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Robot drone inspired by world's fastest bird can act as 'paraglider, aeroplane and helicopter'

The Independent - Tech

A wing-flapping drone inspired by the world's fastest bird has been developed that could one day find use in everything from surveillance operations to flower pollination. An international team of researchers designed the 26-gram ornithopter drone to hover, dart, glide, and dive just like a swift, making it far more versatile than a traditional quadcopter drone. "Unlike common quadcopters that are quite intrusive and not very agile, biologically-inspired drones could be used very successfully in a range of environments," said Dr Yao-Wei Chin, a research scientist from the National University of Singapore who led the project. "The light weight and the slow beating wings of the ornithopter poses less danger to the public that quadcopter drones in the event of a crash and given sufficient thrust and power banks it could be modified to carry different payloads depending on what is required." The researchers expect the first commercial use of the drone could be in monitoring large crowds or inspecting crops in fields.

US couple who allegedly spied on neighbours with drone arrested on voyeurism charges

The Independent - Tech

A couple in the US has been charged with voyeurism by electronic equipment, having been caught using a drone to spy on neighbours. One victim claims to have chased the drone in his truck after spotting it outside his window, seizing it when it landed in a car park and handing it over to police in December. "The citizen who located the drone was familiar with drones and had a similar one himself," reads a search warrant unsealed this week in court, according to Deseret News. Some of the recordings were multiple stories high in apartment complexes." Among the footage was a shot of Foote controlling the drone, as well as one of his truck and its registration plate.

Umbrella drone created to hover over users, protecting them from rain

The Independent - Tech

A semi-autonomous drone modified with an umbrella canopy promises to shield users from the rain by automatically tracking their movements, but it's a hell of a lot pricier than a regular brolly. Drone retailer DronesDirect lists the creatively named Umbrella Drone, a specially adapted DJI Phantom 4 quadcopter, at a staggering £1,299, down from £1,499. The retailer, meanwhile, is selling the standard Phantom 4 for £997. However, a call to DronesDirect established that the Umbrella Drone is currently still in testing, and isn't available to buy just yet. The designers say the light-hearted creation came about because of the UK's notoriously unpredictable weather, and will be able to cope with even "the most adverse" conditions.

Lily drone: Celebrated company collapses amid angry customers and lawsuits

The Independent - Tech

A drone company apparently made the most futuristic flying camera ever made – but has now been hit with disappointed customers and lawsuits. Lily announced this month that it was winding itself down and would refund everyone who pre-ordered his drone in the middle of 2015. It was the ignominious end of an 18 month period that saw the company soar to the top tech world with its stunning features. But it slowly dawned on many of its customers over the following months that it actually was. Now its customers claim that it had duped them with the flashy and splashy video that introduced the technology.

China launches 'spy bird' drone to boost government surveillance

The Independent - Tech

Flocks of robotic birds are taking to the skies of China equipped with high-tech surveillance technology, according to a report. The so-called "spy bird" programme, first reported by the South China Morning Post, is already in operation in at least five provinces and provides another tendril in the country's already advanced surveillance network. The dove-like drones are being developed by researchers at Northwestern Polytechnical University in the Shaanxi province, who have previously worked on stealth fighter jets used by China's airforce. One of the researchers involved said the roll out of the technology was still in its early stages. "The scale is still small," said Yang Wenqing, an associate professor at the university's School of Aeronautics who worked on the programme.