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Inside Drones

Inside Drones (Mar 20th, 2019)

1. NASA researchers visited Corpus Christi, Texas this week to discuss a new project that will test out drones in urban areas. NASA chose Corpus Christi and Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi as partners for the research, which will gather details about drone flights in which tall buildings, GPS, communications, and local acceptance are all factors. Testing is set to begin in late July. The results could show how drones hold up under harsh urban conditions, including a "loss of communication with the vehicle of a GPS outage or a weather event coming to the area," deputy project manager Marcus Johnson said. - CALLER-TIMES

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2. The police department in Chula Vista, Calif. received approval to fly beyond the pilot's visual line of sight, making it the first public safety organization in the U.S with that capability. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently awarded the Certificate of Authorization (COA) with a provision for Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations. The COA, which took effect on March 15, allows the agency to fly their drones up to three nautical miles away from the pilot's line of sight, rather than forcing a pilto to watch it at all times. Chris Rittler, CEO of the drone firm Cape which works with the Chula Vista PD, called it "a huge regulatory win" that lays the future groundwork for integrating drones into U.S. airspace. - POLICE ONE

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3. A field team used a lidar-equipped drone to quickly map a lava tube in Iceland, which could benefit scientists when they explore lava caves on the Moon and Mars. The drone was able to 3D map the rocky and icy features of the Lofthellir lava tube in the remote Myvatn region without using GPS or maps. The project was led by the SETI Institute and Astrobotic Technology, Inc. According to planetary scientist Pascal Lee, the research was performed "to understand better both the potential hazards and opportunities presented by the many lava caves we hope to explore on the Moon and Mars," which could be explored with drones. - MIT TECH REVIEW

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4. Some farmers in New Zealand are using drones to herd and watch over their livestock. According to The Washington Post, some of the farmers use the DJI Mavic Enterprise's machine recording feature that allows them to record the sounds of barking and play them over a loudspeaker, mimicking a herding dog. The drones are more effective at herding old cows and move livestock faster, said Corey Lambeth, a local farm shepherd. Farmers are also utilizing the UAVs to monitor feed and water level and surveil their land and animals from afar. - WAPO

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5. A newly published New York Times piece delved into the regulatory hurdles facing the delivery drone industry, citing examples from Project Wing's Hummingbird drone and Amazon Prime Air. Drone DJ did a summary of the article here.

6. Drones equipped with thermal imaging are helping researchers find and collect data about koalas in Australia.

7. A Skydio drone video has drawn criticism after geo-tagging its location in Yellowstone National Park, where drone flights are illegal.

8. Reports of drone sightings across the U.S. have skyrocketed by 90 percent since 2015, according to recent numbers from the FAA.

9. The New York City Police Department deployed a drone to surveil a man involved in an armed standoff in Brooklyn. The drone helped police arrest the man after watching him place the gun down.

10. A university graduate in Edmonton, Canada developed a computer program that uses brain waves to control drones.

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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: Kim Lyons (Pittsburgh-based journalist and managing editor at Inside); Susmita Baral (senior editor at Inside, who runs the biggest mac and cheese account on Instagram); and David Stegon (senior editor at Inside, whose reporting experience includes cryptocurrency and technology).

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