Archive | Video

Domestic Drone Regulation for Safety and Privacy

Today’s (Sunday, Sep 8, 2013) New York Times has a story by Anne Eisenberg, “Preflight Turbulence for Commercial Drones.”  The article combines two crucial topics in connection with drones (remotely piloted aerial vehicles, or unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs, but my advice to the industry and USAF is that the People Have Spoken, and it’s “drones”): safety and privacy.  The article is interesting chiefly because it focuses on commercial drones (rather than either military drones, law enforcement drones, or hobbyist drones, as so many articles do).  It talks about the likely path of commercial uses of drones:

Companies in the United States are preparing for drones, too. Customers can buy an entire system, consisting of the aerial vehicle, software and a control station, for less than $100,000, with smaller systems going for $15,000 to $50,000, said Jeff Lovin, a senior vice president at Woolpert, a mapping and design firm in Dayton, Ohio. Woolpert owns six traditional, piloted twin-engine aircraft to collect data for aerial mapping; these typically cost $2 million to $3 million to buy, and several thousand dollars an hour to operate, he said.

Gavin Schrock, a professional surveyor and associate editor of Professional Surveyor magazine, says he thinks that surveyors will be among the first to add drones to their tool kits. Aerial systems are perfect for surveying locations like open-pit mines, he said. A small drone can fly over a pit, shuttling back and forth in overlapping rows, taking pictures that can be stitched together and converted into a three-dimensional model that is accurate to within a few inches. Such a system is safer than having a surveyor walk around the pit with traditional tools. “I hate doing that,” Mr. Schrock said. “It’s dangerous.”

For many commercial applications, in other words, the choice will become [...]

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Arming a Hobbyist Drone with a Paintball Gun

In a Hoover Institution essay a few weeks ago, the Brookings Institution’s Benjamin Wittes asked, “How long do we really think it will take before a gun enthusiast arms a remotely-piloted robotic aircraft with his favorite handgun (very doable by a competent layperson with a few thousand dollars to burn)?” He points at Lawfare today to a new YouTube video of a hobbyist who has mounted a paintball gun on a hobbyist drone.  The paintball gun is impressively accurate, all things considered.  I leave to Dave Kopel and other gun law experts here the legal ins and outs of whether an actual handgun mounted on a drone; my uninformed assumption is that it is illegal, indeed criminal, now; the YouTube video says repeatedly that a real weapon would illegal. I’m  not a legal expert in this area (on Gun Appreciation Day, following Dave Kopel’s suggestion to consider supporting Second Amendment groups, I re-joined the NRA after several years of lapse from sheer inattention, but I don’t follow this area save international law issues such as the proposed arms treaty).  However, I learned of this video from former Deputy Attorney General Jim Comey, at a conference that looked at what it called the gradual proliferation of “many-to-many threats,” including cyber, bio-weaponization, and certain aspects of robotics and autonomous robotic systems.  “If this is what a novice with a small budget can accomplish,” the voiceover narrator says with understated ambiguity, “then clearly, this technology has a lot of potential.” Actually,from the standpoint of the individual gun-owner whose interest is self-defense, my guess is that this technology is pretty limited in its application, unless there were a considerable amount of automation introduced into the technology. It might be useful to home defense, I suppose, to send a drone rather than sending yourself, but [...]

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The Green Police

I saw this ad during the Super Bowl–sorry, I mean “The Big Game”–yesterday, and originally thought it was some sort of political issue ad. Although it is funny, in a creepy way, it is not clear to me what the ad agency and Audi are saying here about The Green Police (besides buy an Audi diesel).

There are more clips on YouTube of other Green Police spots, so this looks like the start of an ongoing campaign. I suspect the visceral reaction of many Americans will not be what Audi intended or desired, but maybe these folks are not the Audi market. Is Audi the new Volvo? How is Volvo doing these days anyway? [...]

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A Snack Incident to Arrest

Note to Law Enforcement Personnel: If you arrest a suspect for bank robbery, and you find the stick-up note in his pocket, don’t put the note on the car near the suspect. The note might not be there when you’re done the search incident to arrest:

Background here, via Josh Blackman. Oh, and don’t miss the suspect’s facial expression at the :33 mark. [...]

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InAlienable: The Movie is now on DVD:

Some readers may remember my chronicling my on-the-set experiences portraying a prosecutor in the independent film, InAlienable. (For those who missed the original posts you can read them all in order at this link.) I am very pleased to announce that the film now has a distributor is being officially released on DVD. It is available for pre-order on
As for my performance, although I have just 2 lines, I am on the screen a lot sitting next to Marina Sirtis who is a major character. Shooting the film, I discovered that even saying nothing involves acting choices, some of which I would have made differently had I ever seen myself on the screen. I did walk away from this experience with enormous respect for those who have mastered the craft of screen acting, which includes the entire InAlienable cast of experienced TV and movie sci-fi actors. Is this a perfect film? Hardly. It treads a very difficult line between drama and comedy. But it is a fun movie to watch, though not nearly as fun as appearing in.

UPDATE: For some reason the Amazon link to InAlienable was not displaying. I am trying again, as well adding a link to the word InAlienable in the text (and here). [...]

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The Deputy Who Helped Himself to the Defense Attorney’s Casefile

A lot of people have e-mailed me asking for my thoughts about a disturbing video that Radley Balko posted recently. The video shows a criminal court hearing in which a deputy assigned to court security walks over to the defense attorney’s papers on the counsel table and starts to look at the papers. Eventually he reaches down and pulls out a document from the stack of papers, passes it off to another deputy, and then the other deputy walks away with it. (The real action starts around the 1:30 mark.) As I understand things, it’s not clear from the video what the officer was looking for, what he thought he found, or why he took the paper.

My own thought is that it’s outrageous: If I were the judge, I would be steaming mad unless the deputy had a pretty damn good reason for doing what he did. The most obvious remedy is to hold a hearing on what happened in to determine if the deputy should be held in contempt of court. Indeed, the first part of a hearing was held this week, with the remainder to come next week. (H/t: Scott Greenfield)

Based on the media coverage of the first part of the hearing, it looks like the officer’s efforts to explain himself were a dud, but that the hearings are getting stuck on the question of attorney-client privilege. That is, the defendant in the case doesn’t want to waive his privilege, which means that the document’s identity and significance is a secret. And that in turn means that the deputies apparently can’t give the reason why they took the document, if they actually have any reason to give, which we don’t really know.

So my overall assessment is that this looks like a mess: [...]

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