News

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If “geospatial stability” is too much of a mouthful, this phantom 3 drone is simply trying to stay put at a point in space.

While the short demonstration looks fun, its real purpose is for the drone to stay stable against small disturbances, such as wind.

This will be especially useful while taking pictures and filming.

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The City of Richmond, B.C., banned the use of all remote-controlled aircraft, including drones and power kites, in city parks and school grounds.

“We recognize obviously there’s been a great explosion in types of powered small crafts that are out there flying around in the air, and so the bylaw simply extends to cover all types of crafts,” said City of Richmond spokesperson Ted Townsend.

City council voted in favour of the ban at a meeting 13th April 2015.

Unmanned aircraft have caused controversy in the last several years. In July 2014, a drone was captured flying dangerously close to YVR. A drone from a movie set crashed in downtown Vancouver the previous month.

The fact the brand new bylaw includes other remote-controlled aircraft and power kites, raised the ire of professional and recreational users of the devices.

“Having an arbitrary rule that we cannot fly anymore, it’s kind of curtailing us,” said Norbert Brand, who flies remote-controlled planes in the area.

He says he is careful to fly his planes in regions where there are no pets or too many people nearby.

Andy Horka, an aerial photographer and the owner of Big Sky Cam, said other jurisdictions have put in more “sensible” legislation.

“Maybe get in some guidelines. Maybe up to a certain size, you can fly these aircraft in a certain way,” said Horka.

The City of Richmond said it’s working with hobbyists and drone enthusiasts to locate a happy medium.

 

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Internal US military documents obtained by obtained by The Intercept and the German magazine “Der Spiegel” outlets show that US drones of the Reaper and Predator class are being controlled in the US Air Force base in Ramstein, Germany.

As the Spiegel writes, the German government is chosing to ignore the signs and simply repeat the official line. German article

[The US] conducts operational level planning, monitoring and assessment of assigned airpower missions throughout Europe and Africa [at Ramstein]  “but does not directly fly or control any manned or remotely piloted aircraft. -Maj. James Brindle  

The US military files show Ramstein as a central hub in between the drone pilots in Nevada and target areas in Somanlia or Yemen.

While the German government might not have a lot of leeway to challenge the US, continuing to feign ignorance might prove to be embarrassing to the CDU government. Already, several parties are calling for intervention by the German Federal Attorney General, such as the Green Party and the SPD. (Article in German)

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The US Navy is developing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that may be launched from a cannon and “swarm” in a co-ordinated assault.

The drones will soon have the ability to fly autonomously and “overwhelm an opponent”, the US Office of Naval Research said of its Low-cost UAV Swarming Technology (LOCUST) programme.

LOCUST programme overview

The US Navy intends to demonstrate the start of 30 Locust drones.

As the launcher and the drones are relatively streamlined, the Locust system might be deployed from ships, aircraft or land vehicles, the ONR said.

This level of sovereign swarming flight has never been done before.


Missions might be pre-programmed, but there “will always be an individual observation the mission”, it included.

“This level of autonomous swarming flight has never been done before,” said Lee Mastroianni, ONR programme manager.
“UAVs which are expendable and reconfigurable will free manned aircraft and traditional weapon systems to do more, and basically multiply battle power at decreased risk to the warfighter.”

Launcher test

Small drones like these Coyotes can’t carry much ordinance, but they can keep an eye on things, track movement and interfere with low-flying aircraft or enemy infantry.

Even better, they’re cheap.

US use of military drones has brought criticism from human rights groups, who say that despite their highly targeted nature, innocent noncombatants tend to be killed in the process.

The prospect of autonomous swarms of drones carrying out pre-programmed missions autonompusly is very likely to raise these concerns.

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As mentioned in our preview of the Solo drone by 3DR, the company is making a serious effort to open up their platform to developers.

Named “Dronekit”, the documentation and tutorials that can be found online at dronekit.io

All of the libraries are available for Python and Android development (Java).

DroneKit02

Promising to put away with the nitty-gritty of prigramming drones, 3DR divides the platform’s ecosystem into three different sections:

  • CLOUD
  • AIR
  • GROUND

CLOUD

Simply put, Cloud stands for the web services provided by 3DR. You can build a web service that communicates with DroneKit Cloud and download drone data in flight. This enables you to send live flight logs, photo and video from the air to the cloud. DroneKit Cloud can store your data and access it easily using REST protocols.

AIR
Air allows for apps that communicate directly with the APM flight controller from a companion computer can be created. Computation-intensive things such as computer vision, path planning, or 3D modeling can be tackled using a Python library.

GROUND

Using java and Android studio, the “ground” section of DroneKit allows you to create customized Android experiences for in-flight interaction. Or you can utilize the python library to develop ground control for laptops.

Applications that have been written using this can be found using 3DR Services, available via Google Play.

Documenting DroneKit

There is absolutely nothing that does not get covered in the DroneKit website.

From setting up the necessary tools to programming useful scripts. All libraries come with easy-to-follow tutorials and code examples en masse.

This is a great resource.

This allows developers to immediately write single purpse programs for drones. Examples could be agricultural surveys, search and rescue apps, or filming.

Using DroneKit, developers can program the vehicle to fly particular routes, follow a GPS target, control camera gimbals and get from your drone. Moreover, developers may also log all of the moves of the drone for later analysis. Dronekit will work for quadcopters, but also planes and rovers.

Above and Beyond 3DR

While 3DR drones are all compatible with Dronekit, this does not end here. The libraries can be used with any drone using MAVLink, and that is quite a list

And that is just the hardware projects.

For more information, you can go to the MAVLink website.

If you are looking for vehicles using MAVLink, you can head on straight to the DroneCode Foundation and see their members.

Closing thoughts

While this initiative might not be completely selfless, the sheer support that 3DR is giving developers is amazing.

Opening these libraries opens up the world of drones to developers everywhere.

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In this presentation Kristin Bergtora Sandvik of the Peace Research Institute in Oslo, Norway outlines the uses of drones in humanitarian interventions.

While the talk is a bit dry, seeing how drones could help in flooded areas, in disaster zones, nuclear disaster zones, and more is fascinating.

At the same time, she outlines all the different problems facing these interventions.

Starting with airspace regulations, leading over amateur entrepreneurs in disaster zones, to local parties trying to wrestle control of the drones, this space is not without its pitfalls.

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Unless many other kickstarter projects, the PocketDrone by AirDroids campaign was a success. The company is even managing to deliver a product.

So where is the failure?

Well, according to the feedback by the users who have received a complete drone – Despite being half a year late, many are receiving packages with missing controllers or other items.

The drone seems to be barely able to fly.

Some reviews

Some brave souls are trying to mod the drone to salvage their investment. None have hit success though.

The problem seems to lie in the underlying idea of a foldable drone and all the design decisions that follow.

In the end...

Kickstarter is a viable and exciting market place for new ideas.

However, some ideas fail.

The PocketDrone just did, let’s see how the Splash drone will fare once the first users get their hands on it.

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Again, technology is moving faster than the lawmakers can follow.

While I think that we can all agree that public safety and adhering to regulations is important to keep people from injury, and the hobby alive, this video has me bothered.

Now the issue with the intervention by the police officers is not that they are doing their job protecting the public.

But apparently, they are forbidding the drone flight without obvious danger to anyone, and without any actual policy or regulation.

The repeated request by the drone pilot for a written regulation or even a place to verify the information is simply ignored.

Know your laws, follow the laws.

But this…. ?

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With little more over 2 days to go on Kickstarter, the “Splash” drone is an astounding success.

The campaign for  a waterproof drone with live video feed, payload release mechanism, emergency flare system and camera stabilization gimbal has reached 245,000 USD in funding.

All this with the first tier that enables you to actually get a drone set is set at 389 Dollars for a DIY kit.

What we learn from this is that the crowdfunding season for drones is well and good upon us.

We will find new ideas, such as the water proofing, payload delivery kit, and the emergency flare mode of the Splash Drone.

splash-drone

The payload delivery system in action.

splash-drone-emergency

Emergency flare system of the Splash Drone.

All features of the Splash in one picture

Feature overview of the Splash Drone in one picture.

In summary, the crowdfunding space of indiegogo and KickStarter is becoming a source of new ideas in drone technology.

We’ll make sureto be watching.

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Making them safer and more fun

Just throw it | © University of Zurich

If a drone flies close to buildings or in harsh terrain, it can lose positional data, GPS, or radio control.

Technical glitches in any of these systems could also result in a loss of control.

In all of these cases, a drone can crash, or in a worse case injure someone.

The robotics perception group, University of Zurich has a solution for just these cases.

They have developed a system that rights the drone and stabilizes it in the air. The main point being that all this is done with an on-board camera, positional sensors, and computing power. This way, no outside intervention is necessary.

Another development is the calculation of a safe place to land, should the drone detect no control after a few moments or deems it necessary because of internal damage.

As can be seen in the above video, this does not only make drones safer to fly over our heads, but also makes for a fun way to launch one.