DJI Spreading Wings S900

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!

DJI Innovations keeps pushing new products into the market. Market leader in flying camera technology recently introduced Ground Station for its Phantom 2 Vision and Drop Safe parachute system (ok, not on the shelf yet, but is coming). This time it is an impressive hexacopter drone, named Spreading Wings S900.

DJI Spreading Wings S900

DJI Spreading Wings S900

It is an improved hybrid of Spreading Wings S800 and S1000. It borrows hexacopter layout from S800 and collapsible arms feature from S1000. Its arms and landing gear are made of carbon fiber, reducing the weight and improving the strength at the same time. Foldable arms are enabling easy transport and portability, something valued by aerial filming professionals. It can be assembled and ready to fly in 5 minutes.

Upper center board is removable, allowing easy access and a convenient way to set up power distribution system or to install DJI Lightbridge video downlink. The S900 fully supports the Zenmuse Z15, GH3, GH4, and BMPCC gimbals. The gimbal bracket is separated from the main frame by specifically designed dampers, reducing unwanted vibrations.

Removable Upper Center Board

Removable Upper Center Board

The S900 weighs 3.3 kg and has a maximum take off weight of 8.2 kg. Simple math gives a useful payload capacity of 4.9 kg, allowing it to carry most cameras and gimbals. 6S 12000mAh battery allows a flight time of up to 18 minutes.

The price of the new DJI flyer is up to $3.800, depending on flight controller and gimbal options.

Detailed  information about DJI Spreading Wings S900, user manual and S900 release notes can be found on official DJI webpage.

Awesome article and an interview with the first UAV pilot to fly S900 in the US can be found at Drone Girl‘s blog.

Video and images courtesy of DJI.

Drone Startups part 16: Matternet in Bhutan

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!

Bhutan is the country viewed by most westerners as an idyllic Shangri-La, squeezed between China and India, on southern slopes of Himalayas. It is the only country in the world that introduced Gross National Happiness index instead of Gross National Product. Yet, by all standards it is not a wealthy country, with the GDP per capita of $7.000. That is perhaps best reflected in poor transport infrastructure, with only around 8.000 km of roads (of which less than 5.000 are paved), being on 140th place in world rankings.

On the other side of the world, in Silicon Valley, a startup is developing a solution for the very same problem Bhutan is facing: how to solve transportation problems when there are no roads or the roads are impassable. Matternet, has been working on this issue for quite some time now. However, due to the very problematic legislation for the UAV in the United States, Matternet was forced to perform its field tests in locations such as Haiti, and more recently, Bhutan.

Matternet in Bhutan

Matternet in Bhutan

The company was contacted by regional World Health Organization (WHO) official, Dr Pem Namgyal who acted upon the request of Bhutanese government, which was interested in using UAV for tackling country’s challenges: the country has 0.3 physicians per 1.000 people, one of the poorest ratios in the world; but the biggest problem was the accessibility, due to the poor road network where an average speed on MAJOR roads is ~10 mph.

Bhutan government with the assistance of WHO has already been dealing with the issue by developing the concept of tele-medicine. The concept is based the use of mobile phones and internet to allow remote medical check-ups. However, the material component of the concept was a major obstacle. There was virtually no way to bypass  road transport over difficult terrain and deliver samples of blood and urine, or to deliver medicaments to remote areas. Until now.

This project is the biggest test for Matternet yet. The startup intends to build a pick-up and delivery network of UAV and ground stations, in order to connect country’s main hospitals and rural communities. Drones that are being used are quadcopters with the payload capacity of 4lbs (~ 2kg), able to fly over the distance of around 10 miles (~ 16 km). The cost of a single vehicle is less than 4.000€. Fleet and ground stations are controlled by the software that would oversee the movement of vehicles.

Matternet in Bhutan

Matternet in Bhutan

The trials included flight from the capital Thimphu to the local hospital at Chamgang, and the feedback from the country seems positive. Matternet’s chief regulatory and strategy officer Paola Santana says that the conditions are less than ideal for drone operations, but that the system worked without any glitches. However, it was not tested in heavy rain of the monsoon season, and it is unclear how the system would work in such conditions.

If this pilot project is successful, it might lead to creating a huge market in the healthcare industry. However, it will become a reality in Bhutan sooner than in Silicon Valley paradoxically. But that is another story.

More about the topic can be found at The Independent and Bhutan News Network.

Images courtesy of Matternet.

 

Another successful Kickstarter campaign

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!

After a short break caused by family gatherings, dronologista is back with some good news. Another Kickstarter project that was featured here, Maps Made Easy, got successfully funded! Out of three Kickstarter projects supported by dronologista (Easy Drone, AirDog and now Maps Made Easy), all three got their funds and are moving beyond fundraising phase.

Here is the part of the statement made by Maps Made Easy crew, right after the funding session was over:

Words can’t express the gratitude we are feeling for all the support we have received through this entire process.  From our proof readers and critical minds to the new contacts and old friends, we want to thank you all.  We know this was a pretty technical topic for Kickstarter, but the right people found us and loved the idea.  Lasting business relationships have been formed.

As we roll out parts of the site we will continue to post our progress here.  After the campaign closes we will be in contact with everyone to sort out reward delivery and scheduling of the various activities.

We really can’t thank everybody enough and will talking to you all soon.

Truly humbled,

Tudor and the Maps Made Easy team

Great job guys, and good luck!

VertiKUL – parcel delivery UAV

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 main disadvantages of copter drones is their low energy efficiency: in order to create and maintain a sufficient lift, a lot of energy is needed, thus decreasing the endurance of the UAV. That is a serious obstacle for anyone trying to develop copter drones for parcel delivery. The solutions for UAV parcel delivery proposed so far include increasing energy efficiency of copters or van-drone multimodal transport system that combines the advantages of both vehicles.

Master’s students Cyriel Notteboom, Menno Hochstenbach and Maarten Verbandt from University of Lueven had different idea. When they were given the task for their Master thesis to build a drone, they were not told not to create something extraordinary. But it seems they did. After one year of intensive work, they came out with VertiKUL, a vertical take off and landing (VTOL) UAV that takes off like a helicopter, but flies like a fixed wing aircraft.

VertiKUL

VertiKUL

VertiKUL can carry up to 1kg (~2 lbs) to a distance of 30 km (~18,5 miles) with a single battery charge. It takes off vertically with the help of four propellers, and then, in midair the drone rotates its nose 90° forward, making the transition from take-off  to flying mode.  The stability during transition phase is achieved by independent propeller adjustment. When rotation is finished, the drone continues to fly like a conventional aircraft, using wings to increase energy efficiency during forward propulsion.

It won’t be soon before VertiKUL becomes parcel delivery workhorse however. It still has to solve some issues with landing in high winds, and negotiating changing weather conditions. And of course, there are minor legal challenges to be overcome before people start getting their books delivered to their back patio.

But as a proof of concept, this UAV might just be the thing Amazon is looking for, and will be the next generation of delivery drones they are testing.

Interesting articles about VertiKUL can be found on University of Lueven webpage, and at www.geek.com.

Image courtesy of University of Lueven. Video courtesy of Menno Hochstenbach.

 

Top 5 by dronologista @Robohub

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!

On 30th of May, a comment appeared on the About page of this blog. Hallie Siegel, the Managing Editor from Robohub, an excellent online communication platform for, well, robotics mostly, proposed to me to cross-post articles. After a brief Skype interview, I agreed (of course!) to share my blog posts, and to join an impressive group of contributors that included UAV heavyweights such as Chris Anderson and prof. dr. Raffaello D’Andrea.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=waUY6hlG-3k

Two months fast forward, and there are ten articles by dronologista at Robohub. Some of them are more some less successful, but all of them were interesting enough to grab attention of Robohub visitors. Here are the top 5 that were generating quite a lot of traffic:

  1. Drone Startups: Fotokite – This article is a part of ongoing series of Drone Startups posts. It is about a startup that designed what is basically a powered kite, not a quite a drone, ideally suited to dodge FAA scrutiny. The article was submitted to Slashdot harnessing traffic from it, and was even reposted on DIYDrones. Great success!
  2. Quadrotor allegedly seen spying on French teams closed practice at World Cup – Published during the World Cup craze, it attracted a lot of people. French coach Didier Deschamps was calling for investigation after a quadcopter was spotted spying over his team’s closed training session. It was not revealed whose drone it was, but since we know now that it was Germany that beat the French team in quarterfinals, it seems that Germans used high-tech solution to get to semifinals. No drones spied on Brazil team though, so I am out of theories why they lost 7-1.
  3. Rescue drone that finds survivors using their cellphones’ WiFi signals – Post about a UAV that was designed by team of students from EFPL. It includes the interview with Jonathan Cheseaux, the man behind the project.
  4. The thriving drone community of South Africa – While most of the stories found around the internet is focused on drones in US, this post covered a country that is not often featured online in connection to drones. Yet, a thriving community exists, and is very productive and creative.
  5. HorseFly unmanned aerial parcel delivery system – This post described something that could be Amazon’s wet dream. A combined transport system that uses both a van and a UAV to deliver the parcel, utilizing both vehicles advantages.

Those were 5 of mine most popular articles at Robohub after two months of collaboration, which I hope, will continue to flourish. I wonder if I will be able to completely redefine this list in six months time. Just a personal challenge for dronologista 🙂

What is your favorite blog post by dronologista?

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!