May 26, 2015

The Next Big Thing: People Drones

MTMwNDMwOTM0MjU1MTgwMjU0-1.jpgFor Joby Aviation CEO and founder JoeBen Bevirt, fast, convenient air travel seems nearly ready to hit the tarmac, and he's been working on his baby—the S2 two-seat electric aircraft—since 2005. In addition to the piloted S2 and the newer four-seat S4, Joby has also started mapping out plans for its next-generation of unmanned, remotely controlled versions. In essence, drones for people. ReadWriteWeb reports.

quotemarksright.jpgJoby's plans for "people drones" and its S2 aircraft share the same basic DNA. They rely on the same sort of battery power, sensors and electrical components that, the company hopes, improves on short-haul air travel.

The S2 doesn't even require a runway. Packed with 12 different propellers and sensors, the lightweight unit operates as a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft. In other words, it can lift off and land on helipads, making it suitable for use between densely populated areas or other points too awkward or inaccessible for standard flights.

"If we can build an aircraft which is quiet, safe, and efficient, and you get door-to-door at five times the speed of ground transport, it will radically change life," Bevirt told ReadWrite. "It will have a transformative effect." Imagine skies littered with sky taxis carrying passengers to work or short-hop destinations.

But don't pack your bags just yet. Plenty of challenges dot the landscape between here and there, not least of which are regulatory approvals.src="http://www.textually.org/textually/archives/images/set3/quotesmarksleft.jpg" width="20" height="15" />

Read full article.

emily | 3:12 PM | | permalink

May 23, 2015

The 'Uber for drones' company

imgres.pngDrones cost money, and companies have to know how to operate them safely. Depending on the business, some firms may need a drone for only a short period of time, which in turn makes the investment impractical. NBC reports.

quotemarksright.jpgSan Francisco start-up Skycatch has a product called Workmode that it claims solves that dilemma. A service called Workmode matches companies wanting a drone with qualified pilots who own and operate them. Hence the comparison to Uber.

Skycatch connected Soohoo with drone pilot Tom Waclo, who uses his drone to monitor rooftop work for between $400 and $1,000 a flight. Being a hired gun has become Waclo's full-time job. "It's still a very new industry. There's not that many people who even realize what the capabilities are," he said. "It's been great to have (Skycatch) help me find work."

Each Workmode pilot has to go through a certification process with the company, and nearly 1,000 pilots have done so.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 7:30 AM | Drone Pilots | permalink

May 22, 2015

Drones across Papua New Guinea help to fight TB

drones.jpgCrocodile-infested rivers, choppy seas and a lack of proper roads make it difficult for aid workers in remote areas of Papua New Guinea to transport medical supplies, but aid workers have come up with a new solution: drones. Skerah reports.

quotemarksright.jpgUnmanned drones are often used in humanitarian efforts for mapping, but using them to get medicines and samples to hard-to-reach areas is new, said Isaac Chikwanha and Eric Pujo of Medecins Sans Frontieres.

Aid groups trying to tackle tuberculosis in a region where the disease is more prevalent than almost anywhere else in the world used the “quadcopters” last year to transport sputum samples from remote clinics to testing centers.

MSF were looking for a simple, safe and all-weather way of moving samples around Papua New Guinea’s Gulf region – a place Pujo called the “biggest swamp in the world”.

Most outlying health centers in Papua New Guinea lack road access, so travel is typically by boat or on foot. Samples must get to a testing center within hours. MSF joined with Matternet, a U.S. technology company, to develop the devices.

The drones are operated by smartphones, with the operator plugging in the coordinates of the destination, and the drone then flying itself. Phone signal in the region is “almost everywhere, but roads aren’t,” Chikwanha said at conference on technology and medicine in London on Thursday.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

May 20, 2015

Flocks of drones could scare birds away from future aircraft

GR birdport.jpg A concept that proposes drones as a way to guide (or scare) birds aways from airport runways in the direction of a safe haven is one of several ideas shortlisted for Wired reports.

quotemarksright.jpgThe competition, run in partnership with Unesco, looks for pioneering ideas that have the potential to solve one of six key problems Airbus has identified within the aviation industry. Five finalists have been identified and one will walk away with a prize of €30,000.

The drone-guided birdport concept was proposed by a team of students from the University of Tokyo. It suggests using a flock of unmanned aerial vehicles to intercept birds that may be headed towards airports and divert them to a comfortable habitat -- a "birdport" -- nearby. The drones would have to use various tactics that mimic the birds' natural behaviours, including the three rules of flocking -- separation, alignment and cohesion -- to control them. The idea is obviously intended to reduce the number of bird strikes to aircraft.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full press release from Unesco.

emily | 7:44 PM | Drones and Wildlife | permalink

Drones herd endangered elephants away from danger

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 17.50.59.pngWe had heard of a farmer in Ireland using drones to herd his sheep. Now in in Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park, rangers are using drones to fly above elephants and usher them away from the threat posed by human beings. Euronews reports.

quotemarksright.jpgElephants are poisoned, attacked with spears and arrows or shot for raiding crops and wandering into villages.

The drone is the perfect protector monitoring the mammals while covering difficult terrain. Initial trials of the drone have thrown up some positive results.

Nadia De Souza is a researcher for Biodiversity and Wildlife solutions: “So far they seem to be responding really well, I mean, all of the trials that we’ve done so far, they’ve moved away from the drones really quickly whether they were in the fields or whether they were just out of the crops so it’s been pretty positive so far but we still need a lot more data to collect and be certain of the statistics.”

Biologist David Olson believes it is only a matter of time before the smart creatures get used to the drone’s bee-like buzzing.

So moves are being put in place to train rangers to fly drones carrying chili powder. Elephants don’t like chili!quotesmarksleft.jpg

Watch video.

emily | 5:47 PM | Drones and Wildlife | permalink

May 16, 2015

What You Get When You Blend a Drone and a Gecko

SB3_Peterson.jpg There is a wide array of obstacles facing the drone deliveries proposed by Amazon and Google. If the deliveries do happen, however, researchers from the mechanical engineering lab at Stanford University believe they have made a technological leap in the science of the drone’s landing. The New York Times reports.

quotemarksright.jpgWorking with researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, they have figured out how to enable a quadcopter drone to stick a landing — at any angle — much like a flying gecko or a bat. Without any kind of suction or sticky, the flying robot can now perch on a slippery surface.

This means that technologically, it would be possible for a pizza-carrying drone to land on a 14th-floor window or for a robot, carrying a medical kit, to perch on a smooth, vertical rock wall.

The design borrows from a common source of ideas for futuristic technologies: nature. It is the latest incarnation of the geckolike climbing robot known as Stickybot, which the Stanford roboticist Mark Cutkosky and his team created in 2010.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 11:16 AM | Delivery Drones, Technology | permalink

May 13, 2015

Runway drones are the new supermodel

betabrand-drone_001.jpg Who needs mere mortal, six-foot-tall supermodels to stomp down the runways when designers can fly their clothes down the catwalk instead? [Via Mashable].

quotemarksright.jpgAt Tuesday's fashion spectacle known as Silicon Valley Fashion Week, drones replaced living models. The inaugural techie event launched the same day in San Francisco.

Models of the flesh were replaced by aluminum drones that whizzed down the catwalk, hovering over the audience. Different looks literally flew across the stage.

“Drones are lovely,” says Chris Lindland, CEO of Betabrand and founder of Silicon Valley Fashion Week. He partnered up with the San Francisco-based collective, Game of Drones, who provided all of the "models" for the night. “Drone-flown clothing flutters beautifully in the prop wash and floats down the runway like a ghost,” he adds.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Drones have made ab appearance at a fashion shows before. In February 2014, Italian fashion house Fendi, broadcasted its fashion show from all angles thanks to a Parrot drone.

Throw This Camera Drone in the Air and It Flies Itself

Lily is the world's first throw-and-shoot camera. It lets anyone create cinematic footage previously reserved for professional filmmakers. Lily is waterproof, ultra-portable, and shoots stunning HD pictures and videos.

According to Wired:

quotemarksright.jpgLily’s not a DJI competitor, and it’s not trying to take down the super-powered Solo from 3D Robotics. It’s not complicated, and in a couple of years it won’t be expensive either (now at $499 if you pre-order, $999 later). It’s not the future of drones; it’s more like the future of the point-and-shoot. And it can get shots your selfie stick couldn’t even imagine.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full review.

emily | 10:18 PM | Technology | permalink

May 8, 2015

Amazon delivery drones will be able to track location of 'deliveree' by pulling data from their smartphone

imgres.jpg Details about how Amazon's proposed delivery drones may work have been published by the US Patent Office. The BBC reports.

quotemarksright.jpg According to the patent, the drones will be able to track the location of the person it is delivering to by pulling data from their smartphone.

The unmanned vehicles will also be able to talk to each other about weather and traffic conditions.

According to the plans, Amazon's drones will be able to update their routes in real-time. A mock-up delivery screen suggests that people will be able to choose from a variety of delivery options - from "bring it to me" to nominating their home, place of work or even "my boat" as places for packages to be dropped.

Flight sensors, radar, sonar, cameras and infrared sensors will be employed to ensure safe landing zones are found.

Amazon faces many regulatory hurdles before its plans can be turned into reality.

... Winning patent approval does not mean that the final product will be exactly as described or that it will become reality.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 5:40 PM | Delivery Drones | permalink

May 7, 2015

The 2016 presidential election could be brought to you by drones

The 2016 presidential election could go down as the first in US history to be captured by drones, after federal regulators on Wednesday gave CNN the green light to begin testing unmanned planes as news-gathering tools in urban areas. The Guardian reports.

quotemarksright.jpgThe FAA announced that it had entered into a new partnership with the cable channel under which CNN will be allowed to explore how drones can be safely used for news photography in populated areas.

The concession opens the door to what is expected eventually to grow into vast demand for drones within the news business, with the coverage of presidential elections top of the TV networks’ and cable channels’ wish-lists. Drone experts predicted that with the gathering pace of change within the industry, and with the FAA showing signs that it is prepared to take a more relaxed approach to allowing unmanned planes into the national airspace, the devices are likely to be unleashed in time for 2016, which would render them a striking new feature of next year’s race for the White House.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

May 6, 2015

Utilities Turn to Drones to Inspect Power Lines and Pipelines

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 15.50.54.pngA handful of other utility companies have received permission from the FAA to use drones for inspecting remote infrastructure. The Wall Street Journal reports.

quotemarksright.jpgThe unmanned aerial systems can have tremendous value for utilities and other companies that must regularly inspect hard-to-reach equipment. Drones can glide over rugged terrain, where it’s hard for utility workers to get around, and send back pictures showing the condition of power lines and pipelines. They can’t inspect buried pipes, of course, but they can send back images of vegetation around pipelines that can flag problems—dying greenery often is a sign of a methane leak.

“I think it could revolutionize how we do things,” says Andrew Phillips, director of transmission and substation analysis for the Electric Power Research Institute in Charlotte, N.C. “Every utility will be operating them one day.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

US farmers get approval to for drones

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 15.45.05.png A drone large enough to carry tanks of fertilisers and pesticides has won rare approval from federal authorities to spray crops in the US. SBS reports.

quotemarksright.jpgThe drone, called the RMAX, is a remotely piloted helicopter that weighs 94kg, says Steve Markofski, a spokesman for Yamaha Corp USA, which developed the aircraft.

Smaller drones weighing a few kilograms had already been approved for limited use to take pictures that help farmers identify unhealthy crops.

It is the first time a drone big enough to carry a payload has been approved, Markofski said.

The drone already has been used elsewhere, including by rice farmers in Japan. The FAA approved it for the US on Friday.quotesmarksleft.jpg

May 4, 2015

iRobot co-founder launches Kickstarter for simplified drone that anyone can fly

imgres.jpgConsumer drones in general have finally come down in price enough that most can now afford one if they wish. Actually being able to fly a drone, however, is no easy feat which is where CyPhy’s LVL 1 strives (pronounced sci-fi). Techspot reports.

quotemarksright.jpgIts six-rotor design allows the drone to fly smoothly without ever tilting through a technology called Level-Up. This makes it easier to fly and ensures that photos and videos will always be stable although the feature can be disabled for more advanced pilots.

The CyPhy LVL 1 also uses geo-fencing technology which allows you to create a virtual playground for the drone in which it won’t stray from. This sounds like an excellent feature to use when learning how to fly for the first time and to avoid any potential legal issues.

CyPhy is a robotics startup led by Helen Greiner, co-founder of iRobot which as you know, has found tremendous success with its Roomba line of robotic vacuum cleaners. The company has turned to Kickstarter to fund development of its LVL 1 drone and has already raised more than $76,000 of its $250,000 goal.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article. Watch video. It demos how easy CyPhy is to fly and how to define a perimeter for geofencing. Impressive.

May 3, 2015

Drone pilots making a living from flying high over the fairways

golfdrone_3289981b.jpgA new industry is springing up in aerial photography and golfers are getting a lift from video guides to courses filmed from drones. The Telegraph reports.

quotemarksright.jpgCameras mounted to drones are being used to shoot tee-to-green films of golf holes, which act as an online guides that give players a fresh perspective of the hazards they face.

Specialist businesses which shoot and edit drones’ films are springing up, which they are marketing both as an aid for golfers to navigate tricky holes and a promotional tool for the clubs themselves. Like FairwayFlyovers which launched a year ago and has since filmed a dozen clubs, including Turnberry, where the Open was held in 2009. And FlyOver18, which has hired has signed up “voice of golf” Peter Alliss to do voiceovers for the films it produces.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

emily | 8:54 PM | Golf Drones | permalink

Nepal earthquake: Drones used by Canadian relief team

drone-jpg.jpg

From the ground in Nepal, the chaos would have been immediate and terrifying. CBC reports.

quotemarksright.jpgFrom the skies above, the scope of the tragedy came into sharper focus after Saturday's 7.8-magnitude quake — a vast disaster zone with a death toll that has since climbed past 4,600 and turned UNESCO heritage sites such as the Dharahara Tower Hindu shrine into rubble.

Many of those striking aerial images were shot by drones gliding above, the kind of eye-in-the-sky technology that Canadian relief teams will begin deploying as soon as today over the stricken mountainous areas between India and Tibet.​

As these robotic flyers do their work, the American Red Cross is among the agencies that will be watching. Camera-carrying drones have become the latest tool for emergency responders to pin-point where aid is needed.

Nepal is ground zero for made-in-Canada drone scouts.

Workers with the Toronto-based humanitarian organization GlobalMedic are flying a fleet of three UAVs to survey the region and collect thousands of high-resolution snapshots to help streamline aid delivery.

"We're cross-stitching thousands upon thousands of images onto maps. And they show us everything," said GlobalMedic founder and executive director Rahul Singh.

He says the videos and photos captured by the UAVs reveal more detail than a satellite image.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

How Matternet plans to dominate drone-based delivery

Matternet.png

One day soon, we will receive packages at our doorsteps, delivered by your local friendly drone. arstechnica reports.

quotemarksright.jpgThere’s just one major problem: the FAA requires that drone pilots maintain line-of-sight. So, an aerial courier company with a fleet of drones won’t be operating in the United States anytime soon. But drone startups are drawn to Silicon Valley for access to engineering talent and venture capital.

This has created a strange situation where there are a handful of drone startups that want to offer various flavors of automated delivery, but their services aren’t legal in the United States just yet.

One of the most ambitious and well-positioned of these companies is Matternet, a nascent startup that has made a name by delivering medicine in rural areas of developing countries like Bhutan and Papua New Guinea.

Last month, the company trumpeted the fact that it would be conducting significant real-world tests this summer in a country with a developed air traffic network. In Switzerland, Matternet will be working with Swiss Post, Swiss WorldCargo, the air cargo division of Swiss International Air Lines.

... Matternet, co-founder Andreas Raptopoulos hopes, will not only be conducting humanitarian missions, but would primarily be making money by leasing its quadcopters to other businesses for the purposes of making deliveries. The company plans to charge $1,000 per drone per month, which includes access to the company’s routing software (run in the cloud), and stripped-down smartphone apps which simply control the launch and delivery points. The company’s proprietary routing software explicitly routes around no-fly zones (airports, schools, military bases) and other objects that would obstruct its path, like buildings.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

Related: - Swiss Post to test drone delivery service.

emily | 9:23 AM | Delivery Drones | permalink

May 2, 2015

College students can now major in drone studies

Kansas State University Salina, is one of the first three US universities to offer an undergraduate degree in UAS operations. The University of North Dakota introduced a major in Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations in 2009, while Florida aeronautical university Embry-Riddle’s B.S. in Unmanned Aircraft Systems Science debuted in 2011. arstechnica reports.

Kansas State University Salina - Unmanned Aircraft Systems from K-State Salina on Vimeo.

quotemarksright.jpgThe scope of commercial applications for UAS has broadened dramatically in recent years. Enhanced techniques in filmmaking, environmental monitoring, and photography, as well as high-profile ideas such as Amazon’s 30-minute delivery service, have increased the need for skilled UAS operators.

“Unmanned aircraft systems is like the Wild West of aviation,” said John Robbins, assistant professor in the Aeronautical Science Department at Embry-Riddle. “It’s a brand-new area, and we know that these aircraft are going to be a component of the future of aviation.”

Most programs begin with courses in flight background and instruction: FAA regulations, the systems and circuit design of unmanned aircraft, remote sensors, aerodynamics, ground tools, robotics. These are combined with applied projects, such as building aircraft from plans or kits, flying unmanned aircraft in simulated environments, and field-operations courses complete with an air vehicle operator, an external pilot, and a visual observer.

Graduates of the UND and K-State programs receive Commercial and/or Private Pilot Certificates; Embry-Riddle students have the option to specialize in Professional Pilot Studies (in which case they become licensed) or in UAS Operations.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

May 1, 2015

The Age of Drone Vandalism Begins With an Epic NYC Tag

dronetag-582x403.jpg

KATSU, a well-known graffiti artist and vandal, used a hacked Phantom drone to paint a giant red scribble across Kendall Jenner’s face on one of New York City’s largest and most viewed billboards. By all accounts, it is the first time that a drone has been deployed for a major act of public vandalism. [via Wired]

quotemarksright.jpgIn April last year, KATSU made headlines when he demonstrated that he had figured out how to attach a spray can to an off-the-shelf DJI Phantom drone. At the time, he was only using the drone to paint canvasses for white-wall galleries.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Watch video.

Related: Graffiti artist KATSU creates abstract paintings using drones with spray cans

emily | 7:51 AM | Drones and Art | permalink

April 28, 2015

Drones Patrolling the World's Deadliest Migrant Crossing [video]

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 08.48.58.png

In 2014, 218,000 migrants attempted to cross the Mediterranean Sea, most of them refugees from wars and chaos in Syria, Libya, and the Horn of Africa. More than 3,400 of them died, making the Mediterranean the most lethal border in the world.

American entrepreneur Chris Catrambone and his Italian wife Regina founded Migrant Offshore and Staion (MOAS), which operates on a 130-foot ship out of Malta; in their first 60 days at sea, their team helped save 3,000 lives. To maximize efficiency, MOAS uses two state-of-the-art drones. (Source: Bloomberg)

Watch video.

April 27, 2015

Royal Navy Drones Could Turn The Tide of Migrant Crisis

_ScanEagle-surveil_3281485b.jpg Royal Navy ship-launched surveillance drones could be sent to scour the Mediterranean as part of Britain’s effort to combat the migrant crisis, under plans being considered by defence chiefs. The Telegraph reports.

quotemarksright.jpgThe Navy’s new ScanEagle remote-controlled aircraft would search for dangerously overloaded boats packed with people making the perilous crossing from Libya to Europe.

... Sources said the Type 23 frigate HMS Kent, currently in the Gulf, could be moved to take part in the operation and bring its new ScanEagle drones for use in the search.

The unarmed drone is catapulted into flight from a 14ft ramp and can remain airborne for 12 hours.

The aircraft can fly at ranges of up to 40?miles from its ship and beams back live video, day or night, directly into the ship's operations room.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.