Eco-condoms to Ikea's veggie balls: the top 5 ethical living stories of 2015

Kimye got drought shamed and Ikea introduced horsemeat-free veggie balls. But what have we missed? Tell us in the comments below

There’s more to Ikea than its flatpack furnishings, something customers were reminded of not once but twice this year when the famous purveyor of the Billy bookcase announced it was adding veggie balls and certified seafood to its menus.

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via Eco-condoms to Ikea's veggie balls: the top 5 ethical living stories of 2015

Erica, the 'most beautiful and intelligent' android ever, leads Japan's robot revolution

Although the day when every household has its own robot is some way off, the Japanese are demonstrating a formidable acceptance of humanoids

Erica enjoys the theatre and animated films, would like to visit south-east Asia, and believes her ideal partner is a man with whom she can chat easily.

She is less forthcoming, though, when asked her age. “That’s a slightly rude question … I’d rather not say,” comes the answer. As her embarrassed questioner shifts sideways and struggles to put the conversation on a friendlier footing, Erica turns her head, her eyes following his every move.

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via Erica, the 'most beautiful and intelligent' android ever, leads Japan's robot revolution

Why Co-Bots Will Be a Huge Innovation and Growth Driver for Robotics Industry

The collaborative robotics sector is expected to increase tenfold by 2020
via Why Co-Bots Will Be a Huge Innovation and Growth Driver for Robotics Industry

US marines reject BigDog robotic packhorse because it's too noisy

‘They took it as it was: a loud robot that’s going to give away their position,’ said a military spokesman of Boston Dynamics’ LS3 quadruped

The US military is cooling its eagerness for robots in the battlefield, after trials with quadrupedal robot and nightmare machine Big Dog revealed one crucial flaw: it’s much, much too loud.

The Big Dog robots, first demonstrated almost a decade ago, are developed by Boston Dynamics, a Massachusetts-based robotics firm that was purchased by Google in 2013. They became well known through a series of impressive demonstration videos showing the machine keeping its pace over uneven and slippery surfaces, and even managing to stay upright after a strong unexpected kick from the side.

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via US marines reject BigDog robotic packhorse because it's too noisy

Robot panic peaked in 2015 – so where will AI go next?

This year experts from Elon Musk to Stephen Hawking warned about the havoc robots could cause the economy and humanity. How do we ensure machines are friends rather than foes?

Ever since IBM’s Deep Blue defeated then world chess champion Garry Kasparov in a six-game contest in May 1997, humanity has been looking over its shoulder as computers have been running up the inside rail. What task that we thought was our exclusive preserve will they conquer next? What jobs will they take? And what jobs will be left for humans when they do? The pessimistic case was partly set out in the Channel 4 series Humans, about a near-future world where intelligent, human-like robots would do routine work, or stand on streets handing out flyers, while some people worked (law and policing seemed to get a pass, mostly) but others were displaced – and angry.

In May, Martin Ford, author of Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of Mass Unemployment, described the concern for both white- and blue-collar workers as that Humans-style world approaches: “Try to imagine a new industry that doesn’t exist today that will create millions of new jobs. It’s hard to do.”

Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, says computers will 'get rid of the slow humans to run companies more efficiently'

Jobs that require careful human-to-human contact – such as hairdresser or surgeon – should survive the robot insurgency

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via Robot panic peaked in 2015 – so where will AI go next?

Robot reindeer wish you season's greetings – video

Engineering and robotics design company Boston Dynamics dresses up robots as reindeer. A female Santa Claus is pulled by three robot reindeer, wishing everyone ‘happy holidays’. Funding for the majority of the most advanced robots made by Google-owned Boston Dynamics comes from US military sources

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via Robot reindeer wish you season's greetings – video

Jibo Is as Good as Social Robots Get. But Is That Good Enough?

Cynthia Breazeal’s home robot wants to be your family’s new best friend
via Jibo Is as Good as Social Robots Get. But Is That Good Enough?

Robot looks after residents at Italian care home - in pictures

A care home in Florence is pioneering the use of a robot as a carer for its 20 elderly residents. Robot-Era is coordinated by the Robotics Institute of the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna di Pisa as part of the world’s largest experiment ever carried out using service robots, which involves 160 people in real-world environments over four years

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via Robot looks after residents at Italian care home - in pictures

Observer science quiz of the year – part 3

From giant fish to micropigs and lifesize personal robots – how much do you know about the scientific breakthroughs of 2015? Answers at the end

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via Observer science quiz of the year – part 3

The Robot Tractor of Manitoba: Powered by Pixhawk

Manitoba wheat farmer Matt Reiser has turned a tractor into a fully autonomous drone using little more than a Pixhawk and his own ingenuity. His automated tractor has saved him more than $5,000 in labor costs this year, but it hasn’t eliminated any jobs on the farm — instead, it’s made the workers he already employs more productive. In fact, when I first spoke with Matt about his project in August, his harvest for the year was already 75% done, which is unusually early. He attributes some of that to his new robot.

“I actually can’t believe it worked,” says Matt. “I’m as surprised as anybody.”

Behind this humility is a story of skill, risk, tenacity and technology, from an unexpected place—the expanse of the winter wheat farms of mid-western Canada.

Though Matt didn’t start his robot tractor project until just this past winter, as far back as three years ago he’d had the idea that an autonomous vehicle could handle the rote work of operating a manned grain cart. It’s an easy job. During harvest, you need someone to drive the cart up to the combine about every fifteen minutes so the combine can unload grain. The whole operation takes about five minutes. It’s such a simple job that Matt often has someone on the grain cart who isn’t even familiar with tractors; it’s only a job for a couple weeks a year.

Like many farmers, Matt had already been using tractors that have an autosteer function. Autosteer assists the driver by keeping the vehicles moving forward and back on a straight line. Matt didn’t think it’d be too big a leap from there to being able to send the cart automatically to specified points in his field, but he didn’t know where to start.

Then last year Matt came into a little Christmas money. He wanted to put it towards an RC plane, a hobby he’d had as a kid. Matt started googling and came across something new in the RC world: autopilots. When he saw the Pixhawk he realized this was the solution he’d been looking for: for less than $300 he could put a Pixhawk in his grain cart and essentially turn his tractor into a robot.

This all proved a little harder than Matt first planned on.


The project

“I knew nothing!” Matt says. “The Pixhawk had the communication all set, but I didn’t know anything about the architecture of the developer streams.” But he soon discovered and the ArduPilot community, whose ArduRover firmware was perfectly suited to his project.

“The community was really great, especially Philip Rowse and Grant Morphett,” Matt says. “My first post on DIYD was like, hey guys, I’d like to set this thing up. But I didn’t get much of a response because people didn’t know if it was even going to work. Once they saw it was going to work they were more than happy to help.”

The community could also act quickly to fix bugs. “There was this software problem, where if the radio lost connection and the vehicle was driving around it wouldn’t stop,” Matt explains. “Turns out it was a bug in the Rover code, but the community was on it, and less than 24 hours later Rover 2.5 had solved the issue. They also helped me out with these basic problems that RC experts would never have had in the first place. They were so patient.”

So was Matt: “I realized pretty quickly that this wasn’t going to work exactly, so I had to learn some programming skills.” He enrolled in an online coding course and learned how to write Python.

In applying the technology to the tractor, Matt first had to program the steering. “I thought that was going to be hard, but it turned out to be really easy.” He ran the signals from the Pixhawk into a board with a motor controller, which operates a hydraulic valve that’s already on the tractor. It sends 12 V to one side to turn the tractor one way, and sends it to the other side to turn the other way.

So the tractor steered, but with no feedback it only drove right/left, right/left, in a straight but kind of wavering line. Matt installed an angle sensor, so the Pixhawk could detect where the wheels were pointing, and after that the tractor maneuvered pretty well.

For speed control he made a couple of brackets for some linear actuators. “It doesn’t even need a clutch; it’s all controlled by the onboard computer. Throw it into forward and the tractor goes forward; put it in neutral and it’s like stop. The Pixhawk operates all of the physical controls.”

With the mechanics down, Matt needed an interface so an operator could control the tractor remotely. He applied his Python programming knowledge to writing an ArduRover interface using the DroneAPI from the 3DR site. “The interface looks like a kid with a crayon drew it,” Matt says. “It’s just a bunch of big colorful buttons. The guy who operates the grain cart is 60 years old. He had a hard time figuring out GPS, but has no problem using this.”


In the field

Of his first year of autonomy, Matt says, “It’s been huge! W’ve been getting way more done.”

When the combine operator sees that the combine hopper is full, he pushes a button on a computer, and the button says “start unloading.” The grain cart automatically comes to wherever the combine is, lines itself up, turns and drives right under the unloading bay, so the grain drops into the cart. The grain cart has four times the size of the combine’s capacity, so the combine can empty itself four times into the cart while it’s still moving and harvesting. The operator then just pushes the “empty” button and the cart pulls away, turns around and waits for Matt’s emptying cart to come over. “I can be running back and forth to grain storage and always keep the grain cart empty, so we never have to stop combining.”

“Sometimes it’s a little scary having a person drive the cart. Scarier than having the Pixhawk do it, for sure.” Matt’s devised a number of failsafes to stop the tractor—for instance, he can just pull the USB out of the computer and the grain cart stops. “Now the cart driver can do other jobs around the farm. So we’re doing more.

“The other thing we’ve saved, is we’re spilling less grain,” Matt adds. “When the Pixhawk drives, it’s a nice straight line, so nothing spills. No human error. It doesn’t wobble.”

Matt’s innovation appeals to neighboring farmers, and he sees increased autonomy as heralding an enormous change for the agricultural industry. In fact, he figures he’ll soon be able to sell his system to other farmers around him. And who knows, since he’s so far out in front of adoption, he might even be able to quit his day job, or at least hand it over.

I’ve been showing to everyone, neighbors and friends. Definitely recommend—. Plug into data port of tractor. Lots of interest. Big farm show in fall—Ag Days—speaking there this fall about building and open source.

His work has generated a lot of interest. His YouTube video of the tractor got over 100,000 hits, and he thinks he can sell some of his kits over the winter. He admits that some of the technical aspects are probably more than most farmers want to deal with, but he doesn’t anticipate that it will be too hard to integrate with the electronics, especially with tractors that already have autosteer. He’s speaking at a large farm show this fall—Ag Days—about building and open source technology. “It’s going to change farming,” he says. “This autonomous tractor stuff was coming, but what I’m doing will save money.

“I really want to express my gratitude to 3DR and everyone in the community who’s worked on these projects,” Matt says. “The ArduRover code, MAVproxy and Mavlink—I never would have been able to do any of this if it weren’t for the support of that community. They made it happen for me.”

The post The Robot Tractor of Manitoba: Powered by Pixhawk appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

via The Robot Tractor of Manitoba: Powered by Pixhawk

Video Friday: Happy Robot Holidays!

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos
via Video Friday: Happy Robot Holidays!

FAA Drone Registration Rules

This morning the FAA announced official rules for registering drones in the United States. Registration applies to a wide range of drone sizes, between .55 lbs. and 55 lbs., which, obviously, includes Solo and other 3DR drones. Below you’ll find a list of the FAA drone registration rules. Put simply, everyone needs to register. It costs five bucks and you can do it online. Registration officially begins on December 20, and if you already have a drone, you have until February 19 to register. If you buy a drone after December 21, though, you need to register before your first flight. The good news is if you register within the first 30 days (by January 20th), it’s free.

And if you want to see the FAA’s rules for flying hobbyist drones, check out our safety video.

FAA Drone Registration Details:

1. Registration is mandatory in the United States.

2. If you already own a drone, you have until February 19, 2016, to register; but if you register in these first 30 days (by January 20) it’s free.

3. If you buy your drone after December 21, you must register before your first flight; but again, if you register in the first 30 days it’s free.

4. Users must be at least 13 to register online.

5. The registration fee is $5, but—again—registration will be free until January 20th. It’s good for three years.

6. Right now you’ve got to register directly through the FAA. They’ll release in API in the spring (they’re targeting April) that we’ll immediately integrate into the Solo app. Until then you’ll have to go here to register.

7. All the information you need provide is your name, home address, e-mail address and the make and model of your drone. This generates a “proof of ownership,” including a Unique Number, which you must mark on your drone in a place you don’t need a tool to access. You’ll be able to use the serial number of your drone (found in Solo’s battery compartment) and avoid marking up your Solo.

8. This registration process only applies to hobby and recreational use. Business use rules still forthcoming.

Here’s the link for online registration.

To read the FAA’s full press release, click here.

If you’ve got any questions about FAA drone registration that this post doesn’t answer, feel free to ask us in the comments section below.

The post FAA Drone Registration Rules appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

via FAA Drone Registration Rules

Review: iRobot Roomba 980

An expensive new Roomba with features and performance to match
via Review: iRobot Roomba 980

Sex, love and robots: is this the end of intimacy?

Can’t find a partner? Don’t worry, the ‘sexbot’, programmed to meet all your desires, is on its way. Eva Wiseman explores the troubling world of sex robots

The world is ending. The sports fields are empty, the science labs closed. No babies have been born for years. Cut to a split screen of human and robots kissing passionately. “They’re trapped!” says the narrator, voice like gravel. “Trapped in a soft, vice-like grip of robot lips.” Words slam against the screen, a warning. “Don’t. Date. Robots.”

Except Futurama’s 2001 episode “I Dated a Robot”, with its post-apocalyptic world of silvers and blues, wildly overestimated how long it would take before this fear became flesh. It’s November 2015, and in Malaysia, where humidity is at 89% and it is almost certainly still raining, David Levy, a founder of the second annual Congress on Love and Sex with Robots, is free to talk on the phone – he is less busy than planned. “I never expected to end up here,” he says. I hear a shrug.

Hyped as the new wave in erotic tech, tele-dildonics are smart sex toys connected to the internet

When you have a robot at home, for cooking or sex, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to have a chat with it?”

Paedophiles and rapists, people who can’t make connections – they need therapy, not dolls

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via Sex, love and robots: is this the end of intimacy?

My droid: ‘I’m the type of person who shows that something can be done’

Richard, 48, an engineer and teacher who lives in Japan, spent four years and £22,500 building a beeping, head-swivelling, dancing R2 unit called R2-J1. What does it say about him?

See more photos of Richard and R2-J1’s day out

“I guess you could say I’m a Star Wars fan. People said my project was impossible, but I’m the type of person who shows that something can be done.”

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via My droid: ‘I’m the type of person who shows that something can be done’

Me and my droid - in pictures

Richard Napier, 48, is an American engineer living in Fukuoka, Japan. He spent four years and £22,500 building his own working R2 unit, called R2-J1.

Miranda Sawyer on what Richard’s droid says about him

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via Me and my droid - in pictures

Don’t Fly Your Drone up The Chimney to See If There’s Really A Santa And Other Imperative First Flight Principles

The media rumor mill this holiday season pegs U.S. drone sales at about a million. That stat is probably as puffed up as a mall Santa’s pillowed gut, but the grain of truth is there: drone sales will soar. (Like a mall Santa’s joy on December 26.) In light of this fact, here are some first-flight guidelines for all of the soon-to-be new drone pilots out there.

So: Giving the gift of flight this Christmas? Even to yourself? Then you might want to print this page and slip it in the box.

Well. This is pretty thorough. Check your paper tray.

The rules

The Solo app comes with a safety video that plays when you first open it. It’s quick, but packs important information. Here are the basic rules for recreational drone use in the US. (Ready for some don’ts?)

  • Don’t fly above 400 feet (Solo has an adjustable flight ceiling out of the box that helps prevent this).
  • Maintain line of sight as you fly.
Avoid other aircraft and stay five miles away from airports.
  • Don’t fly over crowds or stadiums.
  • Don’t fly near people.
Don’t fly over roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, prisons or other sensitive or trafficked structures/infrastructure.
  • Don’t fly over “no-fly zones” — these include certain metropolitan and government areas (NYC, Washington, DC, etc.) as well as national parks and other jurisdictions as determined by the FAA. Check out the fresh and reliable airspace information near you in Solo’s app-integrated AirMap software.
  • Adhere to local laws and ordinances, such as privacy or flying over private property.
  • And always, please exercise common sense.

Read the manual

At the risk of stating the obvious, Solo’s manual contains just about everything you need to know about setting up, flying and operating Solo. It also contains valuable precautionary information that might spare you a crash. We can’t say this enough: Please, please read the manual, especially if you’re a first-time pilot. Plus, it’s a weirdly good read: We’ve made it all clear and easy to understand, and most of its bulk consists of diagrams and illustrations — it’s not a tome of technical text by any means.

PS: Please read the manual.

For your first flight

Please take advantage of Solo’s safety information. We want our drones to be as safe to fly as they are easy, and part of that involves educating users — that makes us all better and more responsible pilots.

When you first open the Solo app you’ll see the aforementioned safety video. Watch it. It’s quick, it’s informative, and it is dope, my friends.

Next you’ll see the first of our Solo tutorial videos, which also automatically plays the first time you open the app. To learn more, several other Solo tutorials are available in the app under “flight school,” accessible from the main menu. These videos walk you through your first flight all the way to more advanced flight with Smart Shots.

Still a touch trepidatious? Call our customer support team toll-free at 1 (855) 982-2898, or direct at +1 (858) 225-1414. We’ll hold your hand as much as you need. (But after six or seven hours we reserve the right to kick you out of the nest.)

So you’re ready to get in the air? First make sure all batteries are charged (Solo’s battery should come about half-charged; the controller should be good to go).

Always fly Solo in a clear, open, wide area — this will ensure the most robust GPS connection to Solo.

Wait—what is GPS? And how does it work?

All consumer drones, Solo included, use GPS technology to determine their location and hold their place in the air. At the risk of telling you something you already know, GPS is an acronym for “Global Positioning System,” an American satellite-based navigation system that provides location information anywhere on (or just above) Earth—provided you have a clear line of sight and are connected to enough satellites.

Solo has to talk to several satellites at once to get a good “GPS lock.” This is critical for Solo to maintain self-control. With GPS, Solo will stay right in place, remember where its home is and can stop and stay still in the air when you let go of the sticks. You also need GPS to use features like the pause button and Smart Shots.

Without GPS lock, Solo automatically switches to manual mode, at which point the user will be responsible for its position and direction at all times. It goes without saying that if you’re a new user, it’s much more preferable to fly with GPS. In turn this means that you should always fly in a clear, wide area with no structures or trees around that might obstruct your satellite connections.

Wait again — what if I mess up flying?

We want you to fly with confidence from day one, so we’ve outfitted Solo with a bunch of safety features. Here’s a quick rundown.

AirMap integration: This month the Solo app will incorporate real-time flight safety zone information from AirMap. If you’re flying somewhere you probably shouldn’t be, Solo will let you know. You can dig deeper and scope out the area to find out why you can’t fly there, and where you need to go to enjoy your drone.

Pause button: Under the controller’s right joystick you’ll find the pause button. If you ever get turned around or nervous in flight, just hit pause and, at any speed, Solo will yank itself to a stop and hover until you get your bearings. It’s an emergency airbrake.

Return Home and Land: Still a little nervous? Just hit the button on the controller with a house and Solo will pop up a few meters in the air, fly back to where you took off and land itself.

Battery failsafe: The controller will alert you with haptic feedback and a message if you run too low on battery power. Get down to 10% and, sorry, but Solo’s coming home whether you like it or not.

Okay, ready to fly, for real this time

First power up the controller. Then power up Solo itself by hitting the button on the battery. Next, open your mobile device’s settings and connect to Solo’s Wi-Fi (for airtight security we recommend you change the Wi-Fi password soon as you can). Now open the app.

If you’re using an out-of-date version of the firmware or app, you’ll immediately see a notice on your app screen. If you have to perform an update, do it now — the app wirelessly updates all of Solo components. (You’ll also want to make sure your GoPro has the latest firmware update; this is so your Hero 3+ or 4 camera will be compatible with Solo’s GoPro control software.)

All good? Have the controller and the app connected to Solo? Okay, turn on your GoPro and place Solo on a solid, flat surface a few yards away, with the camera facing away from you. Tap “Fly Solo” on your app screen to get that live HD feed from the GoPro and you’re ready to take off. Hold the controller’s “fly” button and watch the green bar on the controller’s screen boost up. Hit and hold “fly” again — the props will spool up and Solo will fly up to about 12 feet off the ground. You’re ready to go.

Nose in!

When you’re learning to fly, always keep Solo facing the same direction that you are. If you turn Solo around to face you this is called flying “nose in” and is the mirror-image orientation of typical flight. As a result, the directions become inverted: Your left is Solo’s right. (Exactly the same as “stage left” being the audience’s right.) This means if you press the stick to send Solo left, it will move to your right. If you try to send it forward, it will go “backwards,” i.e., straight at you. Flying nose in can confuse even experienced pilots, so when you’re learning, always keep Solo turned “nose out” and away from you, so that you and Solo are facing the same direction.

Smart Shots

This will be the best part of your first flight. You’ll go from tentative manual flying to capturing complex professional aerial video with the touch of a button — once you experience Smart Shots, you’ll feel like they’re a cheat code.

Cable cam: Tap the clapboard icon on the lower left corner of your in-flight screen to access the Smart Shots menu. Select “Cable came.” This lets you lock Solo onto a virtual cable between specific visual frames that you set. (With Solo locked on a track, it’s also a really safe way to fly — just make sure no obstacles are in your way.) Now, find a couple of cool shots that you’d like to connect, a narrative to set up from beginning to end.

It’s this easy: Use your controller and screen like a camera, guiding Solo to set the exact frames you want. Solo’s photographic memory saves each frame and connects the two dots for you with a virtual cable. Now engage with Solo: Have Solo fly itself on the cable while you take complete control of the camera. Or flip it: You control Solo on the cable, with Solo’s computer handling full camera control or tilt-assist. Or hit “play” and let Solo do both, smoothly controlling the camera as it flies, nailing every frame just as you envisioned it, with something approaching magic in between.


Orbit: Get an iconic wraparound shot automatically by locking your GoPro onto any object with the push of a button. Orbit puts Solo on a circular track with an adjustable radius; fly either direction and Solo keeps the camera locked on your subject. Or push “play” and let Solo do it all. However, this Smart Shot can take your shots way beyond a flat circle…

Even cooler — adjust the circle’s radius and altitude in real time using the controller. This means you can create 3D spirals, corkscrews, ellipses — even improvise as you go. Create jaw-dropping 5-axis shots without ever worrying about copter direction or camera position. Try that with any other drone.

It’s this easy: Once Solo is in the air, point the camera at the object you want to film. Press the assigned “Orbit” button and the camera stays fixed on the object. The copter is now locked into a circle around the object. Control the speed and direction of Solo’s orbit and capture perfectly smooth wraparound shots with no uneven or jerky movements—or tap “play” and Solo will do it all. For those crazy, dynamic spirals, just use the sticks to adjust height and radius while Solo keeps itself on track.


Follow: 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 follow along in the air. Follow keeps the camera centered on you at all times, capturing your every move.

It’s this easy: Launch Solo and choose Follow. Now Solo is locked onto your mobile device—which must remain with your controller—and you’re ready to film all the action, as both director and actor in your story.


Selfie: Put yourself in the center of a scenic aerial reveal

Automatically put yourself in the middle of a scenic aerial reveal. As Solo flies itself up and back, your surroundings expand, building and revealing more and more of the world around you—it’s a portrait and a landscape all at once. Record the clip directly to your phone for easy saving and sharing.

It’s this easy: Put Solo on the ground in front of you with the camera facing you. Tap Selfie, press Fly and Solo will take off with the camera pointed at you, then fly back and up. When Solo reaches the peak of its flight (which you can customize), it will return to land right where it took off, getting an aerial zoom shot on the way back down. Now immediately save and share this unique selfie with others.

The post Don’t Fly Your Drone up The Chimney to See If There’s Really A Santa And Other Imperative First Flight Principles appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

via Don’t Fly Your Drone up The Chimney to See If There’s Really A Santa And Other Imperative First Flight Principles

Computer Learns to Write Its ABCs

Computer can not only write as well as humans, but invent new symbols
via Computer Learns to Write Its ABCs

ROS, the Robot Operating System, Is Growing Faster Than Ever, Celebrates 8 Years

From humanoids to industrial arms to self-driving cars, robots powered by ROS are everywhere
via ROS, the Robot Operating System, Is Growing Faster Than Ever, Celebrates 8 Years

Drones and Flamethrowers & Funerary Jars & The New Star Wars & Santa

To get the Drone Download delivered to your inbox, subscribe here.

Question of the week

This week we’ll keep it simple: I’d like to hear from those of you who don’t yet own a drone. I have a few questions.

PS: This isn’t so we can sell more drones. Answer only the ones you want.

  • Why have you held out on getting a drone?
  • If you eventually want a drone, why do you want it?
  • If you don’t think you’d want a drone, same thing — how come?
  • What about drones impresses or fascinates you?
  • What about drones worries you?

Leave your comments below!

And now, making your brain just a tiny bit more clouded with information, the very best links:



But was it just a float? A man received a summons for flying over the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. He was from Russia, watching the parade with his son, and said he didn’t know the rules against drone flights. (NBC)

Austin Haughwout — the kid from Connecticut who shot to international headlines with his homemade handgun drone — is apparently in an arms race with himself. He just built a flamethrower drone. It’s somehow still unclear if this is illegal. Also: Why in the world did I make this a headline? (The Verge)


Culture and commentary

Here’s a pretty informative and comprehensive top-level article from Time about the wave of drone purchases expected this holiday season, and what it means for consumers, the industry and the airspace. The media is starting to catch on.

But for you media carnivores who demand something a little meatier, here’s a Stratfor analysis and forecast re: the future of commercial drones in the US.

Best Buy (a Solo retailer!), in anticipation of these holiday drone sales, has collaborated with the Academy of Model Aeronautics in an effort to educate all of those new drone users. Best Buy will make these educational materials, developed with the AMA, available in stores across the country. (AMA)

All you anti-authority types out there might want to check out this pointed argument against the FAA’s proposed drone registry: “ineffective and unenforceable.” (Daily Signal)

Pinewood, the studio producing the new Star Wars movies, is worried about drones spying on production. They “were asked if Pinewood, which also owns Shepperton Studios in the UK and has joint venture facilities in sites including Atlanta, Toronto and Malaysia, was considering the option of shooting down drones that enter production facility airspace. ‘You may say that [but] I couldn’t possibly comment,’ he quipped. ‘We are waiting for the report. We will need to see what can be done.’ ” (The Guardian)



Lockheed has successfully demonstrated their air traffic control system for drones, using two drones in tandem to put out a fire without accident. They worked with NASA on the technology, which uses both geofencing and flight scheduling to deconflict airspace, and they expect to be able to transfer it to the FAA by 2019. (Digital Trends)

Not so fast, Lockheed: It’s being reported that the aerospace giant has sold about $900 million worth of minehunting drones that “don’t work.” (Fortune)

Drones are providing archaeologists with a view that would otherwise be deadly. A field of mysterious stone jars in Laos — thought to be involved in the funeral rites of an unknown vanished civilization — is also a field of unexploded bombs that US planes dropped during the Vietnam War. (For a number of years Laos was the most heavily bombed country in the world; an estimated two million bombs were dropped, with an estimated 30% remaining in the ground, unexploded.) With drone footage, archaeologists can finally access the site for study. (PRI)



Disrupting Saint Nick: Two years after the first big announcement, Amazon has unveiled what seems to be the real version of its delivery drone. (If you can get a close look inside, just see what you can see in there…) (CNN)

The post Drones and Flamethrowers & Funerary Jars & The New Star Wars & Santa appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

via Drones and Flamethrowers & Funerary Jars & The New Star Wars & Santa

Announcing Version 2 of the DroneKit Python SDK

DroneKit-Python is an SDK for developers to create Python apps that communicate with vehicles over MAVLink. It provides developers with programming access to a vehicle’s telemetry, access to status information, along with enabling both mission management and direct control over vehicle movement and operations.

The Python SDK is designed for use in companion computers onboard vehicles, supporting advanced use cases like high-level path planning, computer vision, 3D modelling and more. You can also use this SDK to control drones from desktop computers and ground station apps, communicating easily over a higher-latency RF link.

Version 2 is essentially a ground-up rewrite, taking into consideration the major pain points from our library while developing for Solo: performance, ease of use, ease of development, extensibility and testing. DroneKit-Python 2.0 is designed to make the on-vehicle development process easier, more efficient and more robust all around.

New Features in version 2.0:

  • Quick to get started: shortest example is just 3 lines of code
  • Embeddable as a Python library into any application
  • Multi-vehicle support in a single application
  • Create vehicle subclasses and add support for new MAVLink messages
  • Simplified state synchronization calls
  • Clean and comprehensive documentation and guides
  • Easy to debug and test with Software in the Loop
  • Extensive cross-platform tests (Windows, OS X, and Linux)


  • Documentation:
  • Guides:
  • API Reference:
  • Examples:
  • Forums:
  • IM:

The post Announcing Version 2 of the DroneKit Python SDK appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

via Announcing Version 2 of the DroneKit Python SDK

Canny Robot Rocks Out to Audio Programming

Being programmable through headphones could keep Canny relevant for decades
via Canny Robot Rocks Out to Audio Programming

Video Friday: Robot With Axe, Drone With Claw, and Droid With Kittens

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos
via Video Friday: Robot With Axe, Drone With Claw, and Droid With Kittens

Tech house of the future: take a look around

Smart ovens, living carpets, robot butlers and beds that remind you to have sex – then make themselves. Welcome to your home of tomorrow

Grab the keys and get set to unpack your boxes. It’s time to move into the future. But before you cross the threshold and command your robo-butler to get the kettle on, take a moment to stand back and admire this feat of engineering.

First off, traditional clay bricks are out. Future houses are likely to be eco-friendly, eschewing CO²-heavy manufacturing processes. Your home might incorporate building blocks constructed from natural cement churned out by bacteria (1), or be fashioned from fungi – indeed several companies including MycoWorks and EvocativeDesign are exploring the potential of mushroom-based materials. Alternatively, if retro-chic is your thing, super-insulating straw-bale panels appear to be in for a renaissance, while new developments with aerogels also promise a well-insulated abode.

Related: Self-driving cars: from 2020 you will become a permanent backseat driver

Pop in the raw meal and stand well back as its intelligent systems recognise the dish and know exactly how to cook it.

Related: Future of food: how we cook

Related: I had the bacteria in my gut analysed. And this may be the future of medicine

Related: Virtual reality gym brings all the benefits of a strenuous workout

The smart mattress cover will also inform you if you have not had sex for a while…

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via Tech house of the future: take a look around

From robo-toys to mechanical bears: your future carers may be robots

Japanese firms are betting on robots to look after our ageing populations in the future

Robot carers will be the next big thing coming out of Japan, if Toyota, Honda and other firms ploughing money into robo-helpers are to be believed.

From robotic toys that simulate pets for companionship, to big mechanical bears that can physically carry you between beds and wheelchairs – all with a friendly smile – the robots aren’t only coming to take your jobs, but to take care of older people too.

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via From robo-toys to mechanical bears: your future carers may be robots

30 Christmas gift ideas for tech-savvy children

Some entertaining and educational options for under the tree, from children’s tablets and coding board games to build-it-yourself robots and stargazer dolls

For parents looking to prise their children away from a life online, there are plenty of tangible, inventive, educational and/or entertaining physical products out there for the tech-savvy children of 2015.

Whether you’re a parent, carer, relative or family friend – and whatever your price range – you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to tech-related presents this year. Here are some of the best examples.

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via 30 Christmas gift ideas for tech-savvy children

FAA Task Force Recommends Registration for All Drones 250 Grams and Up

We take a close look at the FAA Task Force recommendations for mandatory drone registration
via FAA Task Force Recommends Registration for All Drones 250 Grams and Up

2015 Robot Gift Guide

The holidays are just around the corner, and it’s time to celebrate and reflect upon what new robots to get
via 2015 Robot Gift Guide

Drones and Mars 2020 & FAA registration guidelines & DHS privacy guidelines & racing on TV

To get the Drone Download delivered to your inbox weekly, subscribe here.

Question of the week

Yesterday the FAA released the recommendations of a Task Force (including 3DR) charged with developing best practices and guidelines for a national drone registration program. Remember that these are recommendations, not the final rules, which the FAA plans to announce by Christmas.

Here are the basics:

  • Drones between 250 grams (.55 pounds) and 55 pounds that are operated outdoors need to be registered.
  • The registration is owner-based, so one number can apply to all the drones an owner has. You can also register using your drones’ manufacturer serial number.
  • Registration will be mandatory at the time of operation and not the point of sale.
  • The owner’s name and street address will be mandatory (no P.O. Boxes).  Other information, such as email address or cell phone number will be optional.
  • No citizenship requirement or information.
  • Minimum age to register is 13.
  • No fee for registration.
  • Registration should be web-based.
  • A registration certificate will be emailed or mailed to the owner.
  • The owner registration number will need to be put on each drone, or you can register the manufacturer serial number.

Question of the week is simple: What do you think of these proposed guidelines? What works for you, what doesn’t? Suggestions of your own? Drop it all in the comments section below.

And now: all the drone stories fit to post.


The FAA Task Force (3DR included) has announced its recommendations for drone registration requirements and process. (The Verge)

3DR leads the commercial drone industry with our first-of-its-kind collaboration with AirMap, an airspace information company. This will allow us to give Solo users fresh and reliable information about airspace rules and warnings wherever they’re flying, available at their fingertips later in 2015 right in the Solo app. (Engadget)

New York City is considering using drones for disaster response, traffic jam monitoring and tree pruning. Unrelated: All of Manhattan is a no-fly zone. (NY Daily News)

A new bill introduced to the South Carolina state senate would prohibit low drone flights over private property — similar to the bill California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed this summer. (WLTX) 


Culture and commentary

The Drone Racing League has planned six races in the US for next year. They’d broadcast the races on TV as well as mobile, with courses seen only through the drones’ FPV. (Tech Times)

The New York Times explores the ramifications of drone registration for the holiday shopping season.

Zano Drone, makers of a palm-sized drone — and who raised the largest-ever Kickstarter series in Europe — has folded. Failed Kickstarters may be subject to legal action from their donors. (Ars Technica)

The Department of Homeland Security is preparing to release its privacy guidelines for drone use. The guidelines don’t apply to hobbyist drones, but to drones in civil use, such as border patrol and law enforcement. (Wall Street Journal)



The aerospace and defense firm Aero Kinetics released a study that suggests toy drones pose a bigger threat than birds to manned aircraft in all phases of flight. (Aero Kinetics)

Patrick Meier, a global leader in the humanitarian drone sphere, has announced the creation of WeRobotics. WeRobotics is a global network of labs — with partners in industry, research and academic spheres — which will develop ways to integrate robots (drones included) ethically, effectively and efficiently into different regions, in order to maximize their utility in a humanitarian framework. (iRevolution)

The Mars 2020 rover might have a companion flying drone. In 2009, the Spirit rover got stuck in a sand trap and died there. An aerial drone would serve as a scout to keep the 2020 rover from meeting such an ignominious end. The addition of the aerial perspective might triple the distance the rover can travel in a day. (Popular Science)



Last week San Francisco hosted the Flying Robot International Film Festival — here are the winning videos. 3DR sponsored, I attended, and more than a few entries blew my skull apart. Can’t wait to see what this festival looks like next year, with the addition of Smart Shots. (

The post Drones and Mars 2020 & FAA registration guidelines & DHS privacy guidelines & racing on TV appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

via Drones and Mars 2020 & FAA registration guidelines & DHS privacy guidelines & racing on TV

Announcing Solo App Version 1.3: GoPro control

Comprehensive GoPro control has arrived in the Solo App! In addition to other feature improvements, version 1.3 brings you in-flight access to GoPro camera settings. In the last release (1.2.1) you got the ability to toggle between standard video mode (shoot up to 4k w/ HERO 4 Black) and photo mode. Now you can use your Solo App to adjust the below settings on your HERO 4 Black (click here for HERO 4 Silver specs; here for Hero3+ Black), while you’re flying.

Can’t stop, won’t stop: In coming weeks we’ll release more new features for your Solo, including incorporating industry-first safe flight zone information from AirMap. You can learn more about that here. Other cool features soon to follow. Promise: You will say whoa.

To have the new functionality of this latest app update, you need to update both the Solo App and the Solo firmware. App updates are available on the App Store and Google Play, depending on your mobile platform, and the Solo firmware can be updated through the app. You can confirm that you’re using the latest versions right in the Solo App. Just go to settings -> system info.

Here’s the App store link (iOS).

Here’s the Google Play link (Android).

Here’s what your system info screen will look like if you’re all up to date:

solo 1.3 settings


GoPro settings:

  1. Video Resolution: Choose from a number of resolution options, including 4K, 2.7k, and 1080p
  2. Photo Resolution: Shoot up to 12 MP stills, with the option to select different resolutions. Different resolutions produce different detail and different file sizes: higher resolution gets you higher detail, but generally bigger file sizes.
  3. Auto Low-Light Mode: Your GoPro will automatically change ISO to account for lower light shooting scenarios.
  4. Protune on/off: Toggle GoPro’s protune feature.
  5. Video Frame-rate: Adjust how many frames your GoPro captures per second. Useful because different frame rates give your video different feels: 24fps or 30fps are what you’re used to seeing on film; 60fps is good for action; and 120fps allows you to transform your footage into slow-mo.
  6. Video Field of View: Choose between a wide, medium or narrow frame

Combined, the three main camera settings — resolution, frame-rate and field of view — determine the fundamental look and feel of your video. Here’s what we mean:

When you shoot 4K (best resolution quality) at 30 fps, you can only shoot with a wide field of view. These settings allow you to capture the most of the world around you.

However, we recommend using these settings to optimize your Solo video: 2.7k @ 60 fps in medium FOV. This setting makes your aerials feel more fluid (because an increased frame rate has smoother look) and, unlike shooting 4k, 2.7k allows you to shoot in a medium field of view, for perfectly justified video.

Shooting in 1080p is great for slo-mo, because in this mode you can shoot at 120 fps, which allows you to slow frames down in post and capture dynamic action moments in slow-mo.


Other updates in 1.3

  • Improved the tracking performance and smoothness of the Follow Smart Shot
  • You can now record video straight to your Solo App on Android devices
  • Smart Return Home: Solo won’t climb as high to return if it’s close to home. Solo will always climb a minimum of 2.5m. Click here for a full explanation of how this works.
  • Tuned vehicle flight performance for smoother footage
  • Solo will not enter Return Home due to battery failsafe if it is already in Land mode
  • Sharper white LEDs
  • New sound when Solo powers off
  • Refined stick control
  • Reduced haptic feedback on the controller
  • More clear alert for low controller battery
  • Solo can now take pictures through the Tower app – useful for taking pictures in certain locations for mapping applications

Note: PAL support available in coming update.

The post Announcing Solo App Version 1.3: GoPro control appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

via Announcing Solo App Version 1.3: GoPro control

Goodbye privacy, hello Alexa: here's to Amazon echo, the home robot who hears it all

We had Rory Carroll invite ‘Alexa’ aka the Echo into his home. There was helpful cooking assistance, endless facts and figures, an amusing misunderstanding – and concerns over what exactly Amazon does with all that interaction data

The experiment with having a robot in my home was going well – useful exchanges, mutual learning, some bonding – right up until the robot thought I told it to “fuck off”. I hadn’t. But the robot was convinced. It flashed its blue light and scolded me in a tone mixing hurt, disappointment and reprimand: “That’s not very nice to say.”

I could have laughed. Or shrugged. Or bristled, saying it had erred and should pay more attention before leaping to conclusions. I could have unplugged the thing.

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via Goodbye privacy, hello Alexa: here's to Amazon echo, the home robot who hears it all
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