In 2009 Burrard Lucas, an British wildlife photographer started the Beetle Cam project, aimed at getting close up photos and videos of african wildlife. How? A look at the equipment will get you the picture:
Using drones for surveillance is a somewhat controversial activity that entails several aspects, including legal ones, that have to be weighted and balanced for the best interest of all the parties involved.
In urban environments the use of drones could be an important tool for law enforcement, although such use requires some careful planning. This kind of use has to take into account, and balance with citizen’s right to privacy.
In other instances, multirotors were used by activists to monitor what they deem as illegal or disgraceful activities, for example on the treatment of animals on private land. Check out this story or this one, for example. Interestingly, both these stories deal with the protection of animals from mistreatment.
On the same line, but in an entirely different environment, a project have started, as a collaboration between Airware, a company that specializes in the construction of UAVs for a variety of applications, and Ol Pejeta Conservacy, a non-profit wildlife conservancy in Kenya supporting endangered species, tourism and community outreach.
How about extending multirotor deliveries to the full amazon catalogue (limited to small sized items)? Direct delivery from Amazon to your doorstep in under 30 minutes from the moment you place the order online with the new Amazon Prime Air service.
Here’s the Amazon YouTube video that totalized slightly less than 12 million visits since december 1 2013. In just 5 days this is an amazing page views score. This shows a huge interest from the public that will possibly support the development of the project.
Amazon is realistic and acknowledges that actual implementation of the project could well take a few years. This is a statement on the Amazon page:
“Putting Prime Air into commercial use will take some number of years as we advance the technology and wait for the necessary FAA rules and regulations.”
However right below, in the same page FAQ section, we read:
“Q: When will I be able to choose Prime Air as a delivery option? A: We hope the FAA’s rules will be in place as early as sometime in 2015. We will be ready at that time.”
Indeed, the development of such a multirotor based service will have to deal closely with FAA and it’s regulations. Current rules allow flying any RC model, with a number of restrains, but commercial services require an explicit permit from FAA to be carried out. This is the base for the well know story of Raphael Pirker and the FAA commercial flying ban, where Raphael Pirker aka “Trappy”, funder of Team Black Sheep, was issued a 10.000$ fine by FAA for taking some aerial footage, for money, of the University of Virginia. We covered the story here.
Would FAA allow Amazon to launch such a service, as described in the promotional video above, tomorrow? Likely not for a number of very good reasons in my opinion.
A number of safety concerns are involved in such a project. The machine itself must be full proof with redundant control and power systems. Research required in this field as the technology is still relatively new. What kind of avoidance systems will be in place? Camera/video based? Sonar based? Both? Research required. How do you deal with the dogs welcome committee at landing? (see here). How do you ensure reliable and secure delivery, after all a packet is just left on a front yard, a number of things could happen before the customer actually get it in his hands.
Here’s a video that discusses a number of potential issues:
Despite all these problems to be solved, some kind of minor issues, other more serious, It looks to me that it’s just a matter of time before we get to see drones delivering items to our doorstep. The questions is not really if we are going to see this, but when.
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 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.
On November 10 2013 Lady Gaga introduced the first multirotor based flying dress at her ArtPop album release in Brooklyn, NY.
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:
The animal liberation front in Australia uses a big octocopter to gather information and evidence on the treatment of animals in farms, to be passed to authorities. The operation of drones on private land appears to be fully lawful.
Horrible multirotor crash in the middle of the crowd. It seems like the drone first gets short of power (end of the battery?) and then goes entirely out of control, maybe for a late (too late) attempt to get it out of the area. Some people should know better, this gives a bad reputation to our hobby
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