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Inside Drones

Inside Drones (Aug 7th, 2019)

1. The University of Alaska legally flew a drone beyond the pilot's visual line-of-sight for the first time. The inspection of a four-mile stretch of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline received FAA approval under the government's ongoing UAS Integration Pilot Program. The drone was able to fly beyond the sight of visual observers, thanks to Iris Automation’s Casia onboard detect-and-avoid system and Echodyne’s ground-based detect-and-avoid systems. In the past, any FAA-issued waivers for flying beyond visual line of sight still required some ground-based visual observer to avoid any accidents or collisions with other aircraft. - ENGADGET

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2. Polish photographer Jacek Deneka was the overall winner of this year's Drone Awards. The Art Photo Travel Association sponsors the competition, which is in its second year. Roughly 4,500 entries were submitted from 107 countries in seven different categories - Abstract, Nature, People, Sport, Wildlife, Urban, and Video. Deneka won the top prize of Photographer of the Year for his image titled "A Shoal of Colorful Fish", which show's a drone's-eye view of skiers competing during the Bieg Piastow Skiing Festival in Jakuszyce, Poland. Check out a slideshow of some of the winning entries here. - CNN

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3. The U.K. government is inviting drone specialists to bid on a £990,000 ($1.2 million) contract to monitor ships and help with rescue operations off the coast of southwest England. The UK's Maritime & Coastguard Agency believes drones could make surveillance and coastal rescues cheaper and more efficient, although it acknowledged that rules allowing drone flights beyond an operator's line-of-sight may need to be relaxed. The drones would send back reconnaissance information for helicopters or lifeboat rescue crews. In their bids, operators are asked to describe how to search for a missing person or ship up to 6.2 miles away in windy, misty, or low-light conditions.- BBC

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4. Throwflame's flamethrower drone attachment, which can spew fire up to 25 feet away, is on sale - and the internet has a lot to say about it. The $1,500 attachment, which hooks up to drones and can shoot fire for 100 seconds, is somehow legal, and apparently in demand since Throwflame extended its lead time 4-6 weeks "due to overwhelming demand." In a video from the company, the TF-19 WASP can be seen spewing streams of fire into trees and bushes. The company says it can be used for things like getting rid of wasps' nests or cleaning up vegetation and power lines. Here's what people are saying about it on social media:

"Maybe it is just me, but I can’t think of any good reasons to have a flamethrower on a drone..." - NJ Productions

"These kind of flames should only be reserved for #dragons & #Godzilla." - Rikki Meece

"A flamethrower drone might amuse the kids....what could go wrong?" - Ron Fisher

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5. A research team from UC Berkeley’s High-Performance Robotics Laboratory created a drone that can change shape mid-flight - squeezing through tight spaces - without draining the battery life. While the Passively Morphing Quadcopter isn't the first drone to be able to reconfigure its shape, it is the first to do it without needing additional powered hardware. As Gizmodo describes, the UAV's four arms each have an electric motor and propeller and are attached to the main body via hinged joints. "When approaching an opening that’s smaller than the drone when its arms are extended in flight, like a tiny window, it can automatically plot a course and trajectory so that just before it passes through the obstacle, its rotors turn off causing the arms to retract so it can easily squeeze through." - GIZMODO

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6. Four drones used paint bombs to create a giant graffiti-like artwork in Turin, Italy. The project - called UFO, or Urban Flying Opera - was the creation of the Italian art studio Carlo Ratti Associati. The drones were installed with paint bombs of different colors - gray, magenta, light blue - with each symbolizing different things. The drawings themselves were crowdsourced from the public by a group of curators. - HYPEBEAST

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7. A peregrine falcon photo-bombed a man's drone photo off the coast of England. The company Skypro Productions was trying to take a picture of a boat using a drone when the rare bird dropped in unexpectedly. - DEVONLIVE

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8. Switzerland rolled out a flight information management system (FIMS) for drones. The cloud-based data exchange allows drone providers to communicate with Skyguide’s ATM systems. - AVIATION TODAY

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9. The Eachine Red Devil, which is a toothpick-style drone, is gaining in popularity. Toothpick drones "are essentially brushless tiny whoops on stretched out frames," Drone DJ's Jack Towne reports. The ultra-lightweight drone, which is good for performing tricks and is generally smaller and quieter than your typical quadcopter, costs $93, including a receiver. - DRONE DJ

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10. Today's drone video of the week comes from Jackson Groves, who captured some pretty amazing drone footage of the Hardergrat Trail in Switzerland. Check it out here!

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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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