The FAA is trying to crack down on consumer drones, but it’s on shaky legal ground. Three new lawsuits from business owners, universities and the Academy of Model Aeronautics highlight its tenuous position.
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n administrative judge has already overturned the FAA’s attempt to fine a photographer $10,000, citing the agency’s lack of legal authority to impose it. The FAA’s June “guidelines” appear to suffer from the same problem — the agency issued them without the backing of a formal rule-making process.
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Meanwhile, stories about drones — good and bad — continue to be popular news items. This summer, for instance, a drone operator was hailed as a hero for using his drone to help a search and rescue team locate a missing 82-year-old man. Less popular was a tourist who crashed his drone into an iconic hot spring in Yellowstone National Park, and then asked to retrieve it.
The routine use of drones by the US to kill alleged terrorists offshore may be creating “a slippery slope leading to continual or wider wars” and is increasingly inconsistent with the rule of law, according to a major new report, produced by the Stimson Centre, a think-tank in Washington.
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The report recommends that the US conduct a rigorous cost-benefit review of the use of drone strikes and also increase the transparency surrounding them.
avvy business executives are always looking for opportunities to reduce costs, mitigate safety risks, boost production and improve competitiveness. Increasingly, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)—also known as drones—are becoming an attractive technology to help achieve these goals. Successfully deployed in limited commercial settings during the past few years, UAVs have shown early signs of strong business value in several applications. For example, BP conducted UAV pipeline inspection tests in 2012 in Alaska; Royal Dutch Shell Plc has tested unmanned aircraft for land surveying; and Amazon has announced Amazon Prime Air as a way to optimize package delivery. UAVs have the potential to alter emergency response, food production, manufacturing and production facility inspections, and more. Overall, these examples demonstrate how autonomous UAVs will extend and amplify what humans are already doing by adding remote sensing, actuation and predictive tasks.
Parrot's new Bebop drone is tricked out with an HD video camera, built-in GPS, an array of image-stabilizing sensors and Oculus Rift compatibility.
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Flying the drone with the Oculus headset provided a unique first-person view of the piloting experience. The effort Parrot put into image stabilization really comes through, though there was some lag in the unit we tried out.
A design studio has unveiled a flying drone, the CUPID drone, that shoots taser darts that deliver 80,000 volts of paralyzing electricity.
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On the company's site there are currently no details about when or if the device will ever be offered commercially, but in the video we can see that the CUPID is a hexacopter equipped with a laser sight used to target the remote-controlled taser darts
Aerial views filmed by a drone-mounted camera shows anti-government protesters in central Kiev on Wednesday morning. Russia has threatened to use its influence in Ukraine to bring the violence to an end, while the US has raised the likelihood on an imposition of sanctions in a possible bid to incentivise joining the EU
The United Arab Emirates says it plans to use unmanned aerial drones to deliver official documents and packages to its citizens as part of efforts to upgrade government services.
“The UAE will try to deliver its government services through drones. This is the first project of its kind in the world,” Mohammed al-Gergawi, a minister of cabinet affairs, said on Monday as he displayed a prototype developed for the government.
The UAE drone programme faces similar obstacles, plus temperatures which often exceed 40 degrees Centigrade (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in summer and heavy sandstorms which occasionally sweep across the desert country. “Within a year from now we will understand the capabilities of the system and what sort of services, and how far we can deliver. Eventually a new product will be launched across all the country,” Gergawi said.
The idea seemed ingenious: Delivering 12-packs of beer to the cold, windswept surfaces of popular ice fishing lakes — using a drone
Lakemaid Beer president Jack Supple brewed up a plan this winter to quench the beer thirst of ice fishers on central Minnesota’s Lake Mille Lacs, with retailers taking orders using GPS coordinates.
The nation’s stewards of the air are still studying how to safely bring drones into modern life, and until then, their commercial use isn’t permitted, they explained.
Supple said he understands their point. He’d scoffed — at first — when he saw reports of Amazon.com floating the idea of drone deliveries, thinking it was three sheets to the wind.
“That looked like it couldn’t possibly work. I can’t imagine them flying your shoes down the street here, in downtown Minneapolis, with all of the skyscrapers and people and trains and lamp posts,” Supple said.
Drone makers are encouraging the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to allow unmanned aircraft to fly over rural areas before a broader integration with commercial airplanes is completed.
The Arlington, Va.-based Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) said the FAA should let non-military drones fly on a "limited basis" because tests of their impact on other airplanes is taking too long to complete.
"The FAA has been working on this NPRM since 2009," AUVSI President Michael Toscano wrote in a letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. "Most recently, the FAA this month indicated that the small [Unmanned Aerial System] rule is now expected to be published in November 2014 – almost four years late."
"Whether it is helping farmers improve crop yields, assisting first responders with search and rescue missions or advancing scientific research, UAS are capable of saving time, saving money and most importantly, saving lives," Toscano wrote. "The industry, meanwhile, is poised to boost local economies and create jobs. AUVSI’s economic impact study found that, in the first decade following integration, the UAS industry will create more than 100,000 jobs and $82 billion in economic impact. However, each day that integration is delayed will lead to $27 million in lost economic impact.
To catch an unlikely creature, you need an unlikely drone: quiet enough to escape notice, sturdy enough to carry NASA-grade cameras and long-range enough to sweep vast swaths of potential Sasqautch stomping ground. “The disadvantage of helicopters is obviously they’re noisy,” says Meldrum. “A fixed-wing aircraft has the disadvantage of not being able to hover.”
They would spend months at a time scanning undisclosed locations with high Bigfoot potential, hoping not only for irrefutable video, but to make contact. “You know, putting out a transmitter in a banana that can be passed through the gut and while it’s internal serve as a tracking device,” says principal investigator Jeff Meldrum. “Those kinds of things.”
The FAA disagreed. FAA spokesperson Les Dorr told news media that “if you’re using it for commercial purposes, including journalism, that’s not allowed.”
VentureBeat asked another FAA representative, Alison Duquette, if noncommercial journalism, such as public television or an amateur blogger, would also be banned. She replied that “public TV would be included” in the ban, and she added that “most people would consider a blog as journalism,” so apparently it’s not the money-making part that’s offensive to the agency.
This ambiguity is not unexpected, since the FAA is rushing to catch up with this Wild West of technology, ready for pioneers but with no clear boundaries. On the way toward governance, the FAA has to zip around many possible safety, privacy and noise issues that could result from even a limited number of drones let loose into American airspace.
Two drone aircraft operated by local residents captured high definition aerial footage of the July 17 fire that destroyed the Springfield Veneer and Plywood mill. The videos have each garnered more than 11,000 views on YouTube.
Eugene Springfield Fire Chief Randy Groves said it’s the first use of drones he’s aware of during a fire in the local area.
Their presence illustrates the increasing use of drones and national debate about privacy and safety when they’re in the air.
The operators of the two drones said they wanted to provide a new perspective on the July 17 fire. Their videos capture the fiery catastrophe occuring hundreds of feet below.
“It’s a different way of looking at a fire, and it’s amazing,” said Ryan Levenson, a 20-year-old University of Oregon student majoring in business and journalism.
I noticed this on story on the front page of my local newspaper.
The Drone Graffiti works are interesting as a thought experiment. It plays with what it means to create art in an age of advanced robotics and automation, and it extends the artist’s reach to larger canvases that most taggers can't easily tackle. Visually, however, the paintings aren’t much to look at. With random lines and colors rather than beautiful cohesive artworks, it’s clear that drones aren’t going to replace muralists or street artists anytime soon.
Bolivian inventor makes drones out of recycled materials and thinks these inexpensive drones would make the technology available to the public in Bolivia and be used for aerial crop management and connecting isolated communities to the Internet.
Could drones built from e-waste make a difference in the slums?
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the trade group that represents producers and users of drones and other robotic equipment, predicts that 80% of the commercial market for drones will eventually be for agricultural uses. Once the Federal Aviation Administration establishes guidelines for commercial use, the drone industry said it expects more than 100,000 jobs to be created and nearly half a billion in tax revenue to be generated collectively by 2025, much of it from agriculture. Iowa, the country's largest corn and second-biggest soybean grower, could see 1,200 more jobs and an economic impact topping $950 million in the next decade.
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Brent Johnson, a corn and soybean farmer in Calhoun County in central Iowa, purchased a drone in 2013 for $30,000 that is already paying dividends on his 900-acre farm. He's used the aircraft, which covers about 80 acres an hour, to study how yields on his property are affected by changes in topography. And last growing season he identified some areas where his corn stands were not strong enough, information he's going to consider in future plantings when he decides whether to replant or avoid the acreage all together. This year he's going to scout early for any problems and use the data he collects to help determine when to sell his crops.
"I'm always looking for an advantage, looking for how I can do things better," said Johnson, who also owns a precision agriculture company.
A Hungarian team has created the first drones that can fly as a coordinated flock. The researchers watched as the ten autonomous robots took to the air in a field outside Budapest, zipping through the open sky, flying in formation or even following a leader, all without any central control.
“This is remarkable work,” says Iain Couzin, who studies collective animal behaviour at Princeton University in New Jersey. “It is the first outdoor demonstration of how biologically inspired rules can be used to create resilient yet dynamic flocks. [It suggests] we will be able to achieve large, coordinated robot flocks much sooner than many would have anticipated.”
A drone journalist is suing a local police department in a case that may provide a stepping stone to broader legislation dealing with who has the right to fly drones and take video from the sky.
Pedro Rivera filed a suit against two officers of the Hartford, Conn., police department on Feb. 18 after they convinced his part-time employer, a local TV station, to suspend him for a week that began on Feb. 3. The suspension followed a department investigation into whether Rivera illegally used his drone to film the scene of a fatal accident.
When it comes to the potential for agriculture, Kansas State University precision agriculture specialist Dr. Kevin Price thinks the growth in the next few years “is gonna blow your socks off.”
“About 80% of the money that will be spent on the unmanned aircraft systems will be spent in the area of agriculture. There are ten times more applications in agriculture then there is in any of the other application areas,” said Dr. Price. “They’re predicting it’s going to be close to a 100 billion dollar industry by the year 2025.”
He said agriculture applications for drones in development include data collection on crop health and yields, nitrogen and chemical applications, spot treating of insects and disease, and much more. Data collection of field images by cameras mounted on drones within an inch of accuracy.
Quadcopter drones are built specifically for an easy takeoff and stable flight, but landing can be a tricky task. They generally need to land on flat ground or risk toppling over.
Bhargav Gajjar, a roboticist based out of MIT and Vishwa Robotics, has built a drone to solve that problem. According to New Scientist, which published a video of a working prototype Monday, Gajjar used a high-speed camera to capture how dozens of types of birds land. He then built a drone with robotic legs that emulate the American kestrel’s.
Sometime in the near future, you might take a bike ride with a couple of drones–one flying in front, one in back–to protect you from nearby cars. As you ride around tight corners, the “Cyclodrone” will shine a beacon of light to warn drivers that you’re there, hosting a tiny camera to record any accidents.
The design is one of several concepts from a team at frog design that wanted to rework the current evil image of the drone. “Drones are taking a beating in the press, being characterized as spies and assassins,” says Cormac Eubanks, who developed the Cyclodrone. “At frog, we are more fascinated by the design potential at the leading edge of technology. We believe now is the time to explore how drones could be a force for good.”
Very early adopters have had the option to buy a drone kit — with a lot of assembly required. But in a current Kickstarter campaign, the Southern California company AirDroidshopes to appeal to a broader audience with a ready-to-operate book-sized drone, aptly named Pocket Drone, that sells for a manageable $495.
Billed as a high-tech camera mount that allows users to video their hikes and bike rides, get higher angles in their shots and appear in their own family pictures, the drone weighs just one pound and folds down to fit easily in a backpack. Loaded with a half-pound camera, it can fly for up to 20 minutes at a time. (A low-battery alarm warns the user that it’s time to land.)
Prepare for "swarms" of unmanned drones able to choose their own targets
Drones will eventually be equipped with stronger chemical weapons and able to make their own decisions, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Defense.
In a 25-year roadmap for unmanned vehicles, the DoD revealed it hopes to increase drone capabilities in order to save money and better protect the nation’s skies. Currently, drones require extensive manpower on the ground in order to fly and follow precise commands.
But in order to cut down on the expense of pilots, the DoD plans to build autonomous drones able to deviate from given missions to pursue a better target, by following a certain set of “laws” delineated by algorithms and advanced sensors.
Looking more closely at the report, "This automation does not mean operators are not monitoring the control of the system".
” DoD carefully considers how systems that automatically perform tasks with limited direct human involvement are designed to ensure they function within their intended parameters."