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UAV news wrap-up

April 22, 2014

Google acquires Titan Aerospace for $60 million; Facebook acquires Ascenta for $20 million; Groupe Gorgé, through ECA, acquires Infotron for $10 million and the Navy is building a new UAV center. Here’s a wrap-up of these and other UAV stories in the news:

ALREADY REPORTED:

ADDITIONAL STORIES IN THE NEWS:

  • Parrot-owned Swiss start-up SenseFly, already making inroads selling their popular eBee drone and mapping system around the world, has launched a new system specifically to assist agricultural businesses with their precision agriculture projects. They give a long list of opportunities using their new system:  Plant stress assessment, Yield monitoring, Chlorophyll indication, Senescence analysis, Drought assessment, Biomass indication, Leaf area indexing, Nitrogen recommendation, Phenology, Growth monitoring, Crop discrimination, Leaf area indexing, Tree classification, Plant counting and more.
  • DARPA is converting aging and returing military drones into wifi hotspots. Darpa’s Mobile Hotspots program is retrofitting retired Shadow drones that flew in Iraq for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, with pods that will be able to transfer a gb of data per second providing soldiers in remote areas with the same access to tactical operation centers and mission data that others in more central theaters have. The 11′ long RQ-7 Shadow drones requires new antennas and special amplifiers, plus a pod to carry all the new gear, thereby enabling the upgraded drones to fly higher and farther out of enemy range for flights lasting as long as nine hours.
  • Southern California drone fans will soon have their own UAV base (Las Vegas, take that! POW!). The Navy base in Point Magu is building a new UAV center for Northrup Grumman Triton drones – shown above. These mammoth (131′ wing span) unarmed UAVs have 360º sensors and can cruise out over the ocean, find and track ships and spot potential threats. The Navy expects to operate four of these drones and perform five missions a day to provide around-the-clock surveillance over the water.
  • In a $2,000 research report from Noealt Corporate Services, many helicopter manufacturers are exploring the UAS domain and making plans and products to strengthen their technological capabilities to remain competitive.

Thus the forward momentum in autonomous aerial systems continues on multiple fronts: business and agricultural pursuits, defense and surveillance, research and commercialization, and philanthropic.

One takeway from the recent Xconomy RoboMadness event in Silicon Valley was this timeline:

CyPhy Works CEO Helen Greiner sees a very specific timeline for how drone applications will roll out. Today, they’re used primarily for entertainment, hobbyists and photo-taking purposes, but by 2015/2016, she says, they’ll be used for protection and inspection, by both military and commercial users. By 2017/2018 they’ll be used for evaluating and managing—observing structures, and sending drones to do jobs too dangerous for workers. By 2019, transportation—for online retailers, local stores, even restaurants. Some people have argued that Amazon Prime Air is just a publicity stunt; Greiner thinks the company is serious about it.

Frank Tobe is the owner and publisher of The Robot Report, and is also a panel member for Robohub's Robotics by Invitation series... read more



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