The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

July 19, 2013

Wash. state scientists using drones to spy on nature

(Continued)

Though the University of Washington is a hub for development of computer programs, gyroscopes and control systems for drones, most researchers there test their craft indoors only, because of the FAA restrictions.

Much of the burden will be lifted by 2015, when the FAA adopts national regulations for small drones. In the meantime, many researchers limit their outdoor operations to restricted military airspace, where it’s easier to get permission.

William Mell, of the Forest Service’s Pacific Wildland Fire Sciences Laboratory in Seattle, travels to a military reservation in Texas to experiment with fire-monitoring drones. His goal is to fine-tune the computer models firefighters use to predict the way blazes will spread.

Mell uses gas-powered aircraft that can stay aloft for several hours. The battery-powered Pumas NOAA tested on the Washington coast have a range of about 8 miles, and can fly for two hours at a stretch. Weighing in at 13 pounds, the Pumas can be disassembled and carried in a backpack.

The portability and stealth that appeals to wildlife biologists is part of what some people fear about drones. When Port Angeles resident Pearl Raines Hewett found out about the seabird surveys, she fired off an angry letter to her congressional representative. After so many instances of government snooping, like the National Security Agency combing through phone and Internet records, Hewett said she doesn’t trust scientists who say the images and data they collect will be used only for research.

Indeed, NOAA has experimented with the use of its drones for law enforcement, searching for illegal fishing operations off the coasts of Florida and California, Jacobs said. When the Puma flying near La Push filmed two people walking on the beach, he explained that all human images are erased from the video.

“It disturbs me that this is what my grandchildren and great-grandchildren are going to be living with,” Hewett said. “A Big Brother society that is watching you everywhere.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
State, national news
  • Charges expected in killing of policeman Prosecutors planning to file charges against suspect Brian George Fitch

    August 1, 2014

  • Midwest economic index slumped in July Mid-America Business Conditions Index dropped more than 3½ percentage points

    August 1, 2014

  • Minnesota gay marriage law reaches anniversary ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — It's been a year since Minnesota's gay and lesbian couples got the right to legally marry. The anniversary of the state allowing same-sex marriage arrived Friday. It was a quieter scene than last year when couples lined up to

    August 1, 2014

  • 35 killed, soldier missing as Gaza truce unravels GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — A Gaza cease-fire quickly unraveled Friday as violence erupted in and around the southern town of Rafah, with 35 Palestinians killed by Israeli shelling and the military saying one of its soldiers may have been abducted.

    August 1, 2014

  • Minimum wage increases to $8 an hour in Minnesota ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minimum-wage earners in Minnesota get a pay raise to $8 an hour. For Minnesota's lowest-paid workers, the most welcome move the Legislature made this year was increasing the minimum wage for the first time in nearly a decade.

    August 1, 2014

  • Congress racing to finish Congress races to finish veterans, highway bills

    July 31, 2014

  • Target New CEO [Duplicate] Target names Pepsi's Cornell as chairman, CEO MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Target has hired Pepsi executive Brian Cornell as its new chairman and CEO as it looks to recover from a huge data breach and troubles in Canada. Cornell replaces interim CEO John Mulligan, who is chief financial officer for the M

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Brain wave monitoring is better gauge than using a focus group, study says To predict a large population’s likely response to something — a product, politician or policy — political consultants, marketing gurus and advertising execs have long favored the focus group. Ask a small segment of the target audience what it thinks

    July 31, 2014

  • Argentina slides into default as debt talks fail NEW YORK (AP) — The collapse of talks with U.S. creditors sent Argentina into its second debt default in 13 years and raised questions about what comes next for financial markets and the South American nation's staggering economy. A midnight Wednesd

    July 31, 2014

  • Exchange Bee Researcher [Duplicate] Bee researcher takes aim at central Minnesota park WAITE PARK — Crystal Boyd strained four bees, three flies and one leafhopper from a yellow pan trap, the third of 12 in a transect topping a granite outcrop in Quarry Park Scientific and Natural Area.She popped everything into a labeled, zip-top plas

    July 31, 2014 4 Photos