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Inside Drones

Inside Drones (Oct 9th, 2019)

1. An Ohio lawmaker has proposed a law to ban companies from delivering packages by drone. State Rep. Thomas Patton filed a bill that includes the language: "no commercial entity... shall operate an unmanned aerial vehicle to deliver a package for business." Patton's office said he is concerned about potential crashes or injuries, such as a drone accidentally dropping a package on a pet or child. However, Jim Gregory, a professor and director of the Ohio State University's Aerospace Research Center, said researchers are exploring other possibilities, such as drones lowering packages by tether or parachute. The news comes after UPS and Alphabet's Wing received FAA approval to conduct drone delivery tests under certain circumstances. - WSYX-TV

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2. The Center of Excellence Technodrome opened in western Colorado on Tuesday, allowing first responders to test out drone technology for public safety. The FAA has allowed staff at the indoor test facility to fly experimental drones that are currently banned in the general airspace. An example of the kind of drone tech includes Highlift Drone's large UAVs, which are designed to help firefighters extinguish blazes from the air before they spread. "I think it’s going to bring more people from all over the country to be able to test new technologies whether it’s for the fire department or law enforcement,” said Highlight owner Jeff Goodrich. - KCNC-TV

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3. A quadcopter known as the Interceptor can destroy other drones by crashing into them. Palmer Luckey's Anduril Industries developed the anti-drone drone, which can autonomously fly into its targets at 100 mph, sending both to the ground. If the initial hit is not successful, it will continue to attack. Luckey, the founder of Oculus, noted on Twitter that the Interceptor “almost always survives" its crashes, though "it makes sense to assume one interceptor per target." - FUTURISM

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4. The Drone Racing League (DRL) has launched its first autonomous racing drone. The DRL RacerAI utilizes artificial intelligence technology to fly without human intervention and will teach itself to fly faster and smarter by competing in racing events. The goal is to one day have RacerAI beat a drone piloted by a human. "This will mark an initial step towards a future when autonomous systems can relieve humans from performing often dangerous disaster-relief efforts and search and rescue missions," DRL CEO and founder Nicholas Horbaczewski said. The DRL recently hosted its first event of the inaugural Artificial Intelligence Robotic Racing Circuit. - TECHREPUBLIC

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5. Raytheon is testing out new technology that can spot illegal drones and their pilots at stadiums and concert venues. The company says its counter-drone system has undergone a number of beta tests and recently spotted four drones at an unidentified outdoor concert venue. Once the radars and cameras spot the drone, the locations of the operators are sent to law enforcement, who can approach the pilots and ask them to stop. A number of recreational drones have been spotted over stadiums and concert venues in recent years, including one that led to the arrests of two people this summer at a college football game in Michigan. - DEFENSE ONE

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6. Bend, Oregon, is using a drone to inspect buildings around the city, eliminating the need for inspectors to climb onto roofs. The city's Building Safety Division has four inspectors who are certified to fly the drone, which they use several times a week. Building inspector Brad Mandal said that drones are more efficient, cost-effective, and safer, as inspectors do not "have to harness up to go up on roofs or to get to big heights above the ground and potentially fall." It is believed that Bend is one of four to five cities in the U.S. utilizing the technology for this purpose. - KTVZ

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7. Caltech's LEONARDO robot is able to balance through the use of drone propellers. The first real video of the bot in action is now available online. LEONARDO, which stands for “LEgs ONboARD drOne,” has drone propellers in place of arms, making it able to balance more like a UAV than a traditional bipedal robot. Researchers believe the propellers could help it jump in the future, including possibly in Mars missions. - THE VERGE

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8. The company Drone Traffic won a NASA-funded contract to develop a drone-detecting radar for airplanes. Colorado-based private pilot Rick Zelenka founded Drone Traffic and was awarded two patents giving him exclusive rights to his version of the technology. The lightweight radar works by locating a drone in an area - most likely around airports - and recording its location before sending the data to ground control, which will notify other pilots without the radar. Zelenka expects to finish a prototype by early 2020 and begin testing it at smaller airports. - KMGH-TV

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9. The Austin-based startup SparkCognition - which is working on SkyGrid with Boeing - raised $100 million in a Series C round led by March Capital Partners. The project will use blockchain technology and artificial intelligence in software for drone traffic management. CB Insights AI 100 lists SparkCognition among the top 10 companies for patent applications. The company will host its annual AI and future tech summit, Time Machine in Austin, next month. - SILICON HILLS

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10. A friendly reminder that Jordan Rubin's horror-comedy "The Drone" will be out next Tuesday, October 15. The tongue-in-cheek film from Lionsgate starts out with a serial killer being struck by lightning while holding a drone, which later starts harassing a newlywed couple by taking control of their TV and other devices as part of a revenge plot. It will be available on DVD, digital, and on-demand. - BD HORROR TRAILER AND CLIPS / YOUTUBE

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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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