Tag Archives: drone

Amazon teases Prime Air delivery and ‘a whole family’ of drones in new ad with Jeremy Clarkson

New prototype is ‘part helicopter and part airplane’

Amazon is back with its latest vision for its Prime Air drone delivery system — and this time the company has brought its high-profile celebrity, TV show host and gearhead Jeremy Clarkson, along for the ride. In a slick new ad and FAQ page published today, the company demonstrates what Prime Air could look like if and when regulators approve deliveries by unmanned aerial vehicles.

The ad shows a new prototype model of the Prime Air drone — this one looks larger and quite a bit more custom-tailored to deliveries than the model first shown a couple of years ago. It features two propeller systems: one for vertical takeoff and another for horizontal travel to the destination. In an email, an Amazon spokesperson calls it “part helicopter and part airplane,” adding that the design lets it “fly long distances efficiently and go straight up and down in a safe, agile way.”

“DIFFERENT DESIGNS FOR DIFFERENT ENVIRONMENTS.”

This isn’t the only drone Amazon is working on. The spokesperson notes that “It is one of many prototype vehicles we have developed” and Clarkson adds in the commercial that “In time, there’ll be a whole family of Amazon drones; different designs for different environments.” In this demo, it appears customers will set up a little landing zone in their backyard that the drone can sense and land on to deliver the package.

amazon prime air drone

The other details of this delivery system remain the same however: Amazon is pushing the FAA to allow it to use airspace below 400 feet to deliver packages weighing less than five pounds to houses 10–15 miles from warehouses. Clarkson is also sure to note the drone’s safety features, which include Amazon’s proposed “sense and avoid” technology. Since there are too many drones for air traffic controllers to handle, such a system would allow drones to theorhetically avoid obstacles and other aircraft on their own.

The whole process from order to delivery is supposed to take less than 30 minutes, but it faces many, many regulatory hurdles before it can become a reality in the US. The company itself notes that “putting Prime Air into service will take some time, but we will deploy when we have the regulatory support needed to realize our vision.” A spokesperson also adds, “One day, seeing Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road.” It’s likely this highly-produced ad is meant to turn up public pressure on the FAA so Amazon can bring its dream drone delivery system to life.

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Drone video of Apple’s $5bn ‘spaceship’ is compulsive viewing

We can’t stop watching this drone video of Apple’s $5 billion donut-shaped campus.

The clip, shot by Duncan Sinfield and uploaded to YouTube (though hardly for the first time), shows the foundations for the Apple Campus 2 headquarters in California that will provide office space for over 13,000 employees.

The drone footage shows significant progress on the campus roof, the 1000-seat auditorium and multi-storey underground parking since Sinfield’s previous update last month.

The video, captured on a DJI Inspire 1 quadcopter, shows the 176-acre site — the equivalent of 10 football pitches and almost as big as Central Park – eighty percent of which will be green space once construction is complete, and will be home to 7,000 trees.

Architect Norman Foster is responsible for the minimalist design of the main building of the campus. His firm is well known for its work on the Gherkin, along with dozens of other iconic buildings. British construction firmFoster+Partners are in charge of the development.

The “space ship” campus has been lauded as late Apple founder Steve Jobs’ most ambitious project, and was announced shortly before he resigned as Apple CEO in 2011. It is set to be complete by late next year or early 2017.

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Watch Sony’s New Aerosense Drone Take Off and Take Flight

Sony announced in July that it was partnering with Robotics firm ZMP to create an all-purpose drone for business customers to do things like inspecting facilities, surveying and measuring land and properties, and so on. And over the weekend, the joint venture, known as Aerosense, posted the first video of a prototype drone taking off and flying around.

Despite having wings and flying like a small jet, the Aerosense drone uses its rotating turbines to effect vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL), similar to a Harrier fighter jet. This eliminates the need for any kind of landing strip, enabling the craft to be used in areas like cities and forests where large open spaces aren’t always close at hand.

Aerosense hopes to sell the drone in 2016, once testing and manufacturing have been figured out.

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What happens when you cross a camera drone with a kite?

The Fotokite Phi tethered drone is a budget-level flying quadcopter that’s as simple as taking a dog for a walk

Drones. They’re the most hyped gadgets in the world.

Do you really want to fork out several hundred pounds for a glorified model aeroplane that’s as easy to manoevre as a unicycle on a flight of stairs? Yes, you can understand the appeal of military drones and, at a push,Amazon delivery drones, but do you really need one in your life, taking photos of your garden from 100 feet up? Chances are you’d only lose it within minutes or crash it into a neighbourhood tree.

The Consumer Electronics Association estimates that the domestic drone market should be worth around £86m this year – up 50 per cent on 2014 – but you’re not convinced.

Well, prepare to put your cynicism to one side. Fotokite Phi is a new breed of domestic camera drone which manages to be affordable, extremely portable and almost impossible to lose.

The gadget, launched on crowdfunding site Indiegogo this week, is the brainchild of robotics researcher Sergei Lupashin, who has described it, self-deprecatingly perhaps, as a “flying selfie-stick“. It’s USP is its smart 8m tether which is used to guide the drone into a desired position with a flick of the wrist while holding down a button at the end of the leash. Sensors measure the angle of the leash relative to the user, so that when you move, the drone moves too.

According to BBC technology writer Andy Armstrong, “Anyone who’s walked a dog without losing it can operate a Fotokite“. At 300g (GoPro camera not included) it’s one of the lighter drones on the market, and even folds up into a small carry tube.

• Drones freak out animals, say scientists

Aimed at “the hobby photographer, the action sports enthusiast, the guerrilla journalist and the gadget aficionado”, the Fotokite, “a cross between an airborne pet and a steadicam in the sky”, has attracted a third of its $300,000 funding target in under 24 hours.

Priced at £160, the first Fotokites will be shipped next March.

Fotokite Phi drone

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Facebook Unveils Solar Drone With Internet Laser

The unmanned craft is expected to be able to fly for months at a time and connect hundreds-of-millions of people to the internet.

Facebook has revealed details of a solar-powered plane it hopes will bring high-speed internet access to remote corners of the world using lasers.

The unmanned aircraft has a huge wingspan similar to a Boeing 737 but it weighs less than a car and the company claims it can remain airborne for months at a time.

Facebook drone

Engineers with a prototype of the Facebook ‘Aquila’ unmanned aircraft

Named ‘Aquila’ the drone is part of the company’s ambitious internet.org project to deliver high speed internet connectivity to hundreds-of-millions of people in far flung parts of the world.

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg said: “We’ve successfully tested a new laser that can transmit data at 10 gigabits per second.

“That’s ten times faster than any previous system, and it can accurately connect with a point the size of a dime from more than 10 miles away.

“This effort is important because 10% of the world’s population lives in areas without existing internet infrastructure. To affordably connect everyone, we need to build completely new technologies.”

Facebook laser

The drone will connect users to the internet at high speed using lasers

The company said they would work with UK engineers from a company with a historic legacy in long-distance solar-powered flight.

A statement issued by Facebook said: “Our team has many of the world’s leading experts in aerospace and communications technology, including from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and Ames Research Center.

“Today we are also bringing on key members of the team from Ascenta, a small UK-based company whose founders created early versions of Zephyr, which became the world’s longest flying solar-powered unmanned aircraft.”

It comes as Google pursues Project Loon, its own mission to bring Wi-Fi to remote countries using giant ‘loon balloons’ said to be able to stay aloft for 100 days at a time.

The drone – which has a wingspan of a Boeing 737 – will operate as high as 90,000 feet in the air, and can stay airborne for 90 days at a time.

Facebook said the drones would be able to offer internet speeds of 10 gigabits a second.

They will be tested in the US later this year.

It was designed in the UK by Facebook’s aerospace team, said Jay Parikh, Facebook’s vice president of global engineering and infrastructure.

“Our goal is to accelerate the development of a new set of technologies that can drastically change the economics of deploying internet infrastructure,” Mr Parikh said.

Facebook drone graphic
The drone will be able to provide high-speed wireless internet

“We are exploring a number of different approaches to this challenge, including aircraft, satellites and terrestrial solutions.

“Our intention is not to build networks and then operate them ourselves, but rather to quickly advance the state of these technologies to the point that they become viable solutions for operators and other partners to deploy.”

Laser

It is the social network’s latest initiative in its Internet.org scheme, a project designed to bring connectivity to the developing world.

The strategy will help the network continue to grow users, a key requirement of keeping investors happy.

Mr Parikh said the drone’s technology should be regarded as a “significant breakthrough”.

“They’ve designed and lab-tested a laser that can deliver data at 10s of Gb per second – approximately 10x faster than the previous state-of-the-art in the industry – to a target the size of a dime from more than 10 miles away.

“We are now starting to test these lasers in real-world conditions.

“When finished, our laser communications system can be used to connect our aircraft with each other and with the ground, making it possible to create a stratospheric network that can extend to even the remotest regions of the world.”

However, Facebook’s expansion beyond its current markets has raised eyebrows, and accusations of cynical intentions.

Internet.org angered many in India’s technology community when it launched there, offering free mobile access to a small handful of sites, but not the internet as a whole.

Internet companies in the country said it was giving those free services an unfair advantage in the market, and noted that Facebook is able to track what users on the free service were doing.

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FAA is investigating YouTube video of a drone firing a handgun

A mechanical engineering student from Connecticut has attracted the attention of the Federal Aviation Administration, and not in a good way. 18-year-old Austin Haughwout had a viral hit on his hands earlier this month when he uploaded a YouTube video called “Flying Gun,” which depicts a custom-built drone aircraft with a standard handgun mounted on the front section. Not only does it fly with all that added weight, it can fire without spinning out of control. FAA officials are reportedly concerned, and an investigation is underway.

The FAA has only recently waded into the murky issue of drone use in the US with a set of draft rules released several months ago. The rules cover requirements for commercial operation of drones, and are seen by many as highly restrictive. Drone operators would need to pass a licensing test every two years and keep drones under 500 feet. Additionally, the vehicle would need to be in eyesight at all times, which would make delivery services like Amazon’s proposed Prime Air impossible.

Haughwout is currently a student at Central Connecticut State University, and according to the family, the weaponized drone is just one of many engineering experiments the young man is working on. The 14-second video shows the drone hovering and firing the gun four times. After each discharge the drone compensates for the recoil and resets for another shot. The four widely spaced propellers probably help it remain stable.

So why is the FAA involved? Local law enforcement contacted by media outlets has said they do not believe Haughwout has broken any laws. The video was filmed on the Haughwout family’s property in Connecticut, and both handguns and drones are perfectly legal. Attaching a handgun to a drone, while probably very much inadvisable, is probably also a violation of the spirit of the law. The FAA has rules that prohibit releasing anythingfrom an unapproved aircraft, which could be construed to include bullets.

The FAA has said it will work with law enforcement to make sure no criminal statutes were broken, but this is in addition to its own investigation of possible violations of federal aviation laws. The FAA’s statement on the investigation says it is looking into an armed drone operating in “a Connecticut park.” It’s unclear if this is a mistake on the part of the FAA, or if someone is alleging that Haughwout flew his handgun drone in public. If that’s the case, there will almost certainly be some legal ramifications.

Even if the drone was flown with a gun in a public park, it’s not clear the FAA would reallyget involved. Back in February, Federal Aviation Administration official Mark Bury told a gathering of state attorneys general that the FAA doesn’t have a role in monitoring the use of weapons on drones. “From [the FAA’s] perspective, if installation of a weapon, camera, whatever … if safe operation is not implicated, we don’t really have an interest,” Bury said. Basically, it’s complicated and the potential legal battle could get messy.

Even if Haughwout’s flying gun isn’t illegal, it’s sure to make folks nervous (that’s probably why the FAA is taking note). The coming robot apocalypse can be concerning, but those of us who support our weaponized flying overlords have nothing to fear.

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