Drone Download #13: Facebook breaks the law; drones for good in Syria; the true meaning of helicopter parenting

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Question of the week

Last October we published a piece on the Syria Airlift Project, an inspiring endeavor led by Mark Jacobsen, a grad student at Stanford and former Air Force pilot, with the mission statement of “using humanitarian drones to end the use of starvation and medical deprivation as weapons of war.”

The SAP plans to fly swarms of autonomous APM-powered drones from Turkey into parts of Syria too dangerous for manned flights, delivering lightweight payloads of essential medicines and foodstuffs to the besieged and suffering people there. The SAP has proven the viability of its technology after several months of research in California, and this week they launched an Indiegogo campaign to help them raise the money they need to take this technology to Turkey. After one day, they’ve raised over $10,000 of a $50,000 goal.

The SAP is ambitious, but apolitical—it’s about helping the people. If you want to help them help, please visit their campaign page.

Which brings me to the question of the week:

What do we call these things?

The word “drone” has connotations we can’t ignore. But we also can’t ignore the fact that we do make drones. We also can’t ignore the fact that the word is out there, everywhere—it’s impossible to simply delete, and at this point there seems little practicality or point to a public re-education campaign. To make it worse, we can’t seem to come up with a suitable euphemism—UAV, UAS, sUAS, RPS, quadcopters—none of them sound good (if anything, acronyms make the technology sound even more martial), and we can’t agree on which one’s the “best,” anyway.

And yet here we have drones flying over a war zone in the Middle East—unequivocally for doing good. It’s an amazing, and, to me, incredibly touching turn of technology. The language captures this turn in a particularly poignant way.

So what do you think about the word “drone”? Should we avoid it in the hopes that we can differentiate drones for good from drones for war? Should we embrace it and own it, the way many marginalized groups have successfully embraced epithets, and trust that with more efforts of groups like the SAP “drone” will soon have an entirely new meaning? Or in the middle: Should we maybe always consciously alter it in some way, attaching words like “consumer” or “commercial” in the interest of clarity?

I’d like to hear from you: roger@3dr.com

And now, the links that matter:



Did Facebook break the law with this aerial picture? (PC World)

Tokyo police arrested a man who landed a drone carrying radioactive material on top of the prime minister’s office. The man claims it was an act of civil disobedience intended to protest the government’s nuclear energy policy. The sand had only trace amounts of radiation, not harmful to humans. (BBC)

Officials at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area want to keep drones at bay. But it’s a national park—the laws against flying are already on the books. (Marin Independent Journal)

Drones deliver marijuana to inmates in a South Carolina prison. (Fusion)

And the inevitable late-night take on that same story. (NBC)

Drone Laws

(Note: Last week the FAA closed its window for public comments on its Notice of Proposed Rule Making. Lots of folks wrote about it. If you want to dig into that stuff, here’s the best; if you’d rather read about dinosaurs, scroll down immediately.)

What the FAA can learn from Europe’s drone integration roadmap—most notably, let’s get a framework in place for microdrones. (TechCrunch)

But the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority admits its drone rules are out of date: “The whole thing has been troubling me for the last six to nine months,” said Gerry Corbett, directorate of Airspace Policy at the CAA. (International Business Times)

Do the FAA’s proposed rules threaten to stifle American innovation? “Rather than worry about hypothetical harms with relatively low risk, government policy should encourage what is known as “‘permissionless innovation.’” (Mercatus.org)

Friend of 3DR Matt Waite—the founder of the first university drone journalism lab (and first university drone journalism lab to get a cease-and-desist letter from the FAA) offers his comments on the FAA’s proposed rules—specifically addressing drones in journalism. (Drone Journalism Lab)

The Small UAV Coalition (we’re a member) came out in support of the FAA’s NPRM, but still advocates hard for a specific class for microdrones. (smalluavcoalition.org)

Does the advent of this new aerial age require the drafting of new privacy laws? The FAA was recently sued over its NPRM by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), because the proposed rules didn’t address privacy. Others argue that privacy laws currently in place extend easily and naturally to drones. (Christian Science Monitor)


As promised: Drones track dinosaur migration patterns across Australia. (Mashable) 

South Korea announces development of a VTOL drone that can fly at speeds of 300 mph for 6 hours. They say mass production won’t begin until 2024, but North Korea counters that it already has one that can do 310 mph in a headwind while drawing sky portraits of certain cherished leaders, in color.

IKEA thinks drones will change your whole kitchen landscape. On-demand drone grocery delivery, they say, could potentially make refrigerators obsolete. (Citylab)

The company Matternet will use drones to deliver mail in Switzerland this summer. (Techspot)

Talk about helicopter parenting*!

Video: Dad watches over daughter with drone as she walks to school. (Local 8 News)



The post Drone Download #13: Facebook breaks the law; drones for good in Syria; the true meaning of helicopter parenting appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

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Drones for Good: The Syria Airlift Project could use your help

Last October we published a piece on the Syria Airlift Project, an inspiring endeavor led by Mark Jacobsen, a grad student at Stanford and former Air Force pilot, with the mission statement of “using humanitarian drones to end the use of starvation and medical deprivation as weapons of war.” Today they’re looking to raise money to put their technology into action.

The SAP plans to fly swarms of autonomous APM-powered drones from Turkey into parts of Syria too dangerous for manned flights, delivering lightweight payloads of essential medicines and foodstuffs to besieged and suffering civilians there. The drones are capable of delivering high-value, low-mass goods like medical supplies, water purification kits, vitamins and baby milk. “Operated at scale,” Mark says, “we could even deliver meaningful quantities of food.” The drones are assembled by hand and cost less than $500 a piece; they return home by themselves, and any critical technology can self-destruct if necessary. An estimated 600,000 Syrians live day to day in these remote, war-ravaged areas.

The SAP has proven the viability of its technology after several months of research in California, where they taught groups of Syrian and Iraqi families, including children, how to operate the drones. The teams conducted a successful exercise there last month, and they’re now ready to take this technology from testing to Turkey. To that end, this week they launched an Indiegogo campaign to help them raise the money they need. They face some not insubstantial hurdles in execution (not the least of which is cooperation from Turkish authorities). After one day, they’ve raised over $10,000 of a $50,000 goal.


Everyone was involved in running preflight checklists, which included prepping the bungee planes and bungee launcher, operating the ground station, and doing flight control checks. Children were the team’s most enthusiastic operators.


“Our vision is to train Syrian refugees to operate these aircraft, giving them the opportunity to bring healing and hope back to their shattered country,” says Mark. “A generation of children that has only known war—a generation that looks to the sky in terror of barrel bombs—will soon look up in anticipation of life-giving aid.”

The SAP is ambitious, but apolitical—it’s about helping the people. Their logo is derived from the flags of both the rebels and the Assad government. If you want to help them help, please visit their campaign page.


To learn more about the Syria Airlift, check out this great piece from the BBC, with video.

The post Drones for Good: The Syria Airlift Project could use your help appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

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DORA Telepresence Robot Gives You Fully Immersive Experience

"You feel like you are transported somewhere else in the real world"
via DORA Telepresence Robot Gives You Fully Immersive Experience

Robots, hot desking and heat sensors: meet the office of the future

Businesses are investing in technology to enable flexible and home working – but what does this mean for the traditional office? Matthew Jenkin investigates

Meet Jenkins Steel – the latest recruit at First Light PR. The newest member of the team is already creating a buzz (quite literally) at meetings, chatting to clients and sharing ideas with colleagues around the office. But Jenkins is no ordinary public relations officer – he’s a robot.

The idea of artificial intelligence working alongside humans has obsessed sc-fi fantasists for decades. Unlike the horrifying visions depicted in movies such as Terminator or Alien, First Light’s alliance between man and machine is far more harmonious. The device, which is closer to a Segway with an iPad on top than the deadly T-1000, is controlled remotely using an online tool. The user can navigate it easily around the office, and thanks to a live two-way video feed, can communicate directly with anyone in that location.

Continue reading...
via Robots, hot desking and heat sensors: meet the office of the future

Robots and dinosaurs as Japan holds 'Niconico' offline gala

Robots and dinosaurs mingled with cosplayers as Japan's largest video-sharing website Niconico on Saturday opened its two-day meet-up gala which is expected to attract more than 100,000 fans for the offline get together.
via Robots and dinosaurs as Japan holds 'Niconico' offline gala

Tiny robots climb walls carrying more than 100 times their weight

The two robots borrow techniques from both inchworms and geckos to climb up walls while carrying huge loads

via Tiny robots climb walls carrying more than 100 times their weight

Video Friday: Sphero Droid, Drone Jogging, and Robot Feeds You Marshmallows

Your weekly dose of robot videos is here
via Video Friday: Sphero Droid, Drone Jogging, and Robot Feeds You Marshmallows

Will the Whill Hi-Tech Wheelchair Sell?

A Japanese startup is betting that an aging population of tech savvy first adopters will want their super-wheelchair
via Will the Whill Hi-Tech Wheelchair Sell?

Battle lines drawn around the legality of 'killer robots'

The future of lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS) – often referred to in the popular press as "killer robots" – remains uncertain following a week-long meeting in Geneva to discuss their legality.
via Battle lines drawn around the legality of 'killer robots'

Solo: The drone made for beginners; made for pros; and made for GoPros

Why GoPro, you ask? Well…

When we designed Solo, we didn’t want to be handcuffed to any tradition, no matter how deeply ingrained. For instance, up until now all 3DR platforms, in accord with our rich open source tradition, were optimized only for Android mobile devices; Solo marks a big departure here—the advent of our first (and very cool) app with both iOS and Android support. We also completely rethought our visual ID and branding, then deconstructed the clunky and complex RC tradition and created an entirely new type of controller. Further, we revised the entire drone user experience: No longer is it centered around flight (looking up), but around making flight so easy and effortless that it’s almost forgettable, all in service of consistently getting perfect shots (looking back down)—in every sense a true re-vision.

So naturally we gave a lot of thought to the type of camera Solo would carry. On one level, it seems patently obvious that Solo, like the IRIS+ before it, should be made for GoPro. When we went out and actually asked drone users about this we found that GoPro is the camera they most want to put in the air—50:1. There’s simply no better sub-100g camera on the market. This is important to us as manufacturers because lightweight cameras mean lightweight overall systems, which in turn means they’re safer, more portable and more convenient to shoot with. And it’s actually thanks to the size and popularity of GoPros that drone photography was able to evolve at such a rapid, almost epidemic pace in the first place. Tough, dependable, affordable, lightweight and able to shoot extremely high quality video in up to 4K: GoPros seem like they were ready-made for drones, right? …


But that doesn’t necessarily mean a drone should be ready-made for a GoPro. We’re engineers, technologically agnostic: We don’t take anything for granted, and we didn’t want to discount any options.

Among these options was making our own camera, one perfectly matched to our platform, one Solo could fully control inside and out. But we knew that we—a drone company—couldn’t produce a camera that could touch the quality or reliability that you get from a GoPro, a company with years and years at the top of the action camera market, and who defines the leading edge of camera technology. To think otherwise would be hubristic. Plus, people want to use their GoPros—they’re incredible cameras, a trusted name with good reason—and they keep getting better. We didn’t want to impose a new and unfamiliar camera on the user experience, and in the 3DR spirit we wanted to keep Solo receptive to future advancements in camera technology.

We also didn’t want to handcuff you to a drone, making you buy a whole new drone just to get better camera features—as GoPros get better, your drone should get better. Speaking of being handcuffed, with GoPro, you’re not dealing with a camera that’s just fixed to your drone. GoPros are renowned for versatility and durability—use them anywhere, even underwater, to film almost anything. Pop one on your drone and just pop it off again when you want to shoot something else.

Alternatively, we could have chosen to make Solo a platform for high-end cameras. While image quality would improve, this option would make Solo a more exclusive product, at a price point out of reach for most people. We’re a democratic company and we designed Solo to make a pro-quality aerial photography experience easy and accessible for everyone, so that was a no-go, too.

But what about the fisheye factor—and losing image quality due to the necessary compression in post-production? This really isn’t much of a worry. GoPros deliver such high quality imagery that even Hollywood production houses use them regularly—even Michael Bay’s movies. If they’re good enough for Hollywood—and the image quality survives all of the compression that Bay’s super high-tech and demanding post-production process must heap on it—then they’re good enough, period. After all, GoPro HERO4 Black has you covered all the way up to 4k. And as for the fisheye effect, that’s a quick and easy fix in the free GoPro Studio software that comes bundled with your GoPro.

How easy, you ask? This easy.


But to keep ourselves open to new ideas, rather than closed to one camera in particular, we decided to keep Solo’s gimbal bay open so that we—or any third party—could develop new gimbals for other cameras and sensors, giving them access to all of Solo’s capabilities and intelligence. Want to fly that new BlackMagic action camera? You won’t need to buy a whole new Solo BlackMagic.

Lastly, we could have sought to partner with another company to make Solo a perfectly tailored platform for another camera model. But GoPro is trusted, GoPro is everywhere, GoPro is growing, GoPro is the best.

It had to be GoPro. For a smart drone, this was a no-brainer.

But GoPro drone photography still hadn’t yet been perfected. If we wanted to deliver the best all-around aerial photography experience, there were some pretty big gaps we had to address: You can’t start and stop recording GoPros while you fly; you can’t choose when to snap photos while you fly; you can’t adjust camera settings while you fly, and you can’t charge your camera battery, either; and maybe the biggest gap of all, you can’t get a wireless HD feed direct from your GoPro to your mobile device. And we also wanted you to be able to record this live feed directly to your device’s camera roll for instant sharing.

To fill these gaps in the best, most robust and complete way that we could, we went straight to the source: GoPro themselves.

We not only chose to optimize Solo for GoPro cameras, we worked directly with GoPro to ensure our users got the fullest experience possible. This led to two things: First, Solo comes with GoPro’s The Frame in the box, so you can attach your GoPro to this vibration-isolated mount and start getting an incredible live HD feed immediately, on day one. But our collaboration also led us to create the Solo Gimbal—the first gimbal with unfettered access to GoPro camera controls, which you can adjust directly through the Solo app, without putting a hitch in your workflow. Now all those gaps mentioned above have been filled:

  • First drone with wireless HD feed from GoPro to mobile
  • First drone with in-flight access to GoPro controls: Change FOV, FPS, exposure, white balance and more.
  • First drone with GoPro start/stop recording in flight
  • First drone to power your GoPro as you fly
  • First drone with HDMI out from GoPro for live broadcast in HD

Now you have full reign of the world’s premiere action camera, and the ability to easily capture smart, smooth and cinematic aerials with professional image quality and clarity, all the way up to recording in 4k. And it only gets better.

This is smart. This is Solo.

The post Solo: The drone made for beginners; made for pros; and made for GoPros appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

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3DR Expands Series C Funding to $64 Million

Today we’re announcing an expansion of our Series C round of financing, from the earlier $50 million to now $64 million. With this expansion in funds we’re also expanding our investor base geographically, with new investors from Asia and Europe leading the additional injection. We’re historically a global organization, springing from an international developer community that is now the world’s largest open robotics community, and with our new drone, Solo, we’re now taking an advanced consumer platform into new international markets. This is just the beginning of a new global future for 3DR.

The additional funding is led by WestSummit Capital, with additional global investors from AsiaEurope and the U.S. participating, including SanDisk Ventures and Atlantic Bridge Ventures. We initiated the Series C financing with $50 million in investment led by Qualcomm Ventures, with Foundry Group, True Ventures, OATV, Mayfield, Shea Ventures. We’ll leverage the expertise and market knowledge from this diverse investor base to lead innovation in the dynamic and rapidly expanding global UAV market.

“3DR’s roots are in a worldwide, open developer community, so creating an equally expansive global organization is a key part of company strategy,” said Chris Anderson, CEO of 3DR. “China is emerging as a world leader in drone technology and production, and many of the innovative companies there are already using 3DR platforms. We see tremendous opportunity to work with investors and experts in these markets to extend that lead and work more closely with innovative young companies.”

“We’re active investors in the Internet of Things market and see huge promise in 3DR as a leader in next-generation robotics,” saidDavid Lam, Managing Director of WestSummit Capital. “IoT is a truly international market where software meets hardware and East meets West, and 3DR has developed an incredibly advanced and globally adopted drone software and hardware platform. WestSummit Capital’s China Value Creation capabilities match perfectly with 3DR’s cross-border business, embracing Silicon Valley innovation, Asian manufacturing, global competition and the global market.”

“We strongly believe in 3DR’s vision in becoming the leading open platform for developers in the drone market. Our investment strategy in the IoT, computer vision and robotics sectors, combined with our presence in the European, American and Asian markets, will complement and support 3DR’s strategy to be a global leader in the burgeoning drone industry,” said Brian Long, General Partner, Atlantic Bridge Ventures.

Read the full press release here.

The post 3DR Expands Series C Funding to $64 Million appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

via 3DR Expands Series C Funding to $64 Million

Swiss police release paranoid android after online ecstasy purchase

The robot which goes by the name Random Darknet Shopper was part of an art installation meant to explore the dark web

Related: What happens when a software bot goes on a darknet shopping spree?

If your robot buys ecstasy, are you responsible? That is exactly what Mike Power wondered when he reviewed the Swiss exhibition The Darknet: From Memes to Onionland for the Guardian in December.

Related: Happy shoppers: the art collective buying ecstasy on the deep web

Continue reading...
via Swiss police release paranoid android after online ecstasy purchase

What Happens in Vegas… Oh, let’s just brag: 3DR wins Best Drone at NAB 2015

We couldn’t have asked for better at the annual National Association of Broadcasters conference last week in Las Vegas. On Monday we officially announced our groundbreaking new consumer drone—Solo, the world’s first smart drone—and at week’s end we got on our plane with both “Best Drone” and “Best Booth” awards from Videomaker.

Whenever I was in the booth I felt like I was caught in an updraft, lifted by the people I spoke to and the excited conversation and ideas crackling around me. Our crack flight ops team was on overdrive, zipping in and out of a back room cluttered with boxes, backpacks, cables, laptops and coffee, keeping our brand new Solo fleet tuned pitch-perfect and humming. Solo itself whipped and danced around the flight cage for the crowds and cameras. And the sticks at our Solo kiosks—complete with an interactive version of the app=based flight simulator that will come with Solo—were never empty, unless our CRO Colin Guinn was around, commanding the attention of anyone within line of sight—and when he hit the podium for demos, beyond.


Our award-winning booth, flight cage side.

My favorite part was speaking to 3DR fans both new and old who were genuinely excited for our efforts, and to learn about Solo. Some didn’t even recognize the company at first—“Wait, 3DR is 3D Robotics?! I love you guys!”—which I took as the most honest and unfakeable of compliments.

At one point we were worried. A youthful representative of NAB came up to us: “I’ve been told that I need to alert you that the FCC is coming to your booth!”

Had we violated some frequency regulation? Were we too loud? Were the wifi hubs of all of our Solos interfering with other booths? …Uh, trespassing, maybe?

No. They just wanted to say hey.

There was plenty of buzz in our booth from around the conference, too. In particular, I kept hearing about the new BlackMagic micro action camera. Several people approached me to ask if Solo could carry something like that—or the cool Sony camera they’d just learned about; or the Panasonic; or a thermal sensor, and on and on.

A look at Solo in the kiosk.

A look at Solo in the kiosk.

And now I think this may be the best part: Solo suddenly became a hub of hope. Today, no, Solo can’t support that new BlackMagic camera, I’d say, and they’d look disappointed to hear it. But, I’d continue, tomorrow it might.

That’s the beauty of having a powerful and truly open platform: Nothing is locked in, so nothing is impossible. And I think that’s what everyone gets out of attending events like NAB, why there’s so much buzz and excitement year after year: It’s hope for the future. After all, we’re all of us open platforms, built to absorb, assimilate and adapt. And a technology that reflects that capacity isn’t just a piece of technology—we recognize its humanity. That’s where 3DR is headed with Solo: Life After Gravity.

Thanks to everyone who came out to support us, meet us, grill us, interview us, joke with us and just learn about Solo. We can’t wait for next year.

The post What Happens in Vegas… Oh, let’s just brag: 3DR wins Best Drone at NAB 2015 appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

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Drone Download #12: What do Uber and drones have in common?; bee brains; USPS delivery drones; technology meets civil disobedience

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Apologies for the recent gap in Downloads. We’ve all had our heads down here, working hard to deliver the best drone experience to you that we can, and last week we were proud to unveil the fruits of those efforts—Solo, the world’s first smart drone—at the NAB conference in Las Vegas. At the end of the week we walked away from NAB with both the “best drone” and “best booth” awards from Videomaker. For us, that incredibly enthusiastic and encouraging reception was far and away the best news of the week—and we’re extremely grateful for it—but it was hardly the only news, as you’ll see below.

(Also: If you just want to see a chimp attack a drone with a stick, we’ve got that in here, too.)


Question of the week

Perhaps the most interesting unmanned flight story of the week involved a manned flight: 61-year-old Tampa Bay mailman Douglas Hughes flew a gyrocopter (!)—strapped with 535 letters addressed to US Congressmen—from Gettysburg, PA, onto the lawn of the Capitol Building. It was an act of civil disobedience intended to arrest the news cycle and draw public attention to the issue of campaign finance reform. Hughes apprised officials well in advance of his mission.

Regardless of your feelings about the issue or the method, Hughes’s act raises again the question of no-fly zones and geofencing in Washington, DC—a technological solution that might have unintended consequences of limiting freedoms. Were we to enforce that no-fly zone with mandatory technology—if Hughes’s gyrocopter had been outfitted, for instance, with the same geofencing that DJI applied to all of its quadcopters following the White House drone crash—he wouldn’t have had the chance to execute his nonviolent act of civil disobedience.

As of today, 3DR doesn’t build hard geofence limits into its drones. What do you think about this? In this era of breakneck niche innovation, are companies obligated to use the technology at their disposal to engineer public safety to the best of their abilities (and decisions or agendas), or should we leave such choices up to individual citizens, who then face the consequences of their actions? The fact that no manned helicopter or government authorities forced Hughes to abort the mission (of which they were well aware) seems to be tacit support of his right to exercise his unorthodox nonviolent protest. Should a technology company preemptively shut down what even the authorities themselves would not? The act does raise some serious public safety alarms for DC, but as people from Ghandi to Eugene Debs to MLK, Henry David Thoreau and the suffragettes have shown, civil disobedience can be a powerful, peaceful and effective democratic tool. Should we be concerned that technology might take that tool away?

I’d like to hear from you: roger@3dr.com

And now, the links that matter:



This year’s Boston Marathon course was declared a “no-drone zone” last week, so the city used technology that would warn Boston Police Department officers when drones enter the airspace above the 30,000 marathon runners. The system’s sensors listened for the sound of drones, and could alert about 40 Boston police officers via email or text message about an incoming drone. (Biz Journals)

Amazon delivery drones could deliver packages in under 30 minutes for just $1. (Seeking Alpha)

But look out Amazon: After your drone delivery research has been delayed by federal government regulations, here comes—drone delivery by the federal government? Diabolical! The US Postal Service is considering a drone delivery option. (The Federal Times)

Uber, Airbnb and drones: What happens when legal uncertainty meets innovation. (Forbes)


High Tech

This week, 3DR announced Solo, the world’s first smart drone. (TechCrunch)

NAB? More like in a bee! (Ha?) Simulated bee brains have been used to pilot drones, which could one day be used for automated pollination.

Airware launches drone operating system: “Their vision is that any drone running the Airware platform can be configured, deployed, and run the same way as any other—even if the vehicle itself is a completely different drone build by a different company for another purpose.” (The Verge)

Not motivated to jog? A drone can help: “We’ve shown for the first time that a quadcopter can function as a social companion for joggers, and we know that joggers value that,” the researchers said, adding the finding was a surprise. (CIO)

Great interview with Ana Jain of the Superflux lab, discussing a future where private drones help shape city life. (Center for the Study of the Drone)

Say goodbye to changing batteries. IR-LOCK has just announced its Precision Landing hardware for Pixhawk-based quadcopters. The sensor/beacon combo has been demonstrated to achieve 5-30cm landing accuracy, and is designed to be integrated into drone charging platforms.

University of Zurich team (we partnered with the school in the Pixhawk project) develops drones that self-stabilize without the need for GPS. (Robotics Business Review)



We got baboons to fly our drones. This chimp attacks one. Watch closely and draw your own conclusions. (Live Science)

Check out this hilarious and brilliant Craigslist ad for a 2002 Ford Taurus, shot with a drone.

Drone delivering first asparagus stalks of the season in Dutch restaurant PR stunt crashes, burns. Sigh. (Popular Science)

The post Drone Download #12: What do Uber and drones have in common?; bee brains; USPS delivery drones; technology meets civil disobedience appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

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PR2 Robot Figures Out How to Make a Latte

Your robot butler is now closer than ever
via PR2 Robot Figures Out How to Make a Latte

Economic growth doesn't create jobs, it destroys them

It’s time to face up to the fact that unemployment does not create jobs, does not reduce inequality and does not solve environmental problems

After so many years of being told the same thing, it is barely surprising that we believe it. Economic growth is good, we are told, and essential to all we do. Growth creates work. Work creates wealth. Wealth closes the gap between rich and poor.

Once we have a stronger economy, the economists say, we can tackle our environmental problems.

Related: European Commission agrees to use social progress tool alongside GDP

Related: We must let go of this ‘trickle-down’ nonsense once and for all

Continue reading...
via Economic growth doesn't create jobs, it destroys them

Solo, the Only Drone That Thinks Twice: The power of two computers

The idea didn’t hit us on the head like Newton’s apple. It didn’t come to us in a dream like “Yesterday” to Paul McCartney. It didn’t fly forth fully formed from Chris Anderson’s head like Athena from Zeus.

In fact, it wasn’t an idea at all. It was just a solution.

When we set out on the path to Solo, we knew the problem that our next drone must solve wasn’t just to make flying easy, it was to make the entire experience of owning and using a drone easy and enjoyable. Effortless flight is no small part of it, but addressing the entire experience is—to state the obvious that wasn’t at first so obvious to us—a much, much bigger task. The more we stepped back and began to realize how much bigger we had to think, the more clearly this demanded a bigger solution.

So, computers.

To be exact, two 1 GHz ARM Cortex-A9-powered computers running Linux, one on the copter and one in the controller. And they’re not there just for show. They run the show.

The computer onboard the copter can handle high-end processing during flight, which means Solo can execute highly-advanced and customizable flight scripts that are incredibly easy to set up in real time. For you this means we can deliver real time creation and capture of “the shots you want” (Smart Shots)—which can even be fully automated. When you’re ready, just press “play” on the app and Solo will get the shot for you, like a faithful golden retriever that fetches incredible cinema-quality aerial footage. Simply repeat until you have all your shots. In short, computer processing allowed us to take autonomy far beyond the autopilot.

And because the computers can run all the high-end processing, the autopilot itself (the powerful Pixhawk 2) doesn’t actually have to work hard at all. This means that Solo is much less likely to have a firmware freeze during flight, even while running exceedingly complex scripts. In other words, by putting a companion computer onboard the copter we saw we could greatly reduce the likelihood of the dreaded “flyaway.” 

Computer3Helpful brain science-y analogy: You can think of these computers as Solo’s “frontal cortex”—the most advanced part of the brain. They handle all of Solo’s high-level functions, like flight scripts, Smart Shots, HD video transmission and exclusive GoPro® control features. The autopilot—traditionally a drone’s only nerve center—now works sort of like Solo’s “brainstem,” responsible solely for the basic rudiments of flight. By splitting up the work like this, Solo not only dramatically reduces the likelihood of mechanical failure in flight but opens up a world of possibility for adding advanced capabilities and features. Most importantly, it means that flight control is the equivalent of Solo’s reflexes: You now have a frontal cortex available to you; you now have creative control.

The controller’s computer powers 3DR Link, the WiFi connection that delivers crystal clear live HD video straight from the copter to your mobile device, with no cables needed at all. 3DR Link is powerful and secure, strong enough to provide remarkably slim video latency—only 180 milliseconds, with ranges up to half a mile. This same computer powers an HDMI output port on the controller, which you can use to connect Solo to almost any type of screen you can think of—all without losing or compromising the quality of the live HD feed on your mobile device.

The bigger picture

However, in order to consider the entire experience we also had to recognize that drones are flying objects that are working to defy gravity—which is to say that sometimes things can go wrong. We wanted to be sure that we could take care of our customers in any situation, even if the drone itself is gone. To do this, we equipped Solo with its own flight journal: Its processing power enables it to automatically log over 500 flight parameters 10 times per second in flight. And thanks to the computer in the controller, all of these logs are saved in the controller, instead of on the autopilot, as is the case with other drones. This is important to you in that no matter what happens to the copter, even if in a “goodbye cruel world” fit of passion (uncommon to the traditionally dispassionate binary robot psyche) it flies itself into a volcano, you always hold Solo’s “black box” in your hand—if anything goes wrong, you’ll always be able to show us the official record. And to truly ease the pain of a customer who experienced a problem, we even made Solo a little self-aware—able to auto-detect when something’s gone wrong, prompting you to submit a service ticket from the app with a single tap. This uploads the flight data and allows our Support team to work through the problem with the end user.

Finally, and in many respects most importantly, Solo’s high intelligence overhead also allows us to easily incorporate great new features and innovations going forward. These will be available to you in the form of free software updates, future accessories such as optical flow, LED spotlighting and a ballistic parachute system, and even new gimbals from us or third parties, so you can use your Solo to fly different cameras—all without having to buy a new drone. In other words the Solo you buy now isn’t just a one-off product, the first in an ever-expanding series of integers—it’s a platform whose value will only increase as technology improves.

Computer2Because the computer technology we’ve baked into Solo allows us to innovate quickly, and because we have the strongest drone developer community in the world, Solo will be advancing rapidly. This means Solo’s smart technology will pay huge dividends for everyone down the road, from developers to companies to consumers. Its intelligence not only allows us to introduce many industry-first capabilities today, but also gives us the ability to unlock future technologies—everything from a next-gen Follow mode to machine vision and true artificial intelligence. And because we keep huge parts of our technology totally open, developers anywhere can contribute to Solo, which is the most compelling and accessible hardware instantiation of 3DR’s industry-leading software platform. And as the platform leader, we can enable small companies with great ideas to work directly with us and our manufacturing partners on developing and launching fantastic new accessories—hence our “Made for Solo” program. Not only does this make it easy for anyone to test and create new technology, it makes it easy for these companies to get onto our retail partners’ shelves and into your Solo.

So, yes: Computers. We’re truly only seeing the very beginning.

The post Solo, the Only Drone That Thinks Twice: The power of two computers appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

via Solo, the Only Drone That Thinks Twice: The power of two computers

Unlucky Robot Gets Stranded Inside Fukushima Nuclear Reactor, Sends Back Critical Data

A brave little robot has given its non-life to send back critical data on the inside of the damaged reactor
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