Top drone industry news, hand-picked for you by the Skytango team with comments from Steve Flynn, Skytango’s CEO. Edition: June 26, 2017. 


I’m just back from the Commercial UAV Expo Europe where I talked as part of a panel with BBC News and Unifly on the compliance of commercial drone operations. It was a really high-quality event and I came back home with lots of insights on the state of the industry in Europe. You can find some of them here.

Hot topics this week: US Regulations, EU Blueprint, Drones for Olympics, Climate Change, Agriculture

This news roundup is supported by Drone Industry Insights.


Drone Laws & Regulations

U.S. drone regulations are big in the news this week.

In a meeting with venture capitalists and executives from telecommunications and drone industries at the White House, U.S. President Donald Trump discussed the state of commercial drone technology and defined a roadmap for the future of commercial drones, to speed these technologies to market.

For the drone industry, the meeting was attended by chief executives of Kespry, AirMap, Airspace, Measure, Trumbull Unmanned, and PrecisionHawk. I read CNBC‘s and Sally French’s pieces on the meeting featuring comments from some of the attendees.

The AIRR Act – a bill calling for the privatization of Air Traffic Control recently introduced by Rep. Bill Shuster – was the focus of a few articles this week. Marc Scribner on CEI offers useful Q&As on this important policy proposal, Miriam McNabb on Dronelife explains what AIRR Act would mean for drones, and Jonathan Rupprecht provides a deep analysis of the key points of the bill focusing on the implications for the drone industry.

FAA has released the updated list of members of the “UAS Identification and Tracking Aviation Rulemaking Committee” (check here for an overview of the role of this committee).

The Property Drone Consortium announced their opposition to the Drone Federalism Act which would give state and local governments greater authority on flight regulations making commercial drone operations harder and even impossible in some circumstances.

Remaining in the U.S., Congressman Jason Lewis has introduced the Drone Innovation Act. Betsy Lillian writes on this bill which seeks to address civil UAS flying up to 200 feet above ground level within a state, local, or tribal government’s jurisdiction.

The last article I read on U.S. regulation is from Zacc Dukowitz who comments on UAV Coach about how the recent changes in the regulatory landscape might shape the future of the drone industry.

Moving to Europe, the Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research Joint Undertaking (SESAR JU) last week unveiled its blueprint to make drone use in low-level airspace (up to 150 metres) safe, secure and environmentally friendly.

SESAR is a European public-private partnership created by the European Commission and Eurocontrol in 2007 with a mandate to develop the new generation European Air Traffic Management (ATM) system. The blueprint above is part of an ongoing process to harmonize European regulations.

In their press release, SESAR also announced that registration of drones and drone operators, their e-identification and geo-fencing should be in place by 2019. The ambitious goal – if realized – would position Europe as a world leader for emerging drone technology.

In China: Zhang Le of The News Lens raises concerns over China’s drone regulations. More than 10 cities including Beijing, Shanghai, and Hangzhou have witnessed multiple incidents in which illegally operated drones have interfered with regular air traffic, but the real problem, he comments, is that at present Chinese “drone regulation falls under the purview of multiple departments, all of which have ill-defined regulatory responsibilities“.

Drone Industry News

In an interesting podcast on Commercial Drones FM, Ian Smith, Adam Wisniewski (Director of the Drone Powered Solutions team at PwC) and Adam Bailey (Director at XYZ Kingfisher APS) discuss the Clarity From Above report from PwC which values the global drone industry services market at $127 billion.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Intel announced a new partnership that will run through 2024. Intel will provide drones, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and 360-degree video platforms to help capture Olympic events. Drones will be mostly used for light shows and aerial filming, starting with the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea.

3DR announced their partnership with SoftBank, one of Japan’s largest distributors of information and communications technology, to bring its aerial data platform Site Scansite to the AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction) industry in Japan.

Now, our usual dose of DJI news.

Craig Issod explains how DJI managed to win the consumer drone war. The Chinese company just started delivering their Spark mini-drones to the first wave of customers.

In the meantime, The Verge reports about Coptersafe, a Russian company, selling software and hardware jailbreaks specific for DJI drones, which allow drone flyers to work around DJI factory restrictions, in particular, geofencing for no-fly zones, speed limits, and height limits.

On another note, did you know that DJI recently filed a patent for walking dogs via drones?

Kespry just made its official entrance into the insurance sector, including imagery and cloud-based automated analysis for roofing inspections as part of its enterprise drone platform. The new features would enable insurers to provide their policyholders with shortened claim cycles and reduced loss adjustment expenses while minimizing liabilities and risks for field staffs, according to the company.

Researchers with Spain’s Center for Advanced Aerospace Technologies (CATEC), the University of Seville and Airbus will test the use of a small multi-rotor drone to perform tasks in an aerospace manufacturing plant under the European Robotics Challenges (EuRoC). Drones will be in particular used for transporting small tools and locating missing tools to prevent foreign object damage (FOD) in the manufacturing process.

Delair-Tech has performed a pilot project for Puget Sound Energy, a Washington state energy utility providing electrical power and natural gas. Drones equipped with LiDAR and photogrammetry sensors were used for electric line inspections and digitization.

The Drone Hero 2017 Contest is over and winners were announced at the Commercial UAV Expo Europe in Brussels. I was a bit surprised to see the High Potential Category award assigned to DroneRadar rather than to Unifly (one of the world’s top players in the UTM space). Droneradar is a platform which allows drone operators to know where to fly, and Air Traffic Management institutions to track drone operations.

This week investments and other partnerships:

Digital Global Systems, a company operating in the counter drone market, raised $8.5M to identify hostile or illegal usage of radio frequencies and locate threats.

Global contract research organization Eurofins Agroscience Services and the drone start-up Agrowing have signed an agreement to develop their concept of Remote and Close sensing for automatic pest and disease monitoring based on multispectral imagery.

GeoWing Mapping, SkyIMD and Hawk Aerial have formed a strategic partnership to provide their clients with a complete survey and mapping solution.

Drone Technologies, New Products & Ideas

Amazon’s latest drone-related patent reveals a multi-level beehive-like tower that would deploy and receive delivery drones. The so-called Multi-Level Fulfillment Center for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles would be used in densely populated areas if regulatory hurdles were to be overcome, to accommodate simultaneous landing and takeoff of a high number of delivery drones.

Aerialtronics announces Pensar, world’s first dual spectrum computer vision platform. This integrated computer vision platform with deep learning capabilities allows for real-time video processing and immediate augmented insights, decreasing the turnaround time between aerial data collection and follow-up operations.

SkyX, a company manufacturing UAV solutions aimed at the oil and gas industry, which monitors millions of miles of pipelines around the world, will integrate into their UAVs a new wireless radio providing military- grade wireless video, data, and voice long-distance communications for oil & gas drones.

An Aeromapper Talon operator has flown a mission autonomously to a target located 30km away from them while maintaining at all times a strong communications and control link. 

Aeronautics has unveiled a new multirotor unmanned aerial system (UAS) called the Pegasus 120. With a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 120 kg, it’s designed to carry payloads of up to 75 kg autonomously over a maximum distance of 10 km, with a limit imposed by the UAS’s endurance. Even if developed primarily for use in military contexts – where it can deliver water, fuel, supplies, medicines, and munitions – it might be used for commercial operations too.

Airborne Drones says firefighters in South Africa issued a call for drones equipped with heat mapping capabilities, which would allow them to identify hot spots at the greatest risk of flare-ups – a task virtually impossible for ground crews working in blinding smoke and dense undergrowth.

Researchers at UC Santa Barbara have developed a way to perform 3D imaging of objects hidden by walls, using off-the-shelf drones, WiFi transceivers, and Tango-enabled tablets. Two drones work together, flying around a brick house with a hidden interior. One drone broadcasts a WiFi signal, and the other drone captures the signal from the other side of the house allowing the imaging.

Industry Stat Of The Week

The agricultural drone market was valued at $673 million in 2015 and is expected to reach approximately $2.97 billion by 2021, according to market research firm Zion. I found this data in an interesting overview of the current state of drones in agriculture by Kevin Amirehsani.

A 2013 AUVSI report considered agriculture as the main sector for the commercial drone market, but some industry analysts like Colin Snow are skeptical about the importance of this sector compared to others and I agree with their view. Regardless of the different positions on this, there is still a huge opportunity for drones to benefit agriculture.

Drone Journalism

The Digital Circuit offers an interesting recap of their 3-day Drone Journalism School workshop in Wisconsin, U.S. organized by DJI, Google News Lab, Poynter, the National Press Photographers Association, and the Nebraska College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

Aerial Filming & Photography

I was interviewed by Kate McNeice of IFTN (Irish Film Television Network) about drones and aerial filming in Ireland, and about Skytango.

Our own Thomas Heremans interviews Michael Izquierdo of the Los-Angeles based Beverly Hills Aerials, one of the top filming companies in the U.S., on the making of their 24 Hours In Los Angeles Timelapse video.

The New York Times offers a great story on drone operator Nick Bowers who contributed to driving Team New Zealand into the America’s Cup Final. Thanks to the innovative drone built by Bowers specifically for filming the catamarans, and his ability to fly it even in harsh conditions, the footage and the data acquired via drone helped the performance analysis of the team and boat.

#DronesForGood

Drones and climate change is a hot topic this week.

Jeremiah Karpowicz interviews Tomas Gustafsson for Expo UAV, project manager at ÅF Consult, the largest Engineering consulting company in Sweden and one of the leading consulting companies in Europe, on their research on how drones can be used in extreme polar environments to support research on global warming.

Pix4D and Parrot have selected 6 top research projects which will receive a grant to work on the topic of climate change. The 6 projects were selected from a pool of over 250 proposals received since December 2016. You can find A description of the 6 (really interesting) projects on the Pix4D page dedicated to the grant.

A great article by Renee Cho on Phys highlights a wide range of uses of drones advancing scientific research.

Drones can be used for ice surveillance, in the search of landing areas, assessment of ice floes and water area, in even the severe conditions of the Far North, as the Russian-based company Unmanned Systems Group has proven on a drifting ice base in the Arctic.

Drone Delivery Canada (DDC) has announced a partnership with Peel Regional Paramedic Services to develop a first-of-its-kind AED (automatic external defibrillator) delivery by drone program in Ontario.

Newsweek reports on the drones used for inspecting and monitoring of the building during and after the Grenfell Tower disaster in London.

Drone Events

Did you miss the Energy Drone Coalition Summit? Christopher Korody offers a great recap here in his post. Upcoming B2B events in the next 30 days:

Drone Film & Photo Festivals

Drone Film Festivals now open for submissions:

Drone Photography Contests now open for submissions:

Video of the Week

This is the stunning video from Beverly Hills Aerials which we featured on the Skytango blog this week. I really appreciate the amount of effort Beverly Hills Aerials put in to ensure safety and compliance of their drone operations, in particular considering the dense urban context of the shooting. Read more on the behind-the-scenes of this video in our interview with the drone pilot Michael Izquierdo.

24 HOURS IN LOS ANGELES – DRONE TIMELAPSE from Beverly Hills Aerials on Vimeo.

Thanks for reading and for sharing and as ever, safe flying.

Steve

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