The environmental group Greenpeace hit the news recently when they flew a drone shaped and designed to look like Superman, straight into the wall of a French nuclear power plant. In a deliberate attempt to draw attention to the vulnerability of the power plant, an activist from Greenpeace piloted the drone into the no-fly zone around the French utility company EDF’s nuclear power plant near Lyon, and then proceeded to fly the UAV into the wall of the spent-fuel pool building at the site.
Greenpeace themselves released footage of the little Superman drone and stated that it showed just how easy it was to fly a UAV into a power plant in a country that relies heavily on nuclear power. This stunt has been one of a series of recent break-ins staged by Greenpeace activists involving French nuclear power plants, and these security breaches are now the subject of an investigation launched by French parliament into nuclear security.
France and nuclear power:
France is dependant upon nuclear power, generating up to 75% of its electricity and nuclear power from 19 plants owned by state-controlled utility company, EDF. A spokesman from the company said that two drones had been flown into the site at Bugey, near Lyon, but one had been intercepted by the French police.
EDF have since said that the incident presented no real threat to the security of the installations at the nuclear power plant, and that they will be filing a police complaint against Greenpeace.
The vulnerability of nuclear power plants:
A spokesperson from Greenpeace has stated that buildings such as those you find within nuclear power plants are highly susceptible to attacks from drones and other airborne vehicles, particularly the spent-fuel pools, which contain some of the highest levels of radioactivity found in power plants. The pools in question can hold the equivalent of many reactor cores and are not designed to be able to withstand an attack from something such as a drone or missile, and should in fact, be turned into bunkers, claims the chief nuclear campaigner for Greenpeace in France, Yannick Rousselet.
In response, EDF state that their spent-fuel buildings are extremely strong and robust and have been designed to cope with such things as natural disasters, which have the potential to be just as – if not more – devastating than a missile attack.
While Greenpeace continue to reiterate that their only intention is to highlight the potential danger that these nuclear power plants present to the public, EDF are growing increasingly more frustrated with their actions, and have on at least one occasion, been awarded damages from the French courts after several Greenpeace activists were given suspended prison sentences.
Flight control technology is getting more and more advanced, and the potential for drones to be used for many different purposes, is growing just as fast. Only recently, drones have been used in Australia for purposes far beyond their original intention; no longer are these unmanned aerial vehicles being used solely for help on the modern battlefield, or as mere recreational toys.
The ‘Little Ripper’.
Drones affectionately named as ‘little ripper’s’, are being used in Australia to help with ocean rescues. Recent reports state that two swimmers, caught in unexpectedly strong waves out at sea, were the latest to receive life saving help from the drones.
At the time of this rescue, the drones were being tested by lifeguards on the coastline of Lennox Head in New South Wales as part of a costly strategy to spot deadly sharks. They received an emergency radio message about a pair of swimmers in trouble out at sea not far from the lifeguard’s current location and sprang into action.
How exactly did the drone help rescue the swimmers?
In less than 70 seconds, the drones were deployed and managed to locate the frightened pair before dropping a flotation pod down into the water; the swimmers were then able to use the device to help swim to shore, and to safety.
Australia’s coastguards have been calling for more extensive drone use:
Australian lifeguards state that the ‘little ripper’ drones are incredibly efficient under such circumstances, and that there is no reason why they shouldn’t be used more often to help in life saving rescue missions such as that of the two swimmers. They are easy to fly and can reach people in distress far quicker than a boat can. The lifeguard who deployed the drone to locate the two swimmers stated that the entire mission from launch to the flotation device being dropped took less than 2 minutes, and would have taken a lifeguard at least a few minutes longer to perform the same task. And as we all know, minutes can prove vital when lives are at stake.
What makes ‘Little Ripper’s’ so efficient?
These drones are equipped with floating pods that can be dropped at any location and from a safe height, and with a full two hours of battery life from one single charge. Each Little Ripper also comes with GPS beacons attached, and artificial intelligence to track sharks in dangerous waters. Pretty remarkable, and easy to see why other countries might want to start using these drones to aid in rescues, too.
Drones are set to change the future and the way we respond to emergency calls, whether it be out at sea or halfway up a mountain, and while a mere 40 drones were shipped to coastguard centre’s all over Australia, this number is sure to increase, and the investment looks set to be a sound one.
Countries like North Korea and Iran continue to pose a threat to global stability forcing countries like the U.S. to develop new and superior forms of defense. While drones have had their military uses for several decades now, they are continuing to be developed and improved to help counteract threats from overseas enemies. The U.S. Missile Defence Agency (MDA) have recently stated that the threat from North Korea has escalated and they have shown to be advancing and accelerating their capability to launch attacks on U.S. soil, such as has been demonstrated in their development of long-range nuclear-armed missiles.
Part of President Trump’s national security budget is being set aside for the development and construction of remote controlled robots with the capacity to destroy enemy rockets, and along with unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, they are said to have the potential to change the way that missile defence functions.
The Low Power Demonstrator (LPD)
The LPD program has been assigned the task of developing and producing a UAV that can be fitted with a 150kilowatt laser cannon, to try and combat the threat. One such weapon has already been fitted to a warship and proved to have sufficient power to take down drones
operated from enemy territory.
This high powered LPD may sound and look like something out of science fiction, but it has a very real purpose and could be used to target long range ballistic missiles while they’re still on the enemy launch pad or destroy them just after they have been launched.
The Missile Defence Agency have made tentative plans to arm drones with these high powered lasers by the year 2020, and state that: “scalable, efficient, and compact high-energy lasers can be game-changing capabilities within missile defence architectures.”
Those responsible for creating and constructing the weapon plan to mount it on the U.S.’s newly designed Avenger drones, which are bigger and stealthier than their predecessors, the Predator Drone, which were used in both the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
What problems might the LPD face?
Issues such as the weight of the laser weaponry and the power that they need to function properly, need to be tackled before such a weapon would be ready for use in live combat. There is also the issue of drones being operational under such conditions as dust and water vapour; as both can distort the laser beam.
We can choose to take comfort in the fact that drones are being developed to help combat the threat from countries such as North Korea, or we can fret about their capabilities getting into the wrong hands and being turned against us. Warfare isn’t an easy topic and most of us would prefer not to have to discuss it all, but since the threat is there, it’s important we don’t turn a blind eye.
Sadly, in the time it will take you to read these words, yet another elephant or rhinoceros will have been tragically slain for its ivory and horn, in Africa. The threat they face from poachers is relentless and shows little sign of abating, and while the demand for ivory continues in countries like China, and the ridiculous desire for rhino horn remains prevalent in countries like Vietnam, efforts to combat the issue must be stepped up. Many believe that drones hold the answer to combating poachers, and here’s why and how:
Drones join the fight against poachers in Africa:
It may not matter what you think about drones when they are used for everyday purposes such as delivering packages or for recreation, when their use in helping to track and apprehend poachers is perhaps undisputable.
That said, there is a huge problem to face when it comes to using drones in a country like Africa, which is so vast. Drones can’t simply be launched and flown with the hope of finding something, their use needs to be more targeted.
Tackling the problem of where to fly drones in Africa:
In much the same way that scientists used technology to locate individuals planting IED’s or ‘improvised explosive devices’, their knowledge and experience has been applied to the problem of tackling poachers. They conducted studies into the behaviour and movement of poachers, along with how animals, rangers and drones move through space and time simultaneously. Using the very best satellite imagery, complicated mathematics and highly complicated algorithms, scientists and researchers have been able to determine where animals at risk from poachers are most likely to be on any given night (since most instances of poaching occur during
the hours of darkness). Knowing where the animals are gives the best clues as to where the poachers might be, and using infrared cameras attached to drones, the UAV’s can alert trackers to the poacher’s location or at the very least, where they are most likely to be coming from to attack the animals.
Put in its simplest form, scientists are trying to recreate the environment as it might be on a typical night for poachers, to enable them to identify patterns of behaviour that may help them in the future. This data is collected and superimposed on satellite imagery of the area, enabling them to create maps giving them the best idea of where rangers should be strategically placed, and whether to fly drones that night.
UAV’s can detect heat movement in actual time, such as animals moving across the plains or poachers approaching, and since they are powered by batteries, they are virtually silent and can fly for long distances in a short period of time.
Can the use of drones also act as a deterrent?
Absolutely! Poachers have subsequently discovered that their movements can be detected during the hours of nightfall, and they are more than aware that this has increased the chances of them being arrested or even shot and killed. As a result, many poachers now feel it to be too risky to hunt the animals and kill them for their ivory or horns.
The fight to save our animals and to protect them from poachers is ongoing, but drones have made a positive impact on reducing poaching numbers already, and with the appropriate technology and research, scientists and activists believe that they can continue
to help save them.
In recent years, typhoons, hurricanes, floods and earthquake disaster zones the world over, have all benefitted from the use of UAV’s, otherwise known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or drones. Their increased use for humanitarian purposes has seen the United Nations stepping in to create an official policy brief, outlining how they should be used safely and responsibly for disaster response purposes, and several other organizations such as UAViators and OSHA, have collaborated to explore how drones can be most effectively employed in disaster zones.
Here are a few ways in which drones are helping to save lives when natural disasters strike:
Giving a birds’ eye view of disaster zones:
Humanitarian responders simply cannot assess disaster zones effectively from ground level and getting a birds’ eye view of the affected area is vital. Satellite imagery has long been used for this purpose, but they are costly, cannot be operated during certain weather conditions, are restricted when it comes to sharing data and have time limitations when acquiring images.
Drones, on the other hand, can capture aerial imagery at a higher resolution surpassing that of a satellite and can do so quicker and cost effectively. Not only this, but drones can be owned and operated by members of the public, enabling more people to get involved and help communities respond to a life-threatening crisis. There are even groups who have formed to help instruct local communities in how to operate UAV’s in preparation for a natural (or man-made) disaster.
Helping communities help themselves:
Disaster zones can be incredibly dangerous places, so it’s imperative that those groups helping local people to form rescue coalitions using drones, teach them how to use the drones responsibly, safely and ethically, but there can be no disputing the fact that they can be instrumental not only in helping to save lives, but in helping with damage limitation and preparing communities in the event of future disasters. Sharing aerial images captured by drones
in disaster zones must also be shared with local stakeholders; when the high-resolution aerial imagery is printed onto banners, it can be used by local stakeholders for subsequent community mapping projects.
Communities who have been involved in aid efforts in the wake of natural disasters, have stated how much more in control of the situation they had felt when able to use drones, since it gave them, immediate and accurate visual accounts of what was happening in those areas that were unreachable on foot.
The ‘Code of Conduct and Operational Check-list’:
To enable drones to continue to be used effectively in disaster zones, UAViators compiled a code of conduct, an initiative designed to include the community from beginning to end, and which highlighted the fact that the public can play an important role in helping humanitarian organisations in the wake of natural disasters. The code of conduct is ongoing, and as UAV’s continue to be used to help aid efforts, more will be known about how to ensure that they are used appropriately.
Drones may look small and often weigh little, but their effectiveness is second to none when responding to disasters, and while they are currently being used predominantly to capture high resolution imagery, they will soon be used for transporting small but vital packages to those in need, and whom cannot easily be reached on foot or vehicle.
Unmanned aerial vehicles have been used more and more commonly as filmmaking tools over the past decade predominantly due to their lower cost of operation than a full sized helicopter and their reliability. Before drones were invented, even the simplest of aerial photography wasn’t an option for most filmmakers on lower budgets, since helicopters were, as you can imagine, out of many indie filmmakers’s grasps.
Now, drones can be purchased inexpensively, depending on your needs and budget, and can open a whole new world of aerial imagery to wow and amaze movie watchers the world over.
Flying camera computers:
Drones were often perceived as being exactly that, flying camera computers, and in truth, they were, and are, precisely that. Modern drones have the ability and technology to detect faces, fly in peoples’ wake, fly and land on their own and perform the types of cinematic tricks that filmmakers could only dream of.
Not only is technology advancing at an exponential rate, but the cost of drones is dropping year by year, making them even more affordable for the public and low-budget movie makers to tell their stories in new and exciting ways.
Learning how to pilot a drone:
While anyone can buy a drone and fly it, it takes thousands of hours of practice, skill development, and collaboration in order to pull off cinema-level shots that wow their audience. Modern movie makers are taking lessons and courses on how to fly them safely and take full advantage of their technology. While this is achievable by most enthusiasts, it’s always a safer bet to hire a professional who dedicates their time and energy into making everything run smoothly and professionally.
Movies filmed using drone footage:
Stunning, jaw dropping aerial footage is now so much more easily accessible, that movies are becoming more and more visually effective as each year passes through the use of drones. The footage gained can be far more diverse and give low budget films, the impression of being Hollywood blockbusters without a small fortune having to be spent. This is great news for filmmakers who are just starting out or who are on tight budgets and gives them equal opportunity when it comes to box office ratings or award nominations.
Drones are helping movie makers create big budget style films at a minimal cost, and their popularity and ease of use has been spotted by other industries, too. Realtors are using drones to capture dramatic and detailed footage of land and property, wildlife organisations are using drones to monitor wildlife and track poachers, while some companies are test running them for package delivery. Their potential is huge, and their popularity is unquestionable, and when you’re next watching a movie that contains stunning, panoramic or aerial images remember to give thanks to the humble, innocuous looking drone!
If you’re looking for a new and innovative way to start a business or earn a better wage, then the chances are that you couldn’t have failed to notice how drones have whizzed in and taken over the job market; however, to really immerse yourself in the drone industry, you will need to be qualified and invest a certain amount of money from the get go.
What qualifications do you need to pilot a drone professionally?
Recreation flying of UAV’s requires nothing more than some common sense and knowledge of where you can and cannot fly your drone, but to fly one professionally, the FAA requires all pilots to have a ‘Remote Pilot Airman Certificate’. If you’re going to be flying a drone that weighs more than 0.55 lbs, you must also register it with the FAA.
What skills will you need to become a successful drone pilot?
It seems a little obvious, but you will need to fly your drone well. You’ll need to learn exactly how it behaves under a whole host of conditions, and know its limits, too. Drones with in built cameras vary greatly from those designed for racing or surveying for example, and you will need to master how to fly yours down to a T.
What are the basic investment costs?
You’ll be looking at spending $150 for the pilots’ license and a meagre $5 to register a drone.
How best to start off if you want to get yourself noticed in the drone photography and video market:
For a career in the photography and filming drone industry, simply start by shooting lots of videos and capturing images. Experiment with different styles of filming and snapping shots, and don’t be afraid to use non-conventional methods, since these are what are most likely to help you stand out from the crowd.
There are often opportunities to enter competitions with your drone and win prizes for your videos or images. If you’re thinking about entering your work into a festival – which are rare, it must be said – you will need to produce some outstanding photo’s or videos, since you’ll be up against the very best in the industry.
You may be able to grab some freelance filming assignments, and some websites showcasing drone videos and footage, have a tip button and donation facility.
Flying a drone commercially:
There are multiple ways in which you can begin a commercial career in the drone industry, from delivering packages for big companies like Amazon, to scanning farms for increased crop yield or surveying land and property for engineering companies. Drones are being used in many innovative ways, and since technology is increasing at a rate of knots, the future looks rosy for commercial and industrial drones.
What jobs in the drone industry can make you the most money?
Those drone pilots earning the biggest money are often ex-helicopter pilots with years of flying experience, but depending upon the role, novice pilots may still make a tidy income from weekend gigs or contract work. Websites showcasing paid drone opportunities are a great source of information, and some pilots can earn as much as $7,000 per job.
One other drone freelancing opportunity is within the real estate industry, where camera drones are being used to film real estate videos for the residential sales market, and payouts of up to $70,000 are possible depending upon how experienced you are as a pilot and your level of expertise.
A career in the fast paced and ever developing drone industry, may be one way of ensuring that you stay up to date with the modern job market, and if you are serious about such a career, then there are no short cuts, you must simply practice, practice, practice. Hone your skills and see where your drone can take you!
As frightening a thought as it may be to many, a drone designed for use in warfare with mass killing capabilities may one day be available thanks to advances in technology. A recent video created by those who are pushing for a ban on autonomous weapons, depicts innocent civilians being slaughtered by a swarm of killer drones. Entitled ‘slaughterbots’, the video has gained worldwide attention and has certainly bolstered the argument against the use of such weapons in warfare (or in any circumstances), but just how realistic is this?
What is the main premise of the video, ‘slaughterbots’?
The theme and central message that the video intends to convey, is the risk of future militaries developing and creating micro drones that are fully autonomous and have the capability to fly towards an individuals’ head, cause an explosion, and kill the victim. The videos creators also wanted to highlight what they perceived as being the very real threat of these killer drones somehow getting into the hands of terrorists.
Experts have stated that these combat drones are in fact, much easier to create than something like a self-driving car, and require far less standards of performance than them, making their development a very real possibility.
How does a ‘slaughterbot’ work?
While military drones in use today are generally controlled remotely, other drones used for recreational purposes are becoming increasingly autonomous, making the prospect of a drone such as a so-called ‘slaughterbot’ being autonomous and equipped with facial recognition technology as portrayed in the video, more possible.
How significant is the threat of such drones getting into the wrong hands?
We need to be realistic when assessing the risk of drones that can kill on mass, being used by terrorists, and while we can enforce preventative measures to try and avoid such a risk, we will never be able to stop the threat entirely. Just as a terrorist can make a bomb, or drive a car into a crowd of people, little can be done to stop them from turning recreational drones, into basic but deadly killing weapons.
One proposal for a solution to the threat, involves a legally binding treaty that places a ban on all autonomous weapons, but it’s hard to see how this could ever tackle the very real problems mankind is facing as weapons become increasingly autonomous.
The increased development and use of autonomous drones as weapons of war, raises many questions about the moral role of humans in warfare, and about the basic and generally accepted laws of combat, risk and controllability. However, advances in technology mean that ‘slaughterbots’ may soon be in use, and there could be precious little we can realistically do to prevent this from happening.
Drones entered the sporting arena a few years back, and as technology advances, the opportunities for expanding their use within the field of e-sports, looks set to speed up and really take off. Pardon the pun.
Drone racing has been around for a while and seemed like a natural progression considering the availability of devices and how anyone can potentially pilot one, and the DRL or Drone Racing League was even created. The league organizes races all over the world and films them to stream online; some events have even been shown on TV stations like ESPN.
With the camera that each racing drone comes equipped with, spectators can see the race from the same viewpoint as the pilot, making it more dramatic as images are streamed live to FPV or ‘first person view’ goggles that the pilots wear. Not only does this make it more thrilling for spectators, but the pilot is given the sensation of sitting right on the tip of the drone as it zooms around the stadium, warehouse or marquee.
Some drones with the newest technology can fly at speeds of up to 160 miles an hour, making it even harder to keep your eyes on the racers and establish who is in the lead. Affordable drones are encouraging sporting pilots:
With the cost of drones and the technology associated with them decreasing swiftly, more and more members of the public will be able to afford to buy a drone and compete with it in a sporting venue. With packages at entry level costing little more than a couple of hundred of bucks, more people will be encouraged to give it a go, and as industry insiders tell us, the best way to start out in drone racing is to take part in one.
Drones and the changing face of how we watch sports:
While helicopters have been used to record sporting events such as surfing competitions and golf tournaments, they will never be able to record events with the dexterity and ease of a drone, and of course the cost and organisation involved is far greater. With their ability to film virtually anywhere, they really are changing the way we watch sports, and spectators are given an intense and far more emotive viewing experience.
Drone sports and social media:
Online channels such as YouTube, Twitch, Facebook and Twitter are important platforms for engaging with today’s modern spectator, and drone sports and other forms of eSports are skilled at maximising their potential for engaging with audiences through such sites.
The future for sporting drones:
Drones are already being used more frequently to film major sporting events and have been used in recent Winter Olympics to cover snowboarding and skiing competitions. With the FAA working on more lenient regulations for drone usage, it will soon mean that more of us can not only get our hands on affordable drones, but fly them with less restrictions, too. This can only be a positive step for drone sports, and their popularity is set to increase tenfold as prices go down, and technology gets better by the day.
So, if you want to be part of the sporting worlds’ newest phenomenon, why not get yourself a drone starter kit and register with your nearest club or association to get in on the high flying action!
In some countries like the UK, charitable organizations have put their heads together to try and tackle the growing problem of plastics and other harmful detritus that ends up on its beaches.
One charity has come up with the idea of using drone technology to help fight beach pollution, and their campaign enables ordinary members of the public to act as scientists and record valuable data.
How much of a problem is pollution for our beaches?
Items like plastic fishing line, food containers bottles and straws to name but a few, have always shown up on our beaches, but research shows that in some parts of the world, the problem is growing at an alarming rate. Larger items such as children’s plastic toys and everyday household plastic items are also being washed up, and while so much garbage is unsightly, more importantly, it can be extremely dangerous for many marine creatures and birds. Animals and birds consume the plastic items in the mistaken belief that they are edible; what happens then is that the plastic remains in their stomachs and makes them feel full, leading to a slow and painful death through starvation.
Humans alone are estimated to consume up to 11,000 pieces of microplastics every year, and if the issue continues apace and nothing is done to help prevent the plastics in our oceans, then scientists estimate that that there will be many more millions of metric tonnes of plastic entering our oceans by the year 2025.
How are drones being used to help eliminate beach pollution?
With aerial photographs taken of shorelines, drones were initially used to survey the amounts of pollution found on beaches. This left them with thousands of images, and they soon realised that they would need help in identifying what was turning up in each image, and this was where Joe Public came in.
Charitable organizations have begun appealing to the public for their help in identifying and tagging types and locations of garbage and plastic waste from thousands of images. As technology continues to advance, software is being developed that will help scientists to understand more about where the plastic garbage and other marine litter has originated from, what materials it’s comprised of and how much of it is present. When members of the public tag plastic waste seen in any of the images taken by drones, it can help to teach computer
programs to find plastics automatically.
Drones are very much in the public eye now, and while they often come under criticism when those operating them violate the regulations put in place by the FAA, or for their use in violent warfare, they have myriad uses which can be beneficial to the population. Locating and identifying beach pollution is just one profound way in which drones can help our planet, and when used correctly and for legitimate purposes, they can help us
to change the world for the better.