Displaying items by tag: drone

Tuesday, 03 October 2017 11:34

European Commission pushes for drone safety rules

The European Commission is pushing to speed up the implementation of EU-wide rules for the use of drones in the European Union. More than 1,200 safety occurrences – including near-misses between drones and aircraft – were reported in Europe in 2016, which underlines the pressing need for a modern and flexible EU regulatory framework.

The European Commission is calling on the European Parliament and the Council to agree on its proposal from December 2015 establishing an EU-wide framework for drones.

In December 2015, the Commission proposed to create an EU-wide framework for drones as part of its Aviation Strategy. It tabled a legislative proposal establishing standards for drones and drone operations, which is still being examined by the European Parliament and the EU Member States.

Pending this adoption, the Commission’s Single European Sky Air traffic management Research Joint Undertaking (SESAR) – whose role is to develop the next generation of European Air Traffic Management – is currently making half a million euro available to support the demonstration of “geo-fencing” services, which can automatically prevent drones from flying into restricted zones.

“Drones offer tremendous opportunities for new services and businesses. That is why we want Europe to be a global leader,” said Commissioner for Transport, Violeta Bulc.

“I am confident our modern and flexible regulatory framework will give rise to new European champions in this sector. But safety always comes first. If we don’t have enough, the near misses between drones and airplanes could one day have disastrous consequences. I am therefore calling on the European Parliament and the Council to swiftly agree on our proposal from December 2015.”

Ensuring that drones can safely integrate the airspace alongside other users (such as aircraft) is fundamental. This is why the Commission proposed in November 2016 to create an automated traffic management system for drones operating at low-level, referred to as the “U-space”. Geo-fencing is a key component of the U-space.

The call for proposals announced by SESAR aims to select one project demonstrating the active geo-fencing of drones flying below 500 feet (around 152 meters). It requires that drones users are provided with up-to-date information on no-fly zone as well as real-time alerts if they enter one. The project will build on the geolocation capabilities which are built-in in many drones today.

Today's funding comes on top of an envelope of 9 million euros that has already been earmarked for exploratory projects to speed up the development of the U-space, such as the automatic identification of drones or drone-to-drone communication.

Published in Gadget
Monday, 19 December 2016 13:43

US drone row with China sparks new security fears

Political tensions between the US and China may have now calmed, but the incident has only served to increase further fears over security. Political tensions were heightened between the two nations when China decided to inexplicably seize an underwater research drone owned by the US.

Senator John McCain described the act as a ‘gross violation of international law.’ President-elect Donald Trump also became embroiled in the political row and denounced China’s actions - before later appearing to reverse his statement via Twitter, by telling China they should keep the drone.

The incident according to political analysts has served only to heighten domestic fears over security following the high-profile hacking scandal - with both the CIA and FBI confirming they suspect Russia was behind the hacks which derailed Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

China have engaged directly with Pentagon officials in Washington and confirmed it will return the research drone, although they’ve been critical of the US for the way they dealt with the incident claiming they hyped up the incident into a diplomatic row which was played out in the public eye.

Senator McCain suggested China could have gained a lot of valuable information by seizing the drone, claiming China can perform an act called reverse-engineering on the drone in order to retrieve information. McCain said: “The Chinese are able to do a thing called reverse-engineering, where they are able to, while they hold this drone, find out all of the technical information. And some of it is pretty valuable. China’s act is a gross violation of international law.”

President Trump initially tweeted: “China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters - rips it out of water and takes it to China in unprecedented act.” He later suggested China should keep the drone. When Trump’s Public Relations team was queried as to what this last tweet meant, Jason Miller, his communications director claimed that China were likely to return a chunk of metal and a bag of wires after seizing the drone for several days.

China’s ministry of defence pledged an “appropriate” return of the drone on its Weibo social media account, while also criticizing the U.S. for hyping the incident into a diplomatic row. It followed assurances from Beijing that the governments were working to resolve the spat.

The drone incident was disclosed by the Pentagon on Friday. China’s ministry said the U.S. “hyped the case in public,” which it said wasn’t helpful in resolving the problem. The U.S. has “frequently” sent its vessels and aircrafts into the region, and China urges such activities to stop, the ministry said in its Weibo message.

China is very sensitive about unmanned underwater vehicles because they can track our nuclear ballistic missile submarines fleet,” said retired Major General Xu Guangyu, a senior researcher at Beijing-based research group the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association. “If one from the Bowditch can be detected and even snatched by a Chinese naval ship, it shows it’s getting too close to the sensitive water areas.”

The tensions unleashed by the episode underscored the delicate state of relations between the two countries, weeks before Trump’s inauguration. Trump has threatened higher tariffs on Chinese products and questioned the U.S. approach to Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of its territory. Meanwhile, China is growing more assertive over its claims to disputed sections of the South China Sea.


Published in Government

Google’s aspirations to extend the reach of its innovative drone delivery service has encountered a number of issues and plans to begin a wider launch of the product that have been put on hold. Google’s parent company Alphabet, a leading software company, has revealed its ambitious plan for a marketplace that could order anything from a coffee to toilet paper and have it within minutes.

The drone-delivery service was given the green light from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to begin testing the autonomous aerial vehicles in the United States. However, it has now been revealed from a former employee of Alphabet that the company has suffered a number of issues with the technology itself.

In September, the company successfully delivered its first burrito from Chipotle, to a student in Virginia Tech. In addition to that, Alphabet entered into partnerships with a number of companies such as Starbucks, Whole Foods Market and Domino’s Pizza to carry out a series of tests and trials as part of its Wing Marketplace strategy. However, it emerged that Starbucks exited the negotiations after disagreeing with Alphabet over access to customer data.

Last month, Domino’s Pizza made its first delivery by drone in New Zealand and it plans to expand the service to a bigger area in the forthcoming months. Domino’s boss, Don Meij says the aerial technique could catch on as it beats traffic and cuts waiting time.

“DRU Drone by Flirtey offers the promise of safer, faster deliveries to an expanded delivery area, meaning more customers can expect to receive a freshly-made order within our ultimate target of 10 minutes. They can avoid traffic congestion and traffic lights, and safely reduce the delivery time and distance by travelling directly to customers’ homes. This is the future. Our customers are excited about the possibility of drone deliveries and we are thrilled to be working with local families as we test and expand this technology.”

An article which circulated in the Wall Street Journal reported that Alphabet’s ‘X’ division could experience more turbulence in the coming months following the admission made by a former employee of the firm. The anonymous source made the claim that it was Alphabet’s goal to complete 1,000 flights without incident, but it never made it past 300.

Some of the reasons cited as to what the problems were ranged from repeated power failures, multiple crashes, wandering off course, or attempting to land in trees. Alphabet’s X division is a moon-shot project, so technical issues are expected throughout the process. With the former employee summing it up by saying: “Alphabet is a software company, not an airplane company.”

Published in Gadget

U.S. based food joint Domino’s Pizza which operates around the world, is planning to launch the world’s first commercial drone delivery service after conducting a trial run in New Zealand. The pizza-maker announced that it plans to launch a regular drone delivery service by the end of this year, after conducting a trial in Auckland on Thursday, August 25.

The first commercial trial in the world took place in the United States last month on July 23 when convenience store 7-Eleven trialed a drone delivery of coffee, doughnuts and a chicken sandwich. But Domino’s Pizza is planning to move forward and actually implement its drone services for commercial use very soon.

Tech giants like Amazon and Google are also looking to launch drone delivery services, and aviation authorities in the U.S., the U.K., Australia and New Zealand have been relaxing rules for this purpose. Domino’s is also looking to trial its drone delivery service in Australia, Belgium, France, Japan, Germany and the Netherlands.

In the United States, drones will be permitted for commercial deliveries from August 29, but not across state borders or above members of the public. Moreover, in Australia, drone deliveries will be legal next month, provided the drones stay at least 100ft (30 meters) away from houses.

“We’ve always said that it doesn’t make sense to have a 2-tonne machine delivering a 2kg order,” said Don Mij, chief executive of Domino’s Pizza Enterprises. The drone used by Domino’s for the test was from a U.S. company called Flirtey. The company also provided the drone for the 7-Eleven trial service.

New Zealand was in fact one of the very first countries to allow commercial drone delivery services, so it’s fitting that the country should take the title as the first country to launch a commercial drone service. Simon Bridges, New Zealand’s transport minister, spoke at the Domino’s test flight in Auckland, saying: “Our enabling laws and regulation means we have the ideal environment.”

There are doubts however, that Domino’s could be held back from its dreams of commercial drone delivery because of a rule requiring drones be kept in sight at all times, according to a report by The Guardian. The issue was brought up by Philip Solaris, director of drone company X-craft Enterprises, who said: “I can’t truly see how commercially viable that idea is, because you would have to literally have somebody walking along to keep it in the line of sight, watching it at all times.” He also mentioned that Domino’s drones would have to avoid “random hazards” like power lines and moving vehicles.

Published in Gadget
Monday, 15 August 2016 06:36

Ericsson & China Mobile take 5G to the skies

Ericsson says it has conducted the world’s first 5G-enabled drone prototype field trial in co-operation with China Mobile, hailing this “a major milestone on the road to 5G.”

In the trial, held in Wuxi in China’s Jiangsu province, Ericson says a drone was flown using the operator’s cellular network with 5G-enabled technologies and with handovers across multiple sites. “In order to demonstrate the concept’s validity in a real-world setting, the handovers were performed between sites that were simultaneously in use by commercial mobile phone users.”

According to Ericson, potential use cases for this technology include mission-critical applications such as support for emergency services. However, end-to-end low latency needs to be guaranteed by the operator’s network to ensure the safety and reliability of such services.

Ericsson says that it and China Mobile have been collaborating in the China National Key 5G Project since the beginning of 2016, focusing on user-centric 5G network architecture evolution. “One of the project’s aims is to optimize latency for mission-critical use cases, by dynamically deploying part of a network through distributed cloud close to the radio edge. The drone trial is therefore an important step toward 5G networks in which part of a network can be distributed and dynamically deployed at the cellular edge in order to reduce end-to-end latency, and to serve a range of 5G use cases at the same time.”

Chris Houghton, Head of Region Northeast Asia, Ericsson, said the trial showed that 5G research was coming out of the labs and into live test networks in preparation for commercial implementation expected from 2020. “We see tremendous opportunities in 5G, and we are mobilizing the ecosystem and collaborating with industry leaders such as China Mobile to help make 5G a reality,” he said.

Published in Telecom Vendors

The world’s largest social network is planning to connect millions in developing countries via its Project Aquila initiative. Facebook is building solar-powered drones which will fly for months at a time above remote regions, beaming down an internet connection. With 1.6 billion active users, Facebook estimates there are another 1.6 billion people in the world in need of an internet connection.

The project began when Facebook purchased a small British business called Ascenta, which specializes in solar-powered drones. Ascenta’s owner, Andy Cox, is now the engineer running Project Aquila, according to a report by the BBC. The first drone was produced in a warehouse in Somerset, South West England. It was dismantled at the end of June and taken in pieces to Arizona, where it was reassembled for its first flight.

The drone aircraft has the wingspan of a Boeing 737, but is just a third of the weight of a typical family vehicle. The drone reportedly stayed airborne for 90 minutes and performed well during the test flight, but it did suffer some damage when it landed on a stony field some distance short of the runway. When the drone eventually goes into service, ideally it will rest on grassland.

“Eventually we will fly at 60,000-90,000 feet, above conventional air traffic, where it’s very cold, and for periods of up to three months,” Cox told BBC. “That means we can loiter around a given waypoint providing the internet without interfering with other traffic.”

There is still a lot of work to do until Project Aquila drones can surpass the current solar-powered aircraft record of continuous flight, which is two weeks. The entire upper surface of the aircraft will need to be covered with solar cells, while keeping it as aerodynamic as possible.

“It needs to be light. Every kilo of extra weight means we need more power to fly it,” said Cox. The drone will fly on solar power during the day which will replenish the batteries, which account for about half of the weight of the aircraft, for night flight.

The project is reportedly high on Facebook’s priority list, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally tracking its progress. The CEO was recently in Arizona to witness the first flight, and the global head of engineering, Jay Parikh, has been making regular trips to Somerset to oversee progress of the project.

“Our mission is to connect everyone on the planet,” said Parikh, adding that Project Aquila is just one of many technologies that Facebook is developing to bring connectivity to remote regions of the world, aiming to help the telecoms industry bring the cost down of connectivity.

Another similar project by Google, Project Loon, uses high altitude balloons to connect people to the internet in the same remote regions that Project Aquila is targeting. Both companies are playing their part to bring connectivity to remote regions to transform peoples’ lives, but one cannot help but sense competition between the two tech giants.

While it would seem like these projects would be welcomed by communities with open arms, there has been controversy. For example, India rejected the Facebook Free Basics project, aiming to give citizens limited, free web access via mobile phones, claiming that Facebook was power-hungry. To avoid similar complications, Facebook has emphasized that with Project Aquila, it will provide the connection, leaving local telcos responsible for providing services.

Published in Telecom Vendors

The first approved U.S. drone delivery, approved by aviation officials, has been made. Drone startup company Flirtey collaborated with 7-Eleven, the chain of international convenience stores, to make the delivery happen. The drone successfully delivered a chicken sandwich, hot coffee and donuts from a 7-Eleven store in Reno, Nevada to its destination on July 23, according to phys.org.

Flirtey chief executive Matt Sweeny said: “This is just the first step in our collaboration with 7-Eleven. Flirtey’s historic drone deliveries to date have been stepping stones to store-to-home drone delivery, and today is a giant leap toward a not-too-distant future where we are delivering you convenience on demand.”

E-commerce giant Amazon is reportedly working on a drone program, which would allow seamless delivery of goods by air. Unfortunately, delivery companies will have to face the fact that technology is taking over in many ways, and that some delivery employees might be made redundant if delivery drones become a hit.

“Drone delivery is the ultimate convenience for our customers and these efforts create enormous opportunities to redefine convenience,” said Jesus Delgado-Jenkins, 7-Eleven’s chief marketing officer.

A recent survey conducted by Walker Sands revealed that 79 percent of U.S. consumers would likely choose drone delivery if it could occur within one hour. The main concern with drone delivery for consumers, according to the report, is theft. 72 percent of respondents in the survey cited package theft as the reason they don’t trust drone delivery. But these concerns will likely pass as consumers become more familiar with drone technology.

BI Intelligence, Business Insider’s research service, estimates that consumer drone shipments will surpass 7.3 million in 2016. Amazon has been developing its Prime Air delivery system since 2013, and Walmart has also been testing drones since October 2015 for curbside pickup, home delivery, and warehouse inventory management.

Published in Gadget

Imagine you’re at a concert watching with your favorite band, and out of the corner of your eye you notice a tethered drone hovering nearby.  But this drone isn’t taking photos or videos of the band.  It's temporarily providing enhanced LTE wireless coverage at the packed venue so you, along with thousands of others in attendance, can simultaneously send photos and videos to share the moment.

While this isn’t a reality yet, AT&T expects many different drone uses in the future. That’s why for the past year AT&T has been exploring and testing different ways drones can benefit their customers.

Recently they reached another milestone by launching the trial phase of their national drone program.

Led by Art Pregler, their national drone program is driving innovation, and focuses on how AT&T and their customers can benefit from drone-based solutions.

Art's team brings decades of military, flight control and tech experience to the job.  This has allowed the team to hit the air flying, so to speak.  They have already using drones to perform aerial inspections of their cell towers, and at their SHAPE Conference in San Francisco, they demonstrated that capability live.

Connecting drones to their nationwide LTE network lets them capture data and feed it directly to their systems.  In turn, this can allow them to make changes to their network in real time.

By using drones to inspect a cell site, they are able to conduct inspections more quickly and safely – and even access parts of a tower that a human simply could not.  They anticipate this will allow them to improve their customers’ experience by enhancing their cell sites faster than ever before.

They expect their experiences will lay the foundation for new, exciting drone applications.

Possible uses include Flying COWs (Cell on Wings) providing LTE coverage at large events or even rapid disaster response.  A Flying COW may even be able to provide coverage when a vehicle is unable to drive to a designated area.

In addition to how they are using drones to enhance their network, AT&T’s IoT team, led by Chris Penrose, is developing solutions for their customers.  They are researching how in-flight drones can use their LTE network to send large amounts of data in real-time. This capability may benefit areas such as insurance, farming, facility and asset inspections, and even delivery service companies.

They are moving toward the future by pushing the envelope on what’s technologically possible for drones.  Look for more news including a first-hand look at how drones are taking their network to new heights.

Published in Telecom Operators

The UAE Drones for Good Awards held from February 4-6 showcased the most innovative drone concepts from the UAE and around the world. With showcases from big brands like Nokia and Etisalat, and even the UAE Government itself, the exhibition did not disappoint. Set up in Dubai Internet City, and launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the event proved just how much society can benefit from exceptional drone technology for the greater good.

Published in Reports
Wednesday, 27 January 2016 13:26

Revealed: The world’s first passenger drone

The 2016 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) showcased in January in Las Vegas, Nevada, once again attracted a huge audience from around the globe with its incredibly diverse range of futuristic technology. While some people marveled at the amazing LG foldable TV screen, others were transfixed by the Ehang-184 Autonomous Aerial Vehicle (AAV): The world's very first drone able to carry passengers.

Published in Gadget