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Inside Drones (Jul 26th, 2016)

This week in drones: new drone delivery tests for 7-Eleven and Amazon, efforts to keep drones away from firefighters, a new market for agricultural drones in China, emergency blood deliveries via drone in Africa.

7-Eleven beat Amazon to the punch by making a drone delivery of a chicken sandwich, donuts, coffee and yes, Slurpees in Reno, Nevada. The convenience store chain teamed up with a tech startup called Flirtey to make the delivery to a household within a mile radius of the store where the order was placed. 7-Eleven plans to offer drone delivery widely in the future. - TECHCRUNCH

A drone posed a “serious risk of collision” to a Boeing 737 near Stansted Airport in the UK. According to a report, a black-and-white craft with four rotors came within 82 feet of the plane at an altitude of 3,000 feet as the plane approached the airport. The Boeing pilot saw the drone cross his path and considered it low risk, but the UK Airprox Board had a grimmer assessment. - BBC

Drone activity over a raging wildfire in Los Angeles has prompted officials to issue a warning about impeding firefighters. As helicopters worked to drop water on the huge fire that has scorched about 52 square miles in Santa Clarita and destroyed 18 homes so far, several recreational drones were spotted flying into their airspace, which has the potential to impede their work and allow the fire to spread. - KTLA

In the midst of the Southern California wildfire, the federal government has launched the first national system to keep drones away from firefighters. The U.S. Interior Department announced the kickoff of a pilot project that uses a smartphone app and real-time wildfire information to create virtual boundaries, or “geofences,” that drones can’t cross. Officials say drones colliding with firefighting planes and helicopters could be catastrophic, and they have been grounded numerous times this year because of drones, including the California fire. - ABC NEWS

An 18-year-old wants his new invention to be the Swiss Army Knife of drones. Drone company Teal, founded by recent high school grad and “Battlebots” competitor George Matus, is developing a modular drone that does everything you want it to do — take camera footage, follow you around on their own, avoid obstacles — and reach speeds of 85 mph. Teal will also launch a software development kit so anyone can built apps to control the drone’s functions. - QZ.COM

The use of drones for agriculture is taking off in China. A new market for drones in the agriculture industry — a sector actively encouraged by the Chinese government, unlike the more contentious consumer drones — is attracting business sectors from design and manufacturing to pilot training and testing. Drones can be used for efficiently applying pesticides and are well-suited to China where parcels of land tend to be small. - SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST

The UK government is getting together with retail giant Amazon to start test-flying drones that can deliver parcels to your door. Amazon is paying for the program, which will examine issues like how to operate drones beyond line of sight, how to keep them from bumping into things, and how to build a system where one pilot is responsible for many drones.  The company claims this will eventually mean small parcels will arrive at your house within 30 minutes of ordering them online. - BBC

Promotional footage from a tech startup shows how drones can be used to deliver emergency blood supplies. Difficult transport conditions mean rural health centers across Africa often lack supplies, and delivering emergency blood is particularly challenging. Silicon Valley startup Zipline plans to make 50-150 blood deliveries a day by drone at its launch project in Rwanda. A “zip” drone can fly a 75-mile round-trip on a single charge. - THE GUARDIAN

FROM THE FORUMS

The federal government’s anti-drone software for wildfires is sparking a bit of conversation at the Drones subreddit. User Glyrenden asks, “Am I the only one that thinks the Feds don’t really understand what and how geofencing works?” But frojoe responds, “Does it matter? They’re taking the steps necessary to show that they’re doing SOMETHING against idiots who are putting emergency respondents and the public at risk. This just tightens up control and ensures that if an idiot decided to deploy their UAS near a wildfire and they were caught, the fines and penalties would be justifiable.”

At the DIY Drones subreddit, user RCFPVFlight shared their latest build showcase video. “We put together the Diatone Tyrant 180 FPV racecopter and take it out flying on our field,” they explain. “This frame features a custom PDB which makes building it a breeze. We also try out the ZTW motors with integrated ESC in this build." 

THE BIG QUESTION
With all the groundbreaking drone delivery systems appearing on the market, what goods and services would you want drones to deliver to you - and which potential drone deliveries could you do without?

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