Tag Archive | startup

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

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!

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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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!

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!

 

 

 

Drone Startups part 14: Maps Made Easy

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!

Aerial mapping can be quite time-consuming and expensive. Even if you are employing a UAV to do it, it might take hours for all the post-processing, time-stamp shifting and deleting blurred photos. And after all the time invested, it is quite possible that the map created is not up to expectations, and the whole process starts almost from scratch.

That is what Maps Made Easy, a Kickstarter project, is trying to improve. Maps Made Easy is a brainchild of a San Diego based Drones Made Easy, a DJI dealership with a twist, because behind it stands a group of engineers with aerial photography, photogrammetry and commercial drone mapping systems experience.

Aerial mapping process workflow with Maps Made Easy should work something like this:

  1. Plan – Use our online planning tool or ground station software of your choice to select the area to be mapped
  2. Collect – Program the aerial platform. Set the camera to take periodic images. Kick off the automated flight. Wait for the drone to land itself
  3. Upload – Drag and drop the collected images into our web application. Upload completion automatically kicks off the processing
  4. Interact – View the created maps on our site. Pan and zoom around using a familiar interface. Control public accessibility. Embed freely.

Image processing can tie up a personal computer for hours, if not days, unless you have a US$15.000,00 workstation that can spit it up in minutes. By offloading the job to Maps Made Easy image-processing service, you can free your computer, and just wait for the email with your hosted and stitched aerial image, that can easily become fully geo-referenced, with just a few clicks.

If you have any doubt, just check what an experienced aerial mapper told about the service: “177 randomly named photos, without GPS data, without flight logs, were loaded onto alpha version of the server. I thought they don’t have a chance, but they nailed it. Just few hours later, an e-mail was waiting in inbox, with a URL for a finished map

The Maps Made Easy service is the future of low-cost aerial mapping. It is able to provide up-to-date maps out of stitched imagery, that are accurate enough even for GIS professionals.

And if you are having a second thought on funding this Kickstarter, let dronologista give you a short advice: back it!

Videos courtesy of Drones Made Easy.

Brilliant article, first hand experience and an interview with CTO of Drones Made Easy can be found on DIYDrones.

Drone Startups part 11 – Fotokite

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!

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.