The impact on businesses of the ongoing US ban on commercial UAV operation can be seen in a snapshot of this week’s drone news. Drones are very affordable these days, and there is nothing to stop anyone purchasing a drone and deploying it for fun. But you can’t use drones in anyway for ‘commercial purposes’ in the US. That means for example, that journalists publishing drone footage are actually in breach of FAA ruling. Until recently, individuals could largely still ‘get away with it’, but a rising awareness is seeing other organizations implement bans, shutdowns or recommendations on drone use.
The organizations represent a range from realtors, journalists, first responders, sports groups and the National Parks Service. At the same time, a coalition of drone manufacturers are proactively building in features that ought to make drone use more acceptable, things like autopilots, safe flight modes, ‘find home’, parachutes, etc. Here’s a snapshot taken largely from the Center for the Study of the Drone’s Weekly Roundup.
So much critical mass around lack of commercialization in US is emerging:
The Los Angeles Police Department has halted all drone operations until regulations governing the use of the aircraft are established. The suspension comes amid public protests by members of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, which alleges that there is a trend toward police militarization in Los Angeles. The LAPD acquired two multi-rotor drones from the Seattle Police Department after a ban on police drones was enforced in Seattle. (KTLA5)
The National Association of Realtors has begun lobbying the FAA to develop amenable policies for domestic commercial drone use. Until the FAA opens the skies for commercial drone use, the NRT is discouraging its members from using drones for taking aerial shots of properties. (Forbes)
A NYPD helicopter and a drone almost collided over Bushwick, Brooklyn this week. “These drones pose a safety threat to aircrafts and the people on board because the pilots do not know they are in their flight pattern,” a law enforcement source said. The drone’s pilot was arrested on charges of reckless endangerment and obstructing governmental administration. (NY Post)
The Federal Aviation Administration halted the University of Michigan’s plans to use a drone to deliver the football to the first game of the season. (Bloomberg)
And yet this is what did or could happen successfully with drones – mainly not in the US.
At the Los Angeles Times, Chad Garland surveys the different ways that drones could transform agriculture.
A drone captured aerial footage of the People’s Climate March in NYC. (Youtube)
Researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration deployed small Coyote drones to study Hurricane Edouard. (The Weather Channel)
Police in Switzerland are using drones to take photos of large-scale accidents. (Washington Post)
A group of climbers used a drone to take a selfie at the summit of the Matterhorn, a mountain in Switzerland. (Ed Hardy – Twitter)
Jeffrey Martin, a drone hobbyist, put together a “magic carpet ride over Prague.” (YouTube)
And now it just gets crazy:
Researchers from KAIST presented a flying robot at IROS2014 – a bioloid capable of flying not just a simulator but a real plane.
IEEE Spectrum looks at PIBOTs, the little humanoid robots that are being taught how to control a cockpit, and, eventually, fly an airplane.
Today we announce the six finalists from Robot Launch who will be presenting their pitches online live to a panel of expert judges on Tuesday May 20 at 10am PDT. Join us then to see who takes home the ultimate champion crown! The six highest scoring startups from our Top 30 are (alphabetically): DoBots, Duct Inspection Robot, Leka, Odd I/O, Robotic Technologies of Tennessee and Tandemech Engineering. In the meantime, Robohub readers can also vote right here for the “People’s Choice” startup from the Robot Launch competition.
Here are the most popular videos from the preceding three weeks of reader polls. This is your chance to vote on the startup you think is best! The online poll will run until 10am [PDT] May 20, when the live finals judging commences. The startup winning the People’s Choice award will receive $500 from Robohub. All awards will be announced during the live finals. The most popular videos are (alphabetically):
3DOF Robotics | australia
3DOF Robotics have a VTOL aerial vehicle capable of shared autonomy for inspection of vertical structures difficult or dangerous for human inspection.
Axon Robotics | usa
Individuals and business owners are in constant need of ways to increase their productivity. We are addressing these demands with a capable robotic tool.
Aisoy | spain
Aisoy makes technology feel. We create smart social robots for making our lives easier and more fun.
Cubotix | usa
Cubotix builds service robots for everybody and targets domestic and professional use cases. Our goal is to squeeze years of autonomous robot research into affordable consumer platforms – first as an educational platform for advanced robotics, then for dedicated tasks in homes and in the field. We take the complexity out of robotics software and enable everybody to use our robots.
DoBots | the netherlands
DoBots builds services for groups of robots. Our software allows the robots to coordinate and cooperate and report their progress to human supervisors. The first service that will be commercially deployed is a coordination service for robots that are cleaning a supermarket.
Duct Inspection Robot | india
DuctBot is rugged toy-car-sized robot used for cleaning and inspecting air duct in central air conditioned environment like ships, submarines, operation theaters, clean rooms, home and offices.
GimBall | switzerland
We are developing Gimball, a game-changing flying robot that can be flown indoors and in complex environments: it can stay stable after collisions with obstacles and can thus go where other robots can’t. Furthermore, it is safe to fly close to humans. This innovation turns robots into real partners for humans and truly unleashes the potential of flying robots by enabling countless new applications.
Jammster | usa
In the US alone, over 140,000 quadriplegics require the constant attention of expensive in-home caregivers. Our mission is to create an affordable mobile robotic assistant that will provide these people with greater independence and an improved quality of life. We have a prototype, called Jammster, that consists of a dual-arm human friendly robot that has been mounted on a mobile base.
Jessiko Robot Fish by Robotswim | france
Robotswim is a start-up whose objective is to put artificial life in aquariums and pools around the world. The flagship product, Jessiko, is 22 cm long and can swim in a school of 10 or more robots, to create entertaining aquatic choreography and light effects.
Inf Robotics | usa
We have developed an affordable home health care robot for seniors that can provide telecommunications to doctors from the safety and security of their home, assistive features such as medication reminders and safety features in the event of an emergency.
Leka | france
Leka is a young startup that develops smart and innovative toys for children with communication and social disabilities.
Sproutel | usa
At Sproutel we use emotional robots to make patient education friendly for children diagnosed with a chronic illness. Our first product Jerry the Bear, is a completely interactive teddy bear that enables kids with Type 1 diabetes to master their medical procedures, ultimately resulting in smiling faces and improved outcomes.
RoboTar | usa
RoboTar is the first Portable robotic chord hand for guitar. It is a device paired with software running in a laptop or Android device to play guitar using only a one hand to strum or pick and a foot pedal or single push button to change chords.
Tandemech Engineering | usa
Tandemech Engineering is a California-based robotics startup, focusing on wall-climbing robotic platforms. The technology we have developed has allowed our proof-of-concept to outperform any wall-climber ever developed. We hope to continue to adapt our technology into vehicles to deploy testing, inspection, and potentially even manufacturing equipment into places that have previously been prohibitive to access.
VOTING CLOSES ON TUESDAY MAY 20 AT 10AM [PDT]
The $10,000 prize is for the most socially beneficial, documented use of a drone platform costing less than $3,000. DUGN hope to spur innovation, investment, and attention to the positive role that drone technology can play in our society. “We believe that flying robots are a technology with tremendous potential to make our world a better place, and we are excited that they are cheap and accessible enough that regular people and community groups can have their own.”Already the organizers have heard from groups around the world that plan to use their systems for STEM education for youth with autism, wildlife tracking, firefighting and medical applications. If you’re interested in entering, the organizers would appreciate a heads up by March 17 to better help support the community of participants. Final entries need to be in English, with a 1-2 page summary of your project and link to a 2-4 minute video of your flying robot in action.
“We think drones are a revolutionary technology with tremendous potential to make the world a better place, and we wanted to focus our prize on low cost drones to highlight the fact that this technology is cheap and accessible enough that ordinary people and community groups can drive innovation and do new things with them,” said Timothy Reuter, founder of the Drone User Group Network.
As examples, he cited hobbyists using their systems to map coldwater refuges to help restore native fish species in West Virginia, tracking the progress of wildfires in Oregon and helping park officials in the Washington,D.C. area study changing patterns in the growth of vegetation. Another example is the Roswell Flight Test Crew video of a controlled burn through the eyes of a thermal imaging camera on a “Raven”.
In this video, the Roswell Flight Test Crew flies RQCX-3 “Raven” equipped with a FLIR thermal imaging camera — over a controlled burn conducted by Portland Fire and Rescue. The goal of this effort is to clear invasive species off of a two-acre parcel in the Baltimore Woods Natural Area. The crew’s goal is to demonstrate the potential of using small unmanned aircraft systems to support public safety missions: providing an overview of ground operations as well as using the FLIR to track the fire’s progress.
The Drone Social Innovation Award is sponsored by NEXA Capital Partners, a firm with background in the aerospace and infrastructure sector who see the high growth potential for consumer drone technology.
“When Timothy approached us, we saw this award as an opportunity to help demonstrate the socially meaningful applications of unmanned aerial systems. We see that there is a growing grassroots social movement that wants to play a part in the development of this technology, and we want to support that,” stated Michael Dyment, NEXA Capital Partners Founder and Managing Partner.
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The foundation seeks to pioneer a new transportation system for the world by developing robots with rugged air frames capable of safe and cheap unmanned flight of heavy cargo over long distances. We call these robots flying donkeys.
La Fondation Bundi is committed to promoting an African designed and assembled flying donkey industry capable of improving the transport infrastructure in areas without good roads. The goal of the foundation is to have tens of thousands of flying donkeys operational within a generation.
There are various technical, legal, logistical and design issues facing challengers and the foundation has broken the Flying Donkey Challenge into subchallenges. Teams may win large cash prizes for the best solutions across the range of subchallenges. Some of the subchallenges are:
Unbounded Robotics today launched UBR-1, a robot that has many of us very excited. UBR is the first robot with intelligence, manipulation and mobility for below $50k. While UBR definitely resembles a smaller, cuter PR2, the UBR is actually more sophisticated. After all, the PR2 was developed 5 years ago and a lot has changed in robotics since. As well as being offered to universities as a research platform, the UBR can be deployed in business automation or logistics settings, like a Baxter but mobile. At one tenth the price of a PR2, and more sophisticated than any other similarly priced robot, UBR is going to move the goal posts for robotics.At this price point, with these capabilities, UBR is a disruptive technology and has potential in a wide range of scenarios outside of research. Some of the initial possibilities include office or medical delivery, warehouse picking and supermarket stacking and inspection. UBR plays well with people and is ADA-compliant.
There’s often a lot of hype in robotics and skeptics may ask if UBR can really deliver such incredible specs at such a low price. The answer is in the founding team: Melonee Wise, CEO; Michael Ferguson, CTO; Derek King, Lead Systems Engineer; and Eric Diehr, Lead Mechanical Engineer. The Unbounded Robotics team are Willow Garage alumni, who have been involved from the earliest days in building PR2, ROS and the Turtlebots.
Naturally enough, the UBR-1 mobile manipulation platform runs ROS. As the former Willow Garage team put it, “With decades of robotic hardware and software experience, we have developed a mobile manipulation platform that offers advanced software and a sophisticated hardware exterior. The one-armed robot is designed for human-scale tasks and comes pre-installed with Ubuntu Linux LTS and ROS, along with applications such as MoveIt! navigation, calibration, and joystick teleoperation. The robot offers mobility, dexterity, manipulation, and navigation in a human-scale, ADA-compliant model.”
On the hardware front, the UBR-1 requires no calibration at start-up, has a workspace large enough for the robot to reach the ground as well as countertops, and was designed with extensibility in mind so that users can easily develop custom applications. The extra value of the UBR will be all the applications developed by the robotics community, starting with researchers and flowing through to commercial app developers for enterprise and small businesses.
If you want to see one ‘in person’, UBR will be one of the stars at RoboBusiness 2013 in Santa Clara this week; a UBR will also be cutting the ribbon to open the Bay Area Science Festival on November 2. Unbounded Robotics are taking orders for the robot and expect to start shipping in summer 2014. And I, for one, welcome this new uber robot.
Didn’t get a robot entered in the DARPA grand robotics challenge (DRC)? Never mind, there are several robot design and business model competitions on at the moment, from social robots, to affordable robots, to open source humanoids. The International Conference on Social Robotics (ICSR) is running a design competition for robot companions. RoboSavvy is running a design competition for an open source humanoid robot and the African Robotics Network (AFRON) is running their second annual “$10 robot design” challenge. Deadlines are approaching so get designing!