Airgonay club’s drone racetrack in the French Alps is a tough go for any pilot


Drones are being deployed for more than just spying and taking out terrorists. Civilian enthusiasts, law enforcement and even scientific researchers are getting in on the craze at an exponential rate. Besides being used for bogus UFO sightings, drones are being harnessed for racing, HD photography and as two-in-one rescue tools (among a host of other uses). Below is a roundup of the more interesting and unusual jobs drones are being employed for.

What’s better than piloting your own UAV? How about racing it at high speeds through a dense forest, which looks suspiciously like the forest moon of Endor seen in Star Wars episode VI. Professional drone pilots from the Airgonay club designed their own challenging three-lap racetrack in the densely forested French Alps. The track is full of twists and turns that can be a challenge for any seasoned pilot. The interesting part is most of the racers wear AR/VR headsets to pilot their drones with a first person view, allowing them to actually ‘see’ where they are going. Read more here (Beware, it’s in French)- http://www.airgonay.com/




Watcha gonna do when they come for you? Police use small drone to help find suspects.


With the theme song from the TV show ‘Cops’ playing in your head, Grand Forks Police in North Dakota recently used a drone to help catch four DUI suspects that took refuge in a corn field. The four underage suspects were being pulled over on suspicion of DUI when the four jumped from the vehicle and ran into a nearby cornfield. Instead of rolling in on foot, officers deployed the force’s Qube (from AeroVironment) drone to ‘sniff them out’ from the air. One suspect was found within three minutes of the first flight while a second was found on a subsequent flight roughly 25-minutes later. The other two were found at a later time and were the unlucky first Americans to be apprehended by a drone in the US. Read more here- http://www.valleynewslive.com/story/26657338/grand-forks-authorities-use-drone-to-help-find-criminals




AeriCam’s Anura is a pocket-sized drone that allows users to feel like James Bond.


Size isn’t everything, it’s the capability that matters, which is certainly true for AeriCam’s Anura drone. The drone itself is about the size of Apple’s iPhone 6 and features foldable arms that fold out when getting ready to fly. Anura is outfitted with built-in micro FPV (First Person Video) camera that streams video in real time and is controlled over Wi-Fi using any Android or iOS-based smartphone. AeriCam’s Anura is currently being funded on Kickstarter and has already surpassed their target goal of $100,000. Those interested in getting their hands on one can pledge $195 or more, which should be delivered in April of next year. More information can be found here- https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1364595768/anura-the-beginning-of-the-drone-era-for-the-masse



DJI’s Phantom 2 was used to check out a volcano eruption and was so close the camera melted.


Some drones are tougher than others and DJI’s Phantom 2 certainly fits in that category as it was recently used to film an eruption montage at Iceland’s Bardabunga volcano chain. The drone was outfitted with a GoPro Hero 3+ camera, which captured the incredible footage. In fact, the drone was so close to the eruptions that it eventually melted after a short period of time. To keep in contact with the drone at a significant distance, pilot Eric Cheng used DIJ’s 2.4GHz Lightbridge Wi-Fi platform that has a range of about 1 mile. If communication was lost due to the intense heat, the Phantom 2 was programmed to return to base autonomously. For more information and to see the spectacular video head here- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cICS9MtRRw




Mod Lab’s H.E.R.A.L.D. is a rescue drone with its own pair of land-based snake robots.


University of Pennsylvania’s Mod Lab designed one of the more unusual drones that’s tailored for search and rescue operations. Known as H.E.R.A.L.D. (Hybrid Exploration Robot for Air and Land Deployment), the drone is comprised of a quadrotor with a pair of detachable robotic snakes that can traverse rough terrain. The snakes are attached to the drone magnetically and can be controlled independently using an Xbox controller, giving H.E.R.A.L.D. the ability to search in hard to reach places. For more information on Mod Lab’s rescue drone head here: http://modlabupenn.org/hybrid-exploration-robot-for-air-and-land-deployment-h-e-r-a-l-d/



Nixie’s wristband drone- for the vain outdoor enthusiast who needs that special selfie.


Some outdoor enthusiasts, whether it is mountain climbing, hang gliding or speed walking often times look to grab that unique ‘selfie’ while in action. In those instances Nixie’s wristband drone (also known as Nixie) could come in handy. The prototype (still in development) features four articulated arms that close on the wearer’s wrist and expand when ready for flight. When the wearer is ready for that all-important shot, they simply make a hand gesture and it launches, orients itself in flight and snaps the photo. When finished it simply hovers near the user waiting for them to grab it and slap it back on their wrists. For more information on Nixie’s Nixie head here: https://flynixie.com/



Argentina’s MESI platform uses drones to hunt down tax evaders.


Nobody takes tax evaders more seriously than the United States, except for maybe Argentina who recently dispatched several drones to sniff out millionaires who owe the government some serious cash. Argentina’s collection agency ARBA suspected some wealthy individuals were lying about their properties, which were listed as vacant lots instead of mansions and set out to verify those claims using drones. Instead of finding dilapidated parking lots or patches of dirt and bushes, they found huge mansions complete with swimming pools (can’t have a mansion without one). The drones were responsible for finding 200 undeclared mansions along with an additional 100 swimming pools that were not noted on the residences tax declarations. Overall, Argentinian authorities are looking to rake in more than $2-million in back taxes thanks to their ‘eyes in the sky’. More information can be found here: http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.soy502.com/articulo/mesi-drone-contra-evasores-fiscales&prev=search


CanBerra’s UAV took first place in Australia’s 2014 UAV Challenge Outback Rescue.


Drones used for search and rescue are one thing, search and rescue drones that deliver bottled water are on a completely different level. Back in September of this year, Australia held their annual UAV Challenge Outback Rescue, which pits teams against one another in an effort to find injured or stranded persons in remote areas and deliver them bottled water. The contest was started back in 2007 and what makes it interesting is that no team has ever been able to accomplish the challenge until now. This year’s winner went to team CanBerra who used a VQ Porter model airplane to locate Joe and successfully airdropped their water bottle payload 2.6 meters from the target. For more information head here:  https://www.facebook.com/UAVChallenge



DHL’s is set to use their Parcelcopter to deliver packages to a German island in the North Sea.


DHL is set to join Amazon and Google in the drone package delivery market. Unlike like the other retailers who look to implement their services on a massive scale, DHL is looking to deliver parcels to Juist- a German island situated in the North Sea with a population of 1,700 people. Testing of their Parcelcopter have been ongoing since 2013 but has just recently gotten the go-ahead from the German government, which has established DHL’s own registered 7.5-mile flight path from Norddeich to Juist. The drone is allowed to climb as high as 164-feet at a travel rate of 40MPH, making it a first for company to be issued a block of airspace for civilian drones. More information can be found here: http://www.dhl.com/en/press/releases/releases_2014/group/dhl_parcelcopter_launches_initial_operations_for_research_purposes.html


More drone roundups on the way!


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