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Louisville, KY Proposes Using Drone Fleets to Respond to Gunshots

Louisville, KY has proposed a plan to use fleets of drones to respond to gunshots.

The plan was submitted to the White House’s UAS Integration Pilot Program, which will explore sharing airspace jurisdiction between local and federal authorities.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MuCUcRefZpk

How Would It Work?

Louisville authorities project that drones could arrive on the scene where shots have been fired up to a minute before 911 is even called, which would allow the drone to capture images of what is actually happening on the ground, possibly while more shooting is still happening.

In addition to potentially capturing images of crimes as they’re occurring, using drones this way could help identify false positives, such as a car backfiring, and save officers the time needed to respond and investigate.

Under the proposed plan, autonomous drones would respond immediately to locations where shootings are underway using data from Louisville’s ShotSpotter system.

ShotSpotter uses a series of microphone sensors places in certain locations throughout the city to identify the location of gunfire within seconds.

Louisville first started using the ShotSpotter system back in June of 2017. Police officers in the city can access ShotSpotter data from computers in located in their patrol cars, and from their smartphones. The data is also available to those working in dispatch for the city.

The ShotSpotter system is already helping law enforcement to respond more quickly to shootings in parts of the city. Authorities report that in the first six months of the system going online there were over 800 activations—that is, 800 gunshots or sounds perceived as gunshots—and this was only in the six square miles where the microphones were put in place for the system.

Using drones would allow Louisville authorities to further leverage the ShotSpotter system, with the ultimate goal of helping to reduce the homicide rate in the city.

Louisville is known as one of the most innovative cities in the country, so we said, ‘You know, what’s a little edgy out there, and how can we put together some new technologies to improve public safety?’

– Mayor Greg Fischer, Louisville, KY

If approved, the pilot is likely to be limited at the beginning, according to city officials. Only a few places in town would initially have the proposed drone fleets, and geofencing would be established in those parts of town to limit where the drones could fly.

Legal Hurdles

If the city of Louisville wanted to pursue this new drone program under existing laws, the chances of them being able to do so would be slim.

The FAA’s Part 107 rules prohibit flights beyond the visual line of sight (or BVLOS), over people, and at night, all of which would be types of flying needed for rolling out the use of drone fleets to respond quickly to gunshots.

Although all of these prohibitions could potentially be waived through the existing Part 107 waiver process, the chances that BVLOS and flights over people would be granted aren’t very high, based on the current ratio of those types of waivers being approved.

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Image source

All of this, of course, is why Louisville has applied to the UAS Integration Pilot Program.

It’s looking like the White House’s pilot program may help to fast track wider permissions for types of flying currently prohibited under the Part 107 rules, such as BVLOS and night flights. Recently, the state of North Carolina submitted a proposal for their own pilot program to provide aerial deliveries of blood and medical supplies to hospitals and clinics, which would require BVLOS flights.

The deadline for pilot program submissions already passed back in early January, but the accepted programs won’t be announced until May 7. It will certainly be interesting to see which pilot programs are accepted, and how they impact future legislation.

The post Louisville, KY Proposes Using Drone Fleets to Respond to Gunshots appeared first on UAV Coach.

NYC DFF IV: Meet the 10 Winners of One of the Most Competitive Drone Film Festivals in the World

This year’s fourth annual New York City Drone Film Festival featured some of the most incredible drone videos we’ve ever seen.

team-nyc dff

Christian (partner course instructor), Alan, Lana, and Zacc

There were some impressive panels on Saturday, especially one on drones and the law that we found really helpful.

Tip from a drone lawyer on the panel: Do your research. With so many new city and county drone laws popping up, you could cross a jurisdictional line and suddenly be violating a law in one city that doesn’t exist in the city where you took off.

We were also proud to be a media sponsor of the NYC DFF for the first time this year:

drone-nyc-sponsor-nyc-dff

But it was Skydio that stole the show over the weekend, with their new fully autonomous R1 drone.

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Alan with the Skydio R1

The R1 maps and interprets the world in real time, so you can start it flying and take off running, cycling, kayaking, doing parkour—you get the picture—and it will follow behind you autonomously, without anyone at the controls.

On Sunday at the Liberty Science Center, Skydio did a demo in the main stairway that featured a dancer interacting with their autonomous drone.

https://vimeo.com/259034711

And of course, the videos were incredible this year.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the winners of this year’s fourth annual New York City Drone Film Festival.

Extreme Sports & Best in Show

“Quattro 2” by Candide Thovex

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWO967SRU9w

News and Docs

“The Big Ugly” by Maquina Voadora

https://youtu.be/Sw60qM2A-SA

X-Factor

“Kingdom of the Wild” by Mike Bishop

https://youtu.be/BK78ZQAqm_k

Freestyle FPV

“Muscle Up” by Robert McIntosh

https://youtu.be/fmS6cUjetkk

Narrative

Donny the Drone” by Mackenzie Sheppard

https://youtu.be/lenyX2Is9Pw

Landscape and Architecture

“Ottsjo NY Air and Timelapse” by Marcus Muller

https://youtu.be/LwVeK62ScXI

Dronie

“The Last Dronie” by Chris Castor

https://youtu.be/LwVeK62ScXI

Featuring Drones

“Boston Rising” by The Famous Group / Strato Aerial

https://youtu.be/_F6YthSAiRs

Still Photography

“Football Island” by Brent de Bleser

https://youtu.be/dAQ7HuZA8T4

Showreel

“AirV8” by Holger Hirsch

https://youtu.be/YAHHLi14aIQ

Keep in mind that these are just the winning videos—all of the nominated videos this year were incredible, and well worth watching. When the competition is this stiff, just getting nominated is an honor.

The quality of work presented at the festival was some of the very best drone videography in the world. We can’t wait to see what next year brings.

The post NYC DFF IV: Meet the 10 Winners of One of the Most Competitive Drone Film Festivals in the World appeared first on UAV Coach.

Instant Airspace Authorizations Expand Nationwide: FAA Timeline Announced for Full LAANC Rollout

The FAA just announced a timeline for rolling out LAANC nationwide at the 2018 FAA UAS Symposium in Baltimore, Maryland.

laanc-expansion-faa-fb
Image source

Starting in April, LAANC will expand to nearly 300 air traffic control facilities across approximately 500 airports throughout the U.S., covering 78,000 miles of airspace.

Why is this big news?

Here’s why: for the majority of airports in the U.S., if you want to fly your drone in airspace that’s restricted because it’s close to an airport, the only way to get permission is to submit an airspace authorization request through the FAADroneZone, and wait.

Here’s why: for the majority of airports in the U.S., if you want to fly your drone in airspace that’s restricted because it’s close to an airport, the only way to get permission is to submit an airspace authorization request through the FAADroneZone, and wait.

After submitting your request, the approval process could take months (up to 90 days, according to the FAA) and you may not hear a single word while your request is being considered.

But with LAANC, you can get airspace authorization immediately using apps like AirMap or Skyward, and others coming soon—more on that below.

Many drone operators have been at the mercy of the existing process, waiting for long periods of time without any updates for authorization to fly an operation within five miles of a local airport. Other scenarios that need quick responses, such as search and rescue operations, have also been impossible to navigate with the existing process, given the urgent time constraints in such scenarios.

LAANC promises a solution, but the timeline for rolling it out on scale has been up in the air until this point.

laanc-expansion-faa
Image source

LAANC Rollout Timeline

The LAANC rollout will begin in April, with the FAA releasing a new region each month.

Here is the order of when LAANC will be active in each region of the United States:

  • April 30: South Central USA
  • May 24: Western North USA
  • June 21: Western South USA
  • July 19: Eastern South USA
  • August 16: Eastern North USA
  • September 13: Central North USA

LAANC History, and Competition Concerns

Instant airspace authorizations via LAANC first went live back in November at just a few airports.

At the time, it was only available through four private companies—Skyward, Airmap, Rockwell Collins, and Project X.

https://vimeo.com/257942482

This small group was concerning to many in the drone industry, because it seemed like the ability to offer LAANC might be limited to only a few big players. This would mean that only a chosen few would get special access, while other platforms, like Kittyhawk or Dronebase, wouldn’t be allowed to offer LAANC.

The FAA has addressed these concerns in their recent announcement, stating that they’re going to be accepting applications for other companies to become LAANC service providers, which should help to level the playing field somewhat.

For now, we’re just excited to see such positive forward motion on the LAANC rollout. This will certainly help drone operators all over the country, and is one more step toward streamlining operations for drone flight ops in U.S. airspace.

The post Instant Airspace Authorizations Expand Nationwide: FAA Timeline Announced for Full LAANC Rollout appeared first on UAV Coach.

Introducing Drone Pilot Ground School 2.0: New Videos, New Practice Tests, and New Training Materials for Real World Scenarios

We are more excited than we’ve been in a very long time.

Why?

Because we just rolled out a brand new version of Drone Pilot Ground School, our online test prep course to help drone pilots prepare for the FAA’s Part 107 exam.

drone-pilot-ground-school-part-107-test-prep-training-course
Using your phone or a tablet to study? We’ve got you covered.

Since opening enrollment to Drone Pilot Ground School back in July 2016, we’ve trained over 9,000 drone pilots, and over 99% of our students who’ve reported back say they passed the FAA Aeronautical Knowledge Test on the first try and received their Remote Pilot Certificate to conduct commercial sUAS operations in the U.S.

We’ve gotten a lot of helpful feedback from our students about the course since launching. When we began revamping the program, we turned to student feedback—to the notes and ideas you had given us over the last year and a half—so that we could improve the course in ways that would directly address your needs.

[Already a Drone Pilot Ground School student? Look for an email in your inbox soon with more information on how to access the new program.]

What’s New in Drone Pilot Ground School 2.0?

  • Higher quality videos. We reshot all of our videos with much better production quality.The new course contains 70+ short videos with dynamic content and motion graphics, aligning with the latest best practices for online learning.
  • Tougher practice questions. Practice questions on our new practice tests are now more difficult and even more aligned with what you can expect to see on a real FAA Part 107 test.
  • Detailed explanations. Our new answer key provides detailed explanations for every answer on the practice quizzes, helping you understand why you got the wrong answer, so you can do better next time.
  • Real world resources. The new course has a big emphasis not just on passing the Part 107 exam, but on real world training, including extra resources on airspace research, flight proficiency, how to price your aerial services and more, to help you take your training beyond the test and into the real world.

We know that taking the Part 107 test is just the first step toward integrating drones into your business or organization, and that’s why we make ourselves available to our students after the test, to answer questions and provide guidance as you work to get things up and running.

We regularly consult with students on topics like:

  • Building an sUAS business from the ground up
  • Airspace authorization paperwork
  • Waiver paperwork
  • Standard operating procedures and stakeholder buy-in at companies
  • Hardware and software recommendations

To help our students even more, we’ve added more real world resources to Drone Pilot Ground School 2.0, including an in-depth video on how to use sectional charts and navigate local laws when planning a mission.

Want to see an example of what one of our new videos looks like? Here you go:

drone-pilot-ground-school-2.0

If you’d like to learn more about the latest version of our test prep course for the FAA’s Part 107 exam, you can view the full curriculum here.

Blue skies and safe flying out there folks!

The post Introducing Drone Pilot Ground School 2.0: New Videos, New Practice Tests, and New Training Materials for Real World Scenarios appeared first on UAV Coach.

Drones in Ecology: An Interview with Ecologist and FAA Certified Remote Pilot Dr. Richard Alward

Dr. Richard Alward is a biologist who specializes in plant ecology. He started using UAVs in his work a few years back, and holds a Remote Pilot Certificate, which he obtained using Drone Pilot Ground School to help him prepare for the FAA’s Part 107 test.

I had the pleasure of meeting Richard at InterDrone back in September, and wanted to follow up with him to learn more about how he uses drones in his work.

drones-ecology
Image source

Begin interview

What do you do?

I’m a plant ecologist, which means I’m a biologist who focuses on plants and the environment in which they exist. I spend most of my time studying the plants in a given area—how environmental factors like mining or oil extraction are impacting those plants, how invasive plants are pushing out native plants, and other things like that.

One of the projects that’s near and dear to my heart is the restoration of oil and gas wilderness areas.

For the last decade or so I’ve been working as a consultant for federal and state plant managers and private developers and managers, helping to look at the progress oil and gas companies are making toward restoring some of these damaged ecosystems, which is part of the commitment they make when they’re given permission to drill in these places.

How have drones helped you in your work?

Drones have helped me save lots and lots of time, and they’ve also helped improve accountability for some of these companies that are responsible for restoring the areas where they drilled.

In general, it’s too expensive to go out and measure how well a company is doing on a regular basis because it takes people with a certain expertise. And these are often remote areas, so there is a lot of travel time.

This can lead to a problem with compliance and accountability, because, if a company only sends an ecologist out every five years and that person discovers that the area is not actually being restored, well, that’s five years of lost time where the company could have been doing more.

But drones help fast track all of this. Using a drone you can do a quick fly over, collect a bunch of data, and then you can use drone software to generate reports that show you how well the area is being restored.

The data collected is also so robust that you can use it to detect early signs of whether things are going wrong or right in a certain location.

Gas and oil companies are required to restore vegetation in these areas to a certain level of what it was prior to their presence, so this data is really helpful to monitor progress.

Traditionally, you’d go out there with meter tape and points you stick in the ground, and measure the species of vegetation manually at each point. It’s really time consuming, and not nearly as exact as the data we’re getting with a drone.

This is all to say that drones are a really important tool when it comes to conservation efforts. There are a lot of stakeholders here in western Colorado, where I live, who want to make sure the land is disturbed as little as possible—hunters, who want to preserve their hunting grounds; environmentalists; and other community members. And drones are helping that effort in a big way.

drones-ecology-time-saved
A slide emphasizing time saved using drones in ecology work

How accessible is drone technology for the work you do?

It’s very accessible these days, and I find that really exciting.

About five years back, drones were just too expensive to be a practical tool for me. But these days you can get a really impressive drone in terms of what it’s capable of, and it won’t cost that much. We got to that sweet spot between value and price just about two years ago.

What drone(s) do you fly?

Right now I’m flying a FireFLY6 Pro made by BirdsEyeView Aerobotics.

It’s a fixed wing, with vertical take off and landing, which was really important. In some of these remote public lands you only get a tiny space, say five by three meters, for landing and takeoff, so vertical takeoff and landing was a must.

drone-firefly-pro
The FireFLY6 Pro

How do you process the raw data you collect via drone into actionable insights?

Just a quick note that I’m not an image analyst myself, so apologies in advance to the talented image analysts I work with if I miss something here.

Here is the overview of how we process data:

Currently, we are using a five-band multistructural camera to collect data.

Every pixel has six pieces of data associated with it—the five bands, plus we can get an estimate of pollination. From the data we can pick our specific species of plants without having to do any kind of manual analysis.

We can identify things like juniper woodland areas, different types of conifers, sagebrush, and so on. Once we identify a given type of area, we can compare it to the plant cover in other areas, and look for differences or other points of interest.

It’s not perfect yet. In some cases I can’t distinguish different types of grasses, so it just comes back as grass, or some herbaceous plant. But still, it can see things at an impressive level of accuracy.

We’re also able to input different data points for comparison, such as the normal vegetation index, which is really helpful because it provides a baseline to compare various areas to.

Some other things we’re experimenting with are heat cognition, where you use data related to heat to identify different species of plants.

I’ve also been trying out multi-stack lately, which is a free image analysis software. It allows you to identify instances of a certain species of plant you’re looking for in existing data, and then train your computer to find new instances of the same tree.

So if you want to find more Cottonwood trees, for instance, you’d draw a polygon around a polygon in the software, and then train the computer to find more of them in the raw data.

drones-ecology-identifying-plants
A slide showing various plant classifications derived from drone data

Why is this data more valuable than data collected manually?

For a few reasons.

One is that digital data lives forever. We’ll always have this permanent record of the vegetation at those precise GPS coordinates on that precise date for all time. This means we can come back 10 years later, or 100 years later, and have a record of everything that was living there at the time—even if you didn’t know what everything was at the time you recorded the data.

This last point is huge. When identifying plants, you don’t always know what every single plant is. If you’re collecting data manually, all you can do is record, Unidentified Plant #3, or something like that. But with the various data points we gather by drone, we actually have something like a unique signature for an unidentified plant. Which means someone could come along later who has identified that plant, and know what it is.

So data you collect today could provide more insights later on, which is really incredible for ecological efforts and keeping an accurate record of what lives where.

What are some actions you might take or recommend as a result of the data analyzed?

In some instances, you might find an invasive species really taking over, so you’d alert the land manager so that person can go treat the area. The next time you survey the area, you can track whether the invasive species has been reduced, and how by much, as well as identify persistent problem areas for the land manager to tend to.

We also discover areas that simply need more attention, where vegetation has been slow to get a foothold, and we can give similar recommendations to the land manager in these instances too.

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A slide highlighting the restoration actions that result from data collected via drone

Do you see drone adoption growing in your field?

Right now we are still in an exploratory stage. I think there is still the need for more education and validation that this new approach is at least as good as current approaches.

We have the Bureau of Land Management and other federal agencies watching pretty closely, curious to see how they could use drones in their operations. But I wouldn’t be surprised if data collection at the level we can do via drone starts to set the standard before too long for these kinds of restoration projects, instead of being an outlier.

Fifteen years ago GPS coordinates weren’t required for these kinds of efforts, and today you need two meter accuracy. I wouldn’t be surprised to see drones adopted widely in ecology over the next five to ten years.

The post Drones in Ecology: An Interview with Ecologist and FAA Certified Remote Pilot Dr. Richard Alward appeared first on UAV Coach.

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