Weekly Drones News Digest for February 27

By Shannon Legge, Raeleigh Jones, Andy Renz
Photo from AP/Francois Mori via Washington Post


Epic Drone Video of the Frozen Niagara Falls – 21 February 2015

For the past several weeks, the internet has been abuzz with news of the extreme cold and winter storms in the Northeastern United States. The cold has been so intense that Niagara Falls has frozen over and is not expected to thaw until May. NBC News has brought footage of frozen falls to the public. Since the FAA has banned any commercial use of drones in the United States, NBC cleverly flew from the Canadian side of the border.

New Website Lets People Request that Drones Stay Away from Their Property– 23 February 2015

One of the largest hurdles to the acceptance of drones in society is that of the violation of personal privacy. One organization hopes to set citizens minds at ease through the use of their new website, NoFlyZone.org. The site allows homeowners to indicate that they don’t wish their home be flown over. Not only can drone pilots see on the site homes which are “no-fly zones,” but the future plan is to program drones with the knowledge of these locations. When the drone encroaches on the border of these air spaces, it will slow to a hover instead of continuing on its path.

Mind-Controlled Drone Scientists Work on Groundbreaking Flight – 25 February 2015

A Portuguese business, Tekever, successfully flew a mind-controlled drone this week. A pilot wore a special cap, which measured his brain activity as he navigated a drone through a set course. The pilot had to undergo rigorous training to be able to focus enough to give the drone clear signals. The company hopes that this is the first step in a process that will lead to thought-controlled commercial airliners in the future. There is still an enormous amount development needed before this goal can be accomplished, but Tekever has made great progress in what they call an “amazing, high-risk and high-payoff project.”

Secret Service Conducting Drone Exercises in U.S. Capital Region – 25 February 2015

Earlier this year, a small quadcopter crashed onto the White House lawn. As a response, the Secret Service is trying new tactics to prevent future incidents of unwelcome unmanned aircraft. In an attempt to cover a security gap exposed by the incident, the Secret Service has announced plans to conduct “drone exercises” in “normally flight restricted areas.” Although government officials have refused to comment or answer questions about the tests, they have assured the public that they have coordinated with all appropriate agencies.

‘Drones are a Part of Everyday Life Now’ Aerial Robots Present Security Concerns and Solutions for Prisons – 26 February 2015

Now that drones are being used to carry everything from online shopping deliveries to cameras to drugs, a prison in Canada wants to innovate their own security measures by the implementation of drones. “We want to take advantage of the modern technology out there. Drones are part of everyday life now … They’re going to be impacting security,” said Tim Carroll, superintendent of the Northeast Nova Scotia Correctional Facility. Drones are being used to smuggle drugs by infiltrating prison security. To counter, drones from Orelia Inc. are honing in on the sound a drone propeller makes to locate drones. With technology, the drone’s operating system then can determine if it is government operated or not.

Drone Maker 3D Robotics Raises $50 Million in Latest Round – 26 February 2015

The largest producer of drones in North America, 3D Robotics, raised $50 million in their latest round of funding. The largest contributor to the funds was cell phone processor giant, Qualcomm. 3D Robotics plans to use the technological resources of Qualcomm to usher in a smarter age of drones. The main technological contribution will be in Qualcomm’s Snapdragon line of processors. These will be utilized in conjunction with sophisticated cameras, sensors, and advanced wireless technology to make drones “that are smarter, easier, and safer than ever before.”

The Real Drone Danger in Paris – 26 February 2015

This article is a prime example of the negative criticism drones receive in the media for the line blurring between military purposed drones, surveillance drones, and quad-copter hobbyists. While speaking to the safety concerns drones bring about, how hobbyist footage online can be utilized by those seeking to harm others and the unknown intent and identity of each pilot, the scramble of information between terrorist groups internationally-feared and the use of drones persuades the public to believing all drones are killing machines that cause a threat to national security.

New System Allows Air Traffic Controllers to Converse with Drones – 26 February 2015

With the pressure from the autonomous delivery industry wanting to get off the ground, a solution needs to be found to integrate their flight routes into those of the preexisting aviation routes. A new system developed by RMIT in collaboration with Thales Australia’s Centre for Advanced Studies in Air Traffic Management, and software engineering firm UFA Inc., aims at accomplishing just that. By utilizing voice recognition and response software from UFA, drones can now both verbally respond and act on clearances commanded and granted by air traffic controllers. This is a huge step for the advancement of drone safety and regulation and paves the way for the integration of drone technology in our daily life

Marketing From Above – 27 February 2015

Privacy continues to be a pervasive topic in drones for one reason or another. An advertising agency based in Singapore, AdNear, sent a drone over Los Angeles that collected the cell signals, Wifi signals, and MAC address of the phones below. The MAC address is similar to the IP address of a computer in that is unique to each phone. The drone tracks the location of the individual and sends ads relevant to them based on their location relative to various stores and how much time they spend there. The company says that it’s actually less invasive because the service doesn’t spam people with unwanted ads but only those meaningful to them.