Ever wondered what fireworks look like from the air? So did Joe Stinghling, an ameteur drone operator. So last week, he and a few friends launched his DJI Phantom 2 drone with a GoPro Hero 3 camera, and the results are beautiful.
Entries in drones (8)
These days, drones seem to be everywhere, delivering all kinds of things (like pizzas, beer, or bombs). But no one has manufactured a GPS-guided UAV that the average consumer would want to operate (and could afford to purchase). That is, until now.
3D Robotics is hoping their new drone will be simple enough for mass consumption, especially since it supports easy-to-use GPS controls through any computer, tablet or smartphone.
3D Robotics' 3DR Iris UAV costs just $729 and includes everything you need to actually utlize it: a trasmitter, battery pack, extra propellers and legs, and, of course, the unit itself. Not a bad price for a fully-functioning, ready-to-fly autonomous aerial vehicle. According to the company, the drone enables "point-and-click mission planning" using more than 100 configurable waypoints. These guide the device from take-off to landing, using a web-enabled device. It can even be easily outfitted with an on-board camera for your most important surveillance missions.
Of course, we wonder what "missions" the average consumer will get up to with a $700 drone in their hands. And yet, at the same time, we really don't want to know.
Drones are about to come home to roost - in a big way.
Sure, they'll still be used for missions overseas. But now they'll also be employed by the Federal Highway Administration to help human workers safeguard the United States' 4 million miles of highways, according to Discovery News. Their main tasks would probably be watching for major traffic jams and accidents, keeping an eye on aging bridges and roads, and surveying lands with laser mapping capabilities.
As Discovery reports:
"Drones could keep workers safer because they won't be going into traffic or hanging off a bridge," said Javier Irizarry, director of the CONECTech Lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology. "It would help with physical limitations of the human when doing this kind of work."
Irizarry gave the example of the spherical drones that mapped a huge alien base in the 2012 science fiction film "Prometheus" as an analogy for how today's larger drones could aid in above-ground laser mapping.
"We're going to look at the different divisions that has and see how they do things like surveying, safety monitoring or using traffic cameras," Irizarry told TechNewsDaily. "Maybe they could be using drone technology for a similar purpose."
Meanwhile, many states are competing to become flight-test regions for the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, which is a step on the agency's path to opening U.S. civilian airspace to drones by 2015.
Drones may not be just for military operations anymore. Future plans for drones include commercial video surveillance and wildlife conservation efforts. A father in Vermont even tried building his own drone to follow his son around—talk about helicopter parenting.
Secom, a Japanese home and business security company, will offer its business customers a drone service that launches when a property alarm sounds. When an alarm goes off, Secom monitoring personnel will fly the drone, located on the client’s premises, to the zone in alarm to record a crime in progress. Measuring 24 inches wide and weighing 3.5 pounds, the drone flies like a helicopter. It is equipped with a surveillance camera that transmits live video of the crime to the monitoring base. The video will then aid in any future investigation. The service will begin after April 2014 and is expected to cost approximately $58 a month.
To protect endangered rhinos from poachers, one of Kenya's private game reserves also wants to enlist the help of surveillance drones. Ol Pejeta, a 90,000-acre non-profit wildlife conservancy, has four of the world’s last remaining seven northern white rhinos. Ol Pejeta is hoping to raise the $35,000 needed for its first drone that will be equipped with a live-streaming camera to track rhinos chipped with RFID tags. In addition to protecting rhinos, the real-time video can also be streamed online to the public to raise awareness and promote education and conservation efforts. Rhino poaching is a huge problem in Kenya. A rhino horn can be sold for $12,000, the equivalent of 30 years worth of income. Kenya has the world's third largest rhino population—around 600 black and 300 white rhinos.
Lastly, Paul Wallich, a contributing editor for IEEE Spectrum, built a drone to monitor his grade-school son on his 400-meter walk to the bus stop. Wallich said the drone was fairly easy to build, but it doesn’t work well in windy conditions, and the GPS only works up to 10 meters. So until he can design one that works the way he wants—and he’s working on it—or his son outgrows walks to the bus stop, Wallich’s son is stuck with his dad, which is probably less embarrassing than a drone. You can read Wallich’s article here.
The Air Force is experiencing an unexpected problem related to its fleet of unmanned aerial devices: It can’t keep up with the insane amount of information the UAVs are capturing.
The Air Force owns and operates 65 drones that produce untold amounts of photos, videos and other data for national defense purposes. Unfortunately, the USAF simply can’t keep up with it all, let alone analyze and make sense of it. That’s why, as of next year, they’ll refrain from purchasing any additional UAVs.
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said:
"We’ve clearly playing catch-up," according to Wired magazine's account of the interview. "It’s not just the pilots and manning the aircraft. It’s also the [data] processing exploitation behind that …. We’re collecting data at rates well above what we had in the past."
The analysis problems are likely here to stay. The USAF’s Predator and Reaper drones are most often used for intelligence gathering—not in attacks. Both models of drones can provide loads of weather, surveillance, target-acquisition and reconnaissance information that can be used to assist ground troops in battle.
Wouldn't now be a great time for someone to invent intelligent search, specifically for drone-gathered data? Go!