A bird’s eye view of Pembrokeshire as county company takes off

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PEMBROKE Castle, Tenby, St Govan’s Chapel: They are some of the most recognisable sights in Pembrokeshire, but now they can be seen with a unique bird’s eye view.

SkyCamWales is a county company is taking to the skies to capture the beauty of Pembrokeshire from above, using state-of-the-art drone aircraft, known as UAS, or Unmanned Aerial System.

And the results are nothing short of spectacular and have already proved hugely popular.

An article on the Western Mail’s Wales Online website earlier this month generated more than 470,000 views, helping to promote Pembrokeshire far and wide.

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Such has been the reaction that there is likely to be new job opportunities at the company shortly.

Ian Richards of Pembrokeshire Photography invested in the cutting edge technology to provide a unique Unmanned Aerial System (UAS or drone) photography and videography service.

‘SkyCam Wales’ says it offers a low altitude, high quality image solution in places that planes, helicopters and photographers cannot reach.

The lowest a plane is permitted to fly is 1000 feet whereas a UAS is limited to a maximum height of 400 feet and can operate anywhere from ground level to this height.

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Ian, a former Royal Navy photographer and BBC cameraman works with Jonathan Carter, pilot in charge, of RotaRama, to operate Octo and quad copters under strict regulations from the Civil Aviation Authority.

In order to operate commercially they have undertaken written and practical exams. It is illegal to operate UAS in the UK without a licence. Ian and Jonathan work in partnership with Radiant Media to produce fully edited video for promotional and PR purposes and also for news broadcast.

The system can be used in emergency situations using a live down link to a ground station which relays what the camera is seeing – this allows the Officer in Charge to monitor the situation before sending in personnel while businesses such as estate agents, tourism operators and golf courses have been impressed by the potential for promotion.

See www.skycamwales.com or Facebook.com/Skycamwales

Drones: Coming soon to a farm near you?

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Unmanned aerial vehicles aren’t just for spies or for the battlefield. Farmers all over the country think drones can give them a leg up, too.

Tech-savvy farmers have been waiting for years for the government to make up its mind about the commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles. Right now, anyone flying a drone for business instead of as a hobby is actually breaking federal law. But the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which oversees U.S. airspace, says it plans to roll out rules for drones this year.

Privacy and public safety concerns abound when it comes to camera-mounted machines flying around.   That’s the primary reason the United States lags behind other nations in allowing unmanned vehicles for commercial use.

Still, farmers with acres and acres of land want to keep an eye on their investment. Instead of spending days driving the edges of fields in a truck or ATV, farmers could use drone-mounted cameras to produce thermal image maps that can tell if crops aren’t properly irrigated or if they are being eaten by insects.

“I’ve been a seed dealer and involved in precision ag, and I look at this from a scouting standpoint,” said farmer Jared Brown of Beason, Ill. “Getting farmers out in their field, knowing what’s going on in their field I think would have a huge benefit.”

The same rugged yet inexpensive cameras strapped to surfboards and skydivers can gather the images farmers need for a fraction of what they’d pay to hire a plane or helicopter pilot. Camera and all, quadcopters sold to the public generally have a sticker price of $5,000-10,000.  That investment is small compared to other purchases in the growing high-tech arsenal available to farmers with deep pockets.

 

Full details here: http://bit.ly/1feXbjC

Unmanned future: Drones to clean your gutter, tend to crops and take aerial selfies?

25 March 2014

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The drone settles back on the cracked asphalt after a brief ascent into the lower reaches of the suburban troposphere.

“Yeah, it flies,” says Christopher Vo, director of education for the D.C. Area Drone User Group. His thumbs release the remote-control levers that animate the three-pound vehicle, which is the size of a large pizza.

“I want to give it a try,” says the quadcopter’s creator, Herndon resident Karl Arnold, a telecom sales engineer who got into drone building as a hobby. “Just get it up a few feet.”

“Right now?” Vo says, a bit incredulous. “Have you flown in the simulator?”

See more…

Burton: Commercial agriculture might be largest beneficiary of UAVs

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For centuries, farmers have braved the elements to walk their land to check for problems ranging from wind damage and calving cows to pests and predators.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which some people refer to as drones, may save farmers time and money with bird’s-eye views of farmland, says Bob Schultheis, a natural resource engineering specialist with University of Missouri Extension in Webster County.

Schultheis addressed the use of UAVs on the farm during the Greene County Soils and Crops Conference Tuesday at the Springfield Livestock Marketing Center.

UAVs suited for farm applications vary widely in cost and size. Entry-level aircraft cost from $500 to $1,500 and can fly  10-20 minutes without recharging batteries. Most weigh less than 5 pounds, have a wingspan of less than 3 feet and travel  less than 30 mph. For about $300, farmers can install cameras in drones that can send clear still or video images to a smartphone.

UAVs can provide information to answer questions like “How bad was last night’s hailstorm? Are all of my cows on the north 40? Does my corn need more nitrogen?”

Most UAVs rely on GPS  for navigation. Entry-level systems can be guided by a hand-held remote control. More sophisticated vehicles can be programmed to fly designated routes using GPS and  geographic information system technology.

Full details here: http://sgfnow.co/1fUvHPL

5 drone technologies for firefighting

Drones armed with cameras and sensor payloads have been used by military and border control agencies for decades to improve situational awareness. Commercialization now has brought more UAVs, or unmanned aerial vehicles, to market — making the technology more accessible to fire, EMS and emergency departments.

These eyes-in-the-sky can be used across public-safety services, from transmitting birds-eye video of a forest fire to incident commanders to mapping out hard-hit areas after a natural disaster. Here are five drone technologies worth watching for fire and emergency response operations.

1. ELIMCO’s E300 with FÉNIX

The ELIMOC E300 is a UAV with a large payload capacity and low-noise electrical propulsion being used by INFOCA, the Andalusian authority for the management of wildfires in Spain, to track wildfires at night.

The E300 can be launched remotely and operated for 1.5 hours with a radio control from up to 27 miles away. However, during night flights, the E-300 can loiter over a fire for around 3 hours and get as far as 62 miles from the launching point.

It is important to improve night wildland firefighting using technology, as a lull in firefighting efforts during the night lets wildfires expand. The night UAV with specific payloads can fly directly above the wildfire area to record video of the fire line, including thermal images that are then geo-tagged and relayed in real time to mobile command centers using the company’s planning and monitoring system for forest fire fighting (FÉNIX). FÉNIX lets operators locate and address spots in a forest fire in real time using a mapping application.

2. L3 Communication’s Viking 400-S

The Viking 400-S Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) is integrated with Autonomous Take-Off and Landing (ATOL) technology supplied by L-3 Unmanned Systems’ flightTEK system. The UAS operates for up to 12 hours and can be equipped with up to 100 pounds of payload technologies, including chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear detectors for hazmat emergencies.

The CBRN payload would let a first responder stay up to 70 miles line-of-sight away from a hazmat incident and, instead, send a drone to collect CBRN information from the scene and transmit it wirelessly back to incident command. UAS units carrying high-resolution cameras can capture bird’s-eye images of a manmade or natural disaster, which can help incident commanders identify hard-hit areas and prioritize resources.

Images captures are transmitted wirelessly back to into a GIS software suite for mapping an affected area and later reporting needs.

3. Information Processing Systems’ MCV

Information Processing Systems (IPS) Mobile Command Vehicles and incident command mobile carts are deployable, customized, public-safety vehicles that integrate aerial, ground and subsurface remotely controlled robotic platforms. MCVs basically are custom mobile ground control station for UAVs and other public-safety robotics.

They are modified Ford trucks that can house security cameras, sensors, radar and communication infrastructure. The truck can be outfitted with trailers to carry drones, which then can be commanded from within the center.

Having a mobile command center for drone deployment allows wildland firefighters working in remote areas to take their entire communication system with them to launch a UAV or drones over a wildfire and map out affected areas.

In urban areas, an aerial video provides actionable information so commanders can make informed decisions at the response site — whether at a bombing or a hurricane. Chiefs running structural fires could send the truck to four-alarm fires where UAVs conduct a 360-degree investigation of the fire scene before firefighters enter buildings.

4. Sensefly’s eBee

Switzerland-based Sensefly’s eBee drones are tiny compared to other drones; they have a 37.8-inch wingspan and weigh 1.5 pounds. The foam airframe eBee drones are equipped with a rear-mounted propeller and feature a 16-megapixel camera to shoot aerial imagery at down to 3cm/pixel resolution.

The drone as a flight time of up to 45 minutes, which is long enough to cover as far as 10 miles in a single flight. In addition, users can pre-program 3D flight plans using Google maps prior to deployment, with up to 10 drones controlled from a single base station. Then, using its Postflight Terra 3D-EB mapping software, it can create maps and elevation models with a precision of 5 centimeters and process aerial imagery into 3D models.

eBees could be used as a lightweight, deployable drone added to wildland firefighters backpacks for situational awareness. In the future, 3D models can be displayed on firefighters’ ruggedized smartphones, which is expected in the next revision of NFPA 1802, the Standard on Two-Way, Portable (Hand-Held) Land Mobile Radios for Use by Emergency Services Personnel. The information can be transmitted to incident command and stored for later use.

5. Kaman’s UAT

The Unmanned K-MAX multi-mission helicopter is an Unmanned Aerial Truck based on the K-MAX heavy-lift aerial truck helicopter. The unit has 6,000 pounds of payload capacity and can move gear and personnel in and out of an area without endangering additional personnel.

Imagine providing supplies to firefighters, EMS and emergency responders in the field at a disaster with precision aerial delivery in high-wind, hot conditions without further risk to life or when personnel resources are stretched too thin. This ranges from delivering food, water, fuel, blood or even radio communications missions, such as sending the UAT to place data relay stations or communication equipment to a remote mountaintop.

With continued commercialization, drones carrying video payloads will arm first responders and incident commanders with myriad ways to capture data at a fireground, from CBRN dangers to wildfire spread, in order to better safeguard their community and emergency responders on the ground.

 

Via: http://bit.ly/1diKCsH

Army at ‘tipping point’ of unmanned aircraft system capabilities

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WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 18, 2014) — “We’re on the tipping point of unmanned aerial systems’ ability to deliver capability to the Soldier,” said Col. Thomas von Eschenbach.

The unmanned aerial/aircraft system, or UAS, is no longer seen by Soldiers as a new system and as the months and years pass, it will “not just be used by a few, but will become integral to the Army fabric and how it fights and is used and understood,” said Eschenbach, who is the UAS capability manager for U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.

Eschenbach and others spoke today at a media roundtable at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., where a celebration was held marking the Army’s milestone of 2 million UAS flight hours.

Col. Timothy Baxter, project manager, UAS, noted that it took 20 years for Army unmanned aircraft systems to reach 1 million flight hours. That milestone came in 2010. With increased use of those systems, it took just a few more years to reach the 2 million flight-hours milestone.

He said what is most impressive is that 90 percent of total UAS flight hours were logged in direct support of combat operations.

“Every one of those hours has meant something to a commander on the ground overseas engaged in combat,” Baxter said.

Baxter noted that of the total two million flight hours, Shadow UAS logged 900,000 of those. However, as more Gray Eagles are fielded, he said he expects it to be the system with the most impressive mileage.

Rich Kretzschmar, deputy project manager, UAS, said that reaching three million flight hours may take longer than it did to get from one to two million because the operations tempo in theater has now leveled off.

And, as more UAS systems return to the U.S. from overseas, there could be fewer opportunities to fly them because of restricted airspace flight rules, Baxter added.

But, the UAS will play a crucial part of the Army’s aviation restructure initiative, Eschenbach said.

As brigade combat teams, or BCTs, shrink from four to three per division and as maneuver battalions are reinvested back into other BCTs, three Shadow UAS platoons will be put inside of each attack reconnaissance squadron, he said. That would add a total of 30 platoons of Shadows into the combat aviation brigade structure. Those squadrons will also contain AH-64E Apache helicopters.

FUTURE UAS FLIGHT PATH

Don’t expect to see a lot of new UAS models, Baxter cautioned.

“Our platforms are the platforms we’re going to have for the foreseeable future in the Army,” he explained.

Instead, he said future efforts will be in the area of new technologies for advanced payloads and improvements in man-to-unmanned teaming.

As to unmanned vs manned, Kretzschmar pointed out that UASs are not replacing pilots.

Rather, he said, they are the “extension of the commander’s ability to do things, extend reach, reduce risk and get better situational awareness on the battlefield.”

Also in the cards for UAS is something not too sexy, but important nonetheless to a budget-challenged Army: sustainment costs.

For more details visit:http://1.usa.gov/1fMdVOH

FAA Cries Foul Over Nationals Drone Use For Aerial Spring Training Videos

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WASHINGTON (WJZ)—The FAA is crying foul at a Major League Baseball team. The Washington Nationals used a drone to take pictures of the team during spring training. Problem is they didn’t get permission. And commercial drone use is banned.

Meghan McCorkell has more on the controversy.

Nationals team photographers say they used a camera attached to a remote-controlled drone to get aerial images of the team but admit they did not consult the FAA.

Home runs are not the only thing flying over the field during Washington Nationals spring training.

The team used a small four-rotor drone to soar high above the players to capture promotional images of the team in practice.

“Everybody’s always looking for a new way, a new opportunity to get the different angle, right?” said Nationals manager Matt Williams.

But now the team is in hot water for not consulting the FAA before taking flight.

“We didn’t get it cleared, but we don’t get our pop flies cleared either and those go higher than this thing did,” a team official told the Associated Press.

The FAA bans the use of commercial drones as the agency works on regulations for them.

Via: http://cbsloc.al/1kLJpcQ

“The technology has really outpaced the regulatory aspects,” said Michael Toscano, president of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

He says the FAA must err on the side of safety.

“What happens if for some reason it went out of control and came down and hit Zimmerman? We’d be in a world of hurt,” Toscano said.

The University of Maryland is currently conducting research to help the FAA come up with certification standards and regulations for drones.

“Working on technology-related reliability, safety and sense and avoid technology,” said Dr. Darryl Pines, University of Maryland School of Engineering.

So that commercial drones can be used without anyone getting hurt.

Congress has asked the FAA to develop initial regulations for operation of commercial drones by 2015.

The maximum penalty for operating a commercial drone is $10,000.

Drones to deliver drugstore items in the Mission?

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For one brief shining moment, commercial drones are now legal in U.S. skies, thanks to a court decision this month that slapped down the Federal Aviation Administration’s attempt to ground them.

A San Francisco company has leaped on the opportunity, gearing up to offer drone delivery of drugstore items in the Mission.

QuiQui, pronounced Quicky, said on its website that it’s been working on its idea for two years, and was taken by surprise when the FAA lost its lawsuit. Its drones will fly below 500 feet, for a $1/delivery fee and will operate 24 hours a day — with orders arriving in less than 15 minutes, it said.

CEO and founder Joshua Ziering said that he’s a life-long aviation nut. “I am crazy about airplanes, crazy about helicopters; then in the past five years, drones came out and I’m crazy about drones,” he said.

Does he have his own drones? “I have a fleet of model aircraft; I’m embarrassed to disclose the number, probably 20 or 30.”

Ziering, 28, said the boot-strapped company has a team of four, some of whom have day jobs. It hopes to launch the service by July — unless the FAA steps in to shut it down. It’s seeking investors. QuiQui plans to have three or four drones that it will spend a few thousand dollars each to develop.

The drones won’t alight on your doorstep. Instead, they will stay at least 20 feet in the air to avoid bumping into people or “anything nefarious” happening — like damage to a drone or theft of a drone or its contents. When a drone arrives at a delivery site, “your phone will buzz, saying your delivery is here,” Ziering said. “You go outside and swipe to tell it to drop your order. It will drop it and then fly away. I kind of want it to beep like Roadrunner and then fly.”

QuiQui is launching with drugstore deliveries because that’s “the most economically viable option with the most consumer pain,” the website said. “Nobody likes going when they’re sick because  they don’t feel well, and nobody likes going when they’re well because there are a lot of sick people there.”

Also medicine and sundries are lightweight. “If a toothbrush falls from 20 feet it won’t hurt anyone,” he said.

One big issue to resolve, Ziering said: “How do you deal with regulated substances? We don’t want someone flying around oxycontin.” QuiQui says it is working with pharmacies to offer the service. Ziering declined to name any names.

The Mission’s lack of tall buildings and relative flatness made its aerial mapping easier — and also most of its founders live there, it wrote.

The folks who hate the Google buses are unlikely to be receptive to miniature flying robots cruising their neighborhood, it acknowledged. “We know that gentrification is a hot topic in The Mission and we want to be sensitive to that. … We’ve worked extra hard to make sure our drones are quiet and respectful of the neighborhood. For example, we avoid schools and parks on our flight paths.”

Via: http://bit.ly/NrQvqI

Commercial drones fly in other countries, U.S. businesses can just watch as FAA still shows red light

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Governments in many countries do not have strict regulations to fly commercial drones but in the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is still signaling a red light for drones.

The FAA published operating standards for recreational use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in 1981. The FAA standards recommend that drones should fly under 400 feet and should avoid airports. In 2007, the FAA also published rules which stipulate that the guidelines applied only to “modelers” and did not apply to civil aircrafts that are used for businesses.

Since 2007, the FAA suggests that using a UAV for commercial purposes will require a permit. The FAA also says that anyone who wants to fly a manned or an un-manned aircraft in the U.S. airspace should have approval from the agency.

According to a Consumer Eagle report, Chance Roth, the CEO of AirDroids says that some drones are large enough, which can be a hazard and may result in an accident.

“When discussing drones, you’ve got to put them into two primary categories,” said Roth. “The first is personal use devices or those around five pounds. The other category is commercial use or devices that are heavier than five pounds. The former has been around for many, many years without any regulation at all. The latter are the ones I believe the public is more worried about, since when they come down it’s not usually with just a thud.”

Accidents relating to drones are rare, but they do occur. A New York teenager was killed by a remote-controlled helicopter in 2013. In a separate accident in 2010, UAV collided with a two-passenger plane, which resulted in an emergency landing in Colorado.

Some countries such as Japan have been using drones for various purposes like spraying crops. Using drones for spraying crops is cheaper than using a plane. Apart from the economic factor the drones are also said to be more effective in spraying fertilizers when compared to other aircrafts.

The use of smaller drones in some countries is not restricted provided that the operators of those UAV’s follow safety rules.

Reports suggest that the FAA is working on new rules for smaller UAVs, which are less than 55 pounds, in 2014. The agency is also expected to lay down full regulations for UAV’s by September 2015.

Via: http://bit.ly/1dlXA38