Drone News

New aerial drone technology could change the landscape of Australia's billion-dollar wheat industry by delivering cost-effective mechanisms for farmers to plan and deliver precise water and nutrients to their crops on a need-by-need basis.

Developed by the University of South Australia with the Plant Accelerator at the University of Adelaide and LongReach Plant Breeders, the drone senses a vegetation index—signifying the crop health, moisture and nutrient content, making it easier and more efficient for farmers to manage agricultural land and for breeders to generate new varieties.

Lead researcher, Dr. Zohaib Khan from UniSA's Phenomics and Bioinformatics Research Centre, says the new technology is a welcome development for the annual $5 billion+ Australian wheat sector.

"Drones enable farmers to move from traditional farming practices to precision farming, increasing their ability to accurately nurture crops across different sectors, at a reduced cost," Dr. Khan says.

"Until now, the drones required an expensive multispectral camera to scan agricultural land and indicate where there is a need for additional irrigation or application of fertiliser to selected crop segments.

"Multispectral imaging technology lets farmers see beyond the naked eye, allowing them to be proactive rather than reactive about their crops.

"Just as satellites map the Earth's resources, drones can produce colour-coded images that show the presence and state of vegetation on land—from crop performance, to disease detection."

The technology identifies healthy plants exhibiting a high vegetation index—shown as bright green regions—and mature, stressed or dead plants and soil manifesting a low vegetation index—displayed as yellow areas.

The newly-developed technology delivers this information using RGB (red, green, blue) cameras, a standard accessory carried by drones. The drone flies about 20 metres above land, capturing one image of a section of a crop field every two seconds. This data is then processed offline and modelled into useful information through deep learning—all without the additional cost of a multispectral camera.

Professor Stanley Miklavcic, Director of UniSA's Phenomics and Bioinformatics Research Centre, says the technology will deliver important insights for Australia's farmers.

"Wheat production is an important industry for Australia, yet to produce high quality Australian wheat in a hot and dry climate, farmers rely upon the development of resilient varieties," Prof Miklavcic says.

"When you're growing crops in the driest continent in the world, being able to identify stress-tolerant crop varieties is critical—and this is where our new technology can help.

"It's ironic that Australia's weather both facilitates and constrains Australia's wheat production and superior quality.

"But anything we can do to advance and improve existing knowledge and technology, as well as make it accessible to Australian growers, is absolutely worth the effort."



08/06/2018

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A Czech drone services company, UpVision, has been using UAVs to map the largest copper ore mine in Asia. The mapping mission spanned more than 10km² near the city of Erdenet, Mongolia.

In support of Czech geologists investigating the site, the UpVision team deployed a MAVinci Sirius, produced by the German manufacturer acquired by Intel back in 2016. The fixed-wing drone is known for its durability and ability to withstand challenging terrain – Ideal for flying at altitude above the Mongolian wilderness.

Dealing with challenging terrain

The irony is that the mapping team’s greatest challenge was the very terrain they were attempting to accurately capture: uneven elevations made the job more complex than it would normally be. The UpVision team was able to build two tangible results from following the MAVinci flights. First was a detailed digital surface model (DSM) and the second was an orthophoto in different image resolutions.

Because different elevations in the terrain created issues with image overlapping and resolution, the entire mine was mapped in high density with a total of eight flights at different heights and different image resolutions.



31/05/2018

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Australia undoubtedly has some of the best surf beaches in the world, and for some it’s the mecca of surfing. Combine that with some freaking awesome aerial footage taken by drone and equally cool tunes? What we’ve got right here for you are eight must-watch drone videos of the best breaks Australia has to offer.

1. Salmon’s Point, Esperance

Many would put Western Australia’s Margaret River at the top of the list for surfing heaven but we couldn’t go past this crazy bodyboarding footage at Esperance’s Salmon’s Point down on the south coast.

2. The Pass, Byron Bay

Definitely one of Australia’s most visited towns, Byron Bay is on the most easterly tip of northern NSW. Tucked in just north of the Byron bay Lighthouse, it features a long, peeling wave that is popular for beginner’s and experienced surfers alike.

3. Bell’s Beach, Victoria

Immortalized in the 1991 film Point Break starring Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze, Bell’s Beach is home to the Rip Curl Pro comp which attracts international surfing talent from around the world. Check it.

4. Surfer’s Paradise, Gold Coast Queensland

It ain’t called Surfer’s Paradise for nothing. This stretch of near perfect swells is found on Australia’s Gold Coast, and has the added feature of a lively nightlife. Famous breaks in the area include Superbank, Currumbin Alley and Snapper Rocks.

5. Noosa, Sunshine Coast Queensland

Some would say this holiday town gets the nod for best Queensland surfing town. With a laid back vibe and five points to choose from, any surfer travelling Australia needs to have Noosa on their surfing bucket list.

6. Tamarama, Sydney

Sydney has a lot to offer when it comes to surfing spots and most would probably put Bondi at the top of the list. But just around the corner on Sydney’s eastern coastline is this little slice of surfing and bodyboarding heaven: Tamarama.

7. Gull Rock, South Australia

Situated only about an hour out of South Australia’s capital of Adelaide, this reef break might not be on every surfer’s list – but it’s definitely worth a look. With the added interest of some rocking geology (see what we did there), it turns out some nice swells and is worth checking out.

8. Darwin, Northern Territory

Yeah….just kidding! There’s not much surf to speak of in Darwin unless you fancy waiting for monsoon season or risk getting eaten by a crocodile. Straya.



31/05/2018

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A Chinese drone manufacturer claims to have broken the world record for the most unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) simultaneously airborne.

EHang sent 1,374 drones soaring above the city of Xi'an to perform a 13-minute light show.

The lit-up aircraft spelled out Chinese characters, the date and shapes such as camels and a flower.

However, Hong Kong-based newspaper, the South China Morning Post, reported the event was "an epic fail" as some of the drones failed to illuminate.

Video of the event shows small gaps in some of the displays.

The Guinness World Record for the most UAVs simultaneously airborne is held by technology company Intel.

The company broke the previous record with their performance at the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, which used 1,128 drones to form the Olympic rings.



31/05/2018

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Aerotain is in the business of drone-related experiential advertising. The company seems to be forging ahead with new ways to advertise, thanks to the affordable and practical nature of modern unmanned aerial vehicles, and we seem to be entering an advanced phase of aerial marketing. For example, tethering UAVs to an inflatable, all-seeing eye that cruises past a crowd at a basketball game, serving as a hovering “kiss-cam,” and displaying sponsor logos. 

Last year, the Drobotron was fairly impressive news. For the first time ever billboards had become both mobile and aerial. With regular news of drone tech advancements and the inevitable ubiquitousness of UAVs, the Drobotron seemed to be pointing toward a future where billboards would cruise through city streets without anyone thinking twice about it (think Blade Runner). This wasn’t just a new way to advertise, but a new way to be sold something through an experience you likely wouldn't forget. The next step in this evolution, of course, has been Intel’s focus on drone light-shows, which have already been used for clients as big as Warner Bros., the Super Bowl, and Lady Gaga. 

Last month, Intel broke yet another Guinness World Record by using drones to promote a company. While that company was Intel itself, this evolution of drone-infused marketing is becoming more and more interesting as time goes on. From a hovering billboard to light shows at one of the biggest sporting events in the world, drones are quickly becoming an important part of every marketing department keen on creating engaging, memorable experiences for potential customers. 

In October, we reported on yet another entertainment-related drone group. While Measure is busy improving agricultural and energy-related industries through its use of drones, its M2 division is focused on promotions through the very same tool. M2 has a roster of clients that includes Rhianna, Cartier, Coach, and Stevie Nicks. There's clear growth and potential for a trend here as drones become a vital aspect of marketing and advertising.

Below are AEROTAIN videos showcasing its drone-motored objects being paraded at events giving audiences something to remember, and sponsors the hope that they do. 


Here's AEROTAINMENT at TEDx Zurich.












Here's AEROTAINMENT at TEDx Zurich.

While this may seem wholly unnecessary to some, it's definitely striking and not quick to leave your mind. AEROTAIN is simply another link in the chain of UAVs being casually implemented in our daily surroundings. In a few years from now, it's pretty likely that we'll have UAVs advertising products or artists at music festivals, for example. CNN recently received permission to fly over crowds. How long until Coca-Cola does too? Surely, a titan as large as The Coca-Cola Company isn't far behind. Who knows? You might see the newest Marvel movie-trailer on a screen tethered to a drone on your way to the bus stop in the near future. Stay tuned, as we continue to keep our eyes on the future of drones in advertising.



31/05/2018

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Construction is one of the largest industries in the world, accounting for $10 trillion annually, about 13 percent of global GDP.

But while productivity in adjacent industries like petroleum and mining has skyrocketed with the advent of new technologies, productivity in the construction sector has remained flat.

A new company called Doxel, which today announced $4.5 million in funding and unveiled an artificial intelligence and computer-vision system for the construction industry, is betting it can change that. With backing from Andreessen Horowitz, Doxel has positioned itself to shake up an industry that has been slow to change over the last half-century.

Currently, the big problem managing construction projects is accurately predicting and measuring a single metric: labor productivity. While managers can easily tabulate how many hours a construction worker spends on a task, they don't have an accurate measure of how much work is actually accomplished or whether that work is being done correctly.

The result is a gross disparity between expectations and results. According to McKinsey & Company, ninety-eight percent of large-scale construction projects are delivered, on average, eighty percent over budget and twenty months behind schedule.

The crux of the Doxel's proposition is that you can't improve productivity if you can't measure it. To that end, the company uses autonomous devices to visually monitor every inch of a project day-by-day. It feeds that data to proprietary deep learning algorithms that inspect the quality of installed work and quantify progress in real time.

As a result, project managers can react to inefficiencies immediately.

"Without real-time visibility into quality and progress, managers simply can't boost productivity," CEO and cofounder Saurabh Ladha explains. "Our turnkey solution digitizes the physical world and compares actual performance to original schedule and budget plans."

The company uses autonomous devices, including drones, equipping them with LIDAR and HD cameras. Drones are growing increasingly common on construction sites for everything from inspection to updating clients.

Doxel's proprietary artificial intelligence algorithm processes three-dimensional visual data to inspect installation quality and quantify how much material has been installed correctly.

"If you could have an alarm that went off when your project was going over budget or off course, wouldn't you want to use it?" poses Lars Dalgaard, General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz, nicely cutting to the heart of Doxel's sales pitch. "For an industry that is notorious for cost overruns and delays, we see Doxel as the canary in the coalmine for construction projects."



28/05/2018

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Real estate has become the number one industry in North America that uses drones for marketing purposes. And the numbers projecting the growth of the drone industry are staggering: 

10 million drones were sold worldwide last year, that number is expected to nearly triple by 2021

Drone industry value was estimated at $3.3 billion in 2015; by 2025, it’s expected to be $90 billion

NAR reports that the interest in using drones for marketing is already pervasive: 44% of members either use drones for marketing (14%), report that someone in their office uses drones for marketing (12%), or plan on using drones for marketing (18%).

CREA is also monitoring the development of drone use in real estate. 

Drones have transformed real estate marketing when it comes to listing a property. Overall, the impact of drones has made aerial photography commonplace. Soon, most sellers may request it for their property listings.

What’s driving this trend?

Increase accessibility:

We wrote about the 2016 FAA drone guidelines in the U.S. that were favorable to real estate, and now 770,000 drones are registered with the FAA. In Canada, rules are currently stricter than the U.S., but the popularity of power of aerial footage has not slowed down the desire to use them in listing videos.

Agents are responsible for learning the rules to flying a drone legally and safely. 

Lower costs:

Greater competition and advances in technology that makes it easier to operate a drone have driven down costs. There are online services to hire pilots throughout North America. And more professional photographers are offering drone footage as part of their listing photo services.

The “wow” factor is still a factor:

Drone footage is still novel enough that you can “wow” sellers when you show them a neighborhood aerial footage during a listing presentation. It has nearly the same impact as a 3D-video tour, like Matterport. For agents in many markets, offering drone marketing can still be a competitive differentiator.

It helps you sell homes:

Not every property can benefit from drone marketing, but those that can, do. Video is a very powerful tool for marketing. Drone video footage can provide dramatic views of the entire property, increase video traffic and video sharing, provide spatial perspective, property’s setting, show the proximity to key local amenities (water – playgrounds – parks – schools) and nearby services (stores – hospitals), let the viewer see the entire neighborhood from a whole new perspective, and create an emotional connection.

What’s next?

Is a self-flying, autonomous drone taking aerial shots of your listings in your future? Since we often see the applications of advanced technology in military, industrial and major commercial applications first, we have a clue that this concept may not be so far-fetched. A company based in Israel, Airobotics, recently received the first certificate in the world to fly a fully automated drone, with no human operator. It operates fully automated drones. They are contained in giant boxes for industrial solutions (video is here). They serve energy and mining industries for maintenance, security, mapping, and surveying. These drones can even change their own batteries!

The day could come when you order a drone from your smartphone that would arrive in a box at the front door of your new listing. All you would have to do is open the box, and move the drone inside to the middle of the yard with a clear view of the sky. You would open the app you pre-loaded on your phone when you ordered the drone and follow a few instructions. Your app would power on the drone. You would step back and let the automated software fly around the property. It would shoot and store the footage you need, and land the drone safely back where it started. You would package the drone back in the box, ready for return.

The only question is will Amazon be delivering that future drone-in-the-box to you, with another drone?



28/05/2018

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DRONES on farms are becoming more and more popular so it wasn't a surprise to see a few around Beef Australia this week.

Much larger than the average run-of-the-mill drone is the DroneAgriculture, a large, heavy-lift octocopter drone with a lift capacity of 20kg that has an aerial application of granule herbicides in confined areas.

DroneAgriculture is a joint venture between AeroBugs and Granular Products to provide a service wherea chief pilot comes to the farm, flies the drone and sprays all of the infesting weeds.

"We saw a need to treat smaller areas and harder to access areas and we teamed up with Nathan,” Granular Products Sales Paul Hubbard said.

"Aerobugs has been going for five years and we have been doing a lot of stuff out in horticulture and in the cotton fields but this is the first time for us in the beef environment,” Drone Agriculture Chief Pilot and Aero Bugs founder Nathan Roy said.

"A lot of farms may need to focus their attention on other aspects of the business and other hard tasks on a bit of a hill or really thick pieces of noxious weeds where we can just take that pain away from them,” Nathan said.

The services is a thorough process.

"We have someone come out into the paddock, assess it for different areas and we map it up into polygons and we gave that to Nathan,” Paul said.

The drone has GPS point tracking and field plotting technology which allows the drone to run along a pre-programmed track. Terrain following allows the drone to follow at the slope and depth of the ground while spraying through precision herbicide equipment.

"There is a platform we use to map up a flight plan and then once it is uploaded into the drone, you enable the auto-flight and the drone will actually fly those weigh-points and you can turn the spreader on and off to release the granules,” Nathan said.

Sitting on a table in the RuralCo site, the drone has caught the eye of many passers-by, with long propellers and the tank in the middle.

"Beef is a great platform to launch any new technology, it is a pretty impressive machine and it draws a lot of attention, asking a lot of questions,” Paul said.

"From the response we have had here, it is amazing, so many farmers have gone, 'that is what we need, can you do this?',” Nathan said.

"A lot of people from everywhere, from Albury Wodonga, all the way up to the Atherton Tablelands, over in the Northern Territory.”

Drone work has mainly been targeting the infesting giant rats tail grass along the eastern seaboard.

"We have also had enquiries from people and the Meat and Livestock Australia looking to do work with the prickly acacia in western Queensland,” Paul said.

"It's a got a fit for a wide range of geographic areas.”

All pilots are trained and licensed Civil Aviation Safety Authority and have chemical accreditation.



24/05/2018

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While they sometimes might have a reputation for being nothing more than fun novelties, drones have a very important job in high-risk environments like mines, construction sites and landfills: They’re helping keep employees safe.

In these types of environments, danger is everywhere. Huge and heavy equipment can still be hazardous, even if you’re driving around a site. However, instead of placing themselves in harm’s way, employees can fly drones over a site, gathering data and images without stepping foot in areas full of natural and manmade hazards.

Employers across the country are using drones for dozens of different business applications. Common industries using drones include construction, emergency management, mining, and oil and gas.

The challenge, then, is getting business executives on board with implementing drone technology into their employees’ day-to-day workflow.

Getting Comfortable

As with all emerging innovations, drones have had their naysayers. However, over the past couple of years, more business leaders have started to become comfortable with incorporating drones into their employees’ jobs, especially those who have seen firsthand how challenging – and potentially fatal – certain tasks can be.

A prime example comes from the mining industry, where employees use drones to improve workflows and reduce injuries and deaths. The drones perform versatile tasks such as taking pictures and inspecting key equipment in hard-to-reach places. Historically, these procedures would have required the help of a consultant; instead, miners rely on drones and data analysis experts to cull and evaluate collected data.

Challenges

Despite the exciting advantages, executives open to drone technologies often hear complaints from workers who don’t understand the long-term benefits of handing over key responsibilities to a machine.

In these cases, leaders must focus on selling drones’ safety aspects without raising concerns about possible job losses. Individuals are still very much needed; they just become more efficient when they use drones. In fact, studies have shown that over the past 140 years, new technology has created more jobs than it has eliminated. Drones enable employees to allocate valuable time to other important work that a machine can’t handle.

With education, supervisors can relieve concerns and help their employees see drones as useful additions to their daily workflow – not something to be suspicious about. At that point, mining and solid waste executives can lean on several strategies to adopt drones into their work schedules to make sure work gets done and everyone comes home to their family at night.

Take Business to New Heights

What are some of the biggest responsibilities of working drones? The first is equipment inspection.

With incredible speed, drones can cover large plots of land in a short amount of time to take measurements and monitor equipment. Through their eagle-eyed sensors and cameras, they can check for issues in places where people wouldn’t have comfortably gone in the past. Additionally, they can be sent into areas that are far too remote, difficult to reach or risky for employees to consider entering.

A second advantage to having drones “on staff” is to eliminate the need for individuals to walk around on stockpiles. In the past, people would collect inventory measurements and other data by hand, but drones can now more effectively measure stockpile volumes, therefore speeding up response time if immediate action is needed.

Drone technology can even become a part of indoor facility inspection. Many manufacturing plants and related buildings have areas that are too dangerous to send workers but still need regular examinations. Sending a drone to these spaces compromises only equipment and promises the possibilities of valuable information.

On-the-Job Future

Employees in a wide range of industries face hazards almost daily. From the likelihood of experiencing falls to stepping into an environment that could lead to an explosion, they put their lives on the line. But why should they continue to put in hours on tasks that could cause injury or fatalities when drones could help them avoid those risks?

Drones aren’t replacements for humans – they’re valuable extensions to improve human efficiency. Drones can be used to gather data and calculate stockpile measurements, perform site surveys, and, most importantly, keep employees out of harm’s way. Best of all, they want nothing in return for their precision, reliability and convenience, making them some of the most trustworthy, dependable lifesavers employees could have.



24/05/2018

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Australian research into southern right whales using drone surveillance has for the first time revealed the high cost on the mother of giving birth and raising a young calf.

Fredrik Christiansen, who led a team of researchers from Murdoch University Cetacean Research Unit, says baleen whales have one of the fastest offspring growth rates of any mammal.

“However, until now very little has been known about the toll this takes on the mother because it has not been possible to apply standard field metabolic techniques,” he says.

Dr Christiansen used drone photography to develop a novel method of measuring the amount of energy required for whales to reproduce.

The researchers monitored 40 mother-calf pairs, taking 1118 photos of body size estimates over periods ranging from 40 to 89 days.

Southern right whales journey thousands of kilometres from their sub-Antarctic feeding grounds to the Head of Bight, South Australia, to give birth.

The right whales stay for about three months to fatten their calves before returning to Antarctica.

For about four months they do not eat and rely solely on their fat stores.

“We quantified the cost of early calf growth for the mothers over a three-month breeding season by comparing the relationships between calf growth rate and the rate of loss in maternal body volumes,” says Dr Christiansen.

Southern right whales give birth to offspring about 5 metres long, or one-third the size of the mother when born. They double in size by the time they are weaned three months later.

“Calves grow really fast during the first months of their life and so there is a considerable energetic cost to the mother during lactation, since she is not feeding during this time and only relies on her own body reserves,” says Dr Christiansen.

Lactating females lose an average of 25% of their body volume in the first three months while the calf grows by an average of 3.2 cm in length each day.

“The study shows the considerable energetic cost that females face during lactation and highlights the importance of having sufficient maternal energy reserves to reproduce.”

It costs a mother around 126 litres of volume per day to feed their calf and support their own metabolic needs. At the same time the calf grows on average about 80 litres in volume daily.

Longer and more round females invest more energy in their calves compared to shorter and leaner females.

However, a big female in poor condition can invest the same energy as a small female in superb condition so human disturbance of a small female may have a bigger negative impact on reproduction.

Dr Christiansen says the findings provide important baseline information about the body condition of southern right whales that can be used for monitoring purposes.

“By knowing the cost of reproduction for southern right whale females, we can now use drones to monitor the body condition of this population between years to see if females have sufficient energy reserves to successfully wean their calf,” he says.

Other factors such as shipping, oil and gas development and climate change can all negatively affect the body condition of whales.



20/05/2018

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