July 17, 2013
Burning Man Drone Conference Call
Tonight was the Burning Man conference call on the subject of drones. I listened in out of curiosity. They are supposed to put us all on a mailing list and send out documents discussed during the meeting (and I think a recording will be available). But in the meantime, here are my notes:
They sent us email with a link that would allow us to join the videoconference. I clicked the link and was given the choice of either connecting via my browser or downloading the Fuze software. The drawback to using my browser would be that I couldn't participate actively in the meeting - I could only watch passively - and that was all I wanted to do, so I clicked on "connect with browser." This gave me a window saying, in effect, "pick up your phone and dial this number." I didn't want to do that so I downloaded and ran the Fuze app.
This is the first non-government conference call I've been involved in. Before the meeting started lots of people were talking very loudly about their personal issues and projects.
A knowledgable person said that BMORG gets "3 or 4" complaints each year about someone inappropriately taking photos of nude subjects. Pretty small number.
An idea was put forth to tag each drone and issue the drone operator a matching tag. This means, basically, putting drone operators in the same category as professional photographers.
There are safety concerns about other aircraft: the airport out at 5 O'clock, there's a Medevac pad outside the trash fence at about 7 O'clock. Fixed wing aircraft are required to fly at 1,500 feet and higher and stay outside the trash fence. A few times every year a pilot comes in who doesn't know there's an airport at BRC, who doesn't know there are special rules for flying over BRC, and will buzz the city illegally. Also there are skydivers, even at night. Frequencies used to remote control drones and cameras need to be crosschecked to make sure there is no interference with air traffic.
A proposal was made to consider designated drone areas when major burns of major structures take place. This is intended to help reduce criticism from non-droners (some people didn't like seeing the drones around the Temple burn in 2012). It would also help droners organize and defend their hobby/art.
One participant says he has thousands of hours of flight time and has NEVER crashed his drone(s)! Another says he crashes so often he buys only $40 drones and plans to bring about a dozen of them.
The suggestion was made that at least one drone should be playing Lynyrd Skynyrd on the night of the Temple burn. [That was a joke.]
Some drones might fly over populated areas for special projects, but in general drones should be over open playa, not over crowds.
Academy of Model Aeronautics (http://www.modelaircraft.org/) has already established best practices.
Some object to the word "drone" and prefer "UAV."
Somebody will be operating a drone that will deliver loads up to 3 pounds to a site near the Man. Someone called out "beer lift!"