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Inside Drones

Inside Drones (Sep 16th, 2016)

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has announced an "aerial dragnet" program to police small drone activity in urban environments. The dragnet will consist of a "network of surveillance nodes" that can track drones without the necessity of having them visible via a line of sight. The move stems from fears that affordable drones can potentially be easily weaponized. (The government has posted details here.) – ENGADGET

As part of Moscow mayoral candidate Alexei Navalny's "Foundation For Fighting Corruption" campaign, a drone captured video of Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev's exorbitant estate. Navalny notes that the property is the equivalent in size of "three Kremlins or 30 Red Squares." The footage has already been viewed upwards of 1.5 million times on YouTube. (Medvedev's spread has gone unseen by the public until now.) – DAILY BEAST


Drones could change the face of health care in the near future by providing a faster way to deliver medical specimens (such as blood samples) back-and-forth across busy cities. Among the most important things to determine first is whether "bumpy flights" can render biological samples useless. Researchers from Johns Hopkins recently conducted drone tests, keeping blood samples in the air for as long as 40 minutes. Results proved that the biological cargo remained viable after the flight. – NPR

GoPro has announced an official launch date of September 19th for their Karma drone via an enigmatic commercial featuring VW vans and a tagline: "Karma is Coming." While specifications for the Karma are still under wraps (even the design is still a mystery) videos released so far suggest new standards for movement fluidity and extreme slo-mo. (There is speculation that GoPro will also announce their Hero 5 action camera on the same date.) – POCKET LINT

Taiwanese company HiGH + MiGHTY have introduced Skynet, their GPS blocking anti-drone gun. The rifle has a jamming range of 1.25 miles, and can hold a charge in standby position for 15 hours.  (Interestingly, in the 'Terminator' movies, Skynet was an antagonistic artificial intelligence that used drones to wipe out humanity, but this Skynet anti-drone gun seems designed to work for the good guys.)  – POPSCI

Thinkmodo married drone technology with a wooden butcher block for their Jerkybot. The gadget was dreamed up for a Chef's Cut jerky ad featuring Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz. In the commercial, Jerkybot follows faithfully by Ortiz's side while he mows his lawn, vacuums, and goes about his day, making sure that there's always a supply of dessicated meat at arm's length. (While Thinkmodo insists the footage was not faked, the drone is sadly a one-of-a-kind prototype.) – HUFFPO

Slate shares the fascinating and frightening story of the successful first Predator drone strike, and of the tactical decisions that led to the unmanned plane firing a Hellfire missile at a convoy of jihadi leaders. The November 14, 2001 strike came five weeks into the U.S. conflict against al-Qaeda. For better or worse, the Predator attack initiated the modern-day drone revolution. (An earlier attempt on Taliban leader Mullah Omar's life had fizzled on the 7th of October.) – SLATE

Russia's Defense Ministry has implemented the broadcast of a real-time drone feed from the eastern sector of Aleppo in Syria. The feed is meant to "ensure transparency" as the besieged city sees the U.S.-Russia ceasefire deal executed. (The ceasefire was agreed upon in Geneva on the 9th.) – RT

ESPN will begin airing ten one-hour episodes of a dedicated sportscast focusing on the Drone Racing League starting October 23rd. The show will cover the first-person-view races, with 25 pilots competing to become DRL world champion. Contestants will race DRL Racer 2 drones "in abandoned malls and NFL stadiums." (The show won't be live; much of this action has already taken place, with only the championship race left to be run.) – DIGITAL TRENDS


Users on the drones sub-reddit are wondering whether anyone will watch ESPN's coverage of the Drone Racing League championship. Morjor says, "Hell yes." But not Scodo, who writes, "Probably not, honestly. It's an incredibly niche community, maybe akin in size to the professional darts community and other obscure leagues. Trying to convince people they should be interested in something they have no stake in generally doesn't work well." Member infinit_e is lukewarm, saying "I would have watched the one they covered in New York at the beginning of August if the Olympics didn't start the same day." Frojoe keeps it short: "LOL no," to which Morjor snaps back, "If you're not excited why are you even on this sub?" Robroy leaps in to smooth out the misunderstanding, writing, "He may be excited, but realizes that a lot of people don't give a crap about drones." Choppingbroccolini (who wins the handle-of-the-day 'no prize') says, "Racing yourself is a lot of fun, although I honestly enjoy the build more. Watching others do it gives me motion sickness." We'll be keeping an eye on viewership for the ESPN show for sure. 

We covered "dronesurfing" last week, and the new-fangled sport is getting a relatively large amount of coverage. They're pretty into it on the drones reddit, where user yannireddit123 shared some footage of one such surfer. Member xanatos asks, "I wonder what the lift capability of that octocopter is. I can't imagine that as not stressful on the motors... I imagine it's pulling near 70-80% throttle most of the time." n1nj4_v5_p1r4t3 adds, "If this was a production unit, I see tons of retail potential." And literallylurkallday sums his enthusiasm succinctly: "What a f--king time to be alive." (Frojoe claims his "MQ-9 Reaper can do that.")


Last time we asked readers what new drone sports they would like to see invented, in the wake (no put intended) of the dronesurfing story that is making the rounds. 

Our favorite answer came from reader Leigh, who writes, "Pretty sure Quidditch becomes a reality at some point when payloads massively increase."

To further fill out the Quidditch drone fantasy, here is Mashable's coverage of the drone-powered HoverBall, which could bring the necessary anti-gravity element to the table and serve as the "Snitch."  You know, if we're really going there...



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