Tag Archive | drones

Human Side(s) of UAVs – Mr. Patrick Meier exclusive for dronologista

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!

It is with genuine pleasure to share exclusive short interview with a pioneer in „digital humanitarian efforts“ (as praised by Mr. Clinton). For those not familiar with this super-visionary person, he is the one that launched UAViators and then iRevolutionMr. Patrick Meier himself. Whoever is interested at least a bit in humanitarian work and UAVs at the same time, should definitely pay a visit to those hubs of UAVs news and updates.

Mr. Patrick Meier

Mr. Patrick Meier

DM: How did you come up with idea of organizing online community for collecting samples of humanitarian use of UAV’s?

Mr. Meier: I was in the Philippines working with UN/OCHA shortly after Typhoon Haiyan and was struck by the number of different UAV projects that we’re going in. This was truly unprecedented. I was also concerned that none of the teams running these UAV projects had any idea about each other. This not only presents issue vis-a-vis operational safety and inefficient use of resources. I also noticed that most UAV projects did not share their imagery with local communities, nor did they engage local communities in any meaningful way. So I knew it was time to launch this community of practice. I personally have been flying UAVs for about 2 years now, and I started precisely because I wanted to explore how they might be used in humanitarian settings. But I didn’t expect to launch the Humanitarian UAV Network as soon as I did. It really was my experience in the Philippines that accelerated my decision to set up UAViators.

DM: What is the exact purpose of UAViators.org?

Mr. Meier: To create a global volunteer network of responsible civilian and hobbyist UAV pilots in order to facilitate information sharing, coordination and operational safety in support of humanitarian efforts. The purpose of this network is to be pro-active in educating new civilians pilots rather than waiting for mistakes to be made. The mission is thus two-fold, facilitating safe operations and establishing standards for the use of UAVs in broad humanitarian contexts.

DM: Do you find room for future extensive exploitations of UAVs, in the respect of humanitarian actions?

Mr. Meier: Yes, I believe it is inevitable that UAVs will become mainstream technologies in the humanitarian space; not only for multi-sensor data collection but also for the transport of small payloads and for providing 3G/4G & wifi services in areas where cell phone towers etc have been destroyed.

DM: Do you have any contact with international organizations, in regards with possible UAVs engagement?

Mr. Meier: Yes, several, including the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Action (UN OCHA) and the American Red Cross, for example.

DM: Do you find public skeptical when it comes to use UAVs in humanitarian actions?

Mr. Meier: Less and less so. They are more skeptical about law enforcement uses, though, primarily because of understandable worries around data privacy. But Amazon’s foray into the drone space is certainly helping us in the humanitarian space by demonstrating the very real possibilities of UAVs.

DM: Are you personally satisfied with the developments of UAViators.org?

Mr. Meier: Yes, and very surprised that the Network has evolved so quickly with so many different key initiatives like the Crisis Map and Travel/Laws Wiki, for example.

DM: What is the future development plan in regards with UAViators.org? (If not confidential, of course)

Mr. Meier: We have several plans lined up including the launching of a training and certification course on UAVs for humanitarian organizations.

DM: Have you been engaged previously in any sort of humanitarian actions?

Mr. Meier:Yes, I’ve been involved in the humanitarian space in one way or another for about 12 years now.

DM: Beside UAViators.org, is there anything else you could share with us regarding the human side(s) of UAV?

Mr. Meier: Perhaps some of these posts may be of interest: iRevolution.

Hereby I would like to thank Mr. Patrick Meier on his time and willingness to share some more information with me. I am perfectly aware of amount of daily tasks he is facing. However we strongly support the enthusiasm and visionary that Mr Meier promotes in regard of humanitarian deployment of UAVs in the future. Furthermore I am going to update you guys on any news coming from Mr. Meier „kitchen“.
Picture and video property of iRevolution.net

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Amazon Prime Air in India

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 much of speculation about how, when and most of all, where will Amazon.com launch its drone delivery service, the answer seems to be here. Thanks to the rigidness of the FAA and negative public perception in US, drone delivery service will be launched and tested in India. According to The Economic Times, the US-based e-commerce giant will debut the drone delivery in Indian megalopolises of Mumbai and Bangalore, where it already has warehouses.

Despite of the effort  invested in gaining the permission to test fly delivery UAV, and despite the pressure put on the FAA by the coalition consisting of prominent UAV manufacturers (DJI Innovations, Parrot, 3D Robotics and Amazon.com), trials in the US is still prohibited, and will stay prohibited for quite some time. That is why Amazon.com decided to move its drone operations abroad, as announced in the shareholder letter earlier this year.

The company claims to have developed very advanced delivery UAV. Rapid development of the Amazon drones was facilitated by intense indoor testing, including test flights in their research lab in Seattle. Among features tested are agility, flight duration and redundancy. Most importantly, the company claims to have developed sense-and-avoid hardware and software that will allow its drones to automatically avoid collisions. In order to progress further with development, outdoor testing, in more realistic conditions is necessary.

India, on the other hand already had some experience with drone delivery. In May this year, Francesko’s Pizzeria from Mumbai, delivered pizza using a UAV. This however was met with a request for explanation by local police, since: “An unmanned vehicle cannot be used in Mumbai without seeking the requisite security clearance. This includes aerial vehicles. The outlet never approached us for any permission. We learnt about it through the media and have demanded an explanation”, as Additional Commissioner of Police, Madhukar Pandey told The Hindu.

However, it seems that the security clearance to use a UAV for a commercial purpose is easier to get in India than in US, despite the notorious red-tapism of Indian officials.

Dronologista will be following this interesting soap-opera like topic closely.

Additional information can be found at sUAS News and The Economic Times.

Videos courtesy of Amazon.com and Francesko’s Pizzeria.

 

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.

 

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?

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

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 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.

Rescue drone that finds survivors using their cellphones

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!

Search and rescue operations are seeing more drones in use with every unfortunate event. The speed and ease with which UAVs can be launched is especially important when applying them as an emergency response tool. Dronologista already had a couple of posts that illustrate effectiveness and efficiency of drones in immediate post-disaster environment. The system that will be presented in this post can become a welcomed tool in rescue workers toolbox.

Jonathan Cheseaux, a masters student from Switzerland has developed a system to help drones home in on the location of people trapped underneath rubble. Dronologista had an opportunity to discuss the project with Jonathan via email, and here is what he says:

Dronologista: How did you come up with the idea?

Jonathan: The main goal of the project was to provide Wifi connection to people on the ground (in disaster areas, where there is no more connectivity), using swarms of flying robots. By analyzing the data collected by the wifi antenna embedded in the plane we thought about using this information to localize people and move the plane around so that the connection is better.

Dronologista:  Have you been working on it alone or it was a team effort?

Jonathan:  Team effort. I was working with two people, Stefano Rosati, a postdoc, and Karol Kruzelecki a graduate student. They helped me a lot to fulfill the project’s goals.

Dronologista:  How does this system work?

Jonathan:  The UAV sniff wifi packets periodically broadcast by smartphone (if wifi is switched on). The smartphone broadcast so-called “Probe request” to discover which wifis are in-range. We extract the signal power of these packets (RSSI) and use the GPS position of the plane to localize the users.

Jonathan Cheseaux and his team with Sensefly eBee used for the project

Jonathan Cheseaux and his team with Sensefly eBee used for the project

Dronologista:  Has it been tested, and if yes, how?

Jonathan: We flew the UAV around EPFL‘s campus and tried (and succeeded) to find the position of a smartphone randomly placed somewhere on a building with a satisfying precision.

Dronologista: What are potential problems?

Jonathan: If the WiFi of the smartphone is not switched on, we cannot localize the user. Also the signal can get scrambled by a lot of factors such as buildings reflecting the signal, weather conditions, plane’s orientation, etc. In the case of an earthquake for example, if the victim is buried under several meters of concrete the WiFi signal will not be detectable. Also Apple announced that they will randomize the MAC address while sending probe requests in iOS 8, this will make the localization quite impossible because now we rely on the fact that a MAC address is unique for a user, and thus fully determine which person we are localizing.

Dronologista: Were you contacted by any organization yet?

Jonathan: I’ve been invited to the UAV Show 2014 (London), they want me to give a small speech about my project during the conference. I’ve also been contacted by several companies that want to commercialize search and rescue drones.

Dronologista: What are future steps for this system?

Jonathan: Enhance precision by conducting more real life testing, maybe use GSM data aswell (IMSI catcher), but due to legal concern it could be difficult to implement. But the real improvement will be to use avalanche transceivers to find avalanche victims. I really want to work on that after my internship.

Dronologista: What are other projects you are working on, that you want to share?

Jonathan: During my bachelor studies, I’ve implemented a virtual reality project using Kinect and some physics engine. The goal was to project the user in a virtual environment and allow him to interact with them (shoot a virtual ball, smash a wall) but also draw interactive shapes with the only use of hand gestures (drawn shapes we bound to the physics engine so that it also falls/bounces etc. Last semester, I lead a project on Bitcoin trading. We’ve implemented sentiment analysis on tweets talking about bitcoin to probe the market’s mood and used time-series analysis to work directly on the bitcoin stock market. That was a really cool project. I’m going to start my master thesis soon, in which I will develop a smart search engine that will automatically classify documents, display augmented information, context, etc. I’m not sure yet what the project will be exactly, but it is definitely about machine learning stuff.

Dronologista wishes Jonathan and his team a lot of success with their projects, and expects to hear more good news about their endeavors soon. And so should you.

For further reading check EPFL news and SkyNews articles