On the morning of July 10, 2018, a cook at K2 Base Camp in Pakistan was looking through his binoculars toward Broad Peak when he spotted something that looked like a body about 2,000 feet below the summit. The cook shared his discovery with Bartek Bargiel and his brother Andrzrej, members of a Polish expedition hoping to make the first ski descent of K2, the world's second-highest mountain. At first, the Poles thought they were looking at a corpse. But after more careful study they realized that it was a man in distress, clinging to the side of the mountain with an ice axe. There was no communication between the teams in the two separate base camps, so the Poles immediately dispatched one of their teammates, who took off running to the other camp, which was five miles down-glacier.
NASA's Ingenuity Mars helicopter photographed by the Perseverance rover on 5 April The first drone on another world is ready to fly. The Ingenuity helicopter is primed to lift off from the surface of Mars on 12 April, which will be the first powered flight on another planet. NASA's Perseverance rover, which launched in July 2020 and arrived on Mars on 18 February, carried the Ingenuity helicopter folded up in its belly. After the rover landed, it dropped Ingenuity onto the ground and drove off so the drone could ready itself for its first flight. "It has survived launch, it has survived the journey through space, the vacuum and radiation, it has survived the entry and descent and landing onto the surface on the bottom of the Perseverance rover," said Bob Balaram at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Ingenuity's chief engineer, during a 23 March press conference.
On Earth, humans put more than a century of work into the art of flying. On Mars, we're just getting started. NASA's four-pound helicopter, Ingenuity, touched down on the the surface of Mars on April 3 and will begin test flights in early April. It will be the first time humans have flown anything on another planet. In a nod to the Wright brothers' first flight, it's carrying a tiny piece of the plane that flew at Kitty Hawk.
Security and surveillance are one of the biggest growth areas in the ever-expanding UAV sector. While it's a relatively recent addition to enterprise toolkits in many industries, the use of drones to provide aerial assessments of activities on the ground is actually a return to form for the technology, which has seen some of its most ambitious development in defense applications. A lineup of aerial hardware stacks to fit a variety of enterprise photography and video use cases. Aerial vehicles can cover vastly more terrain than slower, clumsier ground-based surveillance systems -- which is why they've been a key component of military and law enforcement applications for decades. But drones, which are smaller, cheaper, and more efficient than manned-aircraft like helicopters, have very quickly democratized access to aerial security and surveillance and opened up the skies to companies of all sizes across sectors.
A developer of a tethered freefall drone delivery mechanism recently completed the first commercial deployment of its so-called rapid delivery system. A2Z Drone Delivery, LLC, partnered with drone services provider DroneUp to make residential package deliveries in Coffee County, GA, using A2Z's tethered delivery system to safely land packages on the ground. Drone delivery is coming, but there are some prickly safety problems to solve before residential deliveries can become a possibility in the eyes of legislators. Drones have rotors that spin very fast and are very dangerous, to name one big one. As drone delivery continues to expand in the US, the industry is looking for ways to mitigate consumer concerns about safety and the detrimental impact low-flying drones could have on tranquility and privacy.
Israeli startup Airwayz Drones Ltd., set up by veterans of the Israeli airforce, has developed software that knows how to safely steer hundreds of drones in the same airspace, orchestrating them in the sky autonomously, just as a traditional human-manned air traffic control station would. The technology of the Israeli company Airwayz managed some 20 drones from five companies simultaneously on Wednesday in the sky over an unpopulated area of the northern coastal city of Hadera. It was the first stage of a two-year initiative that is being touted by the Israel Innovation Authority and its partners in the event as one of the largest drone experiments ever conducted in the world. "This is one of the most progressive experiments in the world, in which drones from many companies are flying in a open and not controlled area," said Daniella Partem, head of the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution at the Israel Innovation Authority, which is in charge of fostering the nation's tech ecosystem. Get The Start-Up Israel's Daily Start-Up by email and never miss our top stories Free Sign Up The purpose of the large-scale government-backed experiment is to understand what our skies will look like in the future, as hundreds and thousands of drones pepper our firmament to meet various needs -- online deliveries, photography, security, agriculture and more.
In many robotic tasks, such as drone racing, the goal is to travel through a set of waypoints as fast as possible. A key challenge for this task is planning the minimum-time trajectory, which is typically solved by assuming perfect knowledge of the waypoints to pass in advance. The resulting solutions are either highly specialized for a single-track layout, or suboptimal due to simplifying assumptions about the platform dynamics. In this work, a new approach to minimum-time trajectory generation for quadrotors is presented. Leveraging deep reinforcement learning and relative gate observations, this approach can adaptively compute near-time-optimal trajectories for random track layouts. Our method exhibits a significant computational advantage over approaches based on trajectory optimization for non-trivial track configurations. The proposed approach is evaluated on a set of race tracks in simulation and the real world, achieving speeds of up to 17 m/s with a physical quadrotor.
In the last online technical talk, Adam Bry and Hayk Martiros from Skydio explained how their company tackles real-world issues when it comes to drone flying. Skydio is the leading US drone company and the world leader in autonomous flight. Our drones are used for everything from capturing amazing video, to inspecting bridges, to tracking progress on construction sites. At the core of our products is a vision-based autonomy system with seven years of development at Skydio, drawing on decades of academic research. This system pushes the state of the art in deep learning, geometric computer vision, motion planning, and control with a particular focus on real-world robustness.
Three years ago, Customs and Border Protection placed an order for self-flying aircraft that could launch on their own, rendezvous, locate and monitor multiple targets on the ground without any human intervention. In its reasoning for the order, CBP said the level of monitoring required to secure America's long land borders from the sky was too cumbersome for people alone. To research and build the drones, CBP handed $500,000 to Mitre Corp., a trusted nonprofit Skunk Works that was already furnishing border police with prototype rapid DNA testing and smartwatch hacking technology. They were "tested but not fielded operationally" as "the gap from simulation to reality turned out to be much larger than the research team originally envisioned," a CBP spokesperson says. This year, America's border police will test automated drones from Skydio, the Redwood City, Calif.-based startup that on Monday announced it had raised an additional $170 million in venture funding at a valuation of $1 billion. That brings the total raised for Skydio to $340 million.