Unmanned Drones

Will a new regulation regarding commercial drone flight change how many drones we see in the skies around us?
Joseph Leahy | St. Louis Public Radio

Monday, Aug. 29, marked the first day that new rules went into effect regulating commercial drone operations in the United States. Could this change in rules impact the number of drones we see flying the friendly skies (and in our neighborhoods)?

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, we heard from two people close to the matter — a professor who teaches drone techniques to journalists and a St. Louisan whose business relies on the ability to fly drones commercially. Their names are Matt Waite, professor at the College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Ravi Sahu, CEO of AirZaar and organizer of St. Louis’ area commercial drone meetup, which has 190+ members.

Eli Chen

Inside a huge warehouse at Boeing’s headquarters in St. Charles, a table-shaped drone rose from the middle of the floor.

As intern Edwin Mercado-Colon sat at a computer typing commands, the drone began to move around the room and an unmanned vehicle automatically followed.  But Mercado-Colon wasn’t using a controller to direct the drone. Instead, he picked a destination for the drone without telling it how to get there.

“He’s picking a spot in the lab to fly to,” said Mike Abraham, manager of Boeing’s Collaborative Autonomous Systems Laboratory. “That command goes to the vehicle. The vehicle knows where it is because of the motion capture system. It’s determining how to get to the next point, on its own.”

Developing unmanned vehicles that can work together on their own represents the latest in drone technology, a global industry that analysts predict could be worth $127 billion by 2020.

via Flickr/Arvell Dorsey Jr

The Illinois State Police has become the first law enforcement agency in the state to get permission from the federal government to use drones.

The Federal Aviation Administration authorized the state police's unmanned aircraft system last week. The drone, which is stationed in central Illinois, is available for any department across the state to use, as long as it complies with a 2013 law that limited warrantless surveillance to emergency situations.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon:  His timeline may be delayed a bit, but St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson is optimistic that within 18 months, his department will have its first drone to police the skies.

Dotson’s initial plan calls for a small one – 25 pounds or so, and the size of a small table – that would be armed with camera and fly as high as 400 feet in the air.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: “They became what they beheld.” -- Edmund Snow Carpenter

The Atomic Age debuted in the skies over Hiroshima, Japan, at 8:15 a.m. on Aug. 6, 1945. Col. Paul Tibbets had yielded control of his aircraft moments earlier to his bombardier, Thomas Ferebee, who would guide the ship on its bomb run. Ferebee’s aim was off by some 800 feet. Given the nature of his ordnance, the bombardier’s near miss was inconsequential.

(WhiteHouse.gov video screen capture)
(WhiteHouse.gov video screen capture)

Updated 2:02 p.m.  Thank you for joining us for this live event. It has now concluded.

  • Find analysis and a full recap of the President's remarks on NPR.org.

Earlier Story:

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON -- In his remote Yemeni village, young Farea al-Muslimi considered himself to be America's biggest booster. He had spent a year at a California high school and was awarded a U.S. scholarship to study at one of the Middle East's top universities.

But in mid-April, a missile fired by an American drone struck his village -- an explosion that "terrified thousands" in the area and, he said, will likely damage this country's efforts to win over the hearts and minds of people in the fight against terrorism in the region.