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Inside Drones

Inside Drones (Jul 24th, 2019)

1. UPS will compete with the likes of Amazon and other companies to launch its own drone delivery service. The world’s largest package delivery firm recently formed a drone delivery subsidiary called UPS Flight Forward Inc. and applied for certification with the Federal Aviation Administration. Approval from the agency would allow UPS to fly drones using multiple drones and pilots, at night, and beyond the pilot's visual line of sight, which are all heavily restricted in the U.S. UPS already conducts daily drone flights with partner Matternet by transporting medical specimens like blood between locations at a hospital campus in Raleigh, North Carolina. - WSJ

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2. The U.K. startup Altitude Angel unveiled an Unmanned Traffic Management system for drones that could compete with Wing's new OpenSky platform. Altitude's system relies on automatic anti-collision technology that it says will prevent mid-air collisions. After drone pilots request airspace permission, it cross-references their proposed route with other flights plans and restricted areas, essentially automating flight approval. When drones are in the air, the system constantly monitors the airspace around the UAV and automatically changes the route when unexpected events occur. Meanwhile, the OpenSky app, which is only available in Australia, has been compared to Google Maps and utilizes Wing's own internal technology and other Google services to help people fly drones legally and more safely. - TECHCRUNCH

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3. Parrot is only producing its Anafi drone and variations as it moves away from competing against DJI in consumer sales, a company spokesperson confirmed. The French drone company has effectively exited from the toy drone market and no longer has its Swing or Mambo drones in stock, according to The Verge. In a 2017 financial filing, Parrot noted that it is shifting its core business toward commercial drone solutions and evolving into an end-to-end drone group. During the first quarter of this year, its consumer drone sales made up 38 percent of overall revenue, a decrease from 58 percent during the year prior. - THE VERGE

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4. A decades-old statute in New York City is preventing developers from using drones during the building process. The 1948 law requires that all aircraft in the city take off and land in specific locations, mainly airports, that are designated by the local Port Authority. Real estate developers have criticized the law, saying that it prevents them from using drones to speed up building projects and cut costs on things like property surveillance. “The cities that are doing this will always have a leg up on us," Carlo Scissura, the president and CEO of New York Building Congress, told The Wall Street Journal. - WSJ

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5. A U.S. Navy ship brought down two Iranian drones in the Strait of Hormuz last week, flaring tensions between the countries as they deploy more drones for military surveillance. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie told CBS News that the USS Boxer likely downed two drones last week — using a newly deployed counterdrone system known as MADIS — after they were seen flying too close to the U.S. warship. Last month, President Trump said he called off a military strike against Iran at the last minute after its own forces shot down a U.S. drone. The head of Iran’s navy said that the country is using drones to observe all U.S. ships in the Gulf region, where Iran seized a British tanker last week after it collided with a fishing vessel. - NPR

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6. A site at the Nevada Test and Training Range is being used to test "more exotic and classified" drone sensor systems, modifications, and payloads, according to a report by The Drive. The facility, which is surrounded by restricted airspace and appears to have a 5,000-foot long runway, has expanded in recent years as the U.S. government continues to grow its drone fleet. It's believed to house six to 12 medium-sized drones, including the Air Force's MQ-9 Reaper, and potentially smaller ones as well, the publication noted. - THE DRIVE

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7. The FAA is fast-tracking access to the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) system for recreational drone pilots. Operators (who still are restricted from flying above 400 feet) can now gain near-instant permission to fly around 600 airports' airspace via an expedited process that automates application and approval. In the past, hobbyists could apply to fly in restricted airspace but it took longer. For new pilots, DJI recommends Kittyhawk as a LAANC service provider. - ENGADGET

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8. Drones are being used in blueberry farming. While agricultural drone technology has been around for years now, it's being designed for more specific uses with berries. Through aerial imaging, drones can measure the density and temperature of the berry crops and spot problems such as low nitrogen or pathogens; UAVs equipped with thermal imaging cameras can detect where plants are experiencing drought stress, which could point to pipe leaks. David Bryla, a horticulturist at the USDA, and his colleague Scott Orr, a biological research technician, are developing an app that will deliver drone-collected data to berry farmers in real-time. - CAPITAL PRESS

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9. A radar system that uses artificial intelligence can detect small drones from up to 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) away. Researchers from the Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea and California State University at Fresno developed the system using an active electronically scanned array, or AESA, radar, and an AI system known as a Generative Adversarial Network, or GAN. The software was trained to detect very small modulations in the echoes of radar signals, indicating the presence of small drones like a DJI Mavic. - DEFENSE ONE

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10. Today's Drone Video of the Week comes from FPV drone pilot Mr Steele, who flew his customized (and insanely outfitted) drone through a construction site in a freestyle session. The video was uploaded last week and already has over 168,500 views. Hope you enjoy!

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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.

Editor: Kim Lyons (Pittsburgh-based journalist and managing editor at Inside).

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