drones

Today in the skies over New Mexico, Air Force students are practicing for the kill.

They sit at terminals at Holloman Air Force base, watching grainy images from a drone video feed. Thousands of feet below, at a desert training range, role players portray civilians and fighters inside a village. The students must find the proper target, then with a push of a button, they unleash a simulated airstrike.

Routine operation of small drones for commercial or civilian purposes have clearance for takeoff. The Federal Aviation Administration Tuesday finalized rules to replace the previous case-by-case assessment of drone uses.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued the first operational rules to govern the commercial use of drones on Tuesday.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said this was a "huge step for innovation."

The 600-plus pages of new regulations require drone operators to pass a written exam every two years, keep the unmanned aircraft within sight and avoid flying it over people and at night. The rules also require drones to stay at least 5 miles from airports.

Boats have to stay 200 yards away from the Northwest’s endangered resident killer whales. But what if one of those boaters launches an aerial drone to take better pictures from closer up?

It's not a theoretical question. And the answer is not as clear as law enforcement would like.

British police are investigating what could be the first known case of a drone colliding with a passenger aircraft, after a pilot told authorities that he believed his jet hit a drone as it flew into Heathrow Airport from Geneva Sunday.

"The flight landed at Heathrow Terminal 5 safely," police say. But they add that "an object, believed to be a drone, had struck the front of the aircraft."

The Obama administration has made "virtually no progress" to increase transparency and accountability for its lethal drone program, a new report has concluded, with only months left to spare before the White House hands control of the targeted killing apparatus to a successor.

The report by the nonpartisan Stimson Center said the administration is failing to release fundamental information about the program or to significantly overhaul it — even after a 2015 strike mistakenly left American contractor Warren Weinstein and Italian hostage Giovanni Lo Porto dead.

The Washington state Capitol campus could soon be a no-fly-zone for drones. The agency that oversees the 486-acre campus is considering a strict ban.

If you want to go to college to learn how to design, build, fly or fix a drone, your time has come. Many institutions of higher learning around the Northwest are recognizing that unmanned aircraft could become a key technology of the future.

It's been about a year since Google (now known as Alphabet) first introduced its drone-delivery system known as Project Wing. The project now seems to have a timeline to become reality: 2017.

Reuters is reporting from an air traffic control convention:

The Boeing Company's unmanned aircraft subsidiary based in the Columbia River Gorge passed a milestone this week in commercializing drone technology.

Signaling its intent to compete with Amazon and other companies in using drones to fill and deliver online orders, Wal-Mart has applied for permission to test drones for home deliveries and curbside pickup.

NPR's Laura Sydell reports for our Newscast unit that Wal-Mart has already been testing drones inside:

Killer whale biologists used a hexacopter drone last month to capture stunning, overhead photos of every single member of the endangered Puget Sound orca population.

Tom Banse

Consumer drones look like child's play after you get a gander at the unmanned, water-dropping helicopter that was pitched to the federal government on Wednesday.

It was suitably smoky out when the dual rotor K-MAX powered up for a large audience of federal firefighting managers. A late season wildfire in Boise County supplied the unplanned haze.

Defense contractor Lockheed Martin and helicopter maker Kaman supplied the glimpse into unmanned aerial firefighting.

This post was updated at 6:20 p.m. ET

The Federal Aviation Administration is proposing to fine a Chicago-based drone operator $1.9 million for repeatedly violating FAA regulations and flying in restricted airspace. The FAA charges that the company, SkyPan International, conducted 65 flights in the skies over Chicago and New York, some of the nation's most restricted and congested airspace. Forty-three of the flights took place over New York, without clearance from air traffic controllers.

Updated 6:30 p.m. ET with SkyPan reaction

The Federal Aviation Administration is proposing a $1.9 million fine against an aerial photography company the agency says took 65 unauthorized flights using drones.

senseFly Ltd.

Idaho-based startup Advanced Aviation Solutions has become the first company to win federal approval to use drones in farm settings.

The goal is to use small drones to help Northwest farmers grow crops more efficiently.

Amazon.com.

 

A new letter from Amazon to the Federal Aviation Administration indicates the e-commerce giant is getting frustrated with the wait for approval to test package delivery drones.

Francois Mori / AP Photo

Judging from holiday advertising, lots of teenagers and grownups will find a drone under the Christmas tree this year. But the increasing affordability and popularity of remotely piloted airplanes and choppers is leading to conflict in Northwest skies.

AP Photo/AeroVironment

  

Commercial drones are taking to the Northwest skies even though the rules aren't clear. Now the FAA has gotten the first reports of close calls between manned aircraft and small drones in Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

Dkroetsch / Wikimedia

The Washington governor's office has unveiled draft rules for government use of drones to replace legislation that Gov. Jay Inslee vetoed earlier this year.

Jeff Chiu / AP Photo

Law enforcement groups in Washington state are pushing back against possible limits on police use of drones.

A task force convened by Gov. Jay Inslee continued to wrestle Monday about how to regulate small unmanned aircraft.

The Boeing Co.

Managers at Insitu, a military drone maker headquartered in Bingen, Washington say they see great potential for civil and commercial uses for their best-known aircraft.

But realizing that promise requires the federal government to finalize rules for drones in the national airspace.

Amazon.com.

When Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled plans for aerial drone delivery of packages last year, many observers dismissed the concept as science fiction or pie in the sky.

Not at Amazon though. The Seattle-based company has asked the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to test drones outdoors and is awaiting an answer.

AeroVironment / AP Photo

Imagine looking out your window to see a drone hovering outside. That happened earlier this month to a partially-dressed Seattle women who was startled and outraged.

That incident came up Monday as a Washington state task force convened for the first time to develop privacy rules for drones — something Oregon and Idaho have already done. The task force quickly narrowed its focus to use of drones by government agencies.

Bellamy Pailthorp Photo / KPLU News

They’re the tools of modern-day warfare: unmanned aircraft systems better known as drones.

They’re also being tested to help carry out important scientific missions, including surveys of wildlife and marine debris in the National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of the Olympic Peninsula.

Tom Banse / KPLU

TACOMA, Wash. - Get ready to spot a new kind of "bird" in the sky. Within the next month, the Federal Aviation Administration is expected to green light the use of small unmanned aircraft by emergency services. Some sheriffs' departments in the Northwest are showing interest in these aircraft.

TACOMA, Wash. - Get ready to spot a new kind of "bird" in the sky. Within the next month, the Federal Aviation Administration is expected to green light the use of small unmanned aircraft by emergency services. Some sheriffs' departments in the Northwest are showing interest in these aircraft.

What we're talking about here are scaled up hobby airplanes and helicopters or scaled down military drones. A booth rented by unmanned aircraft systems company Prioria Robotics drew a crowd this week at an emergency management conference in Tacoma.