Surrey Now Has The UK’s ‘Largest’ Police Drone Project Drones

Police in Surrey have the “largest” drone squadron in the UK after being given £250,000 to buy new drones. The Surrey and Sussex Police force has already trained 38 of its members of staff how to fly UAVs and will be expanding its fleet from one to five after being given the funding by the Home Office.

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Officers using the drones in the three month trial will include those in Gatwick Airport’s armed response unit, forensic collision investigation and reconstruction, a targeted patrol team, neighbourhood response, and a command search and operations planning unit.

 “Our drone operations will be overt, open and transparent, and we will use all outlets available to us to ensure the public are informed of our drone use,” assistant chief constable Steve Barry said in a statement. He also stated it was the “largest” trial of drones, by the police, in the UK and other forces testing drones would provide the force with information.
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According to the police force, discussions about the privacy of members of the public have been had with the Information Commissioner’s Office, as well as the Office of the Surveillance Commissioner. Both are said to be “satisfied” with the plans to trial the drones.

The police force has already been conducting limited trials, with its one existing drone, around Gatwick Airport. The four new Aeryon SkyRangers it purchases will be used by the trained officers.

As the capabilities of drones have increased more public authorities have started to test drones for different applications. Police forces around the UK, including the Police Service of Northern Ireland have been trialling their use of drones. All commercial use of drones is covered by guidelines from the Civil Aviation Authority and organisations must register drones of a certain size with the regulator.

Local councils, as reported by The Telegraph, have started using drones to assess planning applications for building alterations and new buildings. In total 12 councils had either purchased or hired drones and used them for planning, surveying dangerous buildings and monitoring costal erosion.

First responders to emergency incidents across Europe are also set to start using drones to help with their work. The European Emergency Number Association has said that mountain rescue teams in Ireland and firefighters in Holland will be given DJI drones to help respond to incidents.  Meanwhile in Malawi, Unicef is trialling the use of drones to speed up the process of diagnosing HIV.

Drone Wars: DJI Just Filed A Lawsuit Against Yuneec For Patent Infringement

Leading unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) Chinese manufacturer DJI is headed to the United States District Court for the Central District of California to seek damages from one of its largest competitors. According to a press release, DJI filed a patent infringement lawsuit against both Yuneec International Co. Ltd. and Yuneec USA, Inc. .

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“The complaint asserts that Yuneec’s products and technology infringe two DJI patents and seeks injunctive relief to halt the further sale of the infringing Yuneec products and systems,” reads the statement.

 

Digital Trends recently reviewed the Phantom 4 drone, and we were impressed with its accident avoidance, maneuverability, and quality of video capture. Though Yuneec did have sense and avoid tech available for demonstration at CES with its Typhoon H, DJI was the first to put a functioning unit into production. Yuneec partnered with investor Intel to utilize its RealSense technology for its crash-avoidance features. There has been no news of a release date for the Typhoon H.

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DJI holds hundreds of patents worldwide, including at over 30 in the U.S., with another 50 pending. The drone manufacturer is represented by the Silicon Valley law firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.

DJI Will Supply Drones For European Emergency Missions

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While aerial drones are opening up a whole new world for consumers, organizations are also quietly working out the best way to deploy them in high-impact situations. The UAE’s Drones for Good competition, for example, awarded $1 million to the makers of a rescue UAV that can search buildings, but drone maker DJI now wants to help set the rules for how and when they should be deployed. The company has teamed up with European Emergency Number Association (EENA) to create a set of best practices for response teams all over the globe.

As part of its new alliance, DJI says it will supply “carefully selected” teams of European pilots with its Phantomand Inspire drones, its Matrice 100 (M100) developer quadcopter (used for testing new sensors and other technology) and the Zenmuse XT thermal-imaging system. After it’s delivered specialized training, the EENA and DJI will monitor how drones are used in specific environments and then share those “insights and best practices with the broader international emergency-response community” to ensure first responders act quickly and efficiently in risky situations.

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With representatives from 1,200 emergency services across 80 countries on its books, the EENA is well placed to help develop a framework for drone operators in Europe. The group also established the 112 emergency telephone number that can be called free of charge in many European countries to reach police, ambulance and fire services.

It’s been successful in signing up both the Greater Copenhagen Fire Department in Denmark and the Donegal Mountain Rescue Team in Ireland as its first two test sites. In Denmark, the team will focus on firefighting, chemical spills and large car accidents, while in Ireland, the rescue team will utilize DJI’s software kits to better conduct search-and-rescue missions in remote areas.

Drone Wars: DJI Just Filed A Lawsuit Against Yuneec For Patent Infringement

Leading unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) Chinese manufacturer DJI is headed to the United States District Court for the Central District of California to seek damages from one of its largest competitors. According to a press release, DJI filed a patent infringement lawsuit against both Yuneec International Co. Ltd. and Yuneec USA, Inc. .

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“The complaint asserts that Yuneec’s products and technology infringe two DJI patents and seeks injunctive relief to halt the further sale of the infringing Yuneec products and systems,” reads the statement.

 

Digital Trends recently reviewed the Phantom 4 drone, and we were impressed with its accident avoidance, maneuverability, and quality of video capture. Though Yuneec did have sense and avoid tech available for demonstration at CES with its Typhoon H, DJI was the first to put a functioning unit into production. Yuneec partnered with investor Intel to utilize its RealSense technology for its crash-avoidance features. There has been no news of a release date for the Typhoon H.

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DJI holds hundreds of patents worldwide, including at over 30 in the U.S., with another 50 pending. The drone manufacturer is represented by the Silicon Valley law firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.

Japan Starts Trial Drone Home Delivery Service In Chiba

The government and companies started a trial of a drone home delivery service in Chiba Prefecture on Monday, with drones loaded with packages flying between condominiums, commercial facilities and adjacent parks.

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The joint project involving the central government, the city of Chiba, research institutions and companies including e-commerce giant Rakuten Inc. is the first drone delivery trial in an urban area. The city of Chiba has been designated as a special deregulation zone to conduct the trial. In the next stage of the trial, drones will pick up packages from a warehouse located beside Tokyo Bay and deliver them to Chiba’s Mihama Ward, about 10 km away.

 

The city aims to start the drone home delivery service by 2020, when Tokyo will host the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and plans to ask real estate developers scheduled to construct high-rise condominiums in Mihama to set up landing areas for the craft on each unit’s balcony.

Based on the trial, the project participants will aim to develop technology to ensure stable flight in rain and strong winds, and set up a traffic control system for drones. A similar test of a drone home delivery service was conducted in the town of Naka in Tokushima Prefecture in February as a way to facilitate shopping for people who live in a depopulated area.

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The test began amid growing concern in Japan that drones could be used for terrorism or unlawful video recording. Last December, Japan introduced regulations under the revised Civil Aeronautics Law to ban drones from flying over crowded residential areas or around airports without government permission.

The law was amended after a small drone with a minuscule amount of radiation was found in April 2015 on the roof of the prime minister’s office building in central Tokyo.

Drone Racing Is About To Get Cheaper And Easier

Those cool videos from drone races may have tempted you at some point, but where do you start? Traditionally, you’d have to spend at least a couple hundred dollars on components, plus many more on a remote controller and a monitor or goggles. Not to mention the several hours needed for assembling the drone. Too much hassle?

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Don’t worry, because RotorX is now offering its latest micro racing quadcopter, the RX122 Atom V2, either fully assembled or as a quick DIY kit that apparently takes less than 30 minutes — not five to ten hours like the V1 — to put together. Better yet, the ready-to-fly version can include a controller with a built-in monitor for a grand total of just $499 for the first 50 backers on Indiegogo, and then $549 for the next 200.

The new Atom comes in at just 122mm wide, and thanks to its durable carbon fiber frame plus polycarbonate shell, it only weighs 5 ounces or about 142 grams — well below the the FAA’s250-gram threshold for mandatory registration. For the same reasons, this tiny drone comes with greater crash resistanance as well as maneuverability than its bigger counterparts. The custom-made brushless motors and propellers allow the Atom to reach speeds of up to 60 mph or 100 km/h, and depending on how hard you push it, its 6,400 mAh swappable lithium ion battery will last for somewhere between three to ten minutes.

Video feed is courtesy of a 600TVL CMOS camera with a 120-degree field of view at the front, and on the receiving end the 480p monitor features 40 channels on 5.8 GHz, with a range of 1.5 miles or about 2.4 km. Should you wish to record video, RotorX will later let you mount a 1080p camera module with a microSD slot.

The Atom alone starts from as low as $299 on Indiegogo, if you manage to be one of the first 50 backers and don’t mind doing some basic soldering; this will ship in July. Then you have the aforementioned ready-to-fly packages, along with a $849 premium option that also comes with Fat Shark Dominator V3 FPV goggles, but these won’t arrive until September, which gives you plenty of time to try other slower drone activities.

Drones : How To Find The Right Place To Invest

Last week, we saw a torrent of news stories covering the launch of the DJI Phantom 4 and several WSJ articles about how drone investments have not delivered to full potential. As an early stage investor looking at this sector, I’m trying to make sense of these headlines The Phantom 4 is a quadcopter drone made by China’s DJI Technologies. Currently, DJI claims 70% of the $2 billion drone market, having shipped an impressive 700,000 drones last year alone.

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Retailing for $1,399   — the price of a GoPro plus an iPad  —  the Phantom 4 boasts a slew of features that make the quadcopter easy to fly and hard to crash. The key is autonomous flight with increased computer vision. The drone is incredibly easy to use. Just double tap and the DJI Phantom 4 takes off; tap once more and it lands.

The end result? A drone that shoots fantastic 360-degree video and takes brilliant photographs. Less helicopter, more camera. All the hobbyists out there who are still buying cameras will no doubt be converting. And since consumers won’t have to worry so much about crashing this drone, the price point will continue to drop.

Expanding Consumer Demand And The China Factor

The FAA has required U.S. citizens to register their drones since Dec. 21 of last year. In the ensuing two-plus months, more than 300,000 drones have been registered. Believe it or not, there are now more registered drones than piloted aircraft in the United States.

Even though the market is still in its infancy, 40,000 drones were shipped to Chinese customers in the third quarter of 2015. While some U.S. consumers might have disposable income  —  some might even consider $1,399 for the Phantom 4 an “impulse buy”  —  the Chinese have shown they will spend on drones. The WSJ reported that DJI is opening its first flagship 8,600 square foot store in the Shenzhen shopping center, which will sell products ranging from $500-$4,000. DJI is marketing and getting more consumers to touch and feel to convert to sales. Research suggests 3.1 million drones will be sold in China in 2019  —  quite the step up from the current sales figures. These forecasts are precisely why DJI recently raised an additional $75 million, boosting its valuation to $8 billion.

So Where Are The Early-Stage Investment Opportunities?

Goldman Sachs estimates commercial drone sales market to be $20.6 billion and consumer sales to be $14 billion in the next five years. Even with all of this demand, early stage investors are not likely to invest in hardware or drones themselves but in the services that drones can provide. Why? Most drone hardware is available from China at minimal cost, and the basic software is open source in many cases, meaning that drone makers will face plenty of competition. On the other hand, the companies that adapt them to spray crops, inspect buildings, pipes, rigs, do mapping, and other useful tasks will make money. Like the computer industry, making hardware is easily commoditized. Operating systems are becoming low margin. But using software to solve a problem is high margin.

Investing In Drone Protection

Drone maintenance is another area of interest. Like any other piece of machinery, drones will need to be maintained, and aircraft maintenance is already a large industry. For example, companies like Robotic Skies have as many as 60 drone repair centers sprinkled across the globe. In a recent interview, the company’s CEO said Robotic Skies isn’t content with simply offering repair services; it intends to add a slew of value-added services into the mix in the near future  —  like training, data capture and analysis, and custom component development, among other things.

Forest Officials Call For Use Of Drones To Curb Poaching, Estimate Tiger Count

After decades of decline, the tiger count is rising and now forest officials are keen on the use of drones as a form of aerial surveillance to curb poaching and illegal trade of wildlife parts. According to the worldwide fund and global tiger forum, India’s count of the tigers stands at 2,226, followed by Russia which has 433 tigers, Indonesia who has 371 , Malaysia 250, Nepal 198, Thailand 189, Bangladesh 106 and Bhutan 103.

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The data that was released at the ongoing third Asian ministerial conference on tiger conservation at New Delhi has also had state forest officials pitching in for new proposals on saving the tigers. “There has been a lot of talk on illegal trade and while there was no case of poaching in the last two years in the Melghat region, we are hoping for the use of drones and other electronic equipment to help us track the illegal trade,” Dr Dinesh Tyagi, Chief Conservator of Forests and Field Director of Project Tiger, Melghat told The Indian Express.

Tiger census has evolved from pug mark counts to the present method of using camera traps. However, the use of latest technologies – such as aerial count with help of unmanned aerial vehicles or drones or satellite – will not just help us improve the estimation outcome, but also keep a check on poaching. While Maharashtra has over 200 tigers, there are 42 tigers at Melghat tiger reserve. We have a count of 19 cubs as well, he added. Another method for conservation of tigers is relocating villages.

There are 33 villages in Melghat and we have been able to relocate 14, he pointed out. Sunil Limaye, Chief Conservator of Forests, Pune division said the national tiger conservation authority had rated Tadoba, Melghat and Pench tiger projects from good to very good for protection, conservation and effective management of wildlife, while Sahyadri is from fair to good. There are more than 200 tigers in Maharashtra and a majority are at Tadoba, Pench, Melghat, Navegaon, Nagzhira and Sahyadri tiger reserves.

Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office To Use Drones For Search And Rescue Cases

One law enforcement agency is getting help from above. The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office will soon be turning to drones in times of emergency. The department will be using them specifically for search and rescue missions, and officials are realizing this technology is much more than a recreational device.

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“For us, it’s a tool,” Major Jeff Storms, with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, said. Storms says five volunteers with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office are currently training with the technology. At a limit of 400 feet in the air and only during the day, he says drones provide key differences.

“For very tight areas or for areas where the helicopter may not be able to fly it’s definitely going to give us an ability to see things much clearer,” Storms said. An Unmanned Aerial System, or drone, is gaining attention from departments all across the state, and country.

1461177774-6860-A126SouthLake4“If my drone could carry a net and I could drop it over an armed suspect that’s mentally ill and or capture that individual without confrontation of law enforcement, wouldn’t that be a good thing?,” Jim Franklin, executive director of the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association, said.

Hennepin County officials stress they’ll only use them for search and rescue missions mainly near water and open fields. Storms remembers one case where they could have used them. “Barway Collins; it would have helped with the hours and hours of ground searches that happened. We would have been able to do it much quicker,” Storms said.

But some worry this technology invades privacy. That’s why the sheriff’s office has strict guidelines with the FAA, including deleting all data not related to the investigation within 30 days. “We are doing everything the best we can to make sure that it’s very transparent,” Storms said.

Sonar changed the way searches were done underwater, and many hope drones do the same hundreds of feet above land. The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office still plans to use helicopters and private jets whenever a case warrants them. So far, the Sheriff’s Office has one drone that cost them $4,000. They’re hopeful once they get full clearance from the FAA, that they can start using them in cases by June.

In The Empty Arctic, How To Get The Job Done?  With A Drone. 

It’s hard to say what the 2,000-pound bull Steller sea lion hauled out on a rocky shore in the far western Aleutians thought about the strange object hovering 150 feet above him. An odd bird? The world’s largest mosquito? Whatever it was, he paid it no mind—and that’s just what the people who were piloting the small drone, an APH-22 hexacopter, had hoped for.

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When the researchers survey sea lions the usual way, from a plane belonging to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the animals often get spooked. Sometimes an adult sea lion, rushing into the water, will crush a pup that happens to be in the way.

But the little drone, nicknamed “Stella,” not only didn’t scare the sea lions, it was able to fly in low clouds and fog that grounded the NOAA plane. During the 2014 summer season, it surveyed nearly 1,600 Steller sea lions, giving NOAA its most thorough survey of the endangered population since the 1970s.

“It was even able to detect body condition and branded animals,” Erin Moreland of the NOAA Marine Mammal Lab explained to a crowded conference in Fairbanks last fall on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), as engineers prefer to call drones. Using a much larger ScanEagle UAV equipped with thermal imaging cameras, Moreland’s team also surveyed ice seals in the Bering Sea. The drone got resolution of less than an inch while flying at a thousand feet.

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As climate change radically alters the Arctic environment, Moreland said, “so many animals are being proposed for listing [as endangered species], it’s very hard to keep up with population surveys.” Drones may be part of the answer.

Fighting Fires 

 The void that drones could fill in the Arctic—an extremely remote region with little infrastructure and some of the worst weather in the world—extends well beyond wildlife surveys. (Read more about the push to develop the Arctic.)

In Alaska, drones are being tested for use in fighting wildfires, in responding to oil spills, in search-and-rescue operations, and as temporary communication hubs along the Arctic coast, where even satellite phones have trouble picking up signals.

In 2014, when wildfires scorched an area in Alaska larger than the state of Massachusetts, University of Alaska Fairbanks researchers flew a drone into the 200,000-acre Funny River Fire on the Kenai Peninsula. Smoke from the blaze had grounded local flight crews. The drone flew the perimeter, mapping and photographing hotspots, to which fire commanders then dispatched firefighters.

“The firefighters really liked it,” says Marty Rogers, the director of UAF’s Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration. “It was extremely accurate and they could actually see pictures of the terrain.”

Thirty miles north of Fairbanks at UAF’s Poker Flat Research Range, scientists tested another UAV last year on the ultimate Arctic environmental disaster—an oil spill in ice-covered waters. Researchers spilled oil into a man-made basin, 300 square feet by three feet deep and dotted with miniature icebergs. They sprayed the mini-spill with a small amount of herding chemical to thicken the oil, then ignited it—an appealing option for oil companies when conditions make it impossible to collect the oil.