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Drones...MAN's new Best Friend on the Farm?

The bond between shepherds and their loyal sheepdogs is a rural image portrayed on television shows like the BBC's One Man His Dog.

But now the face of hill farming may soon change forever with the introduction of a battery-powered airborne robot to track and round up flocks.

The drone, developed by Frenchman Marc-Alexandre Favier, costs a few hundred pounds and could eventually be controlled by smartphone.

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Remote-control Drone Stuck in Statue atop Marion Courthouse
Jonathan Quilter | DISPATCH

Marion videographer Terry Cline flew a remote-controlled helicopter above the city. The device, which cost him about $1,500, became stuck in Lady Justice’s arm atop the county courthouse.

Terry Cline, a 57-year-old Marion native and videographer who owns Challenge Productions, said he has about $1,500 invested in what is commonly called a drone helicopter. Though it is remote-controlled, it’s sophisticated: It can fly as high as 900 feet and is GPS-equipped. With the camera, Cline can take still photographs and record or watch real-time video.

He said he was working on a promotional video about the city when the chopper got snagged by the wind: “It was like Lady Justice was a magnet and just sucked it in.”

He swears he didn’t crash it and thinks it’s ridiculous that authorities won’t help him get it down.

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Flight of the RoboBee: Tiny Hovering Robot Creates Buzz

The successful controlled flight of the tiny RoboBee – designed by a team at Harvard – represents a key step in the development of insect-size drones with a range of potential uses.

By Staff writer / May 2, 2013

Five individual robotic flies of identical design are shown alongside a US penny for scale, demonstrating that the manufacturing process facilitates repeatability and mass production.

It lifts off the table, hovers, and flies in different directions. At this point in its evolution, the bug is still tethered by thin wires that allow its designers to power and guide it. And landing remains an issue. The robot ends its sorties with all the grace of a mosquito nailed with a burst of Raid.

Still, the tiny craft's success – the team that designed it said it was the first such object to fly in a controlled manner – represents a key step in developing insect-size drones that designers say could one day search collapsed buildings for survivors after a disaster, sample an environment for hazardous chemicals before humans are sent in, or pinpoint enemy soldiers or terrorists holed up in urban areas.

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8 Totally Cool Uses for Drones

There's little doubt that UAV technology is here to stay, but their use isn't limited to cloak-and-dagger operations and military technology. Here are just a few ways the drone can be your friend:

Real estate sales

Daniel Gárate had a lucrative career as a UAV videographer, using his $5,000 drone to capture stirring images of high-end properties for the Los Angeles real-estate market — until the Los Angeles Police Department shut him down, declaring that commercial uses for drones were not allowed, the New York Times reports.

That's no longer the case, since a federal law signed in 2012 opened drone technology to commercial applications. Gárate, who also uses drones to take videos for commercials, has also been approached to take paparazzi-style photos of celebrities like Kim Kardashian, the Times reports.

Sports photography

Falkor Systems, a pioneer in the consumer use of UAV technology, has targeted extreme sports photography and video for drone use, focusing on skiing and base-jumping activities.

"The angles people get [while filming] are not quite as intimate as would be possible with an autonomous flying robot," said Sameer Parekh, Falkor CEO, who envisions a small UAV device that can accompany a downhill skier.

"You just take it out, let it take off and it follows you down the hill. You get back on the ski lift and put it back in your backpack," Parekh said.

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Tennessee uses a Drone to Film Practice

If Tennessee players begin to slack off during practice, Butch Jones is sure to catch it with the new technology he introduced during Wednesday’s practice.

A drone was flying high above Tennessee’s spring practice doing drone-like things (whatever those are). Jones told reporters following practice that the drone would be used to help with film study.

Still, it’s a little strange and probably pretty expensive.

The drone getting warmed up. [WATCH VIDEO]

The drone, which looks like a helicopter, has a camera somewhere to help capture angles the guys in the towers and press box apparently aren’t getting.

As far as we know, Tennessee is the first team to use drones during practice.

Wonder if this was a perk Jones worked into his initial contract? It looks like a pretty cool toy.

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Is a Quadcopter a Drone?

Drone?
Drones have been in the headlines a lot lately. A couple of recent examples include Rand Paul’s filibuster to get clarification on President Obama’s drone policy and the story of a civilian drone spotted by a pilot near JFK. The term drone is used pretty loosely. Anything from RC multicopters piloted by hobbyists to weapon carrying, military aircraft are often labeled as drones. Military drone weaponry is very different from the RC quadcopters I like to build and I hope drone legislation and regulations don’t put an end to this great hobby because of guilt by association.

I will explain why I think the term drone has become associated with civilian RC quadcopters and multicopters, give links to drone legislation and go over rules that RC pilots should follow to stay within legal and accepted boundaries.

Here is a list of hot-button features that are often implemented on RC quadcopters and multicopters and may cause them be referred to as drones and fall under legislative and regulatory scrutiny.

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Bouncy 60 Kilometres per hour Flying Sphere Drone

Advanced Defence Technology Centre Engineer Fumiyuki Sato displays his spherical observation drone.

Advanced Defence Technology Centre Engineer Fumiyuki Sato displays his spherical observation drone. Photo: AFP

A Japanese defence researcher has invented a spherical observation drone that can fly down narrow alleys, hover on the spot, take off vertically and bounce along the ground.

About the size of a beachball and jet black, the remote-controlled Spherical Air Vehicle resembles a tiny Death Star from the Star Wars movies but has a more benign purpose - to transmit live images from a video camera.

It is powered by a propeller protected by a spherical shield with large openings for airflow, meaning a knock into a wall or a tumble to the ground will not damage it.

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Meet MeCam, The $50 Surveillance Drone

Have you always wanted a tiny robot that hovers behind you, documenting your every move, but don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a lumbering UAV or a quadcopter so noisy it can’t join you inside fancy restaurants? Of course you have, because it’s pretty clearly the coolest part of living in a self-inflicted Orwellian police state. Well, your long wait is getting close to over with the announcement of MeCam, a tiny, digital camera-equipped quadcopter that will follow you around and upload pictures and videos of you to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and more in real time. Even better? The MeCam is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, and should retail for just $50 when it comes to market early next year, meaning you’ll never again have to worry about living an unexamined life.

With a planned launch date of early 2014, the MeCam is one ambitious little piece of equipment from tech company Always Innovating, which plans to license the tech to other companies rather than produce the copters itself. Equipped with a small digital camera, the copter won’t need a remote control, but will instead respond to voice commands. It can also be set in a simple ‘follow mode,’ to keep pace with — and tabs on — its owner. Like a puppy, if puppies hovered over your shoulder making an eerie buzzing noise and recording everything you do.

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BREAKING NEWS: FAA Grounds Local Aerial Photo Business

Danielson have been flying radio controlled aircraft since they little kids growing up in the same neighborhood.

As adults they formed a business, sharing a love of video production and photography.

Soon, they discovered their hobby could merge with their business, which took a huge leap when they began taking on aerial photographic work.

Business was booming, until a call came from the Minneapolis office of the Federal Aviation Administration. They were simply told to ground their commercial use of the aircraft. Turns out, current regulations don’t allow unmanned aircraft for commercial purposes.

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Raytheon Purchases Rights to KillerBee Unmanned Aircraft System

The KillerBee UAS features a blended-wing aircraft body design. It also has common systems for land or sea launch, recovery and ground control. The unique design of KillerBee enables growth for future payloads and additional mission capabilities.

KillerBee is ideal for force protection in an expeditionary environment, and represents a major upgrade to today's embedded airborne surveillance, reconnaissance and target acquisition capability.

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BREAKING NEWS: Swarms of Flybots 'Unobtrusive, pervasive, lethal - Micro Air Vehicles MAV UAV Micro Drones

The U.S. Air Force is developing tiny unmanned drones that will fly in swarms, hover like bees, crawl like spiders and even sneak up on unsuspecting targets and execute them with lethal precision.

The Air Vehicles Directorate, a research arm of the Air Force, has released a computer-animated video outlining the the future capabilities of Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs). The project promises to revolutionize war by down-sizing the combatants.

'MAVs will become a vital element in the ever-changing war-fighting environment and will help ensure success on the battlefield of the future,' the narrator intones.

'Unobtrusive, pervasive, lethal - Micro Air Vehicles, enhancing the capabilities of the future war fighter.'

VIDEO: The lethal micro-drones that can crawl, hover and perch

Watch Video

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Drones Flying Off Retailers' Shelves

REMOTE-CONTROLLED drones that can record video footage are being sold in large retail stores, alarming privacy experts who say they could be used to spy on people.

The drones sell for as little as $350, making them increasingly popular with the general public, and worrying those who believe the technology has the potential to be a peeping Tom in the sky.

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British Army unveils toy-sized 'Black Hornet' Drones.

British soldiers have been using the diminutive Black Hornet Nano mini-copter for surveillance in Afghanistan since 2012.

It's tiny, but it's not a toy.

British troops in Afghanistan have been testing out tiny unmanned aerial vehicles -- a.k.a. drones -- that are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. At four inches long and 16 grams, the Norweigian-made "Black Hornet Nanos" look just like the tiny play-helicopters you might see at the toy store, but they carry tiny cameras that capture both still images and video.

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How did Drone Aircraft EVOLVE into Civilian Use?

What Started the Drone Revolution Among Civilian UAV Pilots?

From our research it seemed that the RC UAV Drone evolved from a kids toy to becoming a HUGE HIT for Civilian use once some one figured out they could hook-up a HD Video Camera to them. Once people began to figure out they could make very cool aerial videos from a flying platform that did not cost a Million Dollars UAV Drone Aircraft went VIRAL.

Now aerial photography has become much more affordable to anyone owning a UAV Drone Aircraft.

The first video we remember seeing on the Internet that we believe started the current demand for Aerial Drone Aircraft was filming High-End Real Estate. A photographer bought parts from many sources, and built his DIY Drone that began the Video Drone Revolution. We believe you will agree, the included videos are quite amazing!

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Civilian drones to fill the skies after law shake-up

Law changes mean uncrewed aerial vehicles aren't just for the military any more – civilian uses are taking off, too

Editorial: "High time to welcome the friendly drones"

UVS members are investigating how drones could become vital tools in many fields, from helping police track stolen cars to assisting emergency services in crisis situations such as fires, floods and earthquakes, to more prosaic tasks like advertising or dispensing fertiliser from the air.

This is already happening in some out-of-the way places, where air traffic problems are unlikely. In Brazil, for instance, small helicopter UAVs carrying 12-megapixel cameras are surveying soybean and sugar cane.

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There's a buzz about using UAVs

There’s a buzz about using unmanned aircraft for inspection work. Inspecting elevated structures, live flare stacks in the oil industry, chimney stacks, cooling towers. The electricity pylon structure is very degraded so we can inspect electricity pylons.Other areas for the fixed wing UAVs include mapping and surveys, mines and quarries, environmental surveys and near infra-red camera use. That’s where we can film and map crop areas and trees, look for disease and areas where crop growth is insufficient.

Watch Video Interview

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Forget the Helicopter: New Drone Cuts Cost of Aerial Video

The average episode of Top Gear runs around $1 million to produce. But those high-style, high-flying – and incredibly expensive – aerial shots just got slightly more affordable with the introduction of a new quadrocopter specifically developed for shooting automotive action.

Christopher Kippenberger and his Berlin, Germany-based production company, Kippenberger Racing, have been hard at work over the last few months putting the finishing touches on a customized drone capable of shooting high-resolution video. And unlike a helicopter rental, which can easily run tens of thousands of dollars after insurance, fuel, pilot costs and airspace approval, Kippenberger’s quadrocopter will only set you back around $5,000 after the two-man operation builds you a made-to-order drone.

“We wanted to make it as small [and light] as possible,” Kippenberger told Wired. “The price point has to be very attractive without the ridiculous markup [of other] UAVs on sale.”

While the quadrocopter does include GPS and routing software, the primary controls are handled by two operators: one manning flight direction and another controlling the camera angles.

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‘Citizen Drone Warfare’: Hobbyist explores a frightening Scenario

Less than a month ago, rumors that celebrity news and gossip website TMZ was interested in obtaining a paparazzi drone prompted privacy concerns and public debate about the appropriate personal and commercial uses of unmanned aerial vehicles.

Now, a new online video poses a more troubling question: What if civilian drones are equipped to shoot more than just pictures?

Titled “Citizen Drone Warfare” and posted to YouTube last week by an anonymous man calling himself “Milo Danger,” the video shows a hobbyist drone equipped with a custom-mounted paintball pistol flying over a grassy field and peppering human-shaped shooting-range targets with pellets.

Following an attack pass by the drone, one of the targets sports three large red blotches on its head and neck area.

“I wanted to show an inevitability of what I think will happen with these drones,” said “Milo,” who lives on the West Coast and spoke to The Washington Times on condition of anonymity. “I’m not advocating bad activities. But I wanted to raise some of the ethical issues we need to think about with this new technology.

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The Future of UAV Drones - TYLER’S 10 THOUGHTS ON THE FUTURE OF DRONES

Drones will grow up to become droids- That’s right, autonomy is not only on the way, in many ways it exists today. Over the last decade or two, drones have been like infant children, requiring hand holding and constant human interaction to operate and survive. In the near future drones will be treated like adolescent children, allowed only to walk to the corner store and back alone, checking in at least one time with their parents nervously waiting at home. As drones grow up and continue to evolve their ability to think for themselves will increase and our comfort level and trust in them will grow as well.

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Drones that cost between $1,000 and $40,000 are being used in adventure photography.

ISLAMABAD - The use of drones in Pakistan normally brings to mind images of U.S. spy planes attacking tribal areas. But drones now are being used to capture a different kind of picture in the country - showing some of the world's highest mountains being scaled by world-class climbers through some of Earth's thinnest air.

Drones, or remote-controlled aircraft, have long been the domain of the American military and are used extensively in Pakistan's tribal areas near the Afghanistan border to spy on and target militants. Recently, however, civilians have increasingly turned to drones to shoot ground-breaking footage of adventure sports.

This summer a Swiss expedition used remote-controlled helicopters to shoot rare footage of climbers on the Karakoram, one of the world's most demanding and formidable mountain ranges.

"People are going to see footage from the Karakoram that no human being has ever seen," said Corey Rich, a photographer and videographer from Lake Tahoe, California, who was on the expedition.

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Push to step up domestic use of drones

Are unmanned aircraft, known to have difficulty avoiding collisions, safe to use in America's crowded airspace? And would their widespread use for surveillance result in unconstitutional invasions of privacy?

Experts say neither question has been answered satisfactorily. Yet the federal government is rushing to open America's skies to tens of thousands of the drones - pushed to do so by a law championed by manufacturers of the unmanned aircraft.

The drone makers have sought congressional help to speed their entry into a domestic market valued in the billions. The 60-member House of Representatives' "drone caucus" - officially, the House Unmanned Systems Caucus - has helped push that agenda. And over the past four years, caucus members have drawn nearly $8 million in drone-related campaign contributions, an investigation by Hearst Newspapers and the Center for Responsive Politics shows.

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A county sheriff’s office in Texas used a homeland security grant to buy a $300,000, 50-pound ShadowHawk helicopter drone for its SWAT team.

A county sheriff’s office in Texas used a homeland security grant to buy a $300,000, 50-pound ShadowHawk helicopter drone for its SWAT team. Randy McDaniel, chief deputy with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, said earlier this year his office had no plans to arm the drone, but he left open the possibility the agency might decide to adapt it to fire tear gas canisters and rubber bullets.

McDuffee, who works for Insitu, a Boeing Co. subsidiary that designs and builds drones in Port Orange, Fla., called the wide range of drone aircraft “the next latest and greatest thing in aviation,” noting that there’s interest from law enforcement, first responders, scientists and private industry, such as farmers who want to monitor or spray crops. The permits are issued by the Federal Aviation Administration, which is working on new rules that will greatly expand legal uses.

The drone market is expected to nearly double over the next 10 years, from current worldwide expenditures of nearly $6 billion annually to more than $11 billion, with police departments accounting for a significant part of that growth.

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Drones for Journalists

Here comes the fly-by media. Preliminary use of diminutive drones is under way among those who see the potential of drones in news gathering, not to mention invasive “gotcha”-style journalism. Deadline Detroit — “a homegrown media revolution” manned by former veteran journalists — has already used footage made by “Tretch5000,” an anonymous hobbyist who used a camera-mounted drone to peek inside abandoned housing and old civic buildings, producing a telling video vignette.

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Drones Take to American Skies on Police, Search Missions

For about the cost of a squad car, a deputy sheriff in Mesa County, Colorado, can track criminal suspects, picture an arson scene or search for lost hikers, all with the ease of tossing a toy glider into the air.

The sprawling county on the Utah line uses two remote- controlled drone aircraft, similar to those deployed against Afghanistan’s Taliban, to cover 3,300 square miles (8,600 square kilometers) of mountainous terrain. Remotely operated technology honed in the war on terror is letting Mesa County and state and local governments across the U.S. work faster and cheaper.

“We save a significant amount of time,” said Ben Miller, 34, who oversees the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office’s two drones from Grand Junction. “It provides a huge resource savings.”

About 20 state and local governments and 24 universities around the nation are authorized to fly remotely piloted drones, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Those figures are expected to rise in coming years as the agency develops rules and standards to safely integrate them into airspace shared with planes, according to industry and FAA officials.

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Teaching tiny drones how to fly themselves

If you’re reading this article, chances are you’ve seen a few of these videos: flying robots flitting through windows, swarms of hovering machines moving in choreographed precision, miniature helicopters playing catch and assembling buildings or dancing. What distinguish these small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from their hulking military cousins isn’t just their agility, but their intelligence. These little machines are autonomous. Whether building walls or performing acrobatics, they perform their tasks without a human pilot sitting at the other end of a radio link.

Over the past decade, there’s been an explosion in the capabilities of these UAVs. Smaller, more power-efficient hardware for laptops and mobile computing have also brought about a revolution in aerial robotics. Ten years ago, research in automated flight needed big, fixed-wing RC aircraft that cost tens of thousands of dollars and could only be flown from airports. Now, it’s possible to fit the same abilities into a tiny helicopter that fits in the palm of a hand.

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Here’s the ‘Robokopter’ Drone That Allowed Civilians to Film the Poland Riots

Earlier this month, police and rioters clashed on Poland’s Independence Day, resulting in more than 200 arrests. A spokesperson for the prosecutors, Monika Lewandowska, said it was the worst street violence Poland has seen in years, according to the Warsaw Business Journal.

During the riots, bird’s eye view footage was taken from a drone helicopters sent up by civilians, presumably to spy on police. “Robokpoter,” as it’s called, has applications for authorities as well as scientists and civilians, according to the manufacturer’s website. This unmanned aerial vehicle has capability to not only film or take pictures but it also has “far reach” modem capability to allow it to transmit all information in near real time.

Here’s some of the original footage that was taken of the riots from the Robokopter:

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How I Accidentally Kickstarted the Domestic Drone Boom

By Chris Anderson

At last year’s Paris Air Show, some of the hottest aircraft were the autonomous unmanned helicopters—a few of them small enough to carry in one hand—that would allow military buyers to put a camera in the sky anywhere, anytime. Manufactured by major defense contractors, and ranging in design from a single-bladed camcopter to four-bladed multicopters, these drones were being sold as the future of warfare at prices in the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In May, at a different trade show, similar aircraft were once again the most buzzed-about items on display. But this wasn’t another exhibition of military hardware; instead, it was the Hobby Expo China in Beijing, where Chinese manufacturers demo their newest and coolest toys. Companies like Shenzhen-based DJI Innovations are selling drones with the same capability as the military ones, sometimes for less than $1,000. These Chinese firms, in turn, are competing with even cheaper drones created by amateurs around the world, who share their designs for free in communities online. It’s safe to say that drones are the first technology in history where the toy industry and hobbyists are beating the military-industrial complex at its own game.

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Not just for military use, drones turn civilian.

They are now a familiar presence in war zones, but if manufacturers
have their way, skies over civilians heads will soon be busy with unmanned
vehicles.

Drones are currently a growth industry in the aviation sector,
with scores of new companies competing for a slice of the market.

And if they can clear hurdles that currently limit their deployment
in friendly air space, pilotless planes of all shapes will be taking to the
air on missions to watch over us.

Some of the aircraft -- from devices barely bigger than a paper
plane to formidable missile-sized systems operated by five-man ground crews
-- were on display this week at the UK's Farnborough Airshow.

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Private Drone Aircraft: Your Eyes in the Sky

Flying robot drones are no longer just for the military. Although the common image of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) is a missile-armed Predator drone over a distant battleground, it is already possible to buy and fly your very own personal robot spy plane, and imminent changes to flight regulations in the US and Europe have created a boom in commercial UAV development.

UAVs like the US military’s Predator drone have transformed modern warfare. Designed originally to provide military commanders with an eye-in-the-sky over the battlefield, they have developed into sophisticated missile-bearing robots that have seen action in many recent conflicts, from Afghanistan and Iraq to Libya and Yemen. Now a new generation of UAVs are being pressed into service in a variety of civilian roles, including police surveillance, environmental monitoring, scientific research, and aerial photography.

Industry watchers report a sharp rise in interest in commercial UAV over the past 18 months. In the United States alone, up to 50 companies are now developing around 150 different UAV systems, ranging from lightweight hobbyist “multicopters” that can provide views of the local neighborhood, to heavy-duty fixed-wing drones intended for government and industrial applications.[1]

In the US, where commercial UAV use has been restricted by Federal Aviation Authority rules, more than 60 government agencies, police forces and university research groups have already received a FAA dispensations to operate UAVs, including the US Forest Service and the border protection agency of the Department of Homeland Security.

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Texas Researchers Hijack Drone, Expose Crucial Homeland Security Threat

Computer hardware and software companies have been asking hackers to break into their systems for years now. After all, the best way to find cracks in your system is to have an unaffiliated party point them out for you. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has adopted this tactic, asking a team of researchers at the University of Texas at Austin to hijack one of their infamous drones.

The team, led by professor Todd Humphreys, was offered $1,000 if they could successfully hack into a drone flying overhead and hijack it to fly off its course. With less than $1,000 worth of parts, Humphreys and his team from the UT Radionavigation Laboratory were able to “spoof” the GPS on the Drone and take it off its course, sending it hurtling towards the ground, pulling up just before collision, thus shining a glaring light on a potential security flaw in the drone’s technology. If a gaggle of researchers with a few hundred dollars can do it, then specially trained hackers with their government’s cash can certainly do the same, if not worse.

Spoofing a GPS system essentially tricks it into thinking the commands it is receiving are legitimate, rather than malicious. Once Humphrey’s convinced the GPS his commands weren’t amiss, he was able to control it to do whatever he wanted.

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MIT researchers program autonomous airplane to navigate in tight spaces without GPS

Most unmanned drones designed for precision flying are helicopter-like, from hexacopters created for aerial filming, to the University of Pennsylvania's adorable synchronized quadrocopters. Now, researchers at MIT have created an algorithm to pilot an autonomous airplane without using GPS, a much bigger challenge because of the limitations that come with fixed-wing aircraft: no hovering, no sideways movement, and the need to maintain enough speed to keep it in the air. The MIT team designed a plane with short and broad wings specifically for the challenge, which allow it to fly relatively slowly, make fairly precise turns, and support the weight of the necessary electronics.

The plane uses a combination of two algorithms to determine its location, orientation, velocity, and acceleration, which requires the craft to calculate 15 different values. Because this is such a massive computational challenge, researchers gave their plane the benefit of an accurate digital map of its environment, but the project's next step is developing an algorithm to build such a map while in flight. The fact that the drone operates without the help of GPS is also significant, and such advances could eventually be applied to prevent the capture of drones via GPS-spoofing. While still a very new area of research, MIT's early successes and yet-to-be-overcome obstacles are paving the way for the future of autonomous plane navigation and GPS-free drone navigation.

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Making Money With Drone-Based Businesses

The emerging story of entrepreneurs using drones to provide marketable services is fascinating to me. Small businesses have been making money by making drones themselves for quite awhile, now, but I’m just now starting to see start-ups using drones to sell services.

Aerial photography is maybe the most obvious opportunity—surveying real estate, covering sporting or other events, stalking celebrities, assessing damage after fires or other catastrophes—but there are also all kinds of potentially lucrative (and annoying) advertising and/or promotional possibilities. And that’s just scratching the surface of the possibilities of airborne drone-based services, never mind those of land-, water-, and underwater-going
varieties.

An interesting case in point is Australian Simon Jardine, whose bouncing baby drone business is called Eye in the Sky. Australia is prime country for private aerial imaging services, with its relatively low population density, ongoing development, and vast, open spaces. Jardine’s photography was recently featured in a (surprisingly upbeat) Atlantic article about drones and privacy issues, and he’s got a Flickr stream full of great drone photography.

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Drone journalism set for takeoff – once they're permitted to use our airspace

Drones already attract press attention, but soon journalists could be using them in their own work, says Duncan Jefferies

It was a film that inspired Professor Matt Waite to set up the Drone Journalism Lab. It begins with a man walking across a field, carrying a large metal briefcase. He stops, opens it, revealing what looks like a model aircraft. Using a tablet computer, he selects part of the surrounding area on a digital map, then transfers the flight plan to the model aircraft and launches it into the sky. It flies on autopilot, taking thousands of pictures before landing in a pre-programmed zone. The man removes a memory stick from the device and uploads the data for processing. A few hours later, he's viewing a high-definition terrain map compiled from the photos.

This isn't a science fiction movie. It's the product demo for the Gatewing X100, one of a number of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that anyone can buy today. These machines, commonly known as drones, are already used by the military, the police and the agricultural industry for a variety of purposes – some bloody, some benign and some seemingly designed to provoke people into quoting from George Orwell's 1984.

But when Waite, an award-winning investigative reporter, stumbled across the X100 during a visit to a major geographical technology event, he was immediately struck by how it could be used for journalism.

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Drone-maker Parrot invests $7.5 million in two EPFL spin-offs, sets sights beyond toys

Jul 26th 2012

Switzerland's EPFL has managed to catch our attention with its various UAV-related activities, and it looks like it's also been the radar of Parrot, maker of the AR.Drones. EPFL announced today that the French company is investing 7.4 million Swiss Francs (or about $7.5 million) in two companies that have been spun out of the institution: senseFly and Pix4D. As you may recall, those two have collaborated in the past, with senseFly providing the camera-equipped UAVs necessary for Pix4D's 3D mapping software.

Broken down, the investment works out to 2.4 million Francs put into Pix4D and five million invested in senseFly, the latter of which is enough for Parrot to claim a majority stake company. As for the future, senseFly's CEO says that the deal will give Parrot "access to the expertise and the technology for specialized drones," while Pix4D's CEO says that the investment "reinforces our position as a leader in software for professional drones" and opens up new business opportunities. It also makes it clear, if it wasn't already, that Parrot is getting pretty serious about drones. You can find the official announcement after the break, along with a video from EPFL explaining the deal.

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GPS Spoofer Hacks Civilian Drone Navigation System

University of Texas researchers built a $1,000 system able to forcibly reroute or crash a civilian drone.

Civilian drones' navigation systems are vulnerable to being taken over by attackers, using "spoofing" equipment that can be built for as little as $1,000. That fact was demonstrated this month in White Sands, N.M., by a team from the University of Texas at Austin, which was able to redirect a hovering unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)--otherwise known as a drone--located one kilometer (0.6 miles) away by feeding it arbitrary global positioning system (GPS) data. Officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) were on hand to witness the demonstration, involving a mini helicopter drone owned by the university, reported Fox News, which broke the story.

GPS spoofing "creates false civil GPS signals that trick the vehicle's GPS receiver into thinking nothing is amiss--even as it steers a new navigational course induced by the outside hacker," according to a statement released by the university. Furthermore, civilian drones' navigation systems aren't necessarily the only civilian GPS-using systems at risk. "Because spoofing fools GPS receivers' on both their location and time, some fear that most GPS-reliant devices, infrastructure, and markets are vulnerable to attacks," according to the university.

"I think this demonstration should certainly raise some eyebrows and serve as a wake-up call of sorts as to how safe our critical infrastructure is from spoofing attacks," said Milton R. Clary. Clary is a senior Department of Defense aviation policy analyst at Overlook Systems Technologies, which is working with the government on counter-spoofing technologies--in a statement.

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Former WWII Airfield in Wales Transformed Into Drone Testing Ground

11/06/2012

Lost among the rain and clouds of a remote part of Wales, the old WW2 airfield next to the Aberporth military range on Cardigan Bay could be about to become the closest thing Britain has to its own Area 51 for drones if entrepreneur Ray Mann has his way. Mann is a former Rolls-Royce apprentice, a pilot, and CEO of the Ross-on-Wye-based Mann Organization, a company that disassembles electronic goods and sells off reusable components.

With more than 1,000 square kilometers of restricted air space above it, and complaints from the locals of noise, crash landings and mysterious lights in the sky, the rather grandly named National Aeronautical Centre (NAC) is the only center for the testing and evaluation of both military and civilian unmanned aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in the UK. It is the base for testing the UK’s own £800m cigar-shaped autonomous Watchkeeper Unmanned Aerial System, whose first flight in the UK actually took place at the center in April 2010. There have even been talks about testing cutting-edge space technology there. The only thing missing are the signs reading “use of lethal force authorized.”

No wonder then that anti-drone protestors are drawn to the base. Groups like CND and the local Bro Emlyn — for Peace and Justice (BEPJ) are making Mann’s life difficult by amplifying local complaints about the noise at the base, lack of jobs and even that it is some kind of “white elephant” even though it is an area of high unemployment. The BEPJ’s website salaciously catalogues every setback Ray Mann has had in a real case of protest porn — apparently even that the Watchkeeper operators don’t like all the rain in Wales.

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San Diego's drone industry doubles in size

Oct 31, 2012

The size of San Diego County’s unmanned aerial vehicle industry doubled over the past five years and could double again as UAVs are increasingly used for everything from spying on suspected terrorists abroad to monitoring the U.S.-Mexico border, says a National University System report released Wednesday.

The industry, which is centered in North County, generated at least $1.3 billion locally in 2011 and directly and indirectly supported 7,135 jobs. The report says the true impact could be far higher due to classified programs that are not included in public records.

Most of the business can be tied to two defense giants — Northrop Grumman of Rancho Bernardo, which specializes in Global Hawk UAVs, and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems of Poway, which is best-known for Predators.

Both companies develop a variety of the so-called drones, primarily for use outside the U.S. by the military and government. The UAVs were extensively used in the Iraq war, and are being used in the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan. But the UAVs may soon also be used domestically by law enforcement and other agencies, a move that is opposed by many privacy advocates.

Analysts say the global market for such aircraft could exceed $12 billion by 2019.

“This is a dynamic, growing industry, and San Diego has a big opportunity to take advantage of the expected growth,” said Kelly Cunningham, an economist at National’s Institute for Policy Research and lead author of the report.

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What Not to Sell on eBay: Drones

Take detailed notes before your next auction. If you try to put a drone up for sale on eBay, you’d better include your legal expenses in the asking price.

Henson Chua of the Philippines is looking at 20 years in prison for starting an auction on parts for a RQ-11B Raven, which is a no-no under the Arms Control Export Act. As seller celltron8, Chua allegedly asked for $13,000 for the handheld, unarmed spy drone. Unfortunately for him, his bidder was an undercover investigator for the Department of Homeland Security.

According to an indictment issued for Chua and released on Monday, Chua put the Raven up for sale around May of last year. Now, you can’t sell military technology without a specific waiver from the State Department. And eBay took the sale off its site on May 18, since it violated internal policies against selling military items. Perhaps people initially thought it was a really expensive model airplane: the Raven, manufactured by AeroVironment, has a wingspan of under five feet and weighs barely four pounds.

But the legal hurdles associated with selling a drone apparently didn’t stop Chua from emailing his undercover purchaser that “shipping it out should not be a problem here.”

When the agent told Chua that wasn’t exactly legal, he allegedly emailed, “We got paper work for the items so i have no problem selling to you whether you’re a license broker or not.” [sic] Celltron8's attention to customer satisfaction is reflected in his feedback. “Good seller – easy to work with would deal with again, anytime,” vouched hobbyvintage in May 2009.

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Forget the Helicopter: New Drone Cuts Cost of Aerial Video

The average episode of Top Gear runs around $1 million to produce. But those high-style, high-flying – and incredibly expensive – aerial shots just got slightly more affordable with the introduction of a new quadrocopter specifically developed for shooting automotive action.

Christopher Kippenberger and his Berlin, Germany-based production company, Kippenberger Racing, have been hard at work over the last few months putting the finishing touches on a customized drone capable of shooting high-resolution video. And unlike a helicopter rental, which can easily run tens of thousands of dollars after insurance, fuel, pilot costs and airspace approval, Kippenberger’s quadrocopter will only set you back around $5,000 after the two-man operation builds you a made-to-order drone.

“We wanted to make it as small [and light] as possible,” Kippenberger told Wired. “The price point has to be very attractive without the ridiculous markup [of other] UAVs on sale.”

While the quadrocopter does include GPS and routing software, the primary controls are handled by two operators: one manning flight direction and another controlling the camera angles.

“Full-fledged GPS way-point navigation is technically possible,” Kippenberger says, “but it’s only for expert operators [and] available on request.” Additionally, if the controller signal is lost or disrupted, the copter automatically switches over to GPS to land safely.

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Welcome to The Drone Age

Inside the world’s biggest air shows in Singapore, Dubai and Paris, leading weapons manufacturers gather to sell their lethal wares in the global marketplace, and nothing is selling these days like drones.

The global proliferation of drones is right there on display in the cavernous showroom floors where American, Israeli and other manufacturers of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAVs, are marketing the combat capabilities and extraordinary surveillance that these systems provide.

There are hot markets in the Middle East and increasingly in Asia for these robotic weapons and surveillance systems, as GlobalPost correspondent Michael Goldfarb reports from the grandfather of all air shows at Farnborough, England.

And as the drones proliferate throughout the world, their presence is felt in hot conflicts such as Syria where GlobalPost’s Hugh Macleod reports the Syrian regime is using Iranian-made drones to strike at rebels, and in low-simmering conflicts like in the Caucuses, as GlobalPost’s Nick Clayton reports, where Armenia and Azerbaijan are squaring off against each other with drones in a glimpse of the future of warfare in the post-9/11 world and how it is playing out in an often overlooked location. Pir Shah writes on the rising use of drones on the front lines in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the impact they have on the ground in Waziristan where Shah is from and about which he writes with authority.

All of these field reports — by a total of 10 correspondents reporting from more than a dozen countries — document the proliferation of drones while raising disturbing questions about extrajudicial killing and the nature of human conflict itself.

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