Tag Archives: Aerial

Amazon pushing the drone ticket with Clarksons help – Publicity stunt?

Jeremy Clarkson unveils new Amazon delivery drone

Amazon delivery droneImage copyrightAmazon Prime Air

Amazon’s drone delivery project Prime Air has unveiled a new prototype in a video featuring former Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson.

According to the video, the drone could fly for up to 15 miles (24km) and deliver a parcel within 30 minutes of the order being placed.

There was no indication of when it might be used by the retail giant.

The firm was given permission to test delivery drones in the US earlier this year.

It also has drone delivery development centres in the UK and Israel.

The prototype will be part of a “family” of delivery aircraft, Mr Clarkson added in the clip, and is one of around a dozen devices the firm is developing.

The drone is equipped with “sense and avoid technology” and can fly at a height of 400 feet.


Tech lawyer Luke Scanlon from Pinsent Masons law firm said security could be an issue if this technology is software-based.

“‘Detect and avoid’ systems rely on software and given the current climate of hacking and data breaches, it is very important that co-ordinated efforts are made to ensure that systems are put in place which are given the highest level of assurance in terms of security,” he said.

“Once these standards are agreed by technical experts, arguments to support the creation of commercial drone services beyond the line of sight will gain more support in the ongoing regulatory reform discussions and forums currently taking place.”

Amazon said it would not launch the service until it was able to “demonstrate safe operations”.

The US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has strict criteria for commercial drone use and some American politicians have called for the setting up of a drone register.

The FAA estimates that by 2020 there will be around 30,000 commercial drones and many more civilian devices in use in America.

More on this from the BBC:

Drone monitoring rubbish.

COP21: Drone to monitor rubbish dump gases

An experimental drone fitted with sensors is being deployed to monitor gases rising from rubbish dumps.

The unmanned aircraft is being flown above Britain’s 200 landfill sites to study a major source of UK emissions.

The latest estimate is that unwanted food produces 21 million tonnes of greenhouse gas in the UK every year.

Although the number of landfill sites is being reduced, the emissions from decomposing matter are set to last for decades.

The drone project is being run by the University of Manchester and the Environment Agency (EA).

According to Doug Wilson, the EA’s Director of Scientific & Evidence Services, the research is driven by the need to find an easy way to monitor a long-term problem.

“It’ll allow us to get a better understanding of the emissions from a particular site.

“There are 830,000 tonnes of methane from the waste sector and methane is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide,”

“The more we can understand how to reduce those emissions, the more useful and positive it will be.”

One of the venues for the first test flights is a landfill site at Pilsworth near Manchester which has been closed and is now awaiting restoration by its operators Viridor.

Some of the methane emitted from the site is collected and then piped to a small power station nearby – but an unknown amount rises into the atmosphere.

Image captionThe drones should enable a better understanding of the emissions from a particular site

I watched as the drone’s gas monitoring sensor was checked before the aircraft was launched by catapult for a 20-minute flight around the boundaries of the site.

Dr Peter Hollingworth of the University of Manchester said that the concept had been proved with data successfully gathered about carbon dioxide emissions and calculations made to understand the methane levels too.

“Ideally what we’re getting to is an autonomous flight – and you’d come out to a site with a smaller aircraft than this one, or with two or three of them, and fly them at different points on the site and measure the incoming flow and the outgoing flow.

“A team could then – in a day or so – quantify exactly what that site is emitting.”

This project comes amid a growing awareness of the financial and carbon cost of food waste – with a major campaign led by the chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Liz Goodwin of the recycling charity WRAP says that the emissions from old food mean there is a tangible connection between everyday life for a typical household and the negotiations on curbing greenhouse gases at the UN summit in Paris starting next week.

“I find it very shocking,” she told me.

“Not only is it costing the average family with children £60 a month but the 4.2 million tonnes of food that could have been eaten, a lot of it ends up in landfill where it basically just rots and gives off greenhouse gas emissions.”

One statistic produced by WRAP’s researchers is that the equivalent of 86 million chickens is thrown away in the UK every year – either as whole birds or parts of poultry.

WRAP estimates that the waste chicken alone contributes about 690,000 of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases a year – assuming the carbon costs of the raising, feeding and transporting the birds are included, as well as the release of gases if they are dumped in landfill.

That total is roughly the same as the emissions from 290,000 cars per year.

To understand more about food’s role in emissions, we asked researchers to examine what happens during the decomposition of a fresh chicken.

At the Biomolecular Sciences Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University, Dr Jillian Newton kept a chicken under heat lamps for the course of a week.

Our timelapse camera captured the sight of the bird darkening and then going through a period of rapid swelling as gases formed and expanded inside the chicken.

Dr Newton calculated that the 1.2kg chicken produced 31.2 litres of biogas – which would contain 79.8g of methane and carbon dioxide.

“When food is thrown away and discarded it goes through different states of decomposition,” she said.

“Every piece of organic food that we throw away will essentially produce methane – some pieces of food may take longer, some may produce gas more quickly.

“And, depending on where it’s been thrown, if it’s somewhere where a lot of bacteria can get to it, it’ll produce methane quicker.”

To help reduce emissions – and to turn waste into a useful resource – a growing proportion is diverted from landfill into projects that generate electricity.

The waste firm Viridor runs two different types of plant that use waste to power turbines – anaerobic digesters that trap methane and incinerators that use waste as a source of fuel.

Dan Cooke of Virodor said: “Any food waste – whether it’s leftover food or food that’s gone off – it’s important that people put that in the right bin.

“We can take that material and squeeze the energy out of it so that people, by recycling their food waste, are actually helping keep the lights on.”

Many landfill sites are due to close but, even when they do, they will leave a legacy: gases will continue to seep out of them for decades to come.

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Drone giant DJI launches crop-spraying drone

Drone giant DJI launches crop-spraying drone

DJI crop spraying droneImage copyrightDJI

Billion-dollar drone company DJI is expanding from consumer and camera drones into the agriculture industry.

The Chinese firm’s latest model is a crop-spraying drone, which it claims is “40 times more efficient” than manual spraying, despite having just 12 minutes of flight time.

It will be released in China and Korea where hand-spraying is more common.

DJI made $500m (£332m) in drone sales in 2014 and some analysts predict the firm will hit $1bn in sales this year.

The Agras MG-1 has eight rotors and can carry up to 10kg of crop-spraying fluids per flight.

The foldable device is also dustproof, water-resistant and made of anti-corrosive materials, the firm says on its website (in Chinese).

Farmers around the world have used drones for some time but generally for monitoring their crops and livestock.

Huge farms use aircraft for crop-dusting but they can be very expensive.

“With this new product, we’ve shown that DJI can not only offer the ultimate aerial experience for the mass consumer, but also improve the efficiency of production and benefit so many others in all walks of life,” said DJI chief executive and founder Frank Wang.

The Wall Street Journal reports it is expected to be priced at around $15,000 (£10,000).

DJI’s current best seller, the Phantom 2 Vision+ camera drone, costs around $1100.


Spacial awareness

During attending my training program, and as I dug deeper into the nuances of UAV flight, I kept hearing the phrase beware of your spacial awareness as this is the key to successful flight operations.

Losing spacial awareness almost inevitably leads to loss of control and a premature end of the flight. There are lots of reasons for this, but the main one, the one that can cost you dearly, is a difficult one to master.

Most current systems require the use of three things. The UAV itself, the remote control and the tablet/smartphone. The key is to keep your wits about you and do not panic. Know and understand your emergency procedures, and if in doubt, generally letting go of everything will lead to assertion of control.

When concentrating on the tablet, you will easily be sucked into observing the screen and will be totally unaware of your surroundings. When concentrating on the UAV you will lose sight of your mission and may lose directional awareness. When merely monitoring what your hand is doing to control the UAV you may lose sight of the situation.

Try to keep a balance between screen, UAV observation and flight control. This will keep you aware of your surroundings, able to orientate the aircraft through the screen and be able to manoeuvre effectively under all circumstances.

Be aware that all you need to do is place the craft in GPS mode and let go of the controls and it will hover. It may not be where you want it to be, but you can regain control without panicking.

Here is what happens when you lose spacial awareness and concentrate on the screen rather than balancing your efforts.




DJI Phantom FC40 Review

Manufacturer: DJI
Product: Phantom FC40

Okay, so this is an old product. But, it is a great way to start learning to fly a UAV. It is simple, you can pick them up second hand for a reasonable amount of hard earned cash, and you really will not have to worry about it.

I bought mine of Ebay at the beginning of the year. It came with a case, a few batteries, charger, remote control, quadcopter itself and a few spare rotors and tool kit and a hard case.

The first thing you notice about the Phantom FC40 is how light it is. Even with a GoPro mounted on it and a battery inserted it comes in at just under 1200 grams.

Although the FC40 comes with it’s own camera, I decided to mount a GoPro Heroe3 on it as this is of a higher and more versatile capabilty than that of the FC40’s.


Starting up for take off is quite a simple procedure. Turn on the remote control, insert the battery into the Phantom, connect it’s plugs and shut the battery cover.

Now just wait for the rear light to start flashing steady green. Prior to any flying and as this was the first time I flew this machine, quickly flick the GPS/ATTI switch (S1) up and down six or so times, then you should be able to calibrate the compass by turning the Phantom 360 degrees clockwise and then holding it vertically and turning it another 360 degrees clockwise. This basically sets the compass to your location.

There is a large clip you can attach to the remote control to hold your smartphone so you can control the GoPro.

With the compass set, it’s really time to fly. Ensuring the S1 switch is in GPS mode slowly pull the left and right sticks down to opposite bottom corners and the rotors kick into life. Release the sticks to their central location. Then push the left hand stick up and the rotors start to go mad and up it goes.

That’s it really. Once the FC40 is up it’s really easy to control with GPS mode. Up, down, left, right – all on the left hand stick. Forward, backward and sideways all controlled with the right stick. If you panic, just let the stick go and hey presto, it hovers where it is.

Fly around, take some video and pictures, it really is that easy. For an introduction to flying these are really good machines to play with. You can be reasonably confident that should you experience a heavy landing, or a tree confrontation, your Phantom is going to survive as long as it has a softish landing!

Product overall view

Great kit for learning and playing around with. For an introduction to the world of UAVs it is definitely worth considering. Product details and specs are still available from DJI.