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Inside Drones

Inside Drones (Aug 14th, 2019)

1. DJI is reportedly set to release a Mavic Mini drone that will cost $399 and have a 4k camera. Some drone fans surmise that it will replace the DJI Spark, which had a rather lackluster debut in 2017. According to DRONE DJ, the Mavic Mini will utilize DJI’s enhanced Wi-Fi technology, like that used on the Spark and Mavic Air, and optical avoidance sensors on the front and bottom. The publication recently shared what it believes are photos of the Mavic Mini, taken from the Twitter account of OsitaLV, and a leaked spec sheet. The drone is expected to weigh only 245 grams, falling under the FAA's 250-gram limit for registration, which could help DJI further dominate the consumer drone market. - DRONE DJ

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2. The FAA gave approval for Flytrex and Causey Aviation Unmanned to launch drone food deliveries in Holly Springs, North Carolina. Israel-based Flytrex, which already delivers food by drone in Iceland, will make the airborne treks as part of the FAA's UAS Integration Pilot Program, which aims to integrate drones into the U.S. airspace. Flytrex's drones will operate along a single predetermined delivery route - mostly over unpopulated areas - that connects a distribution center to Ting Park, an outdoor recreation hub in Holly Springs. Flytrex also recently got the OK from NUAIR for its self-triggered parachute recovery system for drones. - CDP

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3. Drones are becoming part of a strategy to limit water consumption from the Colorado River. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and other public agencies are using UAVs to measure things like soil moisture and crop stress, which can tell farmers when they should cut back on watering their harvests. In one example, the USDA used a drone equipped with an infrared camera to take images of corn and analyze them for stress from lack of water. Agriculture uses up to 70 percent of the water in the Colorado River system, which supplies the resource to an estimated 40 million people in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. - USA TODAY

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4. The U.S. Army and Air Force are working to develop a microwave weapon that would disable swarms of drones in mid-air. The weapon, part of the service’s Indirect Fires Protection Capability for shooting down airborne threats, would be more effective at shorting out large groups of drones rather than only one or several drones at once, as is currently the case with jammers, shotguns, and nets. The joint system would sweep the sky with microwave radiation, downing everything in its path; it could be operational by 2022. - POPULAR MECHANICS

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5. If you feel like a drone is invading your privacy, your safest bet is to call law enforcement (and not try to shoot it down). That's the best option to avoid further legal problems, according to Loretta Alkalay, a former FAA counsel who now works as an attorney in aviation law. As Alkalay explains, people's rights to privacy are generally limited legally, "So, if you are swimming or sunbathing in your fenced backyard, but you are visible from the air by planes or helicopters, courts have held that you don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy." Alkalay recommends that people contact local police, rather than taking matters into their own hands. She also notes that most privacy fears surrounding drones are overblown, given that drone cameras don't have sophisticated cameras or the ability to zoom in, for example. - HOW STUFF WORKS

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6. The New York Times shared some tips for how to successfully travel with a drone. People can start with a little pre-travel research about where you can and cannot fly in different places using sources like Airmap.io and Knowbeforeyoufly.org. Some locations also require permits to fly a drone, which is good to know beforehand. As the Times points out, "Generally speaking, the more touristy a place is, the less likely you’ll be able to fly a drone." - NYTIMES

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7. The Drone Racing League is now broadcasting races on NBC, NBC Sports, and Twitter for the first time. Fans wanted the esports league to expand beyond ESPN, where races have aired for the last three years, CEO Nicholas Horbaczewski said. - DIGIDAY

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8. Should the government of Mountain View, California, be allowed to use drones? Residents will weigh in this week. The city's fire, police, and public works departments are hoping to use drones for things like missing person searches, wildfire containment, and gutter and tree inspections. Residents are being asked to comment on the proposal at a meeting scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 15. - KPIX

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9. Drone swarms could become increasingly useful for things like mapping large acres of crops, according to the BBC. Scientists from the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment and Rajant Corporation are already working on a fleet of about 20 drones that would coordinate their own flights, limiting the need for human supervision. - BBC

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10. Today's Drone Video of the Week comes from Chris Biela of PrimoMedia, who used a DJI Mavic 2 Pro to capture stunning views of the Pololū Valley on Hawaii's Big Island. 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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