Inside Drones - January 22nd, 2020 |

Inside Drones (Jan 22nd, 2020)

Deadline to comment on remote tracking rule / Colorado drone sightings / New DJI drones coming out

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1. March 2 is the deadline to comment on the FAA's plan to require remote-tracking devices on drones, which continues to face scrutiny from the drone community. According to the FPV Freedom Coalition, remote IDs are similar to electronic license plates and would transmit data, like the drone's location or pilot, to federal agencies and law enforcement. If adopted, it would require all drones in the U.S. to become compliant within three years, Reuters reports. The FAA said such a requirement "would address safety, national security, and law enforcement concerns" about integrating drones more into airspace, "while also enabling greater operational capabilities."

Meanwhile, a thread on Reddit's r/drones criticized the rule, saying it will make drone flights more expensive and drive out hobbyist pilots, who want the freedom to fly alongside commercial drone enterprises like Alphabet's Wing. "What's really going on here is the big corporate interests have lobbied and helped write these rules," one user wrote. "They want regulatory protections so no one interferes with their multi-million dollar systems as they roll out commercial drone beyond line of sight delivery services." Another wrote: "So what’s the big problem with this exactly? Boy Scout operators won’t be able to use their drones as they like anymore?" - LEXOLOGY

2. The alleged drone sightings over Colorado are still a mystery, but theories abound about where they might originate. So far, the FAA hasn't come to any conclusions after reaching out to local drone companies and UAV test sites in the area. None was apparently the source of the drone flights, the agency said. Meanwhile, representatives from dozens of agencies, including the FBI, held a closed-door meeting in Brush, Colorado, earlier this month to discuss the sightings, but haven't reported anything new. Gov. Jared Polis reportedly deployed a state plane to try and track the drones down. Some conspiracy theorists believe they are UFOs, aliens, or a secret government project, which is supported by the fact that some of the drones have been spotted near F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming. But Seth Shostak, an astronomer with the SETI Institute in California, said that they are probably just quadcopters. “There’s nothing about these sightings that’s inconsistent with drone technologies, so why reach for the most extreme explanation?” - KMGH

3. China-based manufacturer DJI is preparing to launch at least three new drones this year, Drone DJ reports. According to Digital Camera World, the first drone - which would be the DJI Matrice 300 - could hit the market as early as this February. It would be followed by DJI Mavic Air 2 as soon as April, and the DJI Mavic 3 sometime this summer. The DJI Mavic Air 2 is described as “DJI’s first new consumer drone with ADS-B." Drone DJ also reports that we could see several other news drones from DJI later in the year, such as a new Matrice 600 and a potentially new DJI Inspire 3. - DRONE DJ

4. First responders used a drone to help rescue a woman who was injured in Utah's Snow Canyon State Park. According to Washington County Search and Rescue, the woman fell while hiking and injured her foot on Sunday. In order to bring her down safely, rescuers had to rappel her down a mountain, or give her a rope. The team attached 660 feet of twine to a DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual, which included an aftermarket drop system. “We gave that a shot and it actually worked,” rescuer Darrell Cashin said. “The canister was light enough for the drone to handle, didn’t have too much wind and so we flew the drone all the way up to where the guys were literally right to their hand. Disconnected that, flew the drone back down.” - KSTU

5. More drones are appearing over Christiansburg, Virginia, three months after Alphabet's Wing launched its commercial air delivery service in the town. Residents are said to be ordering the free drone deliveries on a daily basis. Through various partnerships, Wing is apparently operating drones to deliver gifts and snacks from Sugar Magnolia, medicines from Walgreens, and customized shipments from FedEx Express. According to Wing, most orders within the 4-mile range of its warehouse arrive within 10 minutes. Last April, the Federal Aviation Administration granted Wing with a small-sized air carrier designation, which allows multiple drone pilots to fly commercial deliveries at the same time. - WTOP

6. Stanford researchers have developed a PigeonBot drone that looks like, well, a pigeon. The experimental UAV has real feathers and biohybrid morphing wings that helped researchers test out a new way of making drones fly, Digital Trends reports. David Lentink, head of Stanford’s Bio-Inspired Research & Design (BIRD) Lab, said his goal was to create "bird-like aerial robots as a model for studying bird flight." The team and their technology were featured in a newly published research article in Science Robotics, writing that their flight tests demonstrated "that the soft feathered wings morph rapidly and robustly under aerodynamic loading." You can watch a YouTube video of the PigeonBot taking flight here. - DIGITAL TRENDS

7. A new Kickstarter campaign is raising money for a smart battery board, which shows a drone's battery health and status in an OLED screen. The idea is to help pilots feel more secure about their flight range, since the voltage doesn’t always accurately show a battery’s remaining capacity. People can add the Batmon, which is a small PCB board, directly to the drone, which then communicates the battery info to platforms like Arduino or autopilots such as PX4. As of Wednesday, 11 backers had pledged $933 toward Batmon's $7,800 goal. - GEEKY GADGETS

Written and curated by Beth Duckett, a former reporter for The Arizona Republic who wrote a book about the solar industry and frequently covers hobby and commercial drones. You can follow her tweets here.

Edited by Sheena Vasani, Inside Dev editor.

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