Facebook Pulls the Plug on its Aquila Solar-Powered Aircraft

Facebook announced that it is grounding a solar-powered aircraft project it originally hoped would have used laser technology to help provide Internet access for underserved communities. In an effort to connect the nearly 4 billion people around the world who still do not have Internet access, the company has been working for several years from Bridgwater, UK on a high altitude platform station (HAPS) system called Aquila. Rather than continue to develop its own aircraft, however, Facebook has opted to partner with companies such as Airbus and close its facility in Bridgwater. Continue reading Facebook Pulls the Plug on its Aquila Solar-Powered Aircraft

Google Plans Not to Renew its Defense Department Contract

Influenced by employee discontent, Google will not renew a contract with the Pentagon’s Project Maven when it expires next year. Google Cloud business head Diane Greene, who won the contract, was the one who announced the company’s decision in a weekly employee meeting. The Maven project uses artificial intelligence to interpret video images and, among its potential uses, could be employed to improve drone attack targeting. Many Google AI researchers worried aloud that it was a step towards using AI for advanced weaponry. Continue reading Google Plans Not to Renew its Defense Department Contract

Panavision: Lenses for Drones, New Filter Tech, 8K Workflow

Panavision made its Cine Gear Expo debut of the Millennium DXL2 8K camera, 8K workflow improvements, a customized optics system for specific use with drones and gimbals, four new large-format lenses and a technology demonstration of a major advance in filter technology. The new products, said Panavision chief executive Kim Snyder, are intended to evolve the ecosystem surrounding the Millennium DXL2. “We’re building a bridge between products and processes,” said senior vice president of innovation Michael Cioni. Continue reading Panavision: Lenses for Drones, New Filter Tech, 8K Workflow

Department of Transportation Selects 10 Drone Test Projects

The U.S. Department of Transportation selected 10 local, state and tribal governments to test drone commerce in partnership with Intel, Uber, FedEx and Qualcomm, among others. The Integration Pilot Program, promoted by the Trump administration to speed up approvals of longer-range unmanned flights, has enthused drone companies, including startups such as Flirtey and AirMap. Notably missing from the list, however, is Amazon, which has a project in development to deliver packages to people’s homes. Continue reading Department of Transportation Selects 10 Drone Test Projects

Microsoft Builds on Existing Tech, Voices Moral Conscience

At its Build developer conference this week, Microsoft is showing products that highlight its changed direction under the aegis of chief executive Satya Nadella. Among them is a DJI drone loaded with Microsoft software to identify oil pipeline faults without an Internet connection. Although Microsoft is helping customers enhance their existing gear, the company promised “big things ahead” to those entirely in the Microsoft ecosystem. Uninvolved in recent data scandals, some deem Microsoft to be the tech industry’s moral conscience. Continue reading Microsoft Builds on Existing Tech, Voices Moral Conscience

Microsoft Reaches Out to Developers at its Build Conference

Microsoft revealed interesting news during this week’s Build developer conference in Seattle, Washington. Among the key announcements: a pair of mixed reality enterprise apps for the HoloLens; a partnership with DJI to bring Microsoft’s AI and machine learning tech to commercial drones; a preview launch of deep learning acceleration platform Project Brainwave; prototype hardware designed for the meeting room of the future; and Project Kinect for Azure, which provides developers with the opportunity to experiment with a package of sensors and Microsoft’s next-generation depth camera. Continue reading Microsoft Reaches Out to Developers at its Build Conference

JPEG Debuts Streaming Video Format for 5G, Wi-Fi Networks

JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group), known for its photo standard, released a new video compression standard, JPEG XS, designed to work on next-gen 5G cellular or Wi-Fi networks. The new standard, says JPEG, will work on current computers via a software upgrade and is aimed at streaming lossless video, VR content and games over wireless networks, with lower latency and better energy efficiency. Devices smaller than computers, however, will require a hardware upgrade to support JPEG XS. Continue reading JPEG Debuts Streaming Video Format for 5G, Wi-Fi Networks

Skydio R1 Drone Touts Advanced Visual Tracking, 4K Camera

Several companies have offered drones that can, more or less, follow a target and avoid obstacles. But now a new company, Skydio, has introduced the $2,499 R1 drone that shows significant promise. The R1 doesn’t use GPS or wearable trackers for 3D vision tracking, yet is able to avoid obstacles from all angles at speed (about 25 miles per hour). The high-quality device, which Skydio describes as a “self-flying camera,” is also easy to use. The R1, via camera lenses that point up and down on a two-axis gimbal, also records 4K video. Continue reading Skydio R1 Drone Touts Advanced Visual Tracking, 4K Camera

Zipline’s Fixed Wing UAV Becomes Fastest Commercial Drone

Zipline, the California-based startup that uses drones to deliver blood and drugs to remote Rwandan medical centers, is now using a fixed-wing aerial robot to make commercial deliveries at nearly 80 miles per hour. The company claims its fixed-wing UAV is the world’s fastest commercial delivery drone. In Rwanda, Zipline has already flown 300,000 kilometers in over 4,000 flights since its October 2016 debut, and introduced a similar service in Tanzania. This expertise will enable it to compete with the big players in drone delivery including Amazon’s Prime Air and Alphabet’s Project Wing. Continue reading Zipline’s Fixed Wing UAV Becomes Fastest Commercial Drone

FAA: Number of Commercial Drones Will Quadruple by 2022

In positive news for the drone industry, recently updated Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) numbers project significant growth in commercial drone use by 2022, at which point the current numbers are expected to quadruple. By that year, 450,000 unmanned drones will operate within domestic airspace. Today, there are roughly 110,000 in use. These increases are projected even if federal restrictions are loosened more slowly than expected or desired by advocates and others.

Continue reading FAA: Number of Commercial Drones Will Quadruple by 2022

Google, Government Partner on AI to Analyze Drone Footage

Google and the Department of Defense are exploring the use of artificial intelligence to identify objects in drone footage. The tech giant has been working with the Pentagon’s Project Maven, an initiative focused on big data and machine learning. According to sources, when the pilot project became an object of discussion at Google, some employees were angry that the company was working with the military on surveillance tech for drone operations. Google’s Eric Schmidt admitted that the tech community is concerned that the military-industrial complex will use Google’s research to kill innocent people. Continue reading Google, Government Partner on AI to Analyze Drone Footage

Investigation Opens into Possible Drone-Linked Copter Crash

The first-ever drone-related crash of an aircraft in the U.S. may have taken place last week in South Carolina. According to two helicopter pilots, a student and an instructor, a drone appeared directly in front of them, causing the instructor to take over the controllers. The helicopter’s tail hit a tree or brush, causing the crash landing, which they reported to the South Carolina Police Department. The National Transportation Safety Board is opening an investigation, according to spokesperson Chris O’Neil. Continue reading Investigation Opens into Possible Drone-Linked Copter Crash

CES Keynote: Intel Introduces New Studio for Immersive Media

At CES 2018, Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich gave a keynote address that ranged on topics from cybersecurity to immersive media and both neuromorphic and quantum computing. He also introduced Intel Studios, a site for the production of immersive media. First, Krzanich brought up the formerly undetected flaws in Intel chips, dubbed Spectre and Meltdown, saying that it was Intel’s No. 1 priority to secure customer data and noting that the industry has joined forces to plug the loopholes. Continue reading CES Keynote: Intel Introduces New Studio for Immersive Media

Venture Capitalists Discuss the Latest Startup Trends at CES

Who better to discover trends at CES 2018 than the venture capitalists that roam the exhibit looking for the most promising startups to fund? TMTPost founder/chief executive Hejuan Zhao brought together three such executives to ask them about what they’ve seen at the show and what they predict for the future. Caerus Ventures co-founder Gregory Borchardt, whose company focuses on connected devices, was astounded by the exponential growth of startup haven Eureka Park, with heavy representation from France and the Netherlands. Continue reading Venture Capitalists Discuss the Latest Startup Trends at CES

Yuneec Announces Updated Typhoon H and Two New Models

Yuneec International announced three new drones at CES — an update to its popular Typhoon H, which initially debuted two years ago, and two new entries: the $700 Firebird FPV (the company’s first fixed-wing drone) and the $180 HD Racer (Yuneec’s first racing drone). The $1,800 Typhoon H Plus is designed for professional photographers and videographers; Yuneec claims the drone’s six-rotor hex airframe produces 40 percent less noise than earlier hex models and can maintain stability in winds up to 30 mph. It also uses Intel RealSense tech to avoid collisions. And with a high-aperture lens and one-inch sensor, the camera can capture 20-megapixel stills and 4K video at 60fps. Continue reading Yuneec Announces Updated Typhoon H and Two New Models

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