Tag Archive | safety

Drone Startups part 17: Spark Aerial – Your Aerial Cinematography Flight School

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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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The proliferation of UAV means that there is a growing number of UAV operators. Sometimes these operators have some experience, but in most of the cases they have none. To make things worse, nowadays, everyone that buys DJI Phantom and attach a GoPro to it, instantly thinks that he is in the aerial filming business. FAIL. The results are bad videos at the best, and serious accidents in the worst case scenario. To get an idea of the type of mishaps that can happen, check out the video below:

Scale of this problem was identified by some smart people from Spark Aerial. And the solution they are offering is simple and obvious now: an Aerial Cinematography Flight School. Spark Aerial Kickstarter project aims to build an Aerial Cinematography video training series and accompanying online resource center for anyone interested in aerial filming. The free video training series (with some premium content) is intended to emphasize flight safety, and would move from such basics as taking off for the first time to advanced piloting maneuvers like the buttonhook sweep, which enables a video camera to remain focused on one place while the drone circles around.

Founders of the Spark Aerial are Radley Angelo, Kurt Selander, and Austin Hill, three engineers from the University of California, San Diego. They said that the goal behind the school is “to teach the world how to have fun, fly safe, and capture amazing content”. They certainly have the know-how and experience to reach that goal, since their work has been already featured on CNN, TechCrunch, Buzzfeed, Good Morning America, the National Geographic Channel, just to name few.

Spark Aerial Team

Spark Aerial Team

Project was successfully funded within three weeks of its launch, no wonder, since among the backers are UAV industry leaders such as 3d Robotics, DJI and Flytrex. Kickstarter campaign runs for twelve more days, so there is still time to get some Spark Aerial goodies for backing this project.

There is one thing in particular that I would like to point at the very end of this article: at the bottom of the Spark Aerial Kickstarter page, there is a section called “Risks and Challenges” in which Spark Aerial guys said that “We are not accredited by the FAA…”. A prudent move by FAA would be to actually give accreditation to Spark Aerial Cinematography School, since it is perhaps the first institutionalized attempt to systematically improve the safety of UAV operations. And that could be one of the cornerstones of the safe commercial application of UAV.

Interesting articles about Spark Aerial Cinematography School Kickstarter Campaign can be found at Yahoo! Finance and Xconomy.

Images and videos courtesy of Spark Aerial.

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

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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

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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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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.

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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.

Airliner almost collided with the drone or how to prevent midair collision

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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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The first part of the title refers to the incident that happened on 22nd of March, that hit the headlines last week.

American Airlines Group Bombardier CRJ 200, almost collided with a remote controlled aircraft near the Tallahassee Regional Airport. Pilot reported that he saw the drone so close to the aircraft, that he was sure he collided with it. Fortunately he didn’t, as the subsequent inspection of the passenger jet didn’t find any damage or sign of contact with a foreign object. The “drone” was a fixed wing model of a F-4 fighter aircraft, so it is suspected that it was piloted by a hobbyist, not a commercial drone operator. FAA investigated the case, but couldn’t identify the pilot of the UAV.

This puts the FAA in an awkward situation of explaining why commercial UAV use is illegal, and use of UAV by hobbyist isn’t. Any justification based on safety of the air traffic is pointless, since it can be compromised regardless of the classification of UAV users. Hopefully, the FAA will take the point and equalize, from the legal point of view, hobbyist and commercial drone operators. Dronologista hopes that equalizing won’t mean making all UAV use illegal.

An interesting update of this story can be found on Drone Girls great blog

Now to the second part of the title: how to prevent midair collision between drones and airliners. Couple of months ago, DJI introduced a new model, the Phantom Vision + featuring a unique solution to increase flight safety and prevent accidental flights into restricted areas. Firmware  for the new DJI product line includes No Fly Zones around airports worldwide (Tallahasee Regional Airport is not among them; maybe a software patch would be welcome). How it works, you can see in this video:

If the lawmakers are slow to figure out what can be done to ensure safe operation of UAS, they should apply efficient solutions, such as one DJI uses. Best practice will always be the best, until better appears.

 

How to insure UAS business?

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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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With new technology comes new risk. Public fear and skepticism towards UAS has been significant right from the start. However, such systems are being further developed, and are helping humans to accomplish numerous dull, dirty and dangerous tasks. But for general public acceptance, it is necessary to achieve adequate safety standards to mitigate new risks.

AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES: RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES IN INSURANCE

AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES: RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES IN INSURANCE. Courtesy of Lloyd’s

Insurance companies can play a vital role here. Their expertise in risk management can facilitate adoption of unmanned technology and development of related safety standards. And unlike lawmakers, they were not caught off guard by the emergence of commercial UAS/UAV. Where regulation and safety standards are yet to be developed, insurers can encourage prudent progress by making their own risk assessments and providing policies for responsible operators, the report says. For example, underwriters at Lloyd’s wrote one of the first motor insurance policies in 1904 and the first aviation cover in 1911, long before today’s liability regimes were put in place. Some of the Lloyd’s underwriters, e.g. Kiln Group Limited are already insuring UAS. Risks being insured include hull loss and third party liability.

Insurance is an important part of any enterprise, and companies that are offering UAS services are not exception. Understanding risks and having a proper mitigation, could be the key component that will make the difference between successful and unsuccessful UAS operators.

Lloyd’s has published recently an excellent report on this topic that you can find here.

Do you know other insurers that are offering products for UAS operators?

Quadcopter failsafe algorithm

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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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Safety is of paramount importance when it comes to flying objects. Every development in the safety area, whether it is hardware, software or process related is priceless.

One of the recent achievements is a quadcopter safety algorithm that prevents a crash in case of propeller failure.

When a propeller fails, this fail safe routine will recover drone from stall, and keep it in more or less upright position. What is interesting is that the fail safe controller uses existing hardware that is already available on a standard quadcopter, and that it can be implemented as an algorithmic upgrade to existing systems.

Team around Prof. Raffaello D’Andrea designed a system that is likely to become a standard feature on future multirotor designs.

Dronologista hopes that this system can prevent scenes like this from happening.

Video is courtesy of Mr. Mark Mueller.