April 17, 2015
A company in France has figured out a way to track down the foolhardy drone pilots that give responsible hobbyists and commercial operators a bad name. Discover magazine reports.
The robotics company ECA Group announced they have built and tested an on-board drone technology that can locate malicious drone operators in under a minute. ECA, of course, isn’t revealing exactly how it works, but French government authorities have seen it in action and they were apparently “fully satisfied.”
For ECA, the timing couldn’t be better for rolling out their new technology. Earlier this year, Paris was plagued with reports of drones mysteriously flying near the Eiffel Tower, the U.S. embassy, power plants and other sensitive areas of the city. Although they are banned over the city, some 60 different drone flights have been recorded since October 2014. The unauthorized flights have exposed serious security gaps at places that are meant to be secure.
ECA’s security system is based on the company’s IT180 drone and has several transponders on it to track down pilots in the act. The security drone first locates a mischievous operator using its proprietary “onboard technology” and then identifies the operator by snapping a mugshot with its onboard cameras. According to ECA, the security drone successfully identified operators within a 2,000-foot radius within a minute.
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My son flying the Skeye Nano Drone, the world’s smallest precision-controlled quadcopter.
Short and sweet. Flight autonomy: a couple of minutes. Time to recharge the nano drone: a minute or two.
April 11, 2015
Robots flawlessly string together metal poles in an aerial ballet performance like they’re flying spiders. [via motherboard]
Architect Ammar Mirjan explains this is “widening the spectrum of what’s possible” in construction. Most notably, over wide areas like canyons or rivers where it’s hard for humans to navigate.
“We can fly through and around existing objects, which a person couldn’t do or a crane couldn’t do,” he says. For example, building a temporary structure over a vast space could take minutes, rather than hours.
Mirjan’s experiments so far has been relegated to inside environments, but he says it “would be interesting to do in the near future is to build a structure outside.”
One caveat: It’s all amazing until they crash into each other.
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Amazon can finally test its latest Prime Air drones in United States airspace, thanks to a new approval waiver from the FAA.
In a letter dated Wednesday April 8, the FAA told Paul Misener, Amazon's VP of global public policy, that Amazon may begin testing its latest models of drones provided they don't fly higher than 400 feet or travel faster than 100 mph. ReadWriteWeb reports.
Previously, when Amazon asked the FAA for an exemption to test its drones, the department took a year and a half to respond. By then, the specific model of drone the FAA had granted Amazon approval to test had long been obsolete.
The FAA was able to respond more quickly the second time around thanks to an internal loophole that allows it to quickly issue an approval if “it has already granted a previous exemption similar to the new request."
While the waiver allows Amazon to test its latest drones with the FAA’s blessing, that still leaves the technology giant at square one. In February, the FAA unveiled a list of proposed rules that would govern unmanned aircrafts 55 lbs or under, and they would require all operators to have a pilot’s license and maintain “line of sight” during operation. It’s unlikely that Prime Air drones could deliver products while maintaining line of sight the whole time.
However, these proposed rules aren’t final. The agency is expected to bring them to a vote later in 2015.
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April 2, 2015
French drone-building company Sysveo is working on software that would allow drones to include augmented reality 3D images in the videos they shoot while flying over a given location. Motherboard reports.
One potential application is to see what building projects would look like before they exist. If you’re wondering how a new house would blend in with the rest of the neighbourhood, all you have to do is fly your drone there: It’ll broadcast back a live video that includes a realistic model of your design exactly where you plan to build it.
The project is still at an early stage—there are 12 months to go before the end-product’s release—but Sysveo’s CEO Clement Alaguillaume is already sure that it would be appealing for the construction sector. “Architects could easily use this for creating a real-time simulation of the building they designed, and see it on the ground,” he told me over the phone. “And they could take real-time decisions without going back to their office, as they could make as many simulations as they want with the drone.
Read more.emily | 3:43 PM | Technology | permalink
A civil liberties group has sued the Federal Aviation Administration, claiming that the agency must create privacy rules before its commercial drone rules go into effect. The claim could bog down a rulemaking process that has already been ongoing for more than three years. Motherboard reports.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center has repeatedly told Congress and the FAA that something must be done to make sure drones aren't used in a way that invades the public's privacy, but both the agency and those in the commercial drone industry have taken the viewpoint that the FAA should regulate safety, not privacy.
The suit is much like the ones being filed against the Federal Communications Commission in the net neutrality rules proceedings: EPIC has asked the US Court of Appeals in Washington DC to review the proposed rules, which are set to go into effect in late May. If the court decides to hear the case, that date will be pushed back until after the case is heard.
March 31, 2015
DroneDeploy, a start-up poised to make farms and other businesses significantly more efficient, launched its mobile app Tuesday and announced it will be compatible with one of the world’s most popular drones. The Washington Post reports.
DroneDeploy’s software, which automates drone flights, crunches the data and quickly provides it in a useful manner, will work on DJI’s Phantom 2 Vision +. DroneDeploy’s secret sauce is its ability to take the pain and hassle out of operating a drone for commercial use.
“Farmers can fly the field at 11 o’clock in the morning, and after lunch be applying chemicals with pinpoint accuracy,” said Bret Chilcott, founder of AgEagle, which makes drones for the agricultural industry. “What that does is it saves the farmer a ton of money. Chemicals are really expensive.”
With DroneDeploy a drone can be easily told to fly on autopilot over a farmer’s fields. Shortly after the drone lands a farmer will already be able to review the maps and data gathered by the drone. With NDVI data, a farmer can what portions of his fields are healthy, and what portions aren’t.
He’s been testing DroneDeploy’s software on his drones for about 10 months ahead of Tuesday’s official release, and says he’s found nothing that measures up to it.
March 30, 2015
Paul Brennan, a farmer in Ireland, has discovered that drones are remarkably good at herding sheep.
[via The Telegraph]
March 26, 2015
In classical mythology, Aquila is the eagle carrying Jupiter’s thunderbolts skyward. At Facebook, it is the code name for a high-flying drone, indicative of the social networking company’s lofty ambitions. [via The New York Times]
The V-shaped unmanned vehicle, which has about the wingspan of a Boeing 767 but weighs less than a small car, is the centerpiece of Facebook’s plans to connect with the five billion or so people it has yet to reach.
Taking to the skies to beam Internet access down from solar-powered drones may seem like a stretch for a tech company that sells ads to make money. The business model at Facebook, which has 1.4 billion users, has more in common with NBC than Boeing.
But in a high-stakes competition for domination of the Internet, in which Google wields high-altitude balloons and high-speed fiber networks and Amazon has experimental delivery drones and colossal data centers, Facebook is under pressure to show that it, too, can pursue projects that are more speculative than product.
Read full article.
March 25, 2015
The e-commerce giant says the permit it was just granted is for an aerial vehicle that is already obsolete. C/net reports.
Less than a week after Amazon was granted a special permit to test its Prime Air delivery drones, Paul Misener, Amazon's vice president for global public policy, said that while the company was grateful the agency approved its testing permit, its prototype had already become obsolete during the months-long application process. As a result, the e-commerce giant applied again Friday for a permit to test an updated aircraft.
Read full article.
March 20, 2015
Amazon's ambitions to use drones to deliver packages may get off the ground yet. C/net reports.
The FAA on Thursday issued an "experimental airworthiness certificate" to Amazon, allowing the Internet retail giant to conduct research, development and crew training for its Prime Air delivery drones. The certificate allows the unmanned aerial vehicles to be remotely controlled by licensed pilots at altitudes lower than 400 feet during daylight hours, the agency said in a statement.
... The FAA certificate also requires Amazon to provide the agency with monthly data about its testing activity, including the number of flights conducted and the hours logged by pilots per flight. The company will also be required to document any hardware or software malfunctions, any deviations from air traffic controllers' instructions, and any unintended loss of communication links.
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March 18, 2015
There's something that connects Star Wars fans to drones and we can see why. For lovers of airborne action who also love sci-fi, these rugged flying machines are just the thing.
TheNextWeb has rounded up the latest builds from drone enthusiasts.
March 7, 2015
Thousands of drones flown without government approval by real estate companies, movie studios and other businesses are getting coverage by insurers writing their own safety rules to fill a void left by regulators. Blooomberg reports.
One insurance broker in Colorado has already written policies on 2,600 drones, and a San Francisco-based company said it has assembled an Uber-like list of 1,000 trained operators businesses can hire to do the flying for them.
Commercial drones are photographing sporting events, monitoring construction sites and performing other aerial chores even though the Federal Aviation Administration is as many as two years away from issuing final regulations to govern their use. The FAA, which won a legal ruling in November that said it could apply existing aviation laws to drones in the meantime, says none are supposed to fly without a formal waiver -- only 39 have been issued -- until then.
In a Feb. 15 proposal to allow unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds (25 kilograms) to fly for hire, the FAA projected there would be 7,550 of them within five years of enactment. In reality, there are already more than that in the air now, according to insurers, aviation lobbyists and academics.
“We’ve been insuring them for going on four years,” said Terry Miller, owner and president of Transport Risk Management Inc., which had to invent safety requirements for its drone clients. Purchasing insurance for commercial drones, which isn’t prohibited under FAA rules, doesn’t make flying them legitimate, the agency said.
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March 5, 2015
A drone owners register has been called for by House of Lords. The recommendation was made by the House of Lords EU Committee, which has been looking into what rules are needed to safeguard the use of unmanned aircraft. The BBC reports.
It suggests the database would initially include businesses and other professional users, and then later expand to encompass consumers.
However, one expert questioned how useful such a register would be.
The committee's report warned that over-regulation risked stifling the drone industry, estimating that it could be responsible for creating as many as 150,000 jobs across Europe by 2050.
Even so, it suggested that creating the database would help the authorities manage and keep track of drone traffic.
Read full article.
March 2, 2015
Africa is growing economically and needs better transport links. So what's the answer? Could it be cargo drones - or "flying donkeys" as one Kenyan farmer put it? The BBC reports.
Afrotech, a technology innovation project set up by the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, certainly thinks so.
Director Jonathan Ledgard, a former foreign correspondent in Africa, thinks they will enable the continent to leapfrog traditional infrastructure development and grow faster economically.
Next year, through its spin-off company Red/Blue, Afrotech will begin testing cargo drones capable of carrying small packages across distances of up to 80km (50 miles).
The first route will be a "red line" flying units of blood to remote health clinics.
February 26, 2015
UPDATE Al Jazeera Trio in Paris Were Filming Report on Mystery Drones [WSJ]
Three Al Jazeera journalists who were detained by French police for flying a drone in a city park were freed Thursday morning, said a spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor’s office. They were actually filming a report on the mystery drones inside the Bois de Boulogne on the western edge of Paris when they were detained on Wednesday. [WSJ]
Three Al-Jazeera journalists arrested for the alleged illegal flying of a drone in Paris [BBC]
Drones were spotted over city landmarks for a second night running on Tuesday.
A spokesman for prosecutors said there was "no relationship for the moment" between the arrests and mysterious drone flights over the city at night.
Al-Jazeera said the journalists had been "filming a report on the city's recent mystery drones".
A judicial source told AFP news agency of the three people arrested: "The first was piloting the drone, the second was filming and the third was watching."
Flying drones over Paris without a licence is banned by law. In October, a 24-year-old Israeli tourist was fined €400 (£293) and spent a night in jail after flying a drone over the city's historic Hotel Dieu hospital and a police station.
February 25, 2015
Technology that allows a drone to be piloted from the ground using only a person's brainwaves has been demonstrated in Portugal. The BBC.
The company behind the development, Tekever, said the technology could in the short term be used to enable people with restricted movement to control aircraft.
Longer term the firm said piloting of larger jets, such as cargo planes, could be controlled in this way without the need for a crew on board.
February 24, 2015
Five drones were reportedly seen flying over sensitive and well-known areas of Paris overnight -- sightings that authorities are investigating, the city prosecutor's office said Tuesday. CNN reports.
The unmanned aerial vehicles were spotted over the Eiffel Tower, the Bastille, Place de la Concorde, Les Invalides and the U.S. Embassy, according to Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre, a spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor's office. The drones were seen between midnight and 6 a.m.
The French aviation police are searching for the operators of the drones.
February 18, 2015
3D Robotics recently introduced a free open-source Tower flight control app for drone copters and planes. The app makes it easy to fly a drone but also gives user the chance to build or alter features for their 3D Robotics drone. [via Forbes]
Tower can be used with any Android smartphone or tablet from novice pilots to more experienced drone flyers.
The Tower app lets users create flights for their drone by drawing the f light path directly on their tablet by dropping waypoints. A waypoint is a set of coordinates that identifies a point in physical space. The Tower app has more than ten different types of waypoints to let users design a flight for a specific purpose.
Read full article.
February 16, 2015
The draft rules state that pilots must remain within eyesight of their unmanned crafts, although it said it would consider factoring in a second line of sight in some cases.
Pilots must also be FAA certified to operate drones.
Amazon said it remained "committed" to its plans for delivery via drone.
The draft rules will be open to public consultation and are unlikely to come into force for a couple of years.
The Small UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) Coalition, of which Amazon is a member, said it "applauded" the proposed rules, launched yesterday by the FAA, but mentioned several caveats, including relaxing the rule about line of sight.
"First Person View technology is available now, and is critical to unleashing the power of automation in this space," the group said in a statement.
"Until small UAVs are able to go beyond the line of sight, we are not maximising the technology as other companies already do.
Read full article.