Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Drones, Drones, Drones 1 millon times more!

Photo by "Silkysheetsmagoo"

You more than likely have seen something about drones in the media.  Many of the focuses are hitting the negative side of drone developments and skip over or lightly touch on the facts of drone usage for the public. However, some media outlets like drama and for some drone pilots, whelp…common sense seems to be on a 90 day back order, giving media plenty of ammo to use.

I am here to share and focus more about what the current conditions are for flying your drones in the US, especially for the hobbyist. I’ll write a little about commercial usage as well, at least some steps to get your commercial clearance but I am under the impression that process will change in mid-2016 according to my discussions with the FAA.

I use facts not partial details. True facts from the horse’s mouth and I won’t write something for you to connect the dots or leave a bread crumb trail to get you coming back for more.  Just straight up facts without the fluff. Maybe a few jokes though but I believe we can all appreciate the read.

So why is it important for me to write?  It’s simple, I’m not only as drone hobbyist but I also own the company Guerrilla Entertainment and we host drone racing events in Minnesota.  Anything and everything drone related has an effect on my business and hobby.  So yeah, drone developments are pretty darn important to me.

Let’s chat about the word “drone.”  Drone, as a noun, is a remote controlled pilotless aircraft.  Okay cool, however it’s an umbrella word for everything that is pilotless.  From what the military uses to model airplanes, model helicopters, and even some weather balloons or paper airplanes can be and, in many ways, are considered as a drone by the FFA. Anyway, you get the idea. 

What the media and public knowledge of drones have been focusing on is the exponential growth of quad copter and multirotor copters.  These drones are easy to use and are inexpensive. They come ready to fly or as a kit to build. They are available online or on the shelves at the local stores. There are many different sizes, known as “classes” and styles can come with or without video/camera options. The choices of drones is extensive depending on what you’re looking for.

Here are some facts for drone usages from the FAA, USDOT and AUVSI. Don’t forget your state and local regulation also piggy back on national regulations and they may have made their additions to the rules too. 

The Federal Aviation Authority, FAA, has had numerous publications dating back to 2012, with a few publications during some years prior, for drone regulations. The FAA labels “drones” as sUMA (small unmanned aircraft), UMA (unmanned aircraft), UMS (unmanned aircraft systems) etc. Confusing right? An additional reason why drone is an umbrella word.

The FAA has missed several deadlines toward the developments of these regulations. Congress had to get after them and these rules are still in draft form, which are now under public review and can change.  A full working regulatory ruling is set for Q4 of 2016, however, the FAA, will likely miss this deadline as well.

The best practice for new drone pilots is to start with the site know before you fly . This FAA collaboration program will give you some basic understandings about what is expected from drone pilots with videos and reads. 

For the drone hobbyist and its recreational use, the current rules are simple, but there are more rules that are not listed unless you visit several online FAA resources.  For now here are the basics:

  • Fly below 400 feet and remain clear of surrounding obstacles
  • Keep the aircraft within visual line of sight at all times
  • Remain well clear of and do not interfere with manned aircraft operations
  • Don't fly within 5 miles of an airport unless you contact the airport and control tower before flying
  • Don't fly near people or stadiums
  • Don't fly an aircraft that weighs more than 55 lbs
  • Don't be careless or reckless with your unmanned aircraft – you could be fined for endangering people or other aircraft
  •  No peeping Tom foolery...Okay I added that but there are “peeping Tom” laws and besides just don’t do it.

You can read more from the FAA website or click here for the PDF version.  This will also include the commercial usages as well as extras about FPV (First Person Point of View) cameras. Oh! Also the PDF will state the max height is 500 feet.  NO IT IS NOT!  400 is your max.

Now let’s look at some additions to the FAA rules not covered as well for the hobbyist. 

Yep, the complete US air space.  Not only is there a 400’ ceiling but for all drone pilots, we have to deal with the circumference of the air space we are flying in.  But wait! The FAA says I can fly at that max ceiling as well as around an airport as long as I contact the tower.  Yes, this is true but you also need to define your location to the tower and make sure you hold your defined airspace or face large penalties and risk collision with other piloted aircraft's as well.

More than likely you, as a hobbyist, won’t get any tower clearance unless you have a standard pilot’s license and talk the lingo, etc.  To be honest, the 5 mile, call the tower at the airport should just be removed and made into “don’t fly around any airports” but that might just be me.

For the hobbyist, our area of clearance is the G air space. However even in your own backyard the FAA and local authorities can contact you if they choose to. The likelihood though is low but they could because of these undefined rules especially if you’re doing some kind of knuckleheaded things.

If what I’m writing hasn’t shown you why there so much confusion about drones there’s more.  Like those late night, as seen on TV days, you get a few extras, mostly unknowns, with your drone purchase and its usage. 

The U.S. Department of Transportation, USDOT, has now thrown their hat into the ring to have your drone registered.  They are rushing through the specks and definitions with a special task force and will have something in a draft form by mid-December.  Public comment is open till November 6, 2015.  Here is the link to add your 2 cents if you would like.

However, I feel such a rush will continue to murk up the overall drone industry. At this time, there’s a lot more questions than answers with the front office. 

Without me going into a rant, I liked this article by Motherboard. It sums up the best way on what USDOT and the task force are trying to accomplish. It highlights what the majority of drone pilots are thinking.

There are some bright spots for the drone hobbyist and commercial usages though. For both, the FAA has rolled out a beta app, currently going to be issued on the iOS and one for android users on the way. When using the app, your smart phones GPS will show you if you’re in a restricted area and what’s flying overhead. The app is called B4UFly.  At the least, you can feel a little more comfortable knowing something before you fly. How well will this work?  Your guess is as good as mine but again it’s a good step in the right direction.

For commercial drone usage.  Well the same murkiness of the rules we talked about applies but now you want to use your drone to get paid. 

Okay, cool. To do so you will need to submit a 333 exemption form to the FAA for review.  After that and if you receive your exemption there is additional things you’ll have to do. 

  • Find a licensed pilot or get yours pilots license
  • Get a TSA background check
  • Submit all the local forms and fees associated with the drone filed
  • Insurance and all the business goodies too
  • Other

This process can be done by you but I’d recommend seeking council and paying them to fill out all the paperwork.

Here is a link to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, AUVSI.  They have an online outline for your commercial 333 exemptions. In addition, here is a link to  You will be able to read current and past document submissions, including rejections, by all those who have filed for the exemptions.  This information is all public and there’s a few interesting private citizens and large companies in the list of 5,626 applications to the date of this post.

Drone applications can and will be a good thing, when used correctly for a community.  For example in Minnesota, the DOT is in its 2nd year of research with its use of drones for bridges inspections.  In Virginia, drones are being tested to send medicines to out of reach people in the Application Mountains.  In California the drones are being equipped with life saving devices to help save people. 
In all, drone applications and their practices will continue to develop as drone technology and needs advance. We, the public, just need more training availabilities and solid, reasonable rules for all pilots to lower those potential risks for everyone.

I know I’m trying my best to help educate my fellow pilots as well as those interested people to continue the growth of drone applications for my community.  I hope you’ll join me.



Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Whatzzzzup?  Mac here. We've been sitting on the edge of our seats to present the first Midwest Drone Racing/ Flight Club event sponsored by Guerrilla Entertainment, LLC.
It was a great day to be a pilot and spectator for the August 30 event held in Hopkins, Buffer Park, MN.  
11 FPV/LCD Pilots competed in the 2 man double elimination showdown, flying through 5 under gates and around 4 pylon turn course.  No Prizes, just guts and glory.  
The layout was pretty sweet too, if I say so myself.  

Spectators had a chance to see the event up close too.  They cheered, gasped and awed as they got to witness the first ever Midwest Drone Racing event in MN.  
Pilots even shared their FPV goggles with the spectators as well, so they could get a chance to ride "shotgun" in the cockpits of the drones as they raced.
High five guys!
Pretty neat stuff for sure.  

Check out the video below and see for yourself how Drone racing will be the next NASCAR of the future.  

Monday, April 27, 2015

Converting any 6V and 12V electric vehicle into and remote control toy.

Howdy. For the past few years, I've been working on remote and autonomous controlled projects.

I have enjoyed playing paintball for over 20 years and when a neighbor was tossing out a Power Wheels, I thought "Hell, why not make a paintball tank"?  
I got to marry two of my passions.

Click on the Paintball Tank to see my Facebook Post of the Remote Controlled Paintball Tank. 

Another project that I did was creating an autonomous paintball turret from an open sourced share by Project Sentry Gun

Its a great project, however there are several concerns for its uses in the paintball field.  
The biggest concern is even though the program comes with a "color identifier option" in which the autonomous will not fire on the player who wears or shows that selected color. 
The problem is, if a player would loose their mask during play, the autonomous WILL NOT identify that scenario and continue to fire.  I've dabbled in a few options for this not to happen but they're not 100% solutions.
I would hate for anyone to be shot in the face and get injured so until someone, including myself, can figure that out in the program the project has been put on the back burner.
Click on the autonomous picture to see my Facebook Post 1st Day with Lou. 

How to build a Remote Controlled Power Wheels.
So onto the "How To's" of building a remote controlled power wheels.
The build is easy no matter your level of experience. The parts that I use works for my purposes and if you find something that works better, Great!  

Please Note
* In no way am I a guru and hold any liability in your build. All the information that I provide is to be used at your discretion. 
* Please take all necessary safety precautions during your build.

We will start with a material list that I've used for all the builds and I'll continue to update the "How To's" with pictures in future post here.

Best of luck and Happy Building.


The Material List with links:

Steering Linkage (Vender TBD)

You can make your own with parts from local DIY store. Link is for example. 
RC Transmitter and Receiver

 Miscellaneous 12v and 6V Parts:

12V Straight butt spice connectors
12V Male/Female connectors
Specialty Pin Crimper for connector pins
Heat shrink tubing
Standard Wire cutter/wire crimper
Mircro torch
Mix size of flat and Philip screwdrivers
Zip Ties
12v rocker switch
Drill and bits
12v stranded wire
6V stranded wire
Soldering Iron/Electric Solder
(6) 8-32 4-4.5 inche machine screws/nuts/flat washer and lock washers
Plastic or metal water inlet (used to supply water to toilet.  In this case it will be used for 2 inch spacers)
All thread or comparable nut/bolt for attaching steering wheel.  
Copping Saw or small tooth equivalent
Electrical Tape
6V power supply (used for “quick” checks to center servo and other needs)
Allen Keys

Manuals:  (for references)

12V electric vehicles manufacture manual
RC transmitter/Receiver manual
Motor Controller manual
BEC manual
Servo manual (comes with servo and splitter)
Servo Stretcher manual
12V Remote Kill Switch manual