Tag Archive | quadcopter

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.

 

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?

Drone Startups part 11 – Fotokite

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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!

Although I am amazed with a UAV and their versatility, I must admit that having a flying camera zooming by and zooming me in can sometimes be intimidating. It can be intimidating not because of the drone with the camera itself, but because I don’t always know who is behind that camera. If the drone operator would be immediately identifiable, there would be no problem.

That is exactly the issue Fotokite tries to solve. The idea was developed around following premises:

  • The regulatory picture is murky and evolving (let’s just mention that the FAA is likely to miss 2015. deadline for setting a UAV regulation and that the tethered aircraft are exempt from these rules)
  • Accountability is important – people are usually not quite thrilled while being the target of an unseen operator of a flying camera

The solution is a tethered, GoPro fitted, quadcopter with onboard algorithms that let it fly instantly and virtually under any conditions, without relying on piloting skills, GPS working or wifi failing.

Fotokite is designed to be launched and fully operational in one minute. To the user, flying the camera is as simple as holding a kite, and framing the picture is as easy as rotating your hand-held monitor, and the tether provides visual accountability for bystanders and property owners.

Fotokite

Fotokite

The man behind the project,Sergei Lupashin, a TED Fellow with 10+ years of autonomous systems experience, assembled an impressive team which includes robotics heavy-weights such as Prof. Raffaello D’Andrea. The project is supported by the Swiss National Centre of Competence for Research in Robotics – NCCR, already mentioned in one of the previous posts as supporters of Flying Donkey Challenge.

There are several concepts already that are enabling a drone to autonomously follow and film the moving object (AirDog and Hexo+). However, the Fotokite seems particularly well suited for use in media, providing birds-eye view, while allowing those around the device to immediately identify the camera operator. The price is unknown still, but despite that, it seems like a pretty cool tool that will be added to many reporters’ inventory quite soon.

Video and image courtesy of Fotokite.

Proudly South African 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!

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.

 

DJI releases Ground Station function for Phantom 2 Vision and Phantom 2 Vision+

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 June the 24th, DJI has released update of the Ground Station function for Phantom 2 Vision and Phantom 2 Vision +.

With the new update, Phantom 2 Vision pilots can set up to 16 GPS waypoints by simply dragging pins into the area map.

Once the pilot has set up the flight path, he or she can focus on filming, and let the Ground Station app do the flying. The app also features “Go Home” button, which brings the flyer back to the initial launch position. Also, the pilot can switch from auto to manual flying in mid-flight.

Key features:

  • flight plan with up to 16 waypoints (including altitude and speed setup)
  • “Go Home” function
  • 5km flight distance limit
  • 500m maximum flight radius from home point and 200m flight altitude limit

Current owners of the Phantom 2 Vision and Phantom 2 Vision+ just need to update the Vision app for Android or iOS, as well as the Phantom’s firmware, to version 3.04 to start using it.

Video courtesy of DJI

5 attempts of drone food delivery

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!

Food delivery business can be very profitable, but not necessarily fun. Customer orders, meal gets prepared, courier guy fetches it, delivers it to your doorstep and walks away, tens of times a day (just think of Fry and Futurama).

Futurama style food delivery

Futurama style food delivery

It became so commonplace and glamorous almost as a public transport ride.  But, entrepreneurs keep on trying to reinvent the whole thing, and to bring something interesting in the mix. That is where drones kick in. Several attempts have been made so far, to deliver food using a UAV as a delivery platform. Some of them have been fake, some genuine, but all of them were cool enough to hit the headlines, and proved to be excellent marketing tool.

So, let’s see what airborne food delivery attempts we have so far:

1. Tacocopter

One of the first to play with the notion of aerial food delivery, was Tacocopter. Tacocopter idea is built around some of the most prominent touchstones of modern America: fast food, smartphone apps, robots and laziness. You use a smartphone app to order a taco, which is then delivered to you by a drone. There is ofcourse, a small issue of FAA prohibiting commercial use of UAV. Also, usual problems of drone delivery such as navigation, sense&avoid etc. are persistent, so no taco raining from the sky any time soon in US of A. Maybe in Mexico though…

2. Burrito Bomber

Early adopter of the Tacocopter idea was Darwin Aerospace with their Burrito Bomber project. They used a fixed wing UAV, a very unorthodox choice, and instead of handing the food to you it was parachuting it. The whole process worked something like this:

  1. You connect to the Burrito Bomber web-app and order a burrito. Your smartphone sends your current location to the server, which generates a waypoint file compatible with the drone’s autopilot.
  2. Waypoint file is then uploaded to the drone and burrito is loaded to custom made Burrito Delivery Tube
  3. The drone flies to your location and releases the Burrito Delivery Tube. The burrito parachutes down to you and the drone flies itself home

As you can guess, the concept of food bombing didn’t appeal to FAA, so no flying  carne asada either.

3. Sushi Flying Waiter

It is not actually called Sushi Flying Waiter but iTray. London restaurant Yo!Sushi introduced the iTray during summer 2013. In essence, a Parrot AR Drone 2.0 with an attached food tray was piloted by staff and delivering rice sushi burgers to customers sitting in front of the venue. Doesn’t look very stable though, and hopefully there will be no wasabi in customers laps. But with a lot of dedication, little bit of know-how and blade protection this could become a viable concept. Just like sushi conveyor belt did.

4. Pizza drone delivery

Where to start with this one? First it was UK based Domino’s  pizzeria with the DomiCopter, delivering two pepperoni pizzas in 2013. Then there was Francesco’s pizzeria in Mumbai doing the same thing (ok, not the same, it was not pepperoni pizza). This is rumored to be a fake, as the pizza crate was empty. And then there was this week’s entry, a Russian active sales guy, ordering drone pizza delivery in northern Russian city of Syktyvkar. This video will be featured here as it has coolest music by far.

5. Beer Chopper

Beer is food, alright. If you ever had a two pints of wheat ale, you know how filling that can be. If you haven’t, well, you should. Anyway, beer chopper was a brainchild of Lakemaid Brewery in Minnesota, as it wanted to provide ice fishermen with a fresh cold beer, while they are on the lake. Cool idea, but it will have to wait for a while, until FAA decides what to do with commercial drones. On the other end of the world, in South Africa, OppiKoppi festival goers had a chance to see OppiKoppi Beer Drone Tech parachuting the beer as ordered. No need to stand in the long queue to have your beer thirst quenched, just use your smartphone and watch your head.

 

Coke delivery in Singapore wasn’t included intentionally. Coke  is not food, though it does make you fat.

Bon Appétit