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Inside Drones (Oct 23rd, 2019)

1. Wing delivered its first FedEx package in Christiansburg, Virginia, last Friday. A Washington Post article described the delivery - the first in the U.S. for the Alphabet subsidiary - as “history in the making." The drone delivered a birthday gift from a distribution center to the home of Susie Sensmeier from her husband, Paul. As the Post describes, "The aircraft approached with a high-pitched whine, hovered in the clear sky above their front lawn and gently lowered a FedEx box containing a new puffy vest for Susie." Residents in Christiansburg can now order drugs from Walgreens and candy from local businesses as Wing undergoes its first drone deliveries in the U.S. following years of testing in Australia. - NEWSWEEK

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2. With Wing's first successful U.S. drone delivery, The Los Angeles Times poses the question: Who's at fault if a drone accidentally drops a package on someone's head? This was one of several thorny legal questions the publication tackled in a recent article. The answer - like most issues in drone-related law right now - is more tricky than it seems. In the case of an Amazon delivery drone dropping a package, for example, existing laws would likely apply and place blame on the drone operator and the company. However, if the drone operator is a subcontractor, the company "could defer responsibility to the contracted operator," according to Robert Heverly, associate professor of law at Albany Law School. Either way, the injured party would likely sue both and the liability issue would work itself out in court, he noted. - LATIMES

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3. Drone footage takes center stage in the BBC's upcoming nature series, "Seven Worlds, One Planet." The series, due out on October 27, is narrated by British naturalist Sir David Attenborough and co-produced by BBC America. At its premiere earlier this month, producers emphasized how much drones played a role in obtaining the footage, which includes aerial shots of 150 great whales feasting on krill and a penguin attempting to escape orcas. “There’s some incredible shots that you couldn’t really get from a helicopter, you can only get them from drones, and that was something that we wanted to bring to it," executive producer Jonny Keeling said. - DEADLINE

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4. CVS partnered with UPS to begin testing drone deliveries of prescriptions. UPS' drone unit - called Flight Forward - will begin the deliveries in at least one U.S. city in the coming weeks. It hasn't specified where or when, but it does have an FAA certificate for limited drone deliveries and plans to fly the drones on pre-planned routes that are expected to take 5-10 minutes. Flight Forward and partner Matternet also recently announced plans to deliver biological samples on University of Utah Health hospital campuses, similar to its deliveries at North Carolina’s WakeMed Hospital. - CNN BUSINESS

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5. The U.K.'s main police force is deploying a mobile counter-drone unit in the wake of the Gatwick airport incident. The team will be part of an overall government plan to "deter, detect and disrupt the misuse of drones," according to the U.K.'s Home Office. A document describing the plans said the goal is to "stop malicious and illegal drone use as early as possible, ideally before a drone is used in a crime." More than 1,000 flights were canceled, affecting 140,00 passengers, after drone sightings at London's Gatwick Airport last December. - SKY NEWS

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6. ParaZero, the developer of a parachute system for drones, recently received orders valued at $235,000. The firm will deliver the custom parachutes - which can be retrofitted onto existing drones - to drone manufacturers by the end of this year. Once the drones are equipped, the customer can apply for FAA waivers allowing them to fly the drones over populated areas. - COMMERCIAL DRONE PROFESSIONAL

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7. Drones equipped with special sensors could one day detect survivors in disaster situations. In a paper published Wednesday in the journal Remote Sensing, researchers at the University of South Australia and Baghdad’s Middle Technical University describe how they developed a system to monitor a person's vital signs from up to 26 feet away. In tests, the cameras successfully used special algorithms to distinguish between live bodies and mannequins. The researchers claim their computer vision system is more accurate than using skin tone or thermal imagery on drones to detect signs of life. - ITNEWS

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8. A drone equipped with heat-seeking capabilities located a missing boy in a Minnesota cornfield. The 6-year-old, named Ethan, went missing for 10 hours last week and a ground search failed to locate him. Authorities deployed a thermal drone that located the boy and his dog Remington lying in a cornfield a mile away from his home. Ethan said he was cold but not injured. - ABC NEWS

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9. Zipline tested more than 400 drone flights - including delivering fake blood supplies to platoons - on behalf of the U.S. Department of Defense and Naval Medical Research Center. The tests are a precursor to Zipline potentially delivering critical supplies to troops and victims in mass casualty disasters. The tests took place July 30 through September 5 in Australia, although media outlets reported on them just recently. Zipline's fixed-wing drones currently deliver medical supplies in Rwanda and Ghana. - CNBC

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10. VIDEO OF THE WEEK: Drone Snap shared this new clip of drone footage from a freestyle skiing and snowboarding contest. The famed FPV pilot Johnny FPV took the footage of the Audi Nines freestyle contest in Soelden, Austria. We hope you enjoy!

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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.

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