Drones and Outer Space & Tony Hawk & Millions of Dollars & Millions of Drones & Singapore & Manitoba Polar Bear Feasts

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Question of the Week

This week the FAA made national headlines when it slapped SkyPan, an aerial photography company that provides its services to major real estate entities, with a $1.9 million dollar fine. The dollar amount dwarfs the FAA’s previous largest fine of $18,700 by orders of magnitude. Motherboard was all over the story, and published a fascinating account of the FAA’s determined and rigorous investigation into SkyPan’s operations, an investigation that lasted from 2012-2014. Mandatory reading if this story interests you.

It’s a significant moment: The FAA is signaling that it’s going to start taking its enforcement role more seriously—in the Motherboard article, an FAA official is quoted as saying the agency is “clearing through its backlog” of similar investigations. It also raises again the as-yet unresolved question of just what the FAA’s jurisdiction over drones really is, an issue addressed in last year’s Raphael Pirker case but ultimately unanswered in the final ruling.

Interestingly enough, SkyPan now holds a Section 333 exemption for commercial use from the FAA—which means that the FAA recently deemed the aerial photography company worthy of conducting the very types of commercial flights that the FAA had already been investigating as illegal for months.

No doubt this case will be protracted in the courts, far from a cut-and-dried decision. But just for kicks, what do you think the outcome here might be?

Will the FAA’s fine stand? Will it be reduced? Will the FAA successfully assert its claim of jurisdiction over even small drones as aircraft? Will it also then secure its claim that all drones are subject to regulation as part the agency’s assignment to keep the National Airspace safe?

Or will SkyPan prevail, defending its right to have operated as a commercial entity during an era when the FAA’s jurisdiction over drones was as-yet undefined?

OR will the courts demur again, pushing the tough questions back further?

I’d love to hear what you have to say. Leave your comments at the bottom of this post.

And now, the links that mattered this week…



This isn’t exactly news to folks following this industry, but the FAA has now officially missed its deadline for integrating drones into the National Airspace. The agency was charged with developing rules and regulations for commercial and civil operation, but has so far released nothing beyond its draft of proposed rules back in February. Experts don’t think the official rules will be finalized and implemented until sometime late next year and maybe even 2017. (The Verge)

What’s more, the FAA doesn’t think that people in the US will be able to fly drones without “direct human oversight” for three more years. That’s bad news for delivery drones and some industrial inspection — such as railways and gas pipes — as well as habitat protection and search and rescue and agriculture and, well, the list goes on, doesn’t it? (The Guardian)

What’s even more, the FAA said it expects that over one million drones will be sold this holiday season. (Quartz)

California Governor Jerry Brown vetoes more drone bills, which he views as superfluous, writing that “each of these bills creates a new crime — usually by finding a novel way to characterize and criminalize conduct that is already proscribed.” (LA Times)

In Albany, New York, a man was charged with Reckless Endangerment and Reckless Endangerment of Property after he crashed drone into the chimney of the State Capitol. (CBS Albany)

And the New York City teacher who crashed a drone into the US Open was sentenced to community service. (NBC New York)


Culture and Commentary

3DR launched a sci-fi short film series shot entirely on Solo. We’ve got six episodes scheduled for a serial rollout through the end of the year. (Fast Company)

But we may be just a little too late: AXS TV is broadcasting a 90-minute special of the top selections from this year’s New York City Drone Festival. There’s always next year. Barring global catastrophe. (AXS TV)

Vimeo offers a helpful tutorial on how to capture five staple drone shots: The fly-by; the reveal; the chase; the high-pan; and the explorer. Or you can just use Smart Shots.

This summer, a group of scientists from the American Museum of Natural History, who have spent five decades studying polar bears in Manitoba, teamed up with the University of North Dakota UAV department. They conducted drone flights to study the explosive geese population in the province, and the polar bears who feed on them. They’re the first group to receive a permit to use drones in a Canadian national park. (KFGO)

The new Tony Hawk video game has camera drones as targets for players to destroy. (Petapixel)



The crew of the International Space Station will receive three drones to help them with various routine tasks. One such task is monitoring the sound levels in the station, which can grow loud enough to damage hearing; these inspections take two hours to conduct manually. The drones (called SPHERES and developed at NASA’s Ames laboratory) will use carbon jets to propel themselves in zero gravity. (The Economist)

The FAA is testing new anti-drone technology that can detect drone radio signals, trace those signals to the pilot and force the drone to land. The technology could be deployed around no-fly zones, such as a radius around airports or in National Parks. (CNN)

Singapore’s postal service conducted its first successful drone delivery, transporting a small package containing a letter and a t-shirt: five kilometers in five minutes. (Bloomberg)



A drone video shot by Greenpeace shows spooky smoke rising from a forest fire in Indonesia. (Time)

The post Drones and Outer Space & Tony Hawk & Millions of Dollars & Millions of Drones & Singapore & Manitoba Polar Bear Feasts appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

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Watch Flyability's Flashy Drones Dance Around a Forest at Night

You wouldn't want to try this with any other drone
via Watch Flyability's Flashy Drones Dance Around a Forest at Night

Robots are coming for your job ... and that's not all – Tech Weekly podcast

Robots aren't just after your job, they're after the overthrow of the whole economic system Continue reading...
via Robots are coming for your job ... and that's not all – Tech Weekly podcast

Announcing Solo Version 1.2

Solo Version 1.0 brought you Smart Shots and an array of other breakthrough features with the world’s first smart drone. Version 1.1 brought you the Solo Gimbal, delivering three-axis intelligent stabilization, automated cinematic camera pointing and the ability to start and stop recording directly on your GoPro from the ground.

This new Solo Version 1.2 is the next step up, with significant improvements to the robustness of the Solo system across the board.

This is to say we’re doing better than one system update every other month. Which to me, from a layperson’s perspective, is actually pretty amazing: Our engineers can change physical properties of Solo through software, which is essentially an intangible means. That’s why we can deliver continual improvements and features for free, and why your Solo will only get better with time.

We’ve also been committed since Solo’s release to keeping an ear to the ground and listening to what our users have been experiencing. These updates will not only deliver new features and improvements from our end, but will directly address things on your end as well.

The new Solo software Version 1.2 will be released today, 10/6, with an accompanying app update for iOS and Android coming soon, and which is currently pending the app review process.

Here’s a brief rundown on Version 1.2

  •      Smoother gimbal performance at all tilt angles
  •      Improved gimbal initialization
  •      New gimbal motor protection algorithm—you can push its limits further
  •      Networking improvements to increase range in crowded WiFi environments
  •      Automatically shut down the GoPro with Solo’s power button
  •      Smoother controls in and out of Smart Shots
  •      General reliability improvements

The post Announcing Solo Version 1.2 appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

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Jumping Spider Robot Uses Tether for Controlled Jumps

Spiders use silk tethers to help them make controlled jumps, and now robots do too
via Jumping Spider Robot Uses Tether for Controlled Jumps

3DR: World’s first—and best—Follow drones

Solo, the world’s first Smart Drone, also has the ability to follow and film your every move. It’s not the only drone out there that can do this—3DR launched the world’s first follow drone software in June of last year, which worked with 3DR’s IRIS and IRIS+ personal drones that preceded Solo. Follow (sometimes called “Follow Me”) has since become such a high-demand feature that several companies have developed their own versions; some drones are even built now to function exclusively as follow drones.

However, those drones are still following 3DR. Solo’s Follow mode—one of its four computer-assisted Smart Shots—is a step ahead. Smart enough to work dynamically with the subject you’re filming, Solo’s Follow doesn’t simply keep the camera on you so you stay in the center of the action; you can interact with Follow in real time on the Solo app, changing its parameters for truly dynamic shots that you can’t replicate with any other system. 3DR’s Follow is like giving your GoPro a superpower.

Here’s what we mean—and watch the video below for Follow in action, from setup to execution.

Go completely hands-free. Whether you’re taking the road less traveled with your friends, cruising your boat around the lake or just out exploring the world, Solo will automatically keep up with the action from the air—at air speeds up to 55 mph. By taking the camera operation out of the equation, Solo frees you to focus on doing what you love. Now your aerials can track with cars and other vehicles without incurring the expense or risk of a manned helicopter.

But this follow drone is not only ideal for filming from incredible and previously impossible angles in adventure and action sports, it’s also an amazing and truly dynamic storytelling tool. Solo’s exclusive onboard computer intelligence gives you the added flexibility of changing angles, distances and altitudes while in flight—even have Solo orbit you for a wraparound shot as you move; all possible because Solo can control camera position. Right in the Solo app you can change the length of Solo’s virtual “leash” and even its position in space. The app even lets you combine Follow with an orbit, so with just a couple of taps Solo will circle your subject at a distance you select, even as your subject moves.

Taken all together, this means that with Follow you’re not just the director behind the camera; but you can also be an actor and participate in the adventure that you’re filming. And as a director, you can now do a whole lot more with a truly dynamic Follow. The possibilities are vast, dynamic and exciting. Plus, Solo can really haul, keeping up with the action even at highway speeds.

It’s this easy: Launch Solo and choose Follow. Now Solo is locked onto the GPS signal from your mobile device—which must remain with your controller—and you’re ready to film all the action. The GPS signal refreshes 30 times every second, and it changes based on velocity as well—this ensures that when Solo is in Follow it will always be keyed on your position. And unlike any other drone system out there, Solo also controls camera position and tilt (through the Solo Gimbal), so all of your follow drone shots are sweeping and smooth. And since all of the flight and camera control are fully automated, you’re completely hands-free to focus on the activities you love as Solo captures it all. Check it out below!

The post 3DR: World’s first—and best—Follow drones appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

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After driverless taxis, where next for robots? | Joel Golby

Increased automation means humans will soon be able to delegate menial tasks such as putting out the bins and watching The Wire

Driverless robot taxis are set to be trialled in Fujisawa from March next year, which is either an irreversible stepping stone on the path towards the inevitable robot apocalypse – our destruction coming not from Skynet launching a nuke at us while we all play innocently in a playground surrounded by a chain link fence, but instead from a load of cabs turning en masse and ramming into us until we’re ground down to nothing but mince and bone debris – or, less importantly, just one step towards wiping out cabbies altogether.

Related: Driverless robot taxis to be tested in Japanese town

Related: No sex, please, they're robots, says Japanese android firm

Continue reading...
via After driverless taxis, where next for robots? | Joel Golby
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