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"Drones" Have Already Been in New Brunswick for Years

Drones Were Spotted at Ciclovia and the Raritan River Festival
UAV Optics Drone
A drone operated by UAV Optics was seen at the 2013 Raritan River Festival. Richard Rabinowitz

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–Unmanned aerial vehicles have been flying in the City since at least 2009.

As we reported earlier this month, drone technology is to be tested by Rutgers University in conjunction with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Rutgers President Barchi announced "Rutgers is well positioned to support the FAA’s research and testing efforts to ensure that unmanned aircraft systems can fly safely in our nation’s skies."

FAA spokesperson Allison Duquette told NewBrunswickToday.com that the “universities themselves will decide the specific areas” for testing.

“None of the testing sites have been approved,” adds Rutgers Media Relations official Carl Blesch.

He continues, saying “Rutgers involvement in the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership is based in our School of Engineering. While the FAA has not yet approved test sites in New Jersey, the partnership has proposed a remote section of the Pine Barrens and airspace off the Jersey Shore below Toms River.”

But apparently drones are nothing new to the Hub City.

Rutgers Autonomous Aircraft Team and for-profit aerial cinematography group UAV Optics have both presented their drones at recent local events.

Rutgers University has had its own unmanned aerial vehicle building team, testing drones for years and performing in several annual competitions with the Association for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).

AUVSI, according to their official website is a "non-profit devoted to advancing the unmanned systems community."

"The experience is ideal preparation for entering the workforce, which is why participating students are frequently offered coveted internship and employment opportunities while still in school. Since the competitions began in 1991, more than $1.3 million has been awarded in prize money."

Rutgers University's first drone was based on a model airplane, which is distinct in structure from a helicopter or multicopter.

Differences between Unmanned Aerial Systems and model aircrafts have been defined in an official brochure published by the Austrailian government's Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) in 2011.

CASA writes that UAS are strictly "flown for air work, including commercial operations, in activities such as aerial photography, surveying, [and] law enforcement... not for private or recreational use," and that model aircrafts are only used "for sport & recreation and education."

Also according to the brochure which is avilable online, all "unmanned aircraft activities are approved for operations over unpopulated areas up to 400ft AGL, or higher with special approvals."

The original University aircraft in 2009 was named "Daedalus" and was designed to be semi-autonomous, meaning to be able to direct itself without little to no assistance from anyone.

In Spring 2013, the Rutgers Autonomous Aircraft Team was at Rutgers Day, showing off one of their newest aircrafts called "the X8," capable of flying for up to 25 minutes.

The Rutgers Autonomous Aircraft Team won the title of 11th place in the 2012 AUSVI competition.

2009 UAV called Icarus was flown twice, breaking up on the second flight due to a broken wing. It is unclear what occured with the machine in the 2010 competition.

The student group originally consisted of all Rutgers undergraduates, and was advised by Rutgers Mechanical Enginieering professor Tobias Rossmann.

Headed by undergrad Anthony Garrison, the team was able to get funding provided by the University. On-campus organizations included the electrical engineering lab, WINLAB, the Rutgers Engineering Governance Council, the Rutgers Alumni Association, and BP Hobbies.

The original model airplane was donated by one Louis Stumpf.

UAV Optics Aerial Solutions flew a couple of drones at Boyd Park on September 29, at the Raritan River Festival, filming the event and drawing curious onlookers. The same company also operated the drone seen at the Ciclovia.

"We are able to fly over, through, and around areas that would be impossible for conventional helicopters or planes to fly at only a fraction of the price!" boasts UAV's official website.

"Our UAV systems are capable or long range flights with live video streaming back to our ground station. We can inspect objects from up to a mile away... we are also able to mount other specialized cameras and equipment to meet your needs."

The company's Industrial Applications page suggests drone use for things like "search and rescue, aerial inspections of high building structures, rooftops, agricultural fields, bridges, wind turbines... the possibilities are endless."

UAV Optics is based out of East Brunswick and uses a two-person crew.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), all UAV operators must obtain the proper certification.

Certified drone pilot, Baotri Ho, uses a remote control to drive his creation as filmmaker and UAV Director of Production Connie Yen controls the camera.

Ho builds and flies his own multicopters, which can have up to eight rotors each mounted on an arm spreading from the drone's center. These machines are costly to construct and UAV Optics refuses to fly its drones in the rain or snow, and will only fly drones if winds are below 15 MPH.

It also limits its drones to 400 feet or below in altitude, which is in accordance with the FAA guidelines.