Consumer #quadcopters seen as a National Security Threat #Drones #Drone

Authorities seek authorization for government agencies (including local police) to electronically disable quadcopters, potentially shooting them down electronically or kinetically.

Source: Security Experts Say Drones Pose a National Security Threat | Time

In their scenarios, quadcopters are just a way to drop explosives (tiny ones!) and spray chemicals and bio-terror weapons.

Prediction of what will gradually happen:

  • A Federal license will eventually be required to fly a radio control model aircraft anywhere except an AMA- certified model airfield.
  • Operators will be required to file an electronic flight plan with the government prior to each flight (except at AMA-certified model airfields). Filing will be done using a smart phone app.
  • Model aircraft outside of AMA-certified model airfields will be required to include a radio transponder providing at least a registration ID # (of course, such devices could be readily disabled by actual criminals and terrorists). In addition, new tech will be used to track all small model aircraft in flight at low altitudes. This could be done using passive radar, intercepting weak reflections from local FM broadcast signals.
  • A host of “take down” technologies will be developed and authorized, including “nets” that ensnare model aircraft, radio jamming to foul their control link (what if they are autonomous?), and radio jamming of GPS signals (to disable autonomous mode and mess up everyone else in the area)
  • Local governments will enact their own restrictions. While local government are prohibited from regulating flying aircraft (that is the domain of the FAA), some have instead prohibited taking off and landing within city limits, which bypasses the “in flight” part that they cannot regulate.
  • Police will increasingly “stop and risk” those flying quadcopters or other model aircraft.
  • Kites, which can do almost all of the bad things QCs can do, will remain unregulated 🙂

Britain may shut down plan to switch emergency service communications from radio to private 4G cellular network

Britain has been moving toward shutting down traditional radio communications systems and moving all emergency services to a private “4G Emergency Services Network”.

While much more expensive than their existing emergency radio system, it would at least be less reliable than what they have now. (Not a joke.)

They are also considering running both – radio system for voice and 4G for data (the first rule of government contracting is never do one when you can do two for twice the price!)

Source: Britain mulls ‘complete shutdown’ of 4G net for emergency services • The Register

UK Parliament to consider new #drone laws, today #drones #quadcopters

  • Existing 400 foot height restriction applied to drones weighing 250g to 7 kg (note the odd use of both English and Metric measures!)
  • 1 km exclusion zone around all certified aerodromes/airports (but not private strips)
  • Require registering with the Civil Aviation Authority
  • Pass an online test

Source: New UK drone laws are on the way – but actual Drones Bill still in limbo • The Register

On YouTube we can easily find numerous videos in the U.S. where quadcopter hobbyists have flown their aircraft out 2 or more miles, clearly beyond the legally required visual sight range limit, or to heights well above 400 feet (as in thousands of feet) or made flights entirely using First Person View exclusively. Such actions by idiots are going to gradually force eventual licensing of most model aircraft operations except those conducted at AMA certified model airfields.

Idiots are ruining the hobby for responsible users: A woman in Salt Lake City, Utah says she was struck by a drone while she was walking downtown, receiving a large gash to her nose.


Facebook’s ad placement tools  used by many companies to avoid hiring older workers

A proposed class-action lawsuit alleging Facebook’s ad placement tools facilitate discrimination against older job seekers has been expanded to identify additional companies, further widening the latest front in claims that candidates are being filtered out by gender, geography, race and age.

“When Facebook’s own algorithm disproportionately directs ads to younger workers at the exclusion of older workers, Facebook and the advertisers who are using Facebook as an agent to send their advertisements are engaging in disparate treatment,”

In its amended lawsuit, the union alleged that Facebook also uses age-filtering in ads intended to find its own new employees.

Source: Facebook Tools Are Used to Screen Out Older Job Seekers, Lawsuit Claims – Bloomberg

More on this on my other blog:

Major U.S. employers use social media’s ability to display job ads only to those in certain age groups, such as between age 25 to 36, or below age 38 or below age 50. They are using this feature to advertise job openings only to younger workers, thereby removing older workers from their candidate pool.


  • Verizon targeted showed ads only to those age 25 to 36 years old

  • UPS targeted age 19 to 35

  • State Farm targeted age 19 to 35

The story is well past the “alleged discrimination” phase as many companies admitted they were targeting ads by age, including Verizon, Target, Facebook, Goldman-Sachs and so on. Facebook defends age discrimination in job advertising as “an accepted industry practice”.

Facebook is a global surveillance and propaganda platform that engages and supports age, gender and racial discrimination.

How to set up Two Factor Authentication (2FA) for EBay account

Finding this information was not easy but after searching I found a forum post that said to use this link and it did indeed set up 2FA for EBay.

Logging in to EBay, I receive a text message and must enter the received code to log in to EBay.

Two factor authentication depends on something you know (your password) and something you have in your possession (your phone) to thwart hackers attempting to gain access to online accounts.

High school #Drones #Quadcopters racing as part of #STEM curriculum

A group of high schools in Hawaii have spent the past year studying physics, aerodynamics and learning how to build quad copters, culminating in a multi-high school competitive quadcopter racing program. Very cool!

Students participate in first interscholastic drone race

In some ways, this is similar to FIRST Robotics, also an awesome program for students interested in learning more about engineering, planning, fabrication and organizing complex projects. There are now many similar programs – nice!

Why I returned my DJI Spark #quadcopter #drones #quadcopters #geofencing

Ultimately, the geofencing feature was an impossible hassle to deal with – for flying the unit indoors – at my house. But before then, the set up process proved to be unnecessarily difficult.

I bought a DJI Spark, Spark Remote Controller (RC), extra battery and prop guards.

First thing I noticed was their instruction booklet is printed in about 4 point type font, making it extremely difficult to read. Once upon a time I had 15:20 vision (better than normal) but once we pass through our 40s, our near vision ability declines. That’s why reading glasses were invented. Even with prescription reading glasses I had a very hard time reading the instruction booklets. Yes, they can be downloaded as PDF and then zoomed in much larger – but I wasn’t planning to typically have a notebook computer or tablet with me out in the field.

Second, they want you to sync up with the Spark or the Spark RC using QR codes on the box or the device. The QR code is printed in about a 1/2 by 1/2″ inch area – so small that many phones cannot read the QR code.  On one of the units, the QR code was read successfully but on the other, it always gave an error indicating the code could not be read. There’s a manual work around, which I did, but that led on to the next set of problems.

Third, the instructions that you cannot read are incorrect. To manually set up the device, you need to link up to the WiFi SSID on the Spark, say the instructions. But not really, they were joking! If you have both the Spark and the Spark RC, you first link the Spark RC to the Spark  and then you link via WiFi to the Spark RC’s Wifi SSID (not the Spark). They don’t mention this in the unreadable manual; you have to search online forums to learn about this.

Fourth, I could connect to either device with my smart phone – but, you need to do basic set up using the DJI Go smart phone app. While I could set up the WiFi link manually (due to the QR codes not working), and was properly connected to the devices (with or without the RC), the DJI app on my phone was never able to communicate with the Spark or RC. It always displayed the “Enter Device” option, not the Go Fly option. Going through the manual connection (a bunch of lame tutorial screens with steps like “insert battery”), the last option to complete the connection was always greyed out and inaccessible. After an evening wasted on this, the next day I used my Android tablet and it linked up right away.

Fifth, you will discover that you need to install some software updates, via the app. However, with your device connected to the Spark (it acts like an access point), you do not have Internet access. Presumably (this is never explained as best I could tell), you need to connect to the Spark, get the Go app running, get the software update required message, then – with the app still running – go into Android and re-connect WiFi to an Internet connection – and download the update – and then go back into Android and re-connect WiFi to the Spark. I think. I never did get this update working through the Go app.

Instead, I went to the DJI web site and downloaded the DJI Assistant 2 desktop PC application, installed that on my computer. Then I connected the Spark to my computer using an USB cable and used the Assistant 2 application to download and install the updates. I have no idea if this is described in the manual.

Sixth, the next problem I ran into is that I live in an “authorization” required to fly zone (I knew this, of course). DJI implements “geofencing”. Geofencing uses GPS to find out if you are too close to an airport or certain other restricted zones. If too close, then you cannot operated the DJI Spark. In some cases, as in my case, you can log into the DJI web site and fill in an online request for an “authorization certificate”. This certificate authorizes you to override the geofence restriction for 72 hours (only).

To enable the geofence override, you need to install the authorization certificate in the DJI Go app. But to do that you must (a) connect to the Internet and login to your DJI account, (b) then disconnect that WiFi link and re-connect to the Spark RC,  (C) go into the DJI Go app and download the certificate – except you are not now connected to the Internet (remember I only had my Wifi only Android tablet working).

It was not clear how to proceed to get the certificate in to the DJI Go app since I did not have Internet access while connected to the Spark RC. At this point I decided that DJI’s products are not worth the hassles I was experiencing and I gave up and returned the DJI Spark. Even if I got this working – if there was a work around – I would have had to do this every time I wanted to fly the drone INSIDE MY  HOUSE.

I wanted to initially test the drone inside my house for convenience. If I had problems – and I had, in fact, problems at every step of the setup and configuration – I was able to look online at quadcopter forums for suggestions and ideas. If I took the DJI Spark out to the remote control model airfield, I would not have Internet access out there – and its a long drive out to the airfield and back.

While the DJI Spark, like many newer drones, has numerous automated flying capabilities, ultimately my interest is in manual flying as is done with traditional radio control aircraft.

Consequently, I am now building my own quadcopter that flies with a traditional RC aircraft remote control unit, and not tons of software apps, smart phones or tablets.

Since I never got to the point that I could fly the DJI Spark off the floor in my house, I cannot realistically comment on whether the DJI Spark is any good or not.

I have watched many Youtube videos where many people have successfully flown (and occasionally lost control and crashed) their DJI Spark, generally using automated or semi-automated flight controls. The video quality of the images shown looks really good.

Unfortunately, I live in the wrong place to fly DJI drones due to their geofencing and cumbersome way of overriding those restrictions even for indoor flight. That makes the product unacceptable for my purposes. I believe that DJI is not the right product for those who live within 5 miles of any airport or other restricted areas.

Some day we will move to a better location away from flight restrictions. That could be later this year or even next year (we don’t yet know where we would move to). May be I’ll re-investigate commercial drones at that time, but until then, I’ll be building and flying my own quadcopter.

I should have gotten in to quadcopters a long time ago. I attended a local quadcopter meetup group in late 2013. Unfortunately, my life at the time was was mostly in chaos and drones just kept getting postponed. I do have a concern that by the time I finally get airborne there will be numerous restrictions and perhaps licenses required too. Hope not.

Age discrimination in tech industry becomes a global phenomena

In China, high skilled tech workers become unemployable as early as 30 years old.

“Most people in their 30s are married and have to take care of their family—they’re not able to focus on the high-intensity work.”

Source: China’s Tech Industry Wants Youth, Not Experience – Bloomberg

Personal note – I graduated in 2012 with an M.S. in software engineering (GPA 4.0, thesis on Android and smart device power management). I already had an M.B.A. and a B.S. in computer science and had worked in Silicon Valley, at Microsoft and for other organizations. I had 3 degrees – in fact, the top 3 most in demand degrees in the United States at the time.

After completing the M.S., I applied for jobs. I did not receive a single response. Not one.

I was unemployable in tech because of age.

When the tech industry tells you they do not discriminate on the basis of age they are straight up lying. Former colleagues were dismissed because of age (one received a large settlement from his former employer).

The latest fads in tech are almost always short lived. Having 10 years experience is a negative – no one needs someone experienced in tech that is fading. What they want is a constant influx of young talent fresh out of college and trained in the latest fad. (I was fresh out of grad school but I was not young.) There is a presumption that older workers, bogged down with family life, cannot learn new technology (earning an MS in software engineering in my 50s proves that assertion wrong).

The tech sector is a mess from a career standpoint and is why I discourage young people from pursuing “high tech” (which has become a synonym for software). I encourage youth to consider other fields of engineering and science where they can put software skills to use.

Tech’s problem with age discrimination has been around forever. Growing up in Silicon Valley, my neighbor’s house was inhabited by 3 engineers, in sequence. Every one of them was laid off by age 30 and all left the field. Nothing has changed.

The H-1B and OPT visas staff about 3 million positions in the U.S. (almost all in high tech and most in software). These worker visas are temporary – after up to 6 years of work, they too are expendable. We have institutionalized the consumption of young tech talent. Neither of these visas is an immigrant visa – if we require more tech talent from abroad, we should be granting permanent residency visas but we are not. Its because we need a constant stream of young talent to be treated as a consumable commodity.

That companies can intentionally discard half or more of the potential work force tells you that the field has a surplus of workers, not a shortage. The only “shortage” is of young tech workers but this is a manufactured shortage.

From an employment and career standpoint, this is a mess but it seems to work great for shareholders so this status quo will remain.

Private Prison Phone Company tracking location of all cell phone users, nationwide

They collect cell phone location data collected by all major cellular phone carriers, and then sell that location data to law enforcement agencies (no warrant needed). The data is used to conduct surveillance on potentially everyone in the U.S. who has a cellular phone.

Source: Senator Wyden Demands Answers from Prison Phone Service Caught Sharing Cellphone Location Data | Electronic Frontier Foundation

When the FCC mandated “wireless 911” technology so that phones would be required to report their position to 911 operators, I predicted this would be used for surveillance purposes and was, in fact, the primary goal.