Inside Drones - September 25th, 2019

Inside Drones (Sep 25th, 2019)

American Security Drone Act / New DJI drones / Walgreens Va. deliveries

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1. U.S. lawmakers introduced a bill that would halt federal agencies from purchasing DJI drones and other drones manufactured in China, which could have a major impact on government-backed drone fleets. The American Security Drone Act of 2019 would ban federal agencies and departments from buying off-the-shelf drones developed in China or any other country that's deemed a national security risk. If the bipartisan bill becomes law, federal agencies would have 180 days to stop buying and using China-manufactured drones, which mostly include DJI. The bill comes after DJI was accused of undercutting the competition to corner the market, as well as using its drones to gain access to sensitive U.S. infrastructure data - an accusation that DJI has denied. DJI argues that companies shouldn’t be legislated based on their country of origin and has noted that operators can decide whether they want their drones to send data back to DJI or connect to the internet. - FINANCIAL TIMES

2. DJI announced two new drones for the U.S. market during its AirWorks conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday. The drones are the P4 Multispectral drone, a fully integrated, multispectral imaging drone designed for farming and land management, and the Agras T16 drone, a spray drone for agriculture that disseminates liquids like fertilizers and pesticides to field crops. Also on Tuesday, the company revealed a new initiative to equip first responders with its drone technology and support them during natural disasters and recovery missions. The company is working with pre-selected partners in the U.S. to equip local and state public safety agencies, including the LAPD, with its hardware and software. AirWorks takes place through Thursday at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel and Suites. - DRONE DJ

3. Drones will begin delivering select Walgreens products to residents in a small town in southwest Virginia next month. The testing is a partnership between Alphabet subsidiary Wing (formerly Google's Project Wing), FedEx, and Walgreens, and is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Integration Pilot Program. Customers in the town will be able to order more than 100 Walgreens products, such as medicines and snacks, through the Wing app. Earlier this year, Wing became one of the first drone operators to receive commercial air carrier certification from the Federal Aviation Administration, which allows it to autonomously deliver commercial goods to recipients that are miles away and not in the pilot’s line of sight. - ENGADGET

4. Researchers at the University of Michigan developed a drone that can autonomously nail asphalt shingles to a roof. The prototype is equipped with a professional-grade nail gun and relies on a system of location markers and video cameras to "know" where to drive each nail. Gizmodo notes that it's still not as fast as a professional roofer and has only 10 minutes of flight time, though a cable tether could fix that. Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a warning against attaching weapons, including nail guns, to drones. - GIZMODO

5. The FAA is investigating an off-duty police officer's use of a personal drone outside an apartment building, saying he may have broken federal aviation rules. Louisville Metro Police Sgt. Derrick Leachman reportedly flew the drone labeled "LMPD" around multiple balconies of the 29-story 800 Tower City Club Apartments. A police spokesman said Leachman was flying the drone on his personal time, which is allowed, and the department hasn't received any complaints about the situation. The FAA is looking into whether Leachman's drone was legally allowed in that airspace, which is near Louisville International Airport. - COURIER-JOURNAL

6. Ninety-five countries worldwide now own military drones, which is a notable increase from 2010, according to a new report by the Center for the Study of the Drone. The report, which is due out for release today, found that an estimated 30,000 or more drones are currently in service globally, according to The Wall Street Journal. In many countries, their armed forces are using drone operations more in such a way that it's changing global security, it said. - WSJ

7. Police in Daytona Beach used a drone to monitor a man during a standoff. The suspect, 45-year-old David B. Allen, locked himself in the Ocean Breeze Club for six hours on Saturday. According to police, Allen made suicidal threats and claimed he had a hostage and a grenade, threatening to detonate it if police tried to arrest him. Instead, police deployed the drone to look inside the room and used the footage to determine that the grenade was not operational and that Allen was alone. He was subsequently arrested. - WPEC

8. A newly released video shows a jail inmate in Ohio accepting a package dropped from a drone. The inmate is in an outdoor exercise yard at the Cuyahoga County Jail complex when he tries to catch the parcel as it's falling, throwing an orange shirt over it immediately to conceal the package from other inmates. The package reportedly contained a contraband cellphone and marijuana. The use of drones to smuggle in contraband to prisons has been a growing problem in the U.S. and elsewhere. - NY POST

9. Drones have started delivering anti-venom and other medicines to residents in Meghalaya, a state in northeastern India that has a high number of snakebite victims. In 2016, 404 people died from snakebites in the state. The new pilot project, which delivers medicines to remote areas where anti-venom is not always available, is a collaboration between the North Eastern Council agency, the North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences, and North Eastern Space Application Centre.  - THE HINDU

10. Today's drone Video of the Week shows off the skills of FPV drone pilot Mr Steele, aka Steele Davis, who captured race cars drifting around the track Road Atlanta in Georgia during the Gridlife South event.

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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