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So, clearly video intrusion is an issue, but it will mostly be considered from a commercial perspective: how will you be allowed or not to commercialize the acquired data, especially as video analytics are increasingly powerful and can extract more data from plain video footage? On the privacy issue, the European Commission is likely to apply the same rules that already exist for non-airborne cameras. But what if you fly over your garden to have a snapshot of your home? Would it be considered as peeking over your neighbour’s fence and would you be putting your neighbour’s cat at risk? By the way, would law-enforcement drones be more reliable? From his discussions with the DGAC, Levy assumes that a little bit of common sense will be necessary to avoid being penalized. “It really depends on your intentions, and the DGAC is not staffed for, nor aiming to interfere with all cases”, he said, noting that in the US, the lack of clear regulations doesn’t stop vendors of Parrot’s drones, lawyers will just figure it out in court. But among the four drone flying scenarios envisaged by the DGAC for commercial operations, the most restrictive one for out-of-sight operation calls for specific fail-safe mechanisms and crash-safe devices such as parachutes, altitude sensors and more rugged communications including real-time video feedback. For all commercial activities though, the drone pilot ought to have at least a pilot license for flying ultra-light airplanes or gliders and should prove his/her ability to fly the device reliably in order to be granted a flying permission. In France, the DGAC recognizes that the current ULM (ultralight motorized) pilot license requirement is an overkill for most light drones. It is looking at simplifying the delivery of flying permits and drone pilot licenses and in the coming months, it should come up with new amendments, easing up the application process. It is in discussion with large infrastructure providers such as SNCF (French national railways) and EDF (French utility provider) who are considering the use of drones to remotely monitor their infrastructures. This will certainly help define a new framework for companies to do business. “In terms of reliability, there should also be a clear distinction made between manual operation and GPS-coordinates controlled drones”, insisted Levy. “We have just released the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 GPS Edition that comes with a GPS flight recorder module”. The drone’s flight can not only be displayed in 3D with accurate GPS localization, but it can also be programmed for a set path of GPS coordinates to fly automatically. A return “button” will guide the drone back to its original takeoff Fig. 3: senseFly’s eBee fixed wing drone for 3D mapping and topographic surveys. site. “Such a flight is inherently more reliable and stable than when the drone is controlled manually” argued Levy. GPS-controlled flights are the norm for complex topographic surveys. Parrot’s sister company, senseFly Ltd was acquired by the group in 2012, it precisely addresses this commercial market with its eBee variants and professional photogrammetry software. The 3D mapping results are rather stunning. Are Parrot and their competitors lobbying in Brussels for a new legal framework to take a particular direction? “We are present at the meetings when Drones are on the agenda” told us Levy, “but merely as observers”. Levy reminded us that the new harmonization directives would mostly address heavy commercial drones, and that very light hobbyist drones would still be subject to country-specific laws. In the last quarter of 2013, the company’s drone business unit generated 13,8M€ in revenue, a 23% share of its global sales largely driven by the consumer market. Parrot is also investing in French startup Delair-Tech - www. delair-tech.com who offers mapping services and drones capable of autonomous flight beyond line of sight in a 230km radius. These are qualified for the DGAC’s S4 flight scenario and could typically be used for infrastructure surveillance, crop mapping or environment monitoring. Levy sees the drone activity as pivotal for Parrot’s future and potentially the fastest growing one. Once they’ll be buzzing around, how will you make the distinction between an “authorized” drone from a law-enforcement agency or a declared commercial activity and criminal trespassing over your property or the city’s landmarks? “As for being able to recognize “legitimate” law-enforcement drones from video streaming privacy scavengers, only the future will tell if particular procedures and identification marks will be adopted” commented Levy. Although you are not supposed to take the law into your own hands, there will certainly be cases of trespassing drones being shot down (a slingshot or a stick will do), and such cases could make the legal framework evolve in favour of more privacy protection. But the normal legal route would be to file a complaint and then ask for an inquiry to be made so as to identify the drone and the compromising flight path. That could prove difficult, unless it is made compulsory for all drones to register a unique identification number and log their GPS data to a centralized cloud database. Again, only the future will tell how the exploding number of drone activities will be supervised and how much space they’ll own over your head. Parrot’s quadcopter AR.Drone 2.0 GPS edition is capable of GPS-driven return flights. www.electronics-eetimes.com Electronic Engineering Times Europe June 2014 15


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