Archive for December, 2013

Unmanned drones, which may look like the one above, are being tested in six parts of the United States. If successful, the aircraft could be utilized by the likes of Amazon to transport goods.
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WASHINGTON — New York was among six states selected Monday to develop sites to test drones, a decision that likely will bring the unmanned aircraft to New York’s skies and badly needed jobs to upstate.

The New York site will be at Griffiss International Airport, a former Air Force base in upstate Rome. Aerospace firms and universities in New York and Massachusetts will be involved in the research.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s selection of the test sites represents a big step toward the commercial use of drones by businesses, farmers and researchers.

Congress members lobbied to bring the work to their states. One study claims that Monday’s designation could could bring 2,700 jobs to New York and Massachusetts, boosting local economies.

In addition to New York, Alaska, Nevada, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia were chosen after a 10-month selection process during which the agency sifted through 25 proposals submitted from 24 states.

RELATED: COMMERCIAL DRONE INVASION MAY NOT BE FAR OFF

Six sites seen on the map above will be test sites for commercial use of unmanned drones.

Six sites seen on the map above will be test sites for commercial use of unmanned drones.

The FAA said the six finalists were picked after the agency considered “ground infrastructure, research needs, airspace use, safety, aviation experience and risk.”

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicle, are used primarily for military purposes but in 2013 the FAA began issuing licenses for commercial use of the aircraft units on a case-by-case basis.

Consumers were appalled in December when Amazon revealed it was testing how it could use drones to deliver packages as part of its Amazon Prime Air service.

RELATED: AMAZON TESTING DRONES TO DELIVER PACKAGES

“It looks like science fiction, but it’s real,” the company said, adding that Amazon was “ready to enter commercial operations as soon as the necessary regulations are in place.”

The expansion of drones has not come without protest, though. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) famously launched a 12-hour filibuster in March to raise attention to how drones could violate the Fifth Amendment right to due process if the government used a drone to attack an American on U.S. soil.

In announcing the testing sites, the FAA tried to offer assurances to the public of its commitment to “ensuring that privacy and civil liberties are protected at the test sites.”

“Test site operators must comply with federal, state, and other laws protecting an individual’s right to privacy, have publicly available privacy policies and a written plan for data use and retention, and conduct an annual review of privacy practices that allows for public comment,” the FAA said in a statement.

Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/6-states-chosen-drone-test-sites-article-1.1561480

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Eric Mortenson/Capital Press
A four-rotor, camera-equipped drone hovers during a demonstration flight at a McMinnville, Ore., forum.


Speakers say agriculture will be an early adapter of drone technology.

MCMINNVILLE — Young Kim is a former U.S. Air Force pilot and familiar with the “outcome oriented” use of drone aircraft by the military. Get them over a target, conduct the surveillance or fire the missile – that’s how success is gauged.

Putting drone technology to work in agriculture, as he does now as general manager of Bosh Precision Agriculture in Virginia, requires an entrepreneurial mind-set.

“Do not waste growers’ time,” he said at drone technology forum in the heart of Oregon’s wine country this week. “You’ve got to deliver value very, very quickly. Show them how it will increase yield and lower inputs costs.”

Kim believes unmanned planes, equipped with sensors and cameras, will rapidly transform agriculture by providing quick, detailed information on plant health, soil and water conditions, disease or pest outbreaks and more. He said it’s a change similar to moving from analog to digital technology.

Agriculture is in the midst of a significant transformation, he said. The “biggest ag boom since the 1980s” is accompanied by a trend in which the number of farmers is declining but the acreage farmed by each is increasing, Kim said. At the same time, those farmers working large plots of land want the intimate knowledge they used to have of smaller acreage. Drones can provide that, but Kim said people shouldn’t get hung up on the “sexiness” of the technology.

“The real value is the data,” he said. “Focus on the problem of the grower and work backward from there.”

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A quadcopter running the algorithm is able to remain in control, even after losing one propeller

A quadcopter running the algorithm is able to remain in control, even after losing one propeller

Whether it’s for Amazon-purchased goodstext books or defibrillators, unmanned multicopters are increasingly being considered for use as delivery vehicles. Given that this would involve their flying over heavily-populated areas, however, many people are rightly concerned about the aircraft malfunctioning and crashing down onto someone below. That’s why researchers at ETH Zurich have created a control algorithm that allows any quadcopter to keep flying, even if it loses multiple motors or propellers.

Because of the risk of crashes, most of the currently-proposed delivery drones are hexa- or octocopters. With their six or eight motors/propellers, they’re already able to remain airborne if one of those should konk out. With all of that extra hardware, however, they’re also larger, heavier, more complex, and thus less efficient than quadcopters.

The ETH algorithm can be added to the control system of existing quadcopters, and requires no physical changes or additions to the aircraft.

When the software detects that one or more of the propellers has stopped working – either because it’s come off, or due to motor failure – it initially uses the remaining props to put the drone in a hovering horizontal spin. Then, by selectively altering the thrust of each propeller, it steers the quadcopter by tilting the angle of its rotation, and eases it down to a controlled landing.

The algorithm reportedly works even if only one prop is operational. A quadcopter using the technology to land on three propellers can be seen in the video below.

Source: https://www.ethz.ch/en/news-and-events/eth-news/news/2013/12/new-algorithm-makes-quadrocopters-safer.html

As Direct Relief’s relief and recovery efforts in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan continue, civil drones are helping our organization and others respond more efficiently to the most pressing needs of people affected by the super storm.

About a week after Typhoon Haiyan struck, an assessment group from Direct Relief’s partner, veterans’ response organization Team Rubicon, sought to determine the operational status of the Carigara District Hospital, located northwest of the city of Tacloban.

Travel along damaged roads was difficult and slow. Rumors of an uncertain security situation were circulating. Comprehensive structural assessment seemed highly challenging at best.

Yet, the assessment group was able to provide local officials and aid groups with a rapid and highly accurate visual analysis of damage to the Carigara District Hospital – at minimal risk to the people conducting the assessment – by deploying the latest in close proximity aerial imaging technology with a Huginn X1 civil drone.

The assessment provided enough information to allow Team Rubicon to proceed with setting up a medical relief station there to help survivors access emergency care. Direct Relief has been supporting Team Rubicon’s medical responders on the ground with critical medicines and supplies.

A civil drone is the peacetime and humanitarian cousin of the aerial robotic units which have been discussed extensively in the press throughout several recent US-led military conflicts. The Huginn X1, manufactured by Anthea Technologies and distributed by DanOfficeIT, is a ruggedized quadcopter drone adapted primarily for search and rescue support. It comes equipped with high definition digital cameras as well as thermal imaging to detect the heat signatures of people on the ground who may be in need of help.

DanOfficeIT contributed the drone technology and manpower free of charge to nongovernmental organizations working on the front lines of the typhoon response to help organizations learn where to focus their work.

Civil drones have had an immediate and substantial impact on the ability of groups like Direct Relief and Team Rubicon to gain high-speed visual awareness of complex situations that threaten to put humanitarian responders at significant personal risk.

Likewise, civil drones allow for detailed aerial mapping in support of operational planning. The Huginn X1 was not only valuable in terms of structural assessment but also as a way to scout locations in advance to determine the best possible routes of approach and assistance.

While policy, procedural, and technical challenges remain, current work in the Philippines foretells a future where humanitarian responders may be able to collaborate closely with advanced robotic tools to improve the speed, accuracy and safety of response efforts.

Source: http://reliefweb.int/report/philippines/civil-drones-improve-humanitarian-response-philippines

As Amazon gears up to roll out PrimeAir, consumers are putting drones under the microscope hoping to weigh in on the potential pros and cons of the service. Precision Hawk put together a comprehensive infographic to help you cover the UAV/UAS basics!

Source: http://www.precisionhawk.com

andreas-and-drone

Andreas Raptopoulos and his colleagues at Matternet are attempting to create a network of drones that operate like the internet, only for tangible objects. This company — which sprung out of an idea surfaced at Singularity University in 2011 — aims to deliver items wherever they are needed, even if no usable roads go there.

Andreas Raptopoulos: No roads? There’s a drone for thatAndreas Raptopoulos: No roads? There’s a drone for thatIn today’s talk, Raptopoulos explains why a system like this is needed — to reach the one billion people worldwide who don’t have access to all-season roads. He also wowed the TEDGlobal 2013 audience when he landed one of Matternet’s drones on the TED stage, smack dab in the middle of the red carpet.

This week, he told the TED Blog more about the Matternet concept.

“At the inception of the internet, who would have anticipated the explosion of social networks, of machine-to-machine awareness, of distributed workflows, of the disruption of the music, video, photography and TV markets, Bitcoin or Snapchat?” he said. “The internet connects information, but it hasn’t connected all people. We’re designing the very edge of the web that can reach every unnavigable place where there’s human need.”

Matternet is a big idea. Below, read the real-world applications — two that Matternet has field tested and four that are still concepts.

Matternet has done this:

Delivered medical supplies to places in need. Matternet conducted one of its first field trials in Haiti in September 2012, testing three remotely piloted drones to see how they functioned in both urban and rural areas. The most fascinating use? Delivering medications to camps set up after the earthquake of 2010. “The system that is used currently is antiquated, to put it mildly: one big truck delivers one big box of medicine to a remote clinic every quarter,” Raptopoulus told the TED Blog. “It’s quite inefficient and very wasteful. There is no tracking, no information on if the medicine is used or not — and it’s very hard to predict demand and real needs for medicine in some part of the country. So the application we’d like to see there is routine, just-in-time logistics of much more discrete packages, exactly when you need them.” He stresses: “In places of extreme need … the aim should be to leapfrog rather than try to catch up on old practices and systems.”

Delivered supplies, information and diagnostic tools between medical centers. Around the same time, Matternet ran its second field test in the Dominican Republic, flying supplies and diagnostic tools from big healthcare centers to smaller ones in remote areas, and zipping samples back for analysis. They hope to turn this test into a year-long project to improve healthcare service for the poor and low-income populations of Samaná, where 60 percent of people live in rural areas. Paola Santana, Raptopoulos’ co-founder at Matternet, told the TED Blog, “We’re working with one of the big development banks in the region to fund this project.” And while they haven’t field tested there, Matternet has also thought a lot about Lesotho, and how Matternet could connect HIV/AIDS clinics there to provide better care and faster tests for patients. “While the battle against the disease is being won in most of the world, it’s being lost in Lesotho,” says Raptopoulos.

Matternet could do this in the future:

Help in disaster response. When an earthquake or tsunami hits, Matternet could potentially be a way to get supplies to people in need, before assistance in the form of manpower can arrive. Raptopoulos asks, “Can we help immediately after a disaster with first response? Instead of sending one big helicopter out, can we send 100 of these vehicles? After the first few days, can we rely on a system like Matternet to do routine transportation of small packages to get a country going again? Our answer is ‘yes.’”

Create a courier service that can’t get stuck in traffic. In both Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Matternet tried this, though on too small a sale to be considered a trial. “Port Au Prince has few roads and they are quite congested,” says Raptopoulos. “Several years after the earthquake, tens of thousands of people still live in temporary shelters and camps — as is typical in many regions that have experienced a natural disaster.” As for Santo Domingo, he says, “It’s an emerging city, growing quickly, and roads can get very congested in peak hours.” Now, to get hypothetical, imagine this in megacities like New York or Tokyo.

Deliver food. Matternet could also be very effective for getting food and water to areas that need it, especially in times of disaster, war or crisis. The trick here will be increasing Matternet’s load size. Currently, it is able to transport a two-kilogram load, covering a ten-kilometer distance in 15 minutes. As the weight-bearing ability increases, this use will become more and more viable.

Support the freedom to live where there aren’t roads. Marc Shillum, Matternet’s Creative Director says, “People live far away from roads for many reasons. Some have no choice, some are seeking seclusion … That’s a whole load of people who also can’t access the world’s products, services or care. We want to bring fulfillment to where need exists rather than where roads end. The beauty of unmanned autonomous vehicles is [that there’s] no physical infrastructure. UAVs fly wherever there is air.”

Source: http://blog.ted.com/2013/11/21/6-ways-drones-can-be-used-for-good/

The drone economy is booming abroad and an underground version is growing fast in the U.S. The FAA plans to draw up regulations by 2015, but that’s not quick enough, according to drone entrepreneurs.

SAN FRANCISCO — Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos says in the future drones delivering packages will be as common as mail trucks. But for many entrepreneurs, the drone economy is already here.

“There are many people out there making extraordinary amounts of money,” says Gene Robinson, who uses drones to help authorities with search and rescue missions. “You can even get liability insurance to operate now.”

While the Federal Aviation Administration hasn’t yet drafted regulations for the futuristic unmanned devices and limits their commercial use, some players have already plunged in:

Real estate specialist Manie Kohn uses drones to video luxury properties. Terence Reis flies them to photograph surfers. Brad Mathson monitors farmland in the Dakotas, while Ryan Kunde uses a drone to improve production at his vineyard.

Bezos thrust drones into the spotlight when he talked about his plans to use them to deliver packages on 60 Minutes Sunday night. But thanks to drones’ ability to shoot aerial photos and video steadily and collect other data cheaply, they are already being used in many sectors, including movie making, sports, mining, oil and gas production and construction.

Most of the activity is outside the U.S. because of regulatory uncertainty. But there are a lot of U.S. drone operators who are either hobbyists, or who provide drone services for free or in return for donations. Business owners can also operate their own drones for their own benefit. And at times, money changes hands out of the FAA’s gaze.

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A technician checks a surveillance Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) drone operated by the United Nations in Goma

(Reuters) – United Nations forces in Democratic Republic of Congo launched unmanned aircraft on Tuesday to monitor the volatile border with Rwanda and Uganda, the first time U.N. peacekeepers have deployed surveillance drones.

The aircraft will be used to look out for threats from a host of local and foreign armed groups in the mineral rich east where Congo and U.N. experts have accused Rwanda and Uganda of sending arms and troops to back the recently-defeated M23 rebels, something both countries deny.

“The drones … will allow us to have reliable information about the movement of populations in the areas where there are armed groups,” U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous said at the launch of the drones in Goma, the largest city in eastern Congo.

“We will survey the areas where there are armed groups, and we can control the frontier,” he added.

The U.N. mission has deployed two Falco drones manufactured by Selex ES, a unit of Italian defense group Finmeccanica.

One of the 5-metre (16-ft) long aircraft – painted white with the letters UN in black on its wings and tail – performed a demonstration flight for the crowd at the launch.

The drones will be flown out of Goma by Selex staff. They can fly for between eight and 14 hours and as far as 200 km (125 miles) from their base, according to the company.

U.N. peacekeepers have received widespread criticism for doing too little to end fighting in eastern Congo, a hilly and thickly forested region that Kinshasa has struggled to control during two decades of virtually constant conflict.

But the drone deployment comes after the peacekeepers helped defeat M23, the most serious rebellion of President Joseph Kabila’s 12-year rule.

General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, commander of the U.N. force in Congo, said the drones would only fly over Congolese territory, as U.N. peacekeepers have no mandate to operate in neighboring countries.

Victory over M23 was the first time Kinshasa had militarily defeated a major uprising in the east. It was helped by strong U.N. support, major reforms in Congo’s army and intense diplomatic pressure on Congo’s neighbors to halt rebel support.

Congo and U.N. experts say foreign backing for M23 was significant. Following the defeat, experts are examining the origin of a significant stash of weaponry and trucks found at M23’s bases in hills along the Rwandan border.

The drones were due to be launched as early as September, in the hope of monitoring the conflict taking place on the border. However delays meant they arrived only after M23 was defeated.

While a final political deal with M23 is still being ironed out, Congolese and U.N. forces are now expected to turn their attention to the Rwandan Hutu FDLR rebel group and Ugandan ADF-NALU rebels, both of which are based in Congo’s east.

Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/03/us-rop-congo-democratic-drones-idUSBRE9B20NP20131203