Hot-air balloon pilot Richard Varney typically spends his weekends transporting tourists around central Massachusetts in a huge, multicolored balloon. But on a recent Sunday, Varney drove to a local community college and learned to fly a different type of aerial vehicle. "I want to try something new," he said as he watched an instructor demonstrate how to steer a $2,000 drone equipped with a camera. "This could help me launch a side business taking aerial photos of local towns." At least 15 community colleges across the country now have courses that teach people how to pilot drones, according to research conducted by MIT Technology Review.
Telecommunications firm Verizon has acquired Skyward, a drone operations management company. Skyward develops software for drone operators to manage flight tracking and logging, maintenance scheduling, and contract management. The drone startup will join Verizon's Internet of Things portfolio. Kenya's government has implemented regulations for commercial drone use. The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority will begin allowing businesses to import and use drones for a range of operations.
A drone successfully delivered medical supplies to the New Jersey coastline straight from the deck of a ship, marking the first ship-to-shore delivery in the US. The flight was designed to test whether drones could be used to carry human medical supplies to and from areas that cannot be access during major storms, earthquakes or other disasters. The test was run by disaster preparedness non-profit Field Innovation Team. Drone-firm Flirtey, which managed the first land-based drone delivery of medical supplies to a rural health clinic in July 2015, flew medical samples to Camp May in partnership with Dr Timothy Amukele, assistant professor of pathology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. While drones have already been muted as one way to deliver goods, such as Amazon's Air Prime drones, Amukele said that biological samples "are not like a shoe or a book, they are pretty fragile items".
As Japan positions itself to take advantage of the growing trend in drones, another sector is popping up in the promising market -- drone schools. Industries ranging from agriculture to security are setting their eyes on the benefits of the device. And although the aerial vehicles are capable of autonomous flight, skilled pilots need to be on hand in case something goes wrong. "The industrial use of drones will grow more to replace some work previously handled by humans," said Kazunori Fujiwara, a spokesman at the Drone Pilot Association, a Tokyo-based group that promotes pilot education. "There are still not enough pilots.
Now, a group of researchers at the University at Albany would like New Yorkers to think of winter snow storms when they hear the term AI. The school's Atmospheric Sciences Research Center just received a $2.4 million, five-year National Science Foundation grant to explore and develop ways that AI can better track and predict winter storms. The overall $20 million project, funded by the National Science Foundation, includes a total of seven schools and is titled the Institute for Research on Trustworthy AI in Weather, Climate and Coastal Oceanography. In short, they want to harness AI in which computer programs can "teach" themselves to make calculations and predictions based on the feedback or additional information that is constantly being fed to them. The idea is to be able to tailor winter weather predictions to people who can make immediate use of them, particularly transportation and utility services, said Chris Thorncroft, who directs UAlbany's atmospheric center and is co-leading the winter research.