for years, so any production issues after more than four years without major problems would come as a surprise.

Drone safety becomes Government priority

The Government has announced plans to introduce drone safety awareness courses for every owner of a drone . Each day there seems to be a new near miss story involving drones .

A passenger plane on its way to Edinburgh Airport missed a collision due to ‘luck’ a report claims.

A report published this week found that a Saab 340 plane was unable to take any action to avoid the drone, which missed by 15ft after flying parallel to the aircraft’s flight deck.

In its report, the UK Airprox Board published after the incident on May 19 said: “The pilot’s overall account of the incident and his inability to avoid the object portrayed a situation where providence had played a major part in the incident and a definite risk of collision had existed.

“It was so close and happened so fast that avoiding action was not possible. The pilot opined that it was only through luck that they did not hit the drone.”

The incident happened around 12 miles south of Edinburgh Airport and endangered a number of aircraft and those on board.

In the last nine months there have been at least four reports of drones narrowly missing planes in Scotland.

Sky drone pics – Aero drones photography