Two events, from different parts of the world, on the same day and subject: geographic information systems (GIS) and global positioning systems (GPS) and the use of “layering” to map, analyze and design.
There have been many headlines about “killer robots” and invasion of privacy. They protest that robots will soon choose targets and then bomb or shoot those targets under their own direction and will also invade people’s privacy through the use of drones. The issue, without the hyperbole, is whether there should be controls, what those controls should be, and who should administer them so that when advanced autonomous versions of today’s drones happen, as is sure to be the case 10-30 years from now, they won’t have the capability to kill people without human and governmental supervision and observe without legal authority.
A growing business within Parrot S.A., (PARRO:EUROLIST B) is their AR.Drone line of products, parts and software. Their first quadcopter product was developed internally by (1) observing the $1 billion market in radio controlled helicopters, (2) seeing gamers interest in using their game devices to drive cars, planes and copters, and (3) the increasingly widespread use of MEMS inertial sensors and high-definition digital cameras in consumer products.
In July, the Parrot Group partnered with senseFly, a Swiss start-up and spin-off from the Swiss EPFL, and invested $5.3 million to help senseFly grow. Their initial plan was to develop a high volume manufacturing capability and fund rapid growth and new product development. The eBee is the first such product from that venture. The just announced 3′ wingspan eBee can fly for 45 minutes in 45km/hr winds, and will enable users to take their own aerial photos and produce precise ortho-mosaics and 3D models. senseFly has also established an impressive global network of resellers which presently excludes the US (because of FAA regulatory limitations). The eBee meets the special needs of mining and surveying professionals because of its wind resistance and robustness, high precision 3D image processing and mission planning software.
Last week, SenseFly and Pix4D announced deals with drone maker Parrot, in which Parrot will invest in both companies, 5 million Swiss francs in SenseFly and 2.4 million in Pix4D. Both spinoffs of EPFL, SenseFly and Pix4D have a history of cooperation, with SenseFly providing the camera-equipped UAVs for which they have also developed navigational software that allows them to fly complete missions autonomously, and Pix4D providing the software that transforms the thousands of images produced by the drones into unified geographical information. (Kudos to Engadget for their prompt reportage.)