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Inside Drones

Inside Drones (Dec 27th, 2018)

Happy Holidays! This end of year recap is presented in partnership with Owl Labs, makers of the Meeting Owl smart 360° conferencing camera. A great way to support the work we do on this newsletter is to check out the Meeting Owl. (Also, you can use code INSIDE for $100 off a Meeting Owl Pro Kit)


It goes without saying that 2018 has been a wild ride for the drone industry. From new pilot programs to autonomous flying taxis, the world of drone is greatly expanding — and we were around to document all of the top drone stories throughout the year.

As we head into 2019, I pulled together my 35 favorite stories of the year, and I have two questions:

1) What do you think was the most under-covered story or trend in the drones industry this year?

2) How can we make this newsletter even more valuable to you in 2019?

Just hit reply and let me know what you think!

- Beth Duckett, Inside Drones writer

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1. DRONE PILOT PROGRAM IN THE U.S. President Trump made headlines last year when he signed a memo creating the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program, which is designed to help the FAA create drone regulations and integrate drones into U.S. airspace. In May, the government unveiled 10 projects it had selected under the program to start testing out the drones in innovative ways, such as making deliveries or flying beyond a pilot's line of sight. The projects include drone tests conducted by the city of San Diego, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and the city of Reno, Nev. - AERO NEWS


RELATED: In addition to encouraging drone flights, U.S. lawmakers passed an FAA reauthorization bill that gives the government power to take down rogue drones use jamming and other county-drone measures. In addition, the U.S. House of Representatives signed off on a bill that would, among other things, ban weapons on smaller drones. - USA TODAY

2. DRONE NEAR MISSES WITH PLANES. It's become almost commonplace to hear about drones flying dangerously close to passenger jets in cities around the world. A drone came within 5 feet of a passenger jet's window as it flew over London. In the United Kingdom, the number of drones nearly missing airplanes increased more than threefold in two years. In addition, the FAA opened investigations into an incident of a drone flying close to an airplane approaching Las Vegas' airport, and another drone that was spotted flying near the Statue of Liberty in New York.


RELATED: In the latest incident, the airliner Aeroméxico is investigating a possible crash between a passenger jet and a drone. A UAV may have caused considerable damage to the nose of the Boeing 737 jetliner during a flight in early December. Crew members reported hearing a loud bang shortly before landing. - BLOOMBERG

3. DRONE PRISON DELIVERIES. This year saw a massive uptick in the number of drone deliveries reported at prisons globally. Most of the deliveries were carrying drugs and/or cell phones. In January, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said the prison deliveries are becoming an increasing threat, leading to the government and prisons considering the use of drone jammers and other technology to try and stop them.


RELATED: One of the more recent high-profile cases involved the delivery of Chinese takeout to prisoners at Wheatfield Prison in Dublin, Ireland. The guards failed to notice the drone delivering the food, but discovered takeout containers in the trash bin. “There’s no other conceivable way a Chinese takeaway could get into the prison other than by a drone,” an unnamed source told the Irish Mirror. - NYPOST

4. AMAZON DRONE DELIVERIES (OR LACK THEREOF). Amazon founder Jeff Bezos predicted five years ago that drones would be delivering Amazon packages by now. Safety issues and regulatory hurdles have obviously been a challenge, but an Amazon spokesperson said the company remains "committed to making our goal of delivering packages by drones in 30 minutes or less." - AP


RELATED: Despite the skepticism, Amazon continued to apply for or obtain patents to make its drone delivery system a reality. In 2018, the patents included a system that would allow delivery drones to land on trucks for power; a specialized airbag to cushion delivery drops from the sky; and a delivery drone that can react to a person's voice and hand gestures. - WAPO

5. DRONES USED IN WILDFIRES AND SEARCHES. Drones were deployed over nearly every major wildfire across the U.S. this year. Authorities used them to follow the fires, survey the land and map out damages before and after the blazes were extinguished. In addition, police used drone equipped with infrared cameras to search for many missing people. In one case, they were able to locate a missing 11-year-old girl in North Carolina in less than 15 minutes. - THE PILOT


RELATED: While drones have largely benefited first responders, there were a number of major cases this year of people flying drones during firefighting operations. In many instances, authorities were forced to halt operations while the drone was grounded. As a result, some agencies passed laws making it illegal to fly drones near emergency situations, or gave power to authorities to take down drones that are in their way. - THE JOURNAL

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 6. GoPro eliminated 200 to 300 jobs, mostly in its aerial division, which oversaw the Karma drone. The company said the cuts were part of a larger restructuring, which may be the result of a massive 2016 recall of the Karma drone, which happened only weeks after it hit shelves. - TECHCRUNCH

7. Drone manufacturer Yuneec unveiled three new drones at CES 2018. The company introduced the Typhoon H Plus, an upgrade of its most popular model the Typhoon H, along with the fixed wing Firebird FPV drone and the palm-sized HD Racer. - UAVCOACH

8. FAA drone registrations officially exceeded 1 million this year. Back in January, the Department of Transportation announced that nearly 880,000 hobbyists had registered their drones with the FAA, along with an additional 122,000 commercial and other drone registrations. - FORTUNE

9. A video showing two German brothers flying a bathtub drone went viral online. The German government gave permission for Johannes and Philipp Mickenbecker to create and fly the aircraft as long as they stay under 100 feet. - BUSINESS INSIDER

10. South Korea deployed fleets of special drones to search for rogue UAVs flying over Olympic sites. South Korea officials underwent training to learn how to fly drones and shoot other suspicious drones out of the sky in Pyeongchang, where the Winter Olympics took place this year. - AD

11. Despite concerns about privacy, the Los Angeles Police Department moved ahead on plans to use drones. A committee approved a donation to purchase four drones for the force, which is the nation's largest, for search and rescue and tactical operations. - KTLA

12. Skydio began shipping the R1, an autonomous AI-powered selfie drone, earlier this year. The self-flying drone, which sells for $1,999, landed on Amazon back in October. - SLASHGEAR

13. Samsung received a patent for a drone that's controlled by body movements. The proposed quadcopter would be able to detect a person's eyes, hands, and facial expressions, controlling its speed and flight. - THEVERGE

14. Alphabet's Wing, the company's drone delivery project, expanded its testing from rural areas to Australia's suburbs. The company also announced plans to roll out drone delivery testing in Finland in the near future. - ENGADGET

15. Drones carried handbags down the runway during Milan Fashion Week. At least eight quadcopters transported the individual leather handbags from Dolce & Gabbana back in February. - DIGITAL TRENDS

16. Some 3,000 Google employees signed a letter opposing the company's involvement in a government drone-surveillance project. The Pentagon pilot program, dubbed Project Maven, uses AI to detect objects in videos captured by military drones. - USATODAY

17. Two YouTubers built a drone out of pizza and flew it in first-person view. The footage was captured on DeDrones, a Spanish YouTube site. - DRONE DJ

18. Engineers created the RoboFly drone, which is insect-size and relies on tiny wings to stay airborne. - TECHCRUNCH

19. Drones were used to re-create Time magazine's logo in the sky. Intel flew nearly 1,000 of its Shooting Star drones over Folsom, California to capture Time's red border and logo, which coincided with the mag's special report on "The Drone Age." - CNET

20. Parrot released its foldable Anafi drone, which is designed after insects. In its review, Digital Trends described the drone as "definitely not perfect" but "unquestionably the best drone that Parrot has ever made." Despite its mostly positive reviews, Parrot's sales have dropped this year, forcing the French company to cut 100 jobs. - DRONE LIFE

21. Researchers developed a drone that can fox potholes in the road. The drone uses an asphalt 3D printer to patch up holes. - ZME SCIENCE

22. Facebook gave up on plans to build a fleet of giant drones, which would have beamed internet access to the developing world. The solar-powered plane-sized drones were part of its Aquila project. - NYTIMES

23. Drones loaded with explosives were used in a foiled attack on Venezuela's president. President Nicolás Maduro escaped injury after drones detonated and crashed near a parade on Aug. 4. - NYTIMES

24. IBM filed a patent for a drone that would automatically deliver coffee to people. Sensors could identify a person's "predetermined cognitive state," showing if he or she is tired. - POPULAR MECHANICS

25. DJI unveiled the Mavic 2 Pro and the Mavic 2 Zoom, which are updates to its Mavic line of drones. - USA TODAY

26. Uber Eats could one day deliver food by drone. Uber announced it is working on a drone-based system for food deliveries, though it has only conducted trials so far. - MASHABLE

27. A golf course in North Dakota started delivering refreshments by drone. - CNN TECH

28. Dozens of drone operators took to the skies to inspect damage caused by Hurricane Florence. The FAA warned people to not fly drones in and around disaster areas unless they have special permission. - BLOOMBERG

29. Researchers used drones to survey whales and other wildlife around the world. One of the drone projects involved studying the poop of whales off the coast of Oregon, which can provide more info about the whales' biology. - OREGON LIVE

30. A controversial video showed impact tests between a drone and a plane. The drone tore into the plane's wing, suggesting that even small drones pose a serious risk to airplanes. - PETAPIXEL

31. Researchers created a bee drone, called the DelFly, that could one day pollinate plants the way a bee does. “I think within five to 10 years we will have the technology to make the drones much smaller and we could see them put to use in greenhouses," scientist Matěj Karásek told the Guardian. - DRONEDJ

32. Drone manufacturer DJI issued an update after at least one drones from its Matrice 200 series lost power during flight.  - GIZMODO

33. Researchers successfully transported a human kidney by drone earlier this year. The results showed that the kidney's temperature was stable and it was not damaged during 14 drone flight missions. - IEEE SPECTRUM

34. The Wall Street Journal reported that the FAA is behind on its plans to introduce new drone ID rules, which could come as late as 2022. - WSJ

35. India, which recently introduced drone rules, wants to form a global alliance that would standardize drone regulations for countries around the world. Harmonization of drones rules globally could help fuel growth in the industry, according to India officials. - ECONOMIC TIMES

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Written and curated by Beth Duckett in Orange County. Beth is a former reporter for The Arizona Republic who has written for USA Today, Get Out magazine, and other publications. Follow her tweets about breaking news in southern California here. Editing team: Lon Harris (editor-in-chief at, game-master at Screen Junkies), Krystle Vermes (Breaking news editor at Inside, B2B marketing news reporter, host of the "All Day Paranormal" podcast), and Susmita Baral (editor at Inside, recent bylines in NatGeo, Teen Vogue, and Quartz. Runs the biggest mac and cheese account on Instagram).

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