Now: DRONES ON MARS!

If there’s one thing that everyone on Earth can clearly agree on, it’s that there can never be such a thing as too many drones.

And it seems that NASA are now planning to start the drone craze on Mars as well with a new helicopter device:

The US space agency said Friday it plans to launch the first-ever helicopter to Mars in 2020, a miniature, unmanned drone-like chopper that could boost our understanding of the Red Planet.

I’m not sure how they plan to get a GPS lock, given that there are no S’s around Mars, but this is NASA, and if they faked the moon landings, well, then they can do most anything. And that likely includes coming up with a superb name for this craft, just like they did with ApolloChallengerDiscovery and Titan.

And that name is… [drum roll]…

The Mars Helicopter

[sad trombone] Oh.

And they’re starting small:

Its first flight calls for a brief vertical climb of 10 feet (three meters), followed by hovering for a half minute.

Wow. 10 feet. 30 seconds. Hold the front pages.
Don’t push yourselves, NASA.

I clearly need to get my Mavic out there, stat. I’d be buzzing Olympus Mons, shooting high quality 4K video and doing dronies on Curiosity while NASA’s rookies were still putting the paperwork and requisition forms together, wondering if they could maybe risk trying a gentle turn to the right.

If you’re reading this, NASA, I am available for this kind of thing (in between my lab antics with TB). I’ve flown over the Northern Cape: I know what desolation looks like.

But I don’t think I need to be in Texas or Florida or California or wherever you’re running your circus from at the moment. If you can control a drone on a planet 55 million kilometres away, I really don’t think it matters if I’m across a bit of sea from your place.

And I’m certainly not going to Mars.

Have drone, won’t travel.

Empty your Pocket

Every now and again, I save some (possibly) interesting thing to my Pocket account so that I can either:
a) read it later,
b) blog it later, or
c) forget about it for ages until I realise just how full my Pocket account is and I dump all these (possibly) interesting things into a single blog post.

Yes, this is a c) moment. So let’s not beat about the proverbial here.

No water for Cape Town ships

I’ve made that sound worse than it is. Yes, we have got a drought, but the sea is still full. Ships can still come and go from Cape Town. That’s not a problem.
What they can’t do – for the first time in history – is stock up with fresh water for their onward travels. Because that is something that we don’t have much of. I suspect that this is only “the first time in history” thing because of the combination of a bad drought and enough actual organisation to prevent ships from taking on fresh water.
Still, it does show how bad things are.

DroneDefence is a thing
And a company.
I’m not saying that all drone pilots are as pure as the freshly driven snow. Nor that drones can’t be used for nefarious purposes. I’ve told you that already. But the fact that there are now businesses out there who are selling guns which fire drone nets and signal blockers to bring down drones seems a bit over the top. The photograph of the mysterious hooded individual with the remote control in his hand makes a welcome and sinister return.

Sheffield United keep winning
I don’t think many United fans could genuinely have believed that the Blades would start the season so well. But hey, we’ll take it. Reading were the latest victims of our currently continuing success.

And staying in the Steel City:
Sheffield gives you wings!
Yep. Soon, the plane taking you from Cape Town to Johannesbegale or Dubai might be flying thanks to wings made in Sheffield. The facility, due to open next year will make (bits of) wings for Boeing’s 737, 737 MAX and 777 planes.
Technically, the bits are called actuation system components, so if you have any systems that need actuating, now you know where to go. Sheffield. It’s Sheffield.

Is this man in a 1937 painting holding an iPhone?
No. No, he’s not. Obviously.
But, yes. Yes, it does look a bit like he is:

However, since the iPhone came out in 2007, and the painting was completed 70 years previously, you really shouldn’t need me to help you out with the obvious negative response.

Soviet Space Shuttles
If you were thinking of breaking into the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, you shouldn’t, because that would be illegal. However, reading the stories, looking at photography and enjoying the videos of people that have broken into the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan is completely legal. And you can do that using the link above.

The Soviet Union’s Buran space shuttle program stands as one of the saddest episodes in aerospace history. After NASA began working on its space shuttle program in the early 1970s, the Soviet Union conceived of its own orbiter program, the eerily similar looking Buran shuttle. Ultimately, the vehicle made just one flight, an uncrewed mission in 1988. The Soviet Union’s collapsing economy doomed the program.

Some amazing footage.

And thus ends this quick trip into my Pocket. Not because I have run out of stuff to share, but because the lab is calling. And so there may be more in the near future.
Head to the 6000 miles… Facebook page and click LIKE to stay informed. And tell your friends to do so too. I’m quietly hoping to get to a million LIKEs before the end of the year. Hold thumbs.

Drones are bad, mmmkay?

Look, I’m not stupid. (Careful now.)

There’s no doubt that some people will use drones illegally and will do bad things with them. Just like some people have done and will continue to do bad things with basically everything else that exists: shoesvans, turtlesfixings, sports equipment, cutlerybits of musical instrumentsdogs, diggers – even fruit.

I could go on, but I’m sure you get my point.

But this BBC article – ostensibly about how criminals using drones can or could be detected and brought to justice – does seem to go out of its way in order to portray drones in an extraordinarily bad light. (Which, incidentally, makes for less than ideal flying conditions.)

I mean, just look at the image they chose to illustrate it:

That’s exactly what I look like when I fly my drone.
Furtive. Disguised. Illegal. Determined. Criminal.
(And with a jaunty tilt on my remote control.)

Still, an excellent demonstration of VLOS. Well done.

And then there are words, like these:

Whether it is flying illicit goods into forbidden places, spying on people, interrupting the work of the emergency services or worrying wild animals or aircraft, the threat they present is growing.

Spying on people? Have you any idea how absolutely amazing your drone equipment has to be to “spy” on people? My Mavic has a 12MP camera. It’s half as powerful as the one on my cellphone. And a lot noisier.
My DSLR and its telephoto lens though? Silent and powerful, like a beagle fart. Amazing for spying on people, and yet its ownership is wholly exempt from any legislation. Hmm.

Sure, someone managed to get some cigarettes and a DVD player (actually quite impressive) into a prison using a drone. And that’s not good. But then, naughty people put mobile phones into chocolate bars to get them “inside”, so should we…  should we ban the sale of Mars bars or something? No. No, we shouldn’t, because they’re delicious and most people just eat them, completely legally.

For the article to then go on and use a quote from a “drone expert” suggesting that drones could be used to disperse bio-weaponised anthrax does seem to be just a teensy-tiny bit scaremongery. Because yes, while it is technically possible, the issue there is not really the drone, but rather the bio-weaponised anthrax, no?

All in all, this does seem to be a disappointingly one-sided article. Yes, it’s about crime and drones, but in telling us about those things, it does seem to suggest that crime is all that drones are going to be used for, tarring all drone pilots with the same sticky brush, and conveniently ignoring the many thousands of us who are operating wholly within the law.
But then of course, we must remember that it’s ever so cool to hate these new-fangled tools of annoyance and terrorism – and their users – at the moment, so maybe it’s just trying to tap into the Daily Mail-created zeitgeist.

I completely understand the need for some legislation around this hobby (both flying drones and production of bio-weaponised anthrax), but I’m growing increasingly tired of the incessant anti-drone rhetoric I seem to be seeing everywhere these days.
I just hope that the individuals charged with making the rules are a little bit less alarmist and blinkered than journo Paul Marks and… well… everyone else, actually.

I’ve been saying…

I love it when a plan comes together …when two recent 6000 miles… blog posts are linked by some external force or means.

I’ve been talking a lot about the local water restrictions (because it is big, big news here) and yesterday, I mentioned how people hate “drones” because they think that they are spying on them.

Guess what, readers – today, there was this on the Cape Talk website:

The City says about 20 000 residents are guilty of excessive water consumption.

It was revealed on Friday that the largest water consumers include the green belt of Newlands and Constantia as well as neighbouring suburbs Athlone, Newfields, Rylands and Lansdowne.In the northern suburbs, more big consumers are to be found in Kraaifontein, while further afield verdant Somerset West is another water-guzzling area.

Yeah, “water-guzzling”, “verdant” Somerset West. Sort yourself out.

The City says they will be working with residents to reduce usage before taking harsher measures.
Limberg says they will begin introducing new technology such as drones.

ROBOTIC SPY CAMERAS! EYES IN THE SKY! IT’S LIKE 1984 ALL OVER AGAIN. (I MEAN THE BOOK, NOT THE YEAR!) (DRONES HADN’T REALLY BEEN INVENTED BACK THEN.) IT’S INVADING MY PRIVACY AND LET’S FACE IT, THE OPERATORS ARE ACTUALLY JUST LOOKING FOR BIKINI-CLAD SUNBATHERS IN THE BACK GARDENS, AREN’T THEY? SICKOS!

See what I mean?

Negative perceptions

On the DJI Mavic Pro Owners Facebook page, this question:

DRONE vs QUADCOPTER
would it be better if we started calling these “quadcopters” ? Public has a stigma against the word “drone”
drone = surveillance
quadcopter = hobby
just a thought …

I’ve only had my Mavic for a few weeks now, but I completely agree with this sentiment. When mention of it came up at the recent Molton Brown Curry Club, the immediate reaction was that I had obviously bought it to spy on my neighbours.

Yeah, that’s exactly why I spent $[loads] on the Mavic. I was desperate to see what was going on next door, and I needed to upgrade the current periscope over the back fence setup I was using previously.

And even when we’re on the field, flying well away from anyone and anything, we’ve noticed that we’re still getting disapproving looks from dog walkers. I like to think that I am a considerate flyer: I’m aware of the rules and of my responsibilities, and (literally) go out of my way to avoid disturbing or bothering other people.
But it’s only a matter of time until someone writes a dramatic letter to the school and flying there is banned. It’s coming.
And why? Well, here’s a reply on Facebook, which makes some good points:

Euphemism treadmill. No matter what we call it, it will be viewed negatively because of what it is. A flying camera. People don’t like the idea that they are being watched/recorded even in places where they don’t have a realistic expectation of privacy.

The school field being one of those places. If I was sitting on that same bench but rather than holding a Mavic controller, I was playing with the long lens on my camera, no-one would be so much as batting an eyelid. And I’d know that, because I could take photos of their eyelids from a huge distance away with the long lens on my camera.
Far more so than with the Mavic.

Facebook commenter continues:

The only way to break the stigma is to show people the positive side of them and show that they are less of a threat to their privacy than the kid across the street with a telescope.

Yes, of course. Except that while the Molton Brown boys might be open to this idea, the dog walkers on the school field will almost certainly not want to engage.

If you go down to Agulhas, you’ll see that just next to the lighthouse there is already a “Drone Free Zone” sign. Just a reminder that you’re not allowed to fly anywhere in any of the SA National Parks – and that’s absolutely fair enough. Their gaff, their rules.

I’ve been very careful to look (in detail) about where I can fly and where I can’t around Cape Agulhas. I’ve already got my routes planned and my photos and videos in my head, ready to go. All street legal, all above board and I can’t wait to play.
But half the reason for my checking and double checking this stuff is that I need to know my rights in case I am challenged, because I’m almost expecting that I will be.

Why? Because of those immediate negative perceptions around quadcopters, UAVs, flying cameras…

… around drones.