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Ooops, Did We Just Close An Airport Over A Ufo Sighting?

Picture this: it’s late in the evening on a freezing cold, dark, and windy December night in southern England, and an airport worker at Gatwick — London’s second international airport — sees something fly past in the gloom above the floodlights. The weather and darkness makes it difficult to see what the object was, but the report is phoned in to security. What was it? A flock of birds? A piece of plastic litter caught by the wind and blown through the night? In this case, the call is recorded as a drone. Because the magic D-word has been uttered, a security plan swings into action, the airport is put on a high state of readiness, and flights are suspended.

Gatwick by night, on an evening far less inclement than last week. News Oresund [CC BY 2.0].

Thousands of people across the site are put on alert, watching for the drone. And of course, the drone reports roll in, and the story takes on a life of its own. People who have no idea what a drone looks like in the air are now expecting to see one, so of course when a flock of birds or a plastic bag caught by the wind crosses their peripheral vision they too are convinced that it is the drone. Night turns into day, there is a lull in the reports so the airport re-opens, only to be closed again following a fresh spate of sightings. Flights are diverted all across the country, and tens of thousands of passengers are stranded in the terminals.

No, it’s not a speck of dirt on your screen, it’s a drone! BBC (Fair use)

There follows three days of airport closure drama. No photos emerge despite almost every one of the many thousands of people on the site having a camera phone from which they are Tweeting about the queues in the terminal. There is a grainy video, but it is indistinct, and crucially it doesn’t have anything in it that is identifiable as Gatwick. Meanwhile the police are frustrated in their search for the drone operators, who like their drone, prove difficult to pinpoint

During the third night a pair of arrests are announced, a local couple. The police have saved the day, the culprits are under lock and key. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief, the airport re-opens, and that’s the end of that. Except of course it isn’t, because inconveniently the pair are found to be blameless and released. When pressed during an interview, a police spokesman then makes the embarrassing admission that there is a possibility that there may never have been a drone at all.

YOU COULDN’T MAKE IT UP

You might imagine that this was the fictional plot of a thriller novel, but sadly not. All of the above is a tale of the last few days of events in the British news, save for most of the first paragraph which is our guess at how the first drone sightings may have happened. At the time of writing there remains the possibility that there could have been a drone over Gatwick, but given the current dearth of evidence it is one that seems tenuous. There are reports of drone wreckage, but since readers with long memories will recall UK police once identified RepRap parts as a 3D printed gun we’ll wait until we see it before we call it that.

If there was indeed a drone then of course we would like to see its operators brought to justice forthwith. But what concerns us at Hackaday are the implications the episode could still have for those of our community with an interest in multirotors. The usual clamour was made for Government to do something about it, and we know that would have meant a fresh set of onerous regulations for responsible multirotor owners while doing nothing about the criminals, because of course criminals have little regard for laws.

So if we are to glean anything from this sorry mess, we must examine it from several angles. Why is there a lack of drone detection technology in place? How should drone reports initially be treated and investigated on the ground? How should they be dealt with in official inquiries, and how then should lawmakers see them? This will inevitably have a British flavour to it because of the incident in question, but the points are just as valid worldwide.

WHEN A DRONE REPORT COMES IN, WE NEED A RELIABLE WAY TO EVALUATE IT

When we are told something new, it passes a process of evaluation in our minds. We look at the source, and weigh up the story itself. If a guy with crazy hair in the street tells us that the aliens have landed and are controlling the Prime Minister with a ray gun, it will probably be discounted. But if Hackaday tells us that someone has hacked a VGA chipset to work as a software-defined radio we’re guessing most of you would be very interested indeed.

When a fresh drone incident is reported it appears that this evaluation process has historically been defective. We have previously discussed official incident reports that come with no physical evidence of a drone, but contain descriptions of drones with capabilities unmatched even by jet fighter aircraft. It seems like any eyewitness report in which the culprit is named as a drone is automatically taken at face value no matter how unlikely it may be. The fact that a report may have come from a pilot is sometimes mentioned as a boost to its credibility, but that is a false assumption. A pilot who is not familiar with either how drones appear from a distance or what the capabilities of a drone are in the air can only be considered an unreliable witness, because while they may know a lot about aircraft they lack the required expertise for this judgement. So what can be done to help boost the quality of reporting and to immediately highlight credible reports while requiring more for dubious ones?

In the case of a near miss in open airspace there may be little effect on ground-based facilities, but at an airport such as Gatwick there can be no chances taken by the authorities. A drone collision on an aircraft on final approach could cause hundreds of fatalities, so upon receipt of a report they must have had little choice but to close the runways. There appears to have been a lack of drone detection technologies in place at Gatwick which means that the only source available to the airport would have been the eyewitnesses themselves, and since we have amply demonstrated the potential for eyewitness reports being unreliable then the current confusion becomes an inevitability. It is imperative that more reliable detection technologies be fitted or developed if necessary. This is especially true when precautionary shut-downs stretch past minutes or hours into world-news-making delays as happened in this instance.

COMPETENT POLICE INVESTIGATIONS AND RESPONSIBLE JOURNALISM ON DRONE REPORTS

The mass media tech story cycle. Our apologies to Gartner. Curve image: Jeremykemp [ CC BY-SA 3.0 ]

Once an incident has started and news of it emerges there is a consequent effect upon members of our community. Legitimate drone fliers away from the airport will find themselves under more scrutiny, and since it is already a common tale to hear of police being called when flying is under way that means they could face harassment and wrongful arrest. Indeed though we do not know all the details of the pair arrested near Gatwick it smacks of their being arrested in a round-up of convenient local drone enthusiasts rather than as a result of meaningful investigation. That the names of the pair were leaked and they became the subject of a media frenzy further shows the danger in which they were placed, as well as the irresponsibility of the reporters who covered their plight.

PERHAPS MOST IMPORTANTLY: WE NEED ACCURATE OFFICIAL INCIDENT REPORTS

Whatever happens in a drone report, whether it be an arrest or an embarrassing debacle, there will inevitably be an official incident report from the Civil Aviation Authority, the regulator of British civilian airspace. This will form the official record of the event, and thus should strive to be as accurate as possible, but here the process falls short for the final time. There appears to be no evaluation step performed on the available evidence and no requirement for physical proof. So if an eyewitness reports behaviors about the drone that no drone ever built could possibly be capable of, it is solemnly recorded as fact. Our previous article on this subject highlights multiple such accounts, and this is an important point because as the official record these reports are what informs legislators. When they make laws pertaining to drones it is imperative that their decisions are based upon accurate evidence, and it is clear that this is not the case. Given that they will no doubt be reviewing drone legislation in the wake of this fiasco it is particularly important that the investigators consult people with specialist knowledge in the field, demand physical proof rather than heresay, and most importantly question accounts that stretch credibility.

It seems obvious that the multirotor hobbyist is caught in a perfect storm of incompetent authorities, deeply flawed investigations, shoddy journalism, and clueless legislators. This incident has laid bare some of the shortcomings, and it is to be hoped that a few lessons might be learned to produce less of a debacle surrounding future drone incidents. It is still a developing story so there may be a breakthrough and the whole narrative will change, and if that turns out to be the case then we hope they find the correct perpetrator this time and send them away at Her Majesty’s pleasure for a very long time. We’re guessing though that every effort will be made to push it as far under the carpet as possible to save red faces among officialdom. As multirotor enthusiasts we must keep the issue of poor investigation alive though, for if we let it be buried once more it will come back to trouble us again.

Source hackaday.com

Fact or fiction

PlayStation 5’s new alleged design appears on the web

PlayStation 5 may look like this / © Twitter - Alcoholicaust

Drawings of the future Sony console leaked again on the Internet. But this is not similar to previous times.

In anticipation of the release of the Sony Playstation 5 game console, the official release of which is scheduled for the end of the year, leaks appear one after another on the network regarding the design of the device. A Twitter user with the nickname Alcoholikaust, who several months ago circulated the alleged PS5 images online, posted in his account a new version of the design of the console.

It looks even stranger than the previous options. The device consists of two beveled quadrangular plates separated by a kind of layer. At the same time, the bottom plate has two additional triangular “ears”, and the power button is located on it. The interfaces for connecting the controller and the fan grill are likely to be located in the middle of the device.

Alcoholikaust notes that he cannot be one hundred percent sure that these are indeed the final drawings of the device. Commentators, in turn, noted that a similar design would be more suitable for the Xbox: if you look closely, the shape of the console in the pictures is a bit like the letter X.

The characteristics of the future PlayStation 5 were unveiled in April 2019, and in December the alleged photos of the brutal design (below) of the console appeared on the network .

Новая версия дизайна Playstation 5

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Fact or fiction

Eyewitnesses say they saw the extinct huge Moa

According to official science, the huge New Zealand Moa birds disappeared in the late 15th century. But, they have been observed in the centuries to come and continue to be found in our time.

Hundreds of years ago, there were non-flying birds in New Zealand with powerful legs, similar to huge ostriches. Moa had no wings, even rudimentary ones. They ate fruits and plants. They lived carelessly until the first Maori arrived in New Zealand.

For the Maori, the cumbersome heavy giants reaching 3.5 meters in height, which posed no danger to humans, were an extremely easy prey. Over the course of several hundred years, humans have significantly reduced Moa’s population so that they remain very few, and about 500 years ago, the last Moa was officially killed.

However, hunters reported that they sometimes saw separate instances of Moa. In all likelihood, a small population of Moa has managed to survive in sparsely populated forests.

There are many accounts of eyewitnesses who met Moa in New Zealand in the early 19th century.

Later, the number of these eyewitnesses dropped sharply. By the 20th century, Moa in New Zealand seems to have disappeared completely. Sometimes scientists come across remains of an animal that looked surprisingly fresh, such as a perfectly preserved leg. But, the laboratory study shows that these are very old remains.

Now, in New Zealand, native forests are becoming more crowded with numerous research enthusiasts, but the maximum they have found is some new species of lizards or insects.

However, Moa has sometimes been observed in modern times. Researcher Bruce Spightle has published Moa Sightings, describing more than a hundred modern eyewitness stories that have encountered huge, wingless birds with powerful legs in the woods.

One of the most famous sightings took place on January 20, 1993, when three friends – Paddy Frini, Sam Webby and Rochelle Rafferty, went on a hike in the Craigieburn Range, South Island.

At one point, the group stopped to rest. Then Frini noticed a huge bird about the height of a man, covered in red-brown and gray feathers, standing among the prickly bushes. Frini pointed to his friends’ bird and the three looked at her in amazement.

After a short while, the bird noticed the people and began to move nervously behind the bushes. At that moment, Frini managed to get the camera out of his backpack and take a picture before the bird disappeared.

Paddy Frini’s Photo

This photo, which is of rather poor quality, has caused a lot of commotion among biologists and ordinary people. It was hard not to believe Frini and his friends. They have long been hiking and are serious people, with no inclination for such jokes. But it was even harder to believe in the disappearance of Moa.

The scientists discussed this picture for a long time and finally decided that whatever it was, the creature was not Moa. They concluded that the neck was too thick, the legs not so long, and that from a certain angle the creature of the picture looked more like a deer.

For years, until the very end of his life, Frini visited the area, constantly trying to find Moa and take at least one more photo, but to no avail. He found several people in the same area and also saw something that looked like a large bird.

Another enthusiast is crypto-scientist Rex Gilroy, who has been searching for Moa in New Zealand for the past 30 years.

Gilroy and his castings with suspected traces of Moa

According to him, in 1980 he discovered a “completely fresh” footprint of Moa’s foot in the northern part of the country, and in 2001 and 2008, he even found a trail of very large bird tracks from which he made castings.

In 2007, he claimed to have found Moa’s large nest in an old stump, but did not show photos or say where it was, thus provoking criticism and allegations of lies. In his defense, Gilroy states that he hides the nesting area so that humans do not disturb the birds.

Many skeptics are convinced that Moa has indeed disappeared and all modern evidence is simply a hoax and a thirst for fame On the other hand, the testimony of eyewitnesses who saw Moa or their footprints always comes from those parts of the country that are still poorly populated and poorly studied.

That is, theoretically a group of large birds could really survive there. Moreover, Moa are not predators. The fruits and plants will be sufficient to feed them, even in a small forest.

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Fact or fiction

Has Iran downed the Ukrainian plane and will we ever know the truth?

A Ukrainian plane crashed in Tehran yesterday, presumably shot down by the Iranian Air Defense.

Such a version was launched by Jordan-based media Al Hadat. A profile on Facebook reported that a 177-person Boeing was hit by a rocket fired by the Islamic Republic’s armed forces. A short time later, the post was also posted to an account on the UK’s most popular Daily Mail network. Both editions deleted their posts in a few hours.

The reason for the publications were allegations that the engine of the machine caught fire in the air.

Investigators in Iran have indicated that they believed the original cause of the tragedy was a technical malfunction of the aircraft.

A representative of the air carrier, for its part, said the machine was working properly and the crew was made up of professionals.

Iran, meanwhile, is refusing to hand over the black boxes to Boeing’s fallen Tehran plane. This was reported by Iranian media Mehr, quoted by Reuters.

“We will not give the black boxes to the manufacturer and the Americans,” said Ali Abedzadeh, quoted by Mehr.

Abedzadeh also explained that he did not know where the box for analysis would be sent.

According to international air transport legislation, the country on whose territory the accident occurred has the right to investigate, said Abedzadeh. He added that “the investigation of this incident will be the responsibility of Iran, but the Ukrainians will be able to participate in it.”

Under the rules of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to which Iran, the United States and Ukraine are members, an accident investigation is conducted in the country where it has occurred.

Nevertheless, according to industry experts, few countries are able to analyze the ‘black boxes’. These include Germany, the United States, France and the United Kingdom.

Boeing have not yet responded to the refusal.

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