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One of the newest threats that the Pentagon is facing, is swarms of drones that are designed to destroy any target they are programmed to attack. Criminals around the world have started using swarms of civilian drones to gather surveillance, target individuals, even going as far as to drop explosives. This is a worrying trend as armed forces are not used to dealing with drones which can be remotely operated from miles away. However, a new way to fight back has been invented.
It is surprising that many military personnel are still not fully equipped with anti drone tools considering that millions of people own drones across the world. It gets even harder to deal with swarms of drones. Shotgun shells that are equipped to fire nets that capture the drones can only be used when the drones are in close range. Missiles, such as the $38,000 Stinger, are not cost effective tools for fighting drones that only cost around $1000.
High powered lasers and signal jammers may be the best options. However, they have to be fixed on the target for a few seconds before they can disable them. This can be impossible with fast moving drones. But this spring, a new type of drone defense system that uses high-power microwaves (HPM) was released by Raytheon.
This new HPM weapon can knock out multipe drones in less than one second. A HPM beam operates on the atomic level and passes through the drone’s exterior while destroying the electronics responsible for keeping the drone in the air. Once the drone is in sight, a silent, invisible HPM beam moves at the speed of light and fries the drone’s circuits rendering it useless, as it then falls to the ground. The beam may be manipulated into a cone-shaped beam that can be used to knock out multiple drones at the energy cost of less than one dollar per kill making it extremely powerful, yet affordable.
The defense system is largely autonomous, detecting, tracking, and identifying targets with Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, the same type of radar found in fighter jets. AESA uses thousands of modules that can change direction instantaneously to detect targets more accurately and quicker than infrared systems or older systems that may not be able to pick up a drone’s minimal heat signature. While little human input is required to run the HPM system, an operator is needed to decide the order in which the targets will be engaged.
As more people have access to drones, it is necessary for the government to find ways of monitoring and controlling them, as well as disabling them if necessary. The hope is that most drone operators use their drones for positive reasons, but if there is a chance for a drone to be used in a harmful way it is good to know that safety measures are being put into place.
Ardupilot, an open source unmanned vehicle software provider, is often developed in hobbyist shops, garages, and basements with many of them located in Australia. Surprisingly, many drone enthusiasts have not heard of Ardupilot, but they have likely seen the actual software in action.
Developers such as Andrew Tridgell, a software engineer with an interest in drones, leads the way in creating new software code that allows drones to function in new and innovative ways. Tridgell and other programmers formed clubs to upgrade the code for Ardupilot, taking free and open source software and combining it for better use. Tridgell and his growing network of programmers and test pilots take part in the Drone Outback Challenge, a yearly competition that encourages the development of new software and technology for drones.
The Outback Challenge takes place in Australia and comes with a series of challenges for drone software developers. The event is based around completing medical tasks to promote developer cooperation. Drones must fly autonomously to a given site, perform a task, and return to the staging area. As drone technology increases every year, the tasks become more difficult.
In 2016, the challenge was to fly a drone 20km to a remote farm, locate a target dummy that was dubbed “Outback Joe”, collect a medical sample, and then return to the staging area with the sample. Not only does this promote new innovative drone software, but it furthers the application of drones in medicine to save lives. The drone challenge helps find new, cheap, and effective ways of creating rescue operations that are aided by drone technology.
Tridgell took his love for these challenges and brought Ardupilot to the best minds in open source software development. The software suite is a driving force behind the Outback Challenge, with many teams utilizing at least some portion of the code in their drones. Now, Ardupilot has grown from a simple and free project into a system that has been implemented in drones around the world.
The Ardupilot software is installed on many drones from companies including Boeing, Microsoft, AG Eagle and PrecisionHawk. The ongoing improvement of the Ardupilot software as well as the Outback Challenge brings the drone community together to find new and innovative ways to improve drone technology including ways for drones to help save lives.
An inspection of a building’s facade for defects is often a tedious process. It normally requires equipment such as lifts and ropes, and is a huge safety risk to the inspectors. Thanks to drones, inspecting a building can be done faster, easier, cheaper and much safer than ever before.
New technology was invented by a company called JTC Corporation that created a platform called H3 Zoom.AI. The H3 Zoom.AI Facade Inspector was recently unveiled. The technology promises to conduct inspections faster, and in a safer and cheaper way compared to human inspectors, and will most likely be implemented in Singapore on a large scale.
The system has been tested on various JTC properties such as the 32-story JTC Summit, and is scheduled to be making rounds next year at JTC industrial parks. The system has cameras that take and upload thousands of high quality images onto a cloud platform for scanning and analysis. Drone inspections may be the solution to many building owners to inspect and scan buildings for potential damage or weaknesses.
Concerns about the potential of building facades falling, have led to the Building and Construction Authority announcing regulations that make facade inspections mandatory starting next year. Most inspections are currently carried out by people and are costly, tedious, and many times risky. The long process of inspecting building defects, taking photographs from various angles, and writing out a detailed report could take up to two months depending on the dimensions of the property.
The H3 Zoom.AI Facade inspector aims to reduce that time to just a few days as it uses powerful artificial intelligence to mark defects in the building’s facade. The machine is easy to use and only needs a two person team to control it. Due to the ease of use, building owners will be more willing to conduct inspections more frequently which results in a safer environment for everyone.
Currently, there are no regulations that make facade inspections mandatory. However, the BCA regulations that will take effect next year will call for facade inspections to be carried out every seven years. While drones will make this process a lot easier, there is still a need for some human input. For example, an engineer will be needed to review the drones findings and any defects will need human labor to fix and repair. But these new drone inspections will certainly be a welcomed advancement to all building and construction companies.
A new wearable counter drone technology system is now available. The new device is called the Pitbull and was created by the company MyDefence. MyDefence creates counter drone technology which was started by a group of former military officers with experience in military operations and radio technology.
The Pitbull, utilizes “smart jamming” to disrupt, enemy drones, by disabling them when they come near the person wearing the jammer. It’s described as a “tactical solution” by MyDefence due to its small size. It is designed to be worn on the uniform of the military personnel while still being as non obstructive as possible.
MyDefence is the same company who created Wingman 103, a similar device used by special forces. MyDefence is confident that these drone jammers will help to defeat enemy drones during combat. Aside from attaching the device to the uniforms, there is no further input necessary, leaving the military personnel to proceed with their mission without worrying about potential drone attacks.
This new technology has been described as a significant advancement in countermeasures against the use of malicious drones. Successful implementation of this device in live combat will certainly be a life saver. With deaths and injuries from drone strikes consistently on the rise against both military and private contractors, this device cannot come soon enough for those currently serving in the military and private forces around the world. Weighing less than one kilogram, the Pitbull is the perfect solution for soldiers operating in enemy territory, where the use of both homemade and commercially available drones can be used against them.
Drone technologies are once again being called upon to aid in humanitarian causes. In this particular situation, drones are being used on the front lines of the fight against the mosquito borne disease, malaria. Malaria is a disease that causes a sickness that is similar in symptoms to the flu, which causes a quarter of all child deaths under the age of 5 in nations like Malawi.
A new initiative developed under the guidance of UNICEF has established a flight corridor for drones in Kasungu, Malawi which is an 80 km area in which drones can fly and collect aerial footage of the landscape. So far, the drone flights in this area have been utilized for the transport of supplies and for training future pilots of drones so they can make use of UNICEF’s outlined “Drones for Good” project.
The goal of this program is to find the breeding grounds of mosquitoes, a process that involves locating the areas where mosquitoes lay their eggs. While workers on the ground search and locate individual larvae, the drones fly above, capturing images of areas where the discoveries are made. These images are then used to generate maps that can pinpoint the location of mosquitoes in the dry season when they are much harder to locate.
Finding the mosquito’s off season breeding grounds is a significant step forward in both drone technology and malaria control. The drones are being used by researchers to narrow their search for mosquitoes, but the researchers are also working to make the drones user friendly so they may be utilized by locals for malaria control in the future.
The simple drone system could be a new tool in helping to control the mosquito population to reduce the high rates of malaria. However, if the drones can help pinpoint the breeding grounds, then the project could expand and aid in other remote locations around the world. Overall, the malaria reduction process using drones is well under way and showing promising results. When combined with other humanitarian efforts such as education and mosquito nets, the number of malaria related deaths could decline even further.
Over the next few years, NASA and other space exploration agencies hope to send missions to more planets in the Solar System. In addition to the studies that have already started on Mars, NASA plans to send a mission to Venus to learn more about the planet. The mission will involve a study of Venus’ upper atmosphere which will help scientists know if the planet had liquid water at any time on its surface, or possibly even life.
In order to tackle this task, NASA recently partnered with Black Swift Technologies. They are one of the leading companies in the drone industry. They have been commissioned to make a special drone that could survive the upper atmosphere in Venus.
In the past few years, NASA has renewed their interest in Venus as a result of climate models indicating that much like Mars, Venus may also have had liquid water on its surface in the past. Scientists speculate the surface water would likely have been a shallow ocean covering most of the planet’s surface about 2 billion years ago, before a runaway Greenhouse Effect turned the planet into the hot place it is today.
According to Jack Elston who co-founded Black Swift Technologies, the drones would be operating just above the cloud layer which is known to have pressure and temperatures that are similar to those on Earth. However, the winds are a lot stronger on Venus which is a major design challenge. To tackle this, the company plans to design a drone that uses the strong winds as a source of power to keep the drone aloft.
NASA has already awarded the initial 6 month contract to Black Swift Technologies to design the drone according to their specifications. At the end of the 6 month period, Black Swift Technologies will present the concept to NASA for approval. If NASA likes the concepts, the next step would be for them to fund a two year project to make prototypes.
This is not the first partnership between Black Swift Technologies and NASA. Last year, NASA awarded the company with a contract worth $875,000 to design and build a drone to monitor the gas, winds, pressure levels, and the temperature inside the Costa Rica volcanoes. The drone will now be deployed to Hawaii to study geothermal activity in the area.
Recently, associates of notorious gangster, Redoine Faid from South Paris, France, hijacked a helicopter and flew it onto the grounds of the Reau prison. They then proceeded to use force to open a door to free the 46 year old. According to the French justice ministry, the whole incident only took a few minutes. The gangsters then flew the stolen helicopter to a spot 37 miles from the prison where a getaway car was waiting.
Nobody was harmed during the incident. After investigations, the French justice minister, Nicole Belloubet, revealed that the investigators suspected drones may have been used by the prisoner’s gang to gather information about the jail in the lead up to the jailbreak. They believe the drone helped them find the perfect spot to land the helicopter.
Faid was serving a 25 year prison sentence for the murder of a policeman during a robbery in 2010. Prior to that, Faid had served jail time for a series of armed robberies of various banks and vans transporting money. This is not the first time Faid pulled off a spectacular prison break. In 2013, Faid managed to escape from a different prison by blasting his way out using explosives, but he was caught about a month later.
A nationwide manhunt has now begun to search for Faid and his gang. While there have been plenty of stories of drones being used to fly illegal contraband into prisons, this was the first time drones were successfully used to help an escape. Drones are becoming a major problem for prisons because they can easily fly onto the grounds undetected.
Drones have been used to deliver drugs, phones, and weapons worth over $1.3 million to five different prisons nearly 50 times over a two-year period in the UK alone. As drones get smaller and more advanced, there is a need for governments to come up with high tech solutions to help stop this growing problem.
Recently, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) came up with a proposal to regulate small civilian drones in European nations as part of the International Airport Review’s safety series. The proposal serves as the basis for the adoption of rules and regulations by the European Commission later this year. The proposal is a result of the cooperation between various experts at the international and national level, taking into account the views of citizens, operators, and other industry leaders.
According to Mr. Patrick Ky, the Executive director of EASA, the main objective of the new regulations is to level the playing field within EU member states, while ensuring all EU citizens’ privacy and security is not compromised in any way. The regulations are also expected to help the industry be more innovative and continue its growth. It is expected that by 2040, the European drone industry will employ over 100,000 people.
Until recently, the member states of the EU were able to create their own regulations for drones that weigh less than 150 kilos within their own territories. However, things have changed. The aviation safety regulatory system, which is expected to get approval later this year, will extend the regulations to all types of drones no matter their size.
The EASA has been working on new laws and regulations that will address all aspects from security and safety, to environmental protection and privacy issues, while creating a set guideline of drone regulations for all EU member states. Flying small drones that weigh less than 25 kilos will be simple to register online, where you will be required to submit your drone’s registration number as well as complete an online training course on the rules and regulations of flying a drone. During drone flights, you will have to follow the rules such as staying away from restricted areas and maintaining a visual line of sight at all times.
The state of Ohio has given the green light to a new 3-year study that will test the feasibility of using a fleet of drones to monitor Ohio’s road systems. Put into motion by Governor John Kasich’s Innovation Center for New Technology, the study is expected to cost up to $5.9 million over 3 years and will put a fleet of drones through an especially rigorous testing stage before publishing its results sometime in late 2021.
The goal of the program is to research “communication bridging” between traffic monitoring vehicles on the ground and the proposed fleet of drones in the sky above. Fred Judson, who is heading up the 3-year study noted that historically traffic monitoring from above, done mostly by helicopters, was an entirely separate entity to their on-ground counterparts. With the newly proposed fleet of drones, which fly at a much lower altitude, that is set to change in a big way.
John Kasich’s Innovation Center for New Technology is a front runner in adopting, at least in the research stage, many new technologies such as driverless cars and drone use in the state. “I think it’s in Ohio’s future, but we just want to be prepared for it, which is the reason why we have this research proposal,” say’s Judson, on the state’s big push towards using drone technology.
With a successful implementation of traffic monitoring drones in Ohio in the not so distant future, local businesses may find themselves in a much stronger position both legally and socially to make use of the technology themselves. It will pave the way for the possibilities of drone deliveries, which is something we are all waiting for to see happen in a city near us soon.
The study will test the drones on a specific 35-mile stretch of highway, from Dublin to East Liberty, Ohio. The study is an important step in the future of drone technology, but it’s unlikely to have any immediate positive benefit for drivers in Ohio for quite some time. As of now, the business of overhead drone use, particularly State or Federally controlled drone use, is a litigious nightmare at this stage in the technologies relative infancy.
A successful outcome for the study will be to find demonstrable evidence that drone technology is able to accurately and safely analyze traffic flow in much greater detail and with a much greater accuracy than can be done currently by conventional traffic cameras, which at the very most, go no higher than around 400 feet. The successful implementation of this technology in Ohio will also be of great use in the maintenance of the state’s roads, cutting down on laborious, time-consuming, manned inspection units.
Drones have been proven to be useful not only as a tool for recording fun moments and film making, but also as a research tool that is helping scientists understand some of the unsolved mysteries in science. Due to their size and ability to be controlled remotely, drones can be used to capture images, footage, and other types of data from areas that were previously inaccessible.
A good example is the ocean drones that are being used to monitor Kilauea, a volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island which is currently highly active. Two Wave Gliders were deployed by Liquid Robotics to capture live ocean data in the area close to where the lava is flowing into the ocean. In the past, ocean drones have been used rarely to observe such volcanic activity. Their use offers scientists a new way to observe the effects of the lava entering the water in real time, the plume it creates, and how the lava interacts with the sea water.
Over a three week period, the Wave Gliders will operate a well-defined zigzag course, approximately 984 feet from the lava flow plume collecting atmospheric, surface, and subsurface data. The research is being conducted by The US Geological Survey in collaboration with researchers from MIT and the University of Hawaii at Hilo. The ocean drones were fitted with a wide assortment of sensors to measure oxygen levels, water temperatures, pH levels, turbidity, salinity, underwater acoustics, and conductivity. With the help of the Wave Gliders, scientists hope to find out how far and how deep the plume extends, and how changes in oceanographic conditions and lava flow affect it.
The first Wave Glider recorded surface water temperatures above 49oC after arriving at the lava flow location. While no human can survive such conditions, this was no problem for the ocean drones. Over 650 homes have been completely destroyed by lava, and molten rock is now covering over 6,000 acres. The Captain of Port Honolulu issued a Final Rule to establish a permanent Safety Zone for the waters surrounding the entry point of lava from the Kiluaea volcano into the Pacific Ocean. It encompasses all waters and extends 300 meters in all the directions around any entry points of lava into the ocean.
Hawaii is just one of the many areas where drones can be used to get scientists closer to the action. The drones help scientists understand the volcano and its effect on its surroundings, which ultimately helps them come up with better coping mechanisms to help the people of Hawaii and other regions affected by volcanoes.