A startup funded by Microsoft owner Bill Gates is looking for permission to test a radar-powered drone detector system at the Superbowl this Sunday. Echodyne has filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) to experiment with the technology during the NFL's marquee event in Atlanta. It is capable of detecting drones up to 0.6 miles away and remotely disable them. The radar focused tech company from Seattle hopes to operate two experimental radars'in the immediate vicinity' of the stadium. It will be operated alongside the FBI and'alert authorities' of any unidentified drone activity during the event if it receives authorisation for the project.
As we've pointed out over the last few years, there are some issues with the idea of urban or suburban delivery drones. Besides the fact that they're illegal right now, the biggest technological problem is that none of the delivery drones that we've seen so far seem to have any kind of sense-and-avoid capability that could realistically deal with the challenges of urban airspace, including everything from other drones to light aircraft to birds to trees to overhead wiring. There are some drones that try to use cameras for this, and at least one that relies on lidar, but for reliable all-weather sensing with the kind of range and resolution that you'd need for safe autonomous flight, the best answer might be to just do what aircraft have been doing for decades: use radar. To be fair, there are lots of excellent reasons why drones haven't been using radar for sense and avoid. The kind of radar that's small enough and affordable enough to fit on a drone is the kind that you're likely to find in cars with adaptive cruise control.
The government's demand for drones and drone operators continues to soar. In fact, earlier this month the head of Air Education and Training Command said that the U.S. Air Force now has more jobs for MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones than any other type of pilot position. Now, a new initiative hopes to speed up the procurement process for smaller drones – saving time, money, and lives. It is part of a new mission for Customs and Border Protection: helping agents in the field see beyond their line of sight, and secure a wider area, without sacrificing safety. "They want to see what's over the next hill," explains Kevin McAleenan, CBP's acting commissioner.
If you were dreaming of having your next grande no-whip soy latte delivered by drone, you can forget about it. Project Wing's wings were clipped by Google parent Alphabet as it tightens budgets across the board, Bloomberg reported Tuesday, quoting people familiar with the decision. Bloomberg said the decision to end the proposed venture with Starbucks followed the departure of project leader Dave Vos, who has not been replaced. Hiring also was frozen, and some people were urged to seek employment elsewhere in the company, Bloomberg reported. The Alphabet decision comes as other companies are ramping up drone programs despite a lack of Federal Aviation Administration approval for deliveries outside test zones.
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.