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Entries in UAVs (20)

Tuesday
Aug272013

A Drone for Everyone?

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.

Wednesday
Jan302013

Drones to be Used to Monitor U.S. Highway Network

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.

 

Monday
Apr092012

Air Force Experiences Information Overload From Army of Drones

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!

Monday
Apr022012

Amazing Hybrid UAV Wing Created Using 3D Printing, Printed Electronics

A joint development between 3D printer maker Stratasys and printed electronics system manufacturer Optomec has, amazingly, created a hybrid UAV wing. The two companies announced last week that they have successfully completed a joint development project to merge 3D printing and printed electronics to create what must be the world’s first fully printed hybrid structure.

Their first project: a “smart wing” for an unmanned aerial vehicle model. It's pretty sophisticated, though; it has functional electronics printed right on the wing. Stratasys and Optomec believe this has the potential to change product development in a range of industries, from medicine to automotive manufacturing.

Check out the video for more back-story.

Wednesday
Feb082012

Congress: Unmanned Drones will be Allowed in U.S. Commercial Airspace

Think unmanned aerial devices are relegated only to the skies over Iran and Afghanistan? Think again. Starting in September 2015, UAVs will be allowed into commercial airspace, even if they’re privately or commercially-owned drones.

This means companies like Google—or your neighbor that is fascinated by GPS—could deploy drones anywhere in the country for more advanced mapping or, you know, spying.

Why the change in policy? Congress passed the bill just yesterday, but they weren’t focusing on UAVs, exactly. Instead, the bill is to allow the FAA’s adoption of NextGen, a program that lets commercial aircraft install GPS technology. That will allow for more efficient (read: steeper) take-offs, which should be fun.

I’m all for more efficient air travel (will it also be cheaper?), but the privacy implications of this bill worry me. As Time explains:

Rigging a cheap drone with a video camera was no problem for an Occupy protestor; how hard would it be for someone with deeper pockets to finance a drone with even more powerful surveillance equipment to monitor, well, who knows what? How will we know what purposes any private citizen has for deploying a drone overhead?

Meanwhile, Forbes wonders how corporations will use this new-found freedom to gather more information on consumers.