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M.A.R.S. Parachutes – How to save your equipment

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 weeks ago, I […]

Human Side(s) of UAVs – easyJet To Introduce 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!

No, easyJet is not launching drones on its routes. At least not anytime soon. The catch is that famous British low-coster together with Bristol Robotics Labaratory (BRL) is developing and testing a drone which is supposed to inspect the aircraft, inch by inch into the smallest details, searching for distortions and irregularities on the fuselage. Beside BRL, easyJet is cooperating with companies such as Coptercraft and Measurement Solutions in order to get as precise and reliable tool as possible.

easyJet drone

easyJet drone

As the majority of us could conclude one of the main reasons to introduce drones in line maintenance of the grounded aircraft is cost cutting, the economy of scope. Also according to the Gizmag following reasons behind the decision are more or less obvious: reduction of ground time, facilitating line maintenance, increasing efficiency and precision of inspection processes etc. However as the easyJet representatives stated, the UAV is not going to completely exclude technicians and engineers from maintenance and inspections (at least for beginning), because the stake is simply to high and the reliability of the drone is questionable at this stage.

According to the easyJet’s head of engineering department Ian Davies: “Drone technology could be used extremely effectively to help us perform aircraft checks. Checks that would usually take more than a day could be performed in a couple of hours and potentially with greater accuracy.”

The idea is that drone (equipped with combo of different sensors) shuttles around the grounded plane multiple time scanning and rescaning the body of aircraft for possible damages or distortions. More details in the following video:

Aviation is one of the most heavily regulated industries and absolute priority and the top principle adopted by airlines and international airline organizations is that safety as a must. There are no alternatives nor workarounds. This is the main reason behind easyJet drone engagement initiative: providing safe service at decreased cost, using latest technology.

The whole project started from the scratch and many details would have to be worked out by participants. Hours and hours of testings are surely ahead of the easyJet’s engineering department. But we frankly hope that the airline will make its way through all the harsh challenges it might face and that in the near future its 220 strong fleet could expect even more efficient and precise inspection support. Observing this from the human life perspective and having in mind significance of aforementioned, one does not have to mention tremendous break-through we are witnessing.

We would be pleased to keep you updated in the future on this particularly interesting story which will have a profound effect on safety inspections, not only of aircraft, but also other safety critical equipment.

Drone Startups part 15: PreNav

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!

Companies that are operating drones for business are well aware that the cornerstone of their operations is safety. It might even be said, that if you don’t have a safe product (or service) you don’t have it at all. And one of the safety relevant obstacles that drone operators are facing, is the absence of the sense&avoid system that would allow drones to operate autonomously in complex environments.

PreNav has taken up that challenge. Another San Francisco based startup, PreNav develops hardware and software that will enable precise navigation near ground, indoor, around structures and in GPS denied environment, which would allow drones to safely operate at an increased level of autonomy, avoiding obstacles such as trees or street lighting poles. The technology is based on computer vision (Lidar + cameras) and uses deep neural networks for object recognition and localization.

Roof Inspection

Roof Inspection

Dronologista had a chance to make a short email interview with the PreNav CEO, Nathan Schuett , and here is what he says:

Dronologista: How did you come up with this project?

Nathan: The three of us (A/N: Nathan Schuett, CEO, Asa Hammond, CTO and Naim Busek, “Mad Scientist”) were sitting in a coffee shop in San Francisco and toying around with the idea of using drones to autonomously deliver cups of coffee from the counter to our table. There were a number of obstacles in the way, and of course GPS doesn’t work indoors, so we thought it was a really interesting engineering challenge. And the more we thought about it, the more we realized there are tons of applications for drones near ground, people, and buildings that aren’t currently possible… yet.

Dronologista: It seems that sense&avoid will be all the rage for the commercial and truly autonomous UAV. Have you been offered to develop this system for any of the major UAV manufacturers?

Nathan: We’ve been approached and are building relationships with manufactures, but we don’t have any signed contracts at the moment. We’re focusing on building the capabilities of the technology for now.

Dronologista: If not, will it be possible to retrofit existing designs with your system?

Nathan: Yes, we are planning to integrate with a number of different flight controllers.

Dronologista: Since you are US-based, have you experienced any legal trouble while test flying your drones?

Nathan: We haven’t had any issues with the FAA, mainly because we are in active R&D mode and haven’t begun commercial testing or commercial flights yet.

Dronologista: Who is funding and backing PreNav?

Nathan: We’re currently raising a small pre-seed round, consisting of friends and family, angel investors/firms, and Drone.vc, which syndicated us through AngelList.

Telephone Pole Inspection

Telephone Pole Inspection

The system that PreNav works on, is a part of the solution for the fully autonomous drone operation. Other solutions include fleet management systems, such as ones made by DroneDeploy or Garuda Robotics and charging stations such is the one made by Skysense. When technology matures enough, and when mentioned systems become a standard, only then the truly autonomous drone operation will become a reality, and the coffee delivered by drone might become a common sight.

Until then, we need to keep a close watch on startups such as PreNav, and monitor their progress, because these guys are at the forefront of the emerging multi-billion  industry.

Images courtesy of PreNav. Thank you Nathan!

 

 

 

DJI DropSafe System

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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.

Enjoy!

One of the main concerns about UAV, apart from privacy, is their safety. No one really wants to have a flying lawnmower falling from the sky, or buzzing near passenger aircraft. With apparent ubiquity of drones, safety systems are becoming increasingly important. The company that realized that, and is making a constant progress in UAV safety systems is DJI Innovations.

Their consistent effort to improve the safety of their aircraft and to decrease the risk they pose, already brought us No Fly Zone software, that prevents DJI copters from flying around airports and other prohibited areas. This time they are introducing a “Drop speed reduction system”, a complex name for something that is in essence a parachute.

The system weighs around 500gr (~1.2 lbs), can be mounted on top od DJI S800 or S1000, and is deployed in half a second, in case of emergency. It also includes automatic power-off function, and is compatible with WooKong-M and DJI A2 flight controllers.

Though the DropSafe system is designed to minimize damage to the drone and the camera carried in the event of an accident, it is not guaranteed that there will be no damage at all. And there is also possibility that the drone with the parachute gets blown away and stuck on top of a tree. Still, it is better to have just the camera smashed then camera, drone and someone’s head.

As with the above mentioned “No Fly Zone” firmware, it is reasonable to expect that the DropSafe, or similar parachute systems become standard equipment of UAV in the near future.

Human Side(s) Of UAV –Mine Detection Operations And Solutions

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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.

Enjoy!

Twenty thousand. Once again, 20.000. Reasonable question arises after this meaningless number is mentioned. What does it mean and what implications does it have on us? It implies that only in 2013, about 20.000 individuals suffered injuries or passed away as a result of “successful“ performance of land mines all over the world around 78 countries. Pretty scary, shady and dramatic introduction for today’s topic. I am going to try to put the light at the end of the tunnel.

As dronologista mentioned in one of previous posts, the idea is not brand new. Definitely one of the break-through projects was the pioneer project in Croatia, named ARC – Airborne Minefield Area Reduction. The project was developed with a generous support of EU between 2001 and 2003. Helicopter UAV (supported by Mine Information System – MIS) combined with GIS database were the backbone of the project. MIS contains information about mine incidents, drawing, reference maps, etc. Furthermore, it was concluded to be promising and that more research has to be done in order to gain more knowledge and experience. However, since then nothing particularly important happened in this regard, and it seems that whole project is set aside, unfortunately.

ARC Croatia

ARC Croatia

On the other side, we have one Caucasus’s state which is already investing considerable amount of money in developing drones which are going to carry sensors in order to detect mines and at the same time making a huge step ahead in this area. Azerbeijan’s R&D is partly based on the Croatian case as well. The catch about this “aerial vehicle“, as they are used to say (ANAMA), is that it is going to search for a soil distortion in chemical respect which is to be considered as a direct result of mine existance on the particular area. Quite imaginary and ambitious for a laymen, but definitely the long-shot idea which promises a lot. However the technical details are scarce at the moment.

senseFly

senseFly

Together with various countries and international organizations fully engaged in the de-mining issue, there is a solution named eBee manufactured by Swiss company SenseFly Ltd. Referring to the previous text about eBee’s here, it is supposed to bring additional advantages such as 3D flight planning and optical terrain sensor, enabling successful operation in mountainous and remote areas. Moreover it has been already deployed in North Iraq by Iraqi Kurdistan Mine Action Agency (IKMAA) for independent testings and researches. One of the first examples of explicit human usage of UAV systems.

All in all, there are listed some of the solutions that is possible to employ. It goes without saying that this technology (as many other) has its bright and dark sides. As for advantages the list is rather long starting with civilian benefits, protecting the personal and individual on the ground, efficiency and time cut and at the very end of the list is cost downsize. On the other side, one of the main disadvantage is reliability of the whole system, as well how the whole system is going to be updated about different and new sorts of improvised explosive devices which are stunningly hard to discover even on the ground.

More improvements are to be expected in this specifically delicate area and dangerous area. Moreover, I would like to come up with the fact that approximately 110 million explosives devices are unevenly located on the planet influencing the life, as a rule, of the poorest share of population. The possible negative impact is only up to your imagination. But luckily more and more UAV systems are to be deployed in order to facilitate life of those affected the most. Because of the human dimension and overall importance of the topic, dronologista is going to update you on any news that come up. Stay tuned.

Pictures taken from sensefly, ANAMA , ARC.

Bottle Service by Drone

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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.

Enjoy!

Summer party by the pool, lot of half-naked, inebriated, twenty somethings having the ‘time of their life’. All of a sudden, a large octocopter comes buzzing down (although you cannot hear the sound of propellers because of the pumpin’ music), with a bucket and a bottle of champagne. That, in short, describes the scene that happened couple a days a go, at The Marquee Dayclub in Las Vegas.

The drone bottle delivery service is not for free though. If you are a guest of the club, and want to impress whomever you want to impress with this service, you’ll have to shell out a trivial amount of $20.000. After Stoney Roads covered this story, Deadmou5 had a great comment on his twitter as you can see below.

deadmou5

 

Vulgarization of drones is a part of the proliferation of unmanned vehicles technology, it happened to every technology that once was new and hype (just think about phones with cameras), and it is sort of normal part in the product life cycle.

What is worrying in this particular example is that someone thought that combining flying machine with an estimated take-off weight of 5kg, with unprotected, rotating blades, and a bunch of drunk, carefree people is actually a good commercial idea. This kind of irresponsible behavior stigmatized drones in the first place, and it is no wonder that general public perceives delivery drones as a threat.

There was no accident this time at The Marquee Club, but it is just a matter of time before something bad happens. When that happens, dronologista will cover the story, just as it covered this accident.

And if you need to deliver a bottle of champagne using a drone, do it with style, like guys from Plus de Bulles did.

Cheers

 

 

Firefighting Drones

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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.

Enjoy!

Firefighting is the act of extinguishing fires, with the goal of preventing loss of life and destruction of property and environment. It is one of the most dangerous occupations and many firefighters are losing their lives in the line of duty every year. It is a profession where any reliable technological innovation that can mitigate the risk of firefighting is quickly adopted. Dronologista already had an article about the experimental firefighting drone, Skybarge, but as it is still in experimental phase, today we’ll focus on UAV and equipment that is already being put to use.

Two years ago, Al Jazeera English uploaded a video on their Youtube channel about a firefighting unit in Germany using a drone to increase situational awareness. The price of the drone mentioned in the video was ~$150.000.

Thanks to the Moore’s law, similar equipment today can be acquired with much lower budget. One of the most advanced players in this market, Danish Sky Watch, offers Huginn X1 quadcopter with both thermal and visible spectrum camera, with a price tag not quite available, but nowhere near $150.000 mentioned above. However, there are cheaper options, and if you are having technical skills, you can buy M1-D camera at Ebay, and attach it to your multicopter, to get a very useful piece of equipment for less than $30.000.

To see how useful it is, check the video below, and it will be clear how much difference it makes to have a FLIR camera in the sky.

Having a possibility to detect where the heat comes from, what are structural weak-spots of a burning building and ultimately to spot humans hiding from the blaze obscured by the thick smoke, is in firefighting context, priceless.

Human obscured by smoke in burning building

Human obscured by smoke in burning building

Although human life is invaluable, it is unfortunate fact that insurance companies have put a price tag on it ($7.400.000 if you were wondering, according to this Business Insider article). That means that even if a fire department buys the most expensive drone available, equipped with the most advanced tools for firefighting, the return on investment will be equal to the real value of life – infinite.

Videos and pictures courtesy of Al Jazeera, Sky-Watch, Roswell Flight Test Crew and FLIR.