eHam Forums => Emergency Communications => Topic started by: WA6MJE on March 03, 2013, 01:10:00 PM

Title: Any Interest in ECOMM Eyes With Ears?
Post by: WA6MJE on March 03, 2013, 01:10:00 PM
One of my other hobbies is aviation, including full scale and remote control aircraft.  I have a fleet of maybe 30 or so RC craft including helicopters, gliders and aerobatic planes. One small aspect of RC flying is called FPV or First Person View.  For FPV, the RC airplane is equipped with a video camera, a transmitter, and real time video is sent back to the pilot who wears goggles and flies as though seated in the RC plane.  Unbeknownst to most FPV RC pilots, an amateur radio license is required for the video link, but seldom obtained. The video link can be on 900Mhz up to 5.8 Ghz depending on what equipment you buy at your hobby shop.  While amateur television equipment is relatively expensive, just search for FPV equipment for RC, and you can setup an ATV system for fall less than using amateur radio vendors.  FPV is quite popular now, and there is a flood of video transmitters and receivers for FPV that are actually nearly equivalent to amateur radio television gear at a much higher price.

Now, flying an RC airplane can be a challenging learning curve, especially helicopters.  However, with the advent of RC computer stabilized quadcopters (four motors and four propellers) these new machines essentially fly themselves with GPS navigation and stabilization.  RC hobbyists call these quadcopters, government calls them drones.

Ok, now to my point.  My local ham radio club teams up with the local sheriff station to provide "ears" in an emergency.  Why not also provide the "eyes" in an emergency? I am sure some of the smaller law enforcement departments have no budget to have a drone, nor to hire someone to build, maintain or fly one.  They would no doubt love to have one if their local ECOMM volunteers had one to provide.

This would be a natural add-on for the ham radio community to provide for small towns and communities that could use a "drone" with a real time video link to surveil crime or accident scenes, or for search and rescue.  A ham radio operator could legally operate the video link provided it not be for hire, and now that the learning curve for flying a quadcopter is low, they could actually fly it into position, and let the GPS maintain a fixed position until the fuel is exhausted.  Using amateur radio repeater technology, the range could be markedly extended.  This would have to be coordinated with current FAA guidelines of course.

I would like some feedback on this idea.  I have added a new quadcopter to my RC fleet and intend to equip it with FPV video equipment.  I am not into ECOMM and am doing this just for the fun of it this spring flying season.  BUT, as I build my new toy, I would like to photograph how I did it, and spend the time to write a supporting "how to" article for possible publication in QST or other forum to see if I can advance the idea to the amateur radio community.  I am starting out with this small article in this forum to see if there is any interest, or no interest before I spend more time on documentation. 

My ultimate idea is that the amateur radio ECOMM community would become both the eyes AND ears where needed, and provide the drone capability for public service where government and private emergency responders do not have a budget or person power to provide it for themselves.  To me it is a natural fit.  The cost these days would be about $1500 for the equipment for a basic system, and of course more for more elaborate systems.  Government would probably pay 100 times this amount for the same thing just because that is how it goes with government.

Rene - WA6MJE     

Title: RE: Any Interest in ECOMM Eyes With Ears?
Post by: KA4GFY on March 04, 2013, 09:46:20 AM
You might want to think twice on this one.  FCC Part 97.113  is pretty specific about prohibiting the use of amateur radio for   "Communications, on a regular basis, which could reasonably be furnished alternatively through other radio services."  While it may appear to be on a "once in a great while basis," the sheriff's department should be providing this for themselves. 

I remember a story here on Eham a few years ago about a club in CA that got themselves in some serious trouble because they were helping the local police department by using ham radio equipment and ham radio frequencies during surveillance operations, because the bad guys were listening in to the police department.  The absurd part was the hams were right next to the officers while doing the surveillance because the officers couldn't legally use ham radio.  Their arguement was "It's not on a regular basis."  The FCC didn't see it that way and went after the individual hams for conduting "business" over the air and the police department for using ham radio instead of Part 90 frequencies.

Providing communications for a marathon, bike-a-thon, or parade is one thing.  Many of those organizations are non-profit and don't have the money.  The sheriff's department should be asking the taxpayers to pay for their own equipment or apply for grants.  If it costs them 100 times or a 1000 times more, that's the price they pay for it.  Its not our place as hams to be their "drone pilots" or anything else they should be doing with their own equipment. 

Rich, KA4GFY

Title: RE: Any Interest in ECOMM Eyes With Ears?
Post by: K1CJS on March 04, 2013, 09:56:28 AM
If such 'drones' were used during actual emergencies, could be that you've got an idea, since that isn't by definition considered regular use and such use could well be considered use for preservation of life and property.  You really should get an expert opinion on this, though.  Ditto the use of those drones for search and rescue.

However, since most such emergencies are weather related, it may not be wise to even try--unless you've got an inexhaustible supply of those drones that you're willing to lose!

Any other uses such as you stated aren't advisable--for the reason previously posted.

Title: RE: Any Interest in ECOMM Eyes With Ears?
Post by: LA9XSA on March 04, 2013, 04:04:14 PM
Yeah, it would depend on how often these UAVs would be used by the police. If it was only in case of rare emergencies and for search-and-rescue, it would probably be OK, but something used every day would not be OK.

Another thing to take note of is that in many countries FPV flying is simply illegal or requires extra permissions from various government agencies.

Title: RE: Any Interest in ECOMM Eyes With Ears?
Post by: W1JKA on March 05, 2013, 05:56:39 AM
It should be very interesting as to how the FCC or any other agency intends on enforcing what they consider any illegal/improper use of these increasingly popular video/sound equipped quadcopters.Maybe they will hire a thousand of us RC hobbyist to police the airways once the Sequester is over and Obamadrama sucks some more taxes out of back pockets.

Title: RE: Any Interest in ECOMM Eyes With Ears?
Post by: AA4PB on March 05, 2013, 06:09:53 AM
Probably like the enforce 99% of all regulations - when enough people report/complain about a violation that they are interested in enforcing.

Title: RE: Any Interest in ECOMM Eyes With Ears?
Post by: W5LZ on March 09, 2013, 05:26:33 AM
An amateur license is not required for that FRV if it's not done on an amateur band.  Depends on the equipment used.  There are a number of sources for that equipment and while they may not be the cheapest in the world, I'm not aware of a license being required for some of it.  That 'some of it' is definitely going top have draw-backs, range for instance, but it's available.
As for hams providing that sort of 'service', it's probably possible, but it's certainly not going to be easily justified, as with the examples given.  Also as stated, using that sort of equipment, and not just the TV part of it, means a sort of 'steep' learning curve.  Not just for the RC'er, but for the officer that will probably have to be trained to use that stuff.  Depending on the situation, a ham isn't too likely to be allowed near it while such a situation is going on.  If he is, and if he isn't an officer, then I'd certainly take a closer look at that department's SOP's.
Some of the above is opinion, but some of it is experience too.
 - 'Doc

Title: RE: Any Interest in ECOMM Eyes With Ears?
Post by: K1CJS on March 09, 2013, 11:18:00 AM
Probably like the enforce 99% of all regulations - when enough people report/complain about a violation that they are interested in enforcing.

I disagree to this extent--they won't care a wit if the people complain if the government wants to enforce the reg.  All they'll have to do is to hear of it being done--once.

Title: RE: Any Interest in ECOMM Eyes With Ears?
Post by: AA4PB on March 09, 2013, 01:49:48 PM
The problem is that the FCC can't/doesn't do much on-air monitoring these days so if nobody complains or reports the violation then the FCC will never know about it.

Title: RE: Any Interest in ECOMM Eyes With Ears?
Post by: K1CJS on March 10, 2013, 08:30:05 AM
True enough, but if you will notice, I said 'hear of it.'

Title: RE: Any Interest in ECOMM Eyes With Ears?
Post by: K4FMH on April 19, 2013, 09:52:52 AM
Hey, just another thought, guys.

The quadrocopter "drones" are very popular right now among hobby folks. They have a camera in them but use 2.4 Ghz WiFi for communication. The issue is the battery life. I would love one that I could set up somewhere and just hover in place for, say, 30 minutes or so...but the batteries are currently the problem.

On the one hand, commodity wifi doesn't require a license and using a ground-mounted parabolic dish to hit the copter probably won't raise many eyebrows (even though it probably does violate the ERP level). But HSMM-MESH in the amateur portion of the 2.4 Ghz with a few watts of BDA added to the reflashed wifi "base" might give some really effective range.

Did I mention that the battery was a problem? ;)



Title: RE: Any Interest in ECOMM Eyes With Ears?
Post by: W6RMK on April 30, 2013, 04:47:31 AM
The other problem is that the FAA doesn't allow such use of UAVs, except for experimental/research purposes, sales demos, and training.  There's a whole raft of rules around it:
1) hobby R/C is one thing, but doing for a business or to support a government agency requires much paperwork. (In 2007, the FAA clarified that AC 91-57 only applies to modelers, and specifically excludes individuals or companies flying model aircraft for business purpose.)
2) You need a "special experimental certificate of airworthiness" if you're not a government agency or doing work for one. Lots o'hoops to jump through.
3) A government agency needs a Certificate of Authorization.

You'll need to have 2 or 3 operators on the ground: one who flies the plane; one who is the 100% of the time visual observer, without aid of binoculars, TV, etc.