Sochi drone shooting Olympic TV, not terrorists

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 10, 2014 at 10:39 pm •  Published: February 10, 2014
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Also appearing in Sochi are cameras running on cables. They're also above the action, but have a more limited ability to move around a venue than does a free-flying drone.

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Q: Couldn't a drone crash onto the crowd?

A: It could, but so could a much heavier helicopter.

Masina said chances of drone crashes are close to zero when a drone is handled by an experienced pilot, because the drones are programmed to return to base at the slightest problem — such as a low battery, rough winds or a malfunction.

There have been mishaps, however. In one case last year, a drone filming an imitation version of Spain's running of the bulls in Virginia crashed and injured a few spectators.

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Q: Could hackers divert a drone?

A: It's possible. While military drones use encrypted GPS signals for navigation, the GPS signals used by civilian drones don't have that protection.

A team at the University of Texas successfully hacked a drone in an experiment in 2012 through something called "spoofing," or sending the drone incorrect information about its location. Todd Humphreys, head of the school's Radionavigation Lab, told a Congressional hearing it would be very difficult for an ordinary person to spoof a drone, although it might be within the capability of a terrorist or criminal network.

Cybersecurity has been a fear in Sochi, given the huge numbers of people in a relatively compact space and the sharp reputation of Russian hackers.

But since the video drones are not armed, there's a limit to the damage a hacker could do with them.

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Q: Are drones legal to fly?

A: Local laws vary widely in terms of who can fly drones, where and for what purpose. Many countries impose restrictions for reasons of security and privacy, and so they won't interfere with airplanes.

For the Sochi Games, Olympic Broadcasting Services said a flight plan must be filed with the Russian civil aviation authority and permission obtained from local Russian police and the FSB, the successor to the KGB.

The Russian government also bought a fleet of drones to help spot terrorists or troublemakers in the Sochi area, operated by its security services.

In some countries, it's illegal to fly over crowds. Some countries require civilian users to keep the drone within sight of the pilot. Others have altitude restrictions. In the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration has been working for more than four years on regulations for the commercial use of small drones.

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Q: So, is this the future of sports video?

A: Masina doesn't hesitate. "For sure."

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Follow Angela Charlton on Twitter at http://twitter.com/acharlton