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Inside Drones

Inside Drones (Aug 28th, 2019)

1. The FAA issued a warning against flamethrowers and other weapon attachments for drones, calling them "a dangerous mix." The warning went out after Throwflame released a viral video for its flamethrower attachment, which it claims is federally legal. The attachments are used in agricultural burns, to remove insect hives and snow, and to burn trash off high-voltage wires. According to the FAA, attaching any "dangerous weapon" including flamethrowers to a drone violates a section of the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act, although operators can file for special authorization from the agency to operate one. The penalty carries fines of up to $25,000. - MASHABLE

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2. More test footage was released of the Skydio 2 drone, which is due out this fall. The California manufacturer issued a statement saying that the drone will be “the culmination of everything we’ve learned from our first drone and all of the feedback we’ve received from our first customers." The new drone, which is the successor to the popular R1, will accommodate more tricky maneuvers, the company said. - DRONELIFE

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3. Bell's APT 70 cargo drone made its first autonomous test flight at a site near Fort Worth, Texas. The drone is designed for package and medical deliveries, disaster relief, and other missions, and uses an electric propulsion system to take off vertically, converting into winged flight once it's in the air. The APT, or Autonomous Pod Transport, can fly up to 100 mph and carry a payload of 70 pounds 35 miles, or 65 miles with no payload and an extra battery. Bell will test out the drone over the next year under an experimental FAA certificate and plans to conduct a beyond visual line of sight flight operation by the middle of next year. You can watch a video of the flight here. - NEW ATLAS

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4. The most common injuries from drones crashing into people’s heads are bruises, cuts, and other lacerations, according to new research. The Phase II Ground Collision study used dummies to investigate what would happen when drones collide with humans. While videos of the tests look painful, researchers found that small plastic drones like the DJI Phantom and Mavic Pro absorb much of the impact energy, and it's “a common misconception is that every drone is like a rock so when it hits you, it’s going to hurt you like a rock,” says David Arterburn, the principal investigator. After 512 impact tests, researchers measured one case of serious eye damage and suggested that pilots use propeller guards on their drones. The Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence, or ASSURE led the study. - POPULAR MECHANICS

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5. A drone that followed two boys home from school in northern California belonged to another child, who was inspecting a nearby construction project and meant no harm, police said. Police in the city of Escalon issued an alert earlier this week about the drone, which caused a temporary panic before a parent came forward. The mother told police her son flew the black medium-sized quadcopter and approached the two boys after they waved at the drone; she has since "taken the UAV away from him for his misuse." - MODBEE

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6. A new drone system under development at the University of Kentucky can identify and monitor the health of cows while they are grazing. The idea is to eliminate the need for farmers to locate and check on each cow's vital signs individually in the pasture. Under a grant from the USDA, the system uses an observer drone equipped with stereo cameras, which locates a specific cow and relays the location to three worker drones, which are deployed and measure the cow's heart rate, body temperature, and other vitals. - CNET

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7. A satirical movie about a sentient drone that terrorizes a newlywed couple will be released on Oct. 15. "The Drone" stars "The Conjuring's" John Brotherton and "Starry Eyes'" Alex Essoe as the couple who encounter the drone, possessed by a serial killer, that takes control of their car and home electronics and appears to be seeking revenge. It recently premiered at FrightFest in London and you can watch the trailer here. - EW

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8. Lucid, a new company based in North Carolina, is using drones to wash the outside of buildings. An operator plugs the drone into a tank attached to a work truck, which feeds a low-pressure sprayer attached to the drone with a biodegradable cleaning solution. The operator uses a remote to control the tethered drone, which can reach buildings up to 12 stories tall. Lucid, which was part of Y Combinator’s summer 2019 batch, currently services only the southeastern United States but co-founder Andrew Ashur says they are weighing a nationwide rollout. - TECHCRUNCH

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9. A new armored version of BMW’s X5 SUV can protect against drone attacks. The automaker equipped the SUV with steel panels on its sides, firewall and roof, which is also reinforced to protect against drones that aim to drop potential explosives on the car. While BMW hasn't released pricing of the armored model, a non-armored X5 M50i starts at $83,145. - DIGITAL TRENDS

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10. The upcoming "Top Gun: Maverick" movie will see Tom Cruise’s iconic character face off against drones. Cruise revives his Pete “Maverick” Mitchell character in the film and serves as the new flight instructor of the Top Gun school. The movie also stars Manny Jacinto, Ed Harris, Jon Hamm, Miles Teller, Glen Powell, and Monica Barbaro, and is due out on June 26, 2020. You can watch the trailer here. - THE NATIONAL INTEREST

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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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