All posts by Ben Moskowitz

New Phantom 2 Vision Firmware Comes With No-Fly Zones

Very interesting discovery in class today—we connected the Phantom controller to the PC settings agent and learned that firmware 3.0 is out.

One of the most noteworthy updates: No Fly Zones!

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There are now firmware-enabled restrictions on where the DJI product can fly. We knew that it would not operate in certain politically sensitive areas (ahem, Tienanmen Square). But now there are safety restrictions in place. The Phantom will not fly within 5 miles of a Class A airport, or .6 miles from a Class B airport. If you wander into one of these zones, mandatory altitude will be enforced.

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This is how safety measures will be achieved in civilian UAS—through software limits and autonomous systems. Code is law! Super interesting how cyberlaw considerations (DRM and backdoors) find their way into hobby aircraft space. The analogy pervades.

Want to help?

This class will put students in direct contact with people shaping the laws, practice, and technology of drone journalism. People of all interests and skill levels are welcome—that includes journalists, storytellers, technologists, makers, photographers,  hobbyists, and other interested persons.

It’s hands-on, with two parts:

1. a four-week prologue flying & programming toy AR Drones with Nodecopter (a Javascript library)

2. preparation for an eight-week  production of a (modest) drone journalism mission, using a DJI Phantom 2 Vision flying camera.

If you’re at ITP or part of the broader NYC tech / hobbyist community, I’d love to have your help. In return, you’d get to play with some fun toys.

For instance: are you good at Javascript, and have a lot of clever ideas to use AR Drones as a sensor platform? Are you an experienced DIY drone builder and pilot? Are you a super pro aerial photographer? Or have you played with these toys before?

If you have any skills that you’d like to lend to the students in the class, or if you would like to help out in any way, please get in touch! ben AT droneconference DOT org.

Flying robots at ITP Spring 2014

It used to be that only the wealthy and powerful could put eyes in the sky. Dramatic aerial images of riots and other uprisings–captured by guerrilla drone journalists, activists and protestors—suggest a politically transformative leveling of the playing field. This is what got me and a group of friends excited about flying robots, and eventually organizing the Drones and Aerial Robotics Conference.

Low-end drones are now easy to buy and build—and journalism is the most plausible and politically interesting application of this newly accessible technology.

Yet even the cheapest quadcopter can threaten evisceration or fatality, and unmanned flight is a legal minefield. With all this uncertainty, what are the prospects for drone journalism in the US and globally?

I’m excited to be teaching this class. We’ll be learning about the law, technology, and practice of drone journalism. You’ll meet pioneers of the field, develop conceptual understanding by programming toy drones, and finally conceive & pilot a modest drone journalism mission.

This class could only happen at ITP!