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Flying robots get FAA approval in first for drone sector

ZDNet

The FAA has authorized its first-ever approval to a company for use of automated drones without human operators on site. The move comes as the agency is putting new rules in place to evolve regulation of the broader enterprise drone paradigm in the U.S., which has lagged behind other developed nations in adopting industry-friendly commercial drone guidelines. Boston-based American Robotics, a developer of automated drone systems specializing in rugged environments, received the FAA approval last week, marking a first for the federal agency. "Decades worth of promise and projection are finally coming to fruition," says Reese Mozer, CEO and co-founder of American Robotics. "We are proud to be the first company to meet the FAA's comprehensive safety requirements, which had previously restricted the viability of drone use in the commercial sector."


FAA approves first commercial drone flights with no on-site pilots

Engadget

Farms and other agricultural operations in certain rural areas in the US can now use robotic drones to take images of or gather data on their crops. The FAA has approved Massachusetts-based American Robotics' request to be able to deploy automated drones without human pilots and spotters on site. As The Wall Street Journal notes, commercial drone flights typically require the physical presence of licensed pilots making them a costly undertaking. AR's machine eliminates the need for on-site personnel, though each automated flight will still need to be overseen by a remote human pilot. According to the relevant documents (via The Verge) the FAA has uploaded on its website, the pilot "who is not co-located with the aircraft" will have to conduct pre-flight safety checks to ensure the drone is in working condition.


FAA approves first fully-automated commercial drone flights (with a catch)

Mashable

You can officially claim autonomous commercial drones for your 2021 bingo card. On Friday, Massachusetts-based industrial drone developer American Robotics announced it had received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate its fully-automated "Scout" drones without any humans on-site. It's the first waiver of its kind, as the FAA has previously approved the use of autonomous commercial drones exclusively under the condition that human observers be present along the flight path -- or that risk of collision be mitigated through otherwise hyper-strict limitations. Advocates of drone technology say those restrictions have long held the industry back. "Decades worth of promise and projection are finally coming to fruition," CEO and co-founder of American Robotics Reese Mozer said in a press release.


FAA Approves Fully Automated Commercial Drone Flights

WSJ.com: WSJD - Technology

U.S. aviation regulators have approved the first fully automated commercial drone flights, granting a small Massachusetts-based company permission to operate drones without hands-on piloting or direct observation by human controllers or observers. The decision by the Federal Aviation Administration limits operation of automated drones to rural areas and altitudes below 400 feet, but is a potentially significant step in expanding commercial applications of drones for farmers, utilities, mining companies and other customers. It also represents another step in the FAA's broader effort to authorize widespread flights by shifting away from case-by-case exemptions for specific vehicles performing specific tasks. In approval documents posted on a government website Thursday, the FAA said that once such automated drone operations are conducted on a wider scale, they could mean "efficiencies to many of the industries that fuel our economy such as agriculture, mining, transportation" and certain manufacturing segments. The FAA previously allowed drones to inspect railroad tracks, pipelines and some industrial sites beyond the sight of pilots or spotters on the ground as long as such individuals were located relatively close by.


Los Angeles man admits flying drone that struck LAPD helicopter over Hollywood

Los Angeles Times

A Los Angeles man admitted in federal court Thursday that he flew a drone that struck a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter that was responding to a crime scene in Hollywood. Andrew Rene Hernandez, 22, made the admission in pleading guilty to one count of unsafe operation of an unmanned aircraft, a misdemeanor. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles said Hernandez is believed to be the first person in the country to be convicted of that offense, which carries a punishment of up to one year in prison. In his plea agreement, Hernandez admitted that he "recklessly interfered with and disrupted" the operation of the LAPD helicopter, which was responding to a burglary of a pharmacy, and that his actions "posed an imminent safety hazard" to the chopper's occupants. Reached by phone Thursday, Hernandez declined to comment.


GM shows off flying car idea, the Cadillac Halo

USATODAY - Tech Top Stories

General Motors has inched slightly closer to fulfilling its quest to put the world in flying cars. As part of the 2021 virtual Consumer Electronics Show on Tuesday, GM showed renderings and animation of what it dubbed its Cadillac Halo concepts: the Cadillac Personal Autonomous Vehicle, which is like a fancy self-driving taxi, and Cadillac Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) vehicle, a sleek and futuristic drone-like flying car. "The VTOL is GM's first foray into air travel," said Michael Simcoe, GM's vice president of global design. Advances in electric vehicles and other technology are now "making personal air travel possible," he said. Simcoe's presentation came in the middle of GM CEO Mary Barra's keynote address to CES, the annual exhibition normally held in Las Vegas that features the latest technology.


Archive review – anyone for a posthuman wife? She comes with an off switch

The Guardian

British illustrator and visual-effects director Gavin Rothery makes his feature debut with this artificial intelligence thriller: a tale of love, death and robotics that has some nicely creepy moments. Set in 2038, it centres on lonely computer scientist George Almore (Divergent's Theo James), who is holed up in a remote research facility in Japan secretly working on an android version of his wife Jules (Stacy Martin); she has died in a car crash. His prototype, J3 (also played by Martin), is his closest yet to the real thing: a highly advanced humanoid with spookily pale skin who looks like she might be the ghost of his dead wife. Poor old J1 and J2, his earlier, clunkier prototypes: they look on bitterly as the newer, sleeker model gets all George's attention. The movie opens with sweeping helicopter shots over a snowy forest.


Breaking down the AI wizardry of 'Microsoft Flight Simulator'

Engadget

There are some wild stats about Microsoft Flight Simulator. In the sim, all 117 million lakes in the world are rendered in their appropriate places. Each plane has more than 1,000 points that respond to a variety of conditions at any given time, including wind, atmosphere and player input. Developers pushed 2.5 petabytes of Bing Maps satellite photo data through Azure's machine learning systems to construct the sim's world. In a chat with Engadget at CES 2021, Flight Simulator head Jorg Neumann said developers basically build the planet every 72 hours, procedurally planting somewhere in the realm of 2 trillion trees and creating 2 billion buildings in that timeframe alone.


Cadillac wants to fly people in electric drones

Mashable

General Motors shared some futuristic concept vehicles, including a sleek Cadillac passenger drone, on Tuesday in a classic CES move. As part of its Cadillac Halo portfolio, a shiny, silver and black self-driving shuttle, and a matching passenger drone were introduced. Both are just ideas with no production plans -- yet. The VTOL flying car (that's the term used for vertical take-off and landing vehicles or passenger drones) is GM's first design in aerial mobility. It's an idea for personal air travel that doesn't require a trip to the airport.


Privacy nightmare? FAA's drone tracking rules have big consequences

ZDNet

In the last week of December, while many of us were sleeping off a bizarre holiday season after a long, wearying year, the FAA announced final rules for Unmanned Aircraft (UA), more commonly known as drones. The new rules, which have long been anticipated and were closely watched in the sector, will require Remote Identification (Remote ID) of drones and allow operators of small drones to fly over people and at night under certain conditions. On the one had, the relaxation of the strict embargo on small drones flying over people is a boon to a commercial small drone sector that's been chomping at the bit to catch up to international markets in areas like drone delivery. And clear guidance from the FAA, which has been cautious about issuing new rulemaking when it comes to drones, is going to help what has become the fastest-growing segment in the transportation sector (there are currently over 1.7 million drones registered with the FAA). But there's been a vocal cry of disappointment by some in the drone sector, including Alphabet's Wing team, which sees a major privacy flaw in the FAA's new framework.