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Inside Drones

Inside Drones (Jun 29th, 2018)

Facebook has abandoned plans to build its own fleet of giant drones, which would beam internet access to the developing world. Facebook says it still wants to provide internet access to more people globally, so it will use other companies to build the drones. Earlier this week, the company announced in a blog post that it will not longer build the solar-powered, plane-sized drones, which were part of its Aquila project. A British manufacturing plant for the aircraft will be shuttered, according to the New York Times. - NYTIMES

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Researchers in Tokyo have developed a drone that can change its shape to navigate different spaces. The UAV is named Dragon, which stands for “Dual-rotor embedded multilink Robot with the Ability of multi-deGree-of-freedom aerial transformatiON.” Researchers at the University of Tokyo’s JSK Lab modeled the device after dragon kites. Ducted fans power each of Dragon's smaller drones, which transform the overall shape to fly in different and complex ways. The entire UAV has a total flight time of up to three minutes. Moju Zhao, an assistant professor at the University of Tokyo, said the next step is to design a multi-legged model that will be able to walk on the ground as well. "Our ultimate dream is to achieve the flying humanoid, like an unmanned Iron Man," he told Digital Trends. - THE VERGE

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Three federal lawmakers introduced a bill that would make it a felony to fly drones over wildfires. Colorado Senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet and Colorado Representative Scott Tipton introduced the Securing Airspace For Emergency Responders Act this week. Under the measure, people caught flying UAVs over wildfires would face fines and up to a year in jail. Gardner said flying drones over fires "puts the lives of firefighting personnel at risk" and threatens public safety by "causing the grounding of aerial firefighting assets because the airspace over a fire isn’t secure.” Colorado, like other states, has experienced recent problems with people flying drones over wildfires. - THE DRIVE

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A Pennsylvania-based startup will deploy a drone underground to map out a mine without GPS. The drone will scour a Latin American mine next week to gather data, which will allow University of Pennsylvania researchers to construct 3D models of the mine’s structure. The drone's navigation will be done autonomously, without GPS or pre-loaded maps. The UAV, developed by Exyn Technologies, will navigate the mine using onboard sensors; it is equipped with cameras, accelerometers, gravitometers, and MiDAR, or multispectral imaging, detection, and active reflectance technology. “The best way to characterize this is if we were blindfolded and were told not to remove the blindfold,” said Exyn CEO Nader Elm. - TECHNICAL.LY

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New York City had the most "close calls" involving drones last year than any other U.S. city, according to aviation statistics. Nearly 170 incidents with drones were reported in the city in 2017. Los Angeles also ranked high among the more than 2,122 cases reported last year. Out of those cases, 19 resulted in the drone pilot being caught and fined. The close calls include incidents where the drones crashed into crowds or nearly struck bystanders. - KGTV

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