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5 Skills You Need to Get a Drone Job

drone jobWith the enactment of Part 107, the US expects thousands of new commercial drone operators to enter the market this year.  The FAA predicts that 90% of those new operators will be small businesses.  Even with extensive flight experience and an FAA certificate, how can drone businesses stand out among the competition?  At our sister site, JobForDrones, we see hundreds of customers looking for operators, and their criteria are clear.  Here are 5 skills you need to get a drone job today.

  1. Hone your business skills.  Just like hiring any service provider for home or business, commercial drone customers are concerned about doing business with independent operators, and they will choose the provider who presents the most professional profile.  Make sure that you have everything the customer expects ready to go: including standard contracts, proof of insurance, proof of your certification, a professional bid or estimate document, and any liability waivers that you might require.  You might want to invest in a drone lawyer to make sure you understand all of the issues – like the copyright laws on the images you produce, for example.  And make sure that you have a payment system in place: larger customers expect you to be able to handle credit card or PO transactions.
  2. short-term FAA BillLearn to Navigate the Regulations. Searching the FAA website for changes is nobody’s idea of fun, but it’s a requirement for a professional drone operator.  Customers need to have confidence that you know how to fly legally, so you will need to be able to discuss the regulations intelligently.  Explain what apps or tools you use to make sure that you are flying in legal airspace.  Be ready to tell customers if their idea isn’t legal – like flying directly over a soccer game, or taking real estate footage in Manhattan – but offer alternative suggestions that might work to achieve their goals.  And make sure you’ve familiarized yourself with any specific local ordinances – many states and town have their own drone laws.  There are many resources to help with this, including communities on Facebook and websites like DRONELIFE that follow big events in regulations.
  3. communicationCommunications. If you’ve got the first two skills – a professional business and a deep expertise in drone regulations – you’re well on your way.  But now you need to let your customers know that.  Many commercial drone services websites feature only the impressive footage that the operator has produced.  Make sure that your website – or blog, or Twitter feed, or YouTube channel – indicates that you have the company structure required to meet customers’ needs.  Make it clear on the front page of your site that you have your FAA certification and are “licensed and insured;”  consider creating a brief “FAQ” section that will allow you to demonstrate your expertise.  Offer references.  Spend time on your emails.  If you have a specialty, feature it. While it isn’t always fair, it’s often the most professionally presented profile that gets the business.
  4. photographer-698908_1280Photography or Videography. This one has to be said – if you’re selling images, it isn’t enough to know how to fly a drone.  Many of the most successful drone businesses are photographers who learned to fly drones, rather than drone pilots who learned to take pictures.  Customers in real estate, marketing, and event planning have a high standard for their product-  and they expect a drone operator working with them to provide some creativity and photography or videography skills.  You have to know what shots to take, when the best lighting will be available, and how to edit and produce those shots afterwards.  If you’ve got experience or training in photography, state it on your website.  Not interested in pursuing that aspect?  No problem – there are plenty of other applications for commercial drone operators: agriculture, construction, inspection services, surveying and mapping are just a few.
  5. Learn how to package your final product.  Many operators aren’t quite sure what to deliver when they take a job – and that causes problems for the customer.  Learn to package your deliverable, and be very clear up front about what the customer is getting.  What’s the platform that you will deliver on?  If you are you delivering images, are they raw or edited?  If you’re providing a different type of data, are you sending data to an analysis platform of the customer’s choice?  Are you supposed to find a data analysis platform?  If you’re not sure what’s reasonable, ask them what they the minimum requirement is – and try to do a little better than that.  If you can, and the job lends itself to a package, offer a flat price.  You may be able to do a little better that way, as customers often prefer a predictable expense to an hourly estimate that risks going over.

Commercial drones are gaining ground fast, as many industries realize the benefit that they provide.  Drones can save money, time, and often offer a perspective or information that is otherwise unavailable. Customers are looking for operators to provide a product and help them understand what commercial drones can offer – and the business that does that best gets the job.



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Vayu Drone Project Will Battle Zika Virus

vayuA top U.S. relief agency is enlisting drones in the War on Zika.

This past week, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) released a list of finalists in the Combating Zika and Future Threats: A Grand Challenge for Development. Drone startup Vayu was among the winners that will share $30 million in funding to combat the deadly virus.

The USAID challenge called on global innovators to “generate cutting-edge approaches to fight the current Zika outbreak and to help strengthen the world’s ability to prevent, detect, and respond to future infectious disease outbreaks,” according to an agency press release.

The agency received 900 submissions and announced a preliminary list of 21 winners in August. Vayu will receive an undisclosed amount of funding to develop a UAV system to deliver and pick up medical supplies and lab samples from remote areas stricken by the deadly virus.

Zika is spread primarily by mosquitoes and has been linked to birth defects and other chronic ailments.

Vayu’s primary drone model is the Courier, a vertical-takeoff, fixed-wing hybrid. Once the drone begins takes off, twin rear-propulsion fans pivot from vertical to horizontal. The Courier sports a range of 60 km, a maximum payload of 2.2 kg and a maximum flight time of 60 minutes and can travel autonomously using a mobile app that displays a flight path, weather conditions and pre-flight checks.

The company has also partnered with Stony Brook University in another USAID-backed relief effort to deliver medicine and collect lab samples to and from rural villages in Madagascar. Earlier this year, the company launched a pilot program of long-range, autonomous flights from the villages to a nearby Stony Brook research facility

“Vayu’s accomplishment is as significant for the field of public health in developing countries, where limited access hinders healthcare as it is for the future of autonomous unmanned vehicles,” Vayu CEO Daniel Pepper said.

Drones will likely continue to mount a powerful offensive to battle the spread of dangerous diseases in developing nations. In India, a municipal government project deploys imaging drones to map regions known to harbor the dengue virus. Using the map, the Municipal Corporation of Guragon can isolate areas of potentially disease-ridden standing water to optimize pesticide-spraying missions.

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Drones Help Hurricane Victims File Insurance Claims Faster

Drone-1-2-MB-658x439Two of the largest insurers are processing millions of property claims following Hurricane Matthew more efficiently by using drones.

The hurricane, which rampaged through the Caribbean and several Southern Seaboard states, was responsible for an estimated 1,300 deaths and $6.91 billion in damage. Allstate and Travelers deployed several drones over parts of South Carolina and Georgia this past week to assess damage and to hopefully put insurance money into the pockets of stricken policyholders quicker.

“Our use of drones will help customers recover from losses more quickly because it expedites inspections, payments and repairs,” Travelers Senior Claims Vice President of Claim Patrick Gee said in a press release. “The drones also help protect our claim professionals by eliminating the need to climb ladders to inspect roofs and other elevated structures.”

Allstate’s quadcopters can capture 4K-resolution images and the company says this allows adjusters to zoom in for extreme detail on any individual shingle on a roof or a crack in a building.

“When I started back in 1999 with the National Catastrophe Team, I used a Polaroid camera to take pictures of the damage,” Allstate Catastrophe Adjuster Charlie Urban said in a press release. “Now, seeing us use drones is unbelievable. I’m really excited to see where the technology might go in the future.”

Travelers launched a UAV training program earlier this year and employs 60 FAA-certified adjusters to pilot drones.  Allstate tested inspection drones following a hail storm in Texas this past August following the release of the FAA’s Part 107 revision for commercial drone use.

“We have been active in the drone space, testing and researching use cases for a while now,” Allstate Chief Claims Officer Glenn Shapiro said. “To be able to use drones with our customers who have actual storm damage is a big step forward.”

In April, the insurance giant joined the Property Drone Consortium, a collaboration of insurance carriers and construction industry leaders that pledges to “work together to promote the development of standards and specifications for the safe use of unmanned aircraft system technology in the insurance and construction industries.”

In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, other organizations are using drones to inspect damage and identify trouble spots. Wireless provider Verizon launched several drone missions in heavily flooded regions in North and South Carolina to examine damaged or offline cell equipment nodes.

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5 Tips for Aerial Photography Beginners

There are plenty of reasons that you might be considering getting into aerial photography. You might’ve been inspired by some epic drone footage – of which there’s plenty – fancy yourself a professional pilot in the making, or just want an excuse to get out of the house. Whatever your motivation, the idea of actually buying a drone and getting started can be pretty daunting. That’s why we’ve put together a quick list of top tips for aerial photography beginners for you to take away, think about some more and use to help get your new hobby off the ground.

Tips for aerial photography beginners

top tips for aerial photography

Find the right drone

This is a pretty obvious one to start with. There’s a huge range of drones available on the consumer market, from small toys to professional-grade photography equipment. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. If you want grainy footage and a flight time more easily counted in seconds than in minutes, that’s easy enough to find. But you probably don’t want that. Even beginners to the field of aerial photography would be well advised to stick with the established manufacturers who have earned their reputations as the go-to providers of aerial photography drones. Most of them have products to suit a range of budgets.

Aerial photography top tips

The GoPro Karma: There are plenty of drones out there to suit all budgets and aspirations.

The market leader is by far and away DJI, whose Phantom range has set the standard for consumer drones. Going back a couple of years, DJI’s Phantom 3 Standard is now available for under $500, while the Chinese manufacturer’s new, vastly superior Mavic Pro is retailing at double that. For a beginner, the Phantom 3 is, on the face of it, the perfect place to start. It’s a great balance between price and quality. But bear in mind that things have moved on incredibly quickly in the industry since it was first released in the summer of 2015. In fact, while a newer drone such as the Mavic Pro may be more expensive and appear more complex, the increased sophistication of the latest drones arguably makes them a whole lot easier to fly straight out of the box. They are generally easier to control once up in the air as well, and can of course produce higher quality results.

The right drone for you will depend on two things: 1. What’s your drone really for? And 2. How much are you willing to spend to make this happen? The point of your drone is the first thing you should be considering. What are you going to be using it for? What level of image quality are you expecting? How much hands-on flying do you want to be doing? Are autonomous flight modes important to you? Are you bothered about built-in safety features, or do you want to don a pair of FPV goggles and just leave reality behind? Consider the answers to these questions when choosing your first drone.

top tips for aerial photography

The Parrot Disco is fantastic for FPV flyers.

The latest tech from DJI, Yuneec, 3DR, GoPro or Parrot might do a whole bunch of things you’re never going to need or even appreciate. You might even be the kind of person who lets the latest gadgets gather dust in the attic after an hour of use. If either of these is ringing true, then the above manufacturers – with the exception of GoPro – offer drones across the price spectrum, so you can find the balance between cost and reward that best suits your expectations and expected use.

If you’re in the enviable position of having zero restrictions when it comes to budget: GoPro fans will enjoy the Karma and its seamless integration with the camera company’s other products, pilots looking for a first person view experience should try out the Parrot Disco, and aerial photographers keen on an all-round package should look no further than DJI’s Mavic Pro or Phantom 4, along with Yuneec’s Typhoon H.f all the top tips for aerial

Of all the tips for aerial photography beginners that we can think of, choosing the right drone has to be number one.

Harness the power of autonomous flight

While the idea of putting a high-quality camera in the sky sounds like a dream come true for keen photographers, it’s not always been straightforward to pilot a drone effectively and shoot great footage at the same time. A focus on one can often be to the detriment of the other. Fortunately, manufacturers across the board have made great strides and are now much closer to solving this fundamental issue.

Essentially, autonomous flight modes mean that you’re only ever a click away from becoming the Steven Speilberg of the skies. With most of the manufacturers mentioned so far, you can draw custom flight paths, have your drone orbit a certain location, and perform classic aerial photography maneuvers to mimic a cable camera or slowly zoom out or into a location. With the top-end drones you can be both pilot and star of the show; why not have your drone track you and keep you in shot?

top tips for aerial photography

Yuneec’s Typhoon H is one drone that takes autonomous flight to the next level with built-in obstacle avoidance.

Autonomous flight is one area of drone photography that’s fast becoming both an essential and an assumed feature of any new consumer model. These manufacturers want to appeal to as broad an audience as possible. As a result, the latest drones are a lot less daunting to fly and get great results with less input than you might think.

Several manufacturers, such as DJI, offer the ability to control the camera separately from the drone itself. The GoPro Passenger app for the Karma is a perfect example of this burgeoning concept. You can pilot the drone while your ‘passenger’ takes control of the camera and handles the photography independently. Most of the latest drones can also be used with FPV goggles, so your or a copilot can enjoy an immersive view while you fly.

Check for no-fly zones

There’s no doubt that a significant percentage of the general public remain skeptical about the rise of consumer drones. As a new pilot, you owe it to yourself, your fellow citizens and the wider flying community to fly responsibly and well away from established no-fly zones. Typically, these are anywhere near airports, at altitudes above 400ft and in National Parks – You can check your nearest no-fly zones through a number of apps, or on the FAA website. Manufacturers are also starting to introduce software that stops you from flying where you shouldn’t, such as DJI.

There are also plenty of applications and growing communities dedicated to sharing tips on great flying locations, such as Where2Fly.

Think about insurance

Next in our rundown of top tips for aerial photography beginners is something you might not have thought of yet. Your drone is probably going to set you back a few bucks, so it’s probably a good idea to sort out some insurance. Crashes happen, and with new pilots it’s often a case of when, not if. Insurance is also a good idea if you’re flying anywhere near others (which you shouldn’t really be doing) or their property. With providers such as Verifly you can arrange cover on a flight by flight basis. It’s not a legal requirement, but it might be a good idea for peace of mind, keeping you covered in the worst-case scenario that something does go horribly wrong.

top tips for aerial photographers insurance

Check out Verifly for on-demand drone insurance.

If you’re piloting skills really take off and you end up flying for a living, insurance is highly recommended.

Don’t forget about post-production

The last point in our list of tips for aerial photography beginners concerns what you do once all the excitement is over. Having spent a day taking to the skies and shooting video in a way you’ve never been able to before, it’s easy to forget that there’s an end result here: the footage itself. Whether you just want to watch it back with friends and family, capture a special occasion or share it on social media, editing and polishing your footage is an absolute must.

We recently featured a range of software to get the best out of your aerial photography. Many manufacturers, such as GoPro, offer a suite of services to help with post-production. With a few clicks you can add backing tracks, cut out the boring bits and generally make your videos a whole lot more professional.

Editing footage is a great way to relive the moment, but it’s also vital to making the most of what you’ve captured. Check out the links above and search around to find some video editing software that suits your needs and ability.

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Intel Incoming: Tech Powerhouse Enables Innovation Throughout the Drone Ecosystem

With each wave of technological innovation dominant players emerge. With PCs, there were Intel, Microsoft, IBM, and Apple. With the internet, Google, Facebook, and Amazon became dominant. With mobile phones, there was a resurgent Apple, adaptive Google, and emerging Samsung. As these waves recede, one-time major players can get washed out to sea: Lotus, Yahoo, Nokia, Blackberry. The next wave building is drones and the Internet of Things, and Intel, the chip giant of the 80s, is re-emerging as a major player in its development.

Intel Falcom 8+

Intel Falcom 8+

In a conversation with, Anil Nanduri, Intel’s VP New Technology Group, outlined the company’s initiatives in the drone space. He says that  Intel is looking to bring its innovative and enabling technologies (e.g. processors and processor tools, modems, storage) to bear on the drone industry, empowering the ecosystem and laying a foundation from which it can thrive.

Two key developments are the Aero platform and Intel’s RealSense technology.

Anil Nanduri

Anil Nanduri

Nanduri spoke about the Aero ready-to-fly unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) development platform, which is a fully assembled quadcopter, built around the Intel® Aero Computer Board. It is targeted for developers, researchers, and UAV enthusiasts, and Intel’s development platform is hoping to enable applications to become airborne quickly. He told us that the Aero platform comes with full standard interfaces, reconfigurable IOs, and SSD storage. The Aero drone platform is expected to be available in Q4 of 2016.

RealSense technology provides drones with “intelligence.” One important feature of RealSense is obstacle avoidance. It enables drones to “see like we humans see [and be able] to navigate around obstacles,” Nanduri said.

The technology has been integrated into a variety of products. These include Yuneec’s Typhoon H drone. According to Yuneec, the drone “carries an  Intel® RealSense™ camera. There are three cameras that act like one—a 1080p HD camera, an infrared camera, and an infrared laser projector—they ‘see’ like the human eye to sense depth and track motion.” Typhoon H’s full 360 degree camera gimbal and retractable gear allows the module to always be facing obstacles in the path of flight, regardless of camera position. Yuneec’s FAQ  reports that a Typhoon H with RealSense flying at up to 12mph can sense obstacles such as leafless trees from up to 32 feet away and avoid them.

RealSense is also present in the Falcon 8 drone from Ascending Technologies, a designer and manufacturer of commercial drone systems based in Germany. Intel acquired the company earlier this year. One modified version of the Falcon was used to perform inspections of Airbus aircraft. The drone, a modified AscTec Falcon* 8,  captured incredibly detailed photographic and 3D data with Intel® RealSense™ cameras, reducing aircraft downtime from 2 hours to under 15 minutes.

Intel is continuing to explore ways to integrate its technology with the drone expertise of Ascending Technologies, and together they are exploring key advancements such as flying beyond line of sight and managing fleets of drones flying simultaneously. One early test of this involved Ars Technica, Ascending Technologies, Intel, and Beethoven. Here’s the video:

While the artistic implementation is fascinating to watch, the technology behind it is also compelling. Namely, multiple drones being flown by a single pilot.

Intel also acquired Movidius, headquartered in San Mateo, CA, which is an interesting acquisition. It is Movidius that developed the visual sensing processor used in the DJI Phantom 4. So Intel owns and or developed the object avoidance technology used in both DJI and Yuneec drones. In a follow up email, we asked Mr. Nanduri what Intel’s plans for Movidius were. He wrote:

We’re not detailing our product roadmap plans. But, generally speaking, Movidius’ technology in combination with RealSense 3D depth cameras furthers Intel’s push into new smart, connected devices where computer vision and deep learning capabilities in low power, low cost, high-performance solutions are key. We can deliver new solutions for OEM customers across multiple market segments from robotics to security cameras and, importantly, drones.

Lastly, Intel has a product with Intel on the outside as well as on the inside. The company announced the Falcon 8+ under the Intel name. The drone integrates Intel technology with the Ascending Technologies drone platform. It is notable for three reasons. First, it is an Intel branded product with Intel on the outside. Second, unlike the Ascending Technologies drones, it will be available in North America. Third, it is a comprehensive commercial solution featuring industrial strength capabilities including but not limited to flexible and convenient joystick control, full redundancy including for measurement units that compensate for strong winds and electromagnetic fields, and, of course, depth sensing technology that enables object avoidance.

As Nanduri made clear to DroneLife, with drone technology about to take off in both the consumer and commercial sectors, Intel does not intend to be left at the gate. Intel was a technology pioneer with the advent of the PC. While their technology can be found in mobile phones, their brand in not associated with that wave of technology. With the coming Internet of Things, specifically unmanned aerial vehicles, Intel plans to be back in front. As Nanduri summed up, “Intel is focusing on innovation that will empower the drone ecosystem.”

Resource links for Intel drone initiatives and developments:

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Commercial Drone Companies: Making Drones an Integral Part of Industrial Practices

Guest post by Head of Marketing at Airobotics (Autonomous Drones)

It took a tease and a bold prediction from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos to get the general public to begin thinking a couple of years ago about the ways in which drones might change the business landscape forever. But commercial drone companies were already far ahead of the game by that time, taking the new technology beyond familiar military and hobbyist uses.

Bezos, of course, was focused on the idea of using the unmanned devices as couriers of a sort, an efficient and economical way to deliver packages for his retail behemoth. Meanwhile, others were on a different path, envisioning and actualizing a wide array of uses for drones across industries, and developing a wide range of business models to make drones an integral part of industrial practices.

How commercial drone companies are changing the way business is done

Just how varied the uses of the technology have become – and just how rapidly the new sector of commercial drone manufacturers has taken flight – is chronicled in a recent report from Tracxn, the world’s largest startup research platform. In addition to the retail and e-commerce applications Amazon is developing, drones are now being utilized in a variety of industries, including but not limited to:

  • Agriculture – increasing crop yield by providing precisely targeted monitoring and pest control
  • Mining – being integrated into every facet of operations from mapping to equipment and road inspections to blast analysis and stockpile evaluations
  • Critical infrastructure – providing real-time perimeter surveillance and facility inspections, as well as early detection of hazards such as gas leaks.
  • Insurance companies are even putting drones to work, to collect images and data about claims sites without the time and expense of sending adjusters to the scene.

To accomplish these tasks, and many more, commercial drone companies and commercial drone manufacturers have devised a range of business models to put the technology into the hands of the end-users, as the Tracxn report spells out in detail.

Commercial drone companies cover all bases

As would be expected in an emerging industry there is an assortment of models and solutions:

  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) manufacturers build drones for both consumer and commercial applications, including aerial imaging and photography. While these are typically flown and maintained by human operators, Airobotics has enlarged the underlying concept to embrace a holistic, operator-free solution expressly for industrial use with its completely autonomous drones, from the initial touch of a button through complex missions to landing and post-flight maintenance.
  • Other commercial drone companies have created a business model centered specifically on creating the software applications and platforms that enable flight, including both autopilot software and flight control software for pilot-controlled operation. In addition to such central functions, businesses operating on the software business model often also develop and market software for fleet management, data storage and processing, and other additional functions.
  • Similarly, one common business model is focused on the manufacture of hardware for drones, including replacement parts and peripherals. These specialized businesses are built around the manufacture of components such as image stabilization gimbals, sensors, controllers, and navigation modules.

Because there are drones, a number of commercial drone companies have taken a different course and focused their operations and business models on creating Counter-drone Systems. This model rests on technologies such as audio, visual and/or radar detection, radio jamming, and various methods of disabling drones – including everything from GPS manipulations to inflicting physical damage.

Business models of commercial drone companies

The differing business models offer the end-users a perhaps welcome degree of flexibility, but they also confront a business planning to get on board the drone revolution with some important decisions to make at the outset.

  • For many commercial drone companies entering the field, the drone-as-a-service business model offers an efficient and cost-effective means of bridging the gap between commercial drone manufacturers and the company that wishes to use drones. Drone-as-a-service, as the name implies, takes the processes and potential expense of adopting drone technology out of the hands of the client, in favor of an off-the-shelf solution from a company that handles every facet of a task. In that way, it is a model that eliminates the need for an end-user to invest in equipment, hire and train operators, and assume responsibility for ongoing maintenance and operations.
  • Some commercial drone manufacturers have created their business models to enable in-house drone operation. For the companies purchasing drone systems, it is a model that offers greater flexibility than drone-as-a-service models, in as much as it eliminates some of the logistical issues of scheduling and using an outside vendor. Instead, it replaces that need with the need to maintain in-house personnel tasked with the operation and maintenance of the drones.
  • Because each of those models offers significant disincentives for potential industrial and business users of drones, Airobotics has established itself in pioneering a third model, the end-to-end solution of fully automated drones. This model addresses the fact that services and even in-house operators may not be available when they are needed most, and that many drone functions are best performed either on a regular and timely basis or – as with the insurance uses mentioned above – at unpredictable intervals. Additionally, the expense of utilizing a service frequently, or of staffing in-house operations, may limit cost-effectiveness. For businesses, the fact that autonomous drones perform every facet of complex tasks entirely operator-free means that they can be available at any time at the touch of a button to collect, process, and deliver data in any condition and with complete automation.

Source: Airobotics white paper – “Automated Drones – Giant Step in Mining Value Chain

One of the truly remarkable things about drones is the fact that they have come into our world–seemingly out of the blue, as it were – with little warning for most business executives, and little time for companies to adjust to the new realities and new possibilities they pose. But even more remarkable than that is the speed and creativity businesses have shown in making that adjustment, virtually overnight. With the emersion of this breakthrough technology, large industrial facilities are beginning to comprehend the many possibilities and applications that automated drones provide. The business impact of their long-lasting benefits are on a clear path to becoming the industry standard.

This post was originally published on Airobotics’ blog:

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Police Drones Take Flight Over Central Asia

900px-Flag_of_Pakistan.svgPolice agencies in Central Asia are using more drones to fight drug trafficking, riots and roving gangs of thugs.

In Pakistan, law-enforcement agencies report an upswing in drone deployment across municipal and provincial police departments. Officers use the aircraft to monitor large gatherings in an effort to quell potential riots and to track “terrorists and armed bandits in urban areas,” according to the Pakistani Business Recorder.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police recently added eight DJI Phantom-4 drones to its arsenal and the capital of Islamabad is currently trialing an unspecified number of UAV models.

“It gave a significant help to the police and now police would use drone cameras, which we have in the Islamabad Safe City Project, for monitoring of different events like protest rallies and other gatherings in the federal capital,” an unnamed police official stated.

Not to be outdone by its neighbors, the Punjab provincial police purchased 50 drones while police in Sindh acquired six.

In India, police in the Malda District plan to use drones to identify opium production sites as poppy season blooms. Police have a difficult time cracking down on illegal poppy production because local villagers refuse to identify likely growth areas. Also, growers often mix poppy plants with corn and sugarcane, making identification from the ground difficult.

“If we get aerial picture of the areas it will be very easy for us to locate the poppy cultivation zones,” a Malda police official told the Hindustan Times.

Another official said that only 10 people had so far been arrested in poppy stings this year. Police officials believe the heroin trade stemming from illegal production of the flower may fund terror groups.

1280px-Flag_of_India.svgIndian police are no strangers to drone technology. In Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), police use drones to patrol polling places during hotly contested elections. In 2015, violent uprisings emerged at various polling stations across the city.

In January, Delhi Police piloted a squadron of drones to monitor temples and expressways through Republic Day (Jan. 26), the nation’s annual commemoration of the enactment of its constitution.

The police forced ordered Netra quadcopters from India’s defense ministry to secure the various sites. Incidentally, the Netra is homegrown — manufactured in partnership with Indian drone firm ideaForge.


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New Patent Expands Amazon Drone Plan

Amazon Drone Patent

Source: U.S. Patent Office

When we think of Amazon and drones, we think of airborne delivery.

But with a new patent awarded to the retailer on Tuesday, Amazon wants to expand UAV technology, making drones smaller, lighter, cheaper and responsive to voice commands.

In the company’s patent application, Amazon envisions “techniques and systems” that would allow drones (among other functions) “to provide enhanced support for police during routine traffic stops [or]  to locate objects or people including, for example, locating a lost child in a crowd or a lost vehicle in a parking lot.”

Specifically, the drone system would provide a method for controlling a UAV with simple voice commands “to perform one or more tasks, least partially autonomously, to assist the user.”

The patented UAV system would include a tiny, pocket-sized drone equipped with image-recognition software and a voice-recognition module (similar to Amazon’s Alexa system). In diagrams, the drone is shown perched on the shoulder of a police officer ready to autonomously film a traffic stop or other situation to provide accountability and security for both officer and suspect.

Amazon explains in the application:

“In other words, the UAV can act as eyes and/or ears, among other things, for the user to extend the user’s perception. The UAV may be used, for example, to record information from a perspective different than the user’s perspective, scout dangerous situations, or locate/retrieve items for the user, among other possible tasks. In some examples, the UAV can be small enough to carry on the user’s person (e.g., in a bag, in a pocket, on a jacket, etc.) and allow for ready deployment.”

Personal safety could also play a role in consumer’s attraction to the voice-assisted drone. “In situations in which a user feels uncomfortable or in danger, such as walking down a city street at night, the UAV may act as a deterrent to potential attackers, provide piece of mind, and, worst case scenario, document the crime for police,” the application states.

The company’s patent would cover proprietary new processors on board the drone or would rely on a central control to perform cloud processing to free up the UAV from the heavy computing load.

Amazon’s interest in the drone industry has sparked a number of high-profile media reports beginning with its initial plan to offer drone delivery service (despite flying into plenty of red tape).

In September, the company added another patent to its drone arsenal – a plan that would “combine drones with trucks, allowing the drones to ‘hitch rides’ on the roofs of their own – and other -trucks and buses.”

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Survey Says… What Most People Really Think About Drones


The United States Postal Service Office of the Inspector General (USPSOIG) has released a report detailing what the public really thinks about drones.

The report is the result of an online survey targeting 18-75 year olds in an effort to  “understand the current state of public opinion on drone delivery,” the report says.  “Topics covered by the survey included the overall appeal of drone technology, its most and least interesting applications, the believability of claims about its potential benefits, the public’s expected timeframe for implementation, potential concerns, and how the public would view drone delivery if it were offered by five prominent players in the logistics and technology fields.”  The USPS believes that drone delivery could be a way of shifting focus in order to revive their falling business.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Drones are on the horizon: The American public anticipates that drone delivery will be offered within the next 5 to 10 years.
  • An ambiguous reception: More Americans like the concept of drone delivery than dislike it, but a large number have yet to decide.
  • Americans do not yet trust drone technology: Drone malfunction is the public’s primary concern — far more than fears about intentional misuse.
  • Different groups have notably different perspectives: Different age groups, genders, important postal customer groups, geographic regions, and residents of urban, suburban, and rural areas all display differing levels of interest in drone delivery.
  • Knowledge drives enthusiasm: Exposure to information about drone delivery correlates with greater interest in
    the idea.
  • Speedy delivery piques the public’s interest: 1-hour delivery is the public’s most interesting application, and delivery speed is the technology’s most believable benefit. Emergency delivery also garners interest.
  • Too soon to launch: It may be too soon for any organization to offer drone delivery, as offering the service now leads to a drag on overall brand positivity.
  • Drone Delivery could improve the Postal Service’s ratings as an innovative company: Despite its drag on overall brand positivity, association with drone delivery makes the Postal Service look more innovative.

Broken out by sector, the report concluded that the biggest differentiator in how people viewed drone delivery was age: only 24% of baby boomers viewed drones positively, compared to 65% of millennials.  In addition, the most appealing application for drone delivery was the concept of 1 hour delivery, topping the list over emergency delivery and delivery to remote areas.

Despite the “ambiguous reception” that the idea of drones received, the report does say that most Americans view the application as “inevitable” and see drones in their future.

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Drone Delivery: The Winners and Losers

delivery droneDrone delivery is big news, with drones delivering everything from blood platelets to burritos.  While drone delivery has been a hot topic in the drone industry for sometime, there aren’t many companies who are making it work now.  We’ve put together a list of drone delivery’s winners – and losers.  The results might surprise you.

The Winners: Small and Easy to Work With

The winners so far in the delivery segment aren’t the big players that have made “drone delivery” a common phrase.  Instead, they are mostly smaller independent startups, nimble enough to work with regulators and move to locations that are ready for their offering.

  1. Flirtey.  “Flirtey is making drone delivery possible for everyone,” says the company’s website. “We’re building an industry, not just a company.”  It may just be true.  The company was founded in New Zealand but was able to establish a base in Nevada in order to work with the FAA on drone delivery testing.  Because of their close relationship with the federal authorities – and their proximity to Nevada’s test sites and desert – they’ve racked up a series of drone delivery “firsts.”  Flirtey made the first medical drone delivery over a year ago, delivering supplies to a rural Virginia clinic.  Since then they’ve partnered with the FAA to demonstrate ship-to-shore delivery, rural household delivery, and urban delivery – delivering a Slurpee and other items from convenience retailer 7-Eleven.  Flirtey is an independent drone delivery service, so they’re willing to partner with any retailer or service, and deliver anything.
  2. Zipline.  Zipline’s tagline is “The future of healthcare is out for delivery.”  Zipline is a small San Francisco start up that specializes in rural delivery of healthcare supplies.  They found a buyer for their services all the way across the world, in Rwanda, where they’ve made a deal with the Rwandan government to deliver to clinics located in inaccessible locations.  Their special method of sending supplies down by parachute – without landing the drone – means that deliveries can be made to all types of terrain.   While Rwanda was their first client, their successful launch there has meant business in the US, too.  The company has partnered with three US healthcare companies: Ellumen, ASD Healthcare, and Bloodworks Northwest.   They plan to make deliveries to Smith Island, Maryland and San Juan Islands, Washington.
  3. Matternet.  This Menlo Park company is focused on designing delivery drones and the “intelligent control software” for an “automated aerial logistics” solution.  The drone is sleek and powerful, and the company seems to be also.  Their first flagship partnership was with international NGO Unicef to deliver HIV medicines to children in Malawi as a test scenario.  Since then, they’ve made big news by partnering with Mercedes-Benz to develop a concept van with drone docking on the roof – and they’ve announced a new partnership with Daimler.  The result can be quantified by the funding they’ve attracted.    As of early August the company had raised $9.5 million of a targeted $11.5 million, with a list of over 36 investors.

The Losers – So Far: Bigger Isn’t Better

While the early winners are small and flexible, it’s the big players who are still losing – so far.  But fear not; these companies have the most to gain when drone delivery does become an everyday occurrence.  Their early investment has every hope of paying off in the long run.

  1. Walmart.  Walmart has made it clear that they’re invested in drones – and drone delivery.  The retail giant is among the big companies to announce that they are testing drone delivery, and they’ve invested in research about using drones for warehousing functions, too.  But the large organization will need to see significant changes in both regulations and the way that stores and supply routes are organized in order to realize the benefits of drone delivery.
  2. Google.  Alphabet (Google’s parent company) has been working on “Project X” for some time now.  They’ve taken out patents on new drone delivery logistics system, and they’ve made arrangements with the FAA to perform tests of drone delivery at authorized testing sites.  They’ve been working on drones delivering the Internet, drones delivering mail, and emergency drones delivering cardiac equipment and advice.  But so far, the only real drone delivery they can do is to deliver Chipotle burritos on the VA Tech campus (VA Tech is a designated testing site.)  And those deliveries can only be about a tenth of a mile, to stay within required visual-line-of-sight (VLOS) regulations.
  3. Amazon.  Amazon has invested heavily in drone delivery – becoming one of the largest lobbyists in Washington in an attempt to get its vision for drone integration across.  They’ve taken out patents on various logistics ideas, and traveled to drone shows all over the world presenting their idea of a “federated airspace model” which would allow drone delivery to work with other aircraft.  So far, they’ve been unsuccessful.  Despite their efforts, the company was forced to test their drone delivery program outside of the US, in the UK.  But Amazon hasn’t given up – the prize of owning their own distribution system, and utilizing autonomous drones, is too big to abandon.

Drone delivery won’t be part of everyone’s life until full drone integration happens, and the regulations change to allow it.  But in the meantime, small companies are scooping up the rewards – while the larger ones are still in investment phase.


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