back to article I fought Ohm's Law and the law won: Drone crash takes out power to Silicon Valley homes

A wayward quadcopter is being blamed for a power outage in Google's back yard this week. The city of Mountain View said that a large portion of the city, including city hall and the central library, were without power from 8:15 to 11:00 Thursday night, as part of an outage that knocked out service to around 1,600 customers. …

Anonymous Coward

Re: Bah!

You are involved every time you pay your insurance premium.

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It's curious that the main rule quoted was flying too close to an airfield, which had little or nothing to do with the accident.

They also all say "drone", when it was probably a regular R/C aircraft. I can't really tell from the picture of the charred remains of.. something. It's more likely a newspaper than a DJI quadcopter.

I wonder how a presumably small craft could cause this much damage. Quadcopters are small and mostly non-conductive. Uninsulated power lines are widely spaced, and the equipment should be protected against brief overloads.

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Usually when there's a fault on power lines of this magnitude, they are automatically re-engaged a couple of times to see if the obstruction has cleared itself (tree limb burning off, for example).

So most likely is that the drone actually broke something - an insulator perhaps, or some HV switchgear.

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"I wonder how a presumably small craft could cause this much damage. Quadcopters are small and mostly non-conductive. Uninsulated power lines are widely spaced, and the equipment should be protected against brief overloads."

Carbon fiber is conductive and many small drones are made from CF. Also throw in the wirings, metal in the motors, etc.

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It is Bullshit

Not tiny drone could destroy the grid. At the very worst trip breakers for a few seconds. And Think about the size and strength of the insulators compared to the few hundred grams of drone.

OTOH, I once hit high tension wires with at glider winch launch cable. 1000 times more solid than a plastic drone. It made a huge explosion as the cable vaporized. But did not seem to do any permanent damage, although we thought it best not to inquire...

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Manufacturer imposed NFZ's (No Fly Zones)

DJI have been recently getting people to update their products to the newest apps & firmware.

The update has introduced a whole heap of new NFZ's, which has apparently angered a lot of DJI product owners because they can't fly in the areas they used to be able to, often 'safe' areas, and once the new NFZ's are in the craft they can't currently be removed, so not everyone is updating.

This is going to force some people to start looking at other manufacturer's offerings, notably ones with open source flight controllers that have no such imposed NFZ restrictions other than those you program into them, if you so wish.

It'll also boost the currently growing market of people selling services to derestrict DJI craft, especially once someone figures out how to completely erase the NFZ's.

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Re: Manufacturer imposed NFZ's (No Fly Zones)

There are Open-Source copters if you are up to a little DIY.

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LDS
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Re: Manufacturer imposed NFZ's (No Fly Zones)

Do you mean no-fly zones are just there to annoy drone users, and not often for a good reason? Do you decide what is "safe" and what is not?

It's this mindset that will make most drone users jerks which will need strong regulations and fines. People who like to fly very well understand the needs of following the rules. There's very little space for arrogant egoists, because they're simply very dangerous.

Often, above my house, flies the air medical services helicopter because one of the waypoints along the corridor to reach the nearest hospital is jut a few hundreds meters away (and it flies already quite low because the hospital is close enough it's already approaching). Would you like someone buzzing his drone to take a good image of it while it's transporting you?

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Re: Manufacturer imposed NFZ's (No Fly Zones)

I'm saying that the NFZ's are over-reaching and forcing people to avoid updating their craft so their flight area isn't restricted beyond the law, or they'll look to getting craft that don't have those automatic restrictions built-in.

For example, this user has pointed out the difference between DJI's new NFZ's and the US airspace in Hawaii, wth two map images: https://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showpost.php?p=37706503&postcount=76488

Trying to say it'll make most drone users jerks is an unfounded blanket assumption. Do I have to even mention that drones usually only make the news when something goes wrong whilst vast numbers of users are happily flying within the law and not causing any trouble?

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Re: Manufacturer imposed NFZ's (No Fly Zones)

"Do you decide what is "safe" and what is not?"

"Do you decide what is "safe" and what is not?"

I'm riding along in the car with a friend of mine, and he blows right through a red light - didn't even slow down! I said "Dude, you just ran a red light!" to which he replied "Yeah, I know." The next intersection we come to has a red light, and he goes right through it. Once again I exclaim "Dude, that was ANOTHER red light!!" "Don't worry about it," he says, "My brother does it all the time and there's never a problem." We get to the next intersection and the light is green, and he comes to a screeching halt! I say, "Dude! It's green, why are you stopping?"

"Because my brother might be coming the other way."

People who make up their own rules in a society tend to throw things off for everyone else. Most laws and rules have a very good reason for being there, even if you don't think they should apply to you.

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Re: Manufacturer imposed NFZ's (No Fly Zones)

It's a nice analogy, but in this case users are not required by law to update to the latest DJI firmware / app which imposes flight restrictions that go further than those set down by law.

If I'm not mistaken, it seems a lot of non-drone owners are in favour of manufacturers implimenting flight area restrictions, however can you imagine their outcry if vehicle manufacturers started implimenting - without being required by law to do so - speed control based on their GPS location so you couldn't get your car to go over the speed limit for the particular road you're on?

(yes yes I am aware of some very high performance cars that limit their top speed unless they detect you're at a racetrack but I don't think they have a variable top speed limit that corresponds to the road you're on)

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Re: Manufacturer imposed NFZ's (No Fly Zones)

So drone pilots decide NZF are "over-reaching" because of course they know more and better, right? If you want a better view of airspace over Hawaii, please use FAA charts, or at least skyvector.com, and you'll see Oahu airspace is quite complex (https://skyvector.com/?ll=21.461796608405063,-157.9435757613748&chart=38&zoom=3). For example there are areas with parachuting activity, requiring to monitor a given radio frequency - drone pilots probably won't. Same for the warning about the high volume touristic traffic.

There could be an issue if DJI supports only circular NFZ - in this case it has to err on the broader side. But it looks to be using AirMap geofencing - and it does use temporary restrictions as well, those you'd need NOTAMs advertising TFRs - temporary flight restrictions - to be aware of. So it may enforce NFZ you won't see on a standard chart.

Flying carelessly into NFZ will make drone users look like jerks - will just lead to stronger regulations, and it will just damage exactly those happily flying abiding to the rules.

Flying has always been a very cooperative environment, because, after all, if something goes wrong you have a good chance to die too. The issue with drones is you risk someone's else life, but not yours. Maybe each drone controller should have explosive inside - if the drone crashes, the controller blows up. It would make drone pilots more careful... <G>

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"this user has pointed out the difference between DJI's new NFZ's and the US airspace in Hawaii,"

And he doesn't understand the difference between the various DJI zones, it looks, because probably he never RTFM (and when it comes to flying, that's very bad). See http://www.dji.com/flysafe/geo-system

The green areas are warning zones. DJI will allow you to "unlock" them. They are there because they have safety or other concerns. For example, a protected wildlife area will be indicated as such (and you shouldn't buzz around and disturb wildlife, especially in some periods, just to get a photo for Instagram). Using a drone there may not be forbidden by flying rules, but it could be forbidden by other laws (i.e. prisons). And often common sense may also suggest it's better to avoid it.

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Tragedy

Sorry for all the good folks who suffered this power outage tragedy. On the slightly-less-tragic side of the coin, Silicon Valley. What could really make this not-so-bad-a-tragedy is if the perp turns out to be a patent troll lawyer or exec, recently relocated from Texas.

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Is no one else concerned with the soon to be 10s to 100s of thousands of drones that will soon be flying around?

Do they think they'll be hack proof? Don't assume terrorists are be tech illiterate...

I obviously support the drone database.

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Tabloid scaremongering much?

If you'd like to take your head out of your arse for a moment you'd see that terrorists have been resorting to far less complicated tactics such as vehicles driven into crowds.

A drone database will only mean the police have a list of those who aren't likely to do stupid / dangerous / deadly things with drones, whereas those who are intent on causing mischief won't register.

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"A drone database will only mean the police have a list of those who aren't likely to do stupid / dangerous / deadly things with drones, whereas those who are intent on causing mischief won't register."

The Feds would have the database of the registration numbers not the local police although they could ask for a lookup if they recovered a craft after an accident. With so many people doing stupid things with copters, it's not a bad idea to have the requirement. Search YouTube for "Drone Fail" and you will see the tip of the iceberg of stupid. I recall an idiot that crashed his drone while flying around high-rises in NY and barely missed hitting somebody after is plummeted 20 stories. The guy is almost hit grabbed it and gave or sold the memory card from the camera to the local news. What the heck, the owner wasn't going to reclaim his property. Although, there are people that stupid.

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Wow

Amazing that they managed to identify the drone from that lump of carbonised stuff without motors, arms, camera or anything recognisable as drone bits.

What is the big metal looking thing? I suppose that that the flammable and potentially explosive Lipo battery that survived the fire.

Hang on....

If anyone can find me a higher res image I'd love to see it.

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Anonymous Coward

Having lived in the area in lhe late 90s my recollection was th\t you dion't need errant quad-copters to cause power outages (remember several in the 3 years I was there compared to the, I think, zero in the last 15 years back in the UK!) ... and despite a PGE spokesman reassuring everyone on the news that Californians had "the best electricty in the world" - this was after there'd been a outage that had taken out power from Canada down into Mexico and across as far as Texas

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a PGE spokesman reassuring everyone on the news that Californians had "the best electricity in the world"

Every Volt hand built by craftsmen.

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Interesting regulations

"any drone that is flown must remain clear of surrounding obstacles, per the FAA"

You wouldn't have thought "don't crash into things" is the kind of rule that actually needs to be explicitly stated.

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Re: Interesting regulations

You're kidding right? This is the US.....

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"Now the city is trying to track down the operator responsible for the crash. Witnesses at the scene describe a white adult male with white hair who fled the scene in a white hatchback car."

Sounds like Doc Brown is back.

Obviously a trial of his new drone time machine.

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What was the make of the drone?

I want to avoid buying a product that obviously failed ESD tests.

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Trollface

a white adult male with white hair who fled the scene in a white hatchback car

This description is clearly racist!

It was a beige Prius.

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Conspiracy Theory

What if you want to break in to a place with cameras and burglar alarms? Wouldn't it be smart to take out the power of the whole neighbourhood?

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Re: Conspiracy Theory

Any half-assed alarm system will have battery backup. Though there is no guarantee that the batteries in a given system are fresh, it's hard to find that out without inside help. And kinda stupid to risk the penalties of bringing down power to the entire neighborhood just to find out.

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