November 26, 2014

GoPro will start selling drones next year

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 18.43.09.pngGoPro Inc. is developing its own line of consumer drones to expand from its core business of making wearable video cameras popular with surfers and other sports enthusiasts, according to people familiar with its plans. [via The WSJ]

quotemarksright.jpgThe company plans to start selling multi-rotor helicopters equipped with high-definition cameras late next year, aiming for a price tag between $500 and $1,000, according to these people.

San Mateo, Calif.-based GoPro is already a supporting player in the drone market, providing many of the roughly 3 oz. cameras that consumer drones carry. ... Drone makers could stop supporting GoPro devices if they are competing head-to-head with the camera maker.quotesmarksleft.jpg

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emily | 6:39 PM | News | permalink

November 24, 2014

Drones to help fight off train thieves

34c7a1e3-58ff-4761-ad6a-5373105c1704.jpg In order to combat the theft of coal, Polish rail freight operator PKP Cargo has employed the services of high-tech drones. [via News from Poland]

quotemarksright.jpgThe quadcopter machines will be able to hover over hundreds of train carriages full of coal and coke both enroute and when docked in stations. Thieves pose a significant problem to the agency, PKP Cargo has said.

Theft of raw materials during transport is a hurdle which we have faced for a number of years, and the losses incurred amount to millions [of zloty] each year,” said Maciej Borecki, director of Security and Audit PKP Cargo. “In order to limit the scale of these crimes, this year we have decided to intensify preventive measures and make use of modern technology.”quotesmarksleft.jpg

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emily | 12:56 PM | Surveillance Drones | permalink

Drone Flights Face FAA Hit

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Highly anticipated federal rules on commercial drones are expected to require operators to have a license and limit flights to daylight hours, below 400 feet and within sight of the person at the controls, according to people familiar with the rule-making process. The Wall Street Journal reports.

quotemarksright.jpgThe drone industry has awaited commercial rules for about six years, hoping the rules would pave the way for widespread drone use in industries such as farming, filmmaking and construction. Current FAA policy allows recreational drone flights in the U.S. but essentially bars drones from commercial use.

While the FAA wants to open the skies to unmanned commercial flights, the expected rules are more restrictive than drone supporters sought and wouldn’t address privacy concerns over the use of drones, people familiar with the matter said.

The agency also plans to group all drones weighing less than 55 pounds under one set of rules. That would dash hopes for looser rules on the smallest drones, such as the 2.8-pound Phantom line of camera-equipped, four-rotor helicopters made by China’s SZ DJI Technology Co. Similar-sized devices are seen as the most commercially viable drones and have surged in popularity in the last two years.quotesmarksleft.jpg

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November 22, 2014

Drone helps save window cleaner stuck on high-rise scaffolding

1564910.jpg A frightened window cleaner, whose motorized scaffolding malfunctioned near the 10th floor of a high-rise building in Abu Dhabi, was rescued by a drone on Tuesday, Dubai’s Kaleej Times reports via the NY Post.

quotemarksright.jpg Local authorities brought the high-tech drone — capable of midair communication — to aid in rescuing the worker.

The remote-controlled drone first relayed a brief message to the worker to calm his nerves, letting him know that everything was going to be OK.

Then the hovering hero detected the technical malfunction in the scaffold and “utilized audiovisual monitoring” to quickly teach the stuck worker how to fix the problem himself, according to the Kaleej Times.

The cleaner repaired the scaffolding in midair and got free without getting injured.quotesmarksleft.jpg

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emily | 8:21 AM | News, Rescue Drones | permalink

November 21, 2014

Self-destructing bio-drones could be the next Mars explorers

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 13.31.11.png A group of students from Brown and Stanford University are collaborating with researchers from Nasa's Ames Research Centre on a biodegradable drone that "self-destructs" and "dissolves" upon impact, which they hope one day to send to Mars. [via Wired]

quotemarksright.jpgProject leader and astrobiologist, Lynn Rothschild told that she had the idea of inventing a biodegradable drone when she noticed that the UAVs used by her scientific colleagues got lost-in-action. "Sometimes the UAVs sent out to observe coral reefs are lost and littering is a problem. You don't want to be responsible for littering the very ecosystem you're trying to protect. What if you lose the UAV in the ocean and it could just dissolve away," she asks.

... To construct the bio-drone, the team collaborated with material science company Ecovative, who specialise in the production of non-wasteful technology. The biodegradability of the drone stems from its fungal mycelium composition.quotesmarksleft.jpg

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emily | 1:27 PM | Technology | permalink

November 20, 2014

TGI Fridays plans on mistletoe drone in restaurants. Crazy.

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Last year a mistletoe-wielding drone hovered above couples in San Francisco’s Union Square, this year TGI Fridays has announced a mistletoe drone in a bid to boost festive bookings.

This crazy marketing scheme will never happen or be closed down as soon as it does. There is nothing more dangerous that a drone flying indoors. Earlier this year, a story on how teachers in Belgium were using drones to monitor students during exams turned out to be a hoax.

emily | 8:38 AM | News | permalink

In latest 'Chicago Fire' episode, a drone brings down helicopter

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In Tuesday night's episode of Chicago Fire (Season 3, Episode 8), a drone belonging to teenage boys gets caught in a helicopter rotor and brings it down, creating a disaster zone with multiple victims (and two very sorry kids).

A cautionary tale. CBS reports that pilots have spotted drones twice this week near JFK.

November 18, 2014

FAA Can Make All Drone Flights Illegal, Federal Court Rule

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 08.12.04.png Some very bad news for drone pilots this morning: An appeals board has ruled that the FAA has wide latitude to make all drone flights illegal in the United States. motherboard reports.

quotemarksright.jpg The decision, by the National Transportation Safety Board, determined that the FAA's existing "aircraft" regulations can apply to model aircraft, drones, and remote controlled aircraft, which is perhaps the most restrictive possible outcome for drone pilots in a legal saga that has dragged on for more than a year.

The case, which motherboard covered extensively, concerns Raphael "Trappy" Pirker, a Swiss pilot who was fined $10,000 by the FAA for a "reckless flight" at the University of Virginia in 2011. There was nothing overly interesting about Pirker's flight, other than the fact that he was paid for his work,something that the FAA has been trying to say is illegal for quite some time now. Pirker originally won his court case, in which a federal judge ruled that model aircraft aren't technically "aircraft" subject to the FAA's existing regulations.

The appeals board disagreed, saying that the federal "definitions on their face do not exclude even a 'model aircraft' from the meaning of 'aircraft.'"

"Furthermore, the definitions draw no distinction between whether a device is manned or unmanned," the board wrote. " An aircraft is 'any' 'device' that is 'used for flight.' We acknowledge the definitions are as broad as they are clear, but they are clear nonetheless."

The decision is close to what the FAA originally pushed for, ​which is so broad that perhaps frisbees and baseballs could be considered "aircraft.quotesmarksleft.jpg

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Topless sunbather photographed by estate agent drone


An Australian real estate agent used pictures taken by a drone to market a property without realising they included revealing images of a neighbour. [via The BBC]

quotemarksright.jpgMandy Lingard, who was sunbathing in her back garden wearing just a thong, said she realised only when she saw an advertising board near her home. The company, Eview Real Estate, has now removed the offending images.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more. Image|JaydeVincent

Unmanned drones 'being used to harass people', UK police say

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Unmanned drones are "undoubtedly" being used to harass people, police say. [via The BBC]

quotemarksright.jpgA House of Lords committee was told the devices were also being flown in protected airspace and that officers found it difficult to identify the people responsible.

The warning came from Ch Insp Nick Aldworth, of the Metropolitan Police, who is part of a nationwide group tasked with looking at the issue. Civilian use of the aircraft, which can be legally flown, is increasing.

The Lords Internal Market, Infrastructure and Employment Committee has been holding an inquiry into their use by civilians.

The concerns are really around the fact that we are seeing this technology being used for criminal conduct.

Ch Insp Aldworth said: "We have undoubtedly seen it flown in controlled airspace, we have undoubtedly seen it used to harass people, and we have seen it flown in contravention of the air navigation orders, so I think that concern arises by the fact that there is clearly a means of offending that we do not seem to be able necessarily to address quickly.quotesmarksleft.jpg

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November 13, 2014

Amazon to begin testing same-day delivery drones in Cambridge

images.jpg Amazon is planning to test drones in Cambridge, England, as the battle to offer consumers same-day deliveries heats up. [via The Guardian]

quotemarksright.jpgAmazon has advertised a number of aviation-related UK jobs in recent weeks, such as a flight operations engineer for Amazon Prime Air: “Flight test experience, manned or unmanned, is preferred,” the advertisement stated. Other roles include a senior research scientist position and a site leader job.

... A spokeswoman for Amazon Prime Air said: “We have multiple Prime Air development centers, including R&D labs in Seattle and Cambridge. We’re always looking to add great talent to the team; the Cambridge-based Prime Air positions we have open are a reflection of that.quotesmarksleft.jpg

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emily | 8:52 AM | Delivery Drones | permalink

US getting near-daily reports of drones flying near aircraft without permission

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 08.48.42.png The US government is getting near-daily reports – and sometimes two or three a day – of drones flying near airplanes and helicopters or close to airports without permission, federal and industry officials tell the Associated Press. It’s a sharp increase from just two years ago when such reports were still unusual. The Guardian reports.

quotemarksright.jpgThe FAA tightly restricts the use of drones, which could cause a crash if one collided with a plane or was sucked into an engine. Small drones usually aren’t visible on radar to air traffic controllers, particularly if they’re made of plastic or other composites.

“It should not be a matter of luck that keeps an airplane and a drone apart,” said Rory Kay, a training captain at a major airline and a former Air Line Pilots Association safety committee chairman. “So far we’ve been lucky because if these things are operating in the sky unregulated, unmonitored and uncontrolled, the possibility of a close proximity event or even a collision has to be of huge concern.quotesmarksleft.jpg

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emily | 8:41 AM | News | permalink

November 12, 2014

First ever film fest devoted to drones comes to NYC

Manhattan is set to play host on Feb. 21 to the New York City Drone Film Festival — a one of a kind showcase featuring movies that have been shot exclusively by the remote-controlled high-flyers. [via The New York Post]

quotemarksright.jpgDrones truly expand the possibilities of cinematography so much,” festival founder and cinematographer Randy Scott Slavin told the Post. “This is the most amazing cinematic advancement in the past twenty years. It’s absolutely amazing.

... Prizes will be awarded during the event to people who submit their videos and end up qualifying for film categories such as most technically difficult shot, best in show and most epic “dronie.”quotesmarksleft.jpg

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emily | 8:02 AM | Drones and Films/TV | permalink

November 10, 2014

Chinese province uses drones to control smog

images.jpg Northeast China's Liaoning Province has started to use drones with remote sensing systems to battle air pollution, a local environment watchdog said on Monday in The Global Times.

quotemarksright.jpgThe drones provide real-time inspection of the source of pollutants, said Wu Di, deputy director of the environmental inspection bureau in the city of Liaoyang, which is the first in the province to use drones in smog control.

Wu said the bureau can determine if a factory emits too many pollutants using two drones. "One drone will record the real-time ground image and send it back immediately to the command center. Another will then fly to areas which we think cause smog, and then analyze the air quality index of those areas at an altitude between 200 and 1,000 meters," Wu said.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article. Image credit

November 9, 2014

Drone porn is now a thing

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Filmmakers discuss their drone-shot porn via The Daily Beast, ushering in a new era of pornography.

emily | 8:55 AM | Drone Porn | permalink

November 1, 2014

First Made-in-Colombia Drone to Track Drug Smugglers

Colombia will unveil its first domestically made drone today as a nation reliant on U.S. weaponry nurtures its own arms industry. [via Bloomberg]

quotemarksright.jpgThe prototype, on show at a defense fair in Bogota, has a range of 150 kilometers (93 miles) and a carrying capacity of 100 kilograms (220 pounds), with future models set to hit the market in about two years, according to the Colombian Air Force.

“Initially it will carry out intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations. It can be used to monitor meteorological and volcanic activity, as well as oil pipelines and the drugs trade.”

The 22 foot-long drone, known as Iris, can fly for as long as eight hours at altitudes of 17,000 feet. It was developed by the state-controlled Corporacion de la Industria Aeronautica Colombiana SA, or CIAC.quotesmarksleft.jpg

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emily | 9:35 PM | Surveillance Drones | permalink

An Open-Source Standard Could Spur Drone Development

Screen Shot 2014-11-01 at 08.40.58.png On October 13, the Linux Foundation launched Dronecode, an open-source project to unite coders working on a software standard for unmanned aerial vehicles. ReadWrite reports.

quotemarksright.jpgDrones have different manufacturers and hardware, but generally the software that’s good for one drone should be good for another. Dronecode will keep software developers from having to reinvent the wheel as they build programs for basic drone behaviors.

... The project is granted legitimacy by founding members deeply rooting in drone production and open-source development, including 3D Robotics, Baidu, Box, DroneDeploy, Intel, Qualcomm and Walkera. As these partners pool their resources, the project will have the starting code it needs to create basic programs for drone delivery, firefighting, filmmaking, and agriculture, among many of the other implementations drones are increasingly used for.

Now, more than 1,200 developers have joined the project, making about 150 code commits per day, according to sUAS News.quotesmarksleft.jpg

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emily | 9:40 AM | News | permalink

October 31, 2014

Here Come the Swarming Drones

lead.jpg Insect inspired aerial vehicles could evolve into useful minions to track, map, and respond to climate change. The Atlantic reports.

quotemarksright.jpgResearchers at General Robotics, Automation, Sensing, and Perception Lab (GRASP) are developing "swarms" of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that work in concert.

These devices take hundreds of measurements each second, calculating their position in relation to each other, working cooperatively toward particular missions, and just as important, avoiding each other despite moving quickly and in tight formations.

Vijay Kumar, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, and his colleagues are using intel from Pratt's lab, particularly around how ants communicate and cooperate without any central commander, to make swarming UAVs even more autonomous.quotesmarksleft.jpg

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emily | 8:28 PM | News | permalink

These Drones Will Fly Directly Into Tornadoes To Predict Future Storms

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 08.10.51.png Tornadoes are notoriously hard to predict. Some 70% of the time, tornado warnings are false alarms, and when a storm does hit, the average warning reaches victims only 12 minutes in advance. To help increase that lead time, and to make warnings more accurate, a group of researchers now plans to start flying drones directly into the storm to collect data that humans can't safely obtain. [via FastCompany]

quotemarksright.jpgThe new drones will fly at 100 mph into one corner of the tornado, and then get sucked in. "The supercell thunderstorms that produce tornadoes have a unique anatomy to them."

The drones aren't designed to survive the storm, but a small package inside is tough enough to last through the tornado, and will collect and store data for scientists to analyze. An accelerometer will also measure force, to gather data that engineers can use to design buildings that can better withstand tornadoes.

"Not a lot is known about how tornadoes form--that's the big issue," says Warren Causey, part of the team creating the drone for the Siren Project, now crowdfunding on Kickstarter.quotesmarksleft.jpg

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No one knows who’s been flying drones over French nuclear power plants

images.jpg The French Interior Minister told French public radio (Google Translate) on Thursday that the government has begun an investigation into who has been flying drones above as many as 10 nuclear power plants nationwide this month. [via arstechnica]

quotemarksright.jpgThere's a judicial investigation under way," French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in an interview on France Info radio. “Measures are being taken to know what these drones are and neutralize them."

Le Monde reported this week that the drones have been variable in size, with some “a few dozen centimeters" in size, while others had a diameter of up to two meters.

The French office of the environmental activist group Greenpeace has denied any connection to the drone flights and denounced the lack of security. The group is a longstanding opponent of French nuclear power.quotesmarksleft.jpg

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emily | 8:59 AM | Surveillance Drones | permalink