August 28, 2015
San Francisco-based startup Trees Delivery is gearing up to deliver marijuana by drone.
It's target markets? California, Colorado and Washington D.C. where smoking weed is legal.
August 27, 2015
It is now legal for law enforcement in North Dakota to fly drones armed with everything from Tasers to tear gas thanks to a last-minute push by a pro-police lobbyist. The Daily Beast reports via ReadWriteWeb.
House Bill 1328 wasn’t drafted that way, but then a lobbyist representing law enforcement—tight with a booming drone industry—got his hands on it.
The bill’s stated intent was to require police to obtain a search warrant from a judge in order to use a drone to search for criminal evidence. In fact, the original draft of Representative Rick Becker’s bill would have banned all weapons on police drones.
Then Bruce Burkett of the North Dakota Peace Officer’s Association was allowed by the state house committee to amend HB 1328 and limit the prohibition only to lethal weapons. “Less than lethal” weapons like rubber bullets, pepper spray, tear gas, sound cannons, and Tasers are therefore permitted on police drones.
Read full article.
August 26, 2015
Drones are being used to capture video footage that shows construction progress at the Sacramento Kings’ new stadium in California. MIT TechnologyReview reports.
The workers building a lavish new downtown stadium for the Sacramento Kings in California are being monitored by aerial drones and software that can automatically flag slow progress.
Once per day, several drones automatically patrol the Sacramento work site, collecting video footage. That footage is then converted into a three-dimensional picture of the site, which is fed into software that compares it to computerized architectural plans as well as a the construction work plan showing when each element should be finished. The software can show managers how the project is progressing, and can automatically highlight parts that may be falling behind schedule.
August 25, 2015
The number of drone sightings and near misses reported by pilots so far this year is nearly triple that of 2014, according to the FAA. And while not all of those encounters were necessarily dangerous (or even involved drones) some of the incidents were awfully close to catastrophe. Motherboard reports.
On Friday, the FAA released all of its incident reports of drone sightings and near-misses from November 13 of last year to August 20, 2015. Since January, there have been 678 reports, compared to 238 for all of 2014. This is alarming because, as the FAA likes to remind us, if a drone or model airplane were to be sucked into the engine of a commercial jet, the results could be catastrophic.
But there are some caveats to these reports as well. For almost all of the incidents, a drone operator is never identified, making it difficult to confirm whether it was in fact a hobbyist pilot and not a commercial or military drone. There is also a lot of variation in the details and circumstances of the reports, such as pilots who report the object they spotted “might have been” a drone, or others who spotted unmanned aircraft that were within the FAA’s guidelines (more than five miles from an airport and flying at less than 400 feet).
The FAA has also landed in murky water in the past for highlighting dangerous “near misses” without much evidence.
“The reports can only be trusted insofar as any preliminary report of an incident can be trusted without further investigation,” said Arthur Holland Michel, the founder of Bard College’s Center for the Study of the Drone. “Sometimes, it is simply a report from a pilot who saw a mysterious object whizz by the cockpit for a split second, and assumes it was a drone. Other reports even say that the unmanned aircraft could have been a kite or a balloon, but it was too far away, or too brief of an encounter, to tell.
Sony announced last month that it was teaming up with ZMP Inc, a Tokyo-based robotics company, to create commercial drones. The company, called Aerosense, will use drones to survey and inspect areas that are difficult to access. [via The Verge]
Everyone’s been getting into the drone business lately — companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google are all testing drones delivery, and just last week Virginia Tech conducted a FAA-authorized test to deliver medicine via drone. But Sony plans to target enterprise customers, at least for now, implementing its camera, telecommunication, and robotic technologies to capture aerial imagery that can be processed in the cloud.
Aerosense will be based in Tokyo and aims to roll out services starting early next year.
August 20, 2015
Three inventive brothers from Howick in East Auckland have been awarded $10,000 to design a new drone that could revolutionise the film industry. [via stuff]
The brothers decided to take on the challenge of creating a drone that could not only film, but also record spoken dialogue with very little unwanted noise.
They hope their combined experience in electrical engineering and biotechnology will help them produce a marketable drone.
The design includes 3D printed shrouding which will muffle the sound of the propellers, as well as technology that will record dialogue while removing any unwanted noise.
Read full article.
August 19, 2015
Requiring blinking LED license plates on drones could help the public and law enforcement keep them in line. [via MIT Technology Review]
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, are working on a project called Lightcense, which involves a rectangular array of bright, multicolored LEDs attached to the underside of a craft. The LEDs blink a unique pattern that could be looked up in a database by law enforcement to identify a drone’s owner.
The LED license plate is designed to be decoded by a smartphone app, specialized camera equipment in the hands of law enforcement, or even memorized by someone who spies a drone that’s up to no good. That would provide an urgently needed public accountability mechanism lacking today, says Aislan Foina, director of the Cal Unmanned Aviation Research Lab at Berkeley.
August 17, 2015
Peru, a country with a rich historical heritage, has added drones to archaeology’s classical tools for surveying, registering and protecting archaeological sites from climate- and human-caused damage. Droneblog reports.
The use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, has so far helped in registering 375 archaeological sites, or 63.5 percent of those in the Lima metropolitan area, and most of them are located among buildings and avenues in the city of more than 9 million people.
The project coordinator at the Culture Ministry, Aldo Watanave, described for EFE how difficult it was to develop a registry of archaeological sites before the arrival of drones.
“Back then, to obtain aerial images, we had to check records of aerial photography from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, or we were required to wait until a satellite orbited over a specific area and took a picture,” Watanave said.
Read full article.
When Capt Sully talks, we all listen.
One of the more prominent voices bringing attention to the heightened risk of a drone-on-aircraft collision is Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. Sullenberger, most readers will recall, is the now-retired US Airways pilot that in 2009 managed to safely land his Airbus A320 passenger jet in the Hudson River, saving all 155 persons aboard. [via TIME]
On a recent appearance on Face the Nation, Sullenberger, now an aviation safety expert—told host John Dickerson in no uncertain terms just how bad a collision between a passenger aircraft and a drone could get.
We have seen what a six-pound or an eight- pound bird can do to bring down an airplane,” Sullenberger said. “Imagine what a device containing hard parts like batteries and motors can do that might weigh 25 or possibly up to 55 pounds to bring down an airplane. It is not a matter of if it will happen. It is a matter of when it will happen.
August 12, 2015
Dutch software engineer is working on a quadcopter that can transport passengers autonomously, without manual control. The Sydney Morning Herald reports.
The main goal of this project is to create a system where passenger can sit in and automatically go to his desired location without manually driving it, so it should be done automatically. So imagine that the passenger sits here, enter destination on a touch screen and the drone will automatically take off and land there," Crijns told Reuters.
"The biggest challenge is to make this entirely safe and entirely autonomous," he added.
Crijns, based near Eindhoven in the south of the Netherlands, has built several small scale prototypes already. So far, he has managed to keep a passenger in the air for a ten second flight.
He hopes his quadcopter, named Quadro, would function like a conventional earth-bound taxi.
The Quadro's twenty engines are powered by lithium battery and has an aluminium alloy structure. Crijns used the MultiWii Autopilot control system, a common choice for autonomous quadcopters, which he says helps stabilise the vehicle.
August 4, 2015
A team of researchers from the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) have developed a tiny new set of electronic eyes for drones that are based on the multifaceted peepers of insects. [via engadget]
These eyes are built specifically for the next generation of very small surveillance UAVs -- like that origami quadcopter EPFL developed earlier this year -- and operate very differently than the conventional cameras currently employed.
Insect eyes aren't capable of generating a high spatial resolution (that is, the number of pixels you can pack into a single image) so they instead rely on quickly reacting to changes in how light reflects or objects appear as the insect moves. The new camera works the same way.
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.