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Inside Drones

Inside Drones (Jun 26th, 2019)

1. Chinese drone-maker DJI will build some of its drones in California after U.S. lawmakers worried that its drones could automatically be sending flight data back to China. U.S. government officials have voiced concerns that DJI drones could be sharing sensitive photos, videos, and surveillance data with China's government; the issue that was brought up and discussed during a U.S. Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing last week. DJI has since debunked the claims, saying that a pilot's data stays solely on the drone and on mobile devices and the company "cannot share customer data it never receives." To allay concerns, the company said that it will start building some of its Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual drones at a warehouse in Cerritos, California, which will allow DJ to file for certification to meet requirements of the Trade Agreement Act — in effect making it easier for U.S. government agencies to buy the drones. Also, the manufacturer introduced the DJI Government Edition drone, which it says has more features to make sure that data never leaves the drone or is shared with unauthorized parties. - REUTERS

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2. Drone videos of a rally celebrating the Toronto Raptors' NBA championship raised concerns about the safety of pilots taking video from above. Darren Clarke, a chief pilot at Clarion Drone Academy, called the drone flights over large crowds "pretty brazen," especially in light of Transport Canada's new rules governing drone operations. The agency conducted a preliminary review of one of the videos and determined there wasn't enough evidence to move forward with an investigation. - CBC

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3. Scientists are using fixed-wing drones launched from the rooftops of cars to monitor and analyze tornadoes. The research team, created by an atmospheric scientist at the University of Nebraska, is studying the supercell storms that spawn tornadoes across the U.S. Project TORUS has a number of weather monitors, including autonomous drones that are sent into the storms while driving using a pneumatic launcher. The researchers hope the data collected from the drones will provide some of the most detailed measurements of supercells and help them understand better how the massive storms are formed, potentially improving forecasts as well. - GIZMODO

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4. Amazon received a patent for a home surveillance drone. The patent shows the drone would be designed to hover around a person's house and scan for things like an open garage door. Amazon suggests that drone-based surveillance would be superior to traditional video-camera installations used today due to their limited range and how easy they can be manipulated and damaged by intruders. The patent was filed on June 12, 2015, and granted on June 4, 2019. - NPR

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5. Researchers from NASA and the University of Guam used a drone to map a reef near the Pacific island. The DJI Matrice 600 helped create a centimeter-resolution digital model of the coral structure as scientists seek to track changes to it over time. The drone is equipped with a $90,000, RGB ‘"fluid cam" that corrects any distortions from the water's surface so it can take photographs under the waves. - NATURE

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6. A total of 63 flights were diverted or delayed at Singapore's Changi Airport after drone sightings this past week. Local authorities launched an investigation after drones were spotted at the airport, which is one of the world's busiest. A runway was temporarily shut down last week, which caused at least one flight to be diverted to another airport. Drones cannot be flown within 3.1 miles of airports without a permit in Singapore. - AP

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7. Russia debuted a drone that looks like a snowy owl during its annual military expo in Moscow. The biometric, combat surveillance UAV is reportedly equipped with a laser to direct fire and can stay in the air for up to 40 minutes, with a range above 12 miles. A new video from the defense ministry's Zvezda news channel shows the drone on display at the expo as well as taking flight above a field and first-person views of the ground below. - NEWSWEEK

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8. The Drone Racing League launched a Series C funding round as it seeks to raise up to $50 million. The professional drone racing startup operates internationally and has pilots that engage in high-speed FPV races through 3D courses. So far, it has raised just over $26 million from investors including Lux Capital and RSE Ventures. In 2017, it closed a Series B that raised $20 million. - TECHCRUNCH

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9. DJI's original Spark drone is on sale for $280, down from $649. The UAV comes with a 12-megapixel camera that can shoot footage at 1080p. - TNW

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10. Not your mother's drone.

The U.S. surveillance drone that Iran shot down last week, raising tensions between the countries, was identified as a $220 million RQ-4A Global Hawk.

The drone has a wingspan greater than 130 feet and a maximum takeoff weight exceeding 16 tons. It can stay in flight for up to 34 hours and fly up to 60,000 feet, at a range of 12,000 nautical miles. - WIRED

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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 and other topics in southern California here.

Editing team: Kim Lyons (Pittsburgh-based journalist and managing editor at Inside), David Stegon (senior editor at Inside, whose reporting experience includes cryptocurrency and technology), and Bobby Cherry (senior editor at Inside, who’s always on social media).

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