Drones and Phones

Started by J2SkiNews in Ski News - 17 Replies

To Create or Answer a Topic
Drones and Phones

J2SkiNews posted Aug-2015

Two news stories from Colorado's 'big two' resort groups in the past few days have pointed to the latest stages of how the rapidly evolving use of technology on the ski slopes may be used and controlled in the wider world.

Firstly Vail Resorts have announced that they will 'crowd source anonymised data' from the mobile phones of people on the slopes of their four Colorado resorts this winter in order to gather data on where lift queues are building up.

Secondly Aspen have announced they're banning the use of drones at their four Colorado ski areas. The increasingly popular, easy to obtain and affordable devices are becoming an ever more common site on ski slopes, with Aspen says, potential dangers particularly for ski lifts and in the case of its Buttermilk ski area, nearby planes using the local airport. The US Forest Service, which controls much of the land on which many US ski areas operate, had already clarified its position on private drone usage earlier in the year saying any operators must have official permissions from the country's Federal Aviation Authority.

The Vail Resorts move is the highlight of the fifth edition of the group's Epic Mix app, which has been called 'Epic Mix Time.'

The new feature, based on similar recently introduced technology used at New York's JFK airport and Disneyland parks, collects anonymous location and movement data from phone and similar device users on the slopes to cleverly calculate queue times at most lifts at the resorts of Breckenridge, Beaver Creek, Keystone and Vail. It then transmits collected queue data back to Epic Mix App users top they can see where there are queue free lifts, helping skier flow around each ski area.

Slope users do not need to opt in and cannot opt out (except by not carrying a phone that is turned on presumably) for their phone's data to be used in the process, however the technology appears to avoid privacy laws as firstly it does not collect personal data and secondly the collected data is almost immediately permanently 'dumped' after it has been used for the live queuing calculations.

The Epic Mix Time technology will be rolled out at Vail's other ski areas in California, Utah, the US Midwest and Australia in winter 2016-17.
www  The Snow Hunter

Dave Mac
reply to 'Drones and Phones'
posted Aug-2015

Good news about the drones. That should make our Colorado visit more pleasant this winter.

Yet to figure out how to fire up the mobile in the USA.

reply to 'Drones and Phones'
posted Aug-2015

I fear that drones will take over from the GoPro as the narcissists technology of choice.
"Better to remain reticent and have people think one is an idiot, than to open ones mouth and remove all doubt"

reply to 'Drones and Phones'
posted Aug-2015

Dave Mac wrote:Good news about the drones. That should make our Colorado visit more pleasant this winter.

Wow. I haven't seen any north of the border yet. I guess it would be annoying and possibly quite dangerous when there's enough for a 'swarm'. Was it really that bad or was it just one or two making a lot of noise?

reply to 'Drones and Phones'
posted Sep-2015

I guess they're trying to nip it in the bud, stop it getting out of hand before it really takes off.

reply to 'Drones and Phones'
posted Sep-2015

I am an amateur drone flyer and skiier, and I feel that there's a lot of bad publicity about drones from lazy journalists. In the US, there seems to have been a very confrontational approach between the FAA and the general public, with the former feeling that it 'owns' all airspace and seeing all drone flying as an extension of powered flying, needing extensive, expensive training courses and official certification. Hopefully in Europe, we can be a bit more constructive.

I'm not aware of any incidents between drones and skiiers. In Verbier, in fact, they've been used very effectively to help the local FIS ski team to analyse and improve their slalom techniques. There's also at least one official, certified drone operator working with the ski domain. It probably helps that in Switzerland you have to have 3rd-party insurance cover if you fly anything with a payload (if I recall, anything over 2-3 Kgs or similar) - A simple measure that achieves sensible results. Moreover, in practical terms, most amateur drones like mine don't work well in the thin air - the flight time is so relatively short that it's hardly worth using them. Plus that for skiing, you probably want to film following someone, which would mean you'd have to be on the move - and flying a drone and skiing at the same time is almost impossible. So you probably won't see many drones in actual use as yet.

However, most owners of 'first generation' semi-professional 'commodity' drones (like me) spend a lot of time practicing with their machines in isolated fields or recs. Or for those with GPS, plan the route carefully at leisure before embarking on an actual flight. Sooner or later, someone is going to try and film a skiier/cyclist/MTB form a fixed position as the subject moves away, and then loses the connection with the drone. Cheaper models without GPS may just start drifting around. Semi-pro drones with GPS are usually able to retrace their outbound route back to the launch point; or until they are back in range again. Most semi-pro drones can be set to hover statically when they lose contact, and then land gently before the battery runs out. In any event, a skier or skiers will collide with the 'lost' drone and we'll see hysterical 'Rogue drone slaughters skiiers in Alpine mayhem' headlines and calls from self-appointed 'experts' on Breakfast TV for massive legislation.

The real concern should be with the development of 'follow me' capability on cheap commodity drones. We seem pretty close to this and it will appeal to a very different customer base: one who is going to assume they can just launch the thing and all the rest is automatic and safe, and who will have no interest in practicing at length before use. I can appreciate that this does need to have some control and guidelines as to use, if we're not to see the current set of selfie-stick skiiers becoming a pest as they career down the piste followed by errant little drones, and see a lot of collisions as a result.

On the one hand, most amateur drone software is amazingly sophisticated in terms of stability control and making the flight control straightforwards. On the other hand, there is very little in the way of collision detection capability. Films form the First Generation of commodity drones makes it look like they're behaving more intelligently than they really are, because there's a (usually quite skilled) human operator, so they avoid trees and other obstacles with apparent ease. In reality, most drones - even £5K+ pro models - have no collision avoidance capability. My personal view is that whoever manages to effectively build collision avoidance in (at a low cost) will take the market but we may see a transitional phase where 'follow me' capability isn't allied with collision avoidance.
Edited 2 times. Last update at 15-Sep-2015

reply to 'Drones and Phones'
posted Sep-2015

There have been many reported air misses with drones. Here is the report of just one. If for instance a low flying aircraft approaching an airfield or a military jet on a fast low level training run the impact a 4km drone hitting something traveling at perhaps 420 knots would be "not good" and possibly fatal. It is an area of great concern to the CAA and FAA.

Carving leaves me all on edge

reply to 'Drones and Phones'
posted Sep-2015

Good points there, although re 'Plus that for skiing, you probably want to film following someone, which would mean you'd have to be on the move - and flying a drone and skiing at the same time is almost impossible.' there is this coming out soon - although as you say collision avoidance is not included


Topic last updated on 18-September-2015 at 00:49

Not a Member?

FREE Snow Reports by e-mail.

Save on Ski Hire

Save up to 50%

+5% for 4+ Ski Packs

+10% for 10+ Ski Packs

Discount Ski Hire

7th day Free on selected dates

Ski Hire Shops in Isola 2000 and Verbier.


Sponsored Links

January 17, 2022

There is snow forecast to fall in United States over the next 2 days, in at least 50 Ski Resorts including Cockaigne Ski Resort, Hidden Valley (PA), Killington, Wilmot Mountain and Woods Valley.

Forum Listing Key

Unread Post
Hot Topic
Sticky (important)

The views and opinions presented in the J2Ski Forums are solely those of their respective authors and do not represent those of J2Ski Ltd. Objectionable Content may be notified by sending a Private Message to Admin.

J2Ski logo J2Ski logo