Soar and roll: New robot flies like a drone and drives like a train

By Ishveena Singh

Choo choo! Alternating between an uncrewed aerial vehicle and a robotic ground device, a new drone by Europe-based Nordic Unmanned promises to get maintenance and inspection tasks in the railway industry back on track.

Nordic Unmanned has specifically developed Staaker BG-300 Railway Drone in cooperation with a large European national railway infrastructure owner.

The drone is designed to lubricate rail switches and inspect critical parts of the railway infrastructure while driving on the track. And should it encounter oncoming traffic, the drone can avoid getting flattened by flying to the side of the track and letting the train pass.

Not just that, to give way to an oncoming train, the drone can also switch from one railway track to another – ensuring zero disturbance in regular traffic. The sensors onboard the drone automatically detect changes on the railway, while providing a live data feed to backend decision makers as well.

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UK looks at drones, 3D printing to fix its dimpled roads

By Ishveena Singh

The UK Department for Transport (DfT) is launching a multimillion-pound initiative to improve local roads across England. Among other things, this program aims to explore the use of drones and 3D printing technology when it comes to finding and fixing potholes.

According to a bunch of measures announced by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, new and innovative technology such as drones and 3D printing will take center stage in helping England to perk up its dimpled roads that many have likened to the surface of the moon.  

The condition is so bad that councils in England and Wales had to fill up 1.7 million potholes in the financial year 2020-21 alone – which is equal to one being fixed every 19 seconds. So now, a red-faced government is committing funds to use advanced technology, such as drones to spot defects in roads and 3D printing to repair cracks.

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Qualcomm launches world’s first drone platform with both 5G, AI tech

By Ishveena Singh

Qualcomm has unveiled the world’s first drone platform and reference design that will tap in both 5G and AI technologies. The chipmaker’s Flight RB5 5G Platform condenses multiple complex technologies into one tightly integrated drone system to support a variety of use cases, including film and entertainment, security and emergency response, delivery, defense, inspection, and mapping.

The new solution is purpose-built for autonomous drones, with Qualcomm aiming to give developers an easy-to-use platform to create premium drones right out of the box.

The Flight RB5 5G Platform is powered by the chipmaker’s QRB5165 processor and builds upon the company’s latest IoT offerings to offer high-performance and heterogeneous computing at ultra-low power consumption.

Along with breakthrough camera capabilities that can deliver 4K HDR video, 200MP photo, and 7-camera concurrency, the platform supports 5G and long-range Wi-Fi 6 connectivity to enhance safer beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) flights.

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Connecting the Dots | Drones in space: Satellites seen as key to giving full autonomy to uncrewed aerial vehicles

Danish startup QuadSAT uses specially equipped quadcopter drones as satellite stand-ins to help antenna makers and their customers test and calibrate antennas. Credit: QuadSAT 

by Jason Rainbow 

Advances in commercial drone technology are opening up new growth opportunities for the space industry, which has an often underappreciated synergistic relationship with uncrewed aerial vehicles.

The fast-evolving market for drones attracted $1.4 billion in venture capital investment in 2020, according to data from early-stage space technology investor Seraphim Capital.

That’s roughly double the amount of capital it recorded in 2019, a sign startups looking to provide services ranging from drone deliveries to building inspections are gaining traction.

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Dubai creates its own rain to break heatwave by sending drones to ‘zap’ clouds

The mini-planes ‘shock’ the clouds into releasing their moisture

By Michael Moran

With temperatures soaring to over 120F (49C), Dubai desperately needs rain – and a new initiative from the Brit university is delivering a bigger downpour than expected.

Drones that give clouds ‘electric shocks’ to encourage rainfall are being tested in the skies above Dubai.

The United Arab Emirates [UAE] is one of the world’s driest countries, and with a summer heatwave driving temperatures up as high as 122F (49C) locals are desperate for a few drops of rain.

Average rainfall in the Emirates is just under four inches per year (compared to almost 35” in the UK) and the UAE is only expected to get hotter and drier as climate change takes hold.

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New Algorithm Flies Drones Faster than Human Racing Pilots

To be useful, drones need to be quick. Because of their limited battery life they must complete whatever task they have – searching for survivors on a disaster site, inspecting a building, delivering cargo – in the shortest possible time. And they may have to do it by going through a series of waypoints like windows, rooms, or specific locations to inspect, adopting the best trajectory and the right acceleration or deceleration at each segment.

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Dubai police will use citywide network of drones to respond to crime

An Airobotics drone and its base station

By  David Hambling

Dubai police will be able to respond to an incident anywhere in the United Arab Emirates city within a minute, thanks to a network of pre-positioned drone bases.

The quadcopters, supplied by Israeli company Airobotics, will operate from base stations during the Expo 2020 event starting in October this year, an exhibition said to be the third largest event in the world after the Olympics and the World Cup. The drones will reduce police response time from 4.4 minutes to 1 minute according to a tweet from Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

Each base has a sliding roof that allows the drones to enter and exit. The drones can fly pre-programmed patrols, or be dispatched to a specific location, allowing an operator at police headquarters to inspect the scene, or follow a suspicious individual or vehicle and pass data to other police units.

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Nebo Recharge Infrastructure Will Use Drones to Keep Your EVs Rolling Forever

By Cristian Curmei

The future of EVs looks more and more promising. With technology advancing at an alarming rate, it won’t be long until everyone has an EV. However, all this raises on very important question; where is everyone going to charge their vehicles?

This question, ladies and gentlemen, is a very valid one that an array of manufacturers are working on solving. In the meantime, a group of designers from South Korea have gotten together and have created an idea so out there, that it just might work. 

The drone you see here is known as Nebo. However, it’s not just a drone, it’s an entire EV charging network. The way it works is something like refueling an airplane while in flight. These drones are simple fuel (electric charge) carriers that come in and recharge you EV while you’re on the go. No joke. 

Even though this system isn’t one you can utilize today, as it’s still just a project with a paper model and a few renderings, it’s so ingenious and so in line with how things seem to be moving in the EV world, that this or a similar system will most likely exist, at some point.

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Researchers have taught a drone to recognize and hunt down meteorites autonomously

by Nancy Atkinson

Example image of two meteorites deployed during a field test near Walker Lake, Nevada. The meteorites are marked with orange flags. Note the dark shadow of the quadrictoper drone. Credit: Robert Citron et al.

Planetary scientists estimate that each year, about 500 meteorites survive the fiery trip through Earth’s atmosphere and fall to our planet’s surface. Most are quite small, and less than 2% of them are ever recovered. While the majority of rocks from space may not be recoverable due to ending up in oceans or remote, inaccessible areas, other meteorite falls are just not witnessed or known about.

But new technology has upped the number known falls in recent years. Doppler radar has detected meteorite falls, as well as all-sky camera networks specifically on the lookout for meteors. Additionally, increased use of dashcams and security cameras have allowed for more serendipitous sightings and data on fireballs and potential meteorite falls.

A team of researchers is now taking advantage of additional technology advances by testing out drones and machine learning for automated searches for small meteorites. The drones are programmed to fly a grid search pattern in a projected “strewn field” for a recent meteorite fall, taking systematic pictures of the ground over a large survey area. Artificial intelligence is then used to search through the pictures to identify potential meteorites. 

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Manufacturing drone wings with locust wing capabilities

by Bob Yirka

3D printed locust-inspired forewing preparation process from left to right: actual locust forewing, finalized 50 μm PVC reinforced forewing prototype (CF-PETG-1), venation pattern mould, 3D printed forewing exoskeleton, and the measured average profile thickness. Credit: Royal Society Open Science

A team of researchers from the University of Lincoln in the U.S. and Huazhong University of Science and Technology and Guangzhou University, both in China, has developed a way to manufacture drone wings with locust wing properties, allowing drones to glide for long distances. In their paper published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, the group describes how they developed their technique and how well it worked when tested.

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You Must Pass the FAA’s TRUST Test to Legally Fly a Drone in the U.S.

By JARON SCHNEIDER

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has released its TRUST test, a free online training program to certify that pilots understand the rules of drone flight. It is required in order to fly a drone, even recreationally. 

The Recreational UAS Safety Test, otherwise known as TRUST, applies to all pilots. Even those who just operate a drone “for fun or personal enjoyment” must take this test in order to legally fly in the United States. If a drone weighs more than 0.55 pounds, pilots must additionally register it through the FAA’s Drone Zone.

The test is designed to provide education and testing for recreational flyers on important safety and regulatory information. The FAA says that even pilots who fly drones recreationally under the Exception for Recreational Flyers — which includes drone flights for educational purposes — must pass the test before they can legally fly.

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