Drones: Why you should register and how to fly accurately and en masse

Credit: Walter Baxter / Geograph.org

The FAA requires drone registration, a company makes precision drone flying easy, and 100 drones do aerial ballet


Did you get a drone for Christmas? How big is it? If it weighs over 0.55 pounds but less than 55 pounds, then you should register it with the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA). If you don’t and you get caught doing something really dumb like crashing your drone on the Whitehouse lawn while drunk, it’s pretty much guaranteed that whatever legal action is taken against you will become orders of magnitude worse. Why has this law been put in place when we’ve had model aircraft flying around for decades with nary a problem? It’s because idiots keep doing really dumb things with drones like crashing into electricity lines and taking out power to hundreds of people, crashing into seating at U.S. Open, interfering with fire-fighting aircraft, and nearly taking out skiers:

So, thanks to these misguided aviators, as of December 12 last year, the FAA requires you to ‘fess up and register. It costs $5, covers all of the aircraft you own, and if you register before midnight EST, January 20th, 2016, your $5 registration fee will be refunded!  w00t!

The cause of many of these accidents (excluding flying while drunk) is that drones are tricky to fly. Now, if you’ve ever tried piloting something like a quadcopter you’ll know that flying a drone near a structure is tricky even when there’s little or no wind. This matters when you’re, say, an engineer trying to inspect a wind turbine or a bridge or perhaps a law enforcement officer trying to use a drone to do something such as surveil idiots holed up in an Oregon standoff encampment (this hasn’t happened as far as I know but it would be a good application for drones … at least until the heavily armed idiots started taking pot shots at the drones … but I digress).

A startup called Prenav have a solution for accurate flying that provides precision navigation at a level of control not possible with GPS alone that has only been previously seen “indoors in research labs with expensive motion capture systems that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Prenav has developed a patent-pending navigation system that consists of a guidance robot on the ground and an aerial robot working in coordination to fly close to structures. Before flight begins, the guidance robot scans the environment to build a map, then tracks and shares position updates with the drone, keeping it on course even when dealing with wind. The system is operated via an intuitive touchscreen interface and requires no manual piloting skills, making it accessible to climbers, technicians, and anyone who is working in the industry today.

How accurate is the system? Check out this video:

In related high performance flying news, a new Guinness World Record has been set for the most UAVs airborne simultaneously. The drone count? 100! Check out the video:

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