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  1. FAA's final drone rules start taking effect April 21st You won't see everything fall into place until 2023, however. James Trew/Engadget The FAA just set dates for when its tightened drone rules will take effect, and some measures will kick in sooner than others. The regulator has revealed that Remote ID and Operations Over People rules will start taking effect as of April 21st, 2021. From then on, you'll have to list the serial number of any Remote ID drone or add-on module in your registration. You can fly small (under 0.55lbs) drones over people if they have protected blades, but you can't conduct sustained flight over open-air assemblies unless you comply with Remote ID. Other, heavier drones have stricter operational and performance requirements, such as limits on the amount of force they'd deliver in a crash. Category 3 drones (those that deliver no more than 25 foot-pounds of energy) can't fly over assemblies regardless of Remote ID, and can't fly over people unless they're in a restricted area and know about possible drone flights. Category 4 drones above that limit need airworthiness certificates, maintenance and inspections. There is some breathing room, however. Drone makers have to comply with Remote ID requirements starting September 16th, 2022, while all pilots will have to meet Remote ID requirements (or fly within limitations) a year later on September 16th, 2023. These windows are six months shorter than originally planned, but give time for both operators and drone producers time to adapt. The final rules won't please everyone. Alphabet's drone delivery company Wing has worried about privacy, noting that broadcast Remote IDs could let people infer sensitive data like home addresses. Wing also worried the broadcasts could make it hard to establish drone traffic control systems. Still, the changes are coming — and the dates at least help everyone plan their next steps. Source: FAA's final drone rules start taking effect April 21st
  2. Walmart is expanding its drone delivery tests with the announcement of a pilot project involving Quest Diagnostics. The company, which is best known for allowing consumers to order their own blood tests, will work with Walmart to deliver at-home COVID-19 tests to consumers, enabling them to test themselves in the safety of their own homes. The catch? This isn’t a widespread service yet, so you must live in one of two particular parts of the US. In addition to partnering with Quest Diagnostics for the testing kits, Walmart has also tapped DroneUp to serve as its drone delivery partner. The trio of companies are limiting the scope of the pilot delivery service at this point, according to Walmart, which says that consumers will be able to order the drone-delivered COVID-19 tests if they live in North Las Vegas or Cheektowaga, New York. Quest Diagnostics offers a COVID-19 swab test that can detect an active infection, as well as an antibody test that can look for signs that someone was infected in the past and potentially is at lower risk of reinfection. For those who live in a state that allows the service to operate, Quest offers an at-home COVID-19 swab test under an FDA EUA, enabling people who think they may be infected to collect the sample at home. The test costs $119 USD and is typically shipped using FedEx. Under this new pilot drone delivery service, consumers located in the covered regions have the option to instead get the test from a DroneUp delivery drone shipped off from the nearest Walmart store. The obvious benefit here is that the potentially infected person doesn’t have to leave home. There are some conditions customers will need to meet to qualify for one of these drone deliveries, however. Walmart says the customer must be located within a 1-mile radius of either the Cheektowaga or North Las Vegas Walmart Supercenter stores, and that they must also live in a single-family residence, not an apartment building or other similar structure. This restriction is because the drone will land on the customer’s backyard, driveway, or the front sidewalk, depending on the home’s configuration (whether there are trees blocking the porch, etc). The upside is that customers who request a drone delivery kit won’t be charged for the testing kit or the delivery under the pilot service. The collection kit is delivered with a shipping label so that it can be mailed back to the company for testing in its labs. Walmart indicates that such deliveries may be available at a wider scale in the future, but no details on such an expansion are provided. Source
  3. The top-tier piracy world known as The Scene is in turmoil after the unsealing of US indictments targeting key members of release group SPARKS and several linked affiliate groups including GECKOS, DRONES, ROVERS and SPLINTERS. Sources inform TF that there were several raids across Europe yesterday, mainly focused on Norway and Sweden. Yesterday morning, TorrentFreak began receiving reports from multiple sources that something big was happening in the shadowy world of top-tier piracy known as ‘The Scene’. From the volumes of information received, the majority of sources indicated that many so-called ‘topsites’ and their members had disappeared or gone into hiding. The word was that several major movie release groups – SPARKS, GECKOS and DRONES – had been targeted in a series of raids and as a result, people were running for cover. Precisely where these raids or actions took place still isn’t entirely clear. Multiple sources point to the Nordic region, particularly Norway and Sweden, but reports of disruption and/or action in the Netherlands and even Switzerland persisted across our confidential sources, all of whom demand anonymity. Importantly, one name kept cropping up – ‘Artist’ – someone who was identified by at least two individuals with inside knowledge as a central figure, not only in The Scene but also in the action that appeared to unfold yesterday. The reality, it now transpires, is that the events of Tuesday had their roots in an investigation that started months – maybe even years ago. US Govt Legal Action Launched in January 2020 – George Bridi On January 8, 2020, an indictment in the case United States v. BRIDI was filed and sealed in a New York district court. Yesterday, as the action in Europe was unfolding, Magistrate Judge Debra C. Freeman ordered the indictment to be unsealed, shining significant light on the events of Tuesday. The indictment and Grand Jury charges target George Bridi, a British national who, according to the US Government, resided in the Isle of Wight, a small island off the south coast of England. Bridi is identified, along with others “known and unknown”, as a member of a criminal conspiracy, aka release group SPARKS and its affiliates. His Scene nickname, if he has one, is not listed in the available documents. Nevertheless, the US Government claims to know much about his activities. “The primary objective of the Sparks Group was to fraudulently obtain DVDs and Blu-Ray discs for copyrighted movies and television shows prior to their retail release date, compromise the copyright protections on the discs, reproduce and upload the copyrighted content to servers controlled by the Sparks Group, and disseminate the copyrighted content on the Internet for public consumption before the DVDs and Blu-Ray discs were made available for sale by retailers to the public,” Bridi’s indictment reads. The ‘conspiracy’, at least in the case of Bridi, was alleged to taken place from around 2011 until January 2020. It’s claimed that members of SPARKS made various “material misrepresentations and omissions” to wholesale distributors in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and New Jersey in order to obtain copies of DVDs and Blu-Ray discs prior to their official release. The indictment indicates that Bridi was also involved in obtaining and reproducing TV show content. Once obtained, members of SPARKS allegedly used specialist software to “rip” the discs in order to remove their copyright protections and then encoded the content into a format easily consumed via the Internet. This content was then uploaded to servers controlled by SPARKS members, from where it’s alleged other members further distributed the content to streaming sites, torrent networks and other servers. Adding to the information received yesterday by TF indicating that SPARKS, GECKOS and DRONES were central to Tuesday’s turmoil, the indictment adds two other release groups to the list – ROVERS and SPRINTER – both claimed to be part of the ‘Sparks Conspiracy’. Bridi is charged with conspiracy to commit copyright infringement, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and conspiracy to transport stolen property interstate. Superseding Indictment – Umar Ahmad, aka ‘Artist’ In addition to information received early yesterday by TF, with multiple sources referencing someone called ‘Artist’ involved in a central role, unsealed court documents now put more flesh on the bones. Identified by the US Government as Oslo, Norway, resident ‘Umar Ahmad’, it’s alleged that from around 2011 up to January 2020, ‘Artist’ was also a member of the ‘Sparks Conspiracy’. In common with Bridi, he is alleged to have caused “tens of millions of dollars” in losses to film production studios by being part of the SPARKS group that obtained physical discs from wholesale distribution companies, ripped and encoded them, and placed the content on the Internet for public consumption. Along with Bridi, he faces charges of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement but charges of wire fraud and transporting stolen property are absent. Superseding Indictment – Jonatan Correa, aka ‘Raid’ Like Bridi and Ahmad, it’s alleged that Correa was involved in the ‘Sparks Conspiracy’ from around 2011 but his involvement is said to have stretched beyond the January 2020 dates listed in their Grand Jury charges by several months, to August 2020. For reasons that aren’t yet entirely clear, he appears to have carried on his alleged criminal activity until this month, unlike his peers who are only charged with offenses up to the first month of 2020. Correa’s charges read very much like Bridi’s and Ahmad’s, in that he stands accused of being part of the ‘Sparks Conspiracy’ that unlawfully obtained, ripped, encoded and uploaded video content to the Internet, including to various servers, streaming and torrent sites, all in advance of their official street date. “On numerous occasions between in or around 2011 and in or around May 2020 , a co-conspirator not named herein fraudulently arranged for discs containing copyrighted films and television shows to be picked up, mailed, or delivered from distributors located in Manhattan, Brooklyn, New Jersey, and British Columbia, Canada to other members of the Sparks Group, including JONATAN CORREA, a/k/a ‘Raid,’ the defendant, prior to their official release date…,” Correa’s indictment reads. It’s further alleged that around 2011 and in or around May 2020, Correa “remotely accessed” a computer located in Westchester County and belonging to another unnamed co-conspirator, in order to “illegally record and reproduce” copyrighted TV shows. While Bridi and Ahmad’s locations are revealed in court documents, Correa’s currently remains unknown. Like Bridi, he faces charges of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement but in common with Ahmad, charges of wire fraud and transporting stolen property are absent. Supporting Reports and Information TorrentFreak is currently liaising with a number of sources who for security reasons are demanding anonymity. However, it appears that the information detailed thus far is just the tip of a large iceberg that has much of The Scene in turmoil and/or in hiding. What we can say at this point is that the mention of Umar Ahmad, aka ‘Artist’, is causing considerable concern because of his alleged reach in The Scene that seems to go well beyond SPARKS and its affiliated groups. We’ll have more on this in a follow-up report but in the meantime the US court documents can be found here (1,2,3 pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  4. Can Robots and Drones Help to Fight COVID-19? Using drones to help make our living and working spaces a little safer is not too much of a stretch. ROMAN SAMBORSKYI/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM It’s great news that people are finally starting to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. I hope that the current rollout problems get worked out soon so that everyone can get access to this potentially life-saving vaccine. But we also need to temper our excitement some, because it will be a long time before things get back to normal, if they ever do. A recent National Geographic article makes the case that we will never fully defeat COVID-19, just like we never conquered the flu. And the virus is also mutating and continuing to spread, making its full destruction a moving target. Instead, the best we may achieve is to get the situation somewhat under control, and then learn to live with it. It’s no surprise that learning to live with the virus in the United States will likely mean getting our amazing technology involved. As such, there is a big push to use drones and other manned and unmanned aerial vehicles to help combat infection rates. We have already seen drones working within the military and also embraced in public safety roles. And we have tapped them for planetary and space exploration. So using drones to help make our living and working spaces a little safer is not too much of a stretch. In government, we are already starting to see some movement on these initiatives even though the idea of using drones to fight COVID-19 is still in its infancy. In Alabama, the state senate recently contracted with a company called Draganfly to use its robotics technology to detect potentially infected people entering government buildings and direct them to rapid COVID-19 testing if needed. “As the current pandemic continues, we are committed to provide a safe place for our staff and visitors to ensure there is no interruption in the work that needs to be done for the citizens of Alabama,” said Pat Harris, Secretary, Alabama State Senate. “We are confident that the implementation of Draganfly’s Vital Intelligence Technology will help to ensure an important layer to existing protocols that assist us in identifying and mitigating the risk of the spread of COVID-19.” In addition to monitoring people for signs of infection, the Draganfly drones can actively disinfect areas by flying over them and spraying a disinfectant. It’s been used at stadiums and other large venues to sterilize the area before an event. Other companies are working on dedicated COVID-19 killing drones. Lucid Drone Technologies has one that includes an expanded battery for longer flight times. It’s able to clean 200,000 square feet per hour, which is at least 20 times faster than having a human walk around trying to wipe everything down. It’s probably a lot more accurate too, because the special nozzles guarantee even coverage over every surface. Other companies are working on different disinfecting methods, such as using UV radiation to destroy the virus in indoor places like schools where spraying large amounts of liquid is not practical. The Aertos 120-UVC drone from Digital Aerolus has several UV-C light emitters that would give a human a nasty sunburn in just a few minutes, but hopefully would also be enough to kill the COVID-19 virus. With so many electronics onboard the Aertos drone, it’s no wonder that it only has about 10 minutes of flight time, though multiple units could be used to sterilize schools at night when nobody else was in the building. A human crew could also swap out batteries if needed. While I am impressed with the virus-killing drones we have seen so far, the technology is still being actively developed. All of the drones that I have seen designed for this role so far require human pilots. So although they might save time compared with walking along with a bucket of chemicals and a squeegee, it’s far from an automatic process. Advanced military drones already have access to a lot of artificial intelligence. It would not take too much effort to add some of those elements to civilian cleaning robots. Things like automatic navigation, pathfinding and the ability for the drone to remember its programmed route would be like force multipliers for a sterilization drone. You would probably also need to add sensors so that the drone can detect humans inside their cleaning zone to make sure that nobody gets accidentally sprayed, or burnt in the case of the UV light drones. But this is a good start to an impressive effort. I’ve tried to get a hold of one of the sterilization drones for review, but so far the companies that make them tell me that every one of their drones are earmarked and sold at least through the end of the year. So it sounds like everyone should start seeing drones in this role soon. Let’s hope that they can make a difference as we try to figure out what normal life is going to look like and continue to discover ways to keep everyone as safe as possible. Source: Can Robots and Drones Help to Fight COVID-19?
  5. Image copyrightAFP Rogue drones "deliberately" flown over one of the UK's busiest airports caused travel chaos this week. Incoming planes were forced to divert to airports up and down the country as the drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), repeatedly appeared over the airfield at London's Gatwick Airport. The situation was so serious the Army was called in to support the local police in tackling the issue, with the runway finally re-opening on Friday morning. For some time now, governments around the world have been looking at different ways of addressing the dangers of drone use in areas where they pose safety risks. Here we look at some of the solutions - ranging from bazookas to eagles. Radar and 'jamming' systems Image copyrightPA Image captionLondon's Gatwick Airport was forced to close after drones were spotted over the airfield Rogue drones can be detected or located using cameras, radar and radio frequency sensors. Such technology can be integrated into existing airport systems and can have a reach of several miles. It can then be used to effectively "jam" the communication between a device and its operator, causing it to initiate a default mode that sends it back to where it came from. Fighting back against rogue drones How can a drone cause so much chaos? One company that has developed this method is Quantum Aviation, which provided the technology to counter possible threats from drones targeting the London 2012 Olympics. China has also developed a signal-jamming gun that can reportedly down drones from half a mile away. Shoulder-mounted 'guns' Image copyrightOPENWORKS Image captionThe SkyWall100 bazooka allows users to physically seize drones in high-risk areas One way, and perhaps the most obvious, is to shoot them down. But police dealing with the issue at Gatwick Airport have said they will not use this method because of the risk of stray bullets. However, a number of companies have produced hand-held or shoulder-mounted devices that can be used to fire nets at rogue drones, trapping them and preventing the blades from rotating, causing them to fall from the sky. British engineering company OpenWorks has also developed a large bazooka, the SkyWall100, which fires a net and parachute at a target, using a scope for accuracy. The SkyWall100 system has been issued to security forces and government agencies in Asia, Europe and North America. Security firms have also found a way of using "interceptor drones" that can lock onto a target, release a net and disable it in mid-air. This type of system was deployed at the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February, and has been used by police in Tokyo for the last three years. France has also used this technique, successfully demonstrating that one drone equipped with a net can catch another. Anti-drone lasers Lasers are another option and both the US and China have experimented with technology that can shoot down a device within seconds of locating it. Engineering company Boeing has developed a high-energy beam that locates and disables small drones from several miles away. It is said to use infrared cameras that can work in low visibility, such as fog. Earlier this year, China demonstrated a laser gun at a weapons exhibition in Kazakhstan. The so-called "Silent Hunter" was claimed to be effective in helping police intercept drones and other small aerial targets with "high accuracy". Specially trained eagles Meanwhile, the Netherlands has discovered a low-tech solution to the high-tech problem. Police there have trained eagles to bring down "hostile" drones by latching on to the propellers with their talons, instantly disabling them. Trainers say the eagles see the drones as prey and are not interested in attacking anything else when released. Dutch police are believed to be the first in the world to have implemented this method. Bans and restrictions Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES It is already illegal to fly a drone within 1km (about 1000 yards) of an airport or airfield boundary in the UK - but regulations in other countries vary. Drone users in the US have to notify air traffic control in advance if they plan to fly their devices within 8km of an airport. All drones must also be registered, according to the drone community website UAV Coach. In Canada, drones cannot be flown within 5.6km of any airport, seaplane base or area where aircraft can take off and land. This is reduced to 1.9km for heliports. Similar laws apply in Sweden. Permits are also required in Germany - although the restrictions for airport boundaries are similar to those the UK, at 1.5km - and Spain, where devices must also be insured. Laws in South Africa, however, are strict. It is illegal to fly a device within 10km of an airport, helipad or airstrip, and they can only be operated elsewhere during daylight hours and in clear conditions. In 15 countries, including Saudi Arabia and Iraq, it is illegal to fly a drone at all. source
  6. If you want to get this briefing by email, sign up here Flights resume Image copyrightPA Gatwick was closed for a second night after a drone was seen over the airfield. The runway reopened at about 06:00 GMT on Friday and the airport says it's working with airlines and air traffic controllers to introduce a limited number of flights over the coming hours. Follow our live page for all the latest on the situation. It's certainly going to take time to clear the backlog. More than 120,000 passengers have been unable to fly from, or land at, the airport since the shutdown began on Wednesday evening - some of them with distressing stories of special trips missed and loved ones let down. Read more on their rights. Police have been locked in a game of cat and mouse with the drone operator, with the Army called in to help, but no arrests have yet been made. Anyone due to travel is urged to check their flight status before turning up. How can a drone, such a small thing compared with a commercial plane, cause so much chaos? Our technology reporter explains. And what do other countries do about them? 'Protest resignation' Donald Trump's defence secretary has resigned, saying the president should have someone in the role "whose views are better aligned" with his own. It comes a day after Mr Trump said he was pulling all US troops out of Syria - and as rumours swirled of a withdrawal from Afghanistan too, despite a resurgence of the Taliban. Gen Mattis said he believed in the importance of international allies and of using US power to contain authoritarian rivals - and by inference, the president did not. It's a protest resignation, plain and simple, says the BBC's Anthony Zurcher, and it could mean even more turbulent times ahead. Gen Mattis had been one of the cooler heads around Mr Trump, our correspondent adds, and now that check on the president is gone. Donald Trump's administration has had a very high staff turnover. Here's a run-down of who's quit, been fired, or been pushed out. And lastly, was Mr Trump right to say Islamic State had been defeated? 'Pay for harm' The government must do more to force industry to cut levels of sugar and salt in food, says England's chief medical officer. Prof Dame Sally Davies said firms should "pay for their harm or subsidise healthier choices". She hinted she would like to see a tax on chocolate and junk food, but recognised this was "a dream". In her annual report, she also urged the government to ban added sugar in jars of baby food. The food industry says it's making changes and taxation is not the answer. source
  7. Image copyrightREUTERS Image captionDrone hotspots such as Sydney Harbour will also get the monitoring equipment Drone "hot spots" in Australia are getting sensors to automatically identify the aircraft and their pilots. Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority (Casa) said it would install the equipment at the nation's airports starting next month. The monitors have been planned for some time, but come in the wake of 72 hours of drone-related disruption at the UK's Gatwick airport last week. In 2019, Australia will also start a scheme to register drone owners. The UK is also due to introduce a scheme in November that will require recreational drones weighing 250g (0.55lb) or more to be registered. Heavy fines Almost 140,000 air travellers were delayed last week after reports of drone sightings caused huge delays at Gatwick Airport. UK police are still searching for the culprits, although they have also raised the possibility that witness reports of the aircraft were mistaken. The incident "highlights" the need for a drone-spotting capability, Casa spokesman Peter Gibson told the news agency Agence France-Presse. The surveillance system would be able to spot the types of drone being flown, read their serial numbers and work out where the pilot was located, he said. Efforts to identify pilots would be aided by the introduction of the registration scheme for commercial and casual drone owners, he added. "2019 will be a drone safety crackdown," said Mr Gibson. As well as airports and other sensitive locations, the drone-spotting systems will be installed in other places known to be popular with drone owners such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Authorities in Australia have expressed worries about the number of drones being flown in restricted areas in recent months. Anyone breaking rules could face fines of up to 10,000 Australian dollars ($7,058; £5,600) as well as checks on the safety of their craft. "In 2019 it could be very expensive doing the wrong thing with your drone," said Mr Gibson. Events at Gatwick were discussed by ministers in a Christmas Eve phone conference. It is understood the Cabinet Office "pushed" the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office to update their rapid deployment protocol. They also discussed defence systems across the UK's airports. source
  8. The AchieVer

    The Drones Are Drilling Holes Now

    Drones are primarily known for what they can do in the sky, like aerial photography or shutting down airports. A new project out of University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) takes things in a different direction: This drone digs holes. Built by UNL's NIMBUS Lab, the quadcopter is equipped with a big ol' drill that, once the drone has gingerly landed, can be used to burrow into the dirt, sand, or clay beneath it, primarily for scientific purposes. But a digging drone isn't as easy as just strapping a drill to a quad. Drones already tend to have short battery lives, with top-shelf drones like the DJI Mavic Pro Platinum topping out at 30 minutes. Adding a giant drill that is both heavy in flight and requires energy of its own while in use only exacerbates the problem. "Battery powered drones have very short flight times, especially when flying with a heavy load, which we are since we have our digging apparatus and sensor system," says NIMBUS codirector Carrick Detweiler, speaking to IEEE Spectrum. The NIMBUS solution? More drones. "We need to hitch a ride on another vehicle," Detweiler says. After flying with another drone, it parachutes in. "This allows allows it to save energy for return trips. In this video we used a much larger gas powered UAS with multiple hours of flight time, but our same system could be deployed from manned aircraft or other systems." While the drone can perform its drilling and parachuting autonomously, it needs its employment site manually selected. As far as uses, Detweiler imagines scientific research in areas with moist soil like wetlands. Federal agencies like the USDA conduct such tests to "manage shellfish stocks, plan dredging and waste disposal, and construct stable roads, bridges, docks, and dams," among other purposes. But as crucial as infrastructure projects, waste disposal, and shellfish are, a drone like the NIMBUS driller could also find military uses. NIMBUS is funded partially by both the USDA and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, which is actively researching UAV systems, as well as new ways to power them. source
  9. FAA announces new system for remotely identifying and tracking drones The new system will help enable large-scale commercial use of drones. Enlarge / Wing Aviation, a "moonshot" project of Google's Alphabet, delivers a package to a customer in October 2019. Wing was the first drone operator sanctioned by the FAA to deliver packages to customers, but a large scale deployment of technology like this depends on better location tracking systems. Logan Cyrus/Bloomberg via Getty Images The Federal Aviation Administration is implementing a new system that will allow comprehensive nationwide tracking of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)—commonly known as drones. The new system will enable regulators, law enforcement, and other interested parties to track drone movements and in some cases obtain identifying information. All new drones will be required to comply with the proposed rules within three years after the regulations go into effect—but that's still months away. The lack of a comprehensive system for drone identification and tracking has been a long-standing barrier to the adoption of commercial drone technology. Companies like Amazon and UPS, for example, have long dreamed of making package deliveries using unmanned vehicles. But such efforts were blocked by law enforcement agencies worried about unidentified drones being used for terrorism, drug smuggling, or other crimes. The new proposal will create a comprehensive realtime database with information about almost every unmanned vehicle in the sky. That will allow law enforcement to quickly identify registered vehicles. And it will make it easier to catch vehicles that are flying without authorization. In the new system, each UAV would be assigned a unique identifier. During each flight, a drone will be required to transmit its identity and location over the Internet to an online service provider authorized by the FAA to be part of the location-tracking system. A vehicle flying more than 400 feet from its base station will also need to broadcast this information directly from the aircraft. To enhance privacy, vehicle operators will have the option to generate a random session ID for each trip instead of broadcasting a vehicle's manufacturer-assigned serial number on every trip. The new system is welcomed by commercial drone operators. Indeed, CNBC reports that the most common complaint from the commercial drone industry is that the FAA is moving too slowly. For years, Congress has pressured the FAA to speed the development of a commercial drone industry. A 2012 law required the FAA to allow commercial use of drones by 2015 (the FAA missed the deadline). A 2016 law required the FAA to develop a remote identification standard by July 2018. The FAA missed that deadline too, and the agency is only formally publishing the rules now. The FAA rule establishes a three-year transition period, but that period doesn't start until the FAA has accepted public comments on its initial proposal, made appropriate adjustments, and issued a final rule. That rulemaking process can take many months. So the new system won't be fully operational until 2023 at the earliest. Source: FAA announces new system for remotely identifying and tracking drones (Ars Technica)
  10. The U.S. Department of the Interior has confirmed it has grounded its fleet of non-emergency drones amid concerns over cybersecurity. In a brief statement, the department said the move will help to ensure that “the technology used for these operations is such that it will not compromise our national security interests.” Interior spokesperson Carol Danko said the department affirms with a formal order the “temporary cessation of non-emergency drones while we ensure that cybersecurity, technology and domestic production concerns are adequately addressed,” months after the department said it was grounding its approximately 800 drones. But the drones will still be used for emergency purposes, such as search and rescue and assisting with natural disasters, the statement said. Cyberscoop was first to report the news. The order did not specifically mention threats from China, but said that information collected during drone missions “has the potential to be valuable to foreign entities, organizations, and governments.” Danko told TechCrunch that the department currently has 121 drones made by DJI and 665 drones that Chinese-built but not made by DJI. She added that 24 drones are made in the U.S. but have Chinese components. “The review is to help us identify and assess any potential threats or risks,” said Danko. Several other government departments — including the military — have also banned or grounded their fleet of Chinese-built drones. DJI spokesperson Michael Oldenburg said the company was “extremely disappointed” in the decision. Chinese companies have faced bans and sanctions from operating in the federal government over their alleged connections to the Chinese government. Chief among the fears are that Chinese tech companies could be compelled by Beijing to spy or be used to conduct espionage against the West. Last year, the Trump administration banned federal agencies from buying networking equipment from Huawei and ZTE. Several other companies, including radio equipment maker Hytera and surveillance tech giant Hikvision, were also banned from government. DJI said last year it would look to assemble its drones in California in an effort to dispel concerns. Source
  11. New FAA drone rule is a giant middle finger to aviation hobbyists Public comments are open until 11:59pm on Monday. Enlarge Stuart O'Sullivan More than 34,000 people have deluged the Federal Aviation Administration with comments over a proposed regulation that would require almost every drone in the sky to broadcast its location over the Internet at all times. The comments are overwhelmingly negative, with thousands of hobbyists warning that the rules would impose huge new costs on those who simply wanted to continue flying model airplanes, home-built drones, or other personally owned devices. "These regulations could kill a hobby I love," wrote Virginian Irby Allen Jr. in a comment last week. "RC aviation has brought my family together and if these regulations are enacted we will no longer be able to fly nor be able to afford the hobby." The new regulations probably wouldn't kill the hobby of flying radio-controlled airplanes outright, but it could do a lot of damage. Owners of existing drones and model airplanes would face new restrictions on when and where they could be used. The regulations could effectively destroy the market for kit aircraft and custom-designed drones by shifting large financial and paperwork burdens on the shoulders of consumers. "I think it's going to be harmful to the community and harmful to the growth of the UAS industry," said Greg Reverdiau, co-founder of the Pilot Institute, in a Friday phone interview. He wrote a point-by-point critique of the FAA proposal that has circulated widely among aviation hobbyists. An Internet connection for every aircraft Enlarge The new rules are largely designed to address safety and security concerns raised by law enforcement agencies. They worry that drones flying too close to an airport could disrupt operations or even cause a crash. They also worry about terrorists using drones to deliver payloads to heavily populated areas. To address these concerns, the new FAA rule would require all new drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds to connect over the Internet to one of several location-tracking databases (still to be developed by private vendors) and provide real-time updates on their location. That would enable the FAA or law enforcement agencies to see, at a glance, which registered drones are in any particular area. But critics say the rules impose massive costs on thousands of law-abiding Americans who have been quietly flying model airplanes, quad-copters, and other small unmanned aircraft for years—and in many cases decades. The rules require that the drone itself have an Internet connection. That will instantly render many existing drones obsolete, forcing hobbyists to upgrade or discard them. And it will also make it significantly more expensive to own a drone, since you'll need to sign up for a data plan for each device you own. A hobby that previously had near-zero operating costs might suddenly cost $50 per month—per aircraft. In many cases, it may not even be possible for people to upgrade their existing aircraft to the new standard. The FAA rule states that a compliant drone needs to have a serial number that was issued by the device's manufacturer in compliance with the new rules. Yet many RC aircraft are built by small companies who never intended to get into the commercial drone business. They might not have the technical resources to comply with the new standards or the legal resources to get FAA approval. Critics say this approach is overkill. DJI, the leading dronemaker, opposes the FAA proposal. The company points out that it has already implemented a drone identification technology for its own drones that is based on sending out radio signals from the drone. Law enforcement agencies can buy hardware that receives these broadcasts and shows which DJI drones are nearby. DJI argues that this approach is simpler, cheaper, and less intrusive than an always-on Internet connection. In the view of DJI—and other opponents of the FAA's approach—it would be better for the FAA to mandate the development of an industry-standard version of DJI's technology, rather than forcing every drone to get an Internet connection. FAA expects homebuilt aircraft to be "phased out" Enlarge There's a large community of people who build aircraft from kits or using parts purchased at hobbyist stores or online. The new rules would impose huge new burdens on these hobbyists. With one exception I'll discuss in a minute, these hobbyists would also be required to comply with the remote ID requirements, which means that they'd need to be designed with an onboard cellular chip and a significant amount of computing power. Next, a hobbyist would have to submit paperwork to the FAA explaining how their drone works and demonstrating that it meets all the requirements of the new regulations. You might need to hire a lawyer before you can fly a model aircraft you design yourself. This approach seems like a terrible fit for do-it-yourself aircraft builders. California drone hobbyist Anatoly Vizitiu explained the issue in a recent comment to the FAA: We do not buy commercially manufactured drones, but build our own drones, we race them and crush them, then rebuild them again. [A] hobbyist drone is not an aircraft, but a collection of parts that work together. After crashes those surviving parts find themselves on multiple other models. [An] average hobbyist does not own one model but dozens and some hundreds, which are always modified and experimented with. This do-it-yourself approach runs directly counter to the FAA's vision, in which every drone has a single manufacturer who takes care of regulatory compliance. Apparently anticipating a backlash, the FAA does offer a workaround for people with existing or custom-built aircraft: special FAA-designated areas where people could fly non-compliant aircraft. These would be run by "community-based organizations"—most likely existing model airplane clubs that already operate fields for hobbyists to fly their aircraft. These clubs would have a one-year window to apply to the FAA for permission to run one of these sites. At the end of the year, the FAA would publish a list of approved sites, and anyone who wants to fly a non-compliant aircraft would need to travel to one of the sites. But the FAA makes clear that it views this arrangement as a temporary expedient: At the end of that 12-month period, no new applications for FAA-recognized identification areas would be accepted. After that date, the number of FAA-recognized identification areas could therefore only remain the same or decrease. Over time, the FAA anticipates that most UAS without remote identification will reach the end of their useful lives or be phased out. As these numbers dwindle, and as compliance with remote identification requirements becomes cheaper and easier, the number of UAS that need to operate only at FAA-recognized identification areas would likely drop significantly. Significantly, the FAA doesn't appear to envision people continuing to design and build their own aircraft after the rules go into effect—even if they're only flown in special FAA-designated locations. If the FAA is wrong about this and the number of non-compliant aircraft grows over time, the FAA offers no mechanism for adding new flying fields. The drone hobbyist community would be stuck with the flying fields that existed at the time these rules went into effect—no matter how many people wanted to use them. No one will be able to fly homebuilt aircraft in their backyards or nearby empty fields. And this exception also does nothing for people who want to use custom-built drones for practical applications, for example on farms or construction sites. Presumably over time large dronemakers would build drones that would meet most needs. But having individuals and small companies experimenting with homebrew technology is an important source of innovation—and the FAA seems determined to stamp that kind of innovation out. Comments are open until Monday The debate isn't over. The FAA published its revised rules a few weeks ago and gave the public until Monday, March 2, to submit comments. Once the deadline has passed, FAA staffers are supposed to read all the comments—tens of thousands of them—and take them into account as it fashions a final rule. The overwhelming public opposition to the current proposal could cause the FAA to rethink its approach, but it's not guaranteed to do so. Once the FAA has taken all the public comments into account, it will likely publish a final rule along with written responses to issues raised by commenters. Commenting is easy. If you're a drone hobbyist, model airplane enthusiast, or anyone else who is affected by the rules, you can click here and then click the "comment now" button. Comments can range from a few sentences to many pages. Comment submission will be open until 11:59pm on Monday. Source: New FAA drone rule is a giant middle finger to aviation hobbyists (Ars Technica)
  12. The race to add drones to nationwide air traffic control system AirMap, which oversees a version of air traffic control for drones, to collaborate on the national airspace integration. Raytheon, which develops the technology used by air traffic controllers to coordinate national airspace, has signed a strategic pact with a company that oversees the largest unmanned aerial systems (UAS) tracking network in the U.S. The objective: To quickly and safely integrate drones into national airspace monitoring technology. Currently, the technology used to keep track of commercial and military aircraft does not account for drone traffic. In the U.S., non-military drones are not integrated into a nationwide air traffic management system except under voluntary programs. By contrast, Raytheon's Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) is used by air traffic controllers across the U.S. to provide safe and efficient aircraft spacing and sequencing guidance for more than 40,000 departing and arriving aircraft daily at both civilian and military airports. The new partnership will see Raytheon teaming up with AirMap, which provides airspace intelligence for UAS operations and has over 250,000 registered users. AirMap has been aggressively lobbying for a comprehensive drone aerial management service. Its technology ID's individual drones, enabling tracking and paving the way for the kind of nationwide net used to monitor commercial and military aircraft. Working together, Raytheon and AirMap are hoping to develop solutions to provide a complete, real-time view of manned and unmanned flights in U.S. airspace, helping allay rising fears that increasing drone traffic is putting the national air transportation network at grave risk. There have already been a handful of verified aircraft collisions with drones, and several more near-misses, raising awareness of the growing problem. "AirMap is ushering in a new era in drone aviation," said Matt Gilligan, vice president of Raytheon's Intelligence, Information and Services business. "Drones must safely operate in an already complex ecosystem, which is where our experience matters." AirMap has been smart in playing the long game with its air management and tracking technology. The company sells a technology stack that can connect the world's drones to airspace authorities through an open platform of APIs and SDKs that integrate with hardware from top drone manufacturers, including 3DR, DJI, DroneDeploy, Intel, Matternet, and senseFly. So far the company's drone operations systems have been deployed in the Czech Republic, Japan, Switzerland, and the United States. The company has adopted a strategy of working closely with local authorities and pilot programs as government agencies in the U.S. and abroad race to catch up with drone technology with effective regulation. For example, AirMap is working with NASA UTM, the European Network of U-space Demonstrators, and the U.S. UAS Integration Pilot Programs. With $43.6 million so far in funding, it is working to position itself as the air traffic management technology provider of the future for UAS. The partnership with Raytheon and close work the FAA reinforces that position. Source
  13. An algorithm to dramatically reduce drone catastrophes More propellers? Parachutes? The answer to safer drones for commercial uses could be in the code. There are all kinds of gimmicks to keep drones from crashing, including parachutes and extra propellers. But what if the answer is in the code? Verity Studios, which is behind some of the highest-stakes drone flights in the world, has introduced a software algorithm it says can prevent quadcopters from crashing during unexpected propulsion system failures. "There are already numerous cases of drones crashing to the ground (sometimes injuring people) for no apparent reason," Verity founder Raffaello D'Andrea told me recently. "Some common causes of this are motor failures, ESC (electronic speed controller) burn-outs or connector failures. As a standard end-user, these are the types of problems you can't see with the naked eye, so you're left with the impression that your drone has simply dropped out of the sky." You may have seen Verity's work and not known it. The company makes drones come alive onstage and indoors, often in front of audiences of thousands. Verity is behind the dancing drones that backed up Drake, for example. Many of the live shows that employ its technology are witnessed by tens of thousands of people. With lots of people watching, one errant propeller could spell disaster, which is why Verity has developed the proprietary software solution, called Failsafe. It's an interesting and timely approach to drone safety. Drones are becoming increasingly popular in commercial applications like monitoring, security, infrastructure inspection, and surveying. And despite regulatory hurdles, drone delivery is gradually becoming a reality even here in the U.S., where FAA guidelines are famously stringent. Which means drone safety is high on the minds of commercial operators, regulators, and a public naturally wary of having a bunch of autonomous buzzsaws careening overhead. "Currently, commercial operators are getting around [safety issues] by creating fully-redundant octocopters (8 propulsion systems instead of 4) and partially-redundant hexacopters (6 propulsion systems) to ensure their drones are safe and reliable," D'Andrea explains. "It's a heavy-handed way of solving the issue as it creates a lot of operational inefficiency." Data on propulsion system failures is difficult to come by. The FAA hasn't started making statistics available and technology companies aren't keen to publish failure numbers related to their products. Verity's internal tests on popular drone components have found that the mean time between failures (MTBF) on some drones is staggeringly low, often sub-100 hours. When a propulsion issue happens to a quadcopter using Failsafe, sophisticated algorithms kick in and the drone stabilizes itself using its remaining good propellers. "Any type of failsafe is important for drone safety," says D'Andrea. "The two options that are popular on the market today are parachutes and redundant hardware. The great thing about parachutes is that they can compensate for any type of technical failure. There are, however, some downsides. One of the most significant downsides is the fact parachutes must be retrofitted to the vehicles after purchase." Failsafe, however, can now be implemented into existing quadcopters with a simple firmware update. That's an attractive solution at a time when the future of commercial drone usage hinges on safety. Source
  14. MIT CSAIL’s LaserFactory can print fully functional drones Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory say they’ve developed a system that can print functional, custom devices and robots automatically, without human intervention. Their platform, called LaserFactory, leverages a three-ingredient recipe that lets users create structural geometry, print traces, and assemble electronic components like sensors and actuators. 3D printers have made it possible to produce a range of objects — including models, jewelry, and toys — on the fly. But crucially, these printers still lack the ability to fabricate more complex devices that are ready to go right out of the printer. By contrast, LaserFactory can print fully functional devices and, in the case of a drone, devices that can immediately take off to begin a task. As the researchers behind LaserFactory note in a paper describing their work, this feature could in theory be used for jobs like delivery or search-and-rescue operations. Above: A drone printed with MIT CSAIL’s LaserFactory. Image Credit: MIT CSAIL LaserFactory has users design a device by selecting components from a library and drawing on lines that allow current to flow between electronics. They then finalize the drone’s geometry in a 2D editor, using propellers and batteries on the canvas before wiring them up to make electrical connections and drawing the perimeter to define the device’s shape. With LaserFactory, users can preview designs before the software translates their blueprint into machine instructions. The commands are embedded into a single fabrication file for LaserFactory to make the device in one go, aided by off-the-shelf laser cutter software. On the hardware side, an add-on that prints circuit traces and assembles components is clipped onto the laser cutter. Currently, LaserFactory can automatically cut the geometry, dispense silver for the various circuits, pick and place components, and cure the silver to make the traces conductive. In the future, the research team hopes to increase the quality and resolution of the circuits, which would allow for denser and more complex electronics. The researchers also plan to build on the technology by exploring how to create a fuller range of 3D geometries, potentially by integrating traditional 3D printing into the process. In a related work first published in early summer 2019, researchers at CSAIL investigated a drone design approach that combined the best of quadcopters and fixed-wing airplanes. Their work, which they detailed in a paper presented at the Siggraph conference in Los Angeles, resulted in a novel AI system that allowed users to dream up drones of different sizes and shapes that could switch between hovering and gliding with a single flight controller. Source: MIT CSAIL’s LaserFactory can print fully functional drones
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