Inside Drones - January 29th, 2020

Inside Drones (Jan 29th, 2020)

Airspace closed above Kobe Bryant crash site / Swiss Post drone deliveries resume / Evo II release delayed

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1. Shortly after a helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant and eight other passengers crashed in Californian hills on Sunday, the FAA was forced to close the surrounding airspace because so many people were flying drones and other aircraft above the site. The agency's restriction covered five nautical miles in all directions from the site in Calabasas, California, where Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others were killed. Business Insider notes that drones hovering above crash sites are becoming more common as operators try to obtain footage. But flying in these high traffic areas can be dangerous to both nearby planes and other aircraft, as well as people on the ground, the publication notes. On Tuesday, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board released drone footage of the wreckage site as its investigators seek to determine how and why the crash occurred. - BUSINESS INSIDER

2. The U.S. government still doesn't know who is behind the mysterious drones that have been spotted flying over eastern Colorado and Nebraska, according to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. The secretary recently told Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer that "We don't know who they belong to, we don't know who's operating them, to this day we do not." Reports about the drones began popping up in late December, describing the UAVs as flying in groups of up to 30 at the same time every night (from about 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.) Meanwhile, a controversial rule under consideration by the FAA could tackle such problems in the future. According to Chao, the proposed rule would require all drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds to have a remote identification system. She said that the rule is meant to boost safety and cybersecurity as well as respect people's privacy, but critics say it could make drone flights more expensive and drive out hobbyist pilots. - IBT

3. Switzerland's postal service has reportedly resumed its medical drone deliveries after they were suspended last summer when two UAVs crashed. U.S. drone company Matternet runs the deliveries, which transport blood and other medical samples between hospitals and labs. After the two crashes, including one that fell 50 yards from a group of children , the Swiss Post and Matternet created a board to go over their operations and safety procedures and suggest ways to improve. Michel Guillaume, one of the members of the review board, said the operations that the board analyzed "were at a high standard even before the incidents." The board still recommended changes including letting Swiss Post assume more control over the operations, improving Matternet's safety rules and hiring a head of safety (which it apparently already did). - BIOPHARMAPRESS

4. Autel says it will likely push back the release of its Evo II drone to March, a few weeks later than expected. During this month's Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Autel announced three Evo II drones, which include the Evo II, the Evo II Pro, and the Evo II Dual. The drones, which will compete with DJI's Mavic series, have 35-40 minutes of flight time, a range of 5.5 miles, and omnidirectional obstacle avoidance, as well as 8K video cameras. The Evo II is due to ship first and is expected to cost $1,495. Autel told DPReview that the delay was caused by a preproduction bug, which “could limit flight performance under normal operation." - DIY PHOTOGRAPHY

5. A bill making its way through the Florida legislature would allow state agencies to use drones to find and eliminate invasive species. According to the non-profit Nature Conservancy, invasive plants and animals are a larger problem in Florida than anywhere else in the U.S., partly because it's a point of entry for the majority of imported plants, as well as the world reptile trade. Managing invasive plants in Florida costs an estimated $100 million a year. But supporters of the new bill say it could put a dent in that figure by spotting species such as pythons using lidar-equipped drones. In particular, the drones could help locate a fern called lygodium, which is "wreaking havoc all over Everglades National Park and many other places in the state," according to state Sen. Ben Albritton. - THE JAPAN TIMES

6. Drones have been deployed over parts of Australia to search for wildlife injured from the ongoing bushfires. The effort is a partnership between Australian UAV, the Ripper Rescue Alliance, and WIRES, an animal rescue group. Equipped with infrared and vision cameras, the drones are searching for wildlife that might be hard to spot on foot, as well as locating areas where the fires didn't reach (and may have more animals that are alive). In the future, Little Ripper's drones could carry payloads of food and water and drop them around feeding stations for the animals. - DRONE DJ

7. In a multimillion-dollar deal, drone specialty company Draganfly is acquiring the drone service provider Dronelogics, the companies announced this week. Under the agreement, Saskatchewan-based Draganfly will pay out $1.5 million to Vancouver-based Dronelogics' shareholders. Dronelogics describes itself as a “solutions integrator for custom robotics, hardware and software that provides." Draganfly specializes in drone systems for a variety of industries, including mapping, agriculture, and public safety. In 2014, the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum included the Draganflyer X4-ES drone in a vertical flight exhibit, noting that it was the first UAV helicopter to have saved a person's life. - DRONE LIFE

Written and curated by Beth Duckett, a former reporter for The Arizona Republic who wrote a book about the solar industry and loves hiking in Arizona's Sonoran desert. You can follow her tweets here.

Edited by Sheena Vasani, Inside Dev editor.

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