Drone companies flying too high!


Kirk
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I've had my drone photo/video business for a while. You get used to what the ground looks like at our max altitude of 400 ft. I recently joined instagram to promote the business and discovered some disturbing things. I see a lot of straight down photos (mostly beach) that were clearly taken from hundreds of feet past our 400 ft max. These photos are from supposed businesses if you believe their instaram profiles. This scares me because of the possible trickle down effect on those of use doing the right things by following all of the regs. Just thought I would vent.

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I share your frustration, however, without knowing the FOV of the lens its next to impossible to view an image to and determine the altitude the picture was taken.

 

How high do you think I'm flying to capture this image?

 

PGE.jpg

Edited by Av8Chuck
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@Av8Chuck is precisely correct about that.  The image he posted could have actually been taken from a satellite, but I don't think so - the resolution is just a bit too good for civilian imaging.  On the other hand, the shadows suggest a morning pass of an imaging spacecraft. So I suspect a trap!  I will say it's from a satellite at greater than 500 km altitude.

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Ed is correct, this was a trap.  

If this image were produced by a single picture it would have probably needed to be taken from about 2,000 feet.  There are a lot of variables, the resolution of the camera [24MP], FOV of the lens [30mm], size of the object [approximately 10 acres], the number of images used and the distance between the camera and the object. 

This isn't even a picture, it's a 3D model.  The point is unless you either know the variables or you know the actual size of something in the image, distance between GCP's or a truck for example, then you could use photogrammetry to figure out the altitude.  Even then you'd need to know the number of images.

Kirk is the closest, it was shot at 120'.  

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I'm a bit skeptical too, but as I've said before, I don't work for the FAA and its difficult to know from watching the footage whether he broke any rules or not.  Giving him the benefit of the doubt that he obtained permission, I think this part of his justification is interesting:

"All drone shots in this video were captured safely and flight plans were approved by all airport control towers within a 5-mile radius. All flight plans were deemed acceptable and unlocked by the DJI Go App."

DJI's implementation of GEO Fencing is going to get them in all kinds of trouble for this very reason.  I believe this guy thinks that because he used GEO Fencing, he got permission from DJI and the drone armed that the flight must be legal.  I also think that's a reasonable conclusion from the operator.     

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Help me out here @Up Sonder. Watched the video you shared. He had flown at one point around the Los Angeles Coliseum. Check the sectional for this airspace and get back  to me. I see that as the crow flies the Coliseum is 10 miles from LAX. This is class B airspace above the Coliseum and the floor of the class B is 2500 ft. Do you need to notify anyone being that we are held to 400 ft. Well below the class B floor?

Edited by Kirk
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If I were in my airplane and transition under the 2500 foot floor of Class-B, I would not have to ask for permission or contact ATC.  

I'm not looking at the sectional but if its as you say, then at 400' you are not in Class-B so you should not need a waiver.  But!, I'm guessing that its probably some other class of airspace that although I can fly through in my plane (above 500') I probably need a waiver to fly my drone (below 400').

 

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7 hours ago, Kirk said:

I also would suspect daylight rule was broken but not possible to prove without seeing his flight record. But it was dead dark on one shot.

There are a lot of variables that may not be apparent from watching a video. I fly close to an NCAA Tier 1 stadium which has a TFR in place during events. As long as no events are being held at the stadium, I'm good to go because the TFR is not active. Based upon a sectional and a map, if you look at the photos taken are you going to know that an event is being held there? No, probably not. I'm also flying within five miles of the regional airport in Class D airspace. Is it apparent that I have a CoA and Letter of Agreement with the airport in question? No, probably not. I also fall within the Class B airspace beginning at 2500FT AGL of an international airport. None of the thousands of images I've captured to date have an altitude stamped on them. So can you tell how high I am actually flying without a very good understanding of photogrammetry? No, definitely not. That doesn't take into account the aeromedical corridor that I operate in. Life is complicated enough dealing with the stuff you have to deal with. This is not one of them.

This same issue has been hashed out in a few other threads and the end result is something like this; you weren't there when the flight was taking place and you don't have the full picture of events, so jamming someone up who may or may not be violating the regs is not your call. Instead, focus on your own conduct and set a positive example of how a flight should be done. Just my thoughts....

Edited by R Martin
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59 minutes ago, R Martin said:

This same issue has been hashed out in a few other threads and the end result is something like this; you weren't there when the flight was taking place and you don't have the full picture of events, so jamming someone up who may or may not be violating the regs is not your call. Instead, focus on your own conduct and set a positive example of how a flight should be done. Just my thoughts....

I often sound like a contrarian, I'll argue an issue one way and then in a different thread argue a similar issue totally differently.  I also seem to "step" on or follow up with the same people, in this case R Martin.  For me whether I agree or disagree with a point someone is making is not always the issue, its more often that they have said something intriguing and is worth commenting on.

I really agree with R Martin.  As a community we don't need to be dissecting every YouTube video to figure out whether it was legal, that's just not very constructive.  I really like that video and when you consider how far aerial cinematography has come, that would have been virtually impossible or cost prohibitive just three of four years ago, legally of illegally.

So I'm willing to give the guy the benefit of the doubt that he took the precautions and got the permissions he said he did.  I'm certainly skeptical about that, but I'm a lot more interested whether that video inspired others to try something similar and if so I think a more constructive conversation could be had about the tools that might be available to us to accomplish that flight legally.

Yes he would need airspace waivers, he talks about getting permission from local towers or ATC, what exactly does that mean and how do you get it?  How, as a community can we help one another remove the barriers so that something like this is safe and legal to do?

The point of 107 and hopefully this forum isn't to prevent people from doing things, its to enable and encourage them to do it safely and legally.  Obviously that operator is passionate about LA, aerial cinematography and the movie La La Land (?), and as far as I'm concerned the effort that it must have taken to accomplish it is something to aspire too.   

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To all,

My intentions are not to as you put it jam someone up. Nor do I wish for others to do so. My intended purpose for even starting this thread if you go back to the beginning is the obvious question that will be asked about not following our 107 rules as evidenced by photographic proof. I've been a pilot and a photographer for more than 30 years. I've worked with and around the FAA for that long as well. 2 things I can tell for a certainty. 1. The FAA questions everything period! 2. Any apparent wrong doing on even a few pilots part will mean trouble for all of us! So in other words, I could care less what your doing that will get you in trouble. I care about the know it all that thinks he can do or say anything he wants that will effect my business. In the 90's while still at the airline I found that the FAA is no joke dispite what some think. So my point. Why are we posting photographic evidence that will at the very least start the FAA down the road of distrust for ALL of us.

Edited by Kirk
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Im not, nor do I think anyone else is questioning why you posted this.  Like most threads they take on a life of their own.  Replies get conflated and it's not always obvious who the reply was targeted at or that the reply was in response to the original question.  

First, you can't regulate stupidity. It doesn't matter what the rules are people will post videos on YouTube that demonstrate their stupidity and there's nothing we can do about it.  

My initial response was simply to demonstrate that you can't trust what you see on YouTube.  Things that might appear to be illegal, aren't and things that appear to be legal aren't always legal either.  

I just returned from the XPONENTIAL trade show, as with most shows there's a lot of hype.  Our booth was next to NASA's and there was a lot of discussion about drones and ATC.  After listening to a lot of debate between vendors like Boeing, NASA and the attendees, one thing that struck me is that there seems to be a more balanced view of sUAS emerging.  

All of the hype from three years ago, there's going to be millions of drones in the air, a midair collision is in evitable, drones are going to kill people and they will invade everyone privacy has not come to fruition.  So There seems to be a bit less paranoia.

I'm guessing/hoping the same is true of the FAA and I doubt that YouTube videos are having much impact in what they do or think.  

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  • 4 weeks later...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but as long as you are within 400 feet of a structure, you can go 400 feet above the top of the structure. So if there is a 1000 foot radio tower, you can go 400 feet above the top of the tower? So that would be 1400 feet AGL? 

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5 minutes ago, Everest said:

Correct me if I'm wrong, but as long as you are within 400 feet of a structure, you can go 400 feet above the top of the structure. So if there is a 1000 foot radio tower, you can go 400 feet above the top of the tower? So that would be 1400 feet AGL? 

Correct, but who wants to film an inspirational video that gets millions of view hits around a radio tower? And would you still be able to spot your drone at 1400FT away without visual aids such as binoculars?

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I was reading through this thread and there seems to be a lot of dissecting of the referenced video without knowing all the facts..  I also noted several comments about the beach imagery / footage.  It is likely over 400 ft amsl, but also consider where the videographer may have taken off, possibly 400 ft above ground surface, such as a cliff...perfectly in adherence to FAA regs, right?  I like the video, but >5 minutes is a little too long, which is my only comment should I be critical.

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