Multirotor used to smuggle tobacco inside prison – Drone technology opens new routes for contraband

Staff member from the Calhoun State prison in Georgia spotted a suspicious “helicopter” flying over the prison.

Calhoun State prison
Calhoun State prison

Rather than an helicopter, it looks like something visitors of this site are very familiar with: a DJI F500 hexacopter with a NAZA flight board, controlled by a Spectrum DX radio:

DJI hexacopter used for contraband in an attempt top smuggle tobbacco inside a Georgia prison
DJI hexacopter used for contraband in an attempt top smuggle tobbacco inside a Georgia prison – source

This unusual visit prompted a search on the premises surroundings, and after an hour Deputies noticed a suspicious Dodge car with 4 people onboard, two males and two females, and the multirotor.

“Everybody had several cell phones with different contacts. People try different things but the helicopter was something new. It is a surprise I’ve never seen a helicopter. They were in the woods flying it they had binoculars evidently so they could watch it,” Hilton said.

Multirotor tobacco smugglers - source
Multirotor tobacco smugglers – source

Read the full story at

This had to happen sooner or later. Quadcopters and multirotors are an obvious easy way to bypass any kind of wall, perimeter, country border et-cetera, and maybe deliver illegal items such as drugs for example.

After all, with multirotor deliveries for books and pizza to start soon, the use of this technology for both law enforcement (12) and all sorts of illegal purposes is just a matter of time.

New version of the Volocopter from e-volo – The first Manned multirotor flight device

We have probably all seen the original volocopter video that totalized more than 8 million visits (!!) on youtube since it was uploaded on October 28, 2011.

Volocopter: 18-propeller electric helicopter takes flight

Volocopter from e-voloVolocopter from e-volo

Here’s the October 2011 video:

Since then, also thanks to a huge crowdfunding effort, e-volo now presents a prototype the first battery powered manned multirotor. The cockpit is reminiscent of helicopters but the flying mechanism is exquisitely multirotor based.

Here are a few pictures of the new volocopter, from the e-volo website.

The new manned volocopter from e-volo
The new manned volocopter from e-volo


e-volo volocopter
e-volo volocopter
It flies!
It flies!

And here are a few specs, from a KSL article:

  • Battery: 100Kg, 17.5 kilowatt-hour battery
  • Passengers: 2
  • Total weight: 300 Kg
  • Propellers: 18
  • External circular frame diameter: 10m
  • Price tag: 338.000$
  • Current flight time: 20-40 mins depending on load and wind conditions

See it in action in this video:

Edit 11/12/2013: for more details check out this updated article on EarthTechling

Lady Gaga Volantis: the first multirotor driven flying dress

On November 10 2013 Lady Gaga introduced the first multirotor based flying dress at her ArtPop album release in Brooklyn, NY.

Lady Gaga Volantis - source
Lady Gaga Volantis – source

The flying machine was piloted by Gus Calderon (source), a Carlsbad resident, certified pilot by FAA and owner or ISIS copter, a firm that “combines the expertise of naval engineers and FAA-certified commercial pilots to bring you the strongest, finest quality aerial platforms available on the market“.

I’d very much like to have one of those to go to work in the morning, any chance?

Which reminds us the notorious world’s first manned multicopter flight video by Thomas Senkel of e-volo. Here’s the Volocopter V1. The flight lasted 90 glorious, long seconds:


Blackout mini H quad for FPV: a small but powerful personal drone

Blackout's Mini H QuadBlackout’s Mini H Quad – source

Multirotors and quadcopters come in all sorts of sizes and shapes that will reflect their main purpose and usage. In order to lift heavy reflex cameras or cinematography equipment, tipycally huge multirotors (>650mm) are used, while for indoors flying fun, some quadcopters are reaching ridiculously small sizes these days:

The Proto-X-Nano quadcopter – source
Proto X nano quad - source
Proto X nano quad – source

Flying FPV, First Person View, can be performed from all sorts of aircrafts (or other RC  controlled moving devices). For quadcopters, unless you are very skilled in DIY related to video equipment (see the nice blog from FPVGuy), a decently sized frame (330-450 mm minimum) is usually required as the quad has to have a decent payload in order to carry with ease all the equipment required for FPV, such as video transmitter, wide angle camera, possibly onboard DVR to record video.

See for example a DJI F450 equipped with camera and transmitter for FPV:

DJI Flamewheel F450 NAZA V2 equipped for FPV with FoxTech Horizon HD camera and video transmitter TS832, 5.8 GHz, 600Mw
DJI Flamewheel F450 NAZA V2 equipped for FPV with FoxTech Horizon HD camera and video transmitter TS832, 5.8 GHz, 600Mw

A while ago a guy called “Blackout”, from Australia, started posting some amazing videos with very aggressive, sporty style FPV flights on his youtube channel, and reporting and writing about his newly designed frame called the Mini H Quad.

This is a very contained size frame (220 mm), very robust and yet extremely lightweight, designed to be able to carry full size FPV equipment usually mounted on larger multirotor frames.

Here are a few pictures from Blackout’s post on the openpilot forums

Blackout's Mini H Quad
Blackout’s Mini H Quad
Blackout's Mini H Quad with 2 cameras - detail
Blackout’s Mini H Quad with 2 onboard cameras – detail

In our quest toward the perfect personal drone we could not skip this one. The box arrived a few days ago and the quad is currently under assembly. I’ll be posting a build report soon.

Beyond the gear it is interesting to see Blackout’s approach to flight. He has a number of videos labeled “proximity” in which he explores very busy paths, such as trees dense in branches, and flies sometimes very close to ground level, with some breathtaking “spikes” in altitude at times. Many of his videos look like a style exercise, precisely executed. The small size of the quad also seems to allow to pass through narrow paths that would be otherwise unaccessible.

See for example this video:

or this one:

Find all blackout videos here

And get your own mini h quad here

Gizmag DJI Phantom vision review

Gizmaz has published a nice review of the new DJI Phantom vision quadcopter.

The new DJI Phantom Vision quadcoper
The new Phantom Vision quadcopter from DJI

With it’s on board wide angle, high resolution camera, and the 25 plus minutes of flight time, the Phantom 2 brings a wealth of new features to the lucky owners.

Here are the Phantom Vision camera specs:

Phantom vision camera specs - source
Phantom vision camera specs – source

Click on the image below to go to the DJI Innovations web site.


Let’s see the new features in detail in this Gizmag video:

If you plan to buy one of those you might also want to check out this video from the Roswell Flight Test Crew that covers unboxing and all you need to setup your new little personal drone:

And here’s a solid 28 minutes uncut flight (ok, from DJI) with the new phantom:

Raphael Pirker and the FAA commercial flying ban

We already reported the story about Team Black Sheep funder Raphael Pirker aka “Trappy” challenging the FAA 10.000$ fine in court.

Raphael Pirker AKA "trappy", funder of Team Black Sheep
Raphael Pirker AKA “Trappy”, funder of Team Black Sheep

There is now a beautiful detailed article from Scientific American that tells the story in great detail, including the evolution of FAA rules on model aircrafts first, and then “drones”, that ended up banning the use of these devices for commercial purposes without the express authorization of FAA.

Read the Scientific American article “Drone Pilot Challenges FAA on Commercial Flying Ban”

PARS: a rescue multirotor drone that will save lives

A multirotor was developed by the Teheran based RTS Labs  that is able to take off from a boat and drop flotation aids to people in distress in sea water.

From the site:

“Pars is an Aerial robot designed and made for saving human lives. The first purpose of building the robot is the relief of people drowning near coastlines. By developing its applications, it can be used in ships and off shore reliefs. It can also be used in other applications such as monitoring of marine and off shore structures, recording films and pictures from dangerous path ways for rescue missions, precise positioning. One of the features of this robot is Ability to save more than one life in a mission it can also track its path by GPS positioning and at the end of its mission it can come back home without the need of user guidance.”

Here are some pictures from the RTS Labs site:




The level of autonomy of the machine is probably still limited at the moment, from what can be understood from the web site. The inventors state:

“It’s noteworthy to mention that this robot is designed for the first time and can make a huge revolution in robot applications for saving human lives.”

And here is a video that illustrates the capabilities of PARS.

French trains company SNCF is starting to experiment with drones for safety and inspection purposes

An inspection of the railroad “viaduc ferroviaire de Roquemaure” located between Orange (Vaucluse) and Roquemaure (Gard), that hosts the high speed Paris-Marseille connection was carried out recently. Normally, these inspections take place at night and all train traffic has to be suspended for the duration of the operations.

This time however, the inspection was carried out in daytime, with a train passing about every 5 minutes. The secret of this special inspection is the usage of a quadcopter, deployed by diades.

Quadcopter used for SNCF inspection
Quadcopter used for SNCF inspection – image source

This SNCF inspector drone could in principle perform the following tasks:

– take photos and video of railroads and other SNCF infrastructures to detect points of failure and other weaknesses requiring maintainance

– sites and infrastructure surveillance to prevent thefts, such as for example of copper wires, which are quite common

diades drone – image source

The actual use of drones in such tasks, in particular the surveillance related ones, will not come before a few years (3-4) as it still requires research and development. SNCF is planning to invest in this direction, as drone technology, when fully operational, should lead to an increased efficiency and lower costs.

Le nouvau drone-inspecteur de la SNCF by 20Minutes

Sources: Le Figaro20

FAA takes steps to regulate and allow private drones in the US aerial space

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has taken initial steps to start a process to increase access to airspace in the next five to 10 years.

The new rules will have to regulate a wide range of devices, from small, privately owned multirotors to military predator drones

“Government and industry face significant challenges as unmanned aircraft move into the aviation mainstream,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a prepared statement.

The road map “is an important step forward that will help stakeholders understand the operational goals and safety issues we need to consider when planning for the future of our airspace.”

The FAA will now have, under the indications of US Congress, to identify early this year six sites where the safe integration of manned and unmanned aircrafts can be tested.

Source: CNN