October 1, 2014

California bans paparazzi drones

California on Tuesday approved a law which will prevent paparazzi from using drones to take photos of celebrities, among a series of measures aimed at tightening protection of privacy. [via Phys.org]

quotemarksright.jpgThe drone ban bill, which is aimed at shoring up privacy for the general public but will work equally well for celebrities, was authored by lawmaker Ed Chau.

"As technology continues to advance and new robotic-like devices become more affordable for the general public, the possibility of an individual's privacy being invaded substantially increases," he said.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

September 30, 2014

Drones Used to Count Seals

seals_reykjavikzoo.jpg Scientists in Iceland will use drones for the seal count this year, organized by the Institute of Freshwater Fisheries and Icelandic Seal Center. If the method proves successful, it will be added to the usual counting of seals by plane and is hoped to reduce costs, visir.is reports. [via Iceland Review]

quotemarksright.jpgThe last comprehensive counts took place in 2011. This year, funding was lacking, and so seals can only be counted in limited areas. Scientists received only one fourth of the funding they had asked for from the government.

“Drones and helicopters will be used in addition to the traditional airplane. We then want to compare the methods and hopefully reduce costs,” said project leader Sandra Granquist, a seals expert at the Institute of Freshwater Fisheries.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 8:22 PM | Drones and Wildlife | permalink

Ban on drones scattering human ashes in historical park

20140929__TDT-L-AZTECRUINS-0930~p3_300.jpg Piloting drones or depositing cremated human remains are now prohibited at Aztec Ruins National Monument and Chaco Culture National Historical Park. The Daily Times reports.

quotemarksright.jpgLast month, Larry Turk Larry Turk, who is superintendent at both Aztec Ruins and Chaco, erected four signs at Chaco that warn visitors of the park's policy on scattering cremated remains at the park.

Turk said park officials aren't clear why or how visitors are leaving ashes behind, but he said the ashes confuse the archeological record and are considered offensive to many descendants of the ancestral Puebloans whose ruins Turk is charged with preserving.

"It's really noticeable," he said. "Some people dump the ashes right on the ground, along the trails or sprinkle them on the walls. We've never witnessed anybody do it, so I can't say why they're doing it.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 8:11 AM | News | permalink

LED-equipped quadcopters drone figures in the air

Call them Spaxels, they are LED-equipped quadcopters that make up a drone swarm that can “draw” three-dimensional figures in midair.

quotemarksright.jpgIn the dead of night, the strange glowing objects take to the sky in perfect formation, forming shapes and moving with pinpoint accuracy. To the untrained eye, they look like a fleet of tiny UFOs rising up. However, in reality this is one of the most impressive demonstrations of quadrocopters, tiny four bladed flying machines, flying in a ‘swarm’.quotesmarksleft.jpg

[TIME via Ars Electronica FuturLab]

emily | 8:02 AM | Drones and Art | permalink

September 28, 2014

Wearable Drone Flies Off Your Wrist to Snap a Selfie

Nixie is different kind of drone. It's a drone that you wear, like a bracelet. Whenever you need to let it soar, you give it a command to unwrap, power it up, and let it go. It flies out far enough to snap a photo and return to you.

The Nixie team will be presenting their prototype for the Intel Make It Wearable Challenge Finale on November 3, 2014 in San Francisco.

[slashdot via hothardware]

emily | 9:23 PM | News, Technology | permalink

September 26, 2014

Argentina uses drones to root out wealthy tax evaders

Drones deployed by tax inspectors near Buenos Aires found 200 mansions and 100 swimming pools that hadn't been declared, reports The Telegraph.

quotemarksright.jpgThe Argentine government has used drones to catch out wealthy tax evaders who had not declared mansions and swimming pools.

Unmanned aircraft were dispatched over an upper class area of Buenos Aires and discovered 200 homes and 100 pools that had not been detailed on returns.

Tax officials said the drones took pictures of luxury houses standing on lots registered as empty.

The evasions found by the drones amounted to missing tax payments of more than $2 million and owners of the properties have been waned they now face large fines.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 9:25 AM | News, Surveillance Drones | permalink

The FAA Gives Hollywood Its Drones, and Other Industries Will Soon Benefit

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 08.20.12.pngU.S. regulators will allow six movie and television-show makers to fly unmanned drones in shooting their productions, a concession to pent-up demand from a range of industries that want to use the devices. Business Week reports.

quotemarksright.jpgThe FAA decision, announced on Thursday, allows drones only on closed sets, where they must be controlled by certified pilots and can be flown only up to 400 feet. Producers must notify the agency before any flights, inspect aircraft before it is used, and never fly the drone out of view.

The MPAA had filed for the permission in May on behalf of seven companies that want to use drones in their work; the seventh application is still pending.

Forty similar applications are pending with the FAA from other industries. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta emphasized on Thursday that any business with a legitimate use for drones is welcome to seek an exemption, following the film and television production model.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

September 25, 2014

Facebook developing giant drones to 'fly for months'

Facebook is considering flying giant drones above us as the social network "figures out how to connect the world". The BBC reports.

quotemarksright.jpgThe idea to develop huge unmanned aircraft comes from Facebook's Connectivity Lab, set up by company founder Mark Zuckerberg.

The aim is to make the internet available to two-thirds of the world's population who can't currently get online.

They say expanding internet access would create another 140 million jobs.

And they say it could help lift 160 million people out of poverty, and reduce child mortality.

The lab's engineering director Yael Maguire revealed the drone plan at the 2014 Social Good Summit in New York.

He didn't actually use the word "drone" but said that unmanned "planes roughly the size of a commercial aircraft, like a 747"" would serve as huge connectivity hubs could one day stay up in the air for months, even years, at a time.

Maguire explained: "In order for us to fly these planes we actually have to fly above the weather, above all airspace. That's between 60,000 and 90,000 feet. Routinely, planes don't fly there, and certainly not drones."quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

emily | 6:17 PM | News | permalink

DHL authorized to trial drone delivery in the German island of Juist

dhl-paketkopter-juist-anflug-600.png Logistics firm DHL is using a drone to fly parcels to the German island of Juist, in what it says is the first time an unmanned aircraft has been authorized to deliver goods in Europe. [via Reuters]

quotemarksright.jpgThe company, owned by Germany's Deutsche Post, joins the likes of Amazon.com and Google in testing the potential for drones to deliver parcels and packages.

Its drone - the "parcelcopter" - can fly at up to 65 km (40 miles) an hour. It will deliver medication and other urgently needed goods to the car-free island of Juist, off Germany's northern coast, at times when other modes of transport such as flights or ferries are not operating.

Flights to the North Sea island, home to around 1,700 people, will start from Friday, weather permitting, and will continue until the middle or end of October, the spokeswoman said.

If the trial is successful, the craft could be used to deliver such packages to other remote areas.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 8:55 AM | Delivery Drones | permalink

September 23, 2014

Drones Are Coming To Hollywood: FAA Set To Announce Approval

hollywood.jpg The FAA will approve Hollywood’s request to use drones for filming, government and industry sources familiar with the process have told Forbes.

quotemarksright.jpgOn Thursday afternoon the FAA will announce its decision, and explain the procedures under which production companies will operate and the aviation rules which they are exempted from, the sources say.

In May, seven aerial photo and video production companies asked for regulatory exemptions (known as a 333 exemption) that would allow the film and television industry to use drones with FAA approval. Those seven companies and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), were asked by the FAA to develop the guidelines and safety procedures under which they planned to operate. The FAA reviewed those procedures and is expected to approve the drone-specific rules and standards that will enable Hollywood to be exempt from existing aviation regulations.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

SPARKED: A Live Interaction Between Humans and Quadcopters

Cirque du Soleil, ETH Zurich, and Verity Studios have partnered to develop a short film featuring 10 quadcopters in a flying dance performance.

The collaboration resulted in a unique, interactive choreography where humans and drones move in sync. Precise computer control allows for a large performance and movement vocabulary of the quadcopters and opens the door to many more applications in the future.

[via Nouvo]

emily | 4:12 PM | Drones and Art | permalink

September 21, 2014

Star Wars Ordered a 'DroneShield' to Prevent Leaks On Set

imgres.jpgOver the last couple of weeks, people have been flying drones over Pinewood Studios, where Star Wars Episode VII is being filmed. That made waves last week, but, perhaps most interestingly, the studio ordered a "DroneShield" back in June anticipating the drone problem.

According to the company, a DroneShield can "provide advanced warning of helicopters and drones commonly used by paparazzi and media. Alerts are sent by email or SMS and can be linked to alarm and security response teams and data collected is preserved for subsequent legal proceedings."

[via motherboard]

September 18, 2014

In Switzerland, police find a use for drones

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 09.28.09.pngEarlier this month, the Zurich police department began using a drone to take aerial photos of accidents. The Washington Post reports.

quotemarksright.jpgThe police department bought the drone in partnership with the Zurich department of geomatics and surveying, which wants to update its 3D map of the city. A spokesman said the 3D model is helpful for noise and pollution calculations as well as city planning. The groups first experimented with a drone in the summer of 2013, and soon realized they had an affordable way to survey land.

The drone has the advantage of easily surveying inaccessible areas, such as rivers and anything overgrown with vegetation. The department of geomatics and surveying said it also may use the drone for measuring landslides.

According to the Zurich police, they won’t be using the drone to monitor citizens or public events.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 9:25 AM | Surveillance Drones | permalink

September 16, 2014

Google wants to test drone wireless Internet in New Mexico

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 08.26.50.png

Google is planning to test Internet delivery by drone high above New Mexico, according to a government filing, reports PCWorld.

quotemarksright.jpgOn Friday, the company asked the FCC for permission to use two blocks of frequencies for the tests, which are scheduled to last about six months and begin in October. They will be conducted above an area of more than 1,400 square kilometers in the center of New Mexico to the east of Albuquerque.

“Google recently acquired Titan Aerospace, a firm that specializes in developing solar and electric unmanned aerial systems for high altitude, long endurance flights,” Google said in its application. “These systems may eventually be used to provide Internet connections in remote areas or help monitor environmental damage, such as oil spills or deforestation.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

emily | 8:24 AM | Delivery Drones | permalink

September 10, 2014

Amazon unveils Drone Store, tells users to 'Fly responsibly'

screen-shot-2014-09-09-at-08-41-11-620x389.png From Wi-Fi based robotic insects to flying companions acting like GoPros, Amazon's new store has quite the drone variety on offer. ZDNet reports.

quotemarksright.jpgThe online retail giant's dedicated unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) section includes both recreational and photography-base drones, ranging in price from $99 to over $1,000.

The Drone Store also offers a number of accessories for UAV enthusiasts, such as cases, batteries and propellers. A "Buying Guide" page and "Fly Responsibly" section links to advice for drone users, flying tips and safety codes provided by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International and the Academy of Model Aeronautics.

While there is not a vast array of drones on offer yet, the new store does show that Amazon believes drones can go beyond its own lofty goals of UAV product delivery.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 9:04 PM | News | permalink

September 4, 2014

Lawsuit led by 200 universities over regulations restricting drone use

Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 8.30.28 AM.pngA new controversy over drones is brewing in the US, but not in the way you might think: angry academics want their permission to fly them restored. Times Higher Education reports.

quotemarksright.jpgOn 22 August, a coalition of nearly 200 research universities filed a lawsuit challenging new federal rules complicating and even banning the use of unmanned aerial vehicles within the US for work such as archaeological surveys and river mapping – even though hobbyists are still allowed to fly their own unmanned model aircraft.

“The restrictions being placed on education and research are out of all proportion to the actual danger posed,” said Paul Voss, an associate professor of engineering at Smith College, who coordinated a protest letter that was also signed by 28 peers at Harvard, Duke and Stanford universities and the universities of Michigan and Wisconsin, among others. The lawsuit was subsequently brought by the Council on Governmental Relations, an association representing 188 research-intensive universities.

The regulations are an attempt by the US Federal Aviation Administration, on orders from Congress, to address concerns about safety, security and privacy in the wake of drones’ proliferation.

But academics say the rules will increase the area over which the FAA has control. Federal laws had previously given it authority to regulate airspace 500ft (152m) above ground level and higher. Now, the researchers contend, in a “breathtaking jurisdictional expansion”, the FAA has extended its reach to ground level, “including our campuses, private backyards, and possibly even inside buildings”.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read more.

September 3, 2014

UTSA researchers study using brain signals to operate drones

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 09.09.50.png With sensors covering his head, University of Texas at San Antonio graduate student Mauricio Merino concentrates hard as a camo-colored drone hovers with a soft hum in the middle of a campus research lab. [via MYSA]

quotemarksright.jpgFor now, fellow graduate student Prasanna Kolar stands nearby to operate the unmanned aerial vehicle, also called a UAV or drone, through a cell phone app — gently commanding it left and right.

But the goal is to create a process for a human to control the movements of groups of drones with only a thought, said Daniel Pack, chairman of UTSA's electrical and computer engineering department.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

emily | 9:09 AM | News | permalink

September 2, 2014

Air Traffic Controllers for drones

Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 08.18.00.png The tech industry’s enthusiasm for building small delivery drones may be getting ahead of figuring out what to do with them. The New York Times reports.

quotemarksright.jpgResearchers at NASA are working on ways to manage that menagerie of low-flying aircraft. At NASA’s Moffett Field, about four miles from Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., the agency has been developing a drone traffic management program that would in effect be a separate air traffic control system for things that fly low to the ground — around 400 to 500 feet for most drones.

Much like the air traffic control system for conventional aircraft, the program would monitor the skies for weather and traffic. Wind is a particular hazard, because drones weigh so little compared with regular planes.

The system would also make sure the drones do not run into buildings, news helicopters or other lower-flying objects — a more challenging task than for an airplane flying at 30,000 feet. There would also be no-fly zones, such as anywhere near a major airport.

“One at a time you can make them work and keep them safe,” said Parimal H. Kopardekar, a NASA principal investigator who is developing and managing that program. “But when you have a number of them in operation in the same airspace, there is no infrastructure to support it.

Unlike the typical image of an air traffic control center — a dark room full of people wearing headphones and staring at radar screens — NASA’s system, like the drones themselves, would dispense with the people and use computers and algorithms to figure out where they can and cannot fly.

The commercial viability of delivery drones would depend heavily on two things: how many people live in the area and how much people are willing to pay for the service.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

September 1, 2014

Overcriminalization Comes To National Parks As People Who Fly Drones Face Six Months In Jail

Yellowstone is now criminally charging drone and other model aircraft operators who fly their devices in the park. Individuals who are criminally charged face six months in jail and fines of up to $5,000. Forbes reports.

quotemarksright.jpgTheir case in federal court will be tried before a U.S. Magistrate Judge and they will face an Assistant United States attorney who will be armed with the full power of the U.S. government. Those who are convicted of flying drones, toys and other model aircraft in parks will spend their time in a federal prison, further burdening an over crowded prison system. Is this a good use of taxpayer resources?quotesmarksleft.jpg

Read full article.

August 31, 2014

Drone tours Napa earthquake damage

A quadcopter's close aerial footage — posted on YouTube by Evan Kilkus — of the destruction caused by this week's 6.0 California earthquake in wine country shows the potential of drones in disaster areas. [via C/Net]