These quadcopters can build a bridge all on their own

These mini drones in the middle of making a rope bridge


As technology keeps advancing, drones are proving to be useful beyond dropping packages at your doorstep. A new video filmed at RTH Zurich Flying Machine Arena shows a group of drones making a rope bridge. Aside from the scaffolding on the sides of the bridge, the rest of it is built entirely by this group of quadcopters. The structure consists of nine rope segments for a total length of 120 m and has different elements, like knots, links, and braids. While it's nowhere near strong enough to support a car, the video does show several people walking across it albeit very carefully. This demonstration was an experiment to show that diminutive air-borne drones have the ability to build load bearing structures at full scale. Will drones help construct road bridges next?


NASA's detect-and-avoidance system for drones proves to be a success

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The Detect-and-avoidance system makes the grade (via NASA)


NASA has been testing their Detect-and-Avoidance (DAA) system for drones and things are looking good so far. The latest phase of testing was recently completed using a remote controlled Ikhana aircraft equipped with DAA sensors while it flew over the Mojave desert in California. The aircraft made a total of 11 flights involving more than 200 predetermined encounters with oncoming aircraft. While most of data has yet to be fully analyzed, it was reported that the drone successfully alerted its remote pilots and performed pre-programmed moves when met with obstacles. Researchers will take the information gathered to plan for future flight tests, which are supposed to take place next spring. Though it's considered work, it must be fun flying around that aircraft.



OpenROV's latest drone travels underwater


Explore under the sea with this drone (via Openrov)


Want a drone that can travel underwater? Then you may want to invest in OpenROV's latest machine. The Trident drone is a remote controlled, camera equipped underwater UAV that's currently seeking funding on Kickstarter. There's still 37 days left to go, but it's gained $543,977 in funding well beyond the $50,000 goal. It's not OpenROV's first underwater drone, but this one seems more efficient with a hydrodynamic design that allows it to slip through narrow gaps and in between rocks. It's also small enough to fit in a backpack and under a plane seat for travel. The Trident's software is open-source allowing users to add whatever capabilities they see fit though it can already do an impressive amount of things, like capture images and video of a patch of sea floor and create a 3D model of the area. If you want one you'll have to pledge $799 to get one for yourself.


UK drone pilot in hot water for flying over packed soccer fields

Nigel Wilson learned the hard way to be careful where you fly (image via MET)


Drone enthusiasts beware, the police are watching. Over in the UK, a Nottingham resident Nigel Wilson was prosecuted for drone offenses under the Civil Aviation Authority's Air Navigation. Wilson was arrested earlier this year for flying a drone over Etihad Stadium in Manchester City. It was soon discovered Wilson broke more rules than that since he used his drone to record various soccer matches at different stadiums in the UK. He also used the machine to take in some sight seeing at London landmarks like Buckingham Palace, but it doesn't end there. Wilson also disobeyed the Air Navigation Order's rules saying drones cannot fly in congested areas, keep their craft in a direct line of sight, and stay at least 50 meters clear of buildings. Wilson plead guilty to seven offenses, has been sentenced, and ordered to pay ₤1800 ($2744) in fines and ₤600 ($915) in costs. But what will probably hurt Wilson the most is being charged with a Criminal Behavior Order, which bans him from buying, owning, and flying drones. Take this as warning to all the drones lovers out there.


Drone crashed US Open; teacher gets arrested


Police patrol the stadium after a drone crash (image via the guardian)


And if that story didn't convince you to be careful where you fly, how about the teacher who got arrested for interrupting the US Open? During the intense tennis match a quadcopter crash landed into an empty section of the stands. Though no one was hurt it did spook the players, their family, and the crowd watching. It turns out the drone belonged to a 26-year-old teacher. It's unclear why the pilot was flying so close to the match, especially since a camera was not attached to the drone, though it might have snapped off. Typically drones are used to capture footage of sporting events, so there's a good chance that's what was going on here. With more pilots getting in trouble for flying their drones in restricted areas, authorities are getting serious when it comes to drones.


Qualcomm brings their smartphone technology to future drones


Qualcomm is the next company to specialize in drones (via Qualcomm)


Qualcomm, a California company that designs and markets wireless telecommunications products and services, is getting into the drone business. They are gearing up to introduce their new Snapdragon Flight platform, a highly optimized 58x40mm board for consumer drones and robotic applications. Using its Snapdragon 801 processor as a basis, Flight hopes to make drone development easier by giving companies a single board for dealing with drone communications and camera technology, which is similar to their strategy with smartphones. Some of the benefits of Flight includes 4k video, support for a variety of sensors, and its quick charge technology. The platform is powered by a 2.26ghz quad core processor and Adreno 330 GPU and also has video encoding along with dual image sensor support. Flight should be hitting drones early 2016 with Chinese drone maker Yuneec the first to jump on board.


Bill banning drones over private property gets struck down in California


The California bill is on hold for now (via LEG Cal)


California residents may want to watch the skies more carefully. A bill that would have restricted drone pilots in California has been vetoed by governor Jerry Brown. Led by state senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, the bill would have banned quadcopters from flying below 350 feet around private properties without permission of building owners. Back in August it passed both the state Assembly and the state Senate, but it received backlash from GoPro and advocacy groups related to Amazon and Google. Though it sounds good on paper, the bill has since been dismissed since it could be troublesome some to drone enthusiasts and FAA approved commercial users. Though it had good intentions it seems some more discussion about the bill have to take place before it sees the light of day.


Boeing's new laser shoots down drones from the sky in two seconds

This isn't a speed camera, it's a laser cannon


Maybe the California bill didn't pass, but this new device will sure stop drones flying where they shouldn't. The Boeing company has developed a laser cannon that can shoot down drones over significant distances. Even though it looks pretty bulky and a bit like a futuristic washing machine, the device is actually easy to use and portable. All you need are two people to set it up, an Xbox 360 controller to operate it, and up to four suitcase sized boxes for portability. Shooting down a target within two seconds after locking on to it, it's proving to be efficient. With more enthusiasts using drones, don't be surprised to see these lasers around. Drone owners remember beware of where you fly.


Does this chimp hate drones or just really smart?

This chimp was not happy about being filmed (via Burgers' Zoo)


Are these chimps suspicious of drones like so many other people? Recent footage seems to suggest so. The video shows a curious chimp at the Royal Burgers Zoo in Arnhem grab a tree branch and swing it to swat a camera equipped drone a TV crew set up to record the chimps for a documentary out of the air. But scientists are viewing as more than just the next viral video hit. In a study recently published in the journal Primates, Jan Van Hoff and Bas Lukkenaar suggests the video shows the attack was intentional and planned. The authors note “the precise coincidence of the facial grimace with the strike suggests that it is a concomitant of an assertive and determined exertion of force, homologous to what humans do in comparable situations.” By the look on the chimp's face it didn't seem too pleased about being recorded. On a related note.. I wouldn't be surprised seeing more people "droning" into zoos and such in the near future.


Autopilot feature finally comes to DJI's Phantom 3 drones

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Phantom 3 drones finally get a much needed upgrade (via DJI)


DJI is a pretty big name when it comes to consumer friendly quadcopters, but customers weren't too happy with it's Phantom line and the lack of autopilot features. Now owners can breath easy as the company announced the much needed feature is finally coming to their popular series of quadcopters and the Inspire 1. There are also new features added via a firmware update, which includes waypoints, point of interest, and follow me. The standard version of the Phantom 3 has a feature that makes it easier for the drone to fly back to you, which the advanced model gets an addition of a 2.7K camera recording option, a nice upgrade from 1080p. If you've been interested in getting one of these drones for yourself, now seems like a good time.


Drone surveys construction site to keep track progress and catch slackers


Construction workers may not be able to slack off any longer (image via Golden Center and blurb via MIT)


This recent development isn't going to help paranoia surrounding drones. The company in charge of building the new Sacramento Kings stadium in California are using camera equipped drones operated by a company called ImageInFlight to patrol the site and collect footage of construction. The footage is then converted into 3D images and run through software developed by a team from University of Illinois. They then compare them to architectural plans and previous images to see how far along the construction is. This technology also makes it easy to see anything that's behind schedule and who needs to work harder. The fact that being watched by drones is a caused for concern hasn't gone over the software developer's head. Mani Golparver-Fard attempts to wave away fears by saying “"Yes, making this autonomous has a different feeling for the workers. But you have to keep in mind that it's not really questioning the efficiency of the workers, it's questioning what resources these guys need to be more efficient.” Either way construction workers should make sure not to take too many coffee breaks with these drones around. This one is distressing. It's just like someone watching you via day via a camera. It's creepy and intrusive.



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