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Inside Drones

Inside Drones (Sep 4th, 2019)

1. Bloomberg reported over the weekend that the so-called "drone bubble" has burst after startups founded during peak hype ran out of funding before generating profits. According to Crunchbase, at least 25 drone startups have shuttered in the past 10 years, despite funding of $2.6 billion from venture capitalists pumped into the industry between 2012 and 2019. Jack Pitcher writes for Bloomberg that "all that over-heated enthusiasm is getting a cold blast of reality," citing Kay Wackwitz, founder of Drone Industry Insights, who acknowledges that "was some irrationality around drones, a period of hype driven by the popularity of the hobby sector." However, articles note that the drone industry is not dying but rather changing, such as in the case of larger tech companies developing their own drones in-house, or companies halting manufacturing of certain drones and embracing others. - BLOOMBERG

Do you think drones have reached peak hype? Hit reply and let us know.

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2. DJI raised its prices on specific products — including the Mavic 2 line — as a result of the Trump administration’s tariffs on Chinese imports. The Chinese manufacturer's Mavic 2 products are about 13 percent higher in price now. The Mavic 2 Pro, for example, is $1,729, up from $1,499. The DJI Mavic Air in Arctic White costs $919, an increase from $799. Drone DJ reports that buyers can still purchase the same products on Amazon at lower pre-tariff prices. In addition to raising prices, DJI removed some drones, like the Spark and Phantom 4, from its online store, although other websites like BestBuy or DroneNerds may still carry them. - DRONE DJ

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3. The number of job listings on Amazon Prime Air's website has more than quadrupled in the past year, according to the data analytics company Thinknum. There are now 170 postings for jobs ranging from quality assurance technicians to safety officers and firmware development managers. Most are located in Seattle, although there are Sumner, Washington, Cambridge, England, and Tel Aviv, Israel, among other locations. By comparison, Wing has about 40 job openings and Uber has a few related to drone deliveries. - THE DAILY BEAST

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4. Australia's aviation regulator is investigating footage of a man who used a drone to fly over a lake so he could go fishing. The video shows the man, identified as Sam Foreman, being lifted up by the drone over the Upper Coliban Reservoir in Australia's central Victoria state. He casts a line and catches a fish while drinking a bottle of beer. The stunt has drawn criticism for its potential to break local drone laws or go wrong, such as having the drone battery die in mid-air. - DRONE DJ

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5. The U.S. Interior Department is using drones equipped with ping-poll-ball-size chemical spheres to ignite prescribed burns for wildfire management. Drone Amplified's IGNIS system drops self-igniting “dragon eggs," as they're called, to spark controlled blazes in Arizona, California, Nebraska, and Oregon. The drones inject the self-igniting plastic spheres, filled with potassium permanganate, with glycol and drops them right before they react and start a fire. They are used to burn away overgrown forests, which can help prevent mega-fires. The Interior Department’s office of aviation services plans to buy at least 20 more of the systems this season. - THE GUARDIAN

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6. Drones are helping to eliminate a crop-devouring insect in China. An operation led by drone maker XAG and Germany’s Bayer Crop Science deployed drone swarms loaded with low-toxicity insecticide to eliminate up to 98 percent of the fall armyworm in the country's Guangxi and Yunnan regions. The insect eats over 80 crop varieties, including rice, corn, and cotton, and has impacted 950,000 hectares (3,667 square miles) of crops in 24 Chinese provinces. - BLOOMBERG

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7. A drone's braking system kicked in during live news coverage this past weekend. The drone was flying over NBC NEWS correspondent Gabe Gutierrez, who was covering Hurricane Dorian in Martin County, Florida. The view switched to the drone, which appeared to accelerate before a warning message appeared: “Breaking now. Return sticks to midpoints, then continue flying.” Some drone enthusiasts have complained about their devices auto braking too often, with some saying that it's a common issue while flying toward the sun. To confirm that's the case, pilots can temporarily disable their sensors mid-flight. - NEWCAST STUDIO

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8. Google experts will lead drone assembly workshops and demos during an event this weekend in Clarksville, Tennessee. The demos are part of a preview of Google's InnovaTN Games engineering competition to encourage youth to get into STEM. People, including students, will be able to build and keep their own drones and use them for competitions featured at the Games. The workshops and demos will occur during Clarksville's Riverfest celebration on the banks of the Cumberland River. - CLARKSVILLE NOW

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9. Parrot's Anafi FPV package will go on sale later this month. The French drone manufacturer is following after DJI and Fat Shark with a first-person-view experience for drones. It differs in that users will be able to slot their smartphones into the holder, rather than having a dedicated screen inside the goggles. The $799 package includes the Anafi 4K camera drone, glasses, controller, battery, extra propellers, 16GB microSD card, and a USB-C cable, as well as a backpack that double as a platform for launching the drone. It will likely be a lower-resolution experience, but much more affordable, than DJI's FPV offerings. - NEW ATLAS

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10. India's civil aviation agency certified its first UAV in the "small drones" category. Bengaluru-based startup Aarav Unmanned Systems’ Insight received the approval, meaning it complies with new drone guidelines from the Indian government. India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) considers drones weighing between 2 Kgs (4.4 pounds) and 25 Kgs (55 pounds) to be "small drones" and those between 250 g (0.55 pounds) and 2 Kgs (4.4 pounds) to be "micro drones." - DECCAN HERALD

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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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