Amazon to Launch Small Delivery Companies for ‘Last Mile’

Amazon is expanding its package delivery business in an interesting way: it’s inviting interested parties to form small delivery companies of up to 100 drivers and to lease between 20 and 40 Amazon vans. In this way, Amazon can quickly expand its “last mile” delivery network into turf now dominated by FedEx and United Parcel Service. The company says it is merely responding to the need to handle an increasing number of orders on its platform; analysts estimate that more than $4 of every $10 spent online is on Amazon. Continue reading Amazon to Launch Small Delivery Companies for ‘Last Mile’

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

Airbus, SoftBank and Bill Gates Invest in EarthNow Satellites

The EarthNow project, which plans to launch 500 small satellites to provide video coverage of the world, now has three notable investors: Airbus, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and SoftBank Group chief executive Masayoshi Son. Satellite entrepreneur Greg Wyler, who has also partnered with Airbus and SoftBank on OneWeb, another satellite Internet project, is a fourth investor. Project chief executive Russell Hannigan says EarthNow will cost more than $1 billion, but didn’t reveal tech details or a launch date. Continue reading Airbus, SoftBank and Bill Gates Invest in EarthNow Satellites

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

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

FAA Panel Fails to Reach Consensus on Drone Regulations

A federal advisory panel of 70+ industry, labor and law enforcement experts failed to come to agreement on a proposal on how to track and identify drones. More specifically, the panel could not find agreement regarding categories of drones that should require remote monitoring. The result is that it will now be more difficult for the Federal Aviation Administration to execute rules that would please all concerned groups, which include law enforcement agencies, hobbyists and drone advocates. Continue reading FAA Panel Fails to Reach Consensus on Drone Regulations

UN Civil Aviation Group Brainstorms Global Drone Standards

The United Nations’ 191-member state International Civil Aviation Organization held its first-ever symposium to solicit industry ideas on global operating standards for drones. Held at the ICAO’s Montreal headquarters, the two-day event was not aimed at establishing specific rules but rather to spur discussion and ideas among those already involved in the drone industry. Amazon, NASA, Boeing and General Electric participated along with leading industry trade associations and Chinese and Brazilian researchers. Continue reading UN Civil Aviation Group Brainstorms Global Drone Standards

First Autonomous Drone Delivery Service Debuts in Iceland

In Reykjavik, Iceland, e-marketplace Aha is using Israel’s Flytrex for the first-ever fully autonomous drone delivery service. Aha, a digital hub for grocery stores, retailers and restaurants, has become one of Iceland’s leading e-commerce sites. Drone delivery is ideal for Reykjavik, which is situated on a large bay, meaning road transportation is circuitous. The Icelandic Transport Authority (ICETRA) conducted a regulatory process enabling Aha to cut a 20+ minute route to four minutes. Continue reading First Autonomous Drone Delivery Service Debuts in Iceland

Amazon Unveils Plans to Build New Air Cargo Hub in Kentucky

Amazon is taking the next step in expanding the transportation and delivery side of its e-commerce business, and lessening its reliance on carriers such as FedEx and UPS. The Seattle-based company announced yesterday it plans to build an air cargo hub for its growing fleet of aircraft. The facility, expected to create more than 2,000 jobs, will be located in Hebron, Kentucky at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport. According to insiders, Amazon aims to transport and deliver its own packages and eventually branch out to other retailers while competing with traditional carriers. Continue reading Amazon Unveils Plans to Build New Air Cargo Hub in Kentucky

SkyLights and Gogo Bring Personal Entertainment to Airlines

People are accustomed to accessing on-demand video at will, so a flight on an airplane with a communal TV screen can be jolting. Now, startup SkyLights aims to let airline passengers don a virtual reality headset to watch the latest 3D Hollywood movies. French entrepreneur David Dicko’s company offers a headset with six-hour battery life and noise-canceling headphones, which has been tested on flights for almost one year. French carrier XL Airways will soon begin to offer SkyLights headsets for rent, at $16 per flight. Continue reading SkyLights and Gogo Bring Personal Entertainment to Airlines

Amazon Makes its First Commercial Drone Delivery in the UK

Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos reports that, on Dec. 7, the company made its first commercial drone delivery — of an Amazon Fire streaming device and popcorn — to an Amazon shopper in Cambridgeshire, England. The drone took off from a nearby Amazon warehouse and flew two miles in approximately 13 minutes. Amazon will now test drone deliveries in that country with two more customers near Cambridge, where it has a drone testing facility. The company hopes to expand the trial to up to dozens of people in the next months. Continue reading Amazon Makes its First Commercial Drone Delivery in the UK

Mavic Pro Review: DJI’s New Drone Is Compact and Capable

DJI’s Mavic Pro drone is now being reviewed and sold to consumers, and it’s coming up roses. Already sold out or back-ordered in many places, the drone features numerous advanced features in a highly portable package, with a range of 4 miles and a top speed of 40 mph. The Mavic Pro has taken a page from the technology book of the larger Phantom 4, using an array of cameras to see obstacles in 3D and make quick decisions to avoid them. The small controller can hook onto a smartphone, which becomes its main screen. Continue reading Mavic Pro Review: DJI’s New Drone Is Compact and Capable

Verizon Plans to Launch New Internet Data Service for Drones

After two years of working on the technology, Verizon will soon connect drones to its wireless network, with drone data plans starting at $25 a month for 1 gigabyte of data and $80 for 10 gigabytes, similar to what consumers are already paying for data. The company just demonstrated the technology with drone manufacturer American Aerospace Technologies at Cape May, New Jersey. The new drone data plan will allow consumers to connect their drones to the Internet, streaming videos and photos to earth. Continue reading Verizon Plans to Launch New Internet Data Service for Drones

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