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Inside Drones (Nov 14th, 2017)

The California Institute of Technology has opened its Center for Autonomous Systems and Technologies (CAST). The 10,000-square-foot facility at the private university allows researchers to work on new technology for autonomous systems. Engineers will build and test out drones while robots learn how to help run the facility. Among the features at CAST is a three-story high indoor drone arena, where researchers train drones to adapt to different environments. A wall of nearly 1,300 fans can create wind speeds of up to 44 mph. The arena can also replicate rain, fog and various wind conditions. "The goal is to teach autonomous systems to think independently and react accordingly, preparing them for the rigors of the world outside of the lab," director Mory Gharib said. - LATIMES

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Ontario’s government has chosen a Toronto-area UAS company to create drone technology to monitor high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes. Starting as early as next year, the drones could survey sections of highways with the lanes. The provincial government selected the Sky Guys company to develop a drone solution for the estimated 5 to 10 percent of drivers who violate the lane rules. Sky Guys president Adam Sax said the technology would be able to read windshield stickers on vehicles to determine if they are compliant. "[I]n terms of the technology, we're almost there," he said. - GLOBEANDMAIL

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China’s AT200 cargo-delivery drone had its second public flight earlier this month. Designers demonstrated the UAV’s “one-click landing” during the flight in China’s northwest Shaanxi Province. Researchers spent 17 months developing the aircraft, which can fly more than 1,300 miles at a time and carry 1.5 tons of cargo. The AT200 could be used to transport freight to islands and mountainous areas. “In the future, the drone has to be equipped with an air traffic response device, so that air traffic controllers will know exactly where the airplane is located in real time,” its chief designer said. - CGTN

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More than 630 parties have shown interest in the Department of Transportation’s drone pilot program, the Federal Aviation Administration said last week. As of November 8, some 20 governments and other agencies also have applied to conduct projects under the program, which aims to integrate drones into the national airspace. The program will allow agencies to test out different drone operations, such as package deliveries. At least one FAA official briefed members of the national Drone Advisory Committee on the effort last week. The FAA is making sure the group's efforts do not duplicate those in the pilot program. - AOPA

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Police in southwest France are using drones to catch traffic violators. Authorities in the Bordeaux region have issued hundreds of fines since launching the drone surveillance project this past summer. The operation can catch drivers engaging in violations, such as illegal passing, but it cannot detect speeding. The French government said it plans to buy additional drones to expand the operation to other areas. "The drone is very useful because we can see dangerous drivers on the roads without being seen by them," a police captain said. - MARKETPLACE

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During a conference last week, groups demonstrated their plan to deliver medical supplies to remote areas of the Amazon rainforest by drone. The medical technology company BD partnered with WeRobotics and UAV del Peru to conduct field tests in the Amazon using drones including hybrid and fixed-wing. At the Exponential Medicine conference in San Diego last week, the groups showed off their plan which includes a pouch that fits into drones and can carry blood kits, diagnostic tests and other medical supplies. CNBC reports that the groups "see major potential to use drones to deliver potentially life-saving supplies in the most remote parts of the world." - CNBC

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