Archive for the ‘Drone Benefits’ Category

NASA uses drones in some of its programs. 

Privacy concerns, integration into the national airspace and spectrum allocation are the big three obstacles to wider deployment of unmanned aerial vehicle technologies. Like any new technology that develops faster than the speed of policy, lawmakers, lawyers and others grappling with these issues should not allow them to curtail the benefits of UAVs.

Who would have thought in the 1950s that room-size computers would spawn new areas of law and new questions around intellectual property and warfare? Finding creative ways to manage equally innovative UAV technologies involves similar hurdles. Innovative technologists and business leaders had the vision to harness the benefits of computers, while taking on the contemporary issues they raised. We are in the middle of doing the same with UAVs.

Unmanned but not unpiloted, UAVs are commonly referred to as “drones,” which implies the absence of an intelligent human operator. In fact, satellite and ground control stations feed a large amount of data to remote UAV pilots to inform their decisions. As is widely reported, the U.S. military uses UAVs in theater now and has been successfully using them for decades.

The public knows less about civilian uses of UAV technology. The Aerospace Industries Association released a report recently to address the perceptions and potential of UAVs. They noted that domestic applications are predicted to include search and rescue, law enforcement, weather forecasting, border patrol, firefighting, disaster response, precision farming, commercial fisheries, scientific research, aerial photography, mail delivery, communications relay, infrastructure monitoring and emergency management.

The corresponding benefits are more accurate weather forecasts, safer streets, bumper crops, fewer Americans engaged in dangerous jobs, more dangerous fugitives apprehended and reduced risk to firefighters.

Benefits to society result not just from UAV platform technology, but the sensors they carry – sensors that can be applied to saving lives after a natural disaster; providing situational awareness during wildfires; capturing real time information about the impact of oil spills; and protecting the security of our border by identifying the trafficking of weapons or drugs.  These are but a few of the applications drones have to positively affect society on a global level.

Two recent nationwide surveys indicate widespread public support of UAVs.

A Duke University survey found 57 percent of the public supports their use for any application and an even higher percentage support specific applications, including search and rescue operations (88 percent). Also, 74 percent of those polled by the Christian Science Monitor said they support nonmilitary domestic use of UAVs provided individual privacy concerns and ground safety issues are met.

In June during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, FBI Director Robert Mueller admitted the FBI has used unmanned aerial systems for U.S. domestic surveillance. In a follow-up letter responding to a query from Sen. Rand Paul, the FBI said the agency uses UAVs in limited circumstances when there is a specific operational need.

The letter goes on to outline several rules and regulations the FBI follows when using UAVs, including obtaining Federal Aviation Administration approval. Each UAV surveillance request also undergoes the scrutiny of FBI legal counsel to ensure there are no Fourth Amendment or privacy concerns prior to senior FBI leaders approving. In cases where there is an expectation of privacy, the agency must also obtain a search warrant. So far, according to the letter, none have been needed.

Most of the letter’s content defensively centers around the process the FBI follows when using drones. It also spends three sentences on the reasons why it has used them: for surveillance to support missions related to kidnappings, search and rescue operations, drug interdictions and fugitive investigations. This is where the UAV debate should center, on finding ways to exploit the potential of UAVs while safeguarding civil liberties.

Just this past July, the FAA certified the first two U.S. UAVs for restricted use in commercial airspace, pending airworthiness certification. The FAA has been willing to work with industry, including my company, to develop the infrastructure and technology needed to ensure safe and efficient adaptation from military to commercial use in the national airspace system. And it is also willing to establish a vision that will serve the needs of all stakeholders, while ensuring the safety of our airspace.

We must build on this progress. Under Congressional stewardship, a commission comprised of technologists, legal and FAA representatives and stakeholder beneficiaries should study and recommend how we leverage the benefits of UAVs while addressing the big three obstacles.

UAV technology is ready and the needs exist.  We are at the convergence of innovative UAV platforms of all sizes and capabilities, with sensor and computing technologies that will enable us to meet the needs of many markets.  There is public support. What we need now is a path forward.



A hearty congratulations to Paul Braun whose Kickstarter project was designed to bring joy to others. He has succeeded in his goal and autistic children have built and flown their own drone. With it learning some of the freedoms that come with flight and journeys into their imagination of what they might see. Once they had been taught they had the opportunity to see the earth from the sky for themselves.

The sUAS News hat is firmly tipped to Paul and the team.

“Probably the best way to understand the TATTS project is to read and watch the original post  that we used on KickStarter to spark the awesome fund raising campaign.  That being said, the project continues to evolve as we get new ideas from the kids themselves, parents of those involved and others.  Our current thinking is TATTS is a 3 phase project:

  1. Build the hexarotor
  2. Fly it
  3. Make the movie

The kids have learned to fly on a simulator, built the hexarotor from scratch and successfully flown almost a dozen missions.  We’ve collected a great deal of experiences as well as lots of fantastic video.  Our final step in the project was to make project videos.  One aspect of that was to allow the kids to make their own movie from all the footage.

What kind of movie would you produce if you had 4 GB worth of video footage, several hundred still shots and dozens of songs?  I can guarantee that each movie would be different.  That’s certainly the case with the movies that the kids produced.  They are anywhere from 2-6 minutes each and have only tapped into a portion of all the great footage.  I’d urge you to take the time to watch them.

What amazes me is some of the similarities and stark differences in what each of them produced.  Most kids included the clips of crashing (lots of use of the term ‘epic fail’) and they all tended to include footage of themselves.  Who wouldn’t right?”


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Like an army, science needs the high ground. This is true when it comes to oil exploration and especially so in the rugged landscape of Norway. The Virtual Outcrop Geology (VOG) group at the Norwegian Centre for integrated petroleum research (CIPR) is working to capture this vantage point in a distinctly 21st century way, by using UAVs to seek out oil by helping geologists build 3D models of the terrain.

We tend to think of oil exploration as taking place on desert plains or out in the ocean, but finding oil deposits depends on having a comprehensive understanding of local geology, which is one reason why the question of how much oil we have left sparks so much argument – there’s still so much we don’t know about most of the Earth. By studying the Norwegian terrain and matching it up with other data, such as that gathered from seismographs and core drilling, geologists can build up a three-dimensional picture of what’s going on beneath the ground – both on land and under the sea.

Researcher Aleksandra Sima at Bergen’s CIPR with drone controls


A drone the size of a small Cessna plane buzzing over the massive Rim fire has become a valuable tool as commanders use its real-time imagery to strategize their next move.

The remotely piloted plane began flying Wednesday morning after Incident Cmdr. Mike Wilkins requested the MQ-1 aircraft belonging to the California Air National Guard. It has since been giving fire commanders a bird’s-eye view of the 300-square-mile blaze in and around Yosemite National Park, which is now the sixth largest fire in state history.

Unmanned aircraft have been used sparingly on fires but are gaining value as a cheaper, more efficient tool for fire commanders to better understand how fires are behaving.

They are prized for their ability to beam real-time pictures directly to fire commanders, who can make tactical adjustments more quickly. The aircraft are equipped with infrared heat sensors and a swiveling camera operated remotely.

During a 20-hour mission Wednesday, the drone — taking off from the Victorville airport and operated from March Air Reserve Base in Riverside — alerted crews to a spot fire and provided a more comprehensive fire map.

PHOTOS: Rim fire rages into Yosemite

Unlike manned planes and helicopters, drones are not grounded at night or unable to fly in high winds or smoke. They fly at about 18,000 feet and cost about $800 an hour to operate, Keegan said.

There are now 4,840 firefighters battling the Rim fire, which has been burning in the Stanislaus National Forest for nearly two weeks.

The blaze is 30% contained and has cost nearly $40 million to fight so far, officials said. The fire has burned about 301 square miles, an area bigger than Chicago or San Francisco, and destroyed at least 111 structures.

Fire crews in Yosemite were hoping to slow advancing flames by conducting large-scale backfire operations from Hetch Hetchy Reservoir south to Tioga Road.

The rate of spread of the massive fire has slowed in recent days and firefighters expect to have it fully contained by Sept. 10, officials said.


Mounties in Saskatchewan are crediting a high-tech drone for the rescue of a man who had walked away from his vehicle after a rollover crash and could not be found.

According to RCMP, the crash happened around 12:20 a.m. CST Thursday on Highway 5, about five kilometres east of St. Denis, Sask., which is about 35 kilometres east of Saskatoon.

Emergency crews were notified of the crash in a 911 call and police, ambulance and other rescue teams were dispatched.

However, when they arrived at the site of the roll over, there was no one in the vehicle.

“The examination of the scene indicated that at least one person had been in the vehicle and was injured,” RCMP said.

A ground search was launched, but after rescuers scoured some 200 metres in all directions, there was still no sign of anyone.

RCMP then called in an air ambulance helicopter equipped with night-vision equipment and high-powered searchlights. The helicopter scanned an area about one kilometre around the crash site, again with no results.

Drones called in.

Finally, about an hour into the search, RCMP called for their drone — an unmanned aerial vehicle with an infrared camera mounted on it.

The drone was at the scene, preparing to launch, when RCMP received a cellphone call from the injured man, a 25 year old.

“He indicated he was cold, did not know where he was and could give no directions to his location,” RCMP said. He was only dressed in T-shirt and pants. He had lost his shoes in the crash.

RCMP said the temperature was near freezing at the time.

Police said they used the cellphone’s signal to get a better idea of the man’s location.

The new search area was a field more than two kilometres south of the rollover.

RCMP officers and rescue people, on the ground and in the helicopter, went to that location but again could not find the man.

Heat source spotted.

Finally, at 3 a.m. the drone was launched and a small heat signature was detected.

Searchers were sent to that heat source, which was about 200 metres from the cellphone’s last GPS ping. RCMP said the cellphone signal stopped transmitting after the last call.

“Fire and rescue members located the driver at this first location, curled up in a ball at the base of a tree next to snow bank,” RCMP said. “He was unresponsive and was quickly brought out to the road.”

He was taken to hospital in Saskatoon for treatment. RCMP said he was released Thursday afternoon.

RCMP said using their drone with the heat-sensing equipment was key in the rescue.

Drone made in Saskatoon

RCMP Cpl. Doug Green, who deployed the drone in the search, told CBC News the machine was built and designed by a Saskatoon company, Draganfly Innovations.

“It’s a small little four-armed helicopter that has the capability of a camera or a FLIR [Forward Looking Infrared] or a low-light camera attachment that has a video link right back to the hand-held controller that I fly it with,” Green explained. “I see exactly what the camera is looking at and I can control the camera up and down.”


Green said the drone used a FLIR camera which detects heat from an object during Thursday morning’s rescue.

He said that in most highway crashes, victims are found near to their vehicles or within about 200 metres.

In Thursday’s case, Green said the man suffered a head injury and was disoriented.

“He just, instead of phoning right away, he wandered off and got lost in the dark,” Green said, adding it was cold, the field had water in it and the wind was picking up. “He was wet and cold.”

Green said the RCMP have been using the Dragan Flyer X4-ES for just over a year in a series of trials to determine how they might assist different elements of police work. Green was equipped with one for use in traffic analysis.

“We’re still just trying out different platforms,” he said, adding that five officers have obtained the necessary training and licences from aviation authorities to fly the devices.