Delivery drones are real and they're operating on a national level, but they're not dropping off impulse purchases, and some of the most important applications are not in the United States. Zipline, a Bay Area startup, inked a deal with the government of Rwanda in 2016 and now uses small, autonomous planes to deliver medical supplies, and in particular blood, to rural communities across the African country. "It's a pretty cool paradigm shift for people who think all technological revolution is going on in US, and it'll trickle down to poor countries," says Zipline CEO, Keller Rinaudo, presenting his vision for drone deliveries on stage at the WIRED25 summit in San Francisco on Monday. "This is the opposite of that." Amazon created an internet-wide buzz when it announced it wanted to start delivering online shopping via drone, in a 60 Minutes interview in 2013.
According to mainstream video games, modern warfare is all about cyborg arms, laser shields and jarheads blowing up baddies under the guidance of recognisable character actors. However, the frenetic antics of the Call of Duty series and its ilk are behind the times. The drone pilot protagonist of 2012's free indie game Unmanned is a more accurate representation of a modern soldier: a man who plays video games with his son every weekend, and who has also killed countless foreigners from a grey-walled cubicle in Nevada. You play an American warrior, square of jaw and beefy of build, who works from an office out in the desert. A click of his mouse sends tons of missile plummeting from anonymous drone planes with an eerie blank space where you'd expect to see a cockpit.
"Local authorities have established areas around the airport that are safe to fly for drone operations and qualify for automatic authorization," an FAA spokesman said. "The local air traffic control facility creates gridded maps called UAS Facility Maps that define a maximum height for which an operation could be considered safe for automatic authorization. Also, as drone pilots plan their flights, they are reminded of restrictions in the area and notifications they should be aware of."
Insects are quite good at not running into things, and just as good at running into things and surviving, but targeted, accurate precision flight is much more difficult for them. As cute as insects like bees are, there just isn't enough space in their fuzzy little noggins for fancy sensing and computing systems. Despite their small size, though, bees are able to perform precise flight maneuvers, and it's a good thing, too, since often their homes are on the other side of holes not much bigger than they are. Bees make this work through a sort of minimalist brute-force approach to the problem: They fly up to a small hole or gap, hover, wander back and forth a little bit to collect visual information about where the edges of the gap, and then steer themselves through. It's not fast, and it's not particularly elegant, but it's reliable and doesn't take much to execute.
Chinese drone leader DJI unveiled two new drone models at a press conference in New York City that bring higher quality cameras and the ability to zoom in while flying. They are updates to the Mavic line; the Mavic 2 Pro has a camera made by legendary imaging company Hasselblad, and the Mavic 2 Zoom lets users get closer to the action with the zoom. This is important because drones use wide-angle lenses to show the expanse of the area you're flying over. And now, with the zoom, users will be able to zero in on other things on the ground. Flight time from a battery, which has lasted around 20 minutes with the original Mavic Pro, is increased to 31 minutes on the new 2 Pro.
Radio jamming systems apparently thwarted an attempted presidential assassination with improvised drone bombs in Venezuela. On Saturday 4th August, President Nicolas Maduro's speech at an outdoor rally was interrupted by two explosions. Seven soldiers on parade were injured, three critically. Others scattered while bodyguards rushed to protect the president with bulletproof shields. Witnesses reported seeing two multicopter drones which crashed into a nearby apartment building and exploded.
Venezuela's interior minister says six people have been arrested, after what President Nicolas Maduro says was an assassination attempt against him. The president accuses Colombia and a group of US financiers of trying to kill him. Venezuela's opposition fears the government will launch a crackdown. Colombia's Foreign Affairs Ministry called that accusation absurd, and in Washington, President Donald Trump's national security adviser John Bolton strongly denied any US role.
On Saturday, as Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro gave a speech in Caracas before a large military assemblage, drones carrying explosives approached, detonating near the stage. While Maduro was unharmed, Venezuelan information minister Jorge Rodriguez said that the attack injured seven soldiers. It's a method of assault that only a few years ago felt unthinkable, but has quickly become inevitable. Details remain scarce about the exact nature of the attack, which Rodriguez characterized as an "assassination attempt," including what type of drones were used and the nature of the explosives involved. In a televised address to his country, Maduro appeared to attribute the strike to far-right factions in Venezuela and Columbia.