Lockheed Develops Three New UAV Technologies

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VINEYARD, Utah, April 29 (UPI) — Lockheed Martin reports that three technologies it acquired and developed for use with unmanned aerial vehicles have achieved operational readiness status.

The Indago vertical take-off and landing quad-rotor UAV, along with a handheld ground control station for it, offers a mobile surveillance, and Lockheed Martin claims that a new commercial avionics suite will maintain the performance capabilities of previous models at a lower price.

“After two years of developing these capabilities, we will now be able to deliver affordable and effective products to both military and commercial customers,” said Kevin Westfall, director of unmanned solutions at Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems and Training business. “The Indago VTOL, handheld GCS and advanced commercial avionics suite will provide mobility and high accuracy for a range of missions — now and in the future.”

The Indago, which can be folded up for carrying, is just 32x32x7 inches and weighs five pounds. It can reach a distance of as much as three miles and can fly for 45 minutes when its operator uses the handheld ground control system.

The VTOL features a 360 degree panning capability to aid area surveillance and provide enhanced situational awareness and actionable imagery.

Lockheed said its Kestrel autopilot system, which uses failsafe algorithms to increase safety throughout the mission, is at the heart of the system.

Full details visit: http://bit.ly/1heEUE5

Arcturus UAV Unveils JUMP Fixed Wing VTOL UAV


Today Arcturus UAV unveiled JUMP™, a new vertical takeoff and landing system for their T-20 and T-16 fixed wing UAVs.

“This is a pivotal moment in the history of small unmanned air vehicles. JUMP™ is to UAVs what the touch screen was to smart phones,” according to D’Milo Hallerberg, president of Arcturus UAV.

Booms fitted with vertical lift motors and rotors are mounted to each wing to provide vertical lift for takeoff and landing. Vertical lift motors are shut off for winged flight and propellers are feathered longitudinally for minimum drag. Seamless transition to winged flight is achieved by the Piccolo autopilot using Latitude Engineering’s Hybrid-Quadrotor technology. All flight control is fully autonomous. Arcturus JUMP™ enjoys all of the versatility of a quad rotor while retaining the superior range and endurance of a fixed wing. JUMP™ fitted Arcturus air vehicles require no special launch equipment and do not require runways for launch or landing. JUMP™ can be easily transported and operated by only two technicians. Once on site, JUMP™ can be set up and ready for flight in less than 15 minutes. The company is accepting orders for JUMP™.

“JUMP™ makes exciting UAV technology much more useful,” says Hallerberg.

Source: http://bit.ly/1k9qV65

‘Friendly’ drone on dog leash takes off

Drones are becoming more common in our skies, performing a variety of tasks,
from taking photos to monitoring crops and potentially even delivering
broadband.

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But there are strict rules about their usage, which has led some to come up with innovative ways to fly such vehicles more safely.

“I’m using a dog leash for a small dog,” says roboticist Sergei Lupashin as he demonstrates a new kind of consumer-friendly drone at the Ted (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference in Vancouver.

By tethering it, he hopes the Fotokite, as it is called, can avoid some of the issues faced by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which are banned without a special licence because of safety and privacy concerns.

“It doesn’t rely on GPS [ Global Positioning System], sophisticated machine vision, radio, it doesn’t even use a compass. Most crashes today happen because of GPS, radio or piloting issues,” says Dr Lupashin.

“Should something happen, the leash gives a robust fail safe – the vehicle reduces thrust and it automatically comes back to the operator,” he adds.

The inspiration for the device came during street protests in Bolotnaya Square in Moscow, when he realised it could be an invaluable tool for reporting protests around the world.

“For journalists it is good to get that perspective, to show the scale of the event without adding to the tension,” says Dr Lupashin.

But he also sees potential for amateur and professional photographers, archaeologists, architects and even as a toy for children.

His prototype device uses a shop-bought quadrocopter with “a basic action camera attached” which, in turn, is connected to a standard dog lead. It can shoot both video and stills.

Flying Pet

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Drones have long been associated with the military, but increasingly they are finding their way into civilian life, for a wide range of uses including delivering medicines in the developing world, for farming and as a low-cost way of getting broadband to remote parts of the world – something both Facebook and Google are actively pursuing.

They are also useful tools for both professional and amateur photographers, providing the opportunity for a bird’s eye view of people and places.

“Aerial photography is a fascinating new application for small, unmanned vehicles but the remote-controlled ones are very complex and can be difficult to use. They are also dangerous,” says Dr Lupashin.

The safety issue took centre stage last month when an Australian triathlete was injured by an aerial drone taking pictures of the race she was competing in.

A drone on a lead is likely to be treated with far less suspicion, says Dr Lupashin.

“People treat you normally – it is like a flying pet. It always has a physical connection to the operator,” he says.

 

For full details visit: http://bbc.in/1f7muKi

The Drones Are Coming: FAA-approved labs test UAVs for use in US skies

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At Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi, a helicopter drone hovers menacingly over a robot vehicle. The vehicle tries to evade the drone, turning right and left – surging forward and backward. Like an angry wasp, the drone swoops back and forth, staying directly in front of the robot – exactly one meter away, one meter off the ground.

And it does it all without a human at the controls. In fact, human hands can’t replicate what the drone did with such precision.

It’s all part of a series of complex experiments to determine whether drones can be safely integrated into already-crowded U.S. airspace, and what they might best be used for.

“I believe they’re going to be a big part of our future,” said university President Flavius Killebrew. “Maybe not in the way you see on some of the ads, but in ways that we haven’t even conceived of yet.”

The “ads” Killebrew refers to are “blue-sky” campaigns by Amazon, DHL and Domino’s pizza that envision a world where drones will deliver everything from DVDs to double-cheese stuffed crust. Complicated navigation in urban areas is years away, if even possible, Killebrew says. The more likely first application for drones, he says, will be in rural areas, far from buildings and people.

“Like pipelines,” he told Fox News. “You can fly a pipeline with sensors to determine if there are leaks.”

Texas A&M Corpus Christi is one of six test sites picked by the FAA to work out the details on putting commercial drones in the skies by 2016. One of the other test sites — in North Dakota – just received approval by the FAA to conduct experiments using drones to survey crops.

According to the FAA, there are some 7,000 commercial aircraft in the skies over the U.S. at any given moment. The challenge is how to integrate thousands of drones in the same space.

 

For full details visit: http://fxn.ws/1lJdz07

Drone built by Cal Poly students wins contest


A team of Cal Poly students has created an object that might be confused with a UFO, a science-fiction film prop, or even a bizarre pool toy.

Their invention of aluminum, PVC piping, steel and pool “noodle” foam makes a whiny buzz, hovers in the air, and gently lands in a field of grass on campus.

They call it SkyBarge.

The group of nine engineering majors created its version of an unmanned aerial vehicle — commonly known as a drone.

On April 5, their flying object steered by remote control won a regional American Society of Mechanical Engineers competition.

Cal Poly hosted the contest, which is held annually at various campuses.

The challenge was to design a craft that could simulate a UAV firefighting operation.

The Cal Poly students’ craft negotiated an obstacle course by flying through hoops and dropping a sandbag on target before returning to its starting point within the allotted five minutes. It completed the mission in about 90 seconds.

The team beat out 14 other universities at the competition in the Bonderson Engineering building, where about 100 spectators gathered to watch.

Other universities included San Jose State, Oregon Institute of Technology and University of Idaho.

For full details visit: http://bit.ly/1nEGjsb

TV and Film Industry Pros Say “Yeah Baby, We Dig Drones!”

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I’ve just wrapped-up two days of really cool demos and fascinating discussions at the massive National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) annual convention in Las Vegas, and I can report that the use of drones in tv and movie production was not the number one topic of conversation among industry professionals (that spot was occupied by the anticipated big-money transition to ultra-high definition video programming…get ready to buy a new television), but drones certainly weren’t being ignored and their prominence at the show is absolutely on the rise.  The NAB’s huge show draws over 90,000 attendees to Las Vegas from every major studio, network, production company, and technology vendor, and takes over the entire, cavernous Las Vegas convention center.   You already know that enthusiastic amateurs are using drones the world over to capture breathtaking footage of sports, the natural world, public demonstrations, and other subjects, but I went to NAB specifically to get a handle on the current state – and outlook for – the use of drones by the pros who produce tv series, sporting events, box office movies, and more.  After hanging out with people from approximately fifty different drone and camera vendors, production companies, news organizations, engineering firms, wireless communication companies, and others in the drone / television / film production industry, I offer the following observations and insights:

  • The presence and importance of drones at the NAB show is on the rise, with more drone vendors exhibiting this year than in years past, and returning exhibitors occupying larger booths in more prominent locations.  Some vendors had their own booths (chief among them DJI), while most others were sharing booth space with larger partners.  Overall, the presence of drones, and interest in them, was universally reported to be up sharply from year past.
  • Most of the drones on display – other than those shown by DJI – were larger multi-copters and some fixed-wing aircraft, capable of carrying the larger cameras (like the iconic Red Epic and AARI’s Alexa line) used by serious production companies.  Prices ranged from $45,000 for Intuitive Aerial’s Aerigon up to $750,000 for the Flying Cam 3.0.   While these prices sound high, in the context of the cost of other professional grade production equipment, and of total production budgets in general, professional-grade drones costing in the tens of thousands of dollars do not seem mispriced.
  • DJI’s booth was by far the largest of any drone vendor, and was in a prominent location close to the mega-booths of tv industry heavyweights like Canon and Panasonic.  The combination of the booth’s size and location was an unequivocal statement that “Drones have arrived.”  The DJI booth was continuously busy, though much of the traffic consisted of mildly curious onlookers drawn in by the loud buzz of Phantoms flying above the crowd.
  • With much of the drone-related attention focused on DJI, other drone vendors – none of whom had nearly the traffic or buzz of DJI – were quick to comment that DJI’s products, including their higher-end larger multi-copters, are not up to the task of carrying the larger cameras required by professional production companies.  Of course, this was disputed by DJI, with the truth being largely a function of how big a camera you need to use.
  • Absent from the show were two household names in the small UAV market, but perhaps with good reason.  3D Robotics and Parrott, both of whom have high brand awareness and strong sUAV market positions skipped the show, perhaps as a result of the fact that their products are generally not considered professional grade or capable of the heavy lifting required by the tv and film production industry.
  • The drone industry needs to continue to make progress on a number of technical dimensions to fully meet the needs of the tv and film industry.  First and foremost is reliability.  Professional grade HD video cameras from Red, Blackmagic, Canon, and others can cost tens of thousands of dollars, and are not built to take the “hard landings”, much less the crashes that are part of the UAS multi-rotor flying experience today.  Another is the bandwidth of the wireless video downlink, which needs to be exceptionally high to accommodate live, wireless, HD video transmission from the aircraft to the camera operator.  Finally, stability needs to improve to provide the steady shots needed for professional productions.  Of course, improvements in battery power / flight time would also be welcome.  The drone industry is hardly standing still on any of these issues, and there were numerous vendors offering newly developed or cleverly adapted products to address many of these challenges.
  • Significant confusion persists regarding the legality of flying drones in the United States.  Most individuals in the tv and film production industry are aware that there is an ongoing battle between the UAS industry and the FAA, with widely varying interpretations of what is allowed today, and particularly what the word “commercial” means in the context of the FAA’s total (but recently overturned and subsequently appealed) commercial prohibition.

For full insights visit: http://bit.ly/1hTRpKi

Google to acquire drone-maker Titan Aerospace

Google is buying drone maker Titan Aerospace, a company that Facebook was reportedly interested in earlier this year. The video is provided by Buzz60 Newslook.

Google says it has agreed to acquire Titan Aerospace, a 2-year-old start-up maker of high-altitude drones.

The search-engine giant did not say how much it will pay for Titan, whose solar-powered drones will help Google collect aerial images.

Google’s gain comes at the expense of Facebook, who earlier this year was in talks to buy the New Mexico-based company for a reported $60 million. Facebook ended up purchasing Ascenta, a U.K.-based aerospace company that has also been working on solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicles, for $20 million.

When Facebook announced its Connectivity Lab initiative last month, it said it added “the world’s top experts on aerospace technology,” including Ascenta employees.

The 20-person Titan team will be paired with Google’s Project Loon, which is building large, high-altitude balloons that send Internet signals to areas of the planet that are currently not online, according to Google.

Titan touts several applications for its drones, including data delivery, crop monitoring and search-and-rescue aid. Its vehicles can stay aloft for up to five years without having to land or refuel, making them an intriguing possibility for beaming out Internet service, according to drone experts.

“Titan Aerospace and Google share a profound optimism about the potential for technology to improve the world, ” Google said in a statement Monday. “It’s still early days, but atmospheric satellites could help bring internet access to millions of people, and help solve other problems, including disaster relief and environmental damage like deforestation.”

The tech collaboration is expected to yield algorithms for wind prediction and flight planning, Google says.


Google’s gambit comes amid a heightened interest among consumers in drones. Last year, Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos whetted the public’s appetite with the intention of a drone delivery service that would drop off purchased goods at households. He gave no timetable on when it would be available.

Via: http://usat.ly/1l7mJTK

UAVs are Next Wave in Agriculture

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Brian Leone’s father and grandfather watched agriculture move from the 19th century to the 20th century. They saw technology move from tractors that had the power of a few horses to machines that communicate with satellites.

That technology changed how far and how fast farmers could move across their fields and how much corn, soybeans and wheat they could grow.

Now, their son and grandson has his eyes on the skies to see the next revolution in agriculture.

“Our mission is to make more bushels per acre, to go from a 200- to 250-per-bushel an acre average. This kind of technology is going to make that happen,” said Leone, who farms near Peru and is the fourth-generation of Leones in the farming and agriculture business.

Leone knows that his generation and following generations will be pioneers of new and very different technology in agriculture.

“Our ancestors watched agriculture go from one-row planters to two-row planters to now 36-row planters. We’re not going to watch that happen. That part of the growth in ag is mainly done,” he said.

The next wave of technology includes a small airborne vehicle, compact enough to fit in a suitcase and run on battery power, but powerful enough to change how farmers view — and care for — their farms and fields.

The use of drones or unmanned aerial vehicles in agriculture has caught on around the world and is gaining widespread interest in the U.S. and the Midwest.

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

Army Plans to Buy New Small Drone

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The Army wants to procure a new small unmanned aircraft which will be packaged
as a kit along with the RQ-20 Puma and RQ-11 Raven.

The short-range micro unmanned aerial system will be a part of the Army’s family of small UAS, said product manager Lt. Col. Nick Kioutas.

“We don’t know what the short-range micro … is going to look like, but it’s probably some sort of a quadcopter,” he said. “The soldier can take that out and land it somewhere and
continue to get video feeds. We call it perch-and-stare capability.”

Army officials in November signed a capability production document for a kit of small
drones called the rucksack-portable unmanned aircraft system. Along with the
short-range micro aircraft, this family of UAS would include the long-range
reconnaissance surveillance system and medium-range mobile system. The Army has
no immediate plans to buy new aircraft to perform those roles. Instead, the kit
will include AeroVironment’s Puma and Raven, respectively.

While some units operate both Pumas and Ravens, the aircraft have never been part of a
common kit, Kioutas said. The idea is that a unit would have a mixture of all
three systems, and soldiers would be able to choose what UAS to bring along
during a mission.

“The soldier goes in that kit and says, ‘Right now, I need something that does this longer endurance’ … or on another occasion he might say, ‘Okay, I might need something that’s a little smaller. I’m going to be carrying it’” farther, he said.

Procurement of the short-range micro version could be affected by budgetary constraints. So far, there has been no funding allocated for a competition, Kioutas said.

“They’re telling us to go ahead and start putting unfunded requests in for the next POM [program objective memorandum], which would be 2017 to 2021,” he said.

The Army has a requirement for 1,213 long-range reconnaissance surveillance systems, but the service’s current inventory of Pumas only fills about half of that, Kioutas
said.

The Army could buy more Pumas to fill that requirement. However,
the service is currently working on software called tactical open government
architecture, or TOGA, that would be able to fly any UAS regardless of
manufacturer.

“If we can get this TOGA in place, that would allow us to
go procure anything that’s competitive for that requirement,” he said. In that
case, the service wouldn’t necessarily need to order additional Pumas.

Via: http://bit.ly/1n43Geq

 

Faster method to detect farm problems takes flight

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A group of Arizona growers were like ‘kids in a toy store’ last fall during a precision agriculture remote helicopter field demonstration at a cotton field.

The growers watched as Jared Siegler placed video-display goggles over his eyes, picked up a remote controller-transmitter, and guided a quadcopter outfitted with two cameras across a cotton field searching for crop problems.

The demonstration showcased Siegler’s product – the 24-inch-wide GeoBlu Explorer – an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) which can capture quick aerial snapshots of what’s right and wrong in farm fields – the small and large fields alike.

“The GeoBlu Explorer allows you to aerially survey a field or block quickly for signs of problems,” Siegler says, “including pest and disease issues, weeds, crop stress levels, water and fertility variation, and more.”  More…