This Week: Drone versus shotgun; FAA versus NFL; robobees versus pollen; Tom Cruise versus drones; all of us versus that fake viral video

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Question of the week 

Shotguns. Snoops. Surveillance. So many stories in recent weeks have been calling attention to the public’s growing skepticism of drone technology. As a company on the advancing edge, we understand and anticipate this kind of resistance to new technology as natural. We also see it as our mission to help relieve the stress of this skepticism with the massage of messaging.

As you read through the stories this week, which seem to strike you as raising particularly pertinent worries, or as patently ridiculous ones? What would you say in response to these stories, and to the concerns they raise?

I’m interested in your commentary on this week’s collection. Leave your remarks below!

And now, the links that matter:



“When you fly…we CAN’T!” So went a tweet from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection after a consumer drone grounded firefighting helicopters preparing to execute water drops on a wildfire. A drone in the vicinity “Puts our pilots lives at risk,” they continued. (LA Times)

In New York, Dave Beesmer (aka “Front Row Dave”) was acquitted of using his drone to “spy” on a hospital. He was taking pictures of the structure to give to the hospital for promotional materials. The ruling is significant in that existing privacy laws were brought to bear on drone technology, resulting not in the conviction but the acquittal of the accused. (Daily Freeman)

Wimbledrone: Authorities noticed a drone flying over the Wimbledon grounds last week and seized it for “flying within 50m of a structure.” They tracked the operator down, who was piloting from a nearby golf course. Wimbledon begins this week. (BBC)

A drone was reported in a near-miss at London’s Heathrow Airport. The UK Airprox Board said they never found the pilot of the device—which they say could have been a balloon, but was most likely a drone. The device was reportedly sighted at 1,700 feet, well above the UK’s 400-foot limit. (The Standard)

Boston will ban drones for its 4th of July events—not even the police will be allowed to fly. (Fortune)


Analysis and culture

I regret that the best details don’t fit here, but trust that this full story won’t let you down. Last November a man in rural California used a shotgun to take down his neighbor’s drone, saying he thought it was a “CIA surveillance device.” The drone owner sued for damages—the drone was over his own property—and this week was rewarded in full. (Ars Technica)

In Australia, news broke earlier this year about the horrific and rampant “live-baiting” of greyhounds in the dog racing business. Racing Queensland—the state’s racing authority—will use drones to help monitor the properties where greyhounds are raised and trained. Racing Queensland already uses drones to film some races, and so have discovered this second valuable use. (Business Insider)

Dronegate? In a confluence of everybody’s favorite American organizations, the FAA is looking into three NFL teams—the Cowboys, Giants and Patriots—for using drones to film their practices without obtaining the official exemptions necessary. (NBC) 

The Washington Post asks, “Do drones make sense for farming?” “It’s been very hard for farmers to conceptualize savings and an increase in their production from UAV technology,” said PrecisionHawk communications director Lia Reich. “We really wanted to help give a deep dive into understanding that return that farmers have for a UAV investment that a lot of farmers see as a large investment at this point.” Some claim that drones can reduce farming inputs by 20% and increase output by 20%.

Drones might finally silence those awful blueberry cannons once and for all. Blueberry farmers in Vancouver want to use drones to keep the birds at bay during harvest: “We want it to fly around, scare the daylights out of the birds—especially the starlings—and keep them nervous enough to stay away during harvest,” said Baumann. Currently the cheapest way to keep birds out of the berries is by firing loud blasts from propane cannons. Nearby towns have protested the cannons, which can be quite loud, but the ministry of agriculture allows them to be fired about every five minutes from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. during harvest season, which can last more than three months. (Vancouver Sun)


High Tech

This surging anti-drone privacy movement means that drone detection—using audio, radio, thermal and video tracking—could be big business. (Tech.Co)

But all you expert pilots out there might also be hearing that old “ka-ching,” yourselves: Fly4Me, an “Uber for drones,” got the nod from the FAA earlier this year and launched in beta this past week. Fly4Me pairs experienced drone pilots with people who need drone services. (Popular Science)

A drone that can survive the arctic. Laval University’s “Argo” drone can survive the extreme conditions of the Arctic Ocean, diving to depths of almost 2,000 m to collect data about marine life. Scientists believe that Argo will improve our understanding of the Arctic marine ecosystem and help us track the effects of climate change. (

May the open source be with you: Now you can 3D print your own Millennium Falcon drone. (



Here’s a drone flythrough of an enormous Japanese solar power plant. (RT)

Remember that viral video from last week, the one with a drone ripping the wingtip off of a commercial airliner? Well, it was fake—essentially an ad for a VFX studio—and this is how they did it. (YouTube)

And I don’t know where else to put this. Doesn’t really fit under “culture.” But here: Tom Cruise will apparently reprise his role as “Maverick” in the Top Gun sequel, which pits the aging pilot (in aging planes) against drones. The script is currently in the hands of Justin Marks, whom you probably remember as the writer of Street Fighter II: The Legend of Chun-Li. You can be my wingunmanned-aerial-vehicle anytime. (Rolling Stone)

The post This Week: Drone versus shotgun; FAA versus NFL; robobees versus pollen; Tom Cruise versus drones; all of us versus that fake viral video appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

via This Week: Drone versus shotgun; FAA versus NFL; robobees versus pollen; Tom Cruise versus drones; all of us versus that fake viral video

Parrot Unveils a Hydrofoil Drone

The French company takes to the water for the first time as it shows off upgrades to its line of mini-drones
via Parrot Unveils a Hydrofoil Drone

What Turing Himself Said About the Imitation Game

The mathematician and cryptanalyst explained his famous test of computer intelligence during two BBC radio broadcasts in the early 1950s
via What Turing Himself Said About the Imitation Game

Armored Exoskeletons Help Roachbots Go Anywhere, Handle Anything

UC Berkeley's robotic roaches roll through clutter thanks to fancy new shells
via Armored Exoskeletons Help Roachbots Go Anywhere, Handle Anything

Computer comedian suggests pics to make your online chat funnier

Software that makes you seem funnier by suggesting amusing images to use during online chat could pave the way to more human-like AI

via Computer comedian suggests pics to make your online chat funnier

So robots will make us their pets? I can’t wait | Rupert Myers

A life of elysian indulgence awaits, if Apple’s prediction comes true about intelligent machines benignly enslaving humans

Steve Wozniak, the Apple co-founder and Silicon Valley legend, has seen the future, and it is good. When processors develop intelligence and the robots take over, we won’t perish on the bloody wastelands of a futile resistance against the machines. Wozniak’s sincere belief is that one day robots will keep us as pets. Ours will be a life of ease and luxury beyond our wildest imagination.

No longer will society require us to schlep from place to place under the pretext of making a meaningful contribution to the evolution of our species. Attaining the status of beloved pet will leave our days free for investigating interesting smells, eating, and most importantly taking spontaneous naps. This will be enough for our cybernetic keepers, who will take over the tedious business of working for a living, in a society that will become ever more obsessed with humans as we take up our rightful place as loving, mischievous companions to technology.

Related: Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak says humans will be robots' pets

The obesity crisis will be solved because we'll have to fit through human flaps if we want to go inside and eat or sleep

Continue reading...
via So robots will make us their pets? I can’t wait | Rupert Myers

More News about the Solo Gimbal!

Hello from China! Well, I’m writing this from an office in Palo Alto, but the news comes from the team in the factory in Guangzhou.

The gimbal is making good progress, with our production crew delivering some great footage recently. Check it out below.

The team is currently in China working on DVT2 of the gimbal, a pre-production build. If it goes well we move directly into making sellable units. The DVT2 units are essentially identical to PVT units (the ones we sell and deliver), so right now we’re just verifying the entire assembly and test procedure is in place before we say GO.


When will the gimbal be out, by the way?

Right, a most important question! We’re targeting the end of July, about a month from now, and it’s looking good so far. Like we said, we want to get it right, so we always prioritize quality over schedule. Plus, the schedule has extra buffer time built in for any unknowns that may arise, so we’re feeling really good about making that delivery date. Until then, here’s a look at some footage from the gimbal as it is today.


More on the status of the gimbal

We’re happy to report that the HDMI flexes for production are meeting spec based on the latest testing, and we’ll be putting them into the DVT2 units by the end of this week. We’re still root-causing the 2% failures due the to over-currenting mentioned in the last post, and, long story short, we’re working on fixing this with more advanced filtering techniques on our power management. This means we’ve been able to turn this into a software issue, which means it won’t affect our manufacturing schedule—and for you, the delivery date!

The plan right now is to run the units through the actual assembly line with all the fixtures and test procedures in place. These procedures have been iterated on since the last build.

Right now we are finishing SMT—this acronym basically means the printed circuit boards are being cranked out and tested. The next step is assembly, in which all the pieces of the gimbal are put together and tested—this will be done this week, which means we will be test-flying the latest and greatest on copters over the weekend.

Meanwhile, in software land, a lot of supporting pieces are falling into place. These are mostly key pieces that include behavior not directly related to stabilization. These include making sure that the gimbal updates seamlessly when installed on the copter—this means that the user will be able to update the whole system at once via the Solo app, without any wires or uninstalling/reinstalling/screwdrivering of anything.

There is also internal “devops” infrastructure, such as updating our entire software build process to ensure new gimbal firmwares are always in sync with the rest of the code. The Pixhawk firmware, the Linux firmware on both the vehicle and controller, the STM32 on the controller, the app, the ESCs—whew—it’s a lot of stuff to coordinate. When you are early in the test process, the number of people fiddling with the system is small, so you can have a pretty manual build process. But as we test with more and more people, it’s crucial that we ensure all the systems remain in sync.

Finally, we’re adding much more robust datalogging from the gimbal, so we can better track and understand the behavior of the system over time. This will be one smart gimbal!

Stay tuned to this blog as we continue to roll out updates—we’re hoping to be able to add one every week, but honestly, this stuff might get way too technical and dull, so we might package weeks together. At any rate, we’ll maintain transparency every step of the way until the gimbals are on Solos and blowing minds!

The post More News about the Solo Gimbal! appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

via More News about the Solo Gimbal!

Self-Assembling Robotic Gun Will Shoot Through Tissue Inside Your Body

Researchers are developing small robots that can self-assemble into a functional Gauss gun
via Self-Assembling Robotic Gun Will Shoot Through Tissue Inside Your Body

The Insider’s Guide to Drone Videography

This expert guide will get you off the ground
via The Insider’s Guide to Drone Videography

Queen greeted by a robot in Germany – video

The Queen is greeted by a robot at Berlin's Technical University during her official visit to Germany. Accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen receives a royal salute from the machine, called Nao, which responds to commands given by lecturer Marco Luetzenberger. The royal couple were visiting the university to attend the Queen's Lecture, an annual talk which this year focused on the relationship between Britain and Germany Continue reading...
via Queen greeted by a robot in Germany – video

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak says humans will be robots' pets

Humans will be taken care of like pets should robots take over because AI will want to preserve us as part of nature

Apple’s early-adopting, outspoken co-founder Steve Wozniak thinks humans will be fine if robots take over the world because we’ll just become their pets.

After previously stating that a robotic future powered by artificial intelligence (AI) would be “scary and very bad for people” and that robots would “get rid of the slow humans”, Wozniak has staged a U-turn and says he now thinks robots taking over would be good for the human race.

Continue reading...
via Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak says humans will be robots' pets

This Week: FAA promises drone laws next year; new world record for longest flight; the “abortion drone”; spread the word—this is a fake video

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

Question of the week

The big news this week came out of Congress: The FAA testified that drone regulations “will be in place within a year.” That means that, even though the FAA will have missed their initial deadline of September of this year, American skies will be open for commercial drone operations much sooner than anticipated—many thought legislation wouldn’t be in place until 2017.

So, after ramping up slowly, the FAA seems to have felt and responded to the pressure from lobbying groups like the Small UAV Coalition (3DR is a member) and corporate interests like Amazon. It also means that the American public will have a little less time to get accustomed to drones in the skies—and this week’s Download has some stories that indicate there’s a lot of education still to be done.

We have to enough true and positive information out there to combat the hype, fear-mongering and misinformation like this fake video, which just came out today.

So, to help us at 3DR be better educators, communicators and role models here’s my question:

What made you come around to drones?

What messages do you think would resonate most with the public, so that when the skies do open, their minds will be open, too? Help us tell the best stories we possibly can! Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

And now, the links that matter:



“The rule will be in place within a year.” FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Whitaker testified this week before the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee, promising the FAA will integrate commercial drones into the national airspace sooner than anticipated. (Reuters)

Amazon’s waiting for the FAA to deliver: Amazon vice president of global policy Paul Misener said during that same Congressional hearing, “We’d like to begin delivering to our customers as soon as it’s approved.” (Popular Science)

In this same hearing, Congress was warned that drones present “a nightmare scenario for civil liberties” (note the scare quotes): “Here is a nightmare scenario for civil liberties: a network of law enforcement UAS with sensors capable of identifying and tracking individuals monitors populated outdoor areas on a constant, pervasive basis for generalized public safety purposes.” (The Guardian)

Diane Feinstein introduced legislation that would direct the FAA to require certain safety features for newly manufactured consumer drones, such as geo-fencing, collision-avoidance software, air traffic control compliance and educational materials to be provided to the consumer. The legislation would allow the FAA to exempt some consumer drones from meeting certain “technologically infeasible or cost-prohibitive” requirements. (Sen. Diane Feinstein)

The New York Times, the Associated Press, the Washington Post, Reuters, ABC and Getty Images , among others, will begin testing news-gathering drones today at a range in Virginia. I’d like to note that in a telling reversal VICE isn’t participating in a cutting-edge activity, but is instead reporting on it here. (Motherboard)


Culture and analysis

Check out the Department of Homeland Security’s test site for drone use in urban environs. The site’s name, Liberty City, should sound familiar to fans of the video game Grand Theft Auto—but this fake city is designed for crime prevention: “The broad objective is to determine whether drones can play a practical role in a broad range of public safety deployments…. Reviewers compile their findings into a database for first responders nationwide to use when weighing a drone purchase.” (Motherboard)

A look at the women behind the “abortion drone.” The drone is being sent by not-for-profit organization Women on Waves, which provides medical abortion pills around the world. On Saturday, the drone will drop a number of packages of World Health Organization-approved abortion pills over a Polish town on the border of Germany, where it will be met by women’s groups who will hand the pills to individual women who need them. Poland, with a large Roman-Catholic population, has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe. (The Telegraph)

Antonio Brown led the NFL in receptions last year, though he didn’t break the all-time record. In the off-season, though, he’s used a drone to set the world record for a catch from the highest point—the drone dropped the ball from 360 feet, and it was moving at about 80 mph when Brown sucked it in. (CBS)

A frustrated Phil Mickelson chases down and kicks one of the drones that Fox Sports used to cover this year’s US Open. (It was a rover, not a copter.) Mickelson finished the tournament tied for 69th. (CBS)

Why send humans to space when we can send robots? Well worth checking out this exchange about autonomy between intellectual giants Noam Chomsky and Lawrence Krauss. (Motherboard)


High tech

Check out this multicopter made from bamboo, “the ultimate hipster material, and fabricated with a laser cutter, the ultimate hipster CNC fabricator.” (?!) (boingboing)

But come on—this drone has far more street cred: An IRIS+ spray paint mod on Adafruit, developed in collaboration with the graffiti artist KATSU.

And this one has far more street tread! (Sorry.) A tank quadcopter—useful for… something, I’m sure. (Uncrate)

New world record for longest multirotor flight: EnergyOr Technologies Inc. flew a hydrogen-powered drone for a record 3 hours, 43 minutes and 48 seconds, improving upon its previous world record of 2 hours, 12 minutes and 46 seconds, set this March. (EnergyOr)



It’s fake! And it’s just what the drone industry needs these days. Check out this video posted to LiveLeaks just today, purporting to show a drone striking the wing of a commercial plane over New York City. Then check out the name on the wingtip—the studio that handled the VFX here. And if you want, Google the incident. Please, if you see someone spreading this nonsense, shine a little light.


The post This Week: FAA promises drone laws next year; new world record for longest flight; the “abortion drone”; spread the word—this is a fake video appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

via This Week: FAA promises drone laws next year; new world record for longest flight; the “abortion drone”; spread the word—this is a fake video

Berlin opera casts robot lead - video

A small robot, the size an 8-year-old child, is the star of a new opera at Berlin's Komische Oper. The robot, developed by the Berlin Humboldt University and known as Myon, plays in the performance of 'My Square Lady', during which he learns what it means to feel human emotions, express them and promote them in others Continue reading...
via Berlin opera casts robot lead - video

Video Friday: Small Bebionic Hand, RoboRaven at Night, and Pepper on Sale

The week's best robot videos. Right here.
via Video Friday: Small Bebionic Hand, RoboRaven at Night, and Pepper on Sale

Sarah Marquis in the Australian Outback: Starvation, drones, and the philosophy of movement

This week, Swiss survivalist and adventurer Sarah Marquis shouldered her rucksack and her 3DR drone and disappeared alone into the region of unforgiving Australian bush known as the Kimberley. With no food. For four months. It’s a trek she’s calling “Dropped into the Wild Corner.”

Tomorrow, she’ll celebrate her 43rd birthday in the outback.

Now if you’re a rational human being living high on the high-tech hog of Western appitalism, this all raises a number of questions. For instance, “Why?”

Sarah_Marquis_2Before we get there, you should know a few things about Sarah. First, she’s no delicate flower. She’s windbitten and wiry, with a tough “bare essentials” body type and a pair of bright eyes set like grappling hooks in an unassailable face. But she’s quick and eager to smile: She knows exactly what she’s doing.

And on the surface, what she does is incredibly simple: She walks. Far. Sarah was named NatGeo’s European Adventurer of the Year in 2013, and nominated for Adventurer of the Year last year. She once walked from Siberia to Australia, enduring expanses of tundra, the Gobi Desert and the sweltering tropics on foot and alone. It took her three years. But that trek, she says, will be nothing compared to what she’s about to do in the outback—during the region’s worst drought season, where crocodiles thrive in the 100-degree winter heat.


Mostly, though, it’s the because on this trek she won’t have any food. Halfway through—two months in—she’ll meet her team at a pre-designated resupply point, but other than that Sarah will have to hunt, gather and scavenge for herself every morsel of the food that she’ll need to survive for four months in one of the most notoriously stingy environments on the planet.

Daunting? Sure; but like anything else, it’s all a matter of perspective.

“We don’t use all of our capabilities,” Sarah told me, shrugging. She spoke to me over Skype from her apartment in Switzerland, which caught a lot of natural light. Her small support team was in the room with her, but I couldn’t see or hear them. On her trek she’ll be all alone. “My treks are like science experiments, and my body is my laboratory. I want to see how far my body can go.”

Ok. Why?

“It’s a philosophy of movement,” she said. “Mind over matter, is the simple way to say it. You push yourself past a certain point. It’s kind of like washing machine cycles; You go past a point of questioning, a point of pain, so painful you don’t know what the hell you’re doing there; then one morning you wake up, open your tent flap and step out and it’s magical—you live in the moment and you’re suddenly connected.” I imagine her stepping out like this one morning in the Gobi desert, that brief moment just after the night chill lifts and before the unbearable heat of the day barrels down. “The pain, the desire, everything else—that all just disappears. It’s really beautiful.”

So how exactly does the 3DR drone on her back fit into this picture? It would seem to not fit, right? Sarah seems like she’s out to strip away all the trappings of society and comfort and technology that have come between us and that perennial, natural moment that she’s seeking.

Not so.

“Actually, I believe that technology can bring us back to nature,” she said. “That’s why I work with 3DR. We can use technology in a good way. I believe that we can synchronize ourselves with technology and use it to re-enter nature.”

Sarah will use her 3DR IRIS+ to document her trek from above, and will share her photos and video with us. The wide perspective that the IRIS+ offers, along with its hands-free Follow capability, mean that Sarah can film herself in an incredibly vast context without breaking stride in her adventure—she can be the director and the actor in this incredible story. And the birds-eye perspective will lend a proper sense of scale to her small place in the expansive Australian outback.

Sarah sees drones as our mimicry of birds, which to hear her describe it is not nearly as cliché or obvious as it may at first sound. Drones show us what it’s like to see our world as a bird sees it. That is, to see this intellectually as Sarah does, with drones we’re trying to use technology to recreate or approximate nature, to create a sort of portal so that we may then re-enter nature—not to defy nature, or distance ourselves from it and escape it, as all those electronics and circuits and product launches and ads and the full complement of artificial components might suggest.

“With a drone,” she said, “we can rise up to the air as a bird.”


I’ve always wondered at the paradox of a certain outdoor type, a “knight in UnderArmor,” spending untold amounts of money on high-end, cutting-edge fashionable gear and accessories, all in the name of getting away from the very vanity and temporality of things like fashion, money and the latest material trends—consumer technology included. (Indeed, the marketing here is brilliant, isn’t it? Want to get away from it all? Okay: Buy it all.)

Ascetic chic, you could call it.

And if we’re being honest, it’s easy to take the next step here and apply it to drones. Want to experience the complete, crushing beauty of the world around you? To see it all as it really is, you’ll need one of the most technologically complicated consumer products ever made.

The two seem fundamentally at odds, don’t they—nature and technology.

“I believe that at the moment we have this invasion of technology from every corner of our lives,” Sarah said. “We often don’t control those technologies, and we’re getting polluted from them. But if you look at the big picture, with technology like drones coming out, we will actually get back to nature. These technologies are good technologies: They will show us nature in a different way, so nature will accessible in a new way. Drones are a first example.”

I pointed out that, considering she’s using drones, it’s ironic that she’s also so adamant about walking everywhere—about keeping your feet on the ground.

“Well, I walk because I think we all need to remember the ground. We’ve forgotten what the earth is. We need to understand where our feet are!” she said—from her sixth-floor apartment, to me in my top-floor office, via an invisible digital link that leapt an ocean and two continents. I realized that our whole conversation was literally suspended. I didn’t know where my feet were—they were fifty feet in the air!—and hadn’t given a second thought about that in probably many months, or years, if ever, maybe.

Where are your feet now? Are they on the ground?

So much of Sarah’s philosophy of movement is predicated on gravity. We’re unavoidably resigned to gravity, to negotiating with it with every step we take. And again drones rise as a contradiction here: they fly. This is Life After Gravity, after all.

But drones—birds—aren’t about looking up. They’re not really about flying. They’re about what flying gets you, about what you can do with the power of flight. And for Sarah and her IRIS+, it’s about what you can see and what you can do when you have the power to look back down, to see that vast world under your feet for everything that it is. And perhaps to help her find some food and avoid the crocodiles.

“We can’t avoid nature,” Sarah told me. “We are nature. People are ready now to experience things, I think, not to take the world for granted but to truly experience it. They’re affected by me and my journeys back to nature, and they want to reconnect, too. That’s what I believe—I don’t have any proof of it, but technology will get people out there again, to sleep on the ground and take care of it.”

To learn more about Sarah Marquis, her IRIS+ and her current trek, “Dropped into the Wild Corner,” check out her website here, and follow her on her trek via Twitter: @sarah_marquis

The post Sarah Marquis in the Australian Outback: Starvation, drones, and the philosophy of movement appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

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Inside 3DR: A look at the gimbal development process

At 3DR we are big believers in open—both in terms of software development and in terms of communication with our community. We’ve lately been hearing lots of questions about the Solo Gimbal—when will it be out? why isn’t it out yet? what can it do? how good is it?—so we thought we’d open the doors and share some insight into how this complicated product is progressing.

We will be keeping these doors open until we ship the gimbal—you can expect updates from us on about a weekly basis. Our goal is here isn’t to answer every question (we wish we could), but to share more about the product development process of something as complex as a 3-axis, super-advanced gimbal.

We’ll tackle some initial questions now in this post.


How good is our gimbal?

Here’s a sample of some video one of our flight test folks, Terrence Williams, shot recently on a prototype Solo and prototype gimbal:

Solo in Oakland Video (With Adobe Premiere Warp Stabilizer set on Position, Scale, Rotation at 25%.)

And here’s a video of Solo’s Smart Shot modes that we filmed with the gimbal in one flight, with one battery, in Cabo—zero post-stabilization on this one.

We are pretty happy with these! We’re working on more improvements in software, but we believe we’re off to a good start.


Who is doing the work?

Designing something this complex at high volume is a big effort.

In our case, the core engineering is being done in Berkeley and San Francisco, partnered with a firm in Austin, and with 3DR engineers flung across the globe, from Brazil to Australia. We’re producing the gimbals at a super nice factory in Guangzhou, China.


Where are we now? And how does product engineering work?

We currently have fixes for a variety of issues, which we’re testing now in California and soon in our factory in China. We are also working hard with the GoPro team to ensure the GoPro control from the mobile app works great.

In terms of schedule, the Solo Gimbal is set to enter a “DVT2” phase that will quickly turn into “PVT.”

…let’s next explain what those acronyms mean!

Most hardware product development processes follow a similar pattern. Whether you go to Apple, Fitbit or 3DR, you’ll usually see the same acronyms—DVU, EVT, DVT, PVT. Generally, this process takes between 12 and 24 months, from first concepts to products ready on shelves.

Early on in the product development process, the core engineering and design team will work on a series of prototypes. At some point, the team feels confident that they have a design they’re ready to release to manufacturing—this is usually called the DVU (“Design Validation Unit”).

At this point, you begin to invest heavily in manufacturing tools—plastic injection molds, inventory and so on—so you need to be confident in your design. There is a long waiting period—8 weeks is common—while these tools are built, so during this time the engineering team will focus on work in software and electrical.

Once the factory is able to produce its first units, you see a series of prototypes called EVT, DVT and PVT. In the EVT (Engineering Validation Test) phase, the factory will attempt to reproduce the DVU—generally there are lots of things that don’t quite work about the EVT unit, so this is a big learning experience for the company and the manufacturer. These issues are addressed with the next step, the DVT (Design Validation Test), which corrects many of the issues discovered in the EVT; the DVT also provides the first opportunity to try out the mass production assembly line, including test fixtures and so on. At this point, the goal is for the DVT unit to look like and work like the product spec pretty closely. Finally, in the PVT (Production Validation Test) phase, the company and manufacturer make a limited run of products that are actually sellable units.

For complex products, a fourth or sometimes fifth iteration is introduced (e.g., EVT2 or DVT2) to reduce risks that crop up during the development process. The Solo vehicle, for example, had a DVT2 phase to help us fine tune things like the antenna design.

The 3DR team is currently testing some fixes in the gimbal DVT2. These include an issue in which about 2% of the units built to date will occasionally over-current the motors. Again: We have a fix for this issue in place, and we want to test it thoroughly before releasing the gimbal to the public. We understand that 2% doesn’t seem like a lot—many products would launch with a yield this high (98%)—but we are laser focused on increasing the quality of the user experience so we want to eliminate even risks of this size.

Another issue we’ve solved is making sure that the flex cable—the flexible cabling connecting the control signals and HDMI from the GoPro to the Solo—are properly spec’d (impedance matched, in the case) so that we have stronger guarantees on long-term quality. So far, the gimbals we have work well with regard to both controls and video, but we need to be pretty specific about these details so that we can reduce the risk on long-term issues for our customers.

We’ll talk more about our problem solving in future posts, but we hope that this taste of product engineering gives you a sense of the size and complexity of issues that companies making mass scale products must address in order to ship a product to customers with the highest confidence.

The post Inside 3DR: A look at the gimbal development process appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

via Inside 3DR: A look at the gimbal development process

Let’s Shape AI Before AI Shapes Us

It’s time to have a global conversation about how AI should be developed
via Let’s Shape AI Before AI Shapes Us

Fetch Robotics Secures Massive $20 Million Investment from SoftBank

A robotics company that didn't exist a year ago gets a huge investment from Japan
via Fetch Robotics Secures Massive $20 Million Investment from SoftBank

This Week: Google and Microsoft want to use drones to save lives; man attacks drone with shirt; the world’s smallest gimbal; that’s too many sharks

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Question of the Week

This week, the global “Drones for Good” competition, hosted by the UAE, announced it has started accepting applications for its second annual contest, the winner of which will receive a $1 million prize. Last year the competition drew 800 participants from 57 countries; the winner was a “crash proof” rescue drone from the Swiss company Flyability.

The drone industry definitely needs high-profile events like these to highlight the astounding potential that drone technology has for people and industries around the world. And we need to do our part to champion these use cases, ourselves.

I don’t have a million dollars for you, but last week I began soliciting “Drones for Good” use cases that you may have heard of, which I’ll collect and put in a living, public database to showcase and help advocate for this technology. I received a bunch of great suggestions last week, and I’d like to see more! Remember, no case is too small, too obvious or too strange—share anything you’ve read or heard of that you feel might fit. Submit your suggestions in the comments section of this page. Thanks in advance!

And now, the links that matter this week:



Microsoft launched a drone program to help fight the spread of disease. “As envisioned, Project Premonition would use drones to catch and identify new diseases before they become a threat to humans, wildlife, or livestock…. The potential gains are tremendous: new diseases found and sequenced before they get a chance to become virulent outbreaks.” (Popular Science)

Google wants to save your life with a fleet of drone ambulances, a new patent reveals. These new drones could deliver emergency supplies of water, first aid kits, defibrillators or EpiPens. (International Business Times)

Our CEO Chris Anderson went on CBS This Morning to talk about Solo and the future of drones. Chris also discusses hot-button issues of safety, privacy and the inevitable “mass jackassery” concomitant to the proliferation of consumer drones.

NIMBY: A guy in Huntington Beach, CA, swatted a quadcopter out of the sky with his t-shirt. “We were just filming a little video about how to make some changes to the settings on the app for the drone,” said Mike Luzansky, an employee of Lucky 7 Drones. “Then this neighbor that I’ve never seen before just comes over and hits it.” The video the company posted on YouTube has attracted more than 140,000 views. (LA Times)



Nine misconceptions about drones that serious engineers wish you’d shut up about. (Gizmodo)

3D Robotics features prominently in this great analysis of California’s burgeoning drone industry. (LA Times)

In this thoughtful piece on the effects of software and automation on jobs and the future global economy, the MIT Review asks, Who will own the robots? “For a long time the common understanding was that technology was destroying jobs but also creating new and better ones,” says Lipson. “Now the evidence is that technology is destroying jobs and indeed creating new and better ones but also fewer ones. It is something we as technologists need to start thinking about.”



The graffiti artist Katsu teaches you how to make a graffiti drone. The artist recently used a drone to tag NYC’s biggest billboard—a new era of vandalism? (Vice)

NASA has developed a somewhat surprising solution to that annoying “hornet’s nest” noise that drones make: More props. This new quiet drone has eight engines on the wings and another two on the tail; several small motors are quieter than a few large ones. (New Scientist)

On IndieGogo, MicroDrone 3.0: It fits in the palm of your hand, boasts the “world’s smallest gimbal,” and is designed to stream to live video to real time social media channels like Periscope and Meerkat.

NASA held its fourth annual International Space Apps Challenge, daring hackers and engineers to design a drone that could assist astronauts in zero gravity. A daunting task, but they did it. Read how here. (Memeburn)



You may have seen that recent flash floods in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, killed as many as 12 people and ripped open many exhibits in the city zoo, leading dozens of animals to break out. Several of those animals, including lions and tigers, remain at large. This drone video shows an escaped crocodile looking right at home in the muck. (NBC)

And now a dangerous animal in its natural environment: It used to take lifeguards up to two hours to go on a jet ski and try to confirm shark sightings, but with drones this can be done in a matter of minutes. Watch these lifeguards launch a drone and within minutes discover about ten great white sharks just off the California coast. (ABC)

The post This Week: Google and Microsoft want to use drones to save lives; man attacks drone with shirt; the world’s smallest gimbal; that’s too many sharks appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

via This Week: Google and Microsoft want to use drones to save lives; man attacks drone with shirt; the world’s smallest gimbal; that’s too many sharks

DURUS: SRI's Ultra-Efficient Walking Humanoid Robot

SRI unveils a walking humanoid robot that's 20x more efficient than ATLAS
via DURUS: SRI's Ultra-Efficient Walking Humanoid Robot

Solo: All about Cable cam

To me, Smart Shots are far and away Solo’s most compelling feature. They make getting great aerial video so easy that when you see it done for the first time it almost seems like magic—set your shot, push “play,” and let Solo’s skills do the work. Plus, Smart Shots are enabled by our exclusive onboard computer technology, so no other drone out there can do anything like it.

Solo currently has four Smart Shots: Cable cam, Orbit, Selfie and Follow. Of them, Cable cam—which locks Solo onto a virtual cable in space so you can focus on camera work—turns the most heads. This article will be dedicated to CC: why we developed it, how it works, what you can do with it, and why we believe it’s a game-changer for aerial video.



We don’t just build drones—we’re avid flyers and cinema pilots ourselves. Well, to be honest, I suck. There’s good reason I’m not on the flight ops squad.

But to be even more honest, when it comes to getting great shots, a lot of us here suck. We’ve got a handful of crack pilots here who can manually get the kind of truly cinematic shots you’ll see here, here, here and here. But those pilots got in early on the drone game, and they’ve spent years practicing and perfecting their technique. The rest of us either haven’t had the time, or like me have congenital thumb flaws or something.

But even the best can’t get the shots they want every time. You’re moving through 3D space; you have to coordinate the action of flight with the action of the camera, or coordinate those movements between two people; and there’s a ton of environmental variability. People want drones because they want to be able to get great shots, to see and share their world and tell stories in a new way. But getting smooth, cinema-quality aerial video is in truth a very difficult skill to master, especially if you don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to practicing your flying skills. It’s anything but easy. And some shots are just plain hard.

That’s why we developed Cable cam. Cable cam abstracts you from the actual flying, so you can focus instead on getting the shots you want. We put the skills in the software so you’re free to be creative, adventurous and confident with your shots. We’re proud to say that Cable cam enables anyone to reliably and easily get pro quality shots without also having to be a pro.


How Cable cam works

Cable cam uses GPS to lay a virtual cable between any two points you select in space. For a dramatic and more dynamic shot, you can set these points at different altitudes or orientations. With your path set, you can now engage with Solo in various layers of interaction.

With Solo locked onto a cable, it basically acts like a two-person crew in one. You can fly Solo between the two points as the camera tilts and pans automatically between them, or you can use the left stick to override the camera so that you can pan and tilt the camera yourself without worrying about piloting the copter. Solo can even be a “no-person” camera crew: It will memorize the shot you set at each end point—camera position, gimbal position and its location in space—and when you tap “play” on the app, it can fly itself through the scene, from first frame to the last. You can control copter direction along the cable with the sticks or in the app—even customize which direction the copter rotates between frames. The onboard computer will work with the gimbal and autopilot to make adjustments to all variations in real time, keeping the camera steady and perfectly on track. Solo even automatically eases in and out of the first and last frames so there are no jerky starts and stops. Really: Even professional pilots can’t get these kinds of shots.


What you can do

Let’s use a real-world example.

Say you’ve been hired to film the Bellagio in Las Vegas. In the past, getting a beautiful aerial sequence here would require a full crew with several Pelican cases’ worth of gear and years of experience. But if you showed up to the shoot with your Solo, you can fire up your drone, set it to Cable cam and simply do the following to get the shot.

First, fly as carefully and slowly as you wish, using the live HD feed on your mobile screen to help you find and set up the perfect first frame—for instance over the Las Vegas strip. When you have the shot set, just press the “A” button and you’ll automatically set the first point on your cable. Now Solo knows that this is the first shot you want to capture, and it will automatically ease you in and out of that shot. Now fly as slowly and carefully as you wish, along any path you wish, to set up the second shot you want: the Bellagio fountains & hotel. When you’re ready, hit “B” to set the end of your cable. Now Solo has established a perfectly straight line between those two points in space; it’s locked onto that line and can’t fly anywhere but up and down that line. Solo has also memorized the pan and tilt of the camera at both ends, so really all you have to do is tap “play” on the app and Solo will fly and film the whole shot automatically, smoothing the movements for a perfectly controlled pro shot as it interpolates between your two frames. If you reverse, the camera action also reverses. You’re getting perfectly smooth set shots with known and fixed start and end points, with sophisticated five-axis camera and copter coordination in between—and it’s your first time shooting at an amazing location. You’ve gone from learning how to fly to telling the story you want to tell in merely minutes.




Do I need a gimbal?

Short answer: No. The gimbal delivers camera stabilization and tilt (angle) control, which makes your shots smooth and enables dynamic camera movement. However, Cable cam doesn’t require a gimbal to work. While the fully autonomous “just push play” function isn’t optimal without the sophisticated kind of tilt control and “Steadicam” capability that the gimbal enables, you can still lock Solo onto a cable and have full control of panning the camera yourself.


Why it changes the game

Think of it this way: If you’re a director on a set, you don’t have to be an expert cameraman—you’ve got at your disposal a crew of highly trained experts. In other words, if you have a vision, it’s just a few minutes of direction away from becoming a reality. But if you have a vision of an aerial shot you want to get and you’re a new drone pilot, that vision could be weeks, months or even years of practice away from becoming a reality. Either that, or you’d have to hire a pro crew. And even if you happen to be a pro cinema pilot—even if you’re working as a team of two, one on the sticks and one working the camera—that shot still isn’t a sure thing, as any pro cinema pilot will tell you.

Solo is your aerial camera crew: It can be your pilot, your cameraman or both. Cable cam shortcuts all the practice time, so that even first-time pilots can start realizing their aerial visions from day one. It also makes it possible for one person to get the kind of shots in minutes that it used to take hours for a two-man crew to get. And once you have the shot you wanted to get, you’ve now got a ton of battery life left over to try riskier, more creative shots. It’s a cool paradox—by putting the flight skills into the computer, Solo doesn’t take the human element out; it actually accentuates it, freeing you to shoot more nuanced, more “human” shots.

So yes, we wanted Smart Shots to enable anyone to reliably and easily get the shots they want—but more than that we wanted you to start thinking of the air less in terms of angles of approach and lines and waypoints, and more in terms of storytelling, of frames and scenes, beginnings and endings. Cable cam lets anyone step up and be a creative aerial filmmaker without also having to be skilled as a pilot. The skill is in the copter; the creativity is in you.

The post Solo: All about Cable cam appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

via Solo: All about Cable cam

Robotic Tools Understand What You Want to Do, Help You Do It

An intelligent, collaborative robotic arm knows how to complete tasks that you may not
via Robotic Tools Understand What You Want to Do, Help You Do It

Are you ready for the future? Take our test

Are landlines dead, is DNA private, and what will you do if a robot takes your job? Answer these questions and more to find out how future-proof you are

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via Are you ready for the future? Take our test

Man behind Darpa's robotics challenge: robots will soon learn from each other

Gill Pratt is set to leave the wing of the US defense department that develops cutting-edge technologies but lets us in on what’s next for the venerated agency

Gill Pratt invented legs. Well, sort of: the MIT-educated scientist invented electric series-elastic actuators, the technology that carried the bipedal “dinosaur” robots that wowed the scientific community in the early aughts.

Since 2010, he has worked for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), the wing of the US defense department devoted to funding and developing new technologies, from a self-steering bullet called Exacto to the packet-switching system, Arpanet, that became the internet. He is now set to leave.

Related: Try, Robot: Darpa contest sends new humanoids into 'nuclear reactor'

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via Man behind Darpa's robotics challenge: robots will soon learn from each other

Science fiction no more? Channel 4’s Humans and our rogue AI obsessions

We’ve told ourselves stories about the robot revolution for decades – but technological advances are hauling artificial intelligence out of the fictional realm. As the real world catches up, is it time to rewrite the script?

Related: Elon Musk: artificial intelligence is our biggest existential threat

RoboCop, that tin-suited keeper of law, order and a heroic portmanteau, abides by three prime directives: 1) Serve the public trust, 2) Protect the innocent, 3) Uphold the law. He lives by these rules with algorithmic devotion. As well he must: each is written into his circuitry. Not only that, his existence is dependent upon the absence of error. A misstep by an American beat cop, as recent events have proved, may only result in gardening leave or suspension (at least, if the indiscretion was filmed by some dauntless passer-by). But should a cyborg officer so much as erroneously issue a speeding ticket, he and his electronic colleagues would surely be summarily melted down and their metal used to make candlesticks.

Related: Google a step closer to developing machines with human-like intelligence

Related: Are the robots about to rise? Google's new director of engineering thinks so…

Related: How super AI could end the age of humans – podcast

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via Science fiction no more? Channel 4’s Humans and our rogue AI obsessions

"How not to build the Terminator" - two disturbing days at the 'world cup' for robots

What really happens at the US Defence Agency’s annual robotics showdown, and what are Uber, Amazon and Elon Musk doing in the crowd?

• Humanoid robots – in pictures

It’s surprisingly transfixing watching robots – great, lumbering, 7ft-tall humanoids – trying to walk and use power tools and drive a car. But it’s not the only spectator sport on hand at the Darpa Robotic Challenge. There’s also spot-the-billionaire. The first one I clock is Larry Page, co-founder of Google, who walks right in front of me leading his young son by the hand. “Larry!” I say, but then hesitate. I’m not sure how this question will end. “Is Google planning to build a race of superbots that will take over the earth?” is perhaps too bold an opener. “Could I just … ?” I say but he simply smiles and walks away.

Given that Google bought multiple AI and robotics companies 18 months ago on a secret shopping spree, including a Japanese one, Schaft, which won the first round of the Darpa challenge, it’s hardly surprising that Page has turned up for what is the World Cup of cutting edge robotics. Or what Gill Pratt, the programme director at Darpa who designed the competition, calls “the Super Bowl for nerds”. Because what Google is planning to do with its robots is one of the many hot topics of the weekend. The company has “gone dark”, Will Knight of MIT Tech Review says. “Nobody knows. It’s a complete mystery. Though it’s also possible that even Google doesn’t know what to do with them yet.”

Related: My week as an Amazon insider

Related: New self-driving Google car smaller and even less reliant on human assistance

Related: Pepper the chatty robot makes friends on first day at work

Related: Artificial intelligence will become strong enough to be a concern, says Bill Gates

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via "How not to build the Terminator" - two disturbing days at the 'world cup' for robots
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