"Personal" drones market is growing fast, as the increasing number of articles in the media and products you can actually buy proves, but it's at the same time indirectly restricted. Toys aside, you can't officially let something fly over public land and laws ruling "flight" in general were conceived when the only things flying were commercial and military manned aircrafts.

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But something is changing, or at least so it seems. For the first time in the United States a private company - BP - is officially authorized to use drones ("unmanned aircraft systems" or UAS, to be precise) over land for its activities. BP drones will fly over the largest oilfield in the United States (at Prudhoe Bay, in Alaska) and survey pipelines, roads and equipment.

This is not the first commercial use of drones in general but it's the first authorization to fly over land. BP is using AeroVironment Puma AE drones: they resemble a traditional propeller plane, are about 4,5 feet long and have a wingspan of 9 feet.

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What a lot of people and companies now hope is that this first case will pave the road to a bigger deregulation of our skies. And there's plenty of room for open hardware projects, too. Commercial drones will very likely have to be certified by government agencies, for safety reasons, so it's not clear whether drones themselves will be financially viable as open hardware projects or not. But for sure open hardware "payload" is limited only by programmers' imagination.

An average quadricopter can host an Arduino board and even a nano-PC, which can do almost anything with the right peripherals, sensors and actuators. Even fly over groups of people for a session of wireless hacking, but we'd like to see less "risky" and more useful projects.

Credit photos: DJI

 

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