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3D Robotics News

3DR Drones in Action: Moss Monster Attacks Texas Drought

Here in central Texas, drought has become the norm. Currently the lakes around Austin, the state capital, are at 38% capacity. These lakes provide drinking water for more than a million people, as well as water to industries, businesses and the environment. When the lakes drop below 30% capacity, projected to happen as early as January 2015, the state will officially declare a “Drought Worse than the Drought of Record,” which will compel industries and other consumers to reduce water use by 20 percent. Compounding the problem is the present danger of nonnative aquatic vegetation—such as the invasive species hydrilla—which when left untended can choke out an entire lake. Moss Monster, a local contracting company owned and operated by Clifton Chowning, harvests aquatic vegetation and dredges the lakes and canals of central Texas, thereby combating threats of invasive vegetation and erosion.

For Clifton, the 3D Robotics Y6 is like having a superpower. The ability to automatically fly a camera over the water makes aerial data acquisition automatic, reliable, affordable and, most importantly for Clifton, repeatable. He can fly identical patterns week after week, capturing crisp and accurate aerial images that allow him to target specific problem areas and over time prove out changes and threats, which ultimately makes Moss Monster’s operations more efficient and effective. Clifton passes this on to customers in the form of savings, and to the city in the form of a cool glass of water.

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The 3DR platform makes this possible. All of our drones are capable of autonomous flight: they’re robots that can fly themselves and carry a hi-res camera or other sensors along customized routes with virtually unlimited waypoints. You can save routes and fly them precisely at any time. This combination—crisp aerial images, automation and repeatability—can be particularly useful for enterprise applications: by flying lower and slower than satellites or manned aircraft, our drones make data acquisition more efficient, accurate and affordable than it’s ever been. But what’s most exciting is what people will discover they can do with this kind of access, and that too is virtually unlimited.

3DR Talks Drones and Environmental Sustainability

IMG_20140710_171803 This month, 3DR’s Senior R&D Engineer Brandon Basso spoke about the critical role drone technology will play in environmental sustainability at an international conference at the University of Exeter, Penryn.

3DR was the only UAV company to present at the conference, a first-of-its-kind EU initiative that brought together academic experts, researchers, and engineers with private sector vendors from 3DR, QuestUAV, and Sensefly, to kick off the academic discussion about using UAVs as a research tool.

“Our connection to the academic community is huge,” said Basso, who gave a keynote about the potentialities of aerial survey and ran hardware demos with Serge Wich of ConesrvationDrones.org. That’s because drones—affordable, autonomous, and accurate aerial technology—represent a better and more reliable collection mechanism to help scientists get the data they need. UAVs will also propel new science, opening up fields and studies and discoveries that would have been unrealistic or unimaginable before this technology.

But the true impact of scientific study is the advancement it enables in real world applications. Ultimately, all of this research manifests into real tools that people outside of the sciences will use for good—bird and habitat protection, site survey, invasive species protection, even archaeology.

“It’s not just consumer electronics, aerospace, and Silicon Valley,” Basso said. “That stuff is very important, but we can embrace much more than that. The academic community will help us innovate and discover important new applications we never could have thought of on our own. And they seem to love 3DR products.”

Click here to learn more about the UAVs in Environmental Science Conference.

3DR Acquires Sifteo: Cutting-Edge Electronics Meets Cutting-Edge Drones!


3D Robotics is thrilled to announce the acquisition of Sifteo, pioneers in cutting-edge consumer electronics.

Sifteo brings to 3DR valuable and unique expertise in developing fun and engaging high-tech consumer products. With their groundbreaking Sifteo Cubes (which The New York Times called “a kick in the imagination”), the company bridged the digital and physical divide by applying the latest in computing, software, and sensors to everyday objects—it’s a divide that 3DR’s vehicles also bridge, though drones aren’t exactly everyday objects (yet).

However, 3DR isn’t thrilled only by Sifteo’s cutting-edge approach to technology. Sifteo also boasts a consumer acumen proven over years of developing and delivering world-beating customer experiences and shipping high-volume products into mass-scale retailers. The acquisition of the technology and resources specific to Sifteo will further elevate our company’s capabilities on many fronts, and will help propel 3DR into new markets as the industry matures.

Said 3DR CEO Chris Anderson, “When we first engaged with the Sifteo team and saw their skillset, experience, and IP portfolio, we immediately recognized the impact they would have working with us to transform and grow the consumer drone market. Their consumer electronics experience and deep product skills complement our technology perfectly. We are thrilled to have the resources of both groups together to lead what we believe will be a billion dollar market over the next few years.”

Sifteo’s fusion of fun and high-tech utility has found a perfect match in 3DR’s technology, products, and future ambitions. Please join us all in welcoming these beautiful and brilliant people!

Read the full press release here.

Drones at the Robot Film Festival: IRIS Wins a Botsker!


This weekend, 3DR and the filmmakers behind the movie Sugar Mountain screened a short film at the Robot Film Festival in San Francisco, and took home the award for “Best Telepresence”—i.e., “seen through the eyes of robots”! (Watch the winning film here, or at the end of this post.)

The Botsker-winning short, Robots in Alaska: The Making of Sugar Mountain, features astonishing aerials of a team of Australian adventure skiers on the glacial slopes of the Chugach, in a remote corner of Alaska. The aerials were provided by a pair of Irises, nicknamed Bert and Ernie, which 3DR’s Brandon Basso gave the Aussies, along with a few hours of training, before the crew headed north. The team had to learn everything else on the job, which involved skiing up to 20 miles a day, packing and unpacking, flying, moving, and repeating it all again–not to mention figuring out how to keep batteries warm and solder replacement motors in -20 F temperatures.

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Cinematographer Danny Coolahan gave a talk about the experience at this year’s DroneCon, explaining how all their gear broke eventually in that forbidding environment, even his $10,000 camera—but he couldn’t repair that camera the same way he could easily repair Iris. Said Basso, “That fact alone is a huge testament to all the sweat that went into designing and producing the aircraft. It’s sometimes all too easy to forget that these things ‘just work’ today because of literally years of software development on one of the best-supported open source robotics projects ever.”

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The winning film is a witty “making-of” short in anticipation of the crew’s feature film, Sugar Mountain, coming this November. Filmed over the course of a month around a remote fly-in glacier camp near the Arctic Circle, Sugar Mountain is the story of a team of city folk from Australia on a quest to climb and ride Alaska’s Sugar Mountain—a mythical peak that may or may not exist beyond the dreams of the crew themselves. Showcasing 3DR’s world-first drone technology, the film is inspiring both cinematically and personally, the glittering Alaskan slopes standing for the ambition, fear, and adventure of any passion pursuit.

Thanks to everyone from the crew, 3DR, and Helly Hansen apparel who helped make this ambitious vision a reality! Enjoy the movie!

To learn more about Sugar Mountain click here.

SparkFun AVC Video!

3DR’s creative team put this video together to capture the spirit of the 2014 SparkFun Autonomous Vehicle Competition, held this year at the Boulder Reservoir in Boulder, Colorado. This year was different in that, besides being bigger and better than ever, for the first time SparkFun opened the AVC to an unlimited number of entrants—“If you can build it, you can bring it” was the mantra. That incantation conjured forth a huge range of participants: 1,300 people, some as young as 12 and 13, came out to the Boulder Reservoir, where over 90 teams from around the world competed!

The record attendance offered yet more proof of the enormous cultural pivot that drone technology is making. And while the draw to AVC is ostensibly the fun of competition between the teams, there was a sense that the real goal is extrinsic: “The contestants all gathered at their wooden workbenches under this big-top tent,” said 3DR’s Lon Breedlove. “I overheard one of them, he’d busted a motor at the last minute and needed a new one. And his neighbor, who was just about to compete against him, reached into his bag and gave him one!”

Big thanks to SparkFun for making this happen every year! To learn more, visit https://avc.sparkfun.com

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