Tag Archive | uav

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.

Does the Small UAV industry need its own coalition?

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!

Original story by Hallie Siegel @Robohub

Last week USA Today reported that Amazon, 3D Robotics, Parrot and DJI had banded together to form a “Small UAV Coalition”, hiring DC-based lobbying firm Akin Gump to represent their interests before US regulators and ease the way for the commercial drone industry in that country. Akin Gump lobbyist Michael Drobac says that, since the USA Today report was first published, Airware and GoPro have joined the fold and others in the small UAV business will soon be following suit. But does the small UAV industry need its own lobbying effort, and how will the inclusion of retail giant Amazon impact its ability to represent the broader group?

In addition to contending with the FAA, the group must also gain traction with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which manages the communication frequencies that drones would use, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, which will be ruling on privacy issues. With multiple government bodies to lobby, Drobac believes it makes sense to work together in a concerted effort.

According to Drobac, there was already an appetite for a coalition among those in the small UAV business, whose needs differed somewhat from the larger UAV firms with aerospace and defence contracts. “The coalition members are all extremely consumer-focused,” he said, pointing out that the first priority of the group will be to lobby for clear safety and privacy guidelines, both of which are key concerns for consumers. The coalition has already filed several petitions for exemption with the FAA, and hopes to influence and educate policymakers and consumers about the commercial opportunities of small UAVs.

Small UAV Coalition

Patrick Egan from sUAS News thinks this consumer focus makes the coalition’s lobbying needs distinctly different from the needs of the UAV “old guard” of Department of Defence (DoD) vendors. “Previous lobbying efforts have been working to regulate 10-year-old aviation technology,” he says, pointing out that, by contrast, members of the Small UAV Coalition want to invest in new technology and new applications that haven’t even been discovered yet, and for that they will need extremely broad and inclusive regulatory definitions.

It therefor matters that they have their own representation. “If you’ve successfully lobbied to have the standards built around your product or business needs, you will have an edge,” says Egan, pointing out that while current regulations tend to focus on the fixed wing products common to DoD vendors, the regulations don’t even consider the multirotor devices that are common to the small UAV industry right now.

Image is another factor that may be drawing the coalition together. “A lot of small UAV companies have avoided aligning themselves with DoD vendors because of their military focus,” says Egan. “They just don’t need the controversy.”

Amazon retained council from Akin Gump when it filed its petition for exemption with the FAA this past July to begin tests with drones that weigh less than 55 pounds and fly below 400 feet. In its letter to the FAA, Amazon said that so far it has only been able to test its drones inside its Seattle R&D lab or in other countries, but would “prefer to keep the focus, jobs, and investment of this important research and development initiative in the United States by conducting private research and development operations outdoors near Seattle – where our next generation R&D lab and distinguished team of engineers, scientists and aeronautical professionals are located.”

Earlier this week, the Economic Times rumored that Amazon will begin testing drone delivery in India. If true, Amazon is pulling all punches. The threat of losing talent, R&D and investment to other countries is one of the key arguments of commercial drone advocates in the US. Andra Keay of Silicon Valley Robotics says, “Going to India sends a strong message to the FAA, and it makes so much sense. India is well-known for the high calibre of their roboticists, engineers and developers. And yet parts of the country still have very rudimentary infrastructure, which actually makes it easier to do disruptive innovation there. It’s harder to patch existing legacy building and transport technologies than it is to start afresh.”

Drobac says that allowing private testing facilities is key to keeping UAV innovation in the US: “Sure the FAA has some test sites, but it’s much more pragmatic to have testing near to where your headquarters are.”

For companies that are pushing innovation in this space, distance is not the only issue with testing facilities. New technologies such as sense-and-avoid will need to be peer-reviewed to meet (as-yet unspecified) safety regulations, and private companies like Amazon don’t want to go to public testing facilities. Says Egan: “Even though they might need an independent 3rd party to review their safety record, they still want to keep their proprietary data safe. We don’t know how safe that data is at a public site.”

The high cost of using the FAA testing sites (according to Egan, $5-10K per day) presents another obstacle. ”I’m not sure that the FAA took into account how prohibitive these costs could be to a small company that is just getting off the ground,” said Egan. “This is really a hold-over from the days when most UAV operators were Department of Defence vendors.”

According to the US Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan organization that tracks lobbying expenditures in the US, Amazon has significantly increased its lobbying expenditures in recent years (see chart). In the USA Today article, Chris Anderson from 3D Robotics was quoted as saying that Amazon’s interest “lets people realize how big it can be … They have a well-established presence in Washington and they were able to kick-start the mechanics of this coalition so we could quickly join and get moving.”

Source: Center for Responsive Politics. Note that 2014 expenditures represent only year-to-date until Aug 2014. Amazon has spent 40K on lobbying efforts for PrimeAir at the time of publication.

Source: Center for Responsive Politics. Note that 2014 expenditures represent only year-to-date until Aug 2014. Amazon has spent 40K on lobbying efforts for PrimeAir at the time of publication.

Egan agrees that the influence of a big player is critical to the future success of the coalition, saying that “Amazon has a lot of horsepower and the White House has now renewed its interest in the issue,” however he points out that in the longer term it could be difficult for companies with such different applications and financial resources to keep their interests aligned.

Drobac could not comment on the price of entry for joining the coalition, and would not speculate on how much money would have to be spent to smooth the way for the small UAV industry in the US. “It’s not about how much money will be required to change lawmakers’ minds, ” he said. “The question will come down to whether we can educate people about the tremendous benefits of UAVs to society, and we’re confident that we will because technology always wins.”

So far in 2014, Amazon has spent $40K on lobbying for Prime Air – a number that is likely to increase now that the coalition is official.

Whatever future challenges may exist between coalition members, Drobac insists that their focus will be on their common objective of opening up US airspace to small commercial UAVs: “If we can crack that door open, all boats will rise.”

“I just hope they don’t get frustrated at the pace the FAA operates at,” says Egan, who has been advocating for commercial UAVs for over ten years. “The movement towards the integration of US airspace has been slower than glacial.”

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

M.A.R.S. Parachutes – How to save your equipment

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! Couple of weeks ago, I […]

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.

 

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!