July 31, 2015
A new study by Johns Hopkins shows that, at least for testing purposes, a small drone can safely transport a small amount of blood without damaging it. Popsci reports.
To test the impact of travel in a drone on the blood, the researchers took over 300 samples of blood (six each from 56 volunteers), and drove them to a site an hour away.
Then half the blood samples were packaged for drone flights, and flown in the air between six and 38 minutes in a hand-tossed drone.
After their flights the samples were unloaded, then all the samples--including the ones that didn't take a trip in the drone--were driven back to the hospital for testing, where they were tested normally.
No meaningful differences were found between flown and unflown samples.
With the proof of concept done, future research could test the idea in rural areas, where drones could deliver medicine to testing centers far away, and more quickly than by car or on foot.
Read full article.
Called Aquila, it’s a solar-powered aircraft that can create a 50-kilometer communications radius for up to 90 days. Signals will be received by small towers and dishes on the ground that will convert it into a Wi-Fi or LTE network people can connect to using their mobile device.
Capable of soaring between 60,000 to 90,000 feet during the day, Aquila won’t be visible by the naked eye — it’ll be in the stratosphere, high above any commercial air traffic and weather. Facebook said that it’s testing out the aircraft in sub-scale flights already in the United Kingdom.
July 30, 2015
On July 16, more than 120 pilots gathered at the California State Fair in Sacramento to usher in a new era in tech sports: drone racing. The Boston Globe reports.
Teams from across the country, and indeed the world, competed on what’s best described as an oversized dog agility course, maneuvering their drones at speeds in excess of 70 miles per hour. Quadcopters no larger than a dinner plate zoomed between obstacles, often traveling faster sideways than forward. Needless to say, the crashes were spectacular.
Remote aircraft racing is hardly new, but the use of first-person view (FPV) cameras and headsets puts the pilots back in the cockpits. With no people at risk, the courses can be more challenging, the maneuvers more daring. The cameras capture footage that makes “Star Wars” pod racing look tame and rivals any racing video game. Races of this nature are now cropping up across the country.
Un drone surveille une espèce en voie de disparition
Les drones s'avèrent de plus en plus utiles pour surveiller toutes sortes d'animaux. Voici quelques exemples, du moustique à l'éléphant. Mon billet ce matin dans Le Huffington Post.
Au Rwanda, la crue couronnée grise est en voie de disparition. Considérée comme un symbole de richesse et de longevité, de nombreux oiseaux ont été capturés puis vendus pour orner les jardins privés et les parcs d'hôtels, bien que cela soit interdit par la loi.
L'association Save Endangered Grey Crowned Cranes in Rwanda, un projet d'Olivier Nsengimana - jeune lauréat Rolex 2014 - en partenariat avec le gouvernement, mènent une campagne de sensibilisation et un programme d'amnistie pour que les grues leur soient rendues. D'abord acheminées dans un dispensaire proche de Kigali pour s'assurer de leur bonne santé, elles sont ensuite remises à un centre de réintroduction et d'élevage dans le Parc National d'Akagera, au nord-est du pays.
Dans le parc d'Akagera, un drone permet de veilleur sur les oiseaux qui se rassemblent et se reproduisent sur les terrains éloignés et difficiles d'accès.
Cette espèce n'étant pas migrateur et préférant les zones découvertes de la savane aux forêts tropicales, elle est aisément surveillée depuis les airs.
Lire la suite.
July 29, 2015
Amazon on Tuesday laid out a proposal for how to regulate commercial drones in the US, suggesting that the government set aside a 200-foot-high stretch of the sky for the devices. c/net reports.
The concept, presented at a NASA-hosted conference in the San Francisco Bay Area on unmanned aircraft systems, would designate the airspace at an altitude of between 200 feet and 400 feet as a high-speed transit area for commercial drones -- such as the delivery drones Amazon is developing -- with a no-fly buffer between 400 feet and 500 feet. Airplanes and helicopters would fly above 500 feet, and local, low-speed drones could fly below 200 feet.
Additionally, Amazon proposed that the drones must be tracked using centralized computer systems.
Read full article.
July 25, 2015
Scientists have invented a way to learn about whales while removing the need to harass them in the process. It’s called Snotbot. [via Discover Magazine]
Snotbots are custom-built drones created in partnership between Ocean Alliance and Olin College of Engineering. They hover in the air above a surfacing whale and collect the blow (or snot) exhaled from its lungs. Snotbot then returns that sample back to researchers a significant distance away.
Having a lung lining sample is crucial. With it we can see virus and bacteria loads, analyze DNA, and look for environmental toxins that have been absorbed into the whale’s system. Perhaps most importantly, we can test for levels of hormones, which gives us information on the reproductive cycles and stress levels of these creatures as they are increasingly impacted by human activity in their natural habitats.
In the “BS” era of data collection (Before Snotbot), the standard way of getting a data sample of a whale (living outside captivity) involved chasing an extremely acoustically sensitive mammal with a loud motorboat and subsequently shooting it with a sampling dart from a crossbow.
By using Snotbots, the whale never knows the data is being collected. The custom-built drones fly well above the surface of the water and into the blow, the subjects are never touched or approached closely.
With an increasing number of companies showing an interest in not only building drones, but also constructing an traffic management system to ensure their safe operation, the idea that the skies above our cities may one day be buzzing with the sound of quadcopters may not be so fanciful after all. [via DigitalTrends]
The move toward widespread commercial drone use appears to be gathering pace, with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) expected to announce new rules in the next 12 months, while at the same time NASA and a host of big-name firms work together to build a nationwide drone monitoring and control system to ensure order in the skies.
Google is one of the latest companies to demonstrate a commitment to helping develop a solution, joining the likes of Amazon, Verizon, and around 10 other businesses that have signed an agreement with NASA to help create a system to ensure safe low-altitude drone flights, Bloomberg reported Friday.
On Friday, ride-sharing company Uber used drones to deliver ice cream to customers in Singapore. c/net reports.
The drones were restricted to a certain area near the marina," said Karun Arya, Uber's communication manager for South Asia and India. "This is because there are strict licenses and permits required for operating drones in and around Singapore.
Uber has been doing an ice-cream delivery promotional stunt for four years, and with the day-long event rolling out to 252 cities in 57 countries around the world, the company did something different in southeast Asia with drone deliveries.
July 23, 2015
Armed with an AguaDrone, fishermen would no longer be forced to cast blindly and hope for a bite. Instead, they could basically fly a spy cam out over the water, scope out where the fish are hanging out, and then drop the bait right in front of their mouths. [via DigitalTrends]
The AguaDrone, as its called, is basically an RC quadcopter that makes spotting fish and casting your lure easier than ever. The drone’s waterproof hull features a unique accessory bay, allowing you to equip the quad with a variety of different attachments on its underbelly.
It’s still just a prototype at this point, but for the initial rollout, the AguaDrone’s creators are offering three interchangeable “pods” for the system. There’s the AguaDrone Pod (which is basically a waterproof camera), the Fish Scout Pod (a sonar-based fish finder system), and the Line Flyer Pod. The sonar and camera pods both connect wirelessly to your smartphone or tablet, and will beam back data from distances of up to 300 feet. The Line Flyer, on the other hand, is essentially a payload delivery system that allows you to fly your hook out to where the fish are. .
Read more full article.
July 22, 2015
A Southern California lawmaker co-introduced legislation in Sacramento Monday that would allow first-responders to disable or damage drones that interfere with emergency operations. CBS Los Angeles reports.
Drone operators are risking lives when they fly over an emergency situation,” Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Glendale, said. “Just because you have access to an expensive toy that can fly in a dangerous area that doesn’t mean you should do it.”
Senate Bill 168, introduced by Gatto and Sen. Ted Gaines, R-El Dorado, would grant “immunity to any emergency responder who damages an unmanned aircraft in the course of firefighting, air ambulance, or search-and-rescue operations.”
Firefighting efforts from the air have been hampered by the presence of drones at as many as three times in the past month. Firefighting aircraft were grounded near Big Bear Lake due to a drone near last month’s Lake Fire, while another drone delayed efforts to battle a blaze in Mill Creek Canyon for at least 20 minutes on July 12.
Five drones in the air also delayed water drops on the I-15 in the Cajon Pass Friday, when at least 20 vehicles were destroyed by a brush fire burning on both sides of the freeway.
July 20, 2015
The first US government-approved drone delivery has successfully transported 4.5kg of medical supplies to a rural health clinic. The Guardian reports.
The drone, made by Australian drone manufacturer Flirtey, took part in the demonstration, which was approved by the Federal Aviation Authority, in partnership with Nasa on Friday.
The Flirtey drone made three three-minute flights from Lonesome Pine Airport, Virginia, to the clinic at the Wise County Fairgrounds, carrying 24 medical packages.
... The test is being hailed as proof that drones can be useful in a delivery scenario, particularly in rural and remote areas that are hard to reach via ground vehicles. But the range and flight time of drones means that opportunities are limited.
Read full article.
Wildland firefighting is already a hot, exhausting, and a dangerous job, but, according to firefighters, there's a new factor adding to the challenge: drones. Motherboard reports.
... Last month saw incidents involving five different fires in which fire crews had to pull back aircraft tasked with dumping water and chemicals onto fast-moving flames, including the one involved in this weekend's viral image of a fire suddenly jumping a Los Angeles-area freeway. In that case, there were five drones at one point hovering over the fire.
It's bad enough that the forest service is making public service announcements, with the tagline: "If you fly, we can't."
Wildland fire-fighting airplanes are uniquely vulnerable to interference given the extreme weight shift following a water dump.
“If this gets into our engine or hits our wings, there’s no doubt we are going down,” Mike Eaton, a forest aviation officer with the San Bernardino and Cleveland National Forests, told the Times. “[The drone pilots] are like storm chasers, maybe trying to get that next bit of data, but instead putting a lot of people at risk. Every minute we lose battling a wildfire can be life and death.
Read full article.
July 15, 2015
Dirk Dallas and his family announced they were having a baby (due in January 2016), using a drone.
July 14, 2015
Helen Greiner, is an MIT alum, who previously co-founded iRobot before launching her new company CyPhy Works. Business Insider reports.
CyPhy Works is building a commercial, robotic drone, which enticed 1,514 backers on Kickstarter to pledge $882,478 to help her do it.
By turning a camera drone into an "autonomous robot," Greiner says that drones are set to become a new kind of appliance that's capable of doing things like this:
-- Automatically follow you around taking photos or monitoring your safety.
-- Automatically follow your kids around, playing games with them or watching them for you.
-- With "geo fencing," you can make a drone fly continuously around your property to keep a watchful eye on it.
-- Build a system with unlimited power supply to work with the military, so we won't always pay someone to fly it "when it can fly persistently."
If this sounds frightening, Greiner sought to reassure the audience that it won't be. This will all happen really naturally as we decide we want the services that robotic drones can provide: monitoring real estate, helping with claims adjustment and so on. The kids with drones flying after them won't feel any different than the kids with cell phones tucked in their pockets, she said.
Read full article.
July 8, 2015
At the start of 2015 just a dozen companies had been granted special exemptions by the FAA to fly, and most of those were for filming on a closed set. The first half of 2015, however, has seen an explosion of new businesses given permission to fly. Over 500 FAA exemptions to fly drones were handed out to farmers, railroads, security services, and medical facilities. [via The Verge]
These drones are all required to have a human pilot and stay within the operator's line of site. But the FAA is planning to begin making exceptions to that rule. Companies like BNSF railroad are harbingers of a new era in robotics, when autonomous and semi-autonomous machines will drive our streets, sail our seas, and even walk through our bars and shops.
The Verge has partnered with the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College to collect data on every commercial exemption the FAA grants. It's a fascinating snapshot of a fast-growing industry still in its infancy.
Click here for an interactive database that allows you to drill deeper into details, exploring the companies that have been given permission to fly and what they are planning to do with their drones. You can also search by state and figure out who near you is planning to put a drone in the sky.
Read full article.
Switzerland’s postal service said on Tuesday it had begun testing parcel deliveries by unmanned drones, although widespread use of the flying postmen is not likely to kick in for another five years. [via The Guardian]
Postal service executives showed off the drones for the first time on Tuesday and said initial tests of the machines’ post-delivery abilities would run until the end of July.
“The drone has an extremely light construction and is capable of transporting loads of up to one kilo over more than 10 kilometres with a single battery charge,” Swiss Post said in a statement.
The drone “flies autonomously, following clearly defined, secure flight paths, which are drawn up by cloud software developed by Matternet (the drone’s US manufacturer)”, Swiss Post added.
Swiss Post, which is cooperating on the project with Swiss WorldCargo – the air freight division of Swiss International Air Lines – stressed the drones would be thoroughly tested before being put to wide-scale use.
Read full article.
July 2, 2015
The Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment has announced that it has successfully used three drones, manufactured by Aerialtronics, to monitor the traffic leading to and from the Concert at Sea festival in Zeeland. [via UST]
The drones monitored an area of 30 square kilometres and were supported with a strong wireless network connection provided by T-Mobile.
The drones, operated by the Dutch company OmniworkX, were deployed to get a better grasp on traffic jams during a busy festival which attracted more than 80,000 people. The UAS provided assistance, especially on highways where there was only extra traffic due to this special event. Traffic coordinators used a livestream camera connection to redirect traffic along a faster route.
Read full article.
July 1, 2015
Drones have been used to deliver abortion drugs to women in Poland in a protest against Poland's pregnancy termination laws. C/net reports.
A Dutch women's advocacy group has used a quadcopter they dubbed the Abortion Drone to deliver pregnancy termination drugs to women in Poland.
The activist group Women on Waves piloted the drone from Frankfurt, Germany, across the Oder river and delivered the drugs safely to two Polish women in Słubice, accompanied by members of Polish women's advocacy group Feminoteka. The pills, provided by a Dutch gynaecologist, contained the abortion drugs mifepristone and misoprostol.
The move, the women's groups said, was an act of protest designed to draw attention to laws in Poland that prohibit women from terminating pregnancies except under specific circumstances.
Read full article.
June 23, 2015
The startup introduced itself with a bang: partnering with local restaurant and bar chain Timbre to pilot a robotic waitering system called Infinium-Serve. It will become fully operational at five eateries by the end of the year.
While Infinium’s tech has outdoor applications, it’s developing an expertise to operate drones within the confines of the four walls. Take its drone waiter system as an example. It brings food from the kitchen to a nearby station. Waiters then pick up the food and serve it to customers. The drones can of course serve food directly to customers, but restaurants told Infinium they want to retain the human touch.
The drone system has several features that make it usable in confined spaces. The blades are shielded by a wire mesh, preventing them from hurting people. Woon adds that the drones are stable enough to self-correct if it gets tilted – though the quadcopter design is useless without an electronic stabilizer. The system also includes collision avoidance sensors of the sonar, infrared, and stereo vision variety.
June 19, 2015
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has introduced the Consumer Drone Safety Act that looks to shore up safety features on consumer drones and the federal laws that govern their operation. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) cosponsored the bill. Roboticstrends via stowie for slashdot.
This bill has nothing to do with the FAA’s proposed rules on small commercial drones, this is all about hobbyist drones. It’s looking to regulate the maximum height for flight, the weather and time-of-day conditions for flight, and any areas or circumstances where flights may be prohibited or limited, such as near airports, in the flight paths of manned aircraft, in urban areas, or over public events where spectators are present.
If passed, the Consumer Drone Safety Act would require manufacturers to update existing consumer drones to meet these requirements where feasible, such as through an automatic software update.
The idea is to put precautions in place to “minimize the risk of a disastrous mid-air collision or crash to the ground.”
One of the more interesting points of the bill is that it would direct the FAA to require safety features for new consumer drones such as:
-- Geo-fencing to govern the altitude and location of flights
-- Collision-avoidance software
-- Precautions for the loss of a communications link
-- A way for pilots and air traffic control to detect and identify the drone
-- Anti-tampering safeguards
-- Educational materials for consumers
This bill also allows the FAA to exempt particular types of consumer drones from any requirement that is technologically infeasible or cost prohibitive if other operational precautions are taken.