Thinkmodo human torch drone for upcoming Fantastic Four promotion (via Thinkmodo)

 

A flaming drone made a viral video recently as Thinkmodo, an ad agency, created a video that looks like The Human Torch has actually come to New York City. They used a human shaped drone and set it on fire before flying the drone around NYC. Their YouTube video looks pretty realistic, but they admit that they only flew the flaming drone in safe areas had had tons of firemen at the ready. Don’t get your hopes up, this was only meant to be a viral promotion for the upcoming Fantastic Four film. And for God’s Sake, please don’t try this at home!

 

Eagle attacks quadcopter drone, throwing it out of the sky (via Melbourne Aerial Video)

 

Drones continue to be a hot topic. Not only is there a constant slew of innovations for new drones from quadcopters to pocket-sized drones, but there is increasing questions about when and where drones should be allowed to fly. Legislation regarding drones has already been released and I suspect that new rules will be created. However, while drone operators should obviously clear their drones from neighboring helicopters and planes, it seems that nature also has an opinion on the flying, camera equipped robots. Footage was captured of an eagle attacking a drone – throwing it out of the sky. The quadcopter needed repairs in order to fly again, but the drone’s operator cautions others about flying drones near other birds – particularly bird of prey. An eagle can create some pretty costly damage, if not make off with your drone, thinking it is dinner.

 

The Bionic Bird drone (via XTIM Bionic World)

 

Speaking of birds... The XTIM Bionic World company seems to think they have an answer for this fight between technology and nature which can take place in the sky. They have created a drone called the Bionic Bird that flies by flapping its wings, like actual birds do. It is also meant to look like a bird, so as to not disturb other birds in the wild. The Bionic Bird is controlled by an app for Apple and Android products and costs 119 euros (including VAT) on their website, mybionicbird.com. They had a successful IndieGoGo campaign and their bird’s tail and structure is made of sturdy carbon fiber. However, it doesn’t seem like this bird is video enabled, hence it would make a great, fun toy, but all pictures may have to be from the ground. Also, it’s smaller than an eagle, so keep it away from predatory birds.

 

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University of Nevada, Reno, Flirtey and Drone America team with NASA for safer drone air traffic (via Alamy)

 

With increasing manned and unmanned drones and vehicles in our airspace, it’s about time that someone came up with an air control traffic system! However, whether it will work well enough to be used for Flirtey, a drone delivery service, and Drone America, a top provider of unmanned, autonomous drones, to pair off and become a new delivery service in America is a different story. Air traffic control for planes and other flying vehicles is one of the most stressful job as they prevent disastrous crashes on a daily basis. NASA’s Ames Unmanned Aerial Systems Traffic Management project hopes to accomplish the same thing for airspace under 500 feet with software created by the University of Nevada, Reno. The software will help make autonomous vehicles aware of each other in the air and follow flight patterns dictated by the software which account for variable like wind, weather, and congestion. They are currently in the testing phase, however I wonder how the system will account for idiots manning drones that may hit and interfere with other drones. I imagine that replacing mail carriers with drones will make for a very crowded and intrusive air space.

 

NASA’s new drone prepped to fly in Mars’ atmosphere using jets (via NASA)

 

NASA’s Swamp Works laboratory is cooking up drones that could work on other planets. They call them Extreme Access Flyers since these drones would be used to scout and capture samples on places humans can only dream of going. Their recent model is a drone that could fly in Mars using gas jets because Mars’ atmosphere is so thin that use of propellers wouldn’t work well. They hope that this drone would be able to scout for resources, like water, and eventually will be able to take soil samples. Rather than GPS, they are trying to equip the drone with a relative sense of direction that uses landmarks of the terrain to determine where it is. All in all, pretty cool.

 

Drone takes non-invasive whale snot samples (via Snotbot)

 

Unlike some drones that seem to have a pointless existence, or are attempting to take jobs away from many hardworking people, this drone is bringing good into the world. This quadcopter drone has large, absorbent sponges underneath it that fly above whales as they emerge from the water to capture the snot that is blown from their blowholes. Whale researchers can use the snot mixed with blood and other stuff to gain valuable biodata about Whale’s health, stress levels, and more. This method is best because it is non-invasive. Before, oceanographers would have to momentarily catch a whale and put a huge cotton ball equivalent into the blowholes. With this method, they get the samples they need without interfering.

 

A new, cheaper DJI Phantom 3 Standard (via DJI)

 

The attack of the quadcopters continues as DJI releases their new Phantom 3 Standard with newbie friendly features for $799 – which is cheaper than their other models. This new version still comes with almost all of the great tech that anyone could want including 3-axis stabilization, 12 megapixel pictures, up to 2.7 KB of video capture, and video downlink at 720p. The flight time is about 25 minutes. They decreased the price by taking out some of the tech, like ultrasonic sensors that provide more accurate flight. However, they added a lot of newbie features like auto takeoff and auto landing for a seamless performance. You can also set flight paths and parameters easily to avoid tricky situations. All-in-all it’s a lot of tech that is very competitively priced.

 

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Chinese officials inspecting drones (via Reuters)

 

This summer, China announced that it is restricting drone exports from August 15th onward. Chinese officials are afraid that the drones can be used by terrorists to spy and plan attacks. Their drones are purchased most by Nigeria, Pakistan, and Egypt. China currently faces threats from Islamic militants in the Western region of Xinjiang. While the government currently uses drones for rescue and relief, they want to ensure these drones don’t fall into the wrong hands: they see drones as a threat to national security.

 

Workhorse delivery company applied to use their HorseFly UAV on-the-job (via University of Cincinnati)

 

Again, it seems the race is on for the next drone powered delivery service! Workhorse is a truck, delivery company that just entered the race and applied to the FAA for permission to begin testing drone deliveries. Companies like Amazon and Flirtey have been chomping at the bit for a chance at this, but Workhorse’s idea seems most plausible. Their trucks would still drive out to make deliveries, however, their UAV named HorseFly will take packages and deliver them on people’s doorsteps. The drone will be mounted to the roof as the truck drives around and there will be a person to monitor the drone as it delivers the packages. I’m not sure how much time or money this would save… but it seems more likely to get approved than other projects. Although, I must say that I would be pissed if a carrier just left my package outside my door – sounds like a thief’s dream.

 

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(via 3D Robotics)

 

In other news, 3D Robotics announced their release of sponsorship for STEM and university programs through their new, DroneEDU initiative to help increase learning of UAV technology. The program would provide discounts, classroom support, free autopilots and drone systems to high schools and universities on a case basis. 3DR has already been sponsoring university programs, but not word yet on how many high school STEM programs they’ve sponsored. Their initiative seems to have been paused since their announcement in February 2015 and, while they say it will start up again, there is still no word on when. However, a Kickstarter campaign dedicated to the cause of teaching stem in K-12 schools seems unlikely to get funded with only 3 days left (see project here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1133413441/robots-drones-kids-stem-learning-for-the-future?ref=discovery).

 

While the project’s profile seems sparse, it is probably because it’s created by a teacher that is busy teaching and doesn’t have a marketing team behind them. This leaves me to really wonder about the purpose of prosumer drones. More than anything, they seem like they’d make a really great educational tool for STEM programs – and yet no one seems to be actually engaging the K-12 community. Are they just really expensive, fanciful toys? I’m left wondering, what’s the point? Any ideas?

 

C

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