Inside | Real news, curated by real humans
Inside Drones

Inside Drones (Oct 16th, 2019)

1. A Halloween gift from DJI: Newly released FCC filings have confirmed the Mavic Mini, which is due out for release later this month. There are two release dates floating around on the internet - October 28 or October 30 - for the 245-gram drone, which will be able to circumvent FAA registration requirements thanks to its lighter weight. A beginner drone that's positioned to replace the Spark, the Mini is expected to shoot 4K video at 30fps and have a price tag at or under $500. - DRONE DJ

  • Email gray
  • Permalink gray

2. Extinction Rebellion protests in the U.K. have reignited concerns about activists purposely flying drones near airports, disrupting flights. The UK’s Industry Resilience Group is currently weighing how it will respond to demonstrators potentially flying drones around multiple airports in attempts to draw attention to their causes, according to EasyJet operations manager Douglas Moule. During this week's Drone Disruption Summit, Moule said that "the worst-case scenario is that they put a drone up at [London's] Gatwick for 30 minutes, causing flights to divert, and then follow up with drones to disrupt flights into the diversion airports." Some 1,000 flights were canceled or diverted at Gatwick this past December after drones were spotted near the runway. As a result, the U.K. department store John Lewis has stopped selling drones because of concerns about their misuse at airports. - AIN ONLINE

  • Email gray
  • Permalink gray

3. U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) is proposing a bill that would privatize the airspace - up to 200 feet - above people's properties. The bill would also limit the FAA from regulating all airspace under 200 feet in altitude, granting that right to states or local governments. It proposes designating the altitude between 200 and 400 feet specifically for civilian drones. As Drone Life points out, the concept of "preemption" - or the FAA's right to regulate all airspace from the ground up - hasn't been challenged since the 1940s but has been reignited as drone becomes more popular. - DRONELIFE

  • Email gray
  • Permalink gray

4. Researchers at UC Berkeley have proposed a solution to the drone battery-flight time conundrum: replacing the battery while the drone is in flight. In a preprint paper, "Flying batteries: In-flight battery switching to increase multirotor flight time," researchers proposed equipping drones with a primary battery and a secondary battery. When the secondary battery becomes low, the drone ejects it and continues to run on the primary. A small quadcopter carrying a secondary battery - dubbed a "flying battery" - would dock with the original drone, becoming its new power source. In a flight experiment, the researchers showed that the system boosted flight time by a factor of 4.7 times compared to a traditional drone-battery system. It doesn't add extra weight to the drone, they noted. - HACKADAY

  • Email gray
  • Permalink gray

5. The United States Postal Service revealed new details about plans to introduce drones to its fleet. The agency said it's conducting market research at the moment and could one day "identify candidates for a future solicitation" for drone services. Some concepts under consideration include a “long driveway delivery," in which drones would launch from USPS vehicles and deliver to people's doorsteps while the main vehicle continues driving, and ride-sharing models that would connect customers with USPS drones for “business to customer” deliveries. The agency plans to use drones to capture geospatial, compressed visual, and sensor data to create 3-D mapping for autonomous vehicles. - NEXTGOV

  • Email gray
  • Permalink gray

6. The U.K.'s Offshore Robotics for the Certification of Assets (ORCA) Hub developed drones that can inspect and repair wind turbines at offshore sites. ORCA is a consortium of five universities - the University of Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt University, Imperial College London, the University of Liverpool, and the University of Oxford - working with partners in energy and other industries. Through its drone initiative, people who are on the site of turbines deploy and control the drones to carry out the inspections, eliminating the need for people to climb and then descend the turbines. It could also lower the number of ships going to and from the offshore sites. "Our technology could even deposit repair material for certain types of damage," said Imperial College London’s Mirko Kovac. - CNBC

  • Email gray
  • Permalink gray

7. Farmers in Ghana are being trained on how to use drones to spray fertilizer and map out water sources. Reuters reports that the project, led by the Netherlands-based Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation, has another potential benefit: The noise from the drones scares away birds, which help to protect the farmers' crops. One drone is capable of spooking away birds on a farm up to 3 acres in size, eliminating the need for farmers to patrol the land on foot. More than 2,800 farmers in rural Ghana are now involved in the project. - REUTERS

  • Email gray
  • Permalink gray

8. Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University is developing a system that trains drone software on how to autonomously film shots, potentially replacing cinematographers. Researchers used deep reinforcement learning to train a drone system about which types of aerial shots are most preferable to viewers, including the best viewpoints and changes in various angles. The drones can avoid obstacles and detect when an actor's face is out of view. The research will be presented next month at the 2019 International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems in Macau, China. - NEW ATLAS

  • Email gray
  • Permalink gray

9. Police in Massachusetts are investigating a drone sighting that occurred this week at Boston's Logan International Airport. A crew of a flight that departed Monday spotted the drone at a higher altitude than allowed, which was around 1,280 feet. It was reportedly flying only 4.6 miles away from the airport. A drone operator has yet to come forward. - AP

  • Email gray
  • Permalink gray

10. Video of the Week: Today's footage comes from wedding photographer and drone pilot Justin Barr (@StlFromAbove), whose aerial shots of the St. Louis area have captured the attention of nearly 18,000 fans on Instagram. You can view many of his videos on YouTube, like the one below of the St. Louis arch. 

  • Email gray
  • Permalink gray

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).

  • Email gray
  • Permalink gray

Subscribe to Inside Drones