Inside Drones - February 5th, 2020

Inside Drones (Feb 5th, 2020)

FAA proposes rules for drone package deliveries / Drone shuts down Madrid airport / Ben & Jerry's by drone

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1. The Federal Aviation Administration is proposing new safety standards for drones that deliver packages, marking a big step forward for companies like Wing and Amazon, which want approval to do widespread UAV deliveries. The proposal was outlined in a Federal Register filing from earlier this week. The FAA says its goal is to certify specific drones for package deliveries into a special class of aircraft like it currently does for helicopters or private planes. The agency, which didn't provide a timeline of when this could happen, said it's part of its ultimate goal to fully integrate drones into U.S. airspace. As Drone DJ notes, we're probably still a few years away from actually experiencing routine package deliveries by drone, but this a good first step. Similar to its remote ID proposal, the FAA is seeking public feedback on the delivery certification issue by March 4, and you can submit your comments here. - WSJ

2. China is using drones to manage the coronavirus, particularly in areas where there are fewer hospitals and ways of publicly communicating health information. Many cities are using drones equipped with cameras and speakers to monitor the public and audibly remind those who are not wearing a mask to put one on. ABC News reports that Chinese authorities have started using drones equipped with loudspeakers to get their messages across. Drones are also being used to clear out public gathering places that may contribute to the transmission of the disease. Officials have also started using drones in Zhongshan to monitor how hospitals are disposing of medical waste. In Shanghai, drones are being used to inspect traffic stops where drivers are getting their temperature checked. - SLATE

A version of this story first appeared in Inside IoT.

3. Madrid’s main international airport was shut down for two hours Monday after a drone was spotted in the takeoff area. Reports described it as one of the biggest drone-related disruptions in air travel since Britain’s Gatwick airport fiasco in late 2018. Two pilots at  Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport first noticed the drone shortly after noon as it was flying close to a runway flight path. The airspace and runways were promptly closed, and a total of 26 flights were rerouted. At 2:15 p.m., one of the runways was re-opened. An investigation to find the drone pilot is under way. - REUTERS

4. An expedition team used an underwater drone to explore and map a water-immersed cave in Namibia, Africa. Before the expedition, human divers had been unable to fully navigate the Dragon’s Breath Cave located beneath the sands of Africa's Kalahari Desert. Led by robotics systems designer Vickie Siegel, a team of divers and robotics engineers was able to traverse farther and deeper into the cave than before, with help from the SUNFISH underwater drone. The autonomous UAV relies on sonar mapping to get around, making it ideal for exploring caves and other unstructured environments. In this case, it was able to generate detailed 3D maps of the underwater cavern and other locations nearby, painting a clearer picture for scientists and future adventurers. “It explored a completely unknown place inside this planet beyond where humans had ever been before," said the expedition's leader. - DISCOVER MAGAZINE

5. The owner of Ben & Jerry's has partnered with a Japanese drone startup to explore drone deliveries of the chain's ice cream in New York. During a recent investor event, Unilever (which acquired Ben & Jerry's in 2000) showed off the drone concept along with its partner, Terra Drone Corporation. A multicopter drone carried three ice cream containers to a pre-determined location inside a Unilever facility in New York. The demo was part of Unilever’s service Ice Cream Now, which delivers the frozen dessert to customers via apps such as Uber Eats. "We want to solve serious problems in the logistics field, such as carbon dioxide emissions, with drones," said Yuki Ueno, director of Terra Drone Europe. - COMMERCIAL DRONE PROFESSIONAL

6. A man from Florida is facing federal charges after authorities say he flew his drone in an off-limits area of Miami Beach ahead of the Super Bowl. An FBI affidavit says Yorgan Arnaldo Ramos Teran, 46, used the drone to capture video of events going on in south Florida before the big game. But Teran reportedly flew his UAV in one of the FAA's No Drone Zones, where temporary flight restrictions were put into place around various locations in Miami, Miami Beach, and Hard Rock Stadium. While Teran had a certificate to fly, he apparently didn't have the required authorization from the FAA. The charges carry a maximum of a year in prison, although it's unlikely he would serve that long of a sentence. - DRONE DJ

7. A newly published patent reveals more details about Sony's proposed “flying camera” drone. The project has been under development since at least 2018 and resembles a compact camera when folded up (hence, we assume, the name). According to PetaPixel, users can remove the drone's backing cover to access its remote controller and display. Pilots would operate the device using the controller's touchscreen, using gestures like “pinch-to-zoom” or turning their fingers. It apparently also takes group photos automatically. You can check out the full patent here. - PETA PIXEL

8. The U.K.'s coastguard agency is looking into using drones for its search-and-rescue missions. Under the plans it's considering, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) would deploy drones to rescue sites before helicopters, boats and other teams arrive, potentially painting a clearer picture of what's happening and alerting crews so they can develop a better response in real-time. This could make it safer for human responders and boost overall efficiencies in rescues, according to Phil Hanson, the MCA's aviation technical assurance manager. - SKY NEWS

9. A Hungarian company is testing out drones for its massive light displays, but not in the way that you might think. Rather than using the drones to form 3D shapes in the sky, CollMot Entertainment is deploying between 10 and 50 UAVs together to form an airborne screen that generates smoke. This intelligent drone backdrop, or "canvas," can reflect the light from laser projectors, creating what CollMot's head of business describes as "the largest 2D and 3D laser displays ever seen." The major difference between this and your typical drone light display is that "here, we can visualize colorful lines and curves as well," he adds. - IEEE SPECTRUM

10. A new report forecasts that the Lidar drone market will grow to $392 million by 2025, up from $133 million this year. This could mean a big boost for companies like DJI and its subsidiary Livox, which mass produce lidar, or "light detection and ranging," tech and equipment for drones. The report, by MarketsandMarkets, projects a compound annual growth rate in the market of 24.2 percent from 2020 to 2025. - DRONE DJ

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.

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