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Inside Drones

Inside Drones (Oct 30th, 2019)

1. The DJI Mavic Mini costs $400 and will start shipping on November 11. Billed as the company's smallest and lightest camera drone, the Mavic Mini weighs 249 grams, which skirts the FAA's $5 requirement for registering drones above 250 grams. Its camera rests on a three-axis gimbal and records 2.7K video and takes 12-megapixel stills. The drone itself has a 30-minute flight time (higher than the Spark's 16 minutes) and a range of 2.5-miles, plus three flying modes, a downward-sensing vision system and stable hovering (but no obstacle avoidance or recognition). Here's what people are saying about it:

"Despite being so light, the Mavic Mini felt stable and precise during a brief test flight earlier this week." - Sean O'Kane, The Verge

"I was standing within a few feet of it having a conversation without shouting or having problems hearing." - Joshua Goldman, CNET

"When flying the drone in sports mode, it is definitely a lot more agile and fast. However, it doesn’t have that same zippy feeling that I remember from flying the DJI spark in Sport mode." - Haye Kesteloo, DRONE DJ

"I expect this to become DJI’s most popular drone to date, even more than the amateur-level Spark drone." - Nino Leitner, Cinema 5D

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2. Uber unveiled the initial design for its delivery drone, which it will use to test out meal deliveries in San Diego this summer. Eric Allison, the head of Uber Elevate, made the reveal earlier this week during the Forbes Under 30 Summit in Detroit. The six-rotor drone can carry one meal for two people and travel for eight minutes, with a round-trip delivery range of 12 miles. It won't be delivering orders the whole way. Rather, restaurants will load the prepared food onto the drone, which will fly to a pre-determined drop-off location, where an Uber Eats driver would make the final handoff. In the future, the company wants to land the drone on the roofs of parked Uber vehicles. - FORBES

What do you think of Uber's plans to deliver food by drone? Would you try it? Hit reply and let us know!

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3. A new study examined how easily airplane pilots can spot drones while approaching the runway, and the results are not good. In the study done by researchers from Oklahoma State University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, collegiate training pilots flying a a Cessna 172S were asked to identify any drones they saw - in this case, a DJI Phantom IV - while preparing to land. The pilots failed to see the quadcopter in 28 out of 40 cases of close encounters where the drone was moving. When the drone was motionless, the pilots noticed only three out of 22 instances. While statistics on drone sightings continue to go up every year, "what is being reported by pilots is probably just the tip of the iceberg," said Ryan J. Wallace, assistant professor of aeronautical science at Embry-Riddle. - INTERESTING ENGINEERING

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4. The Wall Street Journal used drone footage to show aging power lines in California, where such equipment has been known to spark wildfires. Massive fires are currently burning in Los Angeles and in the Sonoma Valley near San Francisco. Last year's Camp Fire was started when a power line fell from a transmission tower. According to the WSJ, the utility PG&E operates more than 5,000 miles of high-voltage wires in the state, which the publication showed via recent drone footage that you can view here (paywall). - DRONE DJ

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5. NASA wants cargo and/or passenger drones flying above at least one U.S. city by 2028, according to agency administrator Jim Bridenstine. During a speech at the Commercial UAV Expo in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Bridenstine described NASA's goal to have "at least one city -- maybe more than one -- have the ability to control hundreds of unmanned aerial systems" by the next 10 years. The idea is rather lofty, given that it will require a much more sophisticated drone traffic management system than anything out today. However, Bridenstine said that "We are moving fast," adding that the drones "could be carrying cargo or could be carrying people, doing thousands of missions every day." To bring the plan to fruition, NASA plans to host an urban air mobility grand challenge in 2022 that would incentivize organizations to jumpstart the technology, he noted. - CNET

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6. UPS has an all-female drone flight crew, who will lead future flights for the company. Sherri Roberts, Candice McHargue, and Caroline Furse are all UPS employees with experience at UPS Airlines, who are now a part of the company's Flight Forward division. According to UPS, each brings "their own skills to the team from past roles ranging from drone operator to maintenance supervisor." Last month, the FAA granted approval for the company's Flight Forward to operate a drone airline business, which it will use at first to deliver healthcare products and prescriptions to CVS customers - DRONE DJ

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7. Drones are banned in Islamabad, Pakistan, for the next two months to prevent people from flying them during the anti-government Azadi (Freedom) March. On Sunday, thousands of people set out from Karachi towards Islamabad to protest the country's government and weak economy and to call on Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign over corruption allegations. The protestors are scheduled to arrive in Islamabad on Thursday. The District Magistrate of Islamabad issued an order saying that drones "pose a unique threat" to the city during the protest, as they could be used by "miscreants to conduct terrorist acts in the areas that have been secured and safeguarded against the ground attacks." - THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS

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8. On Wednesday, Volocopter announced its first utility drone: the VoloDrone. Similar to the VoloCity taxi drone, the massive electric VoloDrone has 18 rotors and can carry a payload of up to 440 pounds. It's also has a similar size and top speed of 68 mph, but unlike the VoloCity, it's designed to carry cargo and equipment rather than passengers, according to Engadget. It could compete with the likes of Boeing's cargo drone, which can carry up to 500 pounds. There's no word yet when the VoloCity will hit the market. - ENGADGET

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9. A quadcopter delivered supplies to a U.S. Navy submarine off the coast of Hawaii. The October 10 test was a first for the Navy, which partnered with the University of Hawaii to make it a reality, according to local reports. A $50,000 Skyfront Perimeter quadcopter equipped with 5 pounds of medical supplies, food items, and circuit cards flew from Oahu to the USS Hawaii submarine at sea, which is a journey of over a mile. Rear Adm. Blake Converse, commander of the submarine force for U.S. Pacific Fleet, said drones can save the Navy time and money and allow submarines to remain in position. - HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER

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10. VIDEO OF THE WEEK: FPV Drone Pilot Petit Soldat captured some stunning shots of what appears to be various parts of Europe. According to one YouTuber, at least some of the video showed the France-Italy border. All the shots were taken with a GoPro Hero 7.

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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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