Jeff Bezos took to 60 Minutes to announce Prime Air, a drone-based 30-minute delivery system for densely populated areas that comes with its own video design-fiction illustrating how it might work. The vision is an exciting one, but the designfic elides some important questions like the regulatory framework under which thousands (millions?) of drones might share the sky as businesses compete to do airborne delivery; whether that framework would be sufficient to actually maintain public safety (hello midair drone collision over a busy highway with attendant plummeting shrapnel into the path of speeding cars!); and what the energy and carbon footprint of drones would be, especially with comparison to conventional delivery logistics.
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In the video above, Rafiq ur Rahman, a drone strike survivor from Pakistan, speaks at a congressional briefing in Washington, DC convened by Rep. Alan Grayson (FL-09). The primary school teacher spoke with his daughter Nabila (9) and son Zubair (13). One year ago, they were injured in the same drone strike that killed their 67-year-old grandmother, Rafiq's mother, as she was tending crops in her garden.
Kevin Gosztola of Firedog lake attended the briefing, and writes: "It is heart-wrenching to hear a 13-year-old boy say, 'Congressman Grayson, I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer gray skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are gray,' because this is one of the few times he is not afraid he will be targeted by a drone."
From Kevin's report:
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Joly sez, "Experts, activists, and makers from all over the world gathered last weekend for the first ever Drone and Aerial Robotics Conference (DARC) in NYC. One theme was miniaturization. Smaller UAVs are more agile, and less dangerous, although, as of now, they still suffer from the same FAA restrictions as their larger cousins. Another popular feature was FPV (First Person View) where flyers drive their drones via remote displays. One spectacular demo that combined both was from Eirik Solheim of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation who flew a 25 gram 3D printed $169 Micro Quadcopter out the stage's backdoor and into the backstage passages of the venue, and back. (here's video of the entire first day)"
DARC22 Eirk Solheim - Micro Quadcopter
The SpaceX Grasshopper's latest launch—and graceful descent!—captured by a drone-mounted camera. Grasshopper was most recently seen terrifying the cows.
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Boeing and the US Air Force have converted retired F-16 fighter jets into drones, designated as QF-16s. According to Boeing, "While in the air, the QF-16 mission included a series of simulated maneuvers, reaching supersonic speeds, returning to base and landing, all without a pilot in the cockpit." The military claims that they will use the drones for dogfight training. Video of the first pilotless test flight below. (Thanks, David Steinberg!)
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[Video Link] Matthew says, "Filmmaker Eddie Codel used a DJI Phantom drone and a GoPro Hero3 camera to film a "drone’s eye view" of Burning Man."
[high res] Everyone knows about this comic book, which Dick Cheney read as a boy and later used as the basis of his foreign policy during the Bush administration. Here's another comic, from 1939, that predicts modern drone warfare.
(Thanks, Randy Regier!)
This year, the Burning Man Organization has set out rules for drone operation on the playa, developed in concert with drone-hobbyist/burners who attended a summit at BMOHQ on July 17. The rules include a common-sense safety code, parameters on where/when/who can be videoed; fire safety rules; spectrum management procedures; and guidance on elevation and wind.
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The Distributed Flight Array is an experimental project from ETH Zurich; it's a set of 3D-printed hexagonal rotors with magnets on their edges; they automatically join up with one another, sense and compute the aerodynamic properties of their current configuration, and cooperate to fly together.
The system is designed around a central propeller which provides thrust for the structure. Surrounding it are three omni-directional wheels that let the bots get into position with each other on the ground while magnets embedded in the frame provide a connection. A gyroscope provides positional information to an on-board microprocessor while an infrared sensor feeds information about altitude to the system. Pins allow the collected bots to communicate this real-time data between each other and adjust their individual thrusts to keep the combined unit stable. Despite the sensitive nature of the electronics, when a flight is over, the bots disengage midair and fall safely to the ground where the process can begin anew.
Individual units can only propel themselves spastically around a room, but when joined the DFA modules can create traditional quadcopters, more advanced decacopters, and their most impressive applications are atypical and asymmetrical arrays that defy traditional aeronautic aesthetics. These odd combos often produce interesting flight patterns — in one configuration where the bots are aligned linearly, the construct appears to flap as the opposite ends try to reach equilibrium.
...Next steps for the project will be removing the last vestiges of human control—currently a motion-capture system or an operator using a joystick has to provide a small amount of feedback to keep the system from drifting away. The hope is that the DFA becomes completely autonomous and increasingly versatile. “What I would love to see is in-flight reconfiguration,” says Oung. “Which I think is certainly possible with the current system.”
Watch: Autonomous Robots Self-Assemble and Take Flight as One [Joseph Flaherty/Wired]
Deer Trail, a small town near Denver, is contemplating issuing $25/year hunting licenses for Federal drones
. No drones are reported to have ever flown over Deer Trail, and it would likely be a federal crime to destroy one, but the mayor clearly views this as a way of sending a message to Washington, and of making some easy money for the town. (via MeFi
"Albert Hibpshman is a United States Air Force (USAF) pilot of manned and unmanned aircrafts. During his recent deployment to Afghanistan, Hibpshman was a Mission Commander flying MC-12Ws [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircrafts] as well as a Group Liaison Officer, responsible for the coordination between five flying squadrons and Army, Marine and special forces units at bases spread throughout southern Afghanistan." Speaking with Muftah.org, Hibpshman shares
his personal experience with contemporary drone warfare, and the human side of cyberwar. — Xeni
"The DIY (Drone It Yourself) v1.0 kit offers you the opportunity to turn any object into a drone*, simply by attaching four motors and a control unit -- no technical know-how needed. The kit consists of multiple parts that are easy to assemble and can be attached to a wide range of different objects"
DIY (Drone It Yourself) - Jasper van Loenen
Spencer Ackerman, formerly of Wired News and now with the Guardian, reports today
: "A study conducted by a US military adviser has found that drone strikes in Afghanistan during a year of the protracted conflict caused 10 times more civilian casualties than strikes by manned fighter aircraft." The new study was referenced
in an official US military journal, and shows that US officials' claims that unmanned planes can target more efficiently than manned counterparts are not true. [guardian.co.uk] — Xeni
Above, footage of a protester's quadcopter in Gezi Park getting shot down by the Turkish Police. Below, the footage of police violence the drone had been capturing (complete with music that sounds like it came out of an orc-fighting scene in the Hobbit). Ahead of us: a long, weird future history of protest.
Tuesday afternoon on June 11th 2013, Police was violently attacking peaceful protestors. Police fired guns at one of our RC drone during the protests in Taksim square, Istanbul. Police aimed directly at the camera. Due to the impact on the camera (it did have a housing) the last video was not saved properly on the SD card. The camera and drone were both broken. Managed to keep the SD card. Here is the footage from that camera! This footage you are about to see is from the prior flights minutes before the incident.
Turkish drone shooting heralds a new age of civillian counter-surveillance
Spocko sez, "In this commercial for a cell phone screen protector product, a quadcopter flies up to some fruit, sodas and a cell phones and shoots them with a remote controlled handgun.
The company, Clearplex, has many videos of it's screen protector products being shot at, so this one is a natural, although creepy, extension of that series.
The video is edited so it's hard to know how accurate the quad-copter is, but consider how apparently easy creating this one was,what's the next step?"
Drone vs Phone: Samsung Galaxy S IV - GunDrone