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.
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."
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.
Clear the sidewalks, Amazon's new delivery bot Scout is coming through. The Prime bot, which looks like a light blue cooler on six wheels, started delivering packages Wednesday in Snohomish County, north of Seattle. The bot will work alongside usual Amazon delivery methods (aka human drivers) and only six of the robots will be rolling around to start. The Scouts will only drop off packages Monday through Friday during daylight hours. Here's Scout, developed by Amazon in Seattle, in delivery mode: The electric device is autonomous, but to start an Amazon employee will "shadow" Scout to make sure it is properly accomplishing its Prime-ly duties.
Drone companies saw a record number of deals last year. On a quarterly basis, Q1'17 was the most active quarter historically for deals, reaching 32 investments worth $113M. Within the space, terrestrial imagery, infrastructure inspection, and delivery have emerged as some of the primary use cases for drone technology. Using CB Insights data, we identified over 70 leading private companies in the drones space and categorized them into the twelve main categories in which they operate. We define drones broadly to include software and hardware companies developing technologies related to unmanned aerial, marine, and/or land vehicles designed for unstructured environments.