With David Bowie’s blessing, astronaut Chris Hadfield’s ‘Space Oddity’ is back on YouTube

“Space Oddity” fans rejoice! Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield’s impressively awesome cover of the David Bowie classic is now back on the interwebs.

The video was taken down from YouTube after reaching more than 23 million hits. It features Hadfied’s playing and signing the ballad in space — I repeat, in space — aboard the International Space Station. It was reportedly the first music video ever recorded from space.

Hadfield had a one-year agreement with Bowie to leave the video up after it was released in 2013. When that expired, it was gone, for the most part — though like all things, if you’re crafty enough, it could be found.

Now Hadfield has inked a new two-year agreement with Bowie to re-post the historic and well-loved cover.

In a blog post on his Web site, Hadfield noted that the original video was posted in 2013 with Bowie’s permission, and he added that the singer and his representatives were “very gracious” throughout the process. It was removed in May when the first one-year agreement expired.

“Despite countless on-line expressions of frustration and desire, it wasn’t anyone’s ill-will or jealousy that kept this version of Oddity off YouTube,” Hadfield wrote. “It was merely the natural consequence of due process.”

Bowie has actually praised the cover, calling it “possibly the most poignant version of the song ever created” back in 2013.

And after months of negotiation and grappling with the complex legal questions that surround copyright in space, they had a breakthrough.

“The reasons we originally made the video were multifold. It was in response to repeated widespread requests via social media. It was a fun Saturday project with my son, Evan. It was a continuation of the other music that I was playing and recording while on ISS. But maybe most importantly, it was a chance to let people see where we truly are in space exploration. We’re not just probing what lies beyond Earth – we inhabit it,” Hadfield explained.

“We’re proud to have helped bring Bowie’s genius from 1969 into space itself in 2013, and now ever-forward,” he added.

And so now, just because you can, take a listen:

Commercial drones capture the attention of insurance industry

Commercial drones capture the attention of insurance industry

Intact Financial Corp. is the latest to attempt to tap the market for insuring drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which aren’t typically covered under a commercial insurance policy. Canada’s largest property and casualty insurer says the demand from its small and medium-sized business clients is increasing as more of them use drones as part of regular operations, particularly for surveillance in sectors such as farming.

“All of a sudden, they start – rather than walking the fields – using drones to take pictures and see if there are issues,” said Alain Lessard, senior vice-president of commercial lines at Intact. And that comes with potential hazards. “A person could be sued because the drone hit someone.”

While the commercial use of drones is still getting off the ground, it’s a key segment of a global market that is expected to grow to $11.5-billion (U.S.) by 2024, according to Teal Group, an aerospace market analysis firm.

The rise of UAV insurance comes as a wave of new technologies reshapes insurers’ businesses, creating new areas of coverage and ways of connecting with customers. Insurers now have teams dedicated to cyber threats, and some have begun to cover emerging businesses such as ride-sharing. The potential for “disruption” by agile tech companies tapped into changing consumer behaviour is also an ever-present concern, pushing Intact and some competitors to boost their branding and leadership in the digital space.

When it came to drones, Intact found a disconnect between old coverage and new technology.

“As part of our commercial lines policy, [drones] would usually fall into an aircraft definition. All aircraft are usually excluded from our regular policy,” Mr. Lessard said. That was pushing some clients to specialty insurers in the aviation space, even for 2 1/2-kilogram drones. Intact decided it could accommodate these machines alongside its customers’ commercial lines policy.

Rules for operating a UAV for commercial purposes have been clarified by Transport Canada over the past two years and are more lenient than in the United States. But even if businesses meet the exemption criteria and avoid a special flight operations certificate, most still need to have proper liability insurance coverage.

Most drones fall between those used for large military applications and the Frisbee-sized copters flown by hobbyists. These worker drones carry cameras that can collect data and help companies monitor operations and environmental impact faster – and in some cases more safely – than sending a human.

Cenovus Energy Inc. has been testing UAVs since 2013, and has now flown them more than 60,000 kilometres.

The company hopes to monitor pipelines by drone some day. “To be able to do that, we are waiting for Transport Canada to introduce regulations that would allow us to fly our UAVs beyond the line of sight,” Cenovus said in a statement. In the meantime, its three drones are busy mapping out oil sands sites in northern Alberta.

Companies often start with one low-cost drone or work with a third-party provider to prove return on investment, said Andrea Sangster, spokeswoman for UAV maker Aeryon Labs Inc. in Waterloo, Ont.

“We’re seeing growth in the commercial markets with oil and gas and the utilities, as well as cell tower inspection,” Ms. Sangster said. The company’s drones have been used for diverse applications, such as counting salmon swimming upstream, 3D modelling and taking readings of office buildings’ thermal output.

At just a few thousand dollars for some basic drones, companies can get into the game cheaply. Aeryon’s higher-end drones, which can weather cold temperatures and high winds, are priced from $60,000.

Annual revenue from sales of commercial-use drones is projected to soar by 84 per cent this year up to about $481-million, according to a recent international report by Juniper Research.

Mr. Lessard said most operators essentially need the same kind of insurance against physical damage to people or property. Limitations to coverage include using the drone to “take pictures of someone through the window of a hotel or something like that, and that person is being sued,” Mr. Lessard said. “We’re not covering these kind of things.”

When Zurich Canada began offering coverage last year, it excluded noise pollution issues caused by drones, which can sound like swarming bees, as well as sabotage.

Drone Insurance INTACT INSURANCE

Drones are becoming an increasingly common feature of business. If your company uses a small drone for surveying purposes, aerial photography, inspection, farming or any other commercial activity, talk to a broker about our insurance coverage for drones.

Our commercial drone insurance includes damage to and loss of the drone, ground station equipment, drone-mounted devices such as cameras, and spare parts. Our commercial drone product helps meet the evolving and future needs of your business.

Certain conditions, limitations and exclusions apply to all offers. The information that appears on this website is provided to you for information purposes only. Your insurance contract prevails at all times. Please consult it for a complete description of coverage and exclusions.

www.intact.ca

Airlines are Getting Better at Handling Bags but Winter Remains the Worst Time for Lost Luggage

Heading into winter, fliers should take extra precautions with their checked luggage _ December and January are traditionally the worst months for lost bags.

To avoid problems, arrive at the airport early enough to let your bag get to the plane, and print out a copy of your itinerary from the airline’s website and stick it inside just in case all the tags get ripped off.

planeIn the U.S. during the first nine months of this year, 3.3 bags for every 1,000 passengers didn’t make it to their destination on time, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. That’s not great if you are one of those people whose bag is delayed or lost. But consider this: during the 2007 peak in air travel, airlines were mishandling more than twice as many suitcases _ 7.2 bags per 1,000 passengers.

Globally, the baggage-mishandling rate has fallen 61 per cent from its peak in 2007, according to SITA, an aviation communications and technology provider. That has saved the industry $18 billion.

The vast majority of bags _ 80 per cent _ aren’t lost but just delayed, according to SITA. And it takes about a day and a half to reunite passengers with their bags. Another 14 per cent are damaged or have their contents reported stolen. And nearly 6 per cent of bags are lost or stolen completely.

December and January tend to be the worst months because there are a lot of infrequent travellers checking multiple bags, and a few snowstorms can add to delays and suitcases that miss connections.

The overall improvements to baggage handling come after carriers spent millions of dollars to upgrade their systems.

Tug drivers now get real-time updates of gate changes so they can change their path and ensure that bags make their connection. Scanners allow bags to be tracked throughout the system, preventing a suitcase bound for Chicago from being loaded onto a plane to Detroit. Gate agents have printers to help tag bags that are checked at the last minute because of full overhead bins. And, overall, fewer bags are being checked because of bag fees.

“We continue to invest in technology and in processes so we understand where bags are at all times, and we can manage the failure points,” says Bill Lentsch, senior vice-president for airport customer service and cargo operations at Delta Air Lines.

Airlines are also starting to empower passengers _ or at least keep them better informed.

Delta was the first airline to allow fliers to track their own checked luggage, first on the airline’s website in 2011 and then on its mobile app in 2012. Bag tags are scanned when the suitcase is dropped off, loaded onto a plane, loaded onto a connecting flight and then again before being placed on the carousel at baggage claim. Passengers can see all those scans.

American Airlines followed suit in August, allowing passengers to see when a suitcase was loaded or unloaded from a plane. Right now, it is only available on the airline’s website but will eventually be part of the mobile app.

Sitting on a plane ready for takeoff and knowing that your suitcase isn’t in the hold below might be frustrating. But airlines say they would rather have passengers know it then and talk immediately to a baggage representative, once on the ground, instead of standing at the carousel waiting for a suitcase that isn’t there.

If your bag is late, you might be able to get some bonus frequent flier miles or even a voucher toward a future flight.

Since 2010, Alaska Airlines has promised that suitcases will be on the carousel within 20 minutes of the plane arriving at the gate. If not, passengers get a $25 voucher for a future flight or 2,500 bonus frequent flier miles. Delta copied that policy this year, offering 2,500 bonus miles to existing members of its frequent flier program _ but no voucher. Act quickly: Alaska requires you to reach out within two hours of arrival; Delta within three days. And ultimately it’s your stopwatch against the airlines’ _ they are the final arbiter of tardiness.

And if you wanted to get that $25 checked bag fee refunded, you are out of luck.

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From wildfires to commercial flights, drones becoming a dangerous and growing nuisance

From wildfires to commercial flights, drones becoming a dangerous and growing nuisance

By Elliot Spagat

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

SAN DIEGO – As Jason Thrasher lowered his helicopter to a park with seven firefighters aboard, he saw what he thought was another firefighting chopper battling a blaze that was threatening homes.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection pilot suddenly identified the object as a four-rotor drone only 10 feet from his windshield, forcing him to make a hard left to avoid a collision about 500 feet above ground, according to a report he filed the next day.

“If that drone came through my windshield, I have no idea what could have happened,” Thrasher said in a phone interview. “If that drone hits my tail rotor, for sure it’s going to be catastrophic.”

The near-miss last September in Nevada City, about 60 miles northeast of Sacramento, explains why drones have quickly become a serious nuisance and concern for firefighting pilots and other first responders, fueling calls for more oversight and self-policing in the skies.

The U.S. Forest Service has tallied 13 wildfires in which suspected drones interfered with firefighting aircraft this year 11 since late June _ up from four fires last year and only scattered incidents before. Last month, the sighting of five drones in a wildfire that closed Interstate 15 in Southern California and destroyed numerous vehicles grounded crews for 20 minutes as flames spread.

Firefighting agencies have introduced public service announcements to warn drone hobbyists, while lawmakers are seeking stiffer penalties for interfering.

“When you can’t support firefighters on the ground, fires get bigger,” said Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “It’s significant, and it’s a huge issue.”

On Aug. 2, for the second time in three days, a commercial pilot reported a drone while approaching John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. On Tuesday, as flames engulfed a Vietnamese restaurant in San Diego, the local fire department pleaded with drone operators to leave the area, tweeting, “You are interfering with fire operations.”

A simple explanation for the growing number of encounters is that consumer drones are more common as prices fall. The Consumer Electronics Association predicts U.S. sales will reach 700,000 this year, up from 430,000 last year and 128,000 in 2013. The industry group estimates this year’s average sale price at $149, down from $160 last year and $349 in 2013.

Twenty members of Congress from California asked the Federal Aviation Administration last month to consider a requirement for drone makers to include technology that aims to prevent operators from interfering with first responders. One bill in the California Legislature would raise fines and introduce jail time for anyone who impedes firefighters, and another would grant immunity to first responders who destroy interfering drones.

Greg McNeal, a Pepperdine University law professor, likens worries about safety and ethical boundaries to concerns years ago about use of camera-enabled cellphones in locker rooms and other public places. Governments are wrestling with how to regulate a new consumer technology that can wreak havoc when misused.

Most operators who flew near wildfires were probably unaware of the dangers, said McNeal. Others are “straight reckless,” he said, perhaps motivated to get images that no one else has to sell them.

The U.S. Forest Service reports potential drone sightings this year in eight wildfires in California, two in Washington state and one each in Colorado, Minnesota and Utah:

A plane dropping retardant on a fire near San Bernardino, California, came within about 500 feet of a drone on June 24. Another pilot soon came within the same distance of a second drone, forcing the grounding of four firefighting aircraft for 2 1/2 hours.

A reconnaissance airplane in eastern Washington state spotted a drone on July 11. Pat McCabe, a U.S. Forest Service aviation supervisor seated next to the pilot, saw the drone land about three miles from the fire perimeter and get loaded into a grey or black SUV, whose driver sped away.

“The intelligence gathering stopped, and now our focus was on the drone,” said McCabe.

The sighting occurred as water- and retardant-dropping aircraft were scheduled to stop for the day. If it was earlier, McCabe said those planes and helicopters would have been grounded.

A drone appeared about 200 feet from the left wing of a reconnaissance aircraft near Milford, California, on June 29. The firefighter pilot, who was about 1,500 feet above ground, left the area and was ordered to return to base.

Under FAA guidelines, drone hobbyists should fly no higher than 400 feet, stay clear of stadiums and people, and avoid flying within five miles of airports. During wildfires and other emergencies, the FAA imposes temporary restrictions.

Software, including a product from Pepperdine’s McNeal named AirMap, can alert operators to FAA-restricted areas. But, some firefighting officials say, wildfires spread so quickly and unpredictably that there may be a dangerous lag before flight restrictions are in place.

The prospect of public shaming may be the best deterrent, said Jon Resnick, spokesman for SZ DJI Technology Co., one of the largest consumer drone makers.

“Technology can only do so much,” he said. “At a certain point, common sense needs to take hold.”

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“Most people don’t realize you have to have training, have insurance and be qualified under Transport Canada.”

Read more

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