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The Flying Donkey Challenge on hold

Dear friends,

Although only five months young, dronologista blog has grown and needs a new attire.

As of 1st of September, dronologista.com moves to a new hosting, new address and slightly changes the appearance . Content will remain the same, and dronologista will continue to provide information about non-military drones only.

Enjoy!

One of the most interesting competitions, The Flying Donkey Challenge that was scheduled to happen in November 2014. has been put on hold.

Tragic terrorist attacks on Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi and more recent one that happened in the Kenyan coastal town of Lamu, made it clear that organizing a public drone event in Kenya is incompatible with immediate security concerns.

The full statement of the organizers:

“The Flying Donkey Challenge idea started almost two years ago and for the past year we have been planning the first edition in Kenya.

We have had tremendous support from Kenyan partners including: IBM Research, University of Nairobi – FabLab, Lewa & NRT Conservancy, SGS, Sandstorm, and many friends of the FDC. The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) and military air traffic controllers at Nanukyi have been very helpful in working with us to find solutions to organise a life changing event. We would like to thank all of them for their trust and commitment to the project.

Due to delays in obtaining final approvals from the Kenyan authorities, we took the difficult decision in April to postpone the first edition of the FDC. Beginning with the horrific Westgate attack last September in Nairobi and following the tragic terrorist attacks near Lamu this month, it has become clear that organising a high visibility drone event in Kenya is incompatible with immediate security concerns. To be clear, it is not that cargo drone testing presents any threat whatsoever to Kenya, or that international participants would be at risk from travelling to Kenya, but only that, for the coming months, the overseers of civil and military aviation in Kenya have made it clear they are unlikely to be able to sign off on legal precedents for autonomous flight.

Since April, we have been pursuing air space approvals and locations in other African locations. While these talks have been productive, our unfortunate conclusion is that we will not be able to confirm a new date and location in 2015. Without a clear time-scale, closing on the budget is not possible. Taking into account the speed with which research and commercial drone ventures are proceeding, we feel it unfair to leave the teams that have applied for the Challenge in limbo and prefer to put the Flying Donkey Challenge in its current format on hold.

We strongly believe in the future of cargo drones and are looking into ways to reposition some of the great ideas and projects presented. The goal is unchanged: a new transport industry of donkey-sized cargo drones in Africa and beyond that can safely and affordably move 20-50 kilo payloads on low-altitude routes, creating jobs and growing economies.

We look forward to a booming flying donkey future.”

Let’s hope that the new date will be set soon, and that 2015. will be a better year for the Flying Donkey Challenge.

Flying Donkey Challenge

Flying Donkey Challenge

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Proudly South African Drones

Dear friends,

Although only five months young, dronologista blog has grown and needs a new attire.

As of 1st of September, dronologista.com moves to a new hosting, new address and slightly changes the appearance . Content will remain the same, and dronologista will continue to provide information about non-military drones only.

Enjoy!

Couple of years ago, while I was living in Cape Town, I met a group of people so much into drones and aerial filming, that they managed to initiate me into the world of UAV. I didn’t even realize that (I was always slow-witted), but it turned out that South African soil is a very fertile ground for starting and growing of a UAV enthusiasm and business. Therefore, I will dedicate this post to the thriving drone community of the Republic of South Africa.

Let’s start with the legislation: there is none. SACAA, the South African Civil Aviation Authority created confusion some two months ago, when it firstly declared a ban on the use of drones for aerial filming, and then issued this statement. It basically says that SACAA doesn’t ban something that is illegal already (i.e. using drones for aerial filming). Only problem is that it is not illegal, since there is no legislation covering the issue. On the other hand, Cape Town Film Commission has been n discussion with the SACAA, the Ministry of Transport, the Department of Trade and Industry as well as the Deputy Mayor of Cape Town and has requested that the SACAA implement their model aircraft policy for use of the drones.

If approved, the policy will require adopting the below guidelines, which are similar to those used in Europe and Australia:

– Flying only under 120m
– No flying within 4.2 nautical miles of an airport
– Flying only in line of sight of the operator (500m)
– No auto pilot flying or night flying
– No flying over public property and roads without permission

Meanwhile, filmmakers are still flocking to Cape Town, taking advantage of breath-taking scenery and skilled local aerial filming production crews. One of them is Skylab Productions. This prolific company founded in 2012. produced aerial shots for National Geographic, and gave its contribution to Cape Town version of (in)famous Pharell Williams “Happy” video.

And if somewhere are guys that are using drones for filming, there would be someone catering for their needs and providing them with equipment. SteadiDrone is a proudly South African UAV manufacturer, founded in 2012. in a beautiful town of Knysna. Their flagship product is the QU4D, RTF quadcopter that uses the APM 2.5 autopilot from 3D Robotics and is able to carry a GoPro camera on board.

There are others, however, that are manufacturing a UAV with significantly less creative purpose. The Skunk Riot Control Drone is made by Desert Wolf, a South African company, and it has already been sold to mining companies, notorious for their problematic treatment of mine workers and frequent riots.

Luckily, there are more jesting endeavors. SA Beer Lift challenge, although tiny compared to the one organized by HobbyKing, still managed to produce some respectable results and some funny fails. I couldn’t find any information if it will happen this year as well, but it would be awesome. Where else could you find such cool drone fail videos?

Despite all the challenges that are present in today’s South African society, community that has been growing around Unmanned Aerial Vehicles seems very dynamic and healthy. Dronologista hopes that it will remain so in the future, and will be happy to bring the news to the world about individuals and companies that are using or producing proudly South African drones.

 

Wildlife Conservation UAV Challenge

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Although only five months young, dronologista blog has grown and needs a new attire.

As of 1st of September, dronologista.com moves to a new hosting, new address and slightly changes the appearance . Content will remain the same, and dronologista will continue to provide information about non-military drones only.

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Poaching and wildlife trafficking is third largest illegal business worldwide, behind drugs and weapons. In South Africa, home of the almost three-quarters of world wild rhinoceros and is incredibly important country for rhino conservation. Unfortunately, during the recent years, rhino poaching was spreading exponentially due to the fact that the rhino horns are valued on the black market higher that gold.

 

Recorded number of rhins poached in South Africa

Recorded number of rhins poached in South Africa

In order to assist wildlife rangers protecting rhinos, Wildlife Conservation UAV Challenge has been set up. The founder of the Challenge and the CEO of Kashmir Robotics, Princess Alliyah envisions a fleet of small drones to patrol the skies, providing rangers with the information they need to protect endangered species from poachers.

Challenge Logo

Challenge Logo

 

So far there are 140 teams worldwide, taking up the challenge based on simulated wildlife poaching and trafficking activities. Each Challenge scenario will consist of three phases:

  • phase one – each team will propose a concept that includes aircraft, sensors, embedded systems, communications and operational concepts
  • phase two – teams will fabricate their aircraft, demonstrate air worthiness and safety at their local designated flying fields
  • phase three – teams will compete in the Challenge scenario. Specifics of the scenario  will not be released until the morning of the competition, so teams need to be prepared to adjust their flight profiles, sensor parameters and data processing as needed.

The winning design will be used in counter poaching activities in Kruger National Park in South Africa. Prizes for the top three teams (beside the feeling that they are doing something good for the mankind) are:

  1. $35.000 and a 10 day all-inclusive trip to the Kruger National Park
  2. $20.000
  3. $10.000

Hopefully, this challenge and the winning UAV will improve the rhino protection. The problem might be that criminal syndicates might also take notice of the UAV technology, and might just start using their own drones to locate wildlife and rangers, in order to further develop their ugly business. When that happens, Wildlife Conservation UAV Challenge needs to be elevated on the next level, and UAV design will need to include means of detection, identification and incapacitation of potentially hostile drones.

Pictures courtesy of Wildlife Conservation UAV Challenge and Save The Rhino.

 

Drones For Good Award

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Although only five months young, dronologista blog has grown and needs a new attire.

As of 1st of September, dronologista.com moves to a new hosting, new address and slightly changes the appearance . Content will remain the same, and dronologista will continue to provide information about non-military drones only.

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First and largest governmental award for civilian drone application is offered by the Government of United Arab Emirates.

The ‘UAE Drones For Good Award’ was launched under the direction of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAV Vice President and Ruler of Dubai in February 2014. The official webpage of the award, www.dronesforgood.ae became online on 10th of May.

The Award has two parts: an international prize offering $1 million USD and a local prize of 1 million AED (approximately $275,000 USD). The National competition is dedicated to rewarding the best, most practical ideas for using UAV technologies today to improve government services in the UAE. The International competition is dedicated to rewarding the most promising prototypes of future services that may benefit humanity at large. Submissions must be able to demonstrate a working prototype that could conceivably be developed into a working system within the next 1 to 3 years.

Dronologista already mentioned in one of previous posts, that UAE is planning to deliver personal documents using drones. The Drones For Good Award is just another logical step that Government of UAE is taking toward systematic application of UAS for the benefit of humanity. In a bit cheesy video below you can get the picture of how it ought to work.

More information about the award and the rules can be found here.

Dronologista will be following development of this competition, and wishes all applicants good luck.

 

SkyBarge, the firefighting drone

Dear friends,

Although only five months young, dronologista blog has grown and needs a new attire.

As of 1st of September, dronologista.com moves to a new hosting, new address and slightly changes the appearance . Content will remain the same, and dronologista will continue to provide information about non-military drones only.

Enjoy!

UAVs are very versatile. As mentioned in previous posts, they can be used to tackle various problems. Firefighters already used drones for monitoring areas affected by the blaze as you can read here and here. Actual aerial firefighting (not fire monitoring) might be the next possible application of drones.

California Polytechnic State University students designed a drone that can do exactly that. Large rectangular frame with eight rotors steered by remote control, created by a team of nine students, successfully negotiated obstacle course and dropped payload on a target within five minutes of allocated time (90 seconds to be more precise, quite impressive). The test was designed to simulate hypothetical firefighting mission. Competing against 14 other designs (mostly blimp fashioned crafts), Cal Poly team won the UAV competition held on 5th of April.

The winning creation, called SkyBarge, will compete again on International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition, Nov. 14-20 in Montreal.

Dronologista congratulates the SkyBarge team, and wishes them good luck in future UAV adventures.

More information can be found here and here.

The Flying Donkey Challenge

Dear friends,

Although only five months young, dronologista blog has grown and needs a new attire.

As of 1st of September, dronologista.com moves to a new hosting, new address and slightly changes the appearance . Content will remain the same, and dronologista will continue to provide information about non-military drones only.

Enjoy!

Africa is the second largest continent on Earth in terms of land area and population. Recently it is experiencing staggering economic growth, that is higher than that of East Asia. However, in terms of infrastructure, African countries are left far behind. Road network is underdeveloped, and often the best way to get from point A to point B is the air transport. And that is where The Flying Donkey Challenge kicks in, aiming to drive innovation, technical/design excellence, safety, collaboration and the foundations to implement large-scale unmanned civilian air cargo delivery services in Africa and beyond.

The goal of the challenge is simple: The Flying Donkey should fly around Mount Kenya in under 24 hours, delivering and collecting 20 kilo payloads along the way, and first Flying Donkey to finish it, wins the prize. But what is the Flying Donkey in the first place? In the propositions of the challenge, it is defined as a ‘an unmanned cargo aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight of 60 kilograms (i.e. fixed wing, rotary or lighter than air aircraft)’.

Mount KEnya

Mount Kenya

Challenge itself is divided into four separate tracks to address the various issues and find the best solutions:

1. Technology (sense & avoid, GPS denied navigation, safety systems etc.)
2. Legal (regulation & certification, responsibility and liability etc.)

3. Logistics (ground handling, air operations, warehousing, operating costs)

4. Design (ground station, business plan competition, simulations etc.)

Starting in November 2014, number of events will be held in Africa in order to demonstrate progress in each track. Once all tracks have achieved their objectives, teams will be able to enter the Flying Donkey Challenge.

Organized by La Fondation Bundi and the Swiss National Centre of Competence for Research in Robotics (NCCR), supported by IBM research and Swiss World Cargo, The Flying Donkey Challenge is an exciting example of application of drones for the benefit of human kind.

Dronologista will keep an eager eye on this topic

More information: http://www.flyingdonkey.org/