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Inside Drones

Inside Drones (Sep 23rd, 2016)

A UPS drone successfully made a three mile trip over open water, in a test run near Salem, Mass. The test was a dry run for a potential emergency situation wherein a drone would deliver urgently needed medical supplies to Children's Island, the locale of a YMCA day camp. The main point to be proven during the 8-minute flight was to demonstrate that a drone could be trusted to complete a mission that included leaving the line of sight of the "pilot in command" for a period of time. (The data from the flight will be used to aid in evolving the FAA's commercial drone policy.) – USATODAY

Do you feel the FAA regulations on commercial drone flights are too strict in any major ways? Or do you think they've been too lenient in other areas? If the goal is eventual mainstream use and acceptance of drones, do the FAA policies pass muster? We'd love to know what drone fans think, so please hit REPLY and send us your thoughts on the issue. And thanks for reading!

Houston theatergoers can see the first all-drone play performed this weekend. Called "Space Junk: Do People Dream of Electric Children?" (with a nod to the Philip K. Dick novel that inspired "Blade Runner"), the plot follows a trio of drones still running disaster simulations on a derelict spaceship years after the human crew has disappeared. The drones are piloted and voiced by off-stage actors. – HOUSTON PRESS

Municipal regulators in Washington, D.C. have okayed the use of Estonian start-up Starship Technologies' rolling delivery drones for sidewalk delivery in urban areas. The robots, which the article notes resemble "wheeled coolers," have a max speed of about 10 mph and can haul 40 pounds of groceries. (Starship Technologies is about to find out whether their drones can survive on the streets of the U.S. without being abused by destructive humans; the company says the drones encountered no abuse during 5,000 miles of limited testing in Europe.) – TC

Flybrix's Lego drone kit makes the heartbreak of a crashed drone a lot less final. While not associated with Lego, the drone kit comes with everything you would need to turn a pile of Legos into a quad-, hexa- or octocopter. LED lights can be customized via an accompanying smartphone app. – CNET

Light-weight solar cells can keep a drone flying for 9-12 hours, compared to the usual 3-4 when running on battery power. Startup Alta Devices has supplied manufacturer AeroVironment with thin, light-weight solar cells for their small Puma Drones. (Alta Devices' chief marketing officer says sales to drone makers account for 80% of their business.) – FORTUNE

General Dynamics Mission Systems showed off their Bluefin underwater drone at this week's OCEANS 2016 conference. The Bluefin, designated as a Hovering-Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (or H-AUV) can map structural issues affecting a ship's hull without any need to dry-dock the vessel. And it can be unpacked and in the water in under 30 minutes. – UPI

The Imperial College London's Dr. Saser Aldhaher has developed a method to keep a drone flying using only wireless power. He demonstrated this by displaying a lightweight battery-free quadcopter hovering in one spot five inches over the transmitter that was feeding it energy. – GIZMODO

A DJI Inspire 1 Pro drone shot some pretty awe-inspiring aerial footage of the Apple Campus 2, still under construction but set to be the world's largest office building. – DRONE OF THE DAY

FROM THE FORUMS

On the drones sub-reddit, member TerriblePerson7 has a problem: "So I just bought a Phantom 3, and I'm very disappointed. I live in Beijing, which has a no fly zone that reaches past the sixth ring road, which is way out in the middle of nowhere. I don't want to fly this drone high. I just want to practice on it before I take it on trips where I can legally and safely fly it. ... So is there any way to bypass it? If I will have to ride an hour away just to be able to even turn the propellers on, then the thing is useless." Member Screwattack94 advises, "20 Story apartments are high enough to cause a problem if you crash from that height, so your best choice is indeed to drive an hour to gain confidence for flying. You can also get a toy sized quad to learn flying in your home." Nikofant writes, "If you bypass a no-fly zone, the law will not be with you, friend. It's YOUR responsibility, YOUR risk... So if accident strikes, it's all on you. I'd advise against it and respect the law." After some discussion of whether TerriblePerson7 can even get his drone to turn on in the midst of Beijing's no-fly zone, he writes, "It literally won't even turn the propellers on. I got it to turn on once in my apartment because it couldn't connect to GPS, but outside when it connects to them, it says it can't take off in no fly zone... It's a completely restricted no fly zone like Washington DC around the White House, but this one covers 85% of the third largest city in the world."



Member JerrettJS shared a stunning video taken by his drone as it soared up through what he says is a low fog to catch a sliver of sunrise. The drone appears to ascend to ridiculous (and unsafe) heights, which led to much doubt and discussion: bchertel asked, "What altitude was this... taken?" Jfxmedia jokes, "Don't explain yourself to these goobers. Nice shot. Myself I prefer to only fly around 2000 meters high. Personal preference." Introshine cautions, "Do regular pilots a favor and check what type of airspace you're in. Don't do this in class A or B or CTR." Arggwhatisnttaken adds, "Maybe next time you can sit in the air for twentyish minutes before sunset or something. Record it like a timelapse."

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