Using UAVs to help take down rhino poachers in South Africa

3 Feb , 2015  


Here is another excellent example of how UAVs can be used for the greater good: combating poachers in South Africa that kill rhinos for their horns. These horns are sought after because of their magical properties. A team from the University of Maryland’s Institute for Advanced Computer Studies uses mathematical models with satellite data along with different types of UAVs, fixed wing and multicopters, to track rhinos and inform the authorities of the location of poachers.

“Africa is too big to be simply launching small drones into the night sky with the hope of spotting rhinos or poachers by chance. This is where the analytical models come into play. Based on our models, we know, with near 90% certainty, where rhinos are likely to be on a particular night between 6:30 and 8:00, prime time for killings. At the same time, by mathematically recreating the environment when previous poachings have occurred, we have a very good idea of when and where poachers are likely to strike.”

The use of this technology has been proven to be very effective:

[…]and over the past 90 days, there has not been one single poaching incident. Four months ago, this region was losing several rhinos a week.

Check out the full article link below to read the full details.

Satellites, mathematics and drones take down poachers in Africa


No Drone Zone? Really?

28 Jan , 2015   Video

I can really sleep better now that the FAA has released this 15 second video where they remind everyone that you should not fly your “drone” this Sunday at the Super Bowl in Glendale, AZ. What are your thoughts?


A small UAV flew on the floor of Congress

22 Jan , 2015  


The Verge is reporting that during a hearing at Congress a small UAV, more specifically a Parrot Bebop was flown, while Collin Gunn from 3D Robotics gave a presentation about the many potential uses of unmanned aerial vehicles and how they can help generate jobs:

It wasn’t much of a demonstration, but it got the point across. A number of representatives broke into smiles and voiced the opinion that drones could be useful for work in agriculture, disaster relief, and natural resource management. That would mean jobs: something every politician likes to stump for. “I was hoping you would fly over the whole room, not just one location,” said Smith, after the Bebop landed.

The last time I remember a radio controlled craft being flown inside the chambers where politicians work was the whole flying penis episode, but even more interesting is that since a multirotor from 3D Robotics is probably too big to be flown safely indoors, Collin decided to have a competitor’s quad flying while he spoke.

A drone was flown on the floor of Congress | The Verge.


News Media Coalition Test Small UAVs for News Gathering

22 Jan , 2015  


A group of 10 media companies, including the Associates Press, NBCUniversal, The NYTimes, the Washington Post and Getty images, will start testing the use of small unmanned aerial vehicles for news gathering at an FAA test facility in Virginia. It seems like the FAA is moving at a faster pace now and is gathering more information before officially legislating the commercial use of UAVs. Directly from the press release:

The partnership between the news media coalition and Virginia Tech is designed to conduct controlled safety testing of a series of real-life scenarios where the news media could use small UAS technology to gather the news.

The coalition participating in the testing is comprised of the following media companies: Advance Publications, Inc.; A.H. Belo Corp.; The Associated Press; Gannett Co., Inc.; Getty Images (US), Inc.; NBCUniversal; The New York Times Company; The E.W. Scripps Company; Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc.; and The Washington Post.

News coalition members welcome this partnership as an opportunity to help develop procedures to safely incorporate UAS into daily journalism.

News Media Coalition Announces Partnership to Test Small News Drones at FAA Test Site | Business Wire.


DJI Inspire flyaways. Is anyone surprised?

14 Jan , 2015   Video

Gizmodo just published an article titled “Don’t Trust Your Expensive Autonomous Drone to Always Be Autonomous” that shows the almost $3000 DJI Inspire autonomously taking off and crashing into a garage. I have several thoughts in this regard:

– This just reinforces my statements made here: there will never be a substitution for good old fashioned piloting, no matter how advanced the algorithms are.

– Multirotor makers should encourage people to learn to fly properly, especially DJI. Also, stop marketing these tools as fool-proof. We all know they are not. They will flyaway. They will crash. There is no substitue for human error and ignorance.

– The need for a more education around multirotors and “drones” in general.

– Also, the word “drone” implies autonomy, so “autonomous drone” is sort of reduntant, in Gizmodo’s title. A multirotor can be a drone, if autonomous, but not all multirotors are drone, by this definition. Mini racer quads are generally not “drones” by this definition since they don’t fly on their own.

Don't Trust Your Expensive Autonomous Drone to Always Be Autonomous .


CNN signs a research agreement with the FAA

14 Jan , 2015  


CNN, everyone’s favorite cable news network (*cough, sarcash *couch) released a press release where they state they they’ve entered a UAV research agreement with the FAA. Its a really short press release, only 4 paragraphs, but the last two paragraphs, which are quoted, are very revealing.

“Our aim is to get beyond hobby-grade equipment and to establish what options are available and workable to produce high quality video journalism using various types of UAVs and camera setups,” said CNN Senior Vice President David Vigilante. “Our hope is that these efforts contribute to the development of a vibrant ecosystem where operators of various types and sizes can safely operate in the US airspace.”

“Unmanned aircraft offer news organizations significant opportunities,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “We hope this agreement with CNN and the work we are doing with other news organizations and associations will help safely integrate unmanned newsgathering technology and operating procedures into the National Airspace System.”

Anyone care to speculate?

[CNN] via [Politico]


UAV rules coming in 2017. FAA, really?

10 Dec , 2014  


Yesterday we reported that Amazon will move their UAV research overseas if the FAA doesn’t hurry up and actually create regulations. Well now, it seems like Amazon will have to leave after all. The Washington Post is reporting that the FAA won’t introduce their set of rules until 2017 or even later. Really, FAA? You’ve already missed the 2012 deadline and will now miss the September 2015 deadline. The WP reports:

Gilligan confirmed that a “balanced” proposal on drones is under executive review. But once that proposal is published for the public’s eyes, it could take months to arrive at a final set of rules. The result could mean years of additional delays, according to a Government Accountability Office official.

Something needs to be done at this point. The US needs to be a pioneer in this field, but when it is basically outlawed, the innovations will simply take place elsewhere. Click below to read the full Washington Post article.

The FAA won’t make up its mind on drone rules until 2017 — at the earliest – The Washington Post.


Mistletoe carrying Quad injures customer at TGI Friday’s

8 Dec , 2014  


File this under “we all knew this was a stupid idea”. Perhaps you heard about the latest publicity stunt over at everyone’s favorite Thank God its Friday themed restaurant, where they had someone flying a “drone” above people’s heads with mistletoe dangling from it inside a restaurant, for that holiday-inspired romance. Well, turns out, one of these things crashed into someone’s face and cut them. Luckily it wasn’t a Phantom or the F550 hex, that misleads the reader of the article, but rather a toy-grade quad. Check out the full article for the details.


Source: Brooklyn Daily


California Police Agency finally gets UAVs

4 Dec , 2014  


The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office just got delivery of 2 brand spankin’ multirotors, more specifically the AirCover QuadRotor QR425, but won’t start flying them until they get approval from the FAA. About the capabilities of this UAV:

AirCover’s website, however, specifically states that this model has the capability to be used for surveillance purposes, touting the fact that this model is “designed for perch mode operations in order to monitor areas for up to several hours of full motion video in EO, IR, and HD modes.”

The sheriff noted that the ACSO had purchased a FLIR infrared camera to attach to the drone.

“We have data retention where it tracks the flight of the unit and it is given a mission number and refers back to that,” he told reporters. “It has capability to attach other devices, it’s light enough to meet requirements of the FAA and already has been approved in other areas of the country.”

Check out the full article below for all the details.

County sheriff finally gets the drone he wanted, ignores privacy concerns | Ars Technica.


Several “Drones” Spotted around JFK

20 Nov , 2014  


There have been several reports by commercial airline pilots of rogue “drones” around the JFK airport in New York. They report that they are seeing “commercially available drones”, which probably means DJI Phantoms. The danger is that these multirotors could get sucked in into a jet engine and cause problems to the aircraft that have hundreds of people aboard. The article claims that this is why the FAA is taking their sweet time in providing comprehensive regulation, but a bit of common sense, like not flying around an airport, or perhaps an avoidance system, could help alleviate some of these concerns.

The other question that comes to mind is, how much damage could a Phantom do to a jet engine? I’ve seen frozen turkeys being chucked into an operation jet engine, that continue operating without a hitch, but a multirotor composed of plastic, copper, and explosive lithium batteries, how would that turn out?

Virgin Atlantic plane’s near miss with drone could have had ‘catastrophic consequences’.