How to Think about Solo’s Smart Shots: A complete video production unit

Smart Shots aren’t what you thought they were. They weren’t even what we thought they were.

Our video production team has now spent over half a year living with and shooting with Smart Shots. Over the course of this time, we’ve learned from our own technology. This had led us to totally reframe the language we use to help us understand this extraordinarily advanced and complex feature of Solo. Long story short, Smart Shots are much more dynamic storytelling devices than even we ourselves first understood them to be. Solo isn’t a drone as we’ve traditionally thought of drones; thanks to Smart Shots, it’s really a practical, versatile and unique storytelling tool. A complete video production unit in a backpack.

Here’s the language of Smart Shots in real-world applications, from a video production standpoint.


Cable cam

The name seems fairly self-explanatory: Lock Solo onto a virtual cable to get the perfect shot. But today our team has been thinking of this Smart Shot not merely as Cable cam, but as “Narrative.”

Why do they say “Narrative”?

Cable cam allows you to set not just a cable, but to use autonomy, keyframes and fully-integrated camera control to tell an actual narrative from your first frame to your last. What’s more, you not only have the option to fly this set cable and work the camera as you please, you have the option to set a narrative arc from your first frame through to your last and have Solo capture it automatically—it hits all the marks, and you can even repeat it exactly until you (and your actors or athletes or pets or other subjects) nail their performance. Once we understood this, suddenly we weren’t thinking of capturing great drone shots in terms of lines in the sky and waypoints, but as arcs of a story: Use Cable cam to go from keyframe to keyframe, introduce or reveal new elements or characters, follow a line of action or illustrate a change.

Plus, unlike other drones, Solo is a fully integrated computer/copter/gimbal/camera system, so it can control all of the technical elements of getting the perfect shot smoothly and reliably. You can work the camera as you wish, or let Solo control the camera position and aiming, easing in and out of your desired frames automatically—all you have to do is set the beginning and the end of your narrative, then press “play” and let Solo be your cinematographer and handle all the filming. No jerky stops and starts in your shots that might otherwise cause a viewer’s suspension of disbelief to fly away. In other words, a crafted Narrative.

Check it out in action here.



Again, the name nails the prime function: Solo will circle a subject of your choosing and automatically capture an iconic “wrap-around” shot. Other drones can do this, as 3DR’s earlier products have been doing for years now. Orbit, however, does much more: Our team now calls is Spiral.

What do they mean by “Spiral”?

Right in the app, you can adjust the circle’s radius in real time to get the exact frame and angle that you want. This means you can make responsive adjustments midflight for truly sophisticated—yet still automated—shots. You can also adjust Solo’s altitude as you fly.

Plus you can adjust them both at once—this gives you real time control over incredible corkscrewing shots, where Solo controls camera pointing so you’re always focused on your subject. Because other drones can’t control the camera in this way, these shots are not only mindblowing, but also inimitable: 5-axis shots, captured automatically.

Now with Solo humming along automatically, you’re free to play with its radius and its altitude to create amazingly cool and brand new corkscrew shots. You can even change the altitude of the “point of focus” (the center of your circle) by simply adjusting gimbal tilt with the paddle on the controller’s left shoulder.


It’s a ton of fun to shoot with, too. You can improvise, create new motion and action as you go. Solo is a full-on video system, with the computer controlling the gimbal and the camera direction, so you don’t ever have to worry about what you’re going to be looking at.

Just tap “play” on the app and Solo will do it all for you—both the flying and the camerawork—with you adjusting the speed, altitude and radius. Now you can use Spirals as a storytelling device: React to the moment and to elements coming in and out of the frame; or, choose when to make your own reveals and bring elements in and out of the frame.

Click here to see what we’re talking about.



We know what a selfie is. Some love, some hate. Solo has the ability to automatically capture a pretty dramatic and dynamic selfie—just set it up in front of you, hit play and Solo automatically flies itself up and away, showing the expanding scenery around you as it goes, all while keeping you in the center of the shot. Solo keeps filming on the way back down, too, so you can also get a cool aerial zoom in on yourself from a distance. But in our creative application of this shot, our team has discovered a few reasons why “Selfie” isn’t a perfectly accurate way to think of this Smart Shot.

It turns out that the name “Selfie” belies the true storytelling power of this Smart Shot. Instead, when we use it, we tend to call it “Reveal.” Here’s why.

First, selfies themselves have a narcissistic connotation—you’re the subject of the picture. What this Smart Shot does is sort of the opposite—true, you’re still the center of the shot, but as Solo soars away, you yourself get smaller and smaller. The shot then transitions from being about you to being more about your position and size in relationship to the world around you.

Second, in filmmaking terms, Selfie is actually more of what’s known as a “reveal.” That is, as the frame of the shot expands it reveals new elements, and eventually a whole new scope and scene. You can use this as a narrative device, adding surprising elements and even characters, transforming in one smooth, automatic shot the way we see your central character. On the returning “zoom” shot, you can do the opposite—go from a larger and expansive context to a more intimate one.

And it doesn’t even have to be a “Selfie”—you can set anything up to be your central focus in Selfie: a third-person character; a group of people; even structures or natural features or other objects.

Here’s this Smart Shot in action.


Smart Shots: Much more than lines, circles and selfies, yes?

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Harvard's Robot Bee Is Now Also a Submarine

Without any hardware modifications, the Harvard RoboBee learns to land in the water and go for a swim
via Harvard's Robot Bee Is Now Also a Submarine

Orbit: Get insane shots without going insane

You may have heard the popular myth that only the insane can draw a perfect circle by hand. Or that trying to do it will drive you insane. Or that it’s actually impossible to draw one freehand (it’s not). Or the legend that Michelangelo drew one for the Pope to earn the commission to paint the Sistine Chapel (it was actually Giotto and Saint Peter’s).

All mythology aside, it’s really, really hard to draw a perfect circle without some trickery.

Luckily, 3DR specializes in trickery.

Nothing’s impossible—except maybe manually flying a drone in a perfect, steady circle while keeping the camera faced on a fixed central point. Ask any cinema pilot: It takes a lot of experience to even approximate one of these smooth, steady wraparound shots, or even a section of one—especially if you’re flying by yourself without a second operator to work the camera. Several things stand in the way: shaky thumbs, nerves, environmental conditions, coordinating the camera’s pan with the copter’s arc, etc.

With Orbit, however, we’ve eliminated all of these variables by putting all the skill into Solo’s computer, making it easy for anyone, even a brand new user, to capture an iconic wraparound shot.

Other drones can do this. However: What’s even more tricky, though—and what other drones can’t do—we’ve made a perfect circle elastic.

So sure, Solo can automatically circle any object of your choosing while keeping the camera pointed in at the center. But right in the app, you can adjust the circle’s radius in real time to get the exact frame you want—even make these adjustments midflight for more sophisticated shots. You can also adjust altitude through the app as you fly.

And you can adjust them both at once—this gives you real time control over incredible corkscrewing shots, where Solo controls camera pointing so you’re always focused on your subject. Because other drones can’t control the camera in this way, these shots are not only mindblowing, but also inimitable: 5-axis shots, captured automatically. Check out the video below for a great example.

How it works: Imagine you’re on vacation at a beautiful remote beach, and you notice an old lighthouse on a rocky outcrop and you’re salivating over a wraparound cinematic shot. Simply fly up to it at a distance of your choosing and target the base of the lighthouse using Solo’s mobile app’s live HD view. Press the button you’ve set as Orbit mode on the controller—let’s say you’ve chosen the “B” button—and the camera locks onto the object it’s pointed at, in this case the lighthouse.

Now 1/3 of your mobile screen becomes an overhead map view—similar to Google maps—so you can see geographically exactly where Solo’s camera is locked. If you need to, you can adjust this location up or down with your finger to make sure the camera is looking exactly where you want. The copter itself is on a virtual track, locked into a circle around the object. The radius of this circle is defined by how far away you were when you first entered Orbit mode. Now moving the left stick right and left will make Solo orbit to the right or left around the lighthouse while the gimbal works to keep it perfectly in frame.

Or just tap “play” on the app and Solo will do it all for you—both the flying and the camerawork—with you adjusting the speed, altitude and radius.

With Solo humming along automatically, you’re free to just play with radius and altitude—not only can you create these amazingly cool and brand new corkscrew shots (which we call “spiral” mode), but it’s a ton of fun to shoot with. You can improvise, create new motion and action as you go. Solo is a full-on video system, with the computer controlling the gimbal and the camera direction, so you don’t ever have to worry about what you’re going to be looking at.

Plus it’s super easy: Simply move the stick forward and back to increase/decrease the radius of the circle, increase or decrease the altitude of Solo with the altitude stick on the controller (the gimbal will automatically adjust its tilt angle to keep your “point of focus” centered in the frame). You can even change the altitude of the “point of focus” (the center of your circle) by simply adjusting gimbal tilt with the paddle on the controller’s left shoulder.

These additional features are unique to Solo, thanks to its computer processing power. Now you can use your drone as a storytelling device: React to the moment and to elements coming in and out of the frame; or, choose when to make your own reveals and bring elements in and out of the frame.

Now you’re capturing incredibly dynamic and steady wraparound, spiraling shots with no uneven or jerky movements. Insane shots without going insane.

The post Orbit: Get insane shots without going insane appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

via Orbit: Get insane shots without going insane

Drones and the NFL & Taiwan & the Moons of Jupiter & Firefighting & Russian Calligraphers & Literally Hundreds of Sharks

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

Question of the week

The winning sensationalist headline from last week came through SUASNews (h/t Gary Mortimer): “Four planes have been involved in fatal near misses with drones at major British airports including Heathrow in the last month.” The actual article and headline are from The Daily Mail.

“Fatal near misses.” Might be the best one yet.

At any rate, I’m always on the lookout for writing like this; so if you find any, please share with me:

But as you may have already seen, this week we dropped a trailer for an original 3DR sci-fi series—it’s called Life After Gravity and it’s shot entirely on Solo and GoPro. The whole point is to show that with Solo’s automation, anyone can now start using drones as professional storytelling devices, video production units in a backpack—not just for shooting sexy scenery or action sports. It’s an ambitious and epic effort on the part of our video team. Click here to watch the trailer and learn more.

And as it happens there was a ton of great drone video out there this week, which you can find, as you can every week, just by jumping down to the last section of the Download. So the question of the week: What are your favorite drone videos of the year? Not only that, but why are they your favorites? Share the links with us in the comments section below.

And now, the stories that mattered last week…



The NFL has become the first pro sports league to receive the FAA’s permission to fly drones. However, they can’t yet fly drones over games, just empty stadiums. The league’s technology adoption once again lags way behind Bill Belichik, who has in all likelihood been flying drones over NFL practice fields for nearly a decade now. (The Verge)

A Baltimore grand jury has indicted three men who were accused of attempting to fly a drone carrying tobacco, synthetic marijuana (known to kidz these days as “spice” and about a hundred other names) and pornographic DVDs into a prison. The men face over three dozen charges. (CBS)

The Taiwanese government has proposed new drone regulations. “Under the revisions proposed by the Civil Aeronautics Administration, unless otherwise permitted, UAVs and drones can only be operated by those aged 18 and above during daylight hours. The maximum altitude is 400 feet and they must be within visual sight of the pilots at all times…. In addition, models weighing 15 kilograms and above require operator’s licenses, insurance and registration. Those weighing less than 15 kilograms do not need licensing or registration, but are subject to the authority of respective local governments.” (Taiwan Today)

This December the UK will host its first-ever FPV drone racing championship. (AV Interactive)

Drone legally tows election ad across highway. People get upset. (Times Colonist)

“Four planes have been involved in fatal near misses with drones at major British airports including Heathrow in the last month.” (The Daily Mail, via our friends at SUASNews)


Culture and commentary

Check out “The Drone Age” from The Economist, an accurate and concise overview of where the global drone industry is today, and where it looks to be headed.

Graham Phillips, a journalist from the UK, has been publishing some incredibly compelling drone footage of war zones in the Ukraine. “If you have a war in Syria or Iraq that’s one thing, but these people in Pervomaisk were living a life recognizable to any Westerner just 18 months ago—going to supermarkets, cafes, etc…. Journalists hardly go there, it hardly gets covered. To my knowledge this is the first drone footage of the town.… I started using a drone in [the eastern Ukraine region of] Donbass about five months ago and immediately noticed a huge boost in retweets, reaction, hits, response as compared to standard footage. It really allows people, at a visceral level, to see the real scene. It conveys what other cameras can’t.” (Inverse)

Following up on a piece from last week’s Download: The Department of the Interior’s testing of a drone over an Idaho wildfire was a “wild” (!!) success: “The unmanned aircraft, or drone, was used to take videos, locate hot spots, and even measure the intensity of the flames. That information was then immediately sent back to the command center, and the agencies involved say it was a huge success.” (Fox News Radio) 


High tech

Hydroswarm, a project created and led by an MIT PhD student, is an underwater drone network that could help us more efficiently explore that 95% of our oceans (!!!) we for some reason haven’t quite looked into yet. (TechCrunch)

And why not? Because we clearly have species-wide ADHD: In the same week, news breaks that we’re also going to use an underwater drone to start exploring the oceans of Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, in the 2020s. Europa has an estimated three times the amount of water that Earth does. That water is under a planet-wide sheet of ice, but NASA has already shown through research in the Arctic that their drone can attach to the underside of the ice and record images and data about its movements underwater. (International Business Times)

NASA has completed phase three of a sense-and-avoid-based air traffic control system for drones. In this phase, an Ikhana drone made 11 flights with over 200 scripted encounters with other aircraft. “Depending on the specific scenario, either Ikhana detected one or more approaching aircraft and sent an alert to its remote pilot to take action, or Ikhana itself took action on its own by flying a programmed maneuver to avoid a collision.” (Unmanned Systems)

Prominent high-end camera maker RED has announced a new lightweight camera, called RAVEN, designed for drone use. It weighs 3.5 lbs. More specs: “4K recording at up to 120fps, 2K at up to 240fps, and 2K ProRes up to 60fps. On board is an 8.8 megapixel RED DRAGON image sensor measuring 20.48 mm x 10.8 mm, which is smaller than APS-C, but bigger than micro four-thirds.” (Dive)



Def watch this: Drone footage of Russian calligraphers painting a rooftop. According to the article, at 17,000 square feet this is only “one of” Russia’s biggest calligraphy projects. The biggest? Vladimir Putin’s signature written in a perpetual oil fire on the surface of the Caspian Sea. (The “i”s are dotted with hearts, which are also on fire.) (Digg)

Red pill/blue pill scenario: Do you want to know the horrible truth? Drone footage shows hundreds of man-sized black-tip sharks in the waters just off the coast of Destin, Florida. The sharks are just hanging out there, like it’s no big deal that there are hundreds of man-sized black-tip sharks in the water literally only feet away from them. (Orlando Weekly)

Meanwhile, in decidedly friendlier waters, a pair of whales pays a visit to an Australian paddleboarder. (Yahoo)

Drone video over a Moscow cathedral at dawn, red dawn. (RT)

The Tesla lightning tower and hidden cities: Five abandoned Soviet-era architectural sites from above. (RT)

Don’t click if you’re afraid of heights, like I am. That said, this is pretty stunning: A bridge spanning a gorge in China, made of rope and glass. (MSN)

The post Drones and the NFL & Taiwan & the Moons of Jupiter & Firefighting & Russian Calligraphers & Literally Hundreds of Sharks appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

via Drones and the NFL & Taiwan & the Moons of Jupiter & Firefighting & Russian Calligraphers & Literally Hundreds of Sharks

Introducing Life After Gravity: An original sci-fi series from 3DR, shot entirely on Solo and GoPro

The industrial slabs of Hong Kong. A ceremonial center in the Mexican jungle. Science. Anti-science. Teleportation. Goons. Opposing forces. A menacing international space agency. A Type III alien civilization. An element not of this planet. The dawn of a new human epoch. Drones.

That’s right: We’re launching a full-on sci-fi series. “Life After Gravity” (read more on Fast Company, and watch the trailer below) is a thriller on a global scale—intergalactic, really—about the blessings and poisons of extraordinary power, the many conflicts of its pursuit, and the birth of a new era for our civilization when we’re suddenly relieved of the trappings of gravity. All of it was ambitiously shot by our in-house video production team in collaboration with producers and Solo users in locations all over the world, under some serious budgetary and time constraints, using only the elements found in a typical 3DR Backpack for Solo. The series debuts on our YouTube channel next week, and we’ll release the first six episodes at regular intervals over the remaining months of 2015.

Why we’re doing it

The entire concept behind Solo was to give people a powerful and easy-to-use new storytelling tool that fits in a single backpack. And with this series, we’re putting that fundamental concept into real-world practice so you can see the results.

It’s one thing to demonstrate (or even to capture) the cool and unique types of shots that only Solo’s computer-powered Smart Shots and automatic camera control make possible. But Solo’s potential goes so much further than just getting cool shots: It’s a complete video production unit in a backpack. After all, we ourselves aren’t just cool things to look at: We’re humans, meaning, effectually, that we’re stories. So it’s another thing entirely to understand what Solo means in terms of storytelling power—and what better way to demonstrate this than through a great story.

In the LAG series, we give Solo’s technology and all those cool shots the weight of narrative. This way we can show how Cable cam isn’t just an easy way to fly a camera from one cinematic point to another: This is how the intelligent camera control of Cable cam can be used to convey an impactful scene, establish a character or demonstrate that a change has taken place. Or here, Solo as a camera in a transhuman character’s POV (see main title card shot in the trailer). Or Orbit, capturing a dynamic or epic moment in a way that no other piece of video equipment can. We even use Solo for all of the traditional ground-level shots—even replacing handheld shots—lending them a subtle new energy and urgency. And all of this is done pretty much on the fly, with a small crew of two or three people shooting on location for a day or two entirely out of one or two 3DR Backpacks for Solo. We hope first and foremost that this story entertains and inspires you as a film, of course, but that it also inspires you to start thinking of drones in a new, more expansive and fully realized way.

To help make this clear we’re co-releasing user field reports with each episode. The field reports will be a combination of behind-the-scenes videos narrated by production team members themselves and blog posts about the overall process and experience of each shoot. The behind-the-scenes videos will provide insight into the technical aspects of how exactly certain shots in the episode were created and captured on Solo. The blogs will fully flesh out the planning, the work, the adventure and the problems overcome on each shoot.

Aerial Motion Control

Given Solo’s versatility and control, we’ve now come to think of it as not really just a drone, but rather more as an aerial motion control unit. An affordable one: the majority of the cost of shooting this film went to travel. The only equipment you need to tell a story in this way is a Solo, a few extra batteries, a GoPro HERO and some editing software. And your big, beautiful brain.

We really hope you enjoy the series, and would love your feedback. We’ve built a story framework that’s nearly infinitely extensible, so in the future you’ll be able to play a part in where this all is headed.

Music by Sorne:


The post Introducing Life After Gravity: An original sci-fi series from 3DR, shot entirely on Solo and GoPro appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

via Introducing Life After Gravity: An original sci-fi series from 3DR, shot entirely on Solo and GoPro

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

SoftBank issues warning to customers buying humanoid Pepper, ‘policy owner must not perform any sexual act’

They can educate, entertain, and even help with banking queries and hotel check-ins, but as sexual partners, Japan’s new generation of android robots are off limits.

That is the somewhat bizarre warning issued from SoftBank, the firm that makes Pepper, perhaps the country’s best-known humanoid, who went on sale earlier this year.

Continue reading...
via No sex, please, they're robots, says Japanese android firm

Apple fans (and a robot) among first to buy new iPhone 6s – video

Hundreds queue in Sydney to be some of the first to get their hands on the new iPhone 6s or 6s Plus. For those standing in the rain on George Street, it’s irrelevant that a store across the street is selling the same product with no waiting required. Kane Hulden, 17, actually enjoyed his three-hour wait: ‘I love waiting ... I waited 17 hours once for Iggy Azalea.’ Others travelled from as far as the US, while one woman sent a robot to hold her place in line

Continue reading...
via Apple fans (and a robot) among first to buy new iPhone 6s – video

Solo: All about Cable cam

Solo’s most compelling feature? Smart Shots. They go beyond just automatic copter control—something 3DR’s had years of experience in—to automate the entire process of capturing a smooth shot, including dynamic camera aiming and control fully integrated into Solo’s computer system. Locking your drone onto a flight path is one thing, but turning that into the ability to automatically capture customized cinematic shots is another step up entirely. It’s an ability that only Solo’s processing power can deliver. In this way, Smart Shots take Solo beyond the realm of a drone—it’s really an aerial motion control rig, a complete video production unit in a backpack.

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 concentrate on getting the shot, or let Solo execute the exact shot you want—turns the most heads. This article will be dedicated to Cable cam: 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 that while at 3DR I use my thumbs almost exclusively to hit the space bar.

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.

On top of that, even if you’re a pro you’d typically need a big, expensive rig with tons of extra batteries (and time) to get the shots that you want to (or are asked to) get. That’s exactly why we developed Cable cam: So creative people who might not have much experience flying can execute and capture the shots they see in their head, all out of one backpack, even shooting spontaneously or on a tight run-n-gun schedule.

Cable cam abstracts you from the actual flying, as well as from the difficulty of executing smooth camera movements even in complex 5-axis movements, so you can focus on setting up the perfect shot. We put the skills in the software so you’re free to be creative, adventurous and confident. This Smart Shot goes beyond automating flight to enabling 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 with different copter 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.

But that’s just layer one. Unique to Solo, Cable cam can work as a “no-person” camera crew. Solo will memorize the exact shot you set at each end point—camera position, gimbal position and the copter’s location in space—and when you tap “play” on the app, will fly itself through the scene, from first frame to the last. If you want more personal real time control, you can control copter direction along the cable with the sticks or in the app. Even customize which direction the copter rotates between the frames; this allow you to automatically execute up to 358-degree corkscrews as you track along the cable. 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 the track that you set. Solo also 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.




Why it changes the game

If you’re a director on a set, you don’t also 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 or inexperienced 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’s software shortcuts all of that practice time so even first-time pilots can start realizing their 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 (and many batteries) for a two-man crew to get. And once you have the shot you want, 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 take the risk 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.

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Drones and the Kremlin & Robot Dogs & Space-X & Rwanda & A Rope Bridge & The Word “Papal”

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Question of the week

The discussion on last week’s blog was a particularly vibrant one. Thanks to all of you who contributed. The creation of reasonable drone privacy laws will become more and more pressing as the technology proliferates, and it’s great to see constructive discourse like this one.

This week, though, I’d like to blow the whistle. I came across an article in the Sunday Times titled “Terrorists Plan Attacks with Mini Drones.” The article, however, only discusses the potential for bad actors to use drones in an attack. Not any imminent attack, as the headline implies.

And it also turns out that nearly all of the reporting on another popular story from last week, about a new North Dakota law that allows police to arm drones with non-lethal weapons, badly misrepresented the story of that bill. (More on that in the links below.)

This kind of irresponsible sensationalist reporting is rampant—not just about drones, of course, though the topic is definitely one of the more sensationalized. The drone community should do what it can to encourage and spread accurate and reasonable reporting about this technology. It’s not all rainbows and butterflies, but it’s definitely not all bombs and backyard invaders.

So the question of the week: What are your favorite—or the most exaggerated, clich├ęd or downright inaccurate—sensationalist drone headlines? Blow your own whistles on the comments section below.

And now, the stories from last week that really did matter…



The FAA declared that all US cities hosting the papal visit this week are no-drone zones. (FAA) 

The UK will partner with NASA in developing a national air traffic control system for drones. NASA has already been working with several US companies, including Amazon, on developing drone ATC in the states. And did you know: There are about 85,000 commercial, cargo, military and general aviation flights in the US every day. (The Epoch Times)

Rwanda might become the first country with a fully-functional “droneport.” The drones would deliver medicine, food and blood to rural residents. Two-thirds of Africa’s rural residents live more than 2 km from a working road, making deliveries of these essentials problematic. There are also reportedly about 180 million cases of malaria on the continent every year, a deadly disease that can be treated with medicine and blood transfusions—as long as those things can reach the population. (GOOD)

Some truly great, honest reporting here: The new North Dakota law that allows law enforcement to arm drones with non-lethal weapons was actually conceived to limit the police’s ability to arm drones. (Fargo police said they’d never have a reason to arm drones, anyway.) That “non-lethal” clause got added as a condition of the bill’s passage, to the dismay of the bill’s original author, who intended the bill to also prohibit the mounting of non-lethal weapons. He encourages more states to scrutinize their laws: “What I’ve been pitching and no one is really picking up is that contrary to North Dakota being the first, isn’t it intriguing that essentially nearly all of the states already have the ability and it’s legal to weaponize drones? But no one is really talking about that.” (GovTech)

Virginia Tech’s drone journalism testing project has entered phase two. The partnership of 15 news organizations (including the AP, NBC and the New York Times) who are testing drones for journalism will now simulate news events for drones to “cover,” under Virginia Tech’s COA. ( 

A pair of German tourists—a father and son—were briefly detained and then fined in Moscow for flying a drone over the Kremlin. The spokesperson for the Moscow police said, “You don’t go to prison for something like that.” (Inquirer) 

Firefighters in Idaho are testing a drone over a live wildfire this week to determine if it can transmit useful real-time imagery to crews on the ground. (SFGate)


Culture and commentary

NBC also takes on the issue of arming drones. Five states have already passed laws that ban the practice in some form. Try to look past the sensationalist headline; it’s not a bad piece. 

Another solid piece of in-depth reporting, this one on how important drone hobbyists have been to the development of the UAV industry: “The geeks, finally, have reclaimed a word; hobbyist means expert in this field. Professional means ‘probably started as a hobbyist.’” (The Guardian)

This is interesting: Sponsored content from BP, posted to the National Journal, about how drones are transforming “the energy business”—but really, BP’s business. (You’d have to pay close attention to notice the real attribution of the article.) The anonymous author makes good points, but in 2006—when the company apparently first floated the idea of using drones to monitor pipelines—who would have thought that the idea of a multinational oil corporation trumpeting their use of drones could be considered a smart PR move? (National Journal/BP) 

Following California Governor Jerry Brown’s veto of a drone privacy act, The LA Times explores options for drone regulation in the United States.

The AUVSI offers an analysis of the 1,400+ section 333 exemptions that the FAA has approved so far. Highlights: California is in the lead; 85% of recipients are small businesses; the approved drones are manufactured across 22 states. (Fortune) 


High Tech

The US Navy has developed swarm technology that allows one pilot to control 50 drones at once. That’s a world record. (Daily Dot) 

Chaotic Moon, the Austin tech startup you might remember from such non-constructive viral hits as the Taser drone and the spray paint drone, has developed a drone system for law enforcement that’s basically a flying dashboard camera. The system, called “Blue Eyes,” would deploy automatically at traffic stops from the roof of the police car, record the scene and then return to a charging station on the cruiser to upload the video directly to the cloud. +1 to the reporter here for working in the phrase “behind Blue Eyes.” (Biz Beat)

A hacker group called Critical Engineering is developing balloons outfitted with radio signal interceptors that they hope can be deployed as a way for the public to monitor the government’s aerial transmissions of information. (Wired)

Thermal camera maker Flir released its Vue Pro line of thermal imaging cameras, designed specifically for drones like Solo that come with a GoPro mount. “The $1,999 Vue Pro will allow many drone operators, including firefighters who want aerial images to seek out hot spots in burning buildings, or farmers looking to get aerial views of their crops to check for dehydration, to get by with just a basic drone, instead of a $25,000 enterprise drone.” (MarketWatch)



In a Zurich research lab, two drones built a rope bridge strong enough to support a human. The video is mesmerizing. (The Verge)

Watch a drone land on a robot dog. (Popular Science)

Now there’s a video game where you can try to land a Space-X rocket on a drone boat. Nothing’s impossible, right? This is impossible. (Motherboard)

The post Drones and the Kremlin & Robot Dogs & Space-X & Rwanda & A Rope Bridge & The Word “Papal” appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

via Drones and the Kremlin & Robot Dogs & Space-X & Rwanda & A Rope Bridge & The Word “Papal”

DARPA Tests Battery-Powered Exoskeletons on Real Soldiers

Deep in the woods in Maryland, the U.S. Army is testing exoskeletons that can lighten the load that soldiers carry
via DARPA Tests Battery-Powered Exoskeletons on Real Soldiers

What It Takes to Be an Antarctic Engineer

Jim O’Sullivan and Julius Rix demonstrate the essential qualities of resourcefulness and endurance
via What It Takes to Be an Antarctic Engineer

Trash Hauling Robots Are Cool, But Do We Really Need Them?

Volvo wants robots to help bringing trashcans to garbage trucks, which sounds like a great idea except that it may not be
via Trash Hauling Robots Are Cool, But Do We Really Need Them?

Intelligent steps to future-proof your job against the robot revolution

Find a role involving creativity, problem solving or caring – or go the way of the knocker-up of the pre smartphone age

How did people wake up in time for work before alarm clocks existed? Today we’d miss the train without our smartphones, but there was a time when a person known as a knocker-up would tap on your window with a truncheon – and unlike the snooze button, he wouldn’t leave until you got up.

If Charles Dickens were to scour today’s jobs pages he would find many of the professions unrecognisable. Technology has given birth to new career paths, but some jobs have disappeared as machines do them faster. A study by Oxford academics Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne claims that computerisation puts nearly half of jobs into the high-risk category, which means they could be redundant within 10- to 20 years.

Related: What will the job market look like in 20 years time?

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via Intelligent steps to future-proof your job against the robot revolution

Video Friday: Quadcopter With Quadruped, Magnetic Microbots, and Baxter Flips Pancakes

Your weekly injection of steaming hot robot videos
via Video Friday: Quadcopter With Quadruped, Magnetic Microbots, and Baxter Flips Pancakes

Robot swarms: scientists work to harness the power of the insect world

The hive mentality is inspiring the latest advances in technology and the US military is already experimenting with swarms of robotic boats and aircraft

Armies of robots are already here – they’re mostly just very small.

As robotics advances, scientists continue to take cues from the natural world, whether it’s by building robots out of material from animals, like cloned rat muscle or jellyfish matter or building them in imitation of dogs or cats. And now, those scientists are learning to simulate intelligence by imitating a swarm.

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via Robot swarms: scientists work to harness the power of the insect world

Robot swarms: from ants to silicon

Swarms have existed for millions of years in nature and now they’re evolving into silicon. Labs across the US are developing robotic swarms of flying copters and tiny bots that can coordinate on their own. With robot swarms already in development for the US military, these bands of robots will only continue to grow.

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via Robot swarms: from ants to silicon

It’s too late to give machines ‘ethics’, they’re already beyond our control | Susan Blackmore

Google’s Demis Hassabis suggests we can mitigate the dangers of artificial intelligence by instilling values, but even now it’s evolving for its own benefit, fed by our phones, drones and CCTV

Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates and now Demis Hassabis of Google’s DeepMind have all warned of the dangers of artificial intelligence (AI), urging that we put ethical controls in place before it’s too late.

But they have all mistaken the threat: the AI we have let loose is already evolving for its own benefit.

Our future role in this machine? We might be like the humble mitochondrion, which supplies energy to our body’s cells

Related: AI: will the machines ever rise up?

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via It’s too late to give machines ‘ethics’, they’re already beyond our control | Susan Blackmore

The (Disputed!) Principles of Flight

Whatever you want to call them—drones, UAVs, sUAS, flying robots, flying cameras, quadcopters, quadrotors—they fly. So we figured some of you might want to know exactly what’s going on while your Solo is aloft. What I’ve learned is that it’s probably not what you expect.

Afraid of flying? Then skip this next sentence. Even though we’ve been flying planes with people in them for well over a hundred years now, physicists and aviation experts still don’t agree about exactly why airplanes fly. The physics is quite complicated, and many experts say our understanding is still incomplete. But that doesn’t stop our frantic searching for the best deal on a value airline; most of us probably aren’t concerned with how flight works, as long as it does. But for the curious, here are the facts (simplified for readability) as we currently purport to know them.


Why airplanes fly

The short of it is that the traditional explanation for how planes achieve lift doesn’t tell the whole story. Lift is one of the four forces of flight, along with thrust, drag and gravity. As the popular story goes, lift is the upward force; thrust is the force that pushes the plane forward; drag is the friction that pulls backward; and gravity is the plane’s weight, pulling the plane down. Lift, that most miraculous of the four forces, is often attributed to the shape of the wing—a curved upper surface and a flat lower surface, called an airfoil. The principle here is that the airfoil shape causes air to flow over it in such a way that the air pressure above the wing is lower than the air pressure below the wing, a differential that lifts the wing up.

This explanation is based on a theory called “Bernoulli’s principle,” which says that the faster a fluid moves, the less pressure it has. The airfoil theory, then, claims that the air (which is a fluid) moving over the curved surface has to move faster than the air on the flat surface—the curved surface is a little bit longer than the flat surface, so the air particles have to travel a longer distance to meet back up with the air that passes over the flat surface. This disparity in pressure creates the lift necessary for flight.

But there’s nothing in physics that says those air particles have to meet on the other side of the wing, and wind tunnel tests show that in fact, no, they don’t have to meet. They go pretty much wherever they please. That means this airfoil theory is incomplete—it doesn’t explain why the air on the wing’s curved surface should travel faster than the air below. Alternatively, if you’ve ever seen a plane fly upside-down, or folded a moderately successful paper airplane of your own, you’ll understand intuitively that the airfoil theory isn’t quite right. Bernoulli’s principle, though accurate in and of itself, doesn’t fully explain flight. Yet this is the story most of us have been taught—that the airfoil shape creates the lift that pulls the plane up—and it’s the story still taught in many flight schools and physics classrooms around the world.

So if that’s not a fully accurate explanation for lift, then what is? It’s thankfully a little simpler, and in some ways a little more familiar; it goes all the way back to Isaac Newton. To oversimplify it, Newton’s third law of motion tells us that every action has an equal but opposite reaction. It’s easy, then, to visualize air particles hitting the bottom of a wing and pushing upward, especially when you consider those wings bolted onto jet planes at a slightly upward angle—this is called the “angle of attack,” the angle at which the wing hits the air. So it turns out that the angle of attack has a lot more to do with generating lift than the airfoil shape does.

But—sorry—it’s not quite so clean as that, either. It’s not that air simply bounces off the bottom of the wing and pushes the plane up—the shape of the wing, taken together with the angle of attack, actually pulls massive amounts of air downward. A great deal of this air passes under the wing, but some of the air also runs over the top of the wing, sort of suctioned to it. This is called the Coanda effect—and it means that yes, the curved surface does play a part. If you’ve ever tried to pour red wine from your wine glass into your friend’s, you’ve become devastatingly familiar with the Coanda effect. To see it, you can hold a coffee mug on its side under a running faucet—the water hugs the side of the mug until it reaches the very bottom. However, if the flow of air over the top of the wing slows down enough, the suction releases and the plane goes into a stall. Paper airplanes, having flat paper wings, don’t generate a high Coanda quotient, so once they start to slow down they tend to stall quickly and drop.

So: Air pushes up on wings thanks to the angle of attack; wings also pull air downwards thanks to their shape; and the Coanda effect ensures that air hugs the top of the wing, creating a powerful suction force. And that’s the best I can do to explain to you how airplanes fly. Or, as completely as the space I have here will allow. As David Foster Wallace once said, there’s a limit to what even interested parties can ask of each other.



Oh, right. Well, how do helicopters fly, then?

Where wings force air under them, helicopter blades literally beat the air down to generate lift. Like most plane wings, these blades are usually shaped like an airfoil. The pitch (angle) of the blades determines how much lift they generate. In a traditional helicopter, the pilot uses a control called a “collective stick” to regulate the pitch of each blade. As you can imagine, the rotor mechanism for a helicopter is quite complex: Not only does it rotate the blades, but the sockets where each blade attaches themselves contain mechanisms that swivel the blades’ pitch as they whirl about. And because the force generated by the swinging blades is so great, helicopters employ a small rear rotor that pushes back against this force and keeps the copter in line.

Solo, however, has four propellers—what’s called a quadrotor, or quadcopter. Quads aren’t a new invention: The first quadcopter was built in 1913—it weighed tons, and needed a live pilot. This preceded Sikorsky’s helicopter, generally considered the first modern design, by decades.

Unlike in traditional helicopters, the propellers on today’s consumer quadcopters are set at a fixed pitch. In other words, their pitch doesn’t determine lift. Instead, a quadcopter’s position and the amount of lift it generates are regulated by the rotation rate of the propellers. (Two propellers rotate clockwise; two rotate counterclockwise.) When you want to make a certain turn, the autopilot feeds information out to the motors—depending what you’re asking the copter to do, some motors may speed up and some may slow down; it’s the imbalance of these forces that determine your heading, direction and speed.


If you want to learn more about flight, there’s the whole internet out there. But I found this article incredibly helpful, and as you’ll see, I owe a lot of the information in this post to it. I’d also like to thank Scott Horn, from our flight ops team, for his time. And Wikipedia. Of course.

The post The (Disputed!) Principles of Flight appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

via The (Disputed!) Principles of Flight

Astronaut Aboard the ISS Controls a Robot on Earth Using Haptic Feedback

Robotic teleoperation means we can explore places where it's too difficult to send fragile, needy humans
via Astronaut Aboard the ISS Controls a Robot on Earth Using Haptic Feedback

Meet Ellie, the machine that can detect depression

Technology is an important channel to treat mental illness, but should we be worried about an age of virtual therapy when only our problems are real?

Ellie is on the screen, she’s welcoming and gentle with a soft encouraging voice. She asks probing questions in a non-judgmental way. Her body language is encouraging and her face is interested and responsive. She’s obviously highly trained and skilful at picking up cues.

Related: Would you trust your Uber driver to give you first aid?

Related: Is there an app for loneliness?

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via Meet Ellie, the machine that can detect depression

Solo Tips for New Users


We made Solo smart not only so it can do more, but also so you have to do less. “Less,” however, doesn’t mean “nothing.” Flying any drone can be tricky—and Solo is, both because of and in spite of its smart technology and advanced autonomy, one of the most complex consumer products ever made. This means that while getting the shots you want has truly never been easier, there’s still a lot to learn, especially for those of you who are first-time flyers with Solo.

With that said, here are some tips for new users who are just learning to fly and shoot on Solo.


Read the manual

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

PS: Please read the manual.


Get to know the Solo app

When you open the Solo app, you’ll find you have three options: Fly Solo; Flight School; and a settings menu. If it’s your first time flying—and even if you’re a relatively experienced pilot but it’s your first time flying Solo—I’d like to persuade you to put your excitement on hold for just a few moments and try to resist tapping Fly Solo first.

Tapping Flight School brings up a host of Solo’s tutorial videos, which you can watch right in the app. These videos walk you through everything from unboxing to your first flight to using Smart Shots like a pro. It’s a great way to get to know Solo before you get in the air, and the series makes an excellent companion for getting you through your first flight.

Tapping the menu icon (upper left corner) brings you to the settings menu. (Here’s an article that dives deep into Solo’s settings.)

In the settings menu you should first check “Software Update” to see if you have the latest and greatest software version—if not, “Software Update” will automatically walk you through the process. Always fly with the latest software for the most advanced features and bug fixes: Updates are easy to download, and the app updates every Solo component wirelessly.

You’ll also see an “Advanced Settings” selection, where you can enable Solo’s advanced flight modes. If you’re new to flying, or feeling even a little apprehensive about flying a new drone, don’t enable advanced flight modes. Solo comes pre-calibrated in “beginner” mode, which means its flight characteristics are set so that it’s super easy to control. When you start getting more familiar and confident, you can explore this aspect of Solo, which will open a new world of possibilities.

At the top of the settings menu, you’ll see an option marked “Solo.” This is an important menu when you’re out in the field and connected to Solo because it helps you calibrate Solo. New users should only focus on “level calibration” and “compass calibration” in this menu—they’re important for ensuring smooth and stable flights; the other options here are for making advanced adjustments.

Level Calibration—When level settings aren’t calibrated, Solo might drift when you let go of the sticks. This option calibrates the autopilot’s gyros. Just place Solo on a hard, level surface, and the app will walk you through the process.

Compass Calibration—Calibrate Solo’s compass so it knows where it’s pointing and you and Solo agree on which direction is which. This involves turning the copter a bit. But just like with the level calibration, the app will walk you through it.



Make sure you always fly Solo in a clear area away from tall trees or other structures. You want to make sure Solo has the best GPS connection possible.

What is GPS, by the way? And how does it work?

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

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

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


Nose in!

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


Stay tuned for some tips for new users on shooting great aerial photo and video with Solo.

The post Solo Tips for New Users appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

via Solo Tips for New Users

iRobot Brings Visual Mapping and Navigation to the Roomba 980

The new robot vacuum uses VSLAM to navigate and clean larger spaces in satisfyingly straight lines
via iRobot Brings Visual Mapping and Navigation to the Roomba 980

Europe Gears Up for Land, Air, and Sea Robotics Competition

The euRathlon challenge will feature ground, marine, and aerial robots competing in a simulated disaster zone
via Europe Gears Up for Land, Air, and Sea Robotics Competition

Drones and Privacy Law and Dubai and Robotic Legs and Fashion Week and Pigeon Shoot Lawsuits

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

Question of the week

This week Jerry Brown, governor of California, vetoed SB 142, a controversial drone privacy bill. First, thanks to those of you who stood with us in opposition to this bill—it was overly broad and would have stifled innovation and commerce in the state, not to mention infringed on first amendment rights and the freedom of hobbyists.

However, there’s a second drone privacy bill before Brown now. AB 856, otherwise known as the Calderon bill, has already passed both houses of the state legislature. It’s different from SB 142, which prohibited all flights for any reason under 350 feet over private property, in that it merely extends existing privacy law to the air: “This bill would expand liability for physical invasion of privacy to additionally include a person knowingly entering into the airspace above the land of another person without permission, as provided.” Violators would be “subject to a civil fine of not less than five thousand dollars ($5,000) and not more than fifty thousand dollars ($50,000).”

We do need some sort of rules in place here. And the Calderon bill is much more reasonable in scope than SB 142 was. It’s also worth noting that California, by far the most populous state, often sets a precedent for laws and regulations adopted more broadly across the country. However, the FAA is currently charged with regulating all national airspace. So: Where does the FAA’s jurisdiction end? Should aerial privacy laws be turned over to state and local governments, who can more exactly tailor laws to their constituency’s needs? Or will this overly complicate the governing of an already complex airspace?

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this important and difficult question—feel free leave to them below.

And now, the top drone news from this week.



California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a controversial drone privacy bill passed by the state legislature. (3DR)

Sen. Chuck Schumer is introducing an amendment to a bill that funds the FAA; the amendment requires manufacturers to outfit drones with geofencing software that wouldn’t permit flight within two miles of an airport or over 500 feet. The amendment would also endorse the creation of regulations prohibiting flight over “sensitive areas,” such as stadiums. (ABC)

The UK has issued its first fine to a drone operator. Nigel Wilson was fined £1800 and banned from flying drones after posting videos to his YouTube channel of aerials taken at least 100 meters above Premier League, Champions League and Championship soccer matches. (The Guardian)

China’s Civil Aviation Authority has opened the country’s first official drone-flying schools. (Shanghaiist)



Qualcomm, a company that makes the internal processors for a number of cellphones (and a 3DR investor), has announced that it’s now getting in the drone game. Its new Snapdragon Flight processor will corral multiple drone components—navigation, camera operation, communication, etc.—into a single board, ultimately leading to lighter and smaller drones. (Popular Science)

Drones have recently disrupted sporting events, but their potential for filming them is truly great, as outlined in this article from Slate.

In order to make landings easier in volatile environments—at sea, for instance—DARPA has outfitted drones with robotic legs. (Popular Science)

Dubai, the host city of the annual international competition Drones for Good, is looking past oil and to drones as a future major industry. (BBC)

And truly, we’ve seen some incredible economic projections for the drone industry. Turns out that wind turbine inspection alone could generate $6 billion a year within a decade. The sunbathing monk offered no comment. (Motherboard)


Culture and commentary

Our CEO Chris Anderson, ahead of his keynote at InterDrone, speaks about his ideas for the future of regulation and safety in the skies: technology can solve the problems it creates. (TechCrunch) 

The Academy of Model Aeronautics scrutinized the more than 750 “close-call” incidents between drones and manned aircraft that pilots reported to the FAA in the past year, finding only 27 were in fact near misses and only ten required evasive action. (USA Today)

And commercial pilots themselves don’t seem too worried about colliding with a drone: “I called up three airline pilots who fly for three major airlines, put the question to them, and got these three replies: ‘It’s not terribly concerning,’ says Boeing 757 pilot Helena Reidemar. ‘I’m not too worried about drones,’ said Boeing 737 pilot Scott Maclean. Airbus A320 pilot Doug Dupuie added: ‘I’m pretty unconcerned, I’d say.’” (Slate)

A Vancouver drone store—Drones Plus—has been burgled three times in the past two weeks. It’s released security camera footage in hopes of catching the thieves. (The Province)

And perhaps a little more artfully, an Indiana woman has been accused of using a fake credit card to buy drones from a hobby shop. She’s been charged with identity theft and possession of a counterfeit credit card. (

Police in Upper Hutt, New Zealand, are seeking the pilot who captured drone footage of a homicide. The police shot and killed a gunman in a local McDonald’s, and the footage shows medics trying to save the man’s life; police say it’s unlikely the drone pilot would be in any trouble. (The Dominion Post)

Every year, Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe holds a pigeon shoot fundraiser: Guests pay to shoot pigeons as they’re released into the air. This year an animal rights group called S.H.A.R.K. tried to capture aerial footage of the event with a drone, which was itself promptly shot down. The group is planning to sue Inhofe. (KRMG)

Drones on the runway at New York Fashion Week: “We wanted to incorporate drone technology into the show because the millennial woman is probably going to have her own drone in the next couple of years,” says Uri Minkoff, co-founder and CEO of clothing brand Rebecca Minkoff. (TechCrunch)

And to end things on a positive note: A coroner in Victoria, Australia, is urging civil authorities to use drones for tree inspection in the wake of the death of a four-year-old, when a limb fell on her from a decayed tree in a town park. (The Age)

The post Drones and Privacy Law and Dubai and Robotic Legs and Fashion Week and Pigeon Shoot Lawsuits appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

via Drones and Privacy Law and Dubai and Robotic Legs and Fashion Week and Pigeon Shoot Lawsuits

We Need Robots That Are Smart Enough to Ask for Help

Until robots can solve all of our problems, they're going to need to know when (and how) to ask us for help
via We Need Robots That Are Smart Enough to Ask for Help

Ana Matronic: why we should raise robots like children

They can’t drive, play football or get goosebumps from listening to music. So why are we so afraid of our mechanical offspring, asks the Scissor Sisters singer

Robots are machines of human creation. Let me say that one more time: robots are machines. Though many of them have arms, legs and heads, they cannot move, sense touch, or see like humans. Artificial intelligence is just that: artificial. It is a simulation of human intelligence, becoming ever more human-like in its creative and problem-solving capacities, but it is not yet a mind. Robots come from us, but are not like us. There is so much more to the human brain than the ability to process information, and it’s this subtle intelligence that will always set us apart from our mechanical counterparts.

It will be a long time before a robot experiences the rush of a first kiss, the syrupy swoon in the scent of a rose

Related: Ana Matronic: ‘I’d love to be a cyborg and have bionic legs – a little bit longer than my current ones’

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via Ana Matronic: why we should raise robots like children

Man fitted with robotic hand wired directly into his brain can 'feel' again

Advanced prosthetic allows paralysed man to control movements and register when the robotic hand is touched

A new advanced robotic hand that is wired directly into the brain has been successfully tested, allowing paralysed man to “feel”.

The hand, developed by the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins university, is part of a research project into advanced replacement limbs funded by the US military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa).

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via Man fitted with robotic hand wired directly into his brain can 'feel' again

Ana Matronic: ‘I’d love to be a cyborg and have bionic legs – a little bit longer than my current ones’

The Scissor Sisters singer can’t wait to see what technology has in store for humanity, so long as it doesn’t involve Facebook

You’ve just published a book about robots. When did your love of them begin?
I don’t remember not loving robots. During my childhood, there were so many amazing sci-fi stories on TV, from Battlestar Galactica to Buck Rogers, plus Star Wars at the cinema. I was into robots aesthetically. Blade Runner made me get into them sartorially too. Then in my teens, I studied [mythologist] Joseph Campbell’s theories about heroes and applied them to The Bionic Woman (laughs). I turned that into a religion called Bionic Love and wrote a fanzine about it.

And you became a trans-humanist?
By the 90s, I was living in San Francisco at the height of the cyberpunk movement and through a friend, discovered the work of [feminist scientist] Donna Haraway, who wrote A Cyborg Manifesto. That was my introduction to trans-humanism and the idea that bionic people might not be such a far-off possibility. I’m excited by the opportunities that tech gives us to transform our capabilities. The ways AI can be applied to improve or extend human life. Nanotechnology, too. It’s all fascinating – and, of course, a little scary.

We get so caught up with preserving the moments that we forget to be in them

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via Ana Matronic: ‘I’d love to be a cyborg and have bionic legs – a little bit longer than my current ones’

Future of food: how we cook

Rustling up a meal becomes a whole new experience whn you can print your own food, use a smart oven or have a robot do all the work for you

Read more of our future of food special:

Waiting for the right moment to reach for the next ingredient, Moley Robotics’s robo-chef moves its arms as if in a shrug. It’s a peculiarly human gesture – but according to its creator, Mark Oleynik, therein lies its appeal. Who’d want an impersonal mechanical box whipping up your dinner when you can have a lifelike — albeit torso-less — android instead?

Related: The robot cookbook: can a supercomputer write recipes?

Related: 3D-food printer offers the prospect of hamburgers printed to go

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via Future of food: how we cook

Video Friday: Eight-Legged Robot, CMU's BallBot, and Rodney Brooks on AI

This is what happens when we skip a week of Video Friday
via Video Friday: Eight-Legged Robot, CMU's BallBot, and Rodney Brooks on AI

Announcing the 3DR Development Guide for Solo

We are very pleased to announce the launch of the official 3DR Development Guide for Solo. This is a huge first step in introducing developers to the 3DR platform and growing the Solo dev community! We’re excited to keep building out this resource and to encourage others to participate as well. As the Solo Development Guide continues evolving, so will the endless possibilities of different Solo applications.

The Solo Development Guide currently covers:


  • A general overview of how Solo works

  • How to access and work with Solo’s Linux distribution

  • How to upload and run Python scripts, including DroneKit-Python

  • How to run services that run on boot

  • How to process video as it’s being streamed from Solo

  • How to troubleshoot Solo


Access the guide here:

The post Announcing the 3DR Development Guide for Solo appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

via Announcing the 3DR Development Guide for Solo

Brown Vetoes California Drone Law

This week California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed SB 142, a bill that would have prohibited all drone flights below 350 feet over private property. We stood with drone makers and users from both the hobbyist and commercial worlds in opposition to the bill, which would have been bad not only for innovation but for state residents at large, and we welcome Brown’s action.

“SB 142 was overly broad and would have chilled the industry; many industries, actually, including agriculture, energy and construction, and it would have negatively affected other law abiding users,” says Nancy Egan, 3DR’s general counsel. “The bill was not tailored to address the privacy concerns cited by its author, and could have created safety problems, as 350 to 400 feet is an extremely narrow banner of sky, and probably the most unsafe place to fly drones.”

Had it passed, the bill would have allowed property owners to sue anyone who flies a drone for any reason over their property—no matter if the trespass were intended; no matter if any images captured were in fact an invasion of privacy; no matter if the drone even had a camera attached in the first place. Further, the bill would have even curbed those same flights for people and organizations who have already obtained explicit section 333 exemptions for those flights from the FAA, a federal agency.

“People want to act lawfully,” says Egan. “But broad laws like this tend to frighten people: They won’t fly, they won’t even buy drones because they don’t want to risk being sued. Commercial operators don’t want to risk liability, so they won’t fly, either, meaning we’re throwing out the good stuff with the bad: These companies wouldn’t have engaged in delivery research or cell tower inspections or aerial surveys or any number of applications where drones can do a lot of good, make the world safer.”

No law will stop bad actors from doing bad things if they want to do them badly enough. But we can help craft reasonable and effectively tailored regulation that will address the public’s very real concerns about safety and privacy. In fact, there’s another drone privacy bill before Gov. Brown—AB 856, the Calderon bill—that basically just expands existing privacy law to explicitly encompass drones. And today well-intentioned pilots and exempted commercial entities can continue to fly responsibly, and 3DR, along with the rest of California’s vibrant UAV industry, can continue to innovate and make this technology more powerful, more accessible and more safe.

The post Brown Vetoes California Drone Law appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

via Brown Vetoes California Drone Law

Gill Pratt on Toyota’s Robot Plans: “It’s Going to Be a Big Deal”

The former DARPA program manager discusses what he's going to do next
via Gill Pratt on Toyota’s Robot Plans: “It’s Going to Be a Big Deal”

Drones and Game of Thrones and California and Swarm Man and Nigerian Oil Thieves and a Monk Sunbathing atop a Rhode Island Wind Turbine

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


Question of the week

Apologies for the recent gap in Downloads. Took a vacation and have just now returned. Just in time, too, because last week the California state legislature passed SB 142, a bill that would ban all drone flights under 350 over private property. Again, that’s all drone flights—whether you have a camera attached or not; whether you intended to trespass or not; whether you took images that violated privacy or not. The bill is a clear example of legislative overreach that not only could negatively affect well-meaning hobbyists, but would also impinge on journalists’ ability to gather and report the news, as well as limiting companies’ ability to innovate and other legal commercial applications, such as delivery.

On September 12 the bill will go before Governor Jerry Brown for final approval.

So the question of the week isn’t a question (the real question of the week is actually embedded one of the stories below), it’s a call to action: Please do what you can to let the governor know that this bill isn’t in the best interest of the state, and should be vetoed in favor of more responsible action. You can contact Jerry Brown directly here, and read the full bill here.

Thanks for standing with us. And Amazon. And Google. And GoPro. And now: The drone news from last week…



The California state legislature actually passed not one but three separate bills to limit drone flights in the state—the other two restrict flights near prisons and over schools. (PC World)

A group of media organizations and journalists are pressing California’s Governor Jerry Brown to veto the drone privacy bill, pointing out that it limits their ability to gather news and will tread on First Amendment rights. Breaking news never occurs at prisons and schools, right? (The Hill)

Baby steps: The FAA has updated some of their UAV regulations. Nothing major here, just some clarification: Users need to observe Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs); observe Notices to Airmen that restrict flight over stadiums and other public facilities; and curb all flights in restricted airspace without permission. (Aviation Today)

The FAA also hired two new drone chiefs: Marke “Hoot” Gibson, Senior Advisor on UAS Integration; and Earl Lawrence, Director of the UAS Integration Office within the FAA’s Aviation Safety organization. (

According to a new report, the global UAV market is projected to be worth $2.2 B in 2015. (Market Watch)

Even though the North Dakota state legislature gave the okay for law enforcement to use weaponized drones (the first state to do so; the weapons must be non-lethal), the Fargo Police Department isn’t going to be arming drones any time soon. In fact, the police are saying they’re “perplexed, because [they] don’t see many reasons why [they] would use such technology.” (

Nigeria plans to use drones to curb oil theft. The drones will surveil creeks of the Niger delta and other national waters to monitor the movement of illegal oil bunkering networks. The government hopes to stop oil theft within a year. (IHS Maritime)



Finland’s Posti postal service is testing drone delivery between Helsinki and a small offshore island. The exercise will last four days, and the drones will carry packages weighing up to 6.6 pounds. (JOC)

Someone in the UK, who has dubbed himself as the vaguely oxymoronic “Swarm Man,” built his own flying chair out of dozens of drones. It can fly up to about eight feet high. (Popular Science)

A group of pilots opened a new drone training school in the UK, called UAV Air, to help people learn how to fly safely and legally. The school will offer a series of £1,150 – £1,500 courses this autumn, all approved by the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority. (TechWorld)

The first government-approved UAV flying school also opened in South Africa. (DefenceWeb)

Motherboard, apparently without irony, suggests that real-world drone surveillance of convicts could one day take the place of incarceration.


Culture and commentary

Our CEO Chris Anderson on how the drone industry will handle the “mass jackassery” concomitant with the proliferation of consumer drones. Software, software, software. (Sydney Morning Herald)

A drone hobbyist accidentally caught a man—a monk, actually—sunbathing on top of a 200-foot wind turbine outside an abbey in Rhode Island. He was just up there catching some prays. Also, note the butter-smooth Orbit shot—could it be Solo’s first viral video? (Channel 10)

The New York Times examines the rise of selfie-drone culture.

A great profile of the duo who designed and choreographed a popular performance pairing human dancers with drones: “Manabe and Mizuno don’t think we have to fear technology. They believe it can be used to explore and create without eliminating human touch. Says Mizuno: ‘I think the human form, together with technology, may become more of a warm thing than a cold thing.’” (Good)

Baboom: Remember the chimp who used a stick to knock a drone out of the sky? It wasn’t just a reflexive response to a perceived intruder; researchers have determined it was a calculated act: “Tushi and the other chimps actually noticed and reacted to the drones during the initial test run. Once they saw the drones, they began collecting willow tree branches. After Tushi and her friend Raimee collected the long sticks, they climbed to higher ground where they could wait for the drone to return. When it did, they were ready. Tushi took her six foot long pole and in two swings managed to get the drone out of the air.” Note: Some adult human beings—who, it can’t be stressed enough, are closely related to chimpanzees—have also recently tried to knock drones out of the sky with fire sticks. (Youth Independent)

A drone flew over the location where Game of Thrones is shooting, revealing a possible spoiler for next season. And as promised, here’s the real question of the week: Who else is going to puke the next time they come across the phrase “Game of Drones”? (Business Insider)

CNN: Is it legal to shoot down drones?

All together now: No. (CNN)



Aerial footage of Apple’s new Cupertino Campus 2 as construction progresses. (Business Insider)

Some incredible accidental video of a dramatic flash flood rescue in Hawaii. (Telegraph)

The post Drones and Game of Thrones and California and Swarm Man and Nigerian Oil Thieves and a Monk Sunbathing atop a Rhode Island Wind Turbine appeared first on 3DR | Drone & UAV Technology.

via Drones and Game of Thrones and California and Swarm Man and Nigerian Oil Thieves and a Monk Sunbathing atop a Rhode Island Wind Turbine

Can programmable robots Dot and Dash teach your kids to code?

Technology startup Wonder Workshop says its toys aim to fuel children’s imaginations as well as their technical skills

My cat is pretty unflappable, given that she shares a house with four children. But when a three-wheeled robot trundles into the living room, even Lola can’t belt out of the cat-flap fast enough. Perhaps it’s the barking that spooked her.

The robot is called Dash, and like its smaller, stationary friend Dot, it’s the work of technology startup Wonder Workshop. It’s excellent at yapping cats off the sofa, but its real goal is teaching children to code.

Related: 'Great big poo balls!' What it's like making a Kano computer with your kids

Related: Are tablet computers harming our children's ability to read?

Related: BBC to give away 1m Micro:bit computers to schoolchildren

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via Can programmable robots Dot and Dash teach your kids to code?
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