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Inside Drones

Inside Drones (Oct 14th, 2016)

There’s a bit of everything in this edition. Drone use continues to be adopted in unique ways by different groups of people. Australians, lately, have been incredibly inventive. Facebook and Amazon have grand ambitions but are hampered by their size and regulatory concerns. ISIS members are looking to drone technology as a means of accomplishing their terroristic objectives. Intel continues its methodic march into the drone space. And the rest of us everyday denizens of the world can easily use these buzzing robots to capture special moments in our lives. – @SkyCapture

A company called Hover has just released a mini, self-flying camera drone. The drone is called Passport and is small—about the size of a VHS tape. It costs $599 ($549 for the next 2 weeks) and has camera quality similar to an iPhone 6, with 4k capability. For all intents and purposes, it is a selfie drone, but more of an indoor floating tripod than a high-powered outdoor drone. It’s not going to win any beauty pageants either, but the small size and ease of use (along with AI features) could make this newcomer a moderate success if Hover taps the market correctly. – TECHCRUNCH

ISIS fighters are turning consumer drones into bombs. According to The New York Times, ISIS used a DJI drone—potentially a Phantom—to deliver explosives and kill 2 Kurdish fighters. DJI denies this and suggests it was likely a fixed-wing drone that delivered the deadly payload. Apparently, DJI is now taking action by way of instituting geofencing in the region of operations that could deny flight capabilities to Phantoms. – TECHCRUNCH

With the announcement of the Falcon 8+, Intel’s strategy behind their acquisition of German drone manufacturer Ascending-Technologies begins to show. The Falcon 8+ looks identical to the older Ascending-Technologies Falcon 8, pre-Intel, but includes the new Intel Cockpit (a water-resistant, integrated joystick system). The Falcon 8+ also has the triple-redundant Trinity autopilot system and is targeted specifically at commercial operators for industrial applications. Nothing exceptionally groundbreaking is to be found on this drone but with Intel’s September acquisition of Irish chip manufacturer Movidius, there could be some impressive computer vision systems in store for future versions of the platform. – VERGE

Facebook has filed a request with the FCC to test some experimental wireless radio technology above its headquarters in Menlo Park. The wireless radios would be carried up to 400 feet by small drones and would operate tests in the 2.4GHz band. Presumably, the tests involve oversized Aquila drones, which would theoretically fly at high altitudes and deliver internet to underserved areas around the globe. Facebook might face difficulties with this as their headquarters does lie within controlled airspace but they could presumably file for a waiver from the FAA and cooperate with control towers. – BI

Amazon is hosting a ‘Design a Drone Competition’ for kids aged 6 to 11. It’s no secret that Amazon has been testing their delivery drones near Cambridge in the UK. Now, Amazon has announced that they’re holding a design competition for local area children to “inspire the next generation of innovative, creative, and scientific thinkers.” Participants can either draw or build the drone. Two big winners get tours of the Prime Air test center and can also earn a bunch of Amazon goodies as prizes. – BI

DroneDeploy, a San Francisco drone software startup, has launched the Drone Mapping Directory—a global catalog that allows anyone to find a professional drone operator near them. Commercial drone pilots can list their own businesses, describe their specialties, and then be discovered by anyone who is in need of their drone services. The Drone Mapping Directory is free for anyone to use. – TECHCRUNCH

Scientists are using DJI Inspire 1 Pro drones to monitor right whales off of the coast of southern Australia. Using drones rather than manned aircraft, costs are significantly cheaper and disturbance to the whales is much less. The ultimate goal is to determine how the whale’s food source will be affected due to climate change. Some of the study’s results of the whale monitoring yielded data that shows how much body mass female right whales lose after feeding and fattening their calves. One female, Maybeline, lost 16 inches (40 cm) in width. – MASHABLE


Over at the drones sub-reddit, member Robbety shared some fascinating footage of a crocodile swimming in the ocean off of Costa Rica. 

WittyKnowsAll writes, "I'm going to have nightmares about how that thing disappeared in the mud." ScottyNuttz says, "That's awesome. What's that, a barracuda that swims up next to it?" Kuenamon writes, "Wonder if those guys on the beach saw that thing." And WhitePantherXP adds, "Aren't they non-ocean creatures? I've never seen a video of one in the ocean? Can they survive in both salt and fresh water?

Elsewhere on the forum, member ispooler asks, "How many of you crashed your drone the same day you got them?"

Maxtream says, "For this specific reason my first 2 drones were something cheap and simple, first one was without camera and was advertised specifically as hard to break... In the first 2-3 days of learning how to fly it I smashed it into walls and any other obstacles A LOT... Main thing - don't fly it as you are playing on Xbox/PS controller."

For Billygibbonsbeard, the question reopens an old wound: "When I was a boy my brother and I both got identical awesome as s*** control line planes for Christmas... My brother's went up first and within 2 seconds it slammed into the pavement and burst into about 20 pieces. Then mine went up aaaaannnndddddd... the same damned thing. And that was that. G**dammit I'm still mad about that s*** :) 

Omegatek writes, "First day got me a syma x5 and flew it inside the house. Got cocky and decided to take outside and show off to my kids. Immediately lost control. Took off about 70 ft up and a gust of wind grabbed it. Nervously panicked, pulled the controller backwards instead of forward me, not realizing the drone was facing me. So it flew away from me instead of towards me. Panicked more. Immediately turned down the throttle and it it disappeared. my kids were laughing hysterically. It landed blocks away in someone's backyard. Got it back a few days later."

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