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Tag: drones

Swarms of tiny coordinated micro-quadcopters

Tuesday, 1 March, 2016 1 Comment

The impossibly gifted Raffaello D’Andrea is a Canadian/Italian/Swiss engineer, artist, entrepreneur and professor of dynamic systems and control at ETH Zurich. He’s taking the concept of autonomous flight and propelling it beyond the popular perception of drones into areas where no one has gone before. What could one do with a swarm of tiny coordinated micro-quadcopters? It’s hard to say at the moment, but we can now begin to think about the use of such technologies.

Raffaello D’Andrea spoke at TED2016: Dream, a week-long conference about ideas that took place from February 15 to 19 in Vancouver.


Drones for Good: Loon Copter wins $1 million prize

Sunday, 7 February, 2016 0 Comments

The winner of the $1 million prize at the Drones for Good event in Dubai this weekend was the Loon Copter, a prototype drone that can fly, float and swim underwater. Equipped with a “buoyancy chamber” that fills with water, the drone can sink beneath the surface, tilt 90 degrees and use its four rotors to swim around. This piece of ingenuity is the product of the Embedded System Research Lab at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. Its potential uses include searching for sunken objects, environmental monitoring and underwater structure inspection.

The Robotics Award for Good went to SuitX, an exoskeleton system designed to improve the physiological gait development of children. It’s a product of the Robotics and Human Engineering Laboratory at the University of California. “SuitX is just one of the companies hoping to boost interest in exoskeleton research,” writes Signe Brewster in MIT Technology Review. “Competing suits like the ReWalk, which costs $70,000 and weighs about 50 pounds, are striving to reduce costs while improving functionality. If exoskeleton makers can drive suit costs down to a few thousand dollars, they could start competing with motorized wheelchairs.”

The winners of the UAE national competition were the BuilDrone team, who designed a drone that can detect and repair leaks in pipelines, and students from Ajman University, who developed a smart guidance system for the blind that assists them in avoiding obstacles using a vibration signals.

Yes, we need to keep a close watch on those nerds, but drones, robots and AI can be, and are, a force for good.


The drone wars have begun

Monday, 14 December, 2015 0 Comments

TOKYO — “The Metropolitan Police Department is set to launch a drone squad as new regulations have come into force to ban unmanned aerial vehicles from flying over crowded residential areas, MPD officials said…

…When drones are spotted in no-fly zones, the squad will search for the operators and order them to ground the drones. If they fail to comply, the squad will scramble large drones equipped with cameras and nets measuring 2 to 3 meters in length.”

On the face of it, this is an understandable law-and-order reaction to a new technology that might contravene municipal regulations, but the Yamaguchi-gumi will be watching with interest, no doubt. Kenichi Shinoda, its current oyabun, is said to favour “an expansionist policy” and one can imagine him ordering gang members to form a “drone squad” complete with nets. Could be a nice little earner, that, pirating drones laden with tomorrow’s equivalent of pieces of eight. Take note, Amazon Prime Air.


There will be a drone for that

Monday, 19 October, 2015 0 Comments

Imagine you’re a well-off citizen of the United Arab Emirates and you’re planning a shopping trip to London. You may be looking for a bargain apartment in the “golden postcodes” of Belgravia or Knightsbridge or just some hummus at Fortnum and Mason, grocer to the Queen. There’s a problem, though. The UAE has advised its citizens to stay away from “hazardous” parts of London, including Oxford Street, after two incidents in which Arab visitors were robbed by thugs brandishing guns, knives and hammers.

Solution? A personal drone that could follow a tourist through the city’s “unsafe” neighbourhoods and alert private minders or the police about an impending threat. And there’s a startup for that. Gofor was founded in San Francisco by Alex Cornell and Phil Mills and they envisage a future where drones are affordable and abundant. The sky’s pretty much the limit they believe when it comes to what personal drones that can do: “location scouting, HD documentation, personal security, telepresence, internet range extension.”

The optimistic Gofor vision is based on human kindness, but evil does exist and bad people might be thinking about the usefulness of drones for their purposes, too. Would it possible to equip a drone with a high-powered rifle, shoot a target and then crash the perp into the Thames Estuary? No sign of killer or weapon; the perfect crime. Sounds like pulp fiction but drones do have a history when it comes to negative headlines.

Inevitably, there will be calls to ban personal drones. First, however, comes the registration. The US Transportation Department is announcing today that it will soon require registration for all unmanned aircraft. Will drone sellers be required to collect customer information? This is a developing story.


On the uses of drones

Friday, 6 September, 2013 0 Comments

According to the Reuters news agency, a suspected US drone killed at least six terrorists in Pakistan’s Pashtun tribal region on the Afghan border. Hardly any fair-minded person would think that this is unjust, given the crimes committed by the region’s gangsters, yet there is considerable opposition to drone warfare. The United Nations has condemned US drone strikes in Pakistan, saying that they violate the country’s sovereignty. The UN, of course, ignores the fact that the Pashtun region is an infamous sanctuary for Taliban and al-Qaeda thugs. Heard of Waziristan? “These proud and independent people have been self-governing for generations, and have a rich tribal history that has been too little understood in the West,” said a person called Bill Emmerson, who bears the ludicrous title of “UN special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism”. Inevitably, not a word was heard from Bill Emmerson about the Taliban murdering Indian writer Sushmita Banerjee in southeastern Afghanistan earlier this week.

But back to drones. The really cool thing about this clip is that it was filmed by a drone, in one continuous shot, flying around the French band, Phoenix. Founded in Versailles, the group consists of Thomas Mars, Deck d’Arcy, Christian Mazzalai and Laurent Brancowitz. They became rich and famous in 2004 when their track “Too Young” was featured on the soundtrack of Lost in Translation, which was directed by Sofia Coppola. A romantic after-effect saw the same Sofia Coppola marry Thomas Mars in 2011 at her family’s villa at Bernalda in the Southern Italian region of Basilicata. By the way, Phoenix will co-headline the Austin City Limits Music Festival next month, alongside the Kings of Leon, Wilco and Depeche Mode.