Tag Archive | uas

HorseFly – Unmanned Aerial Parcel Delivery System

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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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Parcel delivery UAVs are a simple idea that requires a complex technology and great deal of vision. Matternet, Amazon.com and DHL (with their Paketkopter) are actively developing their drone delivery designs, and despite restrictive regulations, it is reasonable to expect that it will become reality sooner rather than later.

There is one common thing for all above mentioned systems: they are being developed to deliver package from a fixed location, the warehouse. The fact is that there are not a lot of warehouses in any given metropolitan area, and that they are almost exclusively located on the outskirts of the city. Despite of the developing endurance and range of multirotors, it is easy to see that even with the optimally positioned warehouses around the urban area, large parts of the city will remain outside of delivery drones operational range.

That seems to be a vision that has driven guys from AMP Holding to work together with the University of Cincinnati to develop UAV that will be coupled with a delivery truck.

AMP Workhorse delivery vehicle

AMP Workhorse delivery vehicle

A remarkably simple and brilliant idea of combined truck-UAV delivery method, should work something like this: The HorseFly will be positioned atop a delivery truck, awaiting a package from the driver. When loaded, the HorseFly will scan the barcode on the package, determine the path to the delivery address via GPS and fly away – completely self-guided – to the appropriate destination. Meanwhile, the delivery truck will continue on its rounds. After successful delivery, the HorseFly will zoom back to the truck for its next delivery run and, if needed, a roughly two-minute wireless recharge.

This system will require a more complex route optimization solution, one for the delivery truck and one for the UAV, and it is not clear yet how will that part of the delivery process be sorted out. But with the delivery vehicles conveniently scattered all over the urban area, no neighborhood will be out of range and reach.

HorseFly octocopter and AMP Workhorse

HorseFly octocopter and AMP Workhorse

Essential part of this system is the safety. Steve Burns, AMP CEO says that “An important part of the HorseFly project is that we make a vehicle that will not drop out of the sky”. In addition to the sophisticated autonomous controller system, the HorseFly will have multiple built-in hardware redundancies (rotors, onboard computers, battery packs). So if, for example, multiple rotors were to fail, the HorseFly and its payload still could be retrieved safely.

It seems that we got two emerging UAV delivery technologies: one from the fixed location, warehouse (Amazon.com and DHL) and the other from the moving vehicle. It will be interesting to see which one of them will prevail.

Dronologista bets that the vehicle-UAV system is the winning combination, because it offers great flexibility and contains a potential for further development (think of automation).

Interesting articles about the HorseFLy could be found at GizmagDroneLife and University of Cincinnati news page.

Nice picture gallery can be found in Fast Company Magazine.

Pictures courtesy of PluginCars.com and Fast Company Magazine.

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FAA to Consider Exemptions for Commercial UAS Movie and TV Production

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On 2nd of June, FAA issued a press release considering a petition submitted by the Motion Picture Association of America. Seven aerial photo and video production companies, the MPAA, are asking the agency to grant exemptions from regulations that address general flight rules, pilot certificate requirements, manuals, maintenance and equipment mandates. They are also asking for relief from airworthiness certification requirements as allowed under Section 333. Under that section of the law, certain airworthiness requirements can be waived to let specific UAS fly safely in narrowly defined, controlled, low-risk situations.

In order to have the exemption granted, the companies must prove that their plan would benefit the public good, and that it would not create unsafe conditions. If the FAA approves those exemptions, it will still need to approve individual operations.

The fun part of the story is that rules for which MPAA asks to be exempted actually don’t exist yet.

Anyhow, if the FAA approves the exemption, it will be a step in the right direction.

Full press release is available on FAA web page.

Interesting articles about this petition you can find in The Verge and in The Guardian.

 

 

Firefighting Drones

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Firefighting is the act of extinguishing fires, with the goal of preventing loss of life and destruction of property and environment. It is one of the most dangerous occupations and many firefighters are losing their lives in the line of duty every year. It is a profession where any reliable technological innovation that can mitigate the risk of firefighting is quickly adopted. Dronologista already had an article about the experimental firefighting drone, Skybarge, but as it is still in experimental phase, today we’ll focus on UAV and equipment that is already being put to use.

Two years ago, Al Jazeera English uploaded a video on their Youtube channel about a firefighting unit in Germany using a drone to increase situational awareness. The price of the drone mentioned in the video was ~$150.000.

Thanks to the Moore’s law, similar equipment today can be acquired with much lower budget. One of the most advanced players in this market, Danish Sky Watch, offers Huginn X1 quadcopter with both thermal and visible spectrum camera, with a price tag not quite available, but nowhere near $150.000 mentioned above. However, there are cheaper options, and if you are having technical skills, you can buy M1-D camera at Ebay, and attach it to your multicopter, to get a very useful piece of equipment for less than $30.000.

To see how useful it is, check the video below, and it will be clear how much difference it makes to have a FLIR camera in the sky.

Having a possibility to detect where the heat comes from, what are structural weak-spots of a burning building and ultimately to spot humans hiding from the blaze obscured by the thick smoke, is in firefighting context, priceless.

Human obscured by smoke in burning building

Human obscured by smoke in burning building

Although human life is invaluable, it is unfortunate fact that insurance companies have put a price tag on it ($7.400.000 if you were wondering, according to this Business Insider article). That means that even if a fire department buys the most expensive drone available, equipped with the most advanced tools for firefighting, the return on investment will be equal to the real value of life – infinite.

Videos and pictures courtesy of Al Jazeera, Sky-Watch, Roswell Flight Test Crew and FLIR.

 

Wildlife Conservation UAV Challenge

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Poaching and wildlife trafficking is third largest illegal business worldwide, behind drugs and weapons. In South Africa, home of the almost three-quarters of world wild rhinoceros and is incredibly important country for rhino conservation. Unfortunately, during the recent years, rhino poaching was spreading exponentially due to the fact that the rhino horns are valued on the black market higher that gold.

 

Recorded number of rhins poached in South Africa

Recorded number of rhins poached in South Africa

In order to assist wildlife rangers protecting rhinos, Wildlife Conservation UAV Challenge has been set up. The founder of the Challenge and the CEO of Kashmir Robotics, Princess Alliyah envisions a fleet of small drones to patrol the skies, providing rangers with the information they need to protect endangered species from poachers.

Challenge Logo

Challenge Logo

 

So far there are 140 teams worldwide, taking up the challenge based on simulated wildlife poaching and trafficking activities. Each Challenge scenario will consist of three phases:

  • phase one – each team will propose a concept that includes aircraft, sensors, embedded systems, communications and operational concepts
  • phase two – teams will fabricate their aircraft, demonstrate air worthiness and safety at their local designated flying fields
  • phase three – teams will compete in the Challenge scenario. Specifics of the scenario  will not be released until the morning of the competition, so teams need to be prepared to adjust their flight profiles, sensor parameters and data processing as needed.

The winning design will be used in counter poaching activities in Kruger National Park in South Africa. Prizes for the top three teams (beside the feeling that they are doing something good for the mankind) are:

  1. $35.000 and a 10 day all-inclusive trip to the Kruger National Park
  2. $20.000
  3. $10.000

Hopefully, this challenge and the winning UAV will improve the rhino protection. The problem might be that criminal syndicates might also take notice of the UAV technology, and might just start using their own drones to locate wildlife and rangers, in order to further develop their ugly business. When that happens, Wildlife Conservation UAV Challenge needs to be elevated on the next level, and UAV design will need to include means of detection, identification and incapacitation of potentially hostile drones.

Pictures courtesy of Wildlife Conservation UAV Challenge and Save The Rhino.

 

Landslide surveying UAV – Bramor C4EYE

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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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Last weeks floods that devastated large parts of Balkan peninsula, left behind a trail of destruction with consequences that will last for years. One of the threats caused by the deluge are landslides. Since the affected area is very large, there are many activated landslides that are endangering whole settlements.

In order to tackle the problem, Bosnian government acquired Bramor C4EYE system made by C-ASTRAL, a Slovenian UAS manufacturer. Bramor C4EYE is a catapult launched, blended wing design drone, well suited for remote sensing applications. Made of are kevlar, carbon and vectran, the Bramor C4EYE is both lightweight and sturdy.

Bramor C4EYE

Bramor C4EYE

The system is highly mobile and fits into a MILSPEC, rain resistant backpack with the GCS embedded industry standard rugged package and is designed for fast deployment, flight ready in less than five minutes. It can be safely operated by single operator/pilot in command.

Bramor C4EYE case

Bramor C4EYE case

With the endurance of 3 hours and operational range of 30 kilometers, it will greatly improve landslide surveying in the areas affected by floods. It will enable specialists to cover large areas quickly, spot potential or activated landslides, and react before it is too late.

Consequences of any natural or man-made disaster can be very difficult to remediate. UAV can certainly made this task little bit easier.

Detailed technical specification of the Bramor C4EYE UAS can be found on C-ASTRAL webpage.

Pictures and video courtesy of C-ASTRAL.

 

Drone Startups 6: DroneDeploy

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In this edition of Drone Startups, dronologista presents DroneDeploy, another startup from the Silicon Valley. Instead of developing hardware, DroneDeploy develops the cloud based software that manages operation of multiple UAVs.

DroneDeploy Logo

DroneDeploy Logo

The web-based control and management system offers drone operators things like:

  • browser-based operations control
  • fleet management and tracking
  • electronic filling of required paperwork
  • data logging

It allows simple workflows for things like high precision terrain surveys and precision agriculture mapping. Data collected is transmitted and shared in the real-time. In essence, it enables single person using one laptop to safely operate multiple commercial unmanned systems over the internet.

The DroneDeploy system consists of

  • UAV – any drone with APM or Pixhawk autopilot
  • DroneDeploy CoPilot – smart cellular telemetry radio that replaces original Ardupilot or PX4 autopilot
  • Cloud Control – web-based control software
Cloud Control

Cloud Control

 

Managing multiple drones is no simple affair, and up until now a single operator couldn’t cope with it. DroneDeploy is among first to tackle this problem, and the solution provided looks sound and feasible. Their simple and powerful platform will certainly help commercial UAS operators to get things done with their drones.

Interesting articles about DroneDeploy could be found in Gigaom, sUAS News and TechCrunch.

Pictures courtesy of DroneDeploy.

 

 

Drones For Good Award

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First and largest governmental award for civilian drone application is offered by the Government of United Arab Emirates.

The ‘UAE Drones For Good Award’ was launched under the direction of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAV Vice President and Ruler of Dubai in February 2014. The official webpage of the award, www.dronesforgood.ae became online on 10th of May.

The Award has two parts: an international prize offering $1 million USD and a local prize of 1 million AED (approximately $275,000 USD). The National competition is dedicated to rewarding the best, most practical ideas for using UAV technologies today to improve government services in the UAE. The International competition is dedicated to rewarding the most promising prototypes of future services that may benefit humanity at large. Submissions must be able to demonstrate a working prototype that could conceivably be developed into a working system within the next 1 to 3 years.

Dronologista already mentioned in one of previous posts, that UAE is planning to deliver personal documents using drones. The Drones For Good Award is just another logical step that Government of UAE is taking toward systematic application of UAS for the benefit of humanity. In a bit cheesy video below you can get the picture of how it ought to work.

More information about the award and the rules can be found here.

Dronologista will be following development of this competition, and wishes all applicants good luck.