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Inside Drones

Inside Drones (Nov 22nd, 2016)

Facebook drone crash sparks investigation, Australian eagles attack UAVs, drone streetlights idea

Facebook is under investigation by a U.S. air safety watchdog after their Aquila drone crashed during a test flight. The large drone, designed to extend internet access as part of Facebook’s Internet.org initiative, experienced a “structural failure” in Yuma, Arizona and was damaged enough to compromise the airworthiness of the craft. The National Transportation Safety Board plans to release a detailed report within two months; meanwhile, a Facebook spokeswoman said the test flight still provided useful information. - WALL STREET JOURNAL

An Australian gold mining company that uses high-tech UAVs to map and survey mining sites has a giant eagle problem. Surveyor Rick Steven of the St. Ives Gold Mine in Kambalda says wedge-tailed eagles have taken out nine of the UAVs so far, in an apparent effort to protect their territory. In one case, two eagles attacked a drone at the same time, resulting in the world’s first recorded “eagle selfie.” The large birds regularly carry off sheep and can have a wingspan of up to six feet. - WASHINGTON POST

Just in time for Thanksgiving, Autel Robotics shows you how to use your drone to cook dinner. It turns out their X-Star Premium quadcopter can do everything from peeling potatoes and chopping vegetables to dropping a small turkey or chicken into an outdoor deep fryer. The company doesn’t actually recommend cooking with drones, but it’s a clever advertising gimmick going into the holidays. - GIZMODO

AeroVironment’s new commercial drone launches like a rocket and flies like a plane. Designed for agriculture and survey uses like assessing farm fields and bridges, the drone follows a predetermined flight path drawn on a map by the pilot and uses specialized software along with cameras to gather information. It has a hybrid design that allows it to cover 400 acres and reach speeds of 45 miles an hour. - DIGITAL TRENDS

UK insurer Direct Line came up with a clever idea for their latest marketing campaign: on-demand drone streetlights. The imagined “Fleetlights” would live in a hangar in your neighborhood and could be summoned by a phone app to light your way at night, using your phone’s GPS to track you. While it’s only a marketing concept right now, the suggestion is a convincing one and the software behind the technology is open source. - THE VERGE

Aerovel’s Flexrotor drone can fly for long distances over open water, meaning it can hunt for fish and poachers and guide ships through sea ice. The drone can take off vertically like a helicopter from the deck of a ship, and then switch to horizontal flight for longer flight range. Precision Integrated Programs has used the drone to monitor protected marine areas off Costa Rica, and to guide a fleet of ships through the Arctic. - PC WORLD

Drone footage of police using water cannons against Dakota Access pipeline protesters highlights the increasing use of drones to monitor authorities. The drone video showed police spraying protesters in sub-freezing temperatures, and then aiming at the drone in an apparent effort to knock it down. Drones have been used throughout the #NoDAPL protest as a means of civilian reporting of police activities, and more than once officers have tried to shoot them out of the sky. Writer Cory Scarola says this is a logical next step from using mobile phones to film conflicts with the police and hold them accountable. - INVERSE

FROM THE FORUMS

On the Drones subreddit, news that AT&T is partnering with NASA to create a drones "watchdog" program is being met with speculation. The telecommunications company announced in a press release that they’re researching traffic management solutions and the potential impacts of cybersecurity threats.

"They are also supposed to provide wifi," YXxTRUTHxXY says. "I'm OK with the monitoring as long as anti-hacking abilities are maintained to prevent takeovers. I could see a serious issue with hacking here."

hp777us replies, "Preventing takeovers at the moment suffers from weak communications technology between the operator and the drone. Some hardening protections include connection via VPN/TLS over encrypted 3/4g dedicated SIM...but these are all custom and not built in. Certain drones, like the AR.DRONE parrot, is highly susceptible to attacks over wifi, and in this case i'm unsure how the watchdog would protect against it. In my mind, i'd think this would (if say businesses were using the drone) cater for more tracking and determining the origin of the attacker."

guruscotty remarks, "Gee -- how could giving ATT this much power backfire? I'm asking seriously, despite the sarcasm. My knee-jerk reaction is due to hating ATT... I'm sure this could sucks eggs in ways I can't even imagine."

Over on the Drone Videos subreddit, “winter is coming” in this nifty video from the Northwest Territories. 

“Wow, that’s in the middle of nowhere!” says kanyes_toothbrush, and CtrlDaltDelete comments, “That was incredible.”

THE BIG QUESTION

Will drones be an important method for holding law enforcement accountable moving forward? Should police have their own drones available to record significant encounters with the public?

Hit "Reply" and send us your thoughts, and we'll continue the discussion in the next issue of Inside Drones.

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