A Remote-Controlled Plane Flies Through New York City

I would imagine that New Yorkers would be a little concerned about any unusual aircraft zipping around their airspace. So it is particularly remarkable that a team managed to assemble a remote-controlled miniature airplane, equip it with a camera, and fly it around various parts of the city, including parts of Manhattan, over the top of the Brooklyn Bridge, over the Statue of Liberty, and so on -- without getting arrested or having their aircraft taken down. Here's the video:

According to various bloggers, this flight is legal as long as it remains below either 400 or 500 feet (one blogger says 400, the video's uploader claims 500). Any pilots in the audience want to educate us on the legality of private flights in New York City?

This is one of those rare YouTube videos where the comment thread is interesting. A pilot actually weighs in on the potential danger caused by the flight, if it were to intercept a commercial flight path (remote-controlled bird strike, anybody?). Some key comments:

"...we have GPS on board and know the altitude at all times. additionally a person on the ground informs us of incoming traffic. we never exceeded 500 ft and never gotten within a mile of a private or commercial aircraft.? the altitude in the video looks much higher than it really is due to the wider field of view of our camera." -nastycop420 (video uploader)

"Excellent work! I appreciate the time, effort, and coordination that went into this. When I taught RF in college, I had my students build a UAV w/FPV as a class project. There were no? spread-spectrum RC radios back then, so we digitized the trainer-cord output of a Futaba tx and rolled our own spread-spectrum control link. We used ATV for the video link. System range was ~15 miles (air) and ~3.5 miles (ground). Was the most popular project we ever did.
Again, I applaud your efforts!
Joel" -MrTurboparker

"I'm flying! Nice? vid bro!" -britanese (Okay, not ALL the comments add to the dialogue.)

Some sample heights achieved in the video: Brooklyn Bridge (276.5 feet), Statue of Liberty (305 feet), Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (693 feet...higher than the creators claimed to have ever flown on this outing). Wow. More video from the same group after the jump.

Downhill Flight from RiSCyD : TeamBlackSheep on Vimeo.

Chicken or Black Sheep - Episode 2 from RiSCyD : TeamBlackSheep on Vimeo.

For more on the vehicle, check out this forum post. Apparently its maximum altitude is over 3,000 meters! Oh, and the official name for this hobby is "FPV RC" (First Person Video, Remote-Controlled) in case you want to go a-Googlin'.

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E. A. Tilly, Library of Congress // Public Domain
The 19th Century Poet Who Predicted a 1970s Utopia
An electric airship departing Paris in 1883.
An electric airship departing Paris in 1883.
E. A. Tilly, Library of Congress // Public Domain

In 1870, John Collins dreamed of a future without cigarettes, crime, or currency inflation. The Quaker poet, teacher, and lithographer authored "1970: A Vision for the Coming Age," a 28-page-long poem that imagines what the world would be like a century later—or, as Collins poetically puts it, in "nineteen hundred and threescore and ten.”

The poem, recently spotlighted by The Public Domain Review, is a fanciful epic that follows a narrator as he travels in an airship from Collins’s native New Jersey to Europe, witnessing the wonders of a futuristic society.

In Collins’s imagination, the world of the future seamlessly adheres to his own Quaker leanings. He writes: “Suffice it to say, every thing that I saw / Was strictly conformed to one excellent law / That forbade all mankind to make or to use / Any goods that a Christian would ever refuse.” For him, that means no booze or bars, no advertising, no “vile trashy novels,” not even “ribbons hung flying around.” Needless to say, he wouldn’t have been prepared for Woodstock. In his version of 1970, everyone holds themselves to a high moral standard, no rules required. Children happily greet strangers on their way to school (“twas the custom of all, not enforced by a rule”) before hurrying on to ensure that they don’t waste any of their “precious, short study hours.”

It’s a society whose members are never sick or in pain, where doors don’t need locks and prisons don’t exist, where no one feels tempted to cheat, lie, or steal, and no one goes bankrupt. There is no homelessness. The only money is in the form of gold and silver, and inflation isn't an issue. Storms, fires, and floods are no longer, and air pollution has been eradicated.

While Collins’s sunny outlook might have been a little off-base, he did hint at some innovations that we’d recognize today. He describes international shipping, and comes decently close to predicting drone delivery—in his imagination, a woman in Boston asks a Cuban friend to send her some fruit that “in half an hour came, propelled through the air.” He kind of predicts CouchSurfing (or an extremely altruistic version of Airbnb), imagining that in the future, hotels wouldn't exist and kind strangers would just put you up in their homes for free. He dreams up undersea cables that could broadcast a kind of live video feed of musicians from around the world, playing in their homes, to a New York audience—basically a YouTube concert. He describes electric submarines (“iron vessels with fins—a submarine line, / propels by galvanic action alone / and made to explore ocean’s chambers unknown") and trains that run silently. He even describes climate change, albeit a much more appealing view of it than we’re experiencing now. In his world, “one perpetual spring had encircled the earth.”

Collins might be a little disappointed if he could have actually witnessed the world of 1970, which was far from the Christian utopia he hoped for. But he would have at least, presumably, really enjoyed plane rides.

You can read the whole thing here.

[h/t The Public Domain Review]

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iStock
NASA Has a Plan to Stop the Next Asteroid That Threatens Life on Earth
iStock
iStock

An asteroid colliding catastrophically with Earth within your lifetime is unlikely, but not out of the question. According to NASA, objects large enough to threaten civilization hit the planet once every few million years or so. Fortunately, NASA has a plan for dealing with the next big one when it does arrive, Forbes reports.

According to the National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan [PDF] released by the White House on June 21, there are a few ways to handle an asteroid. The first is using a gravity tractor to pull it from its collision course. It may sound like something out of science fiction, but a gravity tractor would simply be a large spacecraft flying beside the asteroid and using its gravitational pull to nudge it one way or the other.

Another option would be to fly the spacecraft straight into the asteroid: The impact would hopefully be enough to alter the object's speed and trajectory. And if the asteroid is too massive to be stopped by a spacecraft, the final option is to go nuclear. A vehicle carrying a nuclear device would be launched at the space rock with the goal of either sending it in a different direction or breaking it up into smaller pieces.

Around 2021, NASA will test its plan to deflect an asteroid using a spacecraft, but even the most foolproof defense strategy will be worthless if we don’t see the asteroid coming. For that reason, the U.S. government will also be working on improving Near-Earth Object (NEO) detection, the technology NASA uses to track asteroids. About 1500 NEOs are already detected each year, and thankfully, most of them go completely unnoticed by the public.

[h/t Forbes]

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