Drones News - Page 4
Remember when everyone told Ralphie in the Christmas Story he shouldn't get a BB gun because he'll just "shoot his eye out", and lo and behold, the first thing he did with his Red Ryder was blast a BB into his eye? A recent accident might make you rethink your plans to become a drone enthusiast, as it's been proven those unmanned fliers can be pretty hazardous.
According to the BBC, the blades of a recreational drone sliced an 18-month-old toddler's eye in half after the pilot lost control of the vehicle. "It was up for about 60 seconds," said Simon Evans, a family friend who was operating the drone. "As I brought it back down to land, it just clipped the tree and span round. The next thing I know I've just heard my friend shriek and say 'Oh God no' and I turned around and just saw blood and his baby on the floor crying."
Despite being a seasoned pilot, Simons was unable to keep the UAV from crashing into the toddler. The boy, Oscar Webb, will have to wait before he can get surgery and an artificial eye. The accident will serve as a cautionary tale to parents everywhere and may very well have lasting implications for the future of drones.
After months of speculation and rumors, the internet's most popular e-tailer has finally taken to the skies with a fleet of delivery drones that may usher in a new level of convenience.
As explained by Jeremy Clarkson, Amazon's new Prime Air delivery service taps the power of autonomous drones in order to ship packages in 30 minutes or less. The drones themselves are quite advanced, using "sophisticated sense-and-avoid technology" to detect and avoid nearby obstacles in the sky, and even scans the landing zone to ensure safe deliveries. The drones can fly up to 400 feet at 55 miles-per-hour, and can deliver 5-pound packages--things like DVD's, games, CD's and even shoes--in a 15-mile radius.
Amazon notes that the Prime Air service isn't ready for deployment, and the drones are still being manufactured and developed. "We are testing many different vehicle designs, and delivery mechanisms to discover how best to deliver packages in a variety of environments," reads the official Q&A. The company plans to offer Prime Air in the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel to start, with other territories to follow.
It looks like the US government and police agencies are looking for some type of counter-drone system, able to protect vulnerable sites from rogue drones.
One test conducted by the New York Police Department relied on a microwave-based system designed to send the drone back to its operator. There were problems with the test, such as interference from local media broadcasts. Even though trying to shoot down drones would be fairly simplistic, it leads to public safety hazards - and there is more interesting in finding ways to send drones directly back to the operator.
"We can't shoot it out of the sky," said a source speaking to Reuters. "We have to come up with something that's kind of basic technology so that if something happens, the drone or device will just go right back to the operators. It won't crash."
The US government plans to expand UAV flights over the next few years, expanding daily drone sortie operations away from just the Air Force, according to officials.
The number of UAV flights will increase from around 60 every day up to 90 by 2019, though there are significant manpower and financial budget issues that must be addressed.
The global demand for UAV flights must expand, as the Air Force fleet continues to face trained pilot shortages. As the US combat mission in Afghanistan finally came to an end, the US military planned on reducing the number of combat drone flights by its Air Force staff. However, the rapid rise of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq has caused an uptick in reconnaissance and targeted strikes.
A drone dropped a bundle of narcotics and tobacco into the Mansfield Correctional Institution, located southwest of Cleveland, Ohio. The incident left nine people in solitary confinement for fighting over control of the contraband.
The delivery included more than five ounces of tobacco, over two ounces of marijuana, and about one-quarter ounce of heroin, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. The package was dropped on the north recreation yard, and was thrown into the south recreation yard as inmates fought.
All inmates in both the north recreation and south recreation yards underwent mandatory strip searches and clinic checks.
The California National Guard is using an MQ-9 Reaper drone in the search for Edward Kavanaugh, a person missing since July 17 riding a motorcycle in Northern California.
The drone can collect real-time images, so ground units have a better idea on where to search while looking for Kavanaugh. So far, the hunt in El Dorado County has not turned up anything, even with the drone's assistance.
The California National Guard previously used a drone to help fight the Rim Fire in 2013 - as it has special abilities, including infrared sensors, image-intensified cameras, and the ability to stay in the air longer than helicopters and traditional aircraft.
US military officials are increasingly concerned about small drones being used as flying improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that can be used against civilians and military personnel.
To help defend against future threats, the Counter Rocket, Artillery and Mortar (C-RAM) system is being developed, a gun-based solution that could be used to down drones. However, it is extremely difficult to quickly identify and engage drones:
"In addition, due to their size, construction material, and flight altitude, hobbyist drones are difficult to defend against if their presence in a particular area is unknown or expected," said Kelley Sayler, associate fellow at the Center for a New American Security, in a recent paper.
In the search for two convicted killers able to escape from prison three weeks ago, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has publicly declined assistance from the Air National Guard 174th Attack Wing. The ANG offered its MQ-9 Reaper drones, which are conducting training missions over Northern New York, to aid law enforcement as they search for Richard Matt and David Sweat.
If Gov. Cuomo wanted to use the drones, his office would need to file an official request with the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs. The drones, however, have not been deemed a necessity over state police helicopters.
"The only advantage the MQ-9 would have over a state police helicopter is the loiter time," said Eric Durr, spokesman for the NY DMNA, in a media statement. "And the determination was made that it was not a necessary asset."
The US military wants to create solutions to identify and engage enemy drones, as new technologies allow warfare to evolve and change at a significant rate. Future wars will likely rely on drones and robots, with a lot of attention dedicated towards small drones.
The US Navy is currently working with the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, while the Naval Air Station Patuxent River has a research agreement with the University of Maryland. Johns Hopkins is helping create a drone defense system, and the University of Maryland wants to more accurately identify drones.
"These things are in everybody's hands," said Conrad Grant, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins physics laboratory. Consumers can purchase small drones for a few hundred dollars, leading the way to anyone being able to carry out suspicious activities against the police or military.
Researchers are working on a new drone that is able to automatically unfold itself and quickly go airborne, with the compact and foldable drone ideally suited for emergency first response. The custom quadcopter drone is able to launch in less than one second, and is easily transportable since it's the size of the palm of your hand.
The current prototype has to be folded up by hand - taking less than 10 seconds with a skilled operator - but an auto-fold feature is in development. The drone weighs just 1.3 ounces, so first responders at a natural disaster site could launch a number of these small aircraft to help survey a site.
"You can take it out of the box, switch on the motor, and it's ready to fly," said Dr. Stefano Mintchev, professor of robotics at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, in a statement to LiveScience.